Observers Comment on Results of Chechen Referendum

According to observers, the constitutional referendum in Chechnya was held in accordance with international norms and Russian law.

Yury Yarov, the executive secretary of the group of observers from the Commonwealth of Independent States, said his group acknowledged the referendum as a "democratic and legitimate" affair. On the whole, the authorities of the Russian Federation and the Chechen Republic have "provided the citizens of Chechnya with an opportunity to express their will freely and independently," he said.

According to preliminary information supplied by the Chechen Electoral Commission, the turnout was 85%. Abdul-Kerim Arsakhanov, Chairman of the EC, said 96% of the votes were in favor of the Constitution. The idea of a presidential election was supported by 94.9% of the voters, that of the parliamentary elections-by 95.8%.

Commenting on the high turnout at RIA Novosti's request, the Russian presidential envoy for human rights in Chechnya Abdul-Khakim Sultygov assured that the information was "absolutely genuine." "People waited 12 years to express their will," he stressed.

Ilya Shabalkin, an official spokesman for the Regional Operational Headquarters for coordinating the counter-terrorist operation, said no incidents were registered during the referendum except the finding of an explosive device consisting of a 153-mm shell with a fuse and a timer in the Naursky district.

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