Protests against referendum underway in Chechnya
Timur Aliyev, North Caucasus – Protests are underway in Chechnya against the March 23 referendum on the republic’s constitution, human rights activists report.
“People have been tearing down pro-referendum posters and billboards all over towns and villages, plus shooting at buildings where elections will be held,” said Ruslan Badalov, chairman of the Chechen Committee for National Salvation.
According to the Committee, a building in the village of Chiri-Yurt, housing the polling booths, was burned down on March 15; and in Sernovodsk all referendum posters were torn down.
The Chechen Interior Ministry reported that an election-site building in the Oktyabrski district of Grozny was fired upon the night of March 18.
According to Natalia Estemirova, a worker at Memorial, a human rights organisation, various anti-slogans are scrawled on houses during the night, such as “Murderers Proposed the Referendum,” and “The Referendum is a Hoax.” She added that similar slogans are painted on walls all along Staropromyslovskoye street in Grozny.”
Meanwhile, the authorities claim that Grozny is all set for the referendum. “Polling places in Grozny and the Groznenski district are fully prepared for March 23,” the town hall officials told the chairmen of the territorial and local election commissions.
Since March 17, the police force has been strengthened. “At least 10 policemen are stationed around all the voting places; everyone entering the buildings will be closely scrutinized and their documents checked,” announced the Chechen Interior Ministry.