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Tatar-Bashkir Report: May 3, 2002

3 May 2002
Tatarstan's Constitution Preserves Key Provisions Of Republic's Status
Soon after signing the new draft of Tatarstan�s Constitution (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 29 April 2002), President Mintimer Shaimiev began a 10 day vacation, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. The same 10-day term is officially required for the document to take force after it was published by Tatarstan's press on 30 April. The new constitution contains 124 provisions, which is 43 provisions less than the Tatar Constitution adopted in 1992. In its first article, the constitution stipulates the importance of the power-sharing treaty signed between Moscow and Kazan in February 1994 and declares Tatarstan's sovereignty to be "expressed in possession of full state authority (legislative, executive, and judiciary) beyond the limits of the Russian Federation's subjects of governance and the Russian Federation's commissions in subjects of joint governance with the Tatarstan Republic, and [sovereignty] is an inalienable state [of] Tatarstan Republic.... Tatarstan's status cannot be altered without the mutual consent of Tatarstan and the Russian Federation.... Within the limits of its commissions, Tatarstan independently takes part in international and foreign economic relations."

Although the renewed constitution doesn't contain the former residence qualification for presidential candidates in the republic, it preserved the requirement of knowing both state languages, Tatar and Russian, for such candidates. Similarly to the first constitution, the document contains an article saying that Tatarstan introduces its own citizenship and the republic's citizens are simultaneously the citizens of the Russian Federation. However, there is no law to provide more details on the practical use of the republic's citizenship, frequently opposed by the federal prosecutors during the law harmonization campaign that took place over the last two years. According to RFE/RL's Kazan bureau on 23 April, (see the "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 24 April 2002), President Shaimiev told the press conference that the new constitution "in many ways satisfied him, admitting that the document contained a number of articles "irritating Moscow," which expressed the "principal position [of Tatarstan�s government] -- for the good of the future federation, not because we don't understand the gist of pretensions [against such articles]. But we will never build a federative state if we don't insist on our own view regarding these problems."

Shaimiev's Speech At The United Russia Congress
The daily "Vremya MN" newspaper reported on 26 April that President Mintimer Shaimiev, who is also a co-chairman of the centrist United Russia (Yedinaya Rossiya) party, gave a speech at the party's first congress in Moscow the same day in which he promoted the role of power-sharing between Moscow and the territorial entities and criticized Russia's new Tax Code, which he said "unjustly" divided the incomes between Moscow and the regions.

American Agency Report Reminds Of The Kazan Aircraft Plant's Past
Tatnews agency quoted the American Washington Profile information agency, which reported on the disastrous state of Russia's strategic aviation. This branch of aviation currently has only 208 aircraft, including fuel transporters and training machines, and receives only 6 percent of the necessary funding it needs and is unable to provide pilots with oxygen masks or flight outfits. During the Soviet period, the Kazan Aircraft Plant was a production and repair center for the Tu-160 supersonic nuclear bombers, known in the Western bloc Air Forces as "Big Fire."

Daily: Deputies Are Uninterested In How The Government Spends Money
Among other issues to be included in Tatarstan's State Council agenda session to be held on 29 May, deputies are to discuss the execution of the republican budget in 2000 and in 2001, the daily "Vechernaya Kazan" reported on 30 April. The paper commented on this by claiming that there was a "contrast between the pains and debates during the adoption of Tatarstan's budget, when all of the deputies consider it their personal duty to push for extra expenditures in [his or her] sphere of industry. But when the government reports what the taxpayers' money was spent on, the deputies lose their interest [in the budget] and in recent years this procedure has almost turned into a formality."

Kazan Subway Stations Connected By Tunnels
Kazan subway constructors finished the second tunnel of the underground railway connecting the future stations Sukon bistese and Tukay Square on 29 April, Tatar-inform agency reported the same day. Officials hope that by the Kazan millenium celebrations in 2005 the subway link will connect central Kazan with the city's Privolzhsky district.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Prosecutor Sure His Challenge Of Bashkir Constitution To Be Upheld
Russian Deputy Prosecutor-General Aleksandr Zvyagintsev commented on the 15 April ruling by the Bashkir Supreme Court, saying that he had appealed to the Russian Supreme Court to challenge it, "Trud" reported on 27 April. Bashkortostan's Supreme Court satisfied the majority of Zvyagintsev's protests against articles of the republican constitution and laws. But the prosecutors said the Bashkir court rejected the protests against the constitutional provisions on the republic's sovereignty and empowering the republic's president to issue decrees on emergency situations, to appoint members of the republican electoral commission and the chairman of the republican Central Bank. Answering a question on the possible decision of the Russian Supreme Court, Zvyagintsev said he usually files challenges when he is 105 percent sure that his demands are legal.

President Rakhimov Meets Federal Officials
President Murtaza Rakhimov met on 25 April with Russian Deputy Minister of Economics and Trade Vyacheslav Mozgalev and Russian Deputy Atomic Energy Minister Ivan Kamenskikh, who were visiting Bashkortostan, the presidential press service reported the next day. The sides discussed the cooperation of federal ministries with subordinate republican bodies and the prospects for implementation of federal social and economic programs in Bashkortostan. The social and economic development of the city of Mezhgorye was also in the agenda, the service said.

Judges, Deputies Ignore Exemption Of Court Chairman
Speaking at a conference of Bashkir judges on 26 April, Bashkir Supreme Court Judge Zulfiya Kasimova suggested that the issue of violations by Supreme Court Chairman Marat Vakilov of the federal law on the status of judges and of the judges' code of honor be excluded from the agenda of the conference, reported the same day (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 22, 24 and 25 April 2002). Kasimova said that according to legislation, the Supreme Court chairman is responsible only to the Supreme Qualification Board of Judges and nobody else. Conference participants backed the proposal and voted 207 votes in favor with 179 against and 37 abstained. Nevertheless, the next day the conference did discuss the issue (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 29 April 2002).

A week before, the Bashkir State Assembly also discussed violations by Marat Vakilov. An unidentified representative of the Judicial Department of the Russian Federation appealed on 20 April to State Assembly deputies "not to hurry with conclusions," Bashinform reported on 22 April. The official said his department plans to hold an audit of the Bashkir Supreme Court in the nearest future and added that only then can any conclusions be made. He warned the parliament members that they are not empowered to discuss and evaluate the activity of the Supreme Court chairman. The legislature, however, passed a resolution on the issue in which it appealed to the Russian Supreme Court chairman and the Supreme Qualification Board of Judges to dismiss Vakilov from his post as chairman and called on the Council of Judges of Bashkortostan to discuss the issue.

Meanwhile, Bashkir President Rakhimov by his 23 April decree annulled his earlier decree on bestowal upon Vakilov of the title of honorary lawyer of the Republic of Bashkortostan, which was issued on 6 December 2000. "Unfounded manner of granting" the title was reported as the reason.

UralSib Purchases Controlling Interest In Bashprombank
UralSib bank, formerly Bashcreditbank, purchased from the Agency on Restructuring Credit Organizations (ARKO) a controlling interest in Bashprombank, UralSib's old competitor, "Kommersant" daily reported on 30 April. Thus, the Bashkir government, which owns large stakes in both banks, merged its financial flows. UralSib purchased Bashprombank's three branches -- one in Moscow and two in Bashkortostan -- and six offices in the republic at their face value of 75 million rubles ($2.5 million). The previous year, UralSib purchased from ARKO Kaliningrad's StroiVestbank and Chelyabinsk's Dorozhnik as well as 75 percent of both Kuzbassugolbank and Yevraziya bank. By 2002, UralSib had 4.2 billion rubles ($135.5 million) capital while its assets totaled 24 billion rubles ($774 million), "Vedomosti" daily reported on 30 April.

Bashkortostan Reaches Best Results In Call-Up Campaign In Russia
The commission of the General Staff of the Russian Military, headed by Major General Valerii Astanin, announced the results of a Russia-wide competition on preparation of youth for military service and call-up according to which the Bashkortostan Enlistment Office was declared the winner, Bashinform reported on 27 April. the past two years, the republic occupied third and second place.

Rabbi Praises Interfaith Concord In Bashkortostan
Rabbi Dan Krichevskii of Ufa and Bashkortostan told "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 29 April that both anti-Semitism and chauvinism are less prevalent in Bashkortostan compared to the rest of Russia. The rabbi said the majority of Bashkortostan residents follow Muslim traditions and religious principles are reviving, but Islam here is completely different than the one promoted by mojaheds and the Taliban. It is an open, deeply tolerant, and friendly ideology, he said. Krichevskii said he faced not a single case of extremism in the two years he stayed in the republic. That is the result of the conscious policy of the republic's leadership, he added. He stressed the importance of the interethnic policy promoted by Bashkir President Rakhimov, who helped the Jewish community several times both in words and deeds. He said all conditions are provided in Bashkortostan for Jews to have a life of full value in their community and to follow national traditions.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Marii People's Congress Calls For Resignation Of President Markelov
Participants in the sixth extraordinary congress of the Marii people, held on 26 April in Yoshkar-Ola, stated their distrust in President Leonid Markelov and called on him to resign. Congress participants demanded that deputies of the Marii El parliament restore the constitutional provision making pre-term stoppage of powers of the republic's president possible, Rosbalt reported the next day. Some 700 delegates in attendance at the congress passed a resolution evaluating as a mistake the 28 May 2001 decision of the Marii El State Assembly to remove corresponding Article 81 from the republican law on presidential elections. They declared Markelov's policy as against the people and stressed his inability to resolve social and economic problems, his unwillingness to conduct dialogue and cooperation, and his ill-disposed actions toward the Marii people. The resolution says the social and economic situation in the republic worsened after Markelov became president. Subsidies from Moscow reached 48 percent of the republican budget in 2001 while the number of companies going bankrupt increase and property is being sold at undervalued prices. The agency cited congress participants as saying that information reported by state television, radio, and newspapers is "measured out in doses," as differently minded journalists are not permitted to work in mass media and independent newspapers are prohibited from being published in the republic.

GAZ To Open Assembly Line In China
GAZ automotive plant is organizing assembly of its Gazel vehicles in China, reported on 30 April citing the GAZ administration. The assembly line will open at the Huang-Hai automotive plant in the city of Dangdong, an old partner of GAZ. The agreement was reached during the industrial exhibit Technology from Russia-2002 in China. GAZ also signed protocols on the delivery to China of $30 million worth of half-finished spares.

Prosecutors Succeed In Defending Journalists' Rights In Saratov Oblast
The Saratov Oblast court upheld on 27 April the challenge of the oblast prosecutors' office against rules of accreditation of journalists at the Saratov Oblast government signed by Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov in March, reported the same day. The court annulled requirements for journalists to report their pseudonyms and state of health. The court also declared invalid the provision that permitted to canceling of accreditation in case a journalist does not report about the activity of the oblast government for three months.

Last fall, oblast journalists filed and won another lawsuit to defend their rights, that time against the oblast minister of information and press, who prohibited them from attending meetings of the oblast government presidium.

...And Concern About Growing Alcohol Consumption
Sverdlovsk Oblast Agriculture Minister Sergei Chemezov told an oblast government meeting on 29 April that alcohol consumption increased to 25 liters per capita a year, including children and elderly residents, "Novyi region" reported the same day. Oblast government officials evaluated the situation as a "national catastrophe." Oblast Prime Minister Aleksei Vorobyev said, "we accustom our people to hard drinking and are killing them." The agency also reported that oblast officials expressed special indignation at the fact that oblast residents drink mainly "imported" alcohol while the share of local production is only 25 percent of the total volume.

Politicians Of Perm Oblast, Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug On Their Entities' Merger
Perm Oblast Governor Yurii Trutnev said the merger of the Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug and the Perm Oblast is not an end in itself, and the main aim is to improve life of people both in the oblast and the okrug, Region-Inform-Perm reported on 29 April. Trutnev stressed that self-isolation of any territorial entity results in backlog and poverty of population. He said at the same time that any violations of national traditions of the Komi-Permyak people are out of the question. Trutnev said he plans to visit the okrug in the second half of May.

State Duma Deputy Andrei Klimov, whom observers consider to have decisive influence on the policy of the Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug administration, said he always was and remains a supporter of integration between the okrug and the oblast, calling it "a normal process taking place in the entire world." However, he stressed, European countries do this very slowly and gradually, permanently harmonizing their legislation.

Newspaper Editor In Chief Killed In Tolyatti
Valerii Ivanov, editor in chief of "Tolyattinskoe obozrenie" and Tolyatti City Duma deputy, was shot on 29 April in Tolyatti, in his automobile near the house in which he lived, reported on 30 April. The agency cited "Tolyattinskoe obozrenie" reporter Pavel Kaledin as saying there is no doubt that Ivanov was killed because of his journalistic activity. The agency reported that the paper headed by Ivanov constantly published revealing material, including a series of articles about the Trade House Ada involved in sale of VAZ automobiles. In the past two years, "Tolyattinskoe obozrenie" actively campaigned against drug addiction and trafficking.

Samara Oblast Governor Konstantin Titov sent his condolences on the death of Ivanov, saying he was shocked by the report on that tragic event. He said Ivanov was the most uncompromising fighter against criminals and one of the founders of contemporary democratic press in the Samara Oblast. cited unidentified officials from the Tolyatti prosecutors' office as saying that the murder of Ivanov was contracted.

Several large companies in Tolyatti offered compensation for any information that will help throw light on the case, reported on 2 May. In particular, AvtoVAZ offered 500,000 rubles.

Sverdlovsk Oblast Ministries Misuse Funds...
Embezzlement of hundreds of thousands of rubles by several oblast ministries was reported at a Sverdlovsk Oblast government meeting on 29 April, "Novyi region" reported the same day. The agency quoted a protocol of the meeting as reporting that in 2001 the oblast Education Ministry embezzled 233,000 rubles ($7,500), the Ministry of Social Defense 580,000 rubles ($18,700), while the Health Ministry misused in 2000-01 1.9 million rubles ($61,300) and the Culture Ministry 978,000 rubles ($31,500).

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova