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Tatar-Bashkir Report: January 24, 2003

24 January 2003
Federal Ministry Seeks More Transparency In Regional Budgets
The Russian Finance Ministry prepared an amendment to this year's budget prohibiting donor regions from holding accounts at commercial banks, "Kommersant" daily wrote on 23 January. If passed, this amendment would restrict the banks from budget money, dismissing the compromise achieved by he federal government, regional and State Duma factions leaders, the paper assumed.

"Kommersant" quoted Finance Ministry official Anton Siluanov as saying that his ministry would hold "additional discussions on the possibility of proposing the amendment." The newspaper attributed the cautiousness of the ministry's statement to the fact that the amendment "in the first place would hit at the interests of the richest regions -- Moscow, Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, and the Volga region. Taking into account the political weight of local leaders and the influence of bankers who serve their interests, its hard to predict whether it would be possible to finish what was begun." The official partner of Tatarstan's government, Ak Bars Bank, is reportedly the fifth major budget-related commercial financial institution, having accumulated 4.7 billion rubles ($147 million) of state assets.

Tatarstan Selected As Testing Ground For Local Self-Government Project
Tatarstan will participate in an EU-sponsored experimental project for promoting local self-government in the Russian regions, RosBalt reported on 23 January, citing the project's director Peter Corsby.

Starting on 24 January, the project called "Development of local democracy and local self-government in Russia" will open its offices in Tatarstan, Penza, Kaluga, and Astrakhan oblasts to inform the public about the issues of local self-government and offering new solutions on regulation of their activities.

Tatar Duma Deputy Continues Efforts For Muslim Women's Rights
The Russian Interior Ministry has yet to react to the second appeal by Russian State Duma Deputy from Tatarstan Flyura Ziyatdinova and other female Duma deputies regarding the case of Muslim women demanding the right to have their passport photos taken wearing traditional headscarves, reported on 23 January (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 4 and 11 October, 22 November 2002). Ziyatdinova emphasized that high-ranking Interior Ministry officials do not take the appeal seriously and pledged to "resume the discussion at a higher level" if the situation remains unresolved.

American Delegation To Visit Tatarstan
Colorado Governor Bill Owens, accompanied by United Pan-European Communication Inc. representative Mark Schneider and ABN AMRO bank official Aleksandr Zakharchenko, are due to arrive in Kazan on 27 January for cooperation talks with Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov and State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin, the Tatar presidential department of foreign affairs announced on 23 January. The United States is Tatarstan's eighth-largest foreign trade-partner, with an annual turnover of some $60 million. Tatarstan exports oil products and other raw materials to the U.S., purchasing the American industrial equipment and cars. Beginning from 1994, the republic maintains its permanent representation office in Washington DC.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Rakhimov Participates In State Council Session...
Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov took part on 23 January in a meeting of the Russian State Council held by Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, the Bashkir presidential press service reported on 23 January. Putin called for an increase in the regions' contribution to Russian foreign policy and charged federation entities with increasing their foreign economic, cultural, and humanitarian relations.

...Seeks Privileges For Bashkortostan In Usage Of Natural Resources
Rakhimov met the same day with Russian Natural Resources Minister Vitalii Artyukhov to discuss the sharing of powers between federal and regional authorities in the use of natural resources and protection of the environment. Rakhimov also met with Russian Tax Minister Gennadii Bukaev.

"Kommersant" reported on 23 January that Rakhimov, who sought to get Bashkortostan exceptional terms in the exploitation of natural resources in the republic, did not gain the support of either Artyukhov or Bukaev. Thus, the daily said, Bashkortostan's natural resources will be exploited as they are in other regions and the republic will be given no benefits in this regard.

Bashkir Ministry Campaigns To Reduce Number Of Chornobyl Veterans
The Bashkir Labor and Social Defense Ministry is requiring that anyone claiming to be a veteran of the 1986 Chornobyl nuclear disaster clean-up to exchange its documents claiming such experience, Bashinform reported on 23 January. The move comes in the wake of draft legislation developed by the federal government which will seek to legitimize such claims after reports emerged that tens of thousands of forged certificates of Chornobyl clean-up veterans have appeared in the country. Such a certificate provides its bearer with several privileges, including a 50 percent savings in municipal services, free use of public transport, and a free annual voucher to a health spa. The draft, however, still has not been passed by the State Duma.

Nonetheless, the ministry is demanding that the bearers of such certificates provide evidence of their involvement in the clean-up otherwise they will be deprived of the corresponding privileges. Bearers must present documents containing information about a person's work "in a 30-kilometer zone" around the nuclear station or, if the documents do not include such a note, they should refer to an archive about such activity in an official Ukrainian archive. Chornobyl veterans are protesting the change.

KPRF Nominates Parliamentary Candidates
The Communist Party of the Russian Federation in Bashkortostan proposed 44 candidates for republican parliamentary elections, RosBalt reported on 23 January. The second secretary of the branch, Valerii Shiryaev, told the agency that seven candidates will run in Ufa electoral districts and others throughout the republic. The list includes not a single incumbent, while the average age of contenders is 45, Shiryaev said.

Bashkir Scholars Claim To Find Alcoholism Genes
A group of Ufa scholars headed by Elza Khosnetdinova, a biology professor at the Institute of Biochemistry and Genetics at the Russian Academy of Sciences' Scientific Center in Ufa, have discovered eight genes that they say are responsible for predisposing someone to alcoholism and drug addiction, reported on 23 January. The combination of those genes in a person depends, the scholars claim, on a person's ethnicity and the environment in which they live. In particular, they found that Tatars and Bashkirs living in the Volga-Ural region have a different combination of those eight genes than their compatriots living in Moscow. Khosnetdinova said that giving a blood test to children would clarify whether or not it will be safe for a person to drink alcohol when they are older.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova