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Tatar-Bashkir Report: February 25, 2002


25 February 2002
DAILY REVIEW FROM TATARSTAN
Russian President Acknowledges Muslim Holiday
President Vladimir Putin sent his greetings to Russia's Muslims on Qorban holiday, Rosbalt reported on 22 February. Putin said many citizens follow traditions of Islam -- calling it a religion of humanism, peace, and tolerance.

Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev also addressed Muslims on the holiday, saying, "Muslims, together with representatives of all faiths, are doing everything to realize religious and moral ideas and state programs to improve society," Tatar-inform reported.

Muftis Condemn Extremism, Urge Russian Peacemaking Efforts In Middle East
Tatarstan Mufti Gusman Iskhakov on 22 February delivered a sermon devoted to the Qorban holiday promoting tolerance, peace, and Muslim unity, RIA-Novosti reported. Iskhakov said there is no place for religious extremism in Tatarstan. However, he stressed that mistakenly equating the Muslim faith with terrorism -- two things that are not equal �- sometimes occurs. He called on Muslims to live by the Koran rather than formally declaring themselves Muslims.

In Moscow on the same day, roughly 10,000 residents gathered for a holiday prayer and sermon held by the mufti of the European part of Russia, Ravil Gainutdin, Islam.ru reported. Gainutdin presented greetings from President Putin and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov. Gainutdin appealed to Russia's leadership to increase peacemaking activities in the Middle East in order to help the "long-suffering Palestinian people live in peace in their own state...[which is] able to develop its own economy and culture."

Speaker Reacts To Duma Rejection Of Citizenship Amendment
The Russian Duma on 20 February rejected a Tatarstan-backed amendment to the federal law on citizenship promoting republican citizenship. Tatarstan State Council Speaker Farid Mukhametshin told Ekho Moskvy the same day that the abolition of republican citizenship within the Russian Federation restricts the rights of federation members. Mukhametshin said Russia's republics are recognized as states in the Russian Constitution and have attributes of statehood -- including citizenship alongside Russian Federation citizenship. The Tatarstan State Assembly had promulgated the amendment.

Federation Council Speaker Calls Power-Sharing Treaties Obsolete
Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov said the practice of concluding power-sharing treaties has no future and is outdated, RIA-Novosti reported on 19 February. He said power sharing between the federation and its members should be regulated by the Russian Constitution.

"Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 19 February reported that the Kremlin's effort to annul power-sharing treaties is moving slowly. Only nine such documents out of the total of 42 have been abrogated so far, while 10 more regions have agreed to annul their treaties. Tatarstan and Bashkortostan remain among the main opponents of the measure, the paper noted. In Tatarstan, the power-sharing treaty is closely connected with several paragraphs of the constitution, and Kazan is prepared to hold a referendum to protect that status. The Judicial Board of the Russian presidential administration has suggested that some treaties could be abrogated by courts together with the dismissal of governors, the paper said. However, a milder policy on the issue is also under discussion, including a proposal to hand some powers of the federal authorities to regions if the federation is unwilling or unable to perform them, the paper said. Thus the Kremlin's readiness to compromise with regions is obvious, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" concluded.

Tatarstan Leads Volga District In Terms Of Foreign Investments
Tatarstan attracted 43 percent of total foreign investment into the Volga federal district in 2001, the head of the Russian Central Bank's board in Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast, Stanislav Spitsyn, told reporters on 22 February. Roughly $300 million of the $678 million invested was bound for the republic, while Samara Oblast received $170 million, Orenburg Oblast $86 million, and Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast saw $15 million.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

DAILY REVIEW FROM BASHKORTOSTAN
President Says Governors, But Not Local Leaders, Should Reflect Voters' Will
President Murtaza Rakhimov told Interfax-Eurasia on 20 February that the election of regional leaders should be considered valid if at least 50 percent of electorate take part. "The elections of regional heads are [thus] the result of the will of the people rather than of central authorities," he said. He opposed a proposal to reduce the required threshold to 25 percent of voters, saying the measure would flout the will of voters. In a democratic state, Rakhimov said, such leaders must be elected and be responsible to their electorate.

Rakhimov insisted, however, that balloting for city and raion administration heads is "impermissible," adding that they should be appointed by governors and then elected by local councils. The president said the fact that local administrations receive subsidies from the republican budget demonstrates the need for those officials to be appointed rather than elected . He said true local self-government is possible only when local bodies are financially independent.

Tadjuddin Decries Spread Of Wahhabism
The supreme mufti of Russia and the European countries of the CIS, Talgat Tadjuddin, said Russia's Muslims angrily condemn international terrorism and offer their condolences to its victims. "We cannot be indifferent when the fair idea of fighting international terrorism is interpreted as actions against civilizations, cultures, or peoples. We cannot be indifferent to our close neighbors in Central Asia who have been linked to us by cultural and spiritual ties for ages," he said. Tadjuddin sharply protested "the continuing religious expansion into the country, the invasion of totalitarian sects, pseudo-religious extremism, and Wahhabism in the spiritual space of Russia."

Bashkortostan Authorities Pledge Greater Access To Information
"Kommersant" reported on 15 February that Bashkortostan's cabinet has begun a reconstruction of the official government website (www.bashnet.ru). A new version of the site, which was created in 1997, will include articles about culture, history, and social life in the republic, alongside official information. The ostensible aim of the project is more openness in cabinet activities.

Marat Yamalov, the head of the Bashkortostan presidential administration information board, told the daily that "information has become much more accessible in recent years." He said 162 sites have been registered in Ufa, including the official server of republican authorities. The republican automated system of legal information contains more than 25,000 pieces of republican and 42,000 pieces of Russian legislation. He said state bodies should not commercialize access to information.

Health Figures Indicate 'Stabilization'
Health Minister Rais Khasanov said the republic's mortality rate was 13.4 per 1,000 residents in 2001 in Bashkortostan, Bashinform reported on 21 February. Deaths as a result of childbirth amounted to 64.7 per 100,000 births. Khasanov said health figures have "stabilized" in the republic. The minister said a neonatal care center, a new children's health resort at Ryabinushka, and two new wings at the Mechetlinskii children's health resort have opened in the last year.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova
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