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Tatar-Bashkir Report: April 1, 2005

1 April 2005
Republican Laws Amended To Suspend Direct Election Of Tatar President
Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev on 31 March signed bills into law amending republican legislation on elections and referendums, as well as suspending some provisions of the law on the Central Election Commission and its territorial branches, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. The legislation is aimed at suspending regulations on the direct election of the republican president. The move follows federal reforms to grant the Kremlin broader powers over such appointments and includes changes to Tatarstan's constitution.

Russian Muslims Introduce Single Standard For Religious Education
The Muslim Education Board under the Council of Russia's Muslim Religious Leaders (SMR) has adopted a single educational standard for higher religious education to unify curricula among Islamic schools, RIA-Novosti reported on 31 March. The standard reportedly is intended to prevent the spread of extremist religious streams among future Muslim clerics and tutors. Along with the fundamentals of Islam, students will reportedly be offered courses on the history of their religion and legal regulations concerning religious affairs in Russia. The next meeting of the Muslim education committee will be held in Kazan in May and will include a discussion of the new document, which will be used to test tutors already operating Muslim congregations in Russia.

50,000 Tatarstan Residents At Risk Of Spring Flooding
Valerii Vlasov, head of the federal Emergencies Ministry's board in Tatarstan, told a conference of the Volga federal district administration on 31 March that officials fear that spring flooding will affect more than 47,000 people in Tatarstan, Intertat reported the same day. Conceding that the flood-endangered areas possess insufficient industrial facilities, Vlasov noted that the flood situation is being strictly monitored to protect lives.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

New Economic Development, Industry Minister Given Status Of Deputy Premier
Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov appointed Nikolai Puchnin as economic development and industry minister on 31 March, Bashinform and RosBalt reported the same day. Rakhimov also named Puchnin, who previously served as general director of the state-run defense industry company Gidravlika, deputy prime minister. Puchnin's predecessor, Valentin Vlasov, was dismissed "for inadequate implementation of official duties." His firing followed an attempt in the Bashkir parliament to dismiss speaker Konstantin Tolkachev and replace him with President Rakhimov's son Ural (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 25 February 2005). On 1 April, "Kommersant-Volga-Urals" quoted an unidentified source in the Bashkir government as saying Rakhimov has decided to give the economic development and industry minister primary responsibility for the republic's development strategy. Previously the Foreign Economic Development and Trade Ministry was responsible for this.

Opposition Challenges Referendum Results...
Bashkortostan's opposition leader Ramil Bignov said he does not recognize the results of a referendum on a new system of local self-government, claiming the vote was held "illegally," Regnum reported on 29 March. According to Bignov, the vote, held on 27 March (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 28 and 29 March 2005), was "a monstrous fraud" and represented a "highest degree of cynicism" from the authorities. He added that the referendum was reminiscent of the old Soviet system of government. According to opposition observers, turnout in the referendum in some districts ranged from just 15 to 18 percent of the eligible electorate, casting doubt on official reports claiming high turnout, in the vote, Bignov said.

...As Officials Deny Allegations
Speaking at a press conference on 31 March, Radii Khebirov, head of the Bashkir presidential administration, denied that the referendum on local self-government was illegal, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported. Khebirov said the vote was held "in complete correspondence to legal requirements" and that elections to municipal councils will be held in Bashkortostan on 26 June. The new bodies will be responsible for the local gas, heating and water supply, and administering the municipal health-care bureaucracy. They will also be responsible for raising revenues to pay for these services. Khebirov said only two municipalities in the republic, Ufa and Salawat, are currently self-sufficient. The others must be supported with subsidies from the republican budget. These subsidies, he added, would be "under strict supervision by the republic's leadership."

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova