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Tatar-Bashkir Report: January 23, 2003

23 January 2003
Federal Official Admits 'Separatist Sentiments' In Tatarstan
At a press conference devoted to the European Union's program called "Development of democracy and self-government in Russia" on 22 January, Russian Economic Development and Trade Deputy Minister Vitalii Shipov said that "[current] local self-government reform will stop the separatist trends in Tatarstan," RosBalt reported the same day. Shipov stated that the Russian government "does not fear that the increase of powers of local self-governments will strengthen such sentiments" in Tatarstan, "since these sentiments arose exactly because there was no clear division of powers between the federal, regional, and local authorities." He also admitted that the federal government would have to "do an enormous job" on improving the draft law on local self-governments before 1 January 2005 when it takes force, in order to ensure the highest efficiency of the reform.

Government Pledges Stable Oil Output For Next Three Years
Tatarstan plans to maintain annual oil extraction at 28.9 million tons in 2003, just as it did in 2002, and increase the annual output to some 30 million by 2005, Intertat reported on 22 January. This was announced at a government meeting devoted to the republic's mineral resources. which considered a report by Ecology and Natural Resources Minister Boris Petrov, who presented the draft program for preserving and increasing oil extraction in the republic. The program is to be funded by federal and republican budgets and by the local oil companies. Under the draft scheme of transfers, Tatarstan is to contribute a repayable stake of 300 million rubles ($9.37 million), while Moscow will invest as much as 740 million rubles ($23.12 million) and its share will not be refunded.

Tatar Imams To Be Certified By Religious Board
Tatarstan's Muslim Religious Board began issuing official certificates confirming the powers of imams, Muslim clergy representing the board in the republic's regions, reported on 22 January. The certificates are reportedly granted to those religious leaders, who besides having theological education, possess great authority in their communities.

Passport-Visa Service Says 17 Percent Of Foreigners Reside In Tatarstan Illegally
According to Tatarstan's Passport-Visa Service, some 10,000 illegal immigrants currently reside in the republic, TatNews reported on 22 January. About 22,000 foreign citizens received administrative punishment for violating registration rules in Tatarstan in 2002, 282 of whom were deported from Russia. More than 49,000 foreigners are officially registered in the republic. Most of them come from CIS countries, with some 4,000 from outside it.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Private Taxi Drivers Win Suit In Constitutional Court
The Bashkir Constitutional Court has ruled in favor of a group of individuals who drive privately owned fixed-route taxis in Ufa who challenged the right of city authorities to force them to provide free transportation to various categories of people, Bashinform reported on 22 January. The court ruled that the provision in question, which was passed by the Ufa city council in December 2001, violates the constitutional rights of the plaintiffs. The court also ruled that the taxi drivers have the right to determine by themselves what categories of people are eligible for free transportation.

Small Businesses On The Rise In Republic
Bashkortostan's deputy minister of industry, foreign relations, and trade, Robert Wahapov, said that the number of small businesses in the republic increased by 14 percent in 2002 to about 111,000 in comparison with the previous year, Bashinform reported on 22 January. Production in that sector increased by 17.3 percent in comparison with the previous year, Wahapov said, adding that small businesses were responsible for 8.8 percent of the gross regional product, an increase of 1 percent in comparison with the previous year. Wahapov also said that the number of workers employed by small businesses increased by 19 percent to about 130,000.

Ufa Airport Upgrades Equipment
Ufa's international airport signed on 22 January a contract with the German company Schmidt-International to lease nine snowplows, Bashinform reported the same day. The contract is reportedly worth 3 million rubles ($94,300). The airport's commercial director, Tahir Mokhemmetshin, said the plows will replace about 60 vehicles that are currently used to clear snow from the airport's runways. The airport is also negotiating with Moscow's Tais company on the purchase of a system for making automated ticket reservations and for passenger registration, the agency reported.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova