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Tatar-Bashkir Report: February 13, 2002

13 February 2002
Parliament Schedules Debate On New Constitution
Tatarstan's State Council presidium on 12 February placed the debate of a new republican constitution on the legislature's 28 February docket, RFE/RL's Kazan Bureau reported. The same session will also consider President Mintimer Shaimiev's annual message on development tasks for 2002, in addition to other issues. Parliamentary Speaker Farit Mukhametshin said after the presidium meeting that the draft constitution will bring Tatarstan into harmony with federal legislation while preserving the definition on the republic's "sovereign" status. At the same time, he said, it will "more distinctly state [Tatarstan's] being within the Russian Federation." According to other members of the Constitutional Commission that already considered the draft, the new constitution will not feature a former article declaring that Tatarstan is a subject of international law.

KamAZ Restarts Assembly Line, Revamps Relations With Dealers
Operations resumed of the KamAZ automotive concern's main assembly line following an 8 February stoppage due to lagging sales, Tatarstan's media reported on 12 February, citing the company's press department. Deputy General Director Nail Galiullin said in his statement that the assembly line could be halted several times in the first quarter of 2002 if KamAZ's retail partners do not maintain stable sales of Tatar trucks.

KamAZ reportedly embarked on a new strategy from 1 January based on abolishing barter transactions and selling its trucks only for money in order to ensure the profitable production.

Yukos Head Criticizes Quality Of Tatar, Bashkir Oil
The chairman of Russian oil company Yukos' board, Mikhail Khodorkovskii, told Tatnews agency on 12 February that high-sulfur oil extracted in Tatarstan and Bashkortostan adversely affects the general quality of oil exported by Russia. That requires the product to be dissolved with 'light,' low-sulfur oil of better quality from Arab countries to meet the requirements of Western customers, he added. Khodorkovskii added that sulfurous oil is also extracted in other regions of Russia. He said a special fee must be introduced for such producers to create price differences between high-quality oil and low-quality oil contributed by the companies.

Khodorkovskii claimed that this would create "some losses" for oil producers in Tatarstan and Bashkortostan but added that they were insufficient "compared to the $2.5 billion that Russia loses every year due to the export of Tatar and Bashkir oil."

Official Outlines Census Workforce, Procedures
The chairman of Tatarstan's Statistics Committee, Valerii Kandilov, told reporters on 12 February that 3.77 million polling questionnaires will be used by his employees during the Russia-wide census to be held in October. Some 14,000 polling officers will canvass the homes of republican residents on 9-16 October. According to Kandilov, Tatarstan and Bashkortostan were the only Russian regions allowed introductory processing of the completed questionnaires, while other regions will have to redirect them to interregional census centers.

Transport Minister Weighs In Against Free Rides
Deputy Prime Minister and Transport and Roads Minister Vladimir Shvetsov said on 12 February that some 75 percent of those using municipal public transport in Tatarstan do so illegally. Shvetsov also said the current, disastrous situation among state-owned bus companies could be changed if state institutions granting free use of public transport to employees -- such as the military and police -- bought tickets for them instead.

Kazan city officials in charge of transport have said that some 60 percent of those using public transport are pensioners, socially disadvantaged residents, or other individuals with a right to free rides.

Republican Police Blame Russian Military For Slow Reaction To Deserters' Escape
Tatarstan Deputy Interior Minister Rinat Timerzyanov told reporters on 12 February that investigators into the murders committed by two deserters from Ulyanovsk air base on 4-5 February believe a lack of information about their escape contributed to the deaths within local law enforcement (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 5 and 6 February 2002). Russian Army officials in Ulyanovsk reported the escape of soldiers only on the morning of 4 February, by which time they had killed two policemen and two civilians. The military also did not report that both deserters had bullet-proof vests and wore uniforms very much like those of the militia's Spetsnaz force.

Investigators reportedly have not figured out a motive for the rampage.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Bashkortostan, Mezhregiongaz Negotiate On Debt Repayment...
Prime Minister Rafael Baydavletov said during a meeting with representatives of Russian Mezhregiongaz that Bashkortostan industries owe 1.389 billion rubles ($46 million) in back payments for gas supplies -- a fraction of the 5 billion rubles that was owed in 1999. The same day, officials of state-owned Bashkirgaz and Mezhregiongaz, which is a subsidiary of Russian monopoly Gazprom, signed an agreement to accelerate the repayment of remaining debt through strict actions against debtors' property. The Republic of Bashkortostan also agreed to hand over some 600 million rubles ($20 million) in network assets to Gazprom.

After the debt restructuring, Mezhregiongaz officials pledged to offer Gazprom an increase in the annual limit on gas supplies to Bashkortostan in 2002 to the level of 16.2 million cubic meters.

...While Late Electricity Payments Also Need Attention
Electricity consumers in Bashkortostan currently owe 5.13 billion rubles ($170 million) to Bashkirenergo power and heat producer, Bashinform reported on 12 February. While some of the rural regions considered to be the major debtors have managed to reduce their debts, Ufa's city heating networks and the Baymak region were reported to have accrued the biggest debts.

Spirits Industry Said To Contribute 4 Percent Of Budget Revenues
Prime Minister Rafael Baydavletov chaired a government session devoted to alcohol production in the republic on 12 February. Baydavletov reported that his republic is the third-largest producer of alcohol in Russia after Moscow and Moscow Oblast, and is the fifth-biggest vodka manufacturer. He added that the republic's spirits industry contributes some 4 percent of republican budget revenues (1.1 billion rubles, or $37 million).

Birth And Death Rates In BR
The director of Ufa's medical and scientific research institute, Akhat Bakirov, told reporters on 12 February that Bashkortostan's birth rate has declined from 16 to 10 births per 1,000 people since 1993, while the death rate has grown from 9.6 to 13.2 per 1,000 during the same period.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi