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Tatar-Bashkir Report: April 5, 2002

5 April 2002
List Of Moscow Objections Is Long Despite Passage Of Amended Constitution
The weekly "Vostochniy ekspress" on 5 April published a compilation of federal government objections to the draft Tatarstan Constitution, sent to republican authorities on the eve of the Tatar State Council session that passed the draft in its second reading (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 4 April 2002). Tatarstan's chief prosecutor, Kafil Amirov, who serves under Russian Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov, also "contributed" to the list. But a majority of the items were initiated by the team of Dmitrii Kozak, deputy chief of the Russian presidential staff responsible for the harmonization of regional legislation.

The authors say that despite a declaration adopted in 1990, "Tatarstan cannot possess sovereignty, and therefore its president cannot be named a guarantor of sovereignty" in a constitution. The draft also cannot call Tatarstan "a state united with the Russian Federation," because a federation member can only exist within the federation, they argue. The republic also cannot offer its own citizenship "because that does not match" the federal constitution. Lawmakers are also advised to drop provisions saying that Tatarstan can engage in international relations, that the republic owns its mineral resources, and that presidential candidates must speak both state languages: Tatar and Russian. The last item on the "blacklist" asserted that the new constitution should not contain a provision declaring the 1994 power-sharing treaty signed between Moscow and Kazan a part of Russia's and Tatarstan's legal system.

The republican parliament is to consider the draft constitution in its third reading on 19 April. Although deputies have effectively complied with some of those demands during the first two readings, in the 3 April session they voted to preserve the current form of the first article, which says that Tatarstan is united with the Russian Federation on the basis of its own, federal constitution and the power-sharing treaty. According to the document adopted at that session, only a referendum of Tatarstan's residents can decide on amending this article.

Angry Chally Residents Launch Petition Drive Aimed At Duma Deputy
Some Chally residents angered by Salimkhan Akhmetkhanov's voting in the State Duma began collecting signatures in an effort to recall the city's representative in the Russian legislature, "Rossiyskaya Gazeta" reported on 4 April. Akhmetkhanov joined forces with another deputy from Tatarstan, Sergei Shashurin, to propose a draft amendment to Russia's Peoples' Languages Act obliging the use of Cyrillic script for non-Russian state languages in the federation. Akhmetkhanov, whose business interests have made him a so-called "alcohol baron" in Tatarstan's second city, told the paper that Tatarstan's transition to Latin Tatar script would "not be useful to the Tatar language, but will only harm it." He said the Latin-based Tatar alphabet -- which was used by Tatars from the 1920s until 1939, when it was banned by Joseph Stalin -- is promoted by "our fellow countrymen from Australia, America, Turkey, Finland, and Germany, who are the ancestors of those who left Russia 100 or 200 years ago." He added, "Tatarstan is in the middle of Russia, so why we should switch before Russia itself switches to Latin script?" The deputy also said the revived Latin Tatar "has already created inconveniences for the people of Kazan, who cannot understand the street names in the new spelling." In fact, all street signs in the Tatar capital are displayed in both in Tatar and Russian.

'Le Monde' Catches The Interest Of Tatarstan's Media
A number of Tatarstan's media on 4 March quoted the French newspaper "Le Monde" as reporting that while two Tatars are facing terrorism charges together with other Taliban militants being held at a U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a former resident of Chally and ethnic Tatar, Airat Vakhitov, is currently under arrest in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Despite his close ties to Chechen rebel commander Khattab -- a link that has been asserted by Tatarstan state security officials -- the reports claim that Vakhitov did not cooperate with the Taliban because that group believed he was a Russian spy.

Tatar Police To Join Counterterrorism Operations In Chechnya
Tatarstan police will again be sent to join counterterrorist efforts in the Republic of Chechnya, Deputy Interior Minister Aleksandr Vayda told reporters on 4 April. "The former decision not to send any more servicemen for combat trips to Chechnya has been revised," he said.

Distribution Of Russian Passports Runs Into Religious Roadblock In Tatarstan
Tatarstan's head of passport-visa services, Galina Fakhrutdinova, told reporters on 3 April that this year her subordinates are to distribute as many as 1.3 million new Russian passports to the republican residents, while only 900,000 were distributed in 2001. She said that female Muslim residents of Tatarstan will not be given an opportunity to have their passport photo made wearing headscarfs, although Sharia law requires them to wear the scarf in all public places. Thousands of Muslim women of different nationalities have appealed to Fakhrutdinova's office, seeking permission to obey Islamic laws. Federal law strictly prohibits official photos with headwear or sunglasses. Those who refuse to secure new passports, irrespective of reason stated, will reportedly get administrative punishment.

Chief Recruitment Official Concerned About Human Rights Groups' Activities
Tatarstan's chief military commissioner, Rim Mustaev, told a meeting of top military officials on 29 March in Kazan that during the four-month spring recruitment campaign that began on 1 April, about 3,000 recuits from the republic are to join the Russian armed forces. Some 1,300 young men have already evaded conscription, he said. In his report, Mustaev noted the "negative role" of some pacifist human rights groups which "pursued propaganda against army service" by distributing leaflets entitled "You have a right not to serve in the army." Such leaflets contain references to Russian laws on army service and the rights of draftees.

About 50 HIV-Positive Children Attend Tatarstan Schools
Oleg Romanenko, chief doctor of the republican anti-AIDS center, told reporters on 3 April that about 50 HIV-positive children are studying in Tatarstan's schools. In accordance with international and federal law, he said, their disease is not disclosed to teachers, classmates or the parents of their classmates.

Romanenko meanwhile blamed the spread of the deadly virus in the republic on drug addiction and prostitution. He said proposals to legalize brothels so far have not prompted any reaction from senior republican officials. The official number of prostitues in Tatarstan is 1,645, though the actual figure is believed by many to be exponentially higher.

Former Kazan Prosecutor Takes Up District Job
Tatarstan's chief prosecutor, Kafil Amirov, told a meeting of Kazan city officials on 1 April that in the wake of the recent abolition of the Kazan Prosecutor's Office by federal prosecutorial decree, former Kazan chief prosecutor Fler Bagautdinov will be appointed to head the Vakhitov District Prosecutor's Office, while his subordinates will become deputy prosecutors in other districts.

Another Presidential Staffer Steps Down
Dinar Ismagilov, head of the State Protocol Board within the presidential staff's Foreign Affairs Department, is stepping down to take an executive position with Sberbank, "Vechernaya Kazan" daily reported on 3 April. The move comes on the heels of reports this month that Shamil Zarifov was pressured into stepping down from the presidential staff (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 2 April 2002). Anonymous sources were cited as saying the decision appeared to be wage-related.

St. Petersburg, Kazan Exchange Goodwill Gestures Ahead Of Anniversaries
St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev and Kazan Mayor Kamil Iskhakov on 4 April signed a protocol on joint events marking the 300th anniversary of St. Petersburg and Kazan's millennium, ABNews agency reported. According to the document, St. Petersburg's government will renovate the facades of 39 historical buildings on its Kazanskaya street, recreate a park near Kazanskii Cathedral, and light up a mosque near Vasilyevskii Island at its own expense. Kazan's mayor said one of his town's streets will be named after St. Petersburg and "several objects related to St. Petersburg will be repaired" in the Tatar capital.

KamAZ Launches Trucks Production In Azerbaijan
Nikolai Ryabov, Russia's ambassador to Baku, told the Tatar-inform agency on 3 April that Tatarstan's KamAZ automotive group has begun truck assembly in that country. KamAZ reportedly also plans to take over a project for reviving the Gyanjin automotive plant in Azerbaijan, which has so far failed to attract major investors.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Constitution Debate Becomes Political
Several Bashkortostan newspapers published transcripts of a 22 March debate at a State Assembly session regarding the Bashkortostan Supreme Court's 15 March ruling invalidating 44 of 55 articles of the republic's draft constitution. In particular, the decision annulled provisions dealing with sovereignty, treaty-based relations, ownership of natural resources on the territory of the republic, and citizenship. State Assembly Deputy Speaker Fanil Taepov said the verdict has destroyed the republic's constitution.

A 26 March report in the daily "Qyzyl tang" said that, "The current problem is not the protection of sovereignty but the retention of [Bashkortostan's] statehood. This is no longer a legal issue but a political one, and it is time to find a political solution."

The same paper wrote on 27 March that this current campaign to water down the constitution is reminiscent of events that occurred 77 years ago, when the "red" central authorities removed all provisions concerning the republic's sovereignty and statehood from the 27 March 1925 Constitution.

Bashkir Leaders Concerned By Loss Of Sovereignty�
The chairman of the Executive Committee of the Bashkir World Congress (BWC), Niyaz Mazhitov, told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 31 March that members of the BWC are concerned about policies aimed at the harmonization of the draft Bashkortostan constitution with Russian legislation, especially regarding the 15 March Bashkortostan Supreme Court decision that abolished the republic's sovereign status.

As a result of that decision, Bashkortostan's status has been reduced to that of oblasts, Mazhitov said. He also criticized a number of conferences that have been held in preparation for the June Bashkir World Congress for their silence on the issue, adding that on 5 April the BWC is holding a conference in Ufa to discuss the development of federative relations between Russia and its republics.

Two other BWC leaders, Damir Valeev and Marat Kulsharipov, appealed to the Council of Europe's human-rights commissioner, Alvaro Gil-Robles, and Russia's ombudsman, Oleg Mironov, urging them to defend Bashkortostan's sovereignty.

Kulsharipov told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 1 April that "it is time for the people of the republic to fight for sovereignty by using legal measures like meetings, pickets, appeals to international bodies, and by strengthening ties with other national political organizations in the republic."

Enlistment Office Ignoring Well-Being Of Draftees
The Committee on Social Defense of Servicemen and Their Families says 70 percent of Bashkortostan residents called up for military service are chronically ill, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported. The committee also pointed out that the military enlistment office does not publish this data.

Igor Gorlov, a committee member, told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 2 April that 237 draftees have appealed to the committee this year, 12 of them being servicemen who deserted from their military units because of hazing and illness. Gorlov claimed that the republic's enlistment bodies are more concerned about reaching their quota than about draftees' health.

Bashkortostan Tatars Fighting Losing Language Battle
The Bashkortostan Education Ministry reported on 3 April that 9.5 percent of the republic's Tatars attend schools where instruction is given in Tatar, while 58 percent of Tatar children study Tatar as a second language at school. In some districts, like the Ishimbai and Kumertau raions, only 1.5-2 percent of Tatar schoolchildren have the opportunity to study Tatar at school.

RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent on 3 April quoted a report by the Bashkortostan Tatar Public Center saying that the republic's pedagogical colleges annually train 165 Russian and 165 Bashkir kindergarten teachers, but only 15 Tatar teachers. With regard to primary schools, three times more Bashkir teachers and 2 1/2 times more Russian teachers receive training than Tatar teachers, despite the fact that the population of the republic is 28.4 percent Tatar, compared to 39.3 percent Russian and only 21.9 percent Bashkir.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Yabloko Leader Warns Against Imports Of Spent Nuclear Fuel To Russia...
Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii told a press conference on 1 April that U.S. spent nuclear fuel will soon be sent from Taiwan to Russia for processing, Uralinformbureau reported. Yavlinskii said Russia's leadership, having agreed on processing foreign nuclear waste in Russia, is exposing residents to danger. He said his party plans to hold a Russia-wide protest action against the measure in late April. Russia's two spent nuclear fuel processing plants are located in Chelyabinsk Oblast and Krasnoyarskii Krai.

...And Disparages Project To Divide Kurgan Oblast
At the same press conference, Yavlinskii also sharply criticized projects on division of the territory of Kurgan Oblast between Sverdlovsk, Chelyabinsk, and Tyumen oblasts. Yavlinskii said the process of merging entities of the Russian Federation develops objectively, but it should not be heated artificially as in the situation with Kurgan Oblast. He said the measure could result in the most dangerous consequences for the country's integrity as some regions could demand internal borders to be revised.

Nizhnii Legislature Elects Speaker, Plans To Elect Federation Council Senator
The Nizhnii Novgorod Legislative Assembly on 4 April elected the first deputy general manager of Sibur-Neftekhim, Yevgenii Lyulin, its chairman, reported. Lyulin received 21 votes despite oblast Governor Gennadii Khodyrev call for deputies to back his competitor, Aleksandr Tsapin, the deputy speaker in the former legislative body. Eighteen deputies voted for Tsapin.

Khodyrev told the Nizhnii Novgorod telegraph agency following the event that the session revealed the polarized nature of the legislative body, adding that he "sees no tragedy" in the fact that deputies elected another candidate than the one he promoted.

Lyulin commented that "no opposition to the oblast governor exists in the new Legislative Assembly," Nizhnii Novgorod news service reported on 4 April.

United Russia (16-17 deputies) and Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) (12 deputies) received a majority in the new Nizhnii Novgorod legislative body during the 31 March oblast parliamentary elections, the Nizhnii Novgorod telegraph agency reported on 3 April. People's Party and the Communist Party are represented by two or three deputies each. SPS leader Boris Nemtsov on 1 April called the results of parliamentary elections in the Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast a "sensation," RIA-Novosti reported.

The service also reported that election of the Federation Council representative from the Nizhnii Novgorod legislature was slated for 11 April. Anatolii Kozeradskii, the former Legislative Assembly speaker, who lost the last parliament elections, and Dmitrii Bednyakov, who replaced Kozeradskii at his post, are the main candidates for senator, the service said.

Nizhnii Mayor Abolishes Alternative Civil Service
Nizhnii Novgorod Mayor Yurii Lebedev has abolished a resolution on holding alternative civil service in the city, the Nizhnii Novgorod telegraph agency reported on 2 April citing city administration militaries affairs committee head Lev Pavlov. Pavlov said the move was caused by a Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast court verdict. However, servicemen continue working in the Nizhnii First Gradskaya Hospital under their contracts. The experiment on introduction of alternative civil service was initiated by the Nizhnii Novgorod mayor but then was sharply criticized by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

NPRF in Yekaterinburg Collects 35,000 Signatures To Revive Death Penalty
Some 150 Yekaterinburg residents took part in a meeting to demand the abolishment of the moratorium on death penalty, reported on 2 April. Sergei Cherkasov, leader of People's Party of the Russian Federation (NPRF), which organized the meeting, called for restoration of the death penalty for serial murderers, terrorists, and drug traffickers. Cherkasov said roughly 35,000 Ural residents have signed an appeal to the Russian president to stop the moratorium.

One In Four Draftees Suffers From Chronic Alcoholism Or Drug Addiction
Some 25 percent of draftees in the Ural district were freed from military service because of chronic alcoholism and drug addiction, presidential envoy to the Ural federal district Petr Latyshev said on 29 March, Uralinformbureau reported. The majority of them are Sverdlovsk Oblast residents, the agency said.

Physicians Refuse To Perform Operations, Demanding Salaries Be Paid In Asbest
Physicians of a hospital in Asbest, Sverdlovsk Oblast, began a protest action to demand the payment of salaries they were not paid over several months, "Novyi region" reported on 2 April. Hospital personnel refused to perform 10 planned operations on 1 April and five more the next day and performed only urgent operations. Asbest administration officials told the agency that the city budget currently does not have the money to pay the physicians.

Muslims Demand Return Of Historical Buildings In Tyumen
Tyumen Muslims collected 1,500 signatures to demand the return of two historical buildings, a mosque and madrasah, "Tyumenskaya liniya" reported on 1 April. Two local Muslim communities -- subordinate to the Muslim Religious Board of the Asian part of Russia and the Muslim Religious Board of Tyumen Oblast -- jointly took part in the action. Muslims have been attempting to have the buildings returned since 1993 and stress that other neighboring religious buildings, including the Orthodox church, the Polish Roman Catholic church, and the synagogue have already been returned to the respective believers.

UAZ To Be Assembled In Italy
Heads of Ulyanovsk's UAZ and Italian De Tomaso Modena S.p.A signed a cooperation protocol to assemble UAZ-3160 automobiles in Italy, reported on 3 April. Russian Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref said the project of UAZ and De Tomaso is "unique," adding that the Russian government will give it all possible assistance. Under the draft, the first 200 vehicles will be assembled in the fourth quarter of the current year in Modena. In a year, the production will be brought to 1,350 automobiles. In two years, it is planned to construct a new plant, UAZ-Europe, in Kutro of the Krotone province -- capable of assembling 20,000 automobiles annually -- which is expected to bring production from 3,000 vehicles in 2004 to 10,000 in 2006. The off-road UAZ-3160 will cost no more than 16,000 euros. reported on 3 April that a $10 million contract on the delivery of 400 Russian Ural and UAZ automobiles for the Uruguayan army was signed the previous day at the air-cosmic exhibit of FIDAE-2002.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova