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Tatar-Bashkir Report: December 6, 2002

6 December 2002
Presidential Adviser Comments On Cyrillic-Only Bill, Federative Relations
In an interview with on 3 December, Rafael Khekimov, an adviser to Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev, said amendments to the law on the languages of the peoples of the Russian Federation making the use of Cyrillic alphabets mandatory for state languages in Russia violates the rights of peoples throughout the country, adding that such violations could result in political destabilization (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 18 and 27 November 2002). Khekimov said that Moscow could first interfere in the right of Russia's peoples to choose their own alphabets as a stepping stone to abolishing their state languages. Khekimov also said that this is part of a general offensive against the inalienable rights of Russia's peoples, saying that the federal government has violated several articles of the constitution and interfered in the powers of the subjects of the federation.

Shaimiev's adviser praised for using the Tatar Latin script, adding that the Cyrillic-only law cannot affect the mass media and cannot prohibit them from using alphabets of their choice.

Khekimov said the current movement toward centralization in Russia will inevitably be followed by an opposite trend, which will see Russian regions raise the issue of unequal relations in the country. The presidential adviser suggested that this could happen in Kaliningrad Oblast and the Far East.

Stalin's Granddaughter Thanks Officials For Help With Reburial
The granddaughter of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, Tatyana Djugashvili, sent a letter to President Shaimiev thanking him and Kazan Mayor Kamil Iskhaqov for their assistance in the recent reburial in Moscow of her father -- Stalin's son -- Vasilii Djugashvili, (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 22 November 2002), reported on 5 December.

KamAZ Assembly Lines To Be Established In Ethiopia
KamAZ assembly lines are to be established in Ethiopia, reported on 5 December. In accordance with a federal-government program on trade and economic, scientific, and technical cooperation with the African country, KamAZ vehicles are to be assembled there in addition to UAZ, VAZ, Oka, and Ural vehicles. The program also calls for the production of buses on KamAZ chassis and the establishment of KamAZ service centers in Ethiopia.

Tuben Kama Tire Plant To Open Joint Venture In Cuba
The Nizhnekamskshina tire company and the Cuban Poligom company have agreed to establish a joint venture in Cuba to produce tires using the Tatar company's raw materials and technology "Vremya i dengi�" reported on 4 December. The project, which aims to produce $10 million worth of tires to meet one-quarter of the demand for tires in the Cuban market by 2004, was discussed during a visit to Cuba of a delegation from Tatneft-Neftekhim in late November. Contracts were also signed during the negotiations on the delivery of 11,290 tires for the Cuban sugar industry in December and of several consignments of tires for the Cuban armed forces in the first quarter of 2003.

Tatarstan's Liberal Russia Leader Takes Part In London Gathering
The head of the Tatar branch of Liberal Russia, Mars Shemsetdinov, was one of 42 party representatives at a 28-30 November meeting in London chaired by Boris Berezovskii, "Zvezda povolzhya" reported on 5 December. Shemsetdinov had previously voted to expel Berezovskii from the party and supported party co-Chairman Sergei Yushenkov, but he has since radically changed his position, the weekly said.

TIU In Chally Appoints Acting Chairman
The Tatar Public Center (TIU) in Chally has appointed Abdrakhman Jeleletdinov to act as chairman in place of Rafis Kashapov, who is currently recovering in a hospital from injuries he received during a 29 May attack on the TIU headquarters and a 15 November road accident, reported on 2 December (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 31 May and 18 November 2002).

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Rakhimov Says Putin Authorized The Preservation Of Presidency In Bashkortostan
In its 4 December issue, "Kommersant" daily cited Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov as pledging "to take an extremely firm position regarding the fundamental law" adopted on 3 December 2002 (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 4 December 2002) because he "did not intend to revise it any more." Rakhimov reportedly told the State Assembly deputies that day that he personally discussed with Putin plans to introduce parliamentary rule (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 29 November, 2 December 2002). He said Putin "initially supported the idea, but we decided to preserve the existing model after finding out that the new one would conflict with federal legislation." The paper also quoted some recent public opinion polls in Bashkortostan that showed some 83 percent of the population approved of the current social and political situation in their republic.

Parliament Speaker Positive About Perfection Of New Constitution?...
In his report before the Bashkir State Assembly passed the new constitutional draft in a final third reading on 3 December, Assembly Speaker Konstantin Tolkachev said that the document "possessed no vulnerable clauses" in respect to possible protests from federal prosecutors who check the harmony of regional and federal legislation, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported today. He noted, "one should under take a very creative approach to find any flaws in this draft." He added that the State Assembly disagreed with Bashkortostan's Supreme Court and later the Russian Supreme Court, both of which abolished a number of articles in the previous constitution for violating federal laws. Tolkachev said the disagreement was "because only the Constitutional Court is eligible to analyze the regional constitution to determine whether it complies with the federal one." Tolkachev also said that the draft constitution passed on 3 December was "the most thoroughly checked document in Bashkortostan's history."

...As Well As His Colleague...
Rinat Sheripov, chairman of the parliamentary commission on legislation, state-building, and legal issues in the Representatives Chamber of the Bashkir State Assembly, told an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent on 3 December that the new Bashkir Constitution adopted that day "expanded the powers" of the republic's parliament compared to the previous one adopted in late 1999. Similar to Konstantin Tolkachev's aforementioned comments, Sheripov said there was no possibility that federal prosecutors would be able to object to the new document "because we already verified it with the [Russian] Constitutional Court and the Prosecutor-General's Office." Meanwhile, the daily "Kommersant" wrote on 4 November that the new constitution "not only preserves the institute of the presidency, but also expands the president's powers."

...While Duma Deputy From Bashkortostan Has A Different Point Of View
Khelil Barlibaev, a Russian State Duma deputy representing Bashkortostan, told an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent on 3 December that "although the [Bashkir] Constitution was adjusted to federal laws, it doesn't mean that the Russian Prosecutor General's Office will not object to any of its provisions, so our deputies should be ready for this."

Tatar Public Center To Push For Census Recount In Bashkortostan
Ayrat Ginietullin, the Tatar Public Center chairman in Bashkortostan, told an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent on 4 December that his organization will demand a repeat of the national census in the republic due to the large number of violations when it was carried out in October. He suggested that the second census be done "by distributing special forms with only two questions: about a person's nationality and his native tongue in order to fix numerous cases of the misreporting of Tatar population figures, which was committed under the pressure of local authorities."

Tatar Rights Organizations Remain Critical Of The Bashkir Fundamental Law
The leader of the "Miras" Tatar cultural organization in Bashkortostan told an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent on 4 December that the republic's Tatar-rights organizations "critically assessed the hasty work of the Bashkir parliament, which adopted the new constitution after less than a week of discussion." He said the Tatar organizations were mainly unhappy that the new document repeats the two previous post-Soviet Bashkir fundamental laws in disallowing the official status of the Tatar language, which is spoken by the second largest number of people in Bashkortostan.

State Assembly Asks Putin To Consider Wekilov Affair
Together with passing the new constitutional draft on 3 December, Bashkortostan's State Assembly adopted an appeal to Russian President Putin asking him to dismiss Bashkir Supreme Court Chairman Marat Wekilov for discrediting the judiciary, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the next day. The State Assembly claimed that Wekilov, who faced corruption charges by republican monitoring bodies that he was later cleared of, "disorganized the work of local courts" and undermined the credibility of Bashkortostan's judicial system (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 20, 22 November, 3 December 2002). On 4 December, the daily "Kommersant" cited some sources in the Bashkir Supreme Court as saying that Wekilov "became a victim of his own adherence to principle in issues connected with harmonizing the local legislation with federal laws, because claims against the judge emerged after the Supreme Court acknowledged the nonconformity of several articles in the previous Bashkir Constitution to federal laws."

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Saratov Governor Seeks To Finance Orthodox Church From Oblast Budget
Saratov Oblast Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov suggested at his meeting with Archbishop Aleksandr of Saratov and Volsk that the local eparchy be financed from the oblast budget, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 4 December citing Interfax. Ayatskov said the funds can be allocated for the development of religious education, in particular for the financing of the theological seminary, and for the construction of the Aleksandr Nevskii Cathedral that was destroyed in the oblast in the 1930s. "Only when efforts by authorities and the church are united, will we create conditions for the spiritual revival of Russian residents," he asserted, adding that since priests are taxpayers, they should be given money from the budget.

The daily commented that the initiative by the Saratov governor contradicts the federal law on freedom of conscience and religious associations, under which the state cannot finance construction of new churches and religious education. The daily cited the deputy chairman of the Russian government Commission on Issues of Religious Associations, Andrei Sebentsov, as saying that many state officials in their relations with religious organizations are governed by political expediency which does not always meet requirements of the law.

U.S. Ambassador Visits Saratov Oblast
U.S. Ambassador to Russia Alexander Vershbow said on 2 December visiting Saratov that he "is disappointed by a lack of more active trade between Russia's regions and the United States," Saratovbusinessconsulting reported on 3 December. Commenting on the construction of a chemical plant in Gornyi, Vershbow said the U.S. backs all programs aimed at eliminating weapons of mass destruction and praised the construction of the Gornyi facility, which will help destroy "millions of tons of chemicals which present a threat and can be obtained by terrorists."

Vershbow opened the same day a U.S. Information Center in the Saratov Oblast Universal Scientific Library, including an Internet center and 1,000 books and journals worth some $400,000-$450,000.

Ayatskov commented prior to Vershbow's visit that the U.S. is not interested in launching the Gornyi facility as this would force them to invest some $1 billion in the project, Privolzhe reported on 2 December. Ayatskov also claimed that a group of some 50 intelligence agents are poking around everywhere in the oblast.

Former Tax Police Official Seeks $335,000 In Compensation For Moral Damages
Former head of the Tax Police in Sverdlovsk Oblast, General Aleksei Zakamaldin, filed suits against Ural Federal District Tax Police head Anatolii Yatskov, the "Novyi region" newspaper, and "Podrobnosti" newspaper, "Novyi region" reported on 3 December. The general demanded that the defendants pay him 10.7 million rubles ($335,800) in compensation for moral damages. Zakamaldin appealed to a court to deny reports about his alleged involvement in bribe taking, abuse of power, and illegally taking over a dozen apartments in different regions of the Ural Federal District (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 15 March 2002). The trial was set for 9 December. In addition, Zakamaldin's wife Lyubov Zakamaldina filed her own suit seeking 4 million rubles in compensation, the agency said.

Muslim Board Concerned About Spread Of Extremist Literature In Sverdlovsk Oblast
The Muslim Religious Board of Sverdlovsk Oblast said the bulk of extremist Muslim literature appeared in the Middle Urals and such literature can be found everywhere in Yekaterinburg, "Novyi region" reported on 28 November. The board checks bookstores for books from the list of 95 sources prohibited by the Central Muslim Religious Board in February. During a recent check, it found several banned books in Krashoufimsk, the agency said.

Religious Leaders Protest Passport Check In Mosque
Head of the Tyumen Kazyiat Fatyikh Garifullin and the deputy mufti of the Muslim Religious Board of the Asian Part of Russia in Tyumen Oblast, Azat Akhiyarov, appealed to the Tyumen Oblast Interior Ministry to hold responsible the policemen who checked passports in the mosque of the Matmassy village near Tyumen, reported on 3 December. They wrote in their complaint that four men entered the mosque on 27 November during a prayer and ordered in a harsh manner the people praying to present their documents. The policemen smelled of alcohol, the Muslim leaders added. They told the agency that they consider the incident "an act of outrage upon the religious feelings of believers."

A similar case took place last year in the village of Mullashi in Tyumen Raion, the agency said. A "clearing" operation was also held on 22 November in a Yekaterinburg mosque (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 29 November 2002).

Ulyanovsk's Aviastar Signs $355 Million Contract With Egyptian Firm
A $355 million contract on production of 25 Tu-204-120 jets was signed on 29 November by the Tupolev company, the Ulyanovsk-based Aviastar-SP plant, and the Russian branch of Sirocco-Airspace International, reported on 5 December. Under the contract, Aviastar will receive $150 million next year and will deliver in December 2003 the first of five jets due to be produced for China. All 25 airliners are to be constructed and purchased by the Egyptian company by 2006.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova