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Tatar-Bashkir Report: June 5, 2003

5 June 2003
Government, Parliament Dispute Over President's Powers
The Tatar Constitutional Court considered a request from the government for an official comment on the constitutional provision saying that Tatarstan's president forms the Cabinet of Ministers and the system of executive branches in accordance with corresponding laws on 4 May, Intertat reported the same day. The cabinet is reportedly interested in the precise definition of the term "to form," whether it allows the president only to make appointments or decide on the structure of state bodies. In the government's view, presidential powers are not limited to the right to appoint or dismiss the members of government.

Under federal laws, the activities of Tatarstan's Cabinet of Ministers should be regulated by the Tatar Constitution and the special republican law. But due to the absence of such law, the activities of the Tatar government are covered by the constitution and the presidential decrees.

Artur Shakaraev, the deputy head of the Tatar State Council's legal department, said during the court session that in the parliament's opinion, the president is only allowed to appoint government officials and not to define the government's structure.

Deputy Tatar Prosecutor Vladimir Meterlin told the court that both the presidential and parliamentary decrees regarding the operation of government adopted previously were already acknowledged as violating federal law and there should be a special republican law on the government's activities. On 11 May 2001, Tatarstan's State Council adopted a decree on establishing, abolishing, and reforming the ministries and state committees of Tatarstan.

Constitutional Court Chairman Seyfikhan Nefiev closed the court session by saying that the court's ruling will be made public on a date yet to be announced.

Red Tape Mars Resolution Of Headscarves Affair
Despite recent reports saying that the Russian Interior Ministry had put an official end to the "Muslim headscarves affair" by allowing the use of headwear for passport photographs if required by an individual's religion, Muslim women in Tatarstan are still unable to have their photographs taken in an Islamic way, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 4 June (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 3 June 2003). Almira Adiatullina, who was among the Muslims demanding the right to have a passport photo taken wearing a traditional headscarf, told the bureau the same day that republican passport-visa service officials were refusing to accept photographs with headscarves, saying they still had not received an official document on the matter.

Kashapov Cancels Hunger Strike
Refis Kashapov, head of the Tatar Public Center's branch in Chally, stopped his hunger strike on 3 June, Tatarinform reported the next day. Kashapov declared the hunger strike after being placed in a psychiatric hospital for mental examination on 26 May. Kashapov's recent decision was reportedly inspired by hospital director Naile Yanisheva, who told him that he had to "save himself for his family and the life ahead."

Kashapov, arrested on 26 March, is currently under investigation on charges of inciting interethnic and interconfessional discord (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 13, 22 and 23 May 2003).

Tatarstan Ranked 12th In Credit Rating
According to a ranking of Russia's regions by their credit rating published by AK&M on 4 June and topped by Moscow, Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug and St. Petersburg, Tatarstan was ranked 12th. The republic ranked seventh in annual income, while in average income per capita it was ranked 26th.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Daily: Moscow Oligarchs To Back Rakhimov's Candidacy
"Nezavisimaya Gazeta" reported on 4 June that the decision of Relif Safin, the Russian Federation Council member representing the Altay Republic, not to run for the Bashkir presidency in the December 2003 vote was rather explained by the interests of the "old Moscow group of oligarchs," to which Safin belongs, than by the private agreement between Safin and President Murtaza Rakhimov (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 3 June 2003). The paper cited unnamed officials from the Bashkir presidential staff, who said that the "Moscow group" was interested in supporting Rakhimov in order to prevent Sergei Veremeenko, the former head of Moscow's International Industrial Bank (MezhPromBank), from winning the presidency (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 3 June 2003). Veremeenko is thought to represent the interests of Sergei Pugachev, one of the bank's major owners and the head of the St. Petersburg group of oligarchs, closely related to the top management of the Russian Gazprom monopoly. Aleksandr Veremeenko, Sergei's brother, is currently heading the Bashkir branch of Gazprom, Bashtransgaz.

Duma Deputies Seeking Dismissal Of Committee Chairman
Russian State Duma deputies representing Bashkortostan Zeynulla Bagyshaev (Fatherland-All Russia) and Mikhail Bugera (Russian Regions) along with Unity faction members Galina Strelchenko and Sergei Zhitinkin are pushing for the dismissal of Aleksandr Salii, the chairman of the Duma commission on elections and a Communist deputy in Tatarstan, because, according to them, he "uses the commission for political purposes.... Possessing no grounding, [and] no powers he makes negative conclusions about the [March 2003] elections for Bashkortostan's State Assembly," "Izvestiya" wrote on 4 June. Salii commented on the affair by saying that he acted within his jurisdiction when he distributed copies of a videotape allegedly showing falsifications during the March vote to deputies. He claimed that he was authorized to do so by one of the Duma's deputy speakers. "When I see that a pack of 100 ballots is being pushed into a ballot box I have to disseminate this information. Deputies have to see this and make their own conclusions."

Bashkir Communist Party Replaces Election Commission Representative
The republican committee of Russia's Communist Party in Bashkortostan fired its official representative to the Central Election Commission Tavris Khekimov on 4 June, the government agency Bashinform reported the same day. According to the agency, Bashkir resident Khekimov will be replaced by Vladimir Ruzlyaev from Moscow. The agency speculated that Ruzlyaev has connections to the Russian Tax Minister Gennadii Bukaev, "who is strongly interested in Bashkortostan's energy complex." Earlier reports in the Russian and Bashkir media touted Bukaev as a possible candidate for the Bashkir presidency.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi