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Tatar-Bashkir Report: June 12, 2003

12 June 2003
Shaimiev Against Merging Russian Territorial Entities
Speaking with Interfax on 11 June, President Mintimer Shaimiev said that the "merger of [Russia's] regions may be practiced exclusively according to the will of the population in a federation's entity...Any radical steps towards uniting [the regions] will bring the supreme separation of the government from the population and the distancing of the central government from the people, causing more opposition to emerge."

According to the Russian Constitution the merger of Russia's entities may only occur through a referendum and the borders between regions are not subject to change without the approval of all sides involved.

Shaimiev cited some "strange commentaries and statements" by "high-ranking officials, State Duma deputies, and the representatives of federal authorities," who mentioned some regional mergers that are being planned. He said such statements are caused by the coming State Duma elections, as candidates began making proposals saying "it would be much easier to rule Russia if, instead of 89 entities, there were two times less." Those who explain it like this have "no idea and no impression" of the scale of Russia's territories, he said. Even stranger, Shaimiev said, "is to hear statements saying that merging [entities] will not require changes to Russia's Constitution."

Shaimiev emphasized the current problem of rural areas, which are constantly being depopulated. In his words, comparing the current situation to the results of the 1989 census, 23 percent of all villages disappeared from Russia's map and tens of millions of hectares of arable land lost their owners by 2001, "while the countryside, not the urban areas, are the main factor in populating the country's territory."

He said that therefore the government had "to be close to the people to know the actual situation in this or that region, its problems, and the concrete measures needed" to improve things. Shaimiev also called it "remarkable" that Russian President Vladimir Putin had previously stated that during his presidency he will make "no proposals to change the Russian Constitution," which currently gives the regions an opportunity to decide on whether to merge with neighboring entities or not.

More Funding Required For Clean Water
Boris Petrov, minister of ecology and natural resources, told a special governmental meeting on 11 June that when Kazan marks its millennium anniversary in 2005 the Tatar capital will still have a problem with impure drinking water, Intertat reported the same day. Petrov said that more than 700 million rubles ($22.8 million) from the federal and republican budgets for the pure-water program "represent an impressive sum, but it is not enough for stabilizing the situation" with drinking water across the republic. Water in the cities of Kazan, Tuben Kama, and Elmet, as well as the Yugari Oslan, Drozhzhanoi, Yutazi, and Bauli regions, is reported to vary significantly from official purity standards and the deputy minister of construction, architecture, and housing, Abrek Khairullin, said during the same meeting that the annual funding of at least 1 billion rubles ($32.6 million) is necessary for resuming work on replacing the old water pipelines and renovating purification facilities.

Tatar Officials Send Out Russia's Day Greetings
On the eve of Russia's Day, celebrated on 12 June, Tatarstan's parliamentary speaker, Farid Mukhametshin, greeted the republic's residents by saying that adhering to the values of Russia�s sovereignty declaration from 12 June 1990 is the major guarantee of further political stability and interethnic concord in the country, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported yesterday. He stated that it is possible to increase the welfare of all of Russia's residents with the help of "well-balanced federal relations and securing the interests of all ethnic groups populating our country."

Meanwhile, President Shaimiev sent messages to former Russian President Boris Yeltsin and his successor, Vladimir Putin, also on 11 June, thanking them for promoting the role of democracy and federalism in order to allow Russia to "occupy a decent place in civilized society and letting every Russian citizen feel free, realizing the responsibility for [their] country's fate."

Bus Crash Kills Three
At least three women aged 15, 28, and 63-years-old died in a bus crash near Elmet, Tatarstan on 11 June, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported yesterday. Eighteen more of the 37 passengers were given medical assistance after the bus turned over due to a technical problem, according to investigators. Six passengers are currently in the intensive care unit, while eight others are reported to have serious injuries.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Supreme Court Says Dismissal Of Bashkir Tax Minister Was Legal
The Bashkir Supreme Court on 10 June overruled the recent resolution of the Ufa Lenin Raion Court, which had reinstated Reshit Sattarov, the dismissed head of the Bashkir branch of the Russian Tax Ministry, Rosbalt reported yesterday. The Supreme Court ruled that the March 2003 decree of Russian Tax Minister Gennadii Bukaev suspending Sattarov from service on 12 March and dismissing him on 25 March for failing to carry out his official duties and violating the federal law on state service was legal (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 27 March, 2, 5, and 12 May 2003). Sattarov opposed the federal ministry's stance on demanding the payment of 10 billion rubles ($325.7 million)in taxes from Bashkir oil-processing industries, which had allegedly attempted to evade taxes by registering in the Baikonur off-shore zone in Kazakhstan.

Interior Ministry Raid Mezhprombank Office In Ufa
More than 20 camouflaged Bashkir Interior Ministry officers seized the Ufa office of the International Industrial Bank (Mezhprombank) on 11 June, Rosbalt reported the same day. The bank's employees were reportedly prevented from leaving, while officers confiscated computers, safes, and documents. Yevgenii Vanok, director of the Ufa branch, told Rosbalt the same day that the raid "was authorized by the republican government and was politically motivated." He added that the pressure is "directly linked to reports saying that former head of Mezhprombank's central office Sergei Veremeenko intends to run for the Bashkir presidency." Vanok said that the raid followed the 16 May inspection of the republic's National Bank "which failed to find any violations." Police said afterwards that the search was connected to an investigation of a criminal case involving Mezhprombank's promissory notes.

Rakhimov Addresses Bashkortostan On Russian Independence Day...
One day before Russian Independence Day celebrations on 12 June, President Murtaza Rakhimov issued a statement outlining the vital importance of Russia's Sovereignty Declaration adopted in 1990 and of Bashkortostan's contribution to the country's development, and the promotion and strengthening of its international status. Also on 11 June, Rakhimov received telegrams from Russian President Vladimir Putin, head of the presidential staff Aleksandr Voloshin, Liberal Democratic party leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii, and a number of federal and regional leaders.

...Admits His Dependence On Voters, Moscow
In a special poll conducted among Russia's political and public figures for the 9 June issue of "Kommersant-Vlast" magazine, President Murtaza Rakhimov was asked whether he himself was independent. Rakhimov replied: "Of course not. Being an elected politician I depend on voters. [And] as head of the republic, I depend on general policies from the federal center."

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi