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Tatar-Bashkir Report: January 23, 2002

23 January 2002
Constitutional Court Orders Wedge Between Legislature And Executive, But Leaves State Council In Place
The Russian Constitutional Court on 22 January ordered Tatarstan's legislature to amend republican laws on eligibility for the State Council, but judges stopped short of nullifying previous election results to Tatarstan's highest legislative body. Justices thus sided, in part, with the plaintiff in one of the country's most widely publicized cases, filed by Tatarstan resident Marsel Salyamov and aimed at loosening direct ties between the executive and legislative branches of government. They said republican laws allowing regional administration heads and other executive officials to serve in the State Council violates the federal constitution.

The court effectively rejected Salyamov's effort at redress for being unlawfully refused registration as a candidate for a State Council seat representing Aznakay region in 1999, however. The justices said the electoral results of 1999 were not subject to change, easing fears that a decision could create a legislative vacuum and annul a decade worth of laws at a single blow. Media have speculated that legislation dating all the way back to 1991 could be wiped out.

Tatar Muslim Leader Dismissive Of Choices For Federal Post
Tatarstan Muslim Religious Board Chairman Gusman Khazrat Iskhakov, in an interview with "Vremya i dengi" daily published on 23 January, expressed regret that there was a lack of unity among Muslim leaders in Russia. "Everybody wants to be mufti of all Russia, but no one has managed this so far," he said. Iskhakov added that Russian President Vladimir Putin raised the issue of forming a unified Muslim Board in 2001 -- and initially wanted to see the chairman of the Muslim Religious Board of Russia, Talgat Tadjuddin, as its leader -- but said, "Tadjuddin compromised himself by some of his activities."

Iskhakov called an alternate candidate, the chairman of Russia's Muftis Board, Ravil Gaynetdin, "a good politician." But he said: "He has few of connections with Arab Muslim countries, and without this it is hard to be the supreme mufti of Russia. Anyway, in my opinion, people should choose from [among] those who don't aspire to obtain more power."

Only A Slight Reduction Of Wage Arrears In 2001
Back wages owed to workers throughout Tatarstan's industrial sector currently totals 700 million rubles ($23 million), the republic's Labor Ministry announced on 22 January. Some 100 million rubles ($3 million) in back wages was paid off during 2001, and the number of debtor companies fell from 4,000 to 1,500, the ministry added. Ministry officials did not exclude the possibility of back wages growth in January of this year.

Trial Of Notorious Criminal Group Enters Final Stage
The Tatarstan Supreme Court began the sentencing phase in the trial of the "Khadi Takhtash" group on 23 January -- marking the final stage of an eight-year trial during which many witnesses refused to testify and none of the 13 acknowledged guilt. During the hearings, the prosecutors sought life terms for three individuals and at least 10 years in prison for the others. Judges are expected to release their 200-page verdict by the end of this week.

French Company Finalizing Terms Of Kazan Subway Work
Senior representatives of French Alstom Transport industrial company arrived in Tatarstan on 22 January to negotiate on the company's possible involvement in Kazan subway construction. The current talks are expected to finalize the terms of a protocol of intentions signed by Alstom and the Tatarstan government in July.

Tatneft Join The Discussion On Russia's Natural Resources Policies
Tatneft oil company representatives have been invited to join a February meeting between the Russian Natural Resources Ministry and major mineral-resources companies to discuss the mechanisms for a closer and more profitable partnership between the state and raw-material exporters, Tatar-inform reported on 22 January.

Tatarstan Hands Over Gas-Supply Assets To Gazprom
Tatarstan's off-budget fund for the construction of gas-supply networks will hand over 1 billion rubles' ($33 million) worth of gas pipelines and pumping stations to Tattransgaz company, which represents Russian monopoly Gazprom, to compensate for the republic's unpaid gas bills. Tatarstan state TV reported on 22 January that Tatarstan had managed to pay off the majority of its 4-billion-ruble ($133 million) debt by late 2001. The bilateral agreement settling the current transaction was signed by the republic and Gazprom in 1995.

Interior Ministry Reports 2001 Statistics
Tatarstan law enforcement registered 71,000 crimes in 2001, 653 of them murders, "Respublika Tatarstan" daily reported on 21 January. The paper cited Interior Minister Asgat Safarov. One-fifth of crimes were reportedly committed by individuals under the influence of alcohol, and about 1,000 crimes believed to have been committed by individuals with links to organized crime were investigated.

Kazan Among The Cheapest Russian Cities
RIA-Novosti reported on 21 January that the Tatarstan capital, Kazan, is among Russia's five least expensive cities in which to live, a list that also includes Ulyanovsk, Tambov, Elista, and Yoshkar-Ola.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Preparations For Second Bashkir Congress Reveal Past Shortcomings
Bashkortostan's government has decreed a second World Bashkir Congress for 10-11 June in Ufa, the RFE/RL correspondent in Bashkortostan's capital reported on 22 January. Ongoing preparations for the event have exposed numerous failures to fulfill tasks set by the first congress, in June 1995. The congress' executive committee reportedly is battling a lack of active members after it refused to involve members of the Bashkir Ittifaq youth movement.

Committee Chairman Niyaz Majitov is losing popularity among Bashkirs -- apparently due to his attempts to individually decide on participating in political processes. During recent elections for a Chelyabinsk Oblast governor, for instance, Majitov personally pledged support to one of the candidates on behalf of the Bashkir people. Many of the congress' regional branches have proven ineffective, as candidates for local leadership proposed by Majitov have not enjoyed voter support. According to RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent, congress officials are blamed for failing to help the distant Bashkir communities to organize themselves -- for example, in Kazakhstan.

Bashkortostan Seeing Mixed Economic Results
Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Sigakov said on 22 January that Bashkortostan achieved "ambiguous successes in industrial development in 2001." The republic reportedly possesses the eighth-largest gross industrial production and the third-highest agricultural output in Russia, but he said it also shows low figures in labor productivity and gross domestic product per capita.

Government Worried By Falling Alcohol Exports
Bashkortostan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade on 22 January voiced its concern with dropping alcohol exports, reporting that in 2001 the republic sold less alcohol to other Russian regions than in 1999. It noted a general decrease in production at local vodka plants. Belebey distillery is reported to be the lone company selling its production outside Bashkortostan.

Emergencies Ministry Officer Slams Russian Military Reform
The chief of the Volga-Ural center for the Russian Emergencies Ministry, General Lieutenant Petr Tretyakov, told Bashinform on 22 January that "military officers are not satisfied with the reforms undertaken by the Russian government in the army." In his opinion, the abolition of social benefits to the military threatens to deprive the army of high-ranking officers. Tretyakov emphasized that material compensation, to be granted to officers from July, will not cover the losses from the elimination of the old social security system.

Volga-Ural Region Emergencies Service Officials To Gather In Ufa
The heads of Russian Emergencies Ministry branches in the Volga-Ural region will gather in Ufa on 23-24 January for a forum aimed at summing up their activities in 2001 and setting an agenda for 2002.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi