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Tatar-Bashkir Report: February 19, 2003

19 February 2003
Parliamentary Speaker Discusses Power Sharing In Legislators Council
Tatarstan's State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin attended a meeting of Russia's Legislators Council in Moscow on 18 February, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. Discussion at the meeting, which included Russian President Vladimir Putin, deputy head of the presidential administration in charge of power sharing between the center and the regions Dmitrii Kozak, Justice Minister Yurii Chaika, and Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov, focused on the development of ongoing government and local self-government reform. In his speech, Putin emphasized that the federal government "should take on only those obligations, which it is actually capable of fulfilling and which are financially provided for.... Without the close coordination of powers and interbudgetary relations the undertaken reform will be absolutely ineffective."

Following Putin's speech, Mukhametshin presented a report on problems of division of jurisdiction and powers between the national, regional, and local levels of authority. He said Russia's territorial entities have entered a wide-scale discussion of Putin's proposed amendments to the laws of organizations of state bodies in the regions and the local self-government bodies. Noting the significant contribution of the drafts to government reform in Russia, he proposed a package of alterations to the document, emphasizing the need for further corrections during deliberations in the State Duma. Mukhametshin said, "Any level of authority not only must feel responsibility but also be able to act in fulfilling its powers."

Later that day Mukhametshin reportedly met with Kozak to discuss the extension of the bilateral power-sharing treaty between Kazan and Moscow.

Tatar Senator Urges Another Federation Council Reform
In an interview with "Vechernyaya Kazan" on 19 February, Tatarstan's senator in the Federation Council, Refqet Altynbaev, spoke against the present law on the council's organization, which stipulates the appointment of two representatives from each region. Under the current legislation, one of the senators represents the executive branch, while the other is proposed by the legislative branch. According to Altynbaev, "Every region needs one senator who should be elected by direct vote." However, he admitted that regional leaders, who reformed the law while members of the Federation Council, "are afraid that the elected senators will obtain the same scope of influence in the public's eyes. When adopting these laws they thought everything over to prevent such a possibility. They made the [new] Federation Council to fit themselves."

Tatarstan's Mobile-Phone Market Split Over Dubious Competition Practices
Tatar Deputy Communications Minister Oleg Natanson told a press conference on 18 February that by the end of 2003 the number of mobile-phone users in the republic will catch up with the number of land-line subscribers, currently estimated at 800,000, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the next day. Meanwhile, the fruitful coexistence of four independent mobile-phone companies, currently uniting 500,000 users, was compromised by the unilateral decision of TAIF-Telcom, the first company on the local market. On 5 February, TAIF-Telcom blocked its connection with the other three wireless operators -- BeeLine, SMARTS, and Megafon -- demanding that they pay for expanding the capacity of its networks. The newcomers refused, arguing that they had already made all necessary payments to the city telephone network that interconnects the different wireless service providers.

Albert Shigabutdinov, general director of the influential TAIF group and chairman of the board of directors of TAIF-Telcom, explained his company's stand during the same press conference by saying that in his opinion consumers "will be unable to get services of desired quality from the new operators and will have to return to TAIF-Telcom."

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Russian President Calls For Further Harmonization
Speaking at a meeting of the Legislators Council of regional parliamentary speakers on 18 February in Moscow, President Vladimir Putin said harmonization of federal and regional legislation remains "an exceptionally important task," Prime-TASS reported the same day. Putin said, "This legal gap still impedes the resolution of numerous problems, both in the social and economic sectors." Putin also said, "All laws being adopted in the country should be really working," adding that "it is unacceptable to repeat former mistakes, when legal acts passed in [Moscow] did not take into account regional peculiarities, while regions adopted laws contradicting principles of the constitution."

Agricultural Exhibit Attracts 200 Companies
Some 200 companies producing agro-industrial equipment and foodstuffs from Slovenia, the Czech Republic, France, Italy, Great Britain, Germany, Japan, Switzerland, Netherlands, Poland, Austria, and Russia are taking part in the international exhibit AGRO-2003 that opened on 18 February in Ufa, Bashinform and RosBalt reported the same day. An international conference on efficiency in the agro-industrial complex and the conditions for Russia's entry into the World Trade Organization is being held during the event.

Bombing Prevented In Ufa
An explosive device attached to an apartment door was found in Ufa on 17 February after an unknown woman informed the Ufa Interior Ministry office about a suspicious parcel by telephone, Bashinform reported on 18 February, citing the Bashkir Emergency Situations Ministry. All residents of the apartment building were evacuated and a device containing gunpowder was defused.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova