Chechen election denounced as farce

A Russian human rights group has dismissed as a "farce" next month's presidential elections taking place in Chechnya.

    Ahmad Kadyrov (R) is seen as Russia's man in Chechnya

    The chairman of the Moscow Helsinki

    Group, Lyudmila Alexeyeva, criticised the absence of serious rivals


    to a Kremlin-backed candidate.

    The group is also seriously critical over enforced censorship and a media law restricting adverse


    Referring to media laws

    concerning election coverage, Alexeyeva said, only "after the

    election ...

    will the public be able to read that the election was a

    farce organised at the highest level".

    Another of the group's officials

    , Tatyana Lokshina, said

    Chechen voters "had harboured hopes of an end to the military

    round-ups and of a president other than (Akhmad) Kadyrov" until two key

    candidates fell out of the race.

    Brutal war

    Hopes vanished when a local court disqualified businessman Malik

    Saidullayev on 11 September, just a few hours after Aslambek

    Aslakhanov, the republic's deputy in the State Duma

    , withdrew to accept an advisory role offered by Russian

    President Vladimir Putin.

    "Only after the


    will the public be able to read that the election was a

    farce organised at the highest level"

    Lyudmila Alexeyeva,


    The Moscow Helsinki Group

    "Today in Chechnya people are more afraid of Kadyrov's men than

    of the federal troops," Lokshina said.

    The Kremlin has presented the forthcoming election as part of a 

    political process towards a settlement in Chechnya, arguing the

    military phase has been won.

    Kadyrov, a former mufti who initially backed the separatist

    insurgency in the early 1990s, has headed the pro-Russian

    administration in Chechnya since the start of the present conflict

    almost four years ago.

    Russia's brutal war on Chechnya has cost the country up to ten thousand soldiers, and has killed tens of thousands of Chechen civilians.



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