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Tatar-Bashkir Report: March 8, 2002

8 March 2002
Tatarstan, U.S. To Boost Ties
Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev said Tatarstan never opposed Russia's integrity, and is promoting the country's becoming a federative state or it will turn into a unitary one, Tatar-inform reported on 7 March. Shaimiev was speaking at a meeting with U.S. Ambassador to Russia Alexander Vershbow, who is visiting Tatarstan. Shaimiev said in the early 1990s, Tatarstan passed "the knife's edge" as national parties and movements demanded full independence while Russian residents were alarmed. A situation could develop into something even worse than in Chechnya, he stressed, adding that now "we found common language with Russia." Shaimiev said it is very important that Tatars' aspiration for a revival is supported by Russians and other peoples. The concord between Muslims and Christians is our way of life, he said. Tatarstan has joined the united, federal legal space and is joining the united tax space. Shaimiev said amendments to the Tatarstan Constitution will be finally passed in the format that has been adopted in the first reading, as those amendments "reflect political reality." Russia is to be a federative state -- that is our firm position, he added.

Vershbow said, "Tatarstan's following its own model attracts our investors, but a united legal space is also of importance for them," adding that good cooperation prospects are evident and his side is ready to begin close cooperation and contacts. Vershbow suggested that youth from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia be invited to study at Kazan's Russian Islamic University to adopt the tolerance distinctive of the multiethnic people of Tatarstan.

Shaimiev Calls For Political Solution Of Chechen Conflict
Meeting with U.S. Ambassador Vershbow, Shaimiev said that trying to resolve the Chechen issue by force is a major mistake of Russian policy and added that former Russian President Boris Yeltsin had recognized this before he left power. Shaimiev said Yeltsin once even told him that he was ready to meet with Chechen leader Johar Dudaev, but later "unidentified persons" persuaded him to refuse the idea. Shaimiev said no one is permitted to conduct ethnic cleansing and called for political ways of resolving the conflict.

American Ambassador Lauds Interfaith Concord In Tatarstan
U.S. Ambassador Vershbow met on 7 March with Tatarstan's religious leaders -- Muslim Religious Board Chairman Gusman Iskhakov, Archbishop Anastasii of Kazan and Tatarstan, and the chairman of the Kazan Judaic community, Alexander Velder, Tatar-inform reported. Iskhakov said if one-half of foreign journalists go to Afghanistan to know why people fight there, the other half come to Tatarstan to study how representatives of so many faiths live in peace here. Vershbow said he is deeply impressed by what he has seen in Tatarstan and added that the republic can be a sample of tolerance, concord, and peaceful coexistence of different ethnic groups and faiths for the whole world.

Tatar Speaker Meets Presidential Envoy, Nizhnii Parliament Head
State Council Chairman Farit Mukhametshin, while visiting Nizhnii Novgorod, met with presidential envoy Sergei Kirienko and the Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast parliament speaker, Dmitrii Bednyakov, the Nizhnii Novgorod telegraph agency reported on 7 March. The sides discussed issues of legislative activity of regional parliaments, plans to establish an association of the Volga district legislative bodies, and the optimization of the structure of the Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast legislature, the agency said.

TPC Protests Duma's Anti-Latin Amendment
The Tatar Public Center expressed its concern about the intention by the State Duma to amend the law on languages of Russia's peoples to prohibit use of non-Cyrillic scripts, Tatar-inform reported on 7 March. National activists evaluated the move as "blunt political interference in the internal affairs of the development of languages of non-Russian peoples," adding that the draft is aimed directly against Tatarstan, the Tatar people, and their vital interests in the development of their language. TPC leaders said Tatarstan's parliament, while adopting the law on the restoration of the Latin Tatar script, was guided only by the linguistic and cultural needs of the Tatar people. They said they may appeal to international courts and publicity to protect the native language and national interests of the Tatar people.

Moscow Court Rejects Suit Of EES Against Tatenergo
A Moscow Arbitration Court has rejected the challenge of Russia's United Energy Systems (EES) against Tatenergo, RIA-Novosti reported on 7 March. On 14 December, the court of the United Energy Corporation charged Tatenergo to pay EES 904 million rubles ($29 million) in subscriber's fee. Tatenergo insists it does not owe EES such a fee, as it is an independent energy company.

Premier Says Demand For Tatarstan's Oil Will End
Tatar Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov said one day there will not be any demand for Tatarstan's oil on foreign markets, as the introduction of "the bank of oil quality" will make the extraction of high-sulfur oil unprofitable, reported on 7 March. Minnikhanov said Tatneft calculated its expenses and investments for 2002 based on an oil price of $14 per barrel and is not going to increase its expenses even if the price grows. The company reduced allocations for drilling, major repair works, and the construction of non-industrial facilities, he said.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Moscow Court Postpones Bashkortostan President's Lawsuit
A Moscow raion court postponed to 16 April arguments in a defamation suit filed by Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov against Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii, reported on 7 March. Yavlinskii's lawyer, Dmitrii Shteinberg, told the agency that the postponement was the result of Rakhimov's lawyer being ill. On 25 May 2000, Bashkortostan's Beloretsk court sided with Rakhimov and ordered Yavlinskii to pay the Bashkir president some 1 million rubles in compensation for insulting him during the 1999 Duma electoral campaign in Bashkortostan. But on 2 November 2001, the Russian Supreme Court overturned that decision, arguing that the Bashkortostan court had no jurisdiction and saying the case should be heard in Yavlinskii's home district.

Bashkirenergo Still Battling EES In Court
In its continuing lawsuit with Russia's Unified Energy Systems (EES), Bashkirenergo has appealed to the Russian Supreme Court to challenge a Russian government resolution from 3 April 1997 defining the method for calculating subscription fees to be paid to EES, "Expert-Ural" reported on 4 March. But the Russian Supreme Court on 21 February said the issue is outside of its jurisdiction and should be considered by an arbitration court. Bashkirenergo lawyers do not agree with that verdict and will appeal against it, the weekly reported.

Bashkirenergo demanded that the court recognize illegal annual resolutions by the Federal Energy Commission fixing subscription fees. The Bashkir company has argued that EES forces independent regional energy companies to conclude unprofitable contracts under which they have to pay subscription fees. Bashkirenergo has not signed any contracts on subscription fees with EES since 1998, including for 2002. The weekly cited the company's deputy general manager, Olga Glebova, saying Bashkirenergo is not going to pay EES anything, at least until it gets a fair court verdict.

Federal Minister Calls On Bashkirenergo To Promote Parity Of Interests With EES
Russian Energy Minister Igor Yusufov met with President Murtaza Rakhimov and industry executives in Ufa on 6 March to discuss the global energy-resources market and Russia's fuel and energy sector, the presidential press service reported on 7 March. The heads of Bashneft, Salafatnefteorgsintez, and Bashkirenergo said the future success of the sector hinges on support by the federal Energy Ministry.

Yusufov said relations between Bashkirenergo and Russia's Unified Energy Systems (EES) should be based on mutual interests shared by the region and Moscow. He said an "economically based approach should be found to resolve the issue." Yusufov said an optimum scheme of production was maintained in Bashkortostan, and its experience in the fuel and energy sector is of interests to Russia's other entities.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova