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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Presidential Aides Warn Regions on Charter

Two top Kremlin officials on Wednesday issued stern warnings to dissident Russian regions not to stand in the way of Sunday's constitutional referendum as they continued to lobby for last-minute support.

Sergei Filatov and Nikolai Medvedev, the president's chief of staff and top regional adviser, speaking at two separate news conferences, reflected an anxiety in the Kremlin that regional leaders might be scaring their voters away from voting in Sunday's referendum.

Filatov told a news conference that Tatarstan, Bashkortostan and Tuva were "waging war against the constitution".

"We must all be concerned about the unity of the Russian Federation, otherwise we will bring the state to catastrophe", said Filatov who, together with Medvedev is running for the new Federal Assembly with the Russia's Choice bloc.

Leaders in Tatarstan and Bashkortostan - two of Russia's largest and richest regions - have criticized the draft constitution for stripping Russia's 21 republics of "sovereignty".

In the April referendum there was a low turnout in both republics, which have being trying to win as much autonomy as possible from Moscow.

Tuva, the last region to enter the Soviet Union in 1944, has adopted its own constitution which preserves the concept of sovereignty and the right to leave the Russian Federation. It was being debated by the local Supreme Soviet on Wednesday and will also be put to a referendum Sunday.

Filatov's challenge to the regions appears to be part of a concerted strategy to put pressure on provincial leaders.

Yeltsin on Tuesday won an undertaking from the leaders of the North Caucasian republics, which are traditionally hostile to Moscow, that they would support the new constitution.

"After my trip to the North Caucasus and conversations with people my optimism has increased", Yeltsin said before flying to Brussels for a two-day trip. "The people understand that the new constitution is the route to reforms and that means they will vote for it".

Sergei Samoilov, Medvedev's deputy, revealed on Wednesday that Yeltsin while visiting the North Caucasus republics had agreed to pay them funds they were demanding for their grain harvest.

Medvedev, Yeltsin's main adviser on regional policy, also criticized Tatarstan, Tuva and Bashkortostan for "irresponsible declarations", adding the southern republic of Kalmykia as another culprit.

Dissident leaders "should know that they bear responsibility not only on their own consciences but before the state, as state officials", Medvedev said.

Erdni Shamakov, press secretary to Kalmykian President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, contacted by telephone on Wednesday, denied the thrust of Medvedev's allegations.

He said that Ilyumzhinov was critical of the organization of the election campaign as "far from democratic" and the draft charter as having a "strong tendency to defederalize Russia".

But the leadership in Kalmykia was not urging its citizens to vote one way or another, he said.