Council of Europe set to monitor Chechen presidential elections

The Council of Europe is ready to send its observers to Chechnya for monitoring the forthcoming republican presidential elections. This was disclosed here today by CE Secretary-General Walter Schwimmer, who is now visiting the Russian capital.

True, we should receive an invitation from Russian authorities, as well as the appropriate security guarantees, before sending our observers, Mr. Schwimmer noted.

The decision to send observers to Chechnya will also depend on the pace of the election campaign and specific presidential candidates, Mr. Schwimmer added.

For its own part, the Council of Europe is ready to send its observers to Chechnya, Walter Schwimmer went on to say.

Chechnya is to hold early presidential elections on September 5 in connection with the May 9 assassination of president Akhmad Kadyrov. Quite possibly, the Kremlin will prefer the late Chechen president's son Ramzan Kadyrov, 28, who ran his father's security service. Ramzan Kadyrov was appointed to the post of first deputy republican prime minister right after the Grozny terrorist act. Ramzan Kadyrov claims that he lacks any presidential ambitions whatsoever. Besides, the republican constitution states expressly that all presidential candidates must be at least 30 years old. Nonetheless, analysts believe that Ramzan Kadyrov will become Chechnya's next president.

Apart from the Chechen issue, Mr. Schwimmer discussed the situation of the Russian-speaking diaspora in the Baltic states.

According to Mr. Schwimmer, the concerned parties must coordinate their activities, also searching for specific solutions in the context of bilateral interaction in order to settle the situation of the Russian-speaking population. Representatives of the majority and the minority must conduct an agreed-upon and well-balanced dialogue, Walter Schwimmer said.

For its own part, the Council of Europe is ready to facilitate this process in every possible manner. Among other things, it's ready to send its experts to the Baltic states, Mr. Schwimmer noted.

Nor did Mr. Schwimmer overlook the protracted "YUKOS case".

The "YUKOS case" attracts our attention, Walter Schwimmer stressed, explaining the decision to appoint Sabina Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger as PACE speaker on the "YUKOS case" by precisely this fact.

According to Mr. Schwimmer, her forthcoming Moscow visit aims to clarify the situation around YUKOS. Instead of judging the situation in line with rumors and press articles, she is coming to assess the real-life situation, Mr. Schwimmer added.

No one has any intention of contesting the Russian justice system's decision, Mr. Schwimmer stressed, adding that Sabina Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger had formerly served as German justice minister.

As I see it, Russia will perceive this opinion exchange as something useful, Mr. Schwimmer went on to say.

Sabina Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger is to visit Moscow next week, reports the CE press center. She would be expected to meet representatives of the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office, Federal Security Service, Justice Ministry and human-rights organizations.

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