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Tatar-Bashkir Report: September 3, 2004

3 September 2004
Tatarstan's Muslim Leader Says Chechen Separatists Involved In Beslan Hostage Taking
The chairman of Tatarstan's Muslim Spiritual Board, Gosman khezret Iskhaq, condemned the 1 September hostage taking in North Ossetia, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 2 September. Iskhaq stated that as a father of five children he understands the feelings the captive children must have had on the first day of the school year. He called the attack "a disgusting crime, which deserves God's retribution," adding that the best way out for the hostage takers would be to "repent for what has been done."

However, Iskhaq noted that the Russian government "should have made a hard, yet an essential decision on talks with Chechen separatists, something that could suspend the bloodshed.... All countries, including Russia, urge the political solution to existing conflicts, but few of them follow this path."

Tatarstan's Police Step Up Security Measures After Beslan Incident
Following the 31 August bombing outside a Moscow metro station (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1, 2 September 2004) and the 1 September hostage taking in North Ossetia, Tatarstan police have taken emergency security measures in public places, including airports, railroad stations, and bus stations, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 2 September, citing Deputy Interior Minister Rafil Nogmanov.

Security measures include inspections using police dogs of potential bomb sites and the passengers on intercity transportation. The police also instructed local schools to install emergency alert buttons and hire specialized security services in order to prevent acts of terror similar to the hostage taking in North Ossetia.

Tatarstan Signs A Protocol On Cooperation With Intel
Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov and Intel President Steve Chase signed a protocol on cooperation and the use of the company's technology in the education, health care, social security, and law enforcement spheres on 2 September in Kazan, Intertat reported the same day.

Tatar Deputy Communications Minister Ferit Fazilzyanov told reporters after the signing that the protocol is a first step towards attracting other international information technology (IT) companies to Tatarstan.

Chase commented on the agreement by saying that it was the first agreement of its kind to be endorsed by his company and an individual entity of the Russian Federation.

The protocol states that the two sides will launch a number of information and communication technology projects including, but not limited to, the introduction of the WiMAX wideband Internet access protocol, resuming Intel's education programs for school teachers, as well as programs for bringing computers and Internet access to more places in Tatarstan.

According to recent research at the Moscow-based analytical center Yurii Levada as cited by Intertat, 11 percent of Russia's families have computers, while only 4 percent of them are connected to the Internet.

Parliament To Rename Education Ministry
Tatarstan's parliamentary commission on culture, science, education, and ethnic policy issues approved the recent initiative of Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev on transforming the republican Education Ministry into the Ministry of Education and Science, Intertat reported on 2 September

The recently appointed education minister, Reis Sheikhelislamov, told the commission on 2 September that lately the demand for scientific experts had increased in Tatarstan, emphasizing the deficit of educated specialists in industry-related fields of science, while the number of universities that offer an inadequate quality of education increases. In addition, the republican government reportedly faces difficulties ensuring the use of the Tatar language in the practicing of science, despite its official status.

Sheikhelislamov noted that the renaming of his ministry will assist in its ability to redefine its mission and to help resolve existing problems.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Trade Unions Have High Hopes For New Agreement With Employers
According to Valerii Apokin, deputy chairman of Bashkortostan's Trade Unions Federation, a new agreement between the Bashkir government, the Trade Unions Federation, and employer's unions will take force from 1 January 2005, Bashinform reported on 2 September. The agreement will represent a revised version of the document used in previous years, which will include the participants' new proposals. In future discussions of the draft document, Bashkir unions will reportedly support a stricter control of housing tariffs and salary increases for teachers and those working in the medical sector, as well as an increase in compensation for work-related injuries.

Sterlitamaq's Industrial Growth Prompts Environmental Concerns
Environmentalists have raised serious concerns about the recent increase in industrial production and air pollution in Bashkortostan's second city Sterlitamaq, Regnum reported on 2 September. The agency quoted Rafael Absalyamov, the head of the city's environmental board, as saying that the current increase of industrial activity has not been accompanied by sufficient air-purifying technology or a system of monitoring and control of the city's environmental situation. Absalyamov said that Sterlitamaq's automated system of monitoring air pollution stopped functioning two years ago.

Military Official Says 'Criminals' Will Be Punished For Terrorist Acts
Vasilii Smirnov, the head of the main logistics and mobilization department of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, on 2 September told Bashinform that he agreed with the recent statement of Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov assessing the 1 September hostage-taking in North Ossetia as an act of war against Russia. He said he was sure that such attacks "will have an adequate response," adding that "criminals who committed these inhumane acts will be punished."

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi