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Tatar-Bashkir Report: March 18, 2002

18 March 2002
Russian Court Rejects Challenges To Tatar Parliament
The Russian Supreme Court on 13 March rejected two challenges by Russian Deputy Prosecutor-General Vladimir Davydov concerning the Tatarstan State Council, reported on 15 March. The first of the challenges initiated by leaders of Tatarstan's opposition movement Equality and Legality sought to recognize illegal decisions that had been passed by Tatarstan's so-called "small parliament" consisting of 28 permanently working deputies. The second suit sought the cancelation of registration by the republican Central Elections Commission of 56 deputies who continue working as heads of executive authority bodies. The challenges were previously rejected by both the Tatarstan Supreme Court and the Russian Supreme Court. The latest verdict is final and cannot be appealed. The chairman of the State Council Legislation and Legality Commission, Midkhat Kurmanov, who represented Tatarstan at the trial, told reporters that the permanently working parliament has not sat since October as it was prescribed by the federal law on common principles of the formation of legislative and executive bodies of federation members (its decisions were recognized as legal, however). Kurmanov said such a body is not included in the new draft of the republican constitution, along with the possibility for deputies to concurrently head state authority bodies.

Moscow Scientists Recommend Not Dividing Tatars
The Scientific Council of the Ethnology and Anthropology Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences discussed Tatar ethnic identity in general and "Christian Tatars" specifically in connection with the upcoming census, Tatar-inform reported on 15 March. The session was attended by Duma Deputies Fandas Safiullin and Flyura Ziatdinova; the director of the History Institute of Tatarstan's Academy of Sciences, Rafail Khakimov; and representatives of Christian Tatar civic groups from Tatarstan and Udmurtia. Safiullin told Tatar-inform following the session that Christian Tatars raise "grounded issues" of their religious, cultural, and educational development but those issues can be "calmly resolved within the Tatar ethnic group" without bringing about a split. Safiullin said such an opinion is reflected in recommendations addressed by the council to the Russian government and State Statistics Committee.

Sovereignty Issue Still Sparks Controversy Among Republican Politicians
Political science Professor Midkhat Farukshin told a Kazan People's Deputies Council session that the new draft constitution does not settle the issue of harmonization with federal legislation and will instead become a source of new trials and conflicts with Moscow, "Vremya i dengi" reported on 15 March. Farukshin said it makes no sense to adhere to the "sovereignty" concept but rather to more efficiently realize the very idea. State Council Chairman Farit Mukhametshin argued that the results of the Tatarstan referendum and other achievements of the past decade should be maintained. He added that the Russian Constitution provides for sovereignty to each federation entity within the framework of its exclusive powers. Moreover, one day Moscow will realize that the Russian Constitution is also to be amended to develop federative relations within the country, Mukhametshin asserted.

Federal Official Looks In On United Russia In Tatarstan
Vladislav Surkov, the deputy head of the Russian presidential administration, visited Kazan on 14 March to check up on the activities of United Russia in Tatarstan, reported the next day. The issue was also on top of the agenda during Surkov's meeting with Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev. The agency quoted United Russia in Tatarstan leader Yurii Nazmeev saying the party's republican branch unites 5,000 former Unity members and currently has 12,000 more applications for membership.

Tatar Minister Promotes Payment Of Russian Debts With KamAZ Trucks
Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation Minister Khafiz Salikhov told his ministry board on 15 March that Tatarstan's foreign trade turnover totaled $3.1 billion in 2001, 1.8 percent less than the previous year. The reduction was caused by a 15 percent fall in world oil prices, Salikhov added. Exports constituted 88 percent of the total turnover. Salikhov said exports of machine-building production more than doubled last year. Foreign investment totaled 650 million rubles ($21 million) and exceeded investments in all other entities of the Volga district combined, but direct investments fell to one-sixth of the previous level due to a lowering of Tatarstan's risk rating because of social, criminal, and environmental risks. In his speech, Salikhov also suggested that Russia's foreign debt be paid with production from Tatarstan-based companies. He said the Russian government is studying the possibility of delivering KamAZ-produced trucks and equipment to China, Kuwait, Oman, Yugoslavia, and Hungary toward payment of debts.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Bashkir, Tatar, Udmurt Premiers Consult On Tuben Kama Reservoir
The government leaders of Bashkortostan, Tatarstan, and Udmurtia -- Prime Ministers Rafael Baidavletov, Rustam Minnikhanov, and Nikolai Khokhlov -- signed a trilateral agreement on cooperation in exploiting the Tuben Kama Reservoir in Izhevsk on 15 March, reported. The document is the result of consultations held by a working group over several months and confirms that the sides will take a unified approach to assessing the possible risks of raising the reservoir's water level, expected to total 4.6-15.9 billion rubles ($148-513 million).

Tatarstan has pushed to raise the water level, but the other two republics have so far agreed to bring its level to 63 meters, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 14 March. They demanded as well that the profits from the move be spent on compensating for damage and construction of protective facilities. The sides should also reach a compromise on proportions for profit-sharing. Udmurtia opposed an initial proposal, according to which Tatarstan and Bashkortostan were to receive 46 percent each while Udmurtia's share would total 8 percent.

Paper Said To Be Puzzled By Reaction To Berezovsky Film
"Qyzyl tang" on 12 March wrote that the Russian leadership has shown "a strange calm reaction" to a film presented by oligarch Boris Berezovsky alleging Federal Security Service involvement in apartment blasts in Moscow and Volgodonsk in 1999. It stressed in an article titled "What Berezovskii Has Exploded -- A Bomb OfAccusation Or A Canard � Is Still Unknown," that, "A serious accusation was made against the Russian authorities, but it still has not been officially denied." However, the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office, without presenting proof or any court verdict, has accused Berezovsky of financing Chechen fighters and participation in kidnapping General Shpigun, the paper wrote. "Something is wrong in contemporary Russia," the paper concluded.

Bashkortostan Resident's Chechen 'Host' Arrested In Ufa
Bashkortostan police have taken into custody Edem Soltakhanov, who allegedly held Sterletamaq resident Minlegayaz Musin in captivity in Chechnya for 15 years, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 14 March. The 60-year-old Musin was freed by the Federal Security Service in Argun on 1 March. A construction worker, Musin went to Chechnya to earn money but was reportedly enslaved by Soltakhanov. Musin tried unsuccessfully to escape several times. Soltakhanov was arrested on 12 March as he arrived in Ufa to look for Musin, the correspondent said.

Government Threatens To Disband Collective Farms
Deputy Prime Minister Shamil Vakhitov told a government meeting that farms owe the republican budget 3.3 billion rubles ($106.5 million). Agriculture and Foodstuffs Minister Grigorii Gorobets said if food companies do not pay at least 300 million rubles, the sowing season might fail. Vakhitov said no more subsidies will be given to unprofitable collective farms. He said that if "kolkhozy" are dying out, it represents "a demand of the time."

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova