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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

President Backs Chechen Vote

President Vladimir Putin reiterated his support Friday for a constitutional referendum in Chechnya despite criticism of the plans by the Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly.

"We must give the Chechen people the opportunity to use their right to make a choice. I am absolutely convinced that we should support this initiative coming from the republic," Putin told a meeting of security officers. He urged law enforcement to guarantee security during the March 23 plebiscite.

The European parliamentary assembly expressed concern last week about the referendum's timing. Lord Judd, the assembly's special rapporteur on Chechnya, said he would resign if the referendum goes ahead as scheduled.

On Friday, lawmaker Dmitry Rogozin, who with Judd heads a Russia-Council of Europe commission on Chechnya, said he would dissolve the Russian part of the commission "so that [Judd] won't have a way back."

Meanwhile, 540,000 booklets of the draft constitution were to be delivered to Chechnya from Moscow on Sunday.