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Tatar-Bashkir Report: February 17, 2004

17 February 2004
Elections Tsar Visits Tatarstan
Meeting with Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev on 13 February, Russian Central Election Commission (TsIK) Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov warned against "extremes in...state-run mass media and using administrative levers of power" during election campaigns, RIA-Novosti reported. At a meeting with reporters the same day, Veshnyakov expressed regret that, "during the State Duma elections such extremes took place." However, Veshnyakov said during the meeting with Shaimiev that he is satisfied with the work of Tatarstan's Central Election Commission (USK) as, according to him, not a single lawsuit on the results of the elections or on the registration process has been filed. In previous elections, such lawsuits continued for several months, Veshnyakov said. At a meeting with Tatarstan's USK members, Veshnyakov said that representatives of the Organization for the Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) will come to Tatarstan to arrange the organization's monitoring mission for the Russian presidential elections in March.

10th Anniversary Of Tatarstan's Treaty With Moscow Marked
Tatar State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin, former Tatar Deputy President Vasilii Likhachev, former Tatar Prime Minister Mukhammat Sabirov, and state adviser to Tatar President Rafail Khekimov joined a 14 February meeting in Kazan commemorating the 10th anniversary of the bilateral power-sharing treaty between Russia and Tatarstan,, RosBalt, and other news agencies reported. Speaking at the gathering, Mukhametshin said Tatarstan is not going to give up on treaty-based relations with Russia. He said the treaty signed in 1994 became a "starting point in the creation of a future federative state." Mukhametshin asserted that a new version of the treaty will "establish strict juridical relations between federal authorities and Tatarstan" and will give the republic extra powers. He also said the document is to become federal law. A special commission in Tatarstan is currently proposing amendments to the treaty.

In his speech, Likhachev expressed concern about proposals by the Russian leadership to eliminate power-sharing agreements between Russia and its regions, which he said are in keeping with the Russian Constitution. Likhachev argued that the model of the treaty between Russia and Tatarstan was used during negotiations to settle the conflict in Kosovo.

Speaking at the meeting, state adviser Khekimov said the power-vertical being established in Russia is an "inefficient system of governing" and that federal authorities will soon "come to recognize the fact that the federation is founded on the principle of divided sovereignty." He expressed confidence that the "time of the power-vertical will soon end and the formula 'strong regions - strong Russia,' on which we have always insisted, will triumph."

Turkey And Tatarstan Discuss Further Cooperation
The prospects of trade, economic, scientific, and cultural cooperation between Tatarstan and Turkey were discussed on 14 February at a meeting between Tatar Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov and Turkish Consul-General in Kazan Ismail Haqqy Musa, Tatar-inform reported on 16 February. The officials discussed specific projects to be implemented by Kazan's millennium in 2005, including the construction of a park in Kazan to commemorate the founder of the modern Turkish state Kemal Ataturk and the restoration of the republic's Kremlin library. Minnikhanov praised Turkish construction workers working in Tatarstan. The Turkish Monotech company is currently constructing the new building of Tatarstan's Cabinet of Ministers.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Tatar Groups Consider The Idea Of Annexing Part Of Bashkortostan's Territory
A 14 February congress of Tatar civic groups in Bashkortostan discussed possible ways to obtain an official status for the Tatar language, which is spoken by one-third of the republic's population, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported yesterday. The planned activities reportedly include demonstrations in front of the Bashkir parliament building and appeals to the Tatar and Bashkir presidents urging more attention to Tatar rights in Bashkortostan. During the congress, Viner Fattakhov, head of the Durtile Raion branch of the Tatar Public Center, suggested that Tatar groups should initiate a referendum on annexing the Tatar-dominated areas in northwest Bashkortostan to Tatarstan. He explained that the move would wake up the Bashkir regime and force it to make concessions. The congress reportedly agreed to establish a special executive body for promoting the referendum.

Official Body Set Up To Respond To Public Concerns
A special presidential commission to deal with the appeals and requests of Bashkortostan's residents has been set up, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 16 February. The new body will respond to concerns heard by Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov's electoral headquarters during his December 2003 presidential campaign. The commission will be led by Radii Khebiro, the head of the Bashkir presidential staff, and will reportedly involve his subordinates, as well as the government and State Assembly officials. The bulk of the filed appeals reportedly concern housing, social security, the environment, and the work of local judicial bodies.

Delayed Payments Force Bashkirenergo To Borrow More Money
Bashkortostan's electricity and heating consumers failed to pay for some 14 percent of energy used in 2003, costing Bashkirenergo some $10 million, Rosbalt reported on 16 February. Customers owe a total of some $157 million in debt to Bashkirenrgo. Also on 16 February, Bashkirenergo's press service announced that the company intends to attract an $18 million loan by issuing 500,000 promissory notes at 1,000 rubles each later this month.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi