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Tatar-Bashkir Report: January 25, 2002

25 January 2002
Ruling Gives Temporary Relief To Tatarstan State Council
Commenting on the 22 January ruling by the Russian Constitutional Court -- in which justices permitted the further operation of Tatarstan's State Council despite the presence of executive power branch representatives -- parliamentary speaker Farit Mukhametshin told reporters the next day that the ruling "gives us the power to decide on when to hold the next elections for the Council and whether to dissolve it before the end of its term." Assessing the results of the trial, which some feared would bring an end to the present republican parliament and wipe out years' worth of legislation, Mukhametshin said the resolution demanding harmonization of Tatarstan laws to federal ones in six months' time "was no one's victory." Some in the Tatarstan media have suggested that by the end of the six months, the State Council elected in 1999 will have to dissolve itself after adopting a new Tatarstan Constitution complying with federal legislation. One day before the speaker's statement, presidential adviser Rafael Khakimov called the verdict "definitely a victory for all of us in Tatarstan."

Paper Predicts Parliamentary 'Opposition' To Republican Government
"Vostochnyi Ekspress" weekly on 25 January reported that since the new Tatarstan parliament will not include regional administration heads (who are accountable to the republican president), it will most likely serve an opposition function to the government. The pro-Moscow opposition parties of Tatarstan will thus be given an opportunity to propose more candidates than before, said the paper.

Tatarstan Authorities Criticized For Low Rate Of Prosecution...
Chief prosecutor Kafil Amirov sharply criticized the efficiency of prosecution bodies in the Aznakay and Alabuga regions in Chally during an annual staff meeting on 24 January. Amirov stated his discontent with low detection figures and cited a failure to operate in concert with other law-enforcement bodies by regional prosecutors during a trend of general crime growth.

...As Legal Harmonization Becomes Their Extra Duty
According to Kafil Amirov's report at the meeting, over 1,500 of Tatarstan's laws were brought into conformity with federal legislation as a result of his office's protest, fulfilling the order of the federal prosecutor in 2001.

Amirov Disapproves Of Expanding Courts' Powers...
After the meeting, Amirov hinted at displeasure with the federal legal reform that hands the power to issue arrest warrants to courts, beginning from June 2002. "I hope that after this experiment is over in two years' time, the powers will be returned to prosecutors, because that is what our people are used to -- while now we are forced to follow the path of Western countries, which are different from us."

...While Supreme Court Chairman Praises Move For Protecting Human Rights
Also on 24 January, Tatarstan Supreme Court Chairman Gennadii Baranov welcomed the move giving the power to issue warrants to the courts. The reform "will ensure stronger protection of individuals' rights because of the natural differences between the courts and the prosecutors' offices," he said.

Berezovsky-Led Movement Establishes Branch In Kazan
One of the Tatar Public Center leaders, Mars Shamsutdinov, along with Tatar historian and ethnologist Damir Iskhakov were elected leaders of the newly formed Kazan branch of the Liberal Russia movement, led by exiled business tycoon Boris Berezovsky, "Zvezda Povolzhya" reported on 23 January. Shamsutdinov and Iskhakov are reportedly going to join the movement's first congress in London.

New Book On Tatar History Published
"Tatars" -- a book jointly produced by the ethnology and anthropology institutes in the Russian Academy of Sciences and the history institute at Tatarstan's Academy of Sciences -- was presented in Kazan on 23 January, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. The book purports to cover a vast range of historical periods beginning with the forefathers of modern Tatars �- from ancient Turkic tribes to the present. Russian Academy of Sciences Professor Valerii Tishkov in his foreword presents a number of arguments disputing the viewpoints of Tatar historians contributing to the book. Nevertheless, the director of the Tatar history institute and presidential adviser Rafael Khakimov said a copy of the new book will be given to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Swedish Scania Interested In Ties With KamAZ
A delegation from Swedish automotive concern Scania, led by company President Leif Ostling, visited Chally on 24 January for talks with the general director of KamAZ automotive company, Ivan Kostin, Tatarstan media reported. Deputy Prime Minister Ravil Muratov and the director of the YelAZ automotive plant in Alabuga, Ravil Zaripov, also joined the meeting.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Bashkortostan, Tatarstan Assembly Leaders Pledge To Boost Cooperation
Meeting in Aktanysh, in Tatarstan, on 19-20 January, Bashkortostan State Assembly Chairman Konstantin Tolkachev and his Tatarstan counterpart, Farit Mukhametshin, discussed interparliamentary cooperation, Bashinform reported. The two leaders agreed to boost relations between committees within the two parliaments and to jointly move legislative initiatives on the adoption of draft federal laws. The speakers stressed the importance and efficiency of bilateral relations and the necessity to continue developing them in the future.

State Secretary Applauds Bashkortostan Policies, Claims New Law Will Unclutter Political Landscape
State Secretary Faukat Kidrasov on 18 January told a meeting of the heads of local administrations in Ufa that Bashkortostan makes a significant contribution to improving the economic and political situation in the country thanks to its stable political situation, interethnic concord, pragmatism, and the realism of the republic's leaders. Roughly 30 republican laws do not have analogous counterparts in Russia, and some are being discussed within State Duma committees, Kidrasov said. He said one of the most urgent tasks facing republican bodies was the explanation of amendments to the Bashkortostan Constitution to its residents.

The number of parties and public associations has doubled in the past five years to 14 and 400, respectively, Kidrasov noted, adding that many of those organizations are politically weak and ephemeral. Thus, he claimed, a new law on political parties is aimed at making room for truly active parties. Kidrasov said Bashkortostan authorities maintain high principles in their state policy, including equality of nations; preservation of national languages and cultures; cooperation with religious organizations (currently more than 900 in the republic) and non-profit organizations (more than 3,000); and cooperation with local self-governance bodies and trade unions.

Bashneft, Bashtransgaz Lose Top Managers
Nur Saifullin, the Bashneft general manager and president of the Bashkir Fuel Company, submitted his resignation, "Expert Ural" reported on 21 January. Saifullins's deputy, Ampir Syrtlanov, was appointed acting Bashneft head. The weekly cited experts saying Saifullin's resignation was connected with an unfavorable prognosis for the development of Bashneft, a major contributor to the Bashkortostan budget and one of Russia's 10 leading oil companies. Over the past decade, the Bashkir company has reduced its production 10 to 12 percent annually while production costs are 30 percent higher than the Russian average. The company identified the stabilization of production as its major strategy.

Meanwhile, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 19 January reported that the head of another Bashkortostan company, Gazprom's local branch Bashtransgaz, was dismissed from his post. The daily asserted numerous improprieties in the Bashtransgaz leadership.

Theft Rampant Of Bashkir Mineral Deposits, Publication Says
About 80 percent of raw materials used by stonecutting companies in the Sverdlovsk and Chelyabinsk oblasts are illegally mined in Bashkortostan's Trans-Urals, Bashinform reported on 18 January, citing "Baimakskii vestnik." There are more than 200 deposits of jasper alone in the Bashkir Trans-Urals not used by the republic but being stolen by neighbors, the agency asserted.

Tax Authorities Say 57 Companies Contribute 63 Percent Of Budget Revenues
Rashit Sattarov, the head of the Russian Tax Ministry board in Bashkortostan, said the republic's 57 largest companies provided 63 percent of all budget revenues in 2001, Bashinform reported on 18 January. Some 50,000 companies pay taxes in Bashkortostan.

In other comments, Sattarov said the wealthy need not fear that their incomes will be divulged, since tax officials who leak such information face up to 10 years in prison. Sattarov stressed that affluent residents are a revenue source for the state budget, adding that disturbing their personal security would result in its loss.

Journalist Union Leader Says Press Losing Reader Trust
Russian Journalist Union Chairman Vsevolod Bogdanov told a press conference in Ufa on 18 January that his organization plans to hold a congress devoted to the national press in Ufa and a festival of regional mass media in Daghestan in the near future, among other events. The Ufa forum will focus on the national press lagging behind the Russian-language press, he said. Bogdanov said the decline in newspaper and magazine circulation figures in Russia cannot be simply linked to impoverishment but rather reflects a loss of trust in journalism. He criticized corruption among journalists and in the mass media.

Half Of Youth Unhappy With Military Service
Bashinform reported on 22 January that 48 percent of young men questioned in Ufa said they would not like to serve in the military, and 57 percent of parents are against their son going into the army. Roughly 30 percent received the idea of their son going into the military positively. Among those asked, 71 percent said they love their motherland, and 58 percent adequately explained the meaning of the word "patriot."

Bashkortostan Second In Volga District
Bashkortostan Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Sigakov said Bashkortostan has the second-best rating in the Volga federal district after Tatarstan and leads okrugs in production and social sectors, Bashinform reported. The republic agricultural production was third-highest in Russia, while it has the eighth or ninth largest gross national product and eighth-to-10th-highest industrial production. Labor productivity and gross national product per capita, where it places19th to 21st among Russian entities, are the republic's "weak spot," Sigakov added.

Bashkir Agricultural Manufacturers Receive International Awards
Bashkortostan's producers of honey, alcohol, and meat products were granted gold medals at the international Green Week exhibition in Berlin, Bashinform reported on 22 January.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Fedorov Withdraws Appeal To Russian Constitutional Court
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 23 January that Chavash President Nikolai Fedorov withdrew from the Russian Constitutional Court his challenge against a federal law permitting the Russian president to dismiss federation entities' leaders and dissolve local parliaments. The daily said Fedorov, who sharply criticized the law before appealing to the court, calmly back away from the appeal a month after elections. The paper stressed that Fedorov lodged his appeal in mid-December, when new presidential elections in Chavashia were around the corner.

Court Defends Nizhnii Charter
A Nizhnii Novgorod court has rejected a prosecutor's challenge against 29 paragraphs of the city charter, reported on 21 January. The prosecutor contested a wide range of Nizhnii Novgorod administrative powers, including rights to establish commissions on the formal acceptance of housing, arrange road construction and municipal services departments, confiscate plots of land, and others. However, the court, however, did deprive city deputies of the power to dismiss the duma's speaker.

Saratov's Ayatskov Makes Room For Alternative Military Service
Saratov Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov charged Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Miroshin with studying opportunities to introduce alternative civil service in the oblast, reported on 22 January. Ayatskov has repeatedly stated the necessity of enabling citizens to choose their preferred form of service. The agency cited Lidia Sviridova, the chairwoman of the Saratov Union of Soldiers' Mothers, as saying enlistment officials do everything to prevent draftees from alternative service. Saratov oblast prosecutors are considering 258 cases against young men accused of evading military service. Miroshin suggested that special departments in the municipality be established to arrange alternative military service.

Meanwhile, the Sverdlovsk Oblast government commission on social care for military servicemen appealed to Moscow to raise the call-up age from 18 to 21 years, referring to poor health among draftees, Novyi region reported on 22 January.

Rossel Promotes Party To Unite Donor Regions
Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel on 18 January called for the establishment of a party to defend the interests of donor-regions, reported. Rossel is holding consultations with oblast political leaders on the threshold of the oblast parliamentary electoral campaign, set for 14 April. Anton Bakov, the leader of the regional political movement Mai, told that Rossel is extremely dissatisfied with the current state of the Sverdlovsk Oblast, which is losing money while federative relations are reduced to zero and power is centralized. Rossel said his oblast transferred some 15 billion rubles ($492 million) to Moscow in the past two years, one-half of the district's annual budget.

Nizhnii Novgorod To Modernize MiG Aircraft
Vasilii Pankov, the general manager of the Nizhnii Novgorod Sokol aviation plant, told on 21 January that his company will modernize four MiG-31 aircraft this year for the Russian air force. Sokol has been the lone Russian producer of MiG-31's since 1994.

Cheboksary Mayor Keeps His Post
Cheboksary Mayor Anatolii Igumnov has withdrawn his resignation, the city administration's press service told on 22 January. Igumnov told a city duma session that he had received numerous appeals from citizen and deputies. He said his threat of resignation was emotionally driven and a result of an evaluation by the Chavash president of the work in the republic's capital during elections. Igumnov stressed that he bears no grudge against city residents as a result of the balloting. Talking about relations with the republic's president, Igumnov suggested that common sense should prevail, adding that work will continue within the legal frameworks.

Group Of Convicts Escape In Ulyanovsk Oblast
All 14 of the dangerous criminals that escaped from a facilities in Novoulyanovsk in the Ulyanovsk Oblast on 18 January were arrested within three days, RIA-Novosti reported on 22 January. The prisoners, who were serving sentenced from five to 21 years for murder, robbery, rape, arms and drug sale, dug an 18-meter tunnel to escape. Agencies reported that all 14 men were infected with the HIV virus.

Activists Appeal To Yeltsin To Help TV-6
Roughly 100 residents, mainly pensioners, staged a meeting in Yekaterinburg to protest the closure of independent television station TV-6, Novyi region reported on 22 January. The agency said that, for the first time in recent years, elderly people said they are ashamed to live in Russia and are terrified about the future of their children. Participants in the action, organized by Yabloko, cited "a personal cult of the president." An elderly woman holding a placard that read, "Oh, Lord, give us back TV-6" said former President Boris Yeltsin is the only person she relies on and called on "our Boris Nikolaevich" to demand that Putin return an independent television to Russia. Some demonstrators called on Russian residents to boycott LUKoil for initiating the closure of TV-6.

Tyumen Muslims Demand Alcohol Ban At Cultural, Educational Institutions
Fatykh Garifullin, a representative of the supreme mufti, appealed to Tyumen Oblast Governor Sergei Sobyanin and the oblast's duma to prohibit alcohol at presentations of cultural and educational institutions, Tyumenskaya linia reported on 22 January. Garifullin cited a school opening ceremony in the village of Chikcha where alcohol "flowed like water."

Suicides In Udmurtia Triple Over 40-Year Period
Dmitrii Bogoyavlenskii, a scholar from the Moscow Institute of National Economic Prognostication, told a conference on crisis mortality in Izhevsk that the suicide rate in Udmurtia has grown from 400 a year in the 1950s to over 1,000 in early 1980s and reached its peak of 1,257 in 1995, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 22 January. However, during an anti-alcohol campaign in 1985, the numbers fell sharply. A majority of the suicides are Udmurts, though ethnic Russians in Udmurtia also suffer a higher rate of suicide than Russians living in ethnically homogeneous regions. Beginning in the 1980s, Udmurtia is among the five Russian regions with the highest suicide rates.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova