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Tatar-Bashkir Report: May 20, 2004

20 May 2004
President Offers Views On Future Chechen President
Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev told Interfax on 19 May that there are "enough decent people in Chechnya and beyond its borders who could lead the republic and represent it as an equal member of the Russian Federation." He suggested that suitable candidates to replace assassinated pro-Moscow President Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov exist "among the parliamentary deputies, businessmen, and the Chechen intelligentsia." The Tatar president suggested that the new Chechen president must enjoy authority among a majority of Chechens and be acceptable to federal authorities.

"When choosing the future Chechen leader, we will have to avoid basing [the selection] upon who has the most machine guns and militant groups," Shaimiev said. He added that only free elections -- as an indicator of a democratic society's level of development -- can serve such a purpose. Shaimiev also emphasized that, in light of Chechen traditions, the republic should grant a special role to its legislative assembly, which will also have to "become a real support for the future president."

Kazan Libraries To Raise Books For Chechen State University
The science library of Kazan State University (KGU) will dispatch the first shipment of books destined for the library of the Chechen State University in Grozny, Intertat reported on 19 May. The project will reportedly involve 20 more cities across Russia and CIS. Kazan State University plans to send more books to the war-torn university in Grozny, while other universities and institutes of the Tatar capital are reportedly planning to join the move.

Tatarstan's Media Report Pressure From Local Bureaucrats
Addressing journalists and editors from major media outlets on Press Day in Tatarstan on 19 May, State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin said the republic has one of the largest media markets in the Russian Federation, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. More than 800 media outlets are registered in the republic, he said, and three in four of them are privately owned.

The head of the regional and municipal newspapers association, Nina Kirkina, told the same meeting that local newspapers in Tatarstan's regions are suffering from a lack of freedom, since they are funded by local authorities interested in loyal -- rather than independent -- media. In response, Mukhametshin urged journalists to report cases of pressure from local bureaucrats and take legal action where appropriate.

The republican government plans to halt direct subsidies to the official media and replace them with competitive grant processes.

Tatarstan Shares Experience In Preparing Millennial Festivities
Yaroslavl Governor Anatolii Lisitsin arrived in Kazan on 19 May to meet with President Shaimiev and discuss Tatarstan's experience in preparing Kazan's millennial celebrations slated for 2005, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. Yaroslavl is planning to mark its own millennium in 2010 and already has a sufficient commitment of foreign investment to renovate its oil refinery and the former local military airport, as well as for building a system of hotels for tourists traveling the cities of "Russia's golden ring."

Lisitsin told Shaimiev that his region has a special interest in sharing Tatarstan's program to eliminate ramshackle housing.

Also on 19 May, the mayors of Kazan and Yaroslavl signed an agreement on implementing a 2003 treaty on friendship and cooperation.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Skyguide Apologizes For Midair Collision...
The Swiss air-traffic-control service Skyguide agreed on 19 May with the conclusions of the German investigation and accepted its guilt in the 1 July 2002 midair collision over Lake Constance, of a Bashkir Airlines Tu-154 and a DHL Boeing 757 (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 2 July 2002), Russian news agencies reported. Skyguide General Director Allen Rossier told a press conference in Zurich on 19 May that Skyguide takes full responsibility for its mistakes and offers its apologies to relatives of the 71 victims in the crash. Rossier also apologize in Russian.

The German report said the collision was caused by the actions of an air-traffic controller who ordered the Tu-154 pilots to reduce altitude too late, only 50 seconds before the crash. Dispatcher Peter Nielsen, who was on duty on the night of the collision, was killed on 24 February (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 25 February 2004). Vitalii Kaloev, a Vladikavkaz resident who lost his wife and two children in the collision, was arrested on suspicion of murdering Nielsen (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 2 March 2004).

The report criticized Skyguide for allowing a single controller to be on duty at night. It noted, however, that pilots of the TU-154 also made "wrong decisions" as they followed instructions by the dispatcher to lose altitude while the automatic collision-prevention system recommended they gain altitude.

...As Does Swiss President
Swiss President Josef Dais on 19 May sent Russian President Vladimir Putin a letter of apology for the midair collision over Lake Constance, Russian agencies reported the same day. He assured Putin that Switzerland will determine who is responsible and take action against them, including criminal. Dais also said that his country making every effort to pay "fitting compensation" quickly and without bureaucratic obstacles to relatives of the victims.

Religious Leaders Say Religions Misrepresented In Secondary Schools
The Russian Interreligious Council appealed to Russian Education and Science Minister Andrei Fursenko to allow secondary-school students to study religious culture from the viewpoints of religious organizations, reported on 19 May, citing Interfax. The letter was signed by Moscow Patriarchate Foreign Relations Department head Metropolitan Kirill, Russian Council of Muftis Chairman Rawil Gainetdin, Russian Central Muslims Spiritual Directorate Chairman Telget Tajetdin, Caucasus Muslims Coordinating Center Chairman Islail Berdiev, Russian chief Rabbis Adolf Shaevich and Berl Lazar, and Russian Buddhist leader Damba Ayusheev. In it, the leaders said information about the history and values of world religions in school courses is fragmentary, tendentious, and misrepresented. Graduates know almost nothing about the values and religious culture of their own and neighboring peoples in Russia, the leaders argued. Information about religions in schools is currently represented from an atheistic viewpoint, they added, and proposed that religions be taught in secondary schools with the participation of religious organizations.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova