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Tatar-Bashkir Report: February 10, 2003

10 February 2003
Constitutional Court Says Tatarstan's Sovereignty Legal
The Tatar Constitutional Court ruled on 7 February that Tatarstan can be a bearer of sovereignty, Tatar-inform,, and reported the same day. The court specified that sovereignty should be considered the will of Tatarstan's people expressed in the 21 March 1992 referendum and set down in the republic's constitution. "The decision by the referendum on the republic's sovereignty needs not be confirmed and is still in force, and it can only be abolished by another referendum," the court said. The court also said Tatarstan's sovereignty, which applies to issues outside Russia's authority, does not violate the sovereignty of the Russian Federation.

The ruling came in response to an inquiry of Tatar State Council deputies who asked the court to interpret Article 1 of the Tatar Constitution after Russian Deputy Prosecutor-General Aleksandr Zvyagintsev contested the amended Tatar Constitution in court. Zvyagintsev appealed to the Tatar Supreme Court to declare 52 articles of the republican constitution, including the one saying Tatarstan is a sovereign state within Russia, as contradicting federal legislation. State Council deputies referred to Article 5 of the Russian Constitution, which recognizes Russia's republics to be states and thus assumes that they bear sovereignty.

The Constitutional Court's ruling came into force immediately after it was announced, is final, and cannot be appealed, the reports said.

State Agency To Be Set Up To Supervise Media
The establishment of the TatMedia state agency, which will be responsible for working with the state-run media, was discussed several days earlier at a meeting in the Cabinet of Ministers involving the editors in chief of the "Respublika Tatarstan," "Watanym Tatarstan," "Tatarstan yeshlere," and "Molodezh Tatarstana" newspapers, several magazines and journals, and the Internet newspaper, "Vechernyaya Kazan" daily reported on 7 February. According to the plan, the republic's media will lose independent legal status and will become subordinate to the agency, which will become a mediator in obtaining budget subsidies by media outlets and will provide them with a state order for reviewing social issues. All of the republic's publishing houses and printing plants will also be included in the agency, which will supervise the media's and enterprises' financial activity and advertising, while its head will be empowered to appoint and dismiss their editors in chief and directors.

Analysts link the initiative with the upcoming elections in the republic. The abolishment of the Media Ministry in Tatarstan in 2000, following the re-election of President Mintimer Shaimiev, resulted in the state-run media's becoming less manageable, the paper said. Tatarstan's 2003 budget allocates 283 million rubles ($8.9 million) for subsidies to state-run media outlets.

Head Of Judge's Academy Detained While Taking Bribe
Saidel Shakirov, the director of the Kazan branch of the Russian Academy of Justice, was caught red-handed on 4 February by the Tatar Interior Ministry's Anti-Organized Crime Directorate as he was allegedly accepting a 1 million-ruble ($31,500) bribe from a Kazan businessman, and reported on 7 February, citing the Tatar prosecutors' office. For the bribe, Shakirov reportedly guaranteed the businessman that his property case would be resolved in his favor both in the Tatar Arbitration Court and in the Federal Arbitration Court of the Volga Federal District.

Prosecutors appealed to Kazan's Wakhitov Raion court to place Shakirov in custody, but the court released Shakirov on condition of his written agreement not to leave Kazan. Tatar prosecutors' office department head Vladimir Vladimirov told "Izvestiya" on 8 February that the prosecutors will appeal the decision.

Opposition Parties Demand Tatar Election Commission Be Dissolved
A roundtable of Tatarstan's opposition parties and civic groups issued a statement to protest the order of forming territorial electoral commissions in the republic that promotes interests of the party of power and infringes upon rights of the political opposition, "Vremya i dengi" reported on 8 February. The authors said there is no opposition representative among the 63 commission chairmen. They also protested that only 92 out of the 432 electoral commission members represent opposition parties, while the Unified Russia party received 157 seats. Opposition leaders commented that republican authorities continue using "an administrative resource" in elections and called for dissolution of the Tatar Central Electoral Commission, which, they claim, is "unable to secure honest and free elections."

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Analysts Pick Bashkirenergo's Shares As Having Highest Potential
Experts from Russia's Troika Dialog investment company said on 7 February that the shares of Bashkirenergo company possess "the highest potential compared to the shares of other Russian regional energy systems," Bashinform reported the same day. They predicted Bashkirenergo's shares to gain in price by 118 percent during 2003, while a similar company from Nizhnii Novgorod, Nizhnovenergo, ranked second on the list of stocks with high potential, with a predicted gain of 105 percent. Lenenergo in Leningrad Oblast placed third on the list with a forecasted 90 percent gain in value. On the other hand, Rostov Oblast's Rostovenergo, Irkutsk's Irkutskenergo, and Perm Oblast's Permenergo were predicted to face the biggest losses in share price, with losses of 12, 22, and 32 percent, respectively.

Baltic Sea Fleet Appreciates Bashkortostan's Assistance
Russian Baltic Sea Fleet commanders invited the Bashkir government to join the celebrations of the fleet's 300th anniversary as a gesture of gratitude for the republic's provisioning of the submarine hunter "Bashkortostan," Bashkir state radio reported on 9 February. The government has been providing "Bashkortostan" with fuel, lubricants, and food as well as other types of assistance ever since the ship was named after the republic in September 1999. The patronage was made official by a September 2001 treaty between the Baltic Fleet headquarters and Bashkir government.

Federal Authorities Dismiss Majority Of Bashkortostan's Appeals
Bashkortostan's presidential parole commission considered 27 appeals from convicts in Bashkortostan and recommended the Russian president free five prisoners in 2002, AROMI reported on 7 February. However, in checking the Bashkir proposal, Russian presidential parole officials have already dismissed three of the appeals.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi