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24.3.03

Chechens Vote, In First Step Toward Greater Autonomy

Chechnya's voters turned out en masse on Sunday to vote on a contentious new constitution, putting a first stamp of legitimacy on a proposal to bind their republic to Russia forever - and, the Kremlin says, to hasten peace after 3 years of brutal war.

The Chechen separatist leader, Aslan Maskhadov, pledged to disrupt the process. One polling station was apparently destroyed in an attack, a pro-separatist news agency said.

Those Chechen rebels are doing a great job of wining the moral high ground here. If they're determined to disrupt the election, I wonder whether a "yes" outcome would really solve any problems, since Maskhadov doesn't seem inclined to accept such a verdict. It might just give the Russians a stamp of legitimacy for their hardline actions in the region, because they can then claim that stamping out the separatists is in the Chechens' interests as well.

It also appears that British newspapers can vote in Chechnya:
But checks at polling stations appeared almost non-existent. The Guardian was able to cast an illegitimate vote at polling station No 272, with not one official making any objections when a blue ballot paper was dropped into the "yes" vote box. It is unlikely the vote will alter the widely expected endorsement of Kremlin plans.

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