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Tatar-Bashkir Report: June 6, 2002

6 June 2002
Shaimiev Says Moscow To Present New Legislation On Power-Sharing By Fall
Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev told Interfax yesterday that Moscow will prepare by fall a package of draft laws on the delegation of powers among the federal government, the governments of subjects of the Russian Federation, and bodies of local self-government. Shaimiev is a member of a special presidential commission working on the mentioned laws. Shaimiev said the commission had "come up with many constructive proposals aimed at a more distinct division of powers between federal and regional state bodies�while some of the issues connected with local self-government are still unresolved."

The Tatarstan president said that the federal government has shown a tendency to claim for itself as many powers as possible in the sphere of joint jurisdiction with federation subjects by referring to provisions of the Russian Civil Code. Shaimiev claimed, however, that only the Russian Constitution can decide such divisions of power. Shaimiev said the most contentious issues among commission members have arisen in relation to land and mineral resources, since the central government "claims [ownership of natural resources] outright, though [Russia's] constitution says that natural resources fall within the sphere of the joint jurisdiction" of Moscow and the regions.

Shaimiev added that federal financial policies violate many interests of both Moscow and the regions, saying that by claiming many "easily collectable taxes" for itself, the federal government has left the regions in a poor financial situation in which they are unable to resolve everyday issues or provide for their populations.

Duma Passes Language Amendment In First Reading
The Russian State Duma passed by an overwhelming majority yesterday the first reading of a proposed amendment to Russia's law on languages that would require all subjects of the Russian Federation to use only Cyrillic script for their ethnic languages, the RosBusinessConsulting news agency reported the same day. With 343 votes in favor, 15 against, and one abstention, the federal parliament approved an amendment forbidding the use of non-Cyrillic scripts anywhere in Russia, adding that this could be permitted only by virtue of a federal law.

Prior to the vote, Duma Deputy Fandas Safiullin from Tatarstan decided not to propose his own amendment to the law that would give federation subjects the choice of scripts for their ethnic languages. Safiullin said that the approved amendment "bore a distinctly anti-Tatar nature," RosBusinessConsulting reported.

Other deputies argued that the amendment that was passed was necessary because of the 1997 decree of the Tatarstan government on the reintroduction of the Latin script for the Tatar language. The use of the Tatar Latin script had been outlawed by Josef Stalin in 1939.

Andrei Loginov, representative of the Russian government in the State Duma, told the agency that the refusal of republics to use the Cyrillic script would damage Russia's integrity and could require "the difficult psychological adaptation of millions of people" to get used to the new scripts.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Court Orders Yabloko Leader To Pay Damages In Defamation Suit
The Kuntsevskii Intermunicipal Court of Moscow has partially granted the claim of Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov in his defamation suit against Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii, "Kommersant" daily reported today. Rakhimov sued Yavlinskii for defamation because of leaflets that were spread in Bashkortostan during the 1999 State Duma election campaign in which the republic's leadership was called "a feudal regime�extorting oil, gas, and [other] natural resources from [Bashkortostan]," (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 5 June 2002).

The court ruled that Yavlinskii is to pay Rakhimov 20,000 rubles ($640) in compensation. Another Yabloko activist, Dmitrii Khrustalev, was ordered to pay Rakhimov an additional 5,000 rubles. Yavlinskii was also ordered to print a retraction in "Respublika Bashkortostan" daily.

Rakhimov had demanded that Yavlinskii pay him 800,000 rubles ($25,600) for psychological damage and that the Yabloko leader print a retraction in "Izvestiya Bashkirii." Rakhimov also demanded that Khrustalev, who took part in the distribution of the leaflets, pay him 200,000 rubles ($6,400).

Yavlinskii's lawyer, Dmitrii Shteinberg, said the decision was "absurd" and that Yavlinskii will appeal. He added that his client is convinced that everything printed in the leaflets "corresponds to the facts." Shteinberg also listed documents from a number of government agencies that would prove this in court.

Rakhimov's lawyer Andrei Yakovlev said he is satisfied with the decision.

LUKoil Vice President Elected To Federation Council
The State Assembly of the Republic of Altai elected LUKoil Vice President Ralif Safin to the Russian Federation Council yesterday by a vote of 26 to 11, "Kommersant" daily reported today.

At yesterday's State Assembly session, Altai's former Federation Council representative, former Altai First Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Antaradonov, unexpectedly resigned from his post and proposed Safin to replace him. The paper said that this confirms rumors of Safin's possible participation in presidential elections next year in his native republic of Bashkortostan.

"Kommersant" wrote that the Kremlin has not yet decided to replace President Rakhimov, whom the paper called "one of the most influential and authoritative regional leaders [in Russia]." Preparations for his eventual replacement are, however, being carried out, the daily wrote. During the past several months, the heads of several federal bodies in the republic have been replaced, and in the conflict between Bashkortostan authorities and the chairman of the republic's Supreme Court, Marat Vakilov, Moscow supports the latter and has not reacted to appeals by the Bashkortostan legislature and judges to investigate Vakilov's alleged corrupt activities, the paper said (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 27 May 2002).

"Vedomosti" cited today an unidentified source in the Russian presidential administration as saying that the administration had discussed the possibility of Safin's membership in the Federation Council as a preliminary step before the 2003 Bashkortostan presidential elections. The source said administration members realize it will be very difficult to defeat in incumbent President Rakhimov in the elections and they don't want this to happen "at the cost of destabilizing the situation in the republic." If, however, it seems during the next year that it will be possible to defeat Rakhimov in elections, then Safin will be ready to run against him.

"Vedomosti" also cited a LUKoil source as saying the company has no plans to make use of Safin in the political sphere.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova