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Tatar-Bashkir Report: April 3, 2002


3 April 2002
DAILY REVIEW FROM TATARSTAN
Russia Seeks Extradition Of Two Tatar Prisoners Held in Cuba
According to an ITAR-TASS report on 2 April, Russia's Prosecutor-General's Office is demanding that three of its citizens be extradited from a U.S. military base in Cuba to face charges in Russia for illegally crossing the Russian border and serving as mercenaries. The three men, Almaz Sharipov, an ethnic Tatar from Chally, Tatarstan, Ravil Gumarov, an ethnic Tatar from Ufa, Bashkortostan, and Rasul Kudayev from Kabardino-Balkiria, were detained by U.S. armed forces in Afghanistan and charged with fighting with the Taliban. They are currently being held at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The leader of the branch of the Tatar Public Center in Chally, Rafis Kashapov, who had previously been accused by law-enforcement officials of gathering volunteers to join with Chechen fighters in their separatist war with Russia, told Tatarstan media on 2 April that "he knows hundreds of people who expressed a willingness to join combat operations in Afghanistan on the side of the Taliban".

About a year ago, all charges were dropped against Kashapov after law-enforcement agencies failed to provide sufficient evidence of links between him and a number of members of the Chally Muslim community who had been arrested for militant activities on the territory of the breakaway republic.

Parliament Resumes Legislative Work On Draft Constitution
Tatarstan's State Council resumed its consideration of amendments to the republic's new draft constitution, which is intended to replace the 1992 Constitution. Russian authorities have already lodged protests against this draft, however, claiming that it exceeds the boundaries set by federal legislation.

Deputies have not yet been able to reach agreement on a number of items, including the provisions devoted the powers of the republic's president, as well as the provisions concerning the powers of the Cabinet of Ministers and the State Council. Deputies voted to return many of the disputed articles to the editorial commission to make further amendments.

Nonetheless, several amendments were approved during the session. For example, parliament agreed with Moscow's offer to exclude the requirement of Tatarstan citizenship for those taking part in presidential elections and also to include a five-year presidential term, as well as the introduction of a provision allowing one individual to hold the presidency for two terms.

Although legislators plan to allow residents of any of Russia's regions to register as candidates in Tatarstan elections, they have not reached a decision concerning the legality of the idea of Tatarstan citizenship itself. So far, this term has been used only within the State Council, while officials from Tatarstan's passport-visa service recognize only Russian citizenship and not a separate Tatarstan citizenship. One important amendment, however, was left unresolved at the end of the session. Deputies were unable to agree to pass an amendment proposed by the president that would give parliament a more limited role in the appointment of government ministers. Under the current Tatar Constitution, parliament has the power to accept or reject candidates proposed by the president. In accordance with this amendment, however, parliament will no longer have the right to reject candidates. During an emotional dialogue between President Mintimer Shaimiev and parliament Speaker Farit Mukhametshin, Shaimiev claimed that the deputies didn't approve his amendment because they didn't properly understand its meaning.

Tatneft's Oil Production Decreases, While Region's Overall Oil Extraction Increases
Tatarstan's Tatneft oil company extracted some 6 million tons of oil during the first three months of 2002, which is about 38,000 fewer tons than during the same period of 2001, Solid-Info agency reported on 2 April. Oil extraction by smaller oil companies in the republic, however, grew by 125,220 tons year-on-year and reached 954,029 tons. A total of approximately 7 million tons of oil was extracted in Tatarstan during the period from January through March, while some 6.9 million tons were extracted last year.

War In Chechnya Claims First Tatarstan Casualty Of 2002
Alexander Trifonov, a Russian Army recruit from the Biyektau region of Tatarstan, was reported to be Tatarstan's first casualty this year in the continuing war in Chechnya, Tatarstan media reported on 3 April. According to the soldier's parents, they had to pay to transport their son's body back home and even to obtain it from the military morgue in Ryazan.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

DAILY REVIEW FROM BASHKORTOSTAN
Ministry Officials Likely To Escape Punishment For Misusing Public Funds
Bashkortostan's state supervisory bodies revealed that a number of violations by the republic's Ministry of Labor and Social Protection in 2000-2001 could go unpunished, local media reported on 2 April. An audit revealed that the ministry had no mechanisms in place to ensure the proper use of budgetary funds, which led to the excess financing of some of the ministry�s activities at the expense of others. Approximately 12.9 million rubles ($516,000 according to the average exchange rate for 2000-01), representing 3 percent of the ministry's budget for the year, were reported to have been spent improperly.

The majority of the violations were committed by the heads of mental hospitals and boarding schools for people suffering from mental disease.

According to the reports, officials deliberately decreased expenditures for the maintenance of the institutions under their care in order to increase their own salaries or to give themselves one-time "living subsidies". These violations resulted in cases of serious malnutrition among certain patients, as well as the deterioration of their overall well-being.

Thieves Resume Assaults On Power-Supply Network
According to Bashkortostan media reports on 2 April, hundreds of meters of power cables have been stolen in the Beloretsk, Tuymazi, and Ufa regions during the past several days. The police are currently conducting investigations into the thefts, which are thought to have been committed by illegal traders in base metals. Also on 2 April, three police officers from the Miaki region of Bashkortostan were honored and provided with gifts during a special ceremony at the Bashkirenergo company's head office for detaining armed thieves following a shoot-out.

In 2002, Bashkirenergo has already suffered 7.5 million rubles ($242,000) in damages as a result of such assaults on power-distribution stations and cable lines.

Housing Reform Foresees Reduced Government Subsidies
Bashkortostan's Housing Ministry released a draft program for reforming and modernizing housing services in the period 2002-10. The draft calls for a transition to privatized relations between individuals and housing organizations. In addition, the government is also seeking to reduce its expenses by cutting state subsidies for residents, which means the majority of the population will have to pay the full price for heating, electricity, and maintenance.

Drug Laboratory Shut Down In Neftekamsk
Police in Neftekamsk seized an entire laboratory used for the production of a psychotropic agent called "pervitin," Bashinform reported on 3 April. The laboratory used simple chemicals, such as iodine and phosphorus, for producing marketable drugs.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi
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