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Tatar-Bashkir Report: March 14, 2002

14 March 2002
Government Visits Archa Farms, Reports Growth In Sector
President Mintimer Shaimiev held a government seminar devoted to preparations for the coming agricultural season in the Archa Region on 12-13 March. As government officials and regional administration heads inspected Archa farms before the event, Shaimiev, who is a graduate of Kazan Agricultural Institute, offered pointers on how to achieve the best harvest figures and improve the quality of wheat grown the republic.

Agriculture Minister Marat Akhmetov said in his report at the seminar that republican farms achieved 26 percent output growth in 2001, while the Russian average was reportedly 6.8 percent. He said that 560 Tatarstan farms are being restructured and, as a result, 400 will be transformed into private companies or commercial partnerships. By February, farmers had reportedly managed to repay about 2.2 billion rubles ($71 million) of the 2.5 billion rubles borrowed from the republic's banks in 2001. However, the majority of those repayments were not monetary but in the form of grain collected during the 2001 harvest.

Chally TPC Urges Moscow Not To Unplug Tatar Radio Station
The Chally branch of the Tatar Public Center (TPC) appealed to Russian Media Minister Mikhail Lesin on 13 March, asking him to cancel bidding for the 105.3 FM frequency in Chally that was formerly occupied by the Tatar-language Dulkin station. The TPC warns that cutting off Dulkin's broadcasts will undermine Russian authority among the Tatar, Bashkir, Chavash, and Mari people. The TPC asserts that Dulkin has presented all the necessary documents for resuming its broadcasting, while the ministry decided to toss out its bid on 27 March. Russian-language Radio Shanson and Radio Retro, along with Tatarstan's TAIF group, have applied.

Public Groups Protest Environmental Activities
Tatarstan's Antinuclear Society and the Tatarstan-based Idel-Ural movement appealed to the republican government on 14 March, asking the cabinet to reverse its decision to raise the water level of the Tuben Kama reservoir and demanding a halt in the construction of Bashkortostan's Agidel Nuclear Power Plant by the Russian Atomic Energy Ministry. Backed by the political group, environmentalists say the aim of the increase at the reservoir, which will flood over 50,000 hectares of land, is to ensure permanent water supplies for the future Bashkir nuclear power plant. The protesters also denounced the federal ministry's plans to revive the nuclear plant construction in the republics of Tatarstan and Karelia. Planned near the administrative border between Tatarstan and Bashkortostan, opponents charge that the Agidel Nuclear Power Plant represents a potential threat to many regions in the northwest of Tatarstan.

Population Figure Fell In 2001
Tatarstan's population declined by 8,700 in 2001, Tatar-inform reported on 13 March. The apparent decline in the republic's population is reportedly due to reduced numbers of immigrants from former Soviet republics to Tatarstan.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Former Presidential Candidates Return To Stir The Pot
The leader of the Equality civic group and director of the Moscow Institute of Federalism Issues, Aleksandr Arinin, has joined former Bashkortostan Prime Minister Marat Mirgazyamov in an appeal to the Russian Supreme Court to annul the results of the 1998 presidential elections in Bashkortostan, "Ekspert-Ural" reported on 11 March. Arinin and Mirgazyamov were denied registration as presidential candidates in those elections. After the balloting, a court demanded that both be registered but declined to revise the election results, arguing that President Murtaza Rakhimov had collected more than 50 percent of the vote. The court reasoned that the inclusion of two more candidates would have not affected the final results. However, the Russian Constitutional Court recently issued a ruling prescribing that courts revise results in such situations.

The weekly commented that challenges by former candidates will likely become the subject of political wrangling between federal authorities and Bashkortostan's leadership ahead of the next presidential elections in the republic. The republic's Declaration of Sovereignty has been razed in two years of Putin-led reforms, the paper argued, since Moscow has "freed" republican authorities of essential financial resources and insists on vetting sovereignty from Bashkir legislation.

Arbitration Court Says Bashkirenergo Owes Nothing To EES
A Bashkortostan arbitration court has sustained the appeal of Bashkirenergo against a 20 December court verdict that ordered the company to pay Russian Unified Energy Systems (EES) some 182 million rubles ($6 million) in back-subscription fees, reported on 13 March. The agency quoted Bashkirenergo spokesman Vyacheslav Abramenko saying the court recognized Bashkirenergo's arguments. Bashkirenergo, together with two other independent energy companies -- Tatenergo and Irkutskenergo �- has repeatedly said it charges nothing for transmitting EES energy through its networks, so the latter's attempts to force it to pay subscription fees are ungrounded.

Bashkortostan Says It Can Meet Poultry Needs, Including Exports
Bashkortostan's Agriculture Ministry said poultry production in the republic can be doubled in three or four months to meet not only republican demand but also allow for exports, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 February. The announcement presumably came in response to the recent announcement that Russia will ban imports of U.S. poultry (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 March 2002). Bashkortostan currently produces up to 13,000 tons of poultry and imports 2,500 tons of chicken-meat a year.

Prime Minister To Discuss Tuben Kama Reservoir In Tatarstan
A government delegation headed by Prime Minister Rafael Baidavletov is to visit the Tuben Kama reservoir to discuss raising its level with officials from Tatarstan and Udmurtia, Bashinform reported on 13 March. Meanwhile, the Udmurt government approved a draft agreement between the cabinets of Bashkortostan, Tatarstan, and Udmurtia on cooperation in power-engineering and a draft agreement between the three cabinets and the Russian Natural Resources Ministry on exploiting the Tuben Kama reservoir, Volgainform reported on 13 March.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova