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Tatar-Bashkir Report: March 24, 2004

24 March 2004
Supreme Court Resumes Tatar Constitution Case
The Tatar Supreme Court went into session on 23 March to consider the suit of Russian Prosecutor-General Aleksandr Zvyaginstev which claims that 19 articles of the republic's new basic law contradict federal laws, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported today. In March 2003, the court suspended the same suit and appealed to the Russian Constitutional Court. The Russian Constitutional Court ruled that only constitutional courts had the authority to comment on constitutional norms and, on 28 August 2003, the Tatar Supreme Court closed the Zvyagintsev case. After an objection from Zvyagintsev, however, on 3 December 2003 the case returned the case to the Tatar Supreme Court. Moscow has maintained its claims against the requirements that presidential candidates have knowledge of the Tatar language as well as provisions saying that Tatarstan's state anthem and flag were expressions of its sovereignty. Prosecutor Kafil Amirov also argued that some of the constitutional norms should be abolished as they fail to provide clear rules for replacing a parliamentary deputy in the republic, something that allegedly allows abuse of this legal procedure. The Tatar Supreme Court is in recess until 29 March to consider the response of Tatar lawyers, who insisted that the terms of Tatarstan's sovereignty are lawful.

Tatarstan Mentioned Among Regions With Least Free Speech
According to a report by the European Parliament's International Council for Human Rights Policy, Kalmykia, Chechnya, Tatarstan, and Bashkortostan had the least-developed freedom of speech in Russia, "Rodnaya Gazeta" wrote on 23 March. Samara Oblast, St. Petersburg, and Primorye scored the highest in the poll.

Tatar Government Pledges More Support For Disabled Communities
Yakov Geller, director of Tatarstan's agency for state orders, told reporters on 23 March that the republican government has decided to purchase goods produced by local companies employing disabled people, Intertat reported the same day. The agency will sign contracts with such enterprises in order to compensate them after Moscow recently reduced their tax breaks.

Government Reports A Reduction In Back Wages
In the first two months of 2004, back wages owed to employees in Tatarstan amounted to 211.8 million rubles ($7.6 million), a 0.5 percent reduction compared to late 2003, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 23 March. The change, according to a statement from First Deputy Prime Minister Ravyl Moratov, indicated a proportional reduction in the industrial, agricultural, construction, housing, and education sectors of the economy.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Ufa Pays Off $15 Million Loan
The Bashkir government has repaid a $15 million loan provided by the London-based HSBC Bank, Bashinform and RosBalt reported on 23 March. In 1998, HSBC allocated $45 million in credit to Bashkortostan. This month, the Bashkir government and the bank agreed on another $15 million loan.

Muslim Board Concerned With Events In Kosovo
The Central Muslim Religious Board (TsDUM) expressed its concern about current events in Kosovo, reported on 23 March. "Murders of peoples, barbaric destruction of churches and mosques cannot be justified by any ideas or dogma," the statement issued by the board said. TsDUM stated its "support for actions by all healthy forces, countries, and communities contributing to the resolvement of the conflict and providing real help to suffering people." It also called on "all conflicting sides to resolve all controversial issues on the ground of the norms of international law, common sense, and laws of the Most High."

New Administration Head In Belebei Raion
Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov on 23 March signed a decree nominating Yurii Murmilov as acting head of the Belebei Raion and Belebei administration until elections of the head are held under the amended republican law on local self-government bodies, Bashinform reported. Murmilov, 48, has been serving as deputy head of the administration. Rif Gazizov stepped down as the head because of his impending retirement.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova