–KREMLIN ADMITS CONSTITUTION FLAWED. The Putin administration’s in-house human rights advisers admit that its proposed constitution for Chechnya has serious flaws. Human-rights ombudsman Oleg Mironov told Radio Liberty on February 4 that the proposed text gives the president of the Chechen republic too much power at the expense of the legislature. Ella Pamfilova, head of the president’s human rights commission, expressed concern about the power granted to the president of the Russian Federation to dismiss the president of Chechnya. Nevertheless, the two have chosen not to challenge Putin on what has become the centerpiece of his Chechnya strategy: going ahead with the constitutional referendum on March 23.
–BUILDING RESTORATION POLICY HIGHLIGHTED. The Russian website Polit.ru reported on February 17 that Ruslan Akhmadov, an official of the Moscow-appointed Chechen government’s commission for reconstruction, has stated that owners of completely destroyed buildings will not yet be able to receive compensation. Federal subsidies are currently going to the restoration of buildings that have been 40-60 percent destroyed; Chechens whose buildings were 100 percent destroyed are not presently receiving either monetary compensation or prefabricated shelters to replace them. Another official told the website that in Grozny about 60 percent of the buildings have been completely destroyed. Unlike monetary compensation, subsidies for rebuilding must pass through Russia’s notoriously corrupt construction sector. Last year, according to Polit.ru, the Russian authorities allocated the sum of 2.98 billion rubles for that purpose.
–BUDANOV TO REMAIN IMPRISONED. Colonel Yury Budanov, the Russian tank officer who murdered an 18-year-old Chechen girl, will probably remain in prison until after the March referendum in Chechnya. Federal prosecutors have joined the girl’s family in formally filing an appeal to Russia’s Supreme Court over a lower-court ruling at the end of December that found him not guilty by reason of insanity. According to the website Gazeta.ru, Budanov must by law remain in prison until the appeal is reviewed. Whether the government prosecutors will continue to purse the case aggressively after the referendum remains to be seen.
–VILNIUS REBUFFS RUSSIAN PROTEST. An Internet service provider based in Lithuania has refused to bow to pressures from Russia resulting from the provider’s agreement to host a pro-separatist Chechen website. Alvydas Vitkausk, director of Microlink Data in Vilnius, told the Associated Press that he had informed the state security department of Lithuania about his contract with the Caucasus Center and had received no objection from them. The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a protest on February 12, complaining that the website “spreads propaganda of Chechen militants aimed at disrupting the settlement process in Chechnya” and that “the Lithuanian authorities have not taken any measures concerning this site.”