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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chechnya Cries Foul Over 1992 Vouchers

The pro-Moscow Chechen administration is pressing Moscow to pay about $33 million for losses incurred to residents who did not get privatization vouchers in the early 1990s.

Critics said the appeal sounded like a populist move ahead of Chechnya's presidential election and that Chechen officials would do better to focus on reviving the war-battered economy than a decade-old complaint.

In the early 1990s, every Russian citizen received a voucher with a face value of 10 rubles that could be traded for shares in newly privatized enterprises.

The idea was that the value of the enterprises would grow, and that the shareholders would earn healthy dividends.

Then-Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudayev, however, refused to participate in the scheme, saying Chechnya did not need "tips from a foreign state" and "could take care of its citizens itself."

Chechen State Council head Khuzein Isayev said last week that Chechens lost out by not receiving 1.2 million vouchers in 1992 and that Moscow must compensate the republic to the tune of 1 billion rubles ($32.96 million) -- the value of the vouchers adjusted for inflation.

"As Russian citizens, residents of the republic own part of the federal property and have the full right to demand what legally belongs to them but was not given them in vouchers," Isayev was quoted as saying by Kommersant in Thursday's issue. "The thing is, no one dealt with this issue before now."

Isayev did not say how the money would be spent.

The State Council's top legal official, Arbi Satuyev, has been charged with drawing up an application for the money from Moscow, Kommersant reported.

Former Russian parliament Speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov dismissed the appeal as a publicity stunt ahead of the presidential election in October.

"I think this idea is just part of the election campaign -- a bit of public relations to show the people that the authorities are trying to get some money for them. For poor people, a billion rubles sounds big," Khasbulatov, now a professor at the Russian Economics Academy, said in a telephone interview.

"What is 1 billion rubles?" he added. "Just look at the damage in the republic. Our calculations show that it totals at least $100 billion in destroyed enterprises and housing."

The Property Ministry was not immediately available for comment. But a ministry source told Kommersant: "We forgot about vouchers long ago. ... All Russians -- not only Chechens -- failed to get anything from the vouchers. They were just sheets of paper that symbolized the right of citizens to share some of the property."

Chechen Prime Minister Stanislav Ilyasov declined to comment on the voucher appeal but said through a spokesman that his priorities were to help residents re-establish their lives and receive compensation for their destroyed homes.

Moscow has set aside about 14 billion rubles for compensation this year, in addition to the 22.5 billion rubles allotted for the republic in the federal budget.