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Tatar-Bashkir Report: April 1, 2004

1 April 2004
Court Removes Tatarstan's Sovereignty
The Tatar Supreme Court on 31 March partially satisfied the demand by Russian Deputy Prosecutor-General Aleksandr Zvyagintsev to invalidate several articles of the Tatar Constitution, Tatarinform,, RosBalt, and other media reported the same day. The court has annulled the provisions about Tatarstan's sovereignty and the requirement for presidential candidates to speak both of the republic's state languages, Tatar and Russian. The court rejected, however, the prosecutor's objections to provisions regulating the procedure for recalling State Council deputies and issues of the organization and operation of federal courts and status of judges.

Tatar prosecutor Kafil Emirov said that since the complaint has been satisfied partially, the decision on whether to appeal the verdict will be made after consulting the deputy prosecutor-general.

Education Minister Says University Students Should Not Serve In Army
Tatar Education Minister Faris Kharisov told a press conference on 31 March that drafting students of higher educational institutions is unacceptable. Kharisov was commenting on reports about the plan by the Russian armed forces' General Staff to recruit students of higher educational institutions to the army. Kharisov called for other ways of attracting young people to military service, including raising the army's prestige, eliminating relations violating the army charter during the military service, and a media campaign to form a positive image of the army. He said, "It is impossible to form a positive attitude of the youth towards military service through exclusively negative presentation of the army." Meanwhile, according to a recent amendment to the law on military service, service can be delayed for young men whose wives are pregnant.

Kazan Criminal Group To Go On Trial
Tatar Interior Minister Esget Seferov said on 30 March that the investigation of the criminal case against the Kazan organized criminal group "Zhilka" has been completed and will be taken to court in early April, reported. The group members are accused of criminal conspiracy, organizing a criminal group, and 13 murders. Some 20 members of the group are currently in custody while seven are wanted. The ministry is also investigating the case against the organized criminal group "Tatary" in Tuben Kama and another group in Chistai.

First Line of Kazan Subway To Be Finished This Year
The tunneling the first line of the Kazan subway will be finished this year, Kazan Mayor Kamil Iskhaqov told a press conference on 31 March. So far, 4,170 meters of tunnels out of a total of 11,913 meters of underground and 4,936 meters of aboveground lines have been constructed. Most tunnels and stations will be located at the depth of eight to 12 meters, while in some places, the depth will reach 30 meters. Tatar national motifs will dominate the design of the subway stations, Iskhaqov said. The first line will be launched in August 2005. Visiting International Metro Association Council Chairman and head of the Moscow subway Dmitrii Gaev also attended the press conference.

At a meeting of the International Metro Association in Kazan on 30 March, Tatar Transport Minister Vladimir Shvetsov said a total of 14 billion rubles ($492 million) will be allocated for the Kazan subway, including 7.4 billion rubles from the republican budget.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

State Assembly Chairman Slams The Federal Official For Criticism Of Slow Laws Harmonization Processes
In a statement by Bashkortostan's State Assembly on 31 March, assembly speaker Konstantin Tolkachev expressed his "bewilderment" at the position of certain federal officials on harmonizing federal and regional legislation, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. Tolkachev slammed the previous day's report by Rishat Kilmyakov, head of the Russian Justice Ministry in Bashkortostan, who told a meeting on security issues at the office of chief federal inspector to Bashkortostan Engels Kolmokhemmetov that 100 of the republic's laws violate federal laws (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 31 March 2004).

Tolkachev said that Kilmyakov's statement showed "the incompetence of federal officials, whose duty is to follow the situation in the regions" and "damaged relations between the federal center and Bashkortostan and the efficiency of the single federal legal space, of which the republic's legislation is an important part." Tolkachev said that, according to Russian law, only a court may decide whether federal legislation is violated by regional legislation, while the Bashkir Supreme Court is "currently considering only one case" on contradictions between a republican law and federal legislation.

Tolkachev also claimed that Bashkortostan's State Assembly "fulfilled the task set by President Vladimir Putin in 2000" when Putin hinted at the numerous contradictions between Bashkir laws and those of the Russian Federation. Nevertheless the speaker admitted that legal harmonization "is a constant process, which is explained by the adoption of federal laws concerning the issues of mutual jurisdiction."

The Russian Justice Ministry has checked more than 3,000 Bashkir laws for possible violations of federal legislation and found contradictions in more than 530 of them, RosBalt reported on 31 March, Some 400 laws have already been adjusted to the federal center's requirements. In 2004 the Bashkir State Assembly intends to consider 14 pieces of legislation aimed at bringing local laws into conformity with federal ones.

New Prosecutor Urges Crackdown On Bashkortostan's Police
Bashkortostan's newly appointed acting chief prosecutor, Mikhail Zelepukin, appealed to the Russian Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliev to bring order to the republic's law-enforcement bodies by sending a special commission to inspect the Bashkir police, RosBalt reported on 31 March. An unnamed source within the Bashkir Interior Ministry told the agency that in his request, the chief prosecutor referred to the "low discipline and systematic legal violations" by the republican police. Zelepukin reportedly criticized the "lowering of the republican Interior Ministry's requirements for its staff" and gave the examples of the use of torture against suspects, drug trafficking, bribery, and murder by police officers. In 2003 Bashkortostan's prosecutors investigated 124 felony cases against republican police officers and 58 of them have been sent for trial. Twenty-five other cases have been investigated so far in 2004.

High-Ranking Ufa City Police Officers Suspected Of Connection To Attempt On Colleague
Bashkortostan's Interior Ministry is investigating the possible involvement of high-ranking police officers in the attempted poisoning of the chief of Ufa's anti-crime department, deputy police chief Viktor Anisimov, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 31 March. In early March, Anisimov was hospitalized with signs of mercury poisoning and more than 200 grams of it were found in the head rest of his office chair (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report" 12 March 2004).

On 26 March the investigators discoved two unregistered hand guns and different types of ammunition in the garage of the head of the material provision department, Ufa police Colonel Mikhail Savintsev. The Ufa city court is to define the sanctions against Savintsev, who is suspected of illegal ownership of firearms and other crimes including the attempt on Anisimov.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi