Russian President's Aide Believes War in Iraq Will Not Tell on Referendum in Chechnya

Members of the Russian President's staff believe that two-thirds of the electorate will take part in the referendum to be held in Chechnya. This information was provided on Thursday by Russian President's aide Sergei Yastrzhembsky.

According to him, the public opinion polls show this. Yastrzhembsky also pointed out that as of today there are 537,000 people on the prepared voting lists.

He also stated that the military operation in Iraq will not tell on the holding of the referendum in Chechnya.

He said that a number of Moslem organisations and countries have confirmed that their observers will participate in the referendum. Yastrzhembsky is of the opinion that the presence at the referendum of observers from the Council of Europe is very important.

He called "a wise step" the decision of the Chechen election committee to allow temporary migrants, who live in the camps in neighbouring Ingushetia where electoral precincts will work, to vote. According to him, many migrants did not want to go to Chechnya for voting out of security considerations.

At the same time Yastrzhembsky stressed that an "efficient round-the-clock control over the premises for voting and over the situation in the republic on the whole" has been organised in Chechnya by police, the united group of forces and the security service.

The presidential aide thinks that the address of the representatives of the former Maskhadov team to citizens of the republic with a call to support the Constitution, which was made on March 19, will positively influence the holding of the referendum and will serve as a "preventive measure against possible excesses" since, Yastrzhembsky said, they believe that many acting field commanders take their opinion into consideration.

He also pointed out that Vladimir Putin's address to the republic's population was welcomed in Chechnya. The possibility to give Chechnya a broad autonomy status within the Russian Federation was received as a "powerful positive signal," Yastrzhembsky added.

At the same time he stressed that "it is still premature to speak in details about the broad autonomy." This theme should be discussed after the referendum, he concluded.