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Tatar-Bashkir Report: January 27, 2003

27 January 2003
Tatar Court Begins New Round Of Hearing On Constitutional Protest
The Tatar Supreme Court is hearing an appeal by Russian Deputy Prosecutor-General Aleksandr Zvyagintsev in which he demands that 19 articles of the amended Tatar Constitution be recognized as contradicting federal legislation, "Vremya MN" reported on 25 January. Zvyagintsev also demanded that the court declare invalid another 18 articles of the constitution, which have been decreed in court rulings as contradicting the Russian Constitution. The prosecutor contested constitutional provisions on the republic's sovereignty and citizenship, and regulations on some exclusive powers of the federation, including the economic activities of businesses, foreign policy issues, security, and criminal legislation. He also demanded that the Tatar-language requirement for candidates of Tatarstan's presidency be abolished. The Russian Supreme Court on 15 November overturned a 10 September verdict of the Tatar Supreme Court that rejected Zvyagintsev's appeal, and sent the case to the republican court for a new hearing (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 27 September, 3 October, 12 and 18 November 2002). "Vremya MN" commented in an article titled "The Sword of Damocles Above Tatarstan's Parliament" that if the court agrees that the Tatar legislature is not observing the Russian Constitution it is the first step on the way to the dissolution of the regional parliament.

Tatarstan Plans To Merge Air Companies
Tatar Transport Minister Vladimir Shvetsov released a government plan to establish a large regional air company on the basis of the Air Company Tatarstan and Tulpar, "Vechernyaya Kazan" reported on 24 January. Shvetsov said the prospect of Sochi's Chernomoravia, Moscow's Karat, and the Cheboksary Air Company joining the company is under negotiation, adding that the new company will become one of Russia's 10 largest companies. The Air Company Tatarstan, currently Russia's 27th-largest air company, carried some 238,000 passengers in 2002, a 22.4 percent increase compared to the previous year. Some 71,500 of them traveled on international routes, an increase of 43 percent compared to the previous year. Currently, Tatarstan's eight air companies use 17 Yak-42 jets, five Tu-154s, five Yak-40, and several Tu-134 airliners.

Tatneft Maintains Production...
Tatneft Deputy General Director Nail Ibrahimov told a conference of the company's labor collective on 24 January that the company maintained oil production volume in 2002 at the level of 24.6 million tons that was reached the previous year, Tatar-inform reported the same day. The company's profit is expected to total 11 billion rubles ($346 million), and it reports that it transferred about the same amount to the republican budget in revenue. The production cost of one ton of oil grew in 2002 by 41 percent to 1,844 rubles ($58) in comparison to the previous year because of the introduction of a natural resources extraction tax. General Manager Shefeget Tahawetdinov said the completion of the construction of the first stage of the Tube Kama oil refinery, gaining control over Ukraine's Ukrtatnafta oil refinery, and the development of a network of gas stations are the company's major achievements from the previous year.

...But Ends Participation In Other Holdings
The oil company Tatneft has left the founding board of Tatarstan's 21 agricultural companies, "Izvestiya" reported on 24 January, citing the oil company's department head, Rimaz Jemilov. The oil company owned 80 percent of the capital in those enterprises, which have been charged with repaying their debts to Tatneft by July. By the end of the year, Tatneft plans to get rid of another 20 companies not connected with oil production in which it currently holds shares. Jemilov said Tatneft, according to decisions by its board of directors, will end ownership in all companies not linked to the production or processing of oil, with the exception of banks.

Meeting Against Chechen War Held In Kazan
Several of Tatarstan's civic groups staged a meeting on 25 January in Kazan to protest the war in Chechnya, reported the same day. Organizers of the action, including the public political movement Idel-Ural, the Tatar Public Center, the spiritual organization Lad, and the Tatarstan's People's Front demanded that the military actions in Chechnya be stopped in an appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Participants also criticized the United States' policies in the Middle East and Russia's unclear positions there. Protesters held placards, some saying: "the Russian-Chechen war leads to starvation, poverty, and the death of innocent people;" "Let the Chechen people decide on the future of Chechnya on its own."

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Elections Head Reports No Violations In Run-up To Ballot
The chairman of the Bashkir Central Election Commission, Bariy Kinzyagulov, said on 24 January that so far no violations had been registered in the republic in the run-up to the March elections to the State Assembly, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 26 January, which marked the deadline for the nomination of candidates and the start of the collection of signatures in their support.

Meanwhile, leaders of local Communist Party branch told RFE/RL on 26 January that many of their candidates have come under strong administrative pressure at their workplaces since their nominations, adding that they have even been told to withdraw their candidacies.

Communists Oppose Introduction Of Orthodoxy Lessons
"Nash Vybor," the weekly newspaper of the Communist Party branch in Bashkortostan, wrote on 24 January that the suggestion of the Russian Education Ministry to introduce the subject of Orthodox culture (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November 2002) throughout Russia's public-school system represented "an attempt at the forcible Christianization of the children of both non-Russian and Russian people."

Bashkir Parliament Holds Session On Drug Trafficking, Abuse
The Bashkir State Assembly held a plenary session on 24 January to discuss the enforcement of drug laws in the republic, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. During the session, the heads of local antidrug centers criticized the Interior Ministry for failing to have an effect on the drug-trafficking problem in Bashkortostan, adding that law-enforcement bodies had completed fewer investigations of drug-related crimes in 2002 than in the previous year.

The State Assembly decided to request that the Russian State Duma speed up its work on the adoption of a federal law on drug addiction that would call for mandatory treatment for drug addicts and stiffer penalties for those involved in selling, trafficking, and using drugs.

Deputies also suggested that schoolchildren should undergo annual drug testing and be offered treatment if they test positive.

State Assembly speaker Konstantin Tolkachev said that drug-related crimes in Bashkortostan have increased threefold over the past five years but that of 4,037 registered drug-related crimes in 2002, only 1,831 individuals were convicted.

Russian Minister Happy With Defense Industry In Republic
At the end of a one-day visit to Bashkortostan on 24 January, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov told reporters in Ufa that he was satisfied with the state of the defense industry and military recruitment in Bashkortostan, "which are close to ideal," Interfax-Eurasia and RosBalt reported the same day. Ivanov said earlier in the day at an exhibition of military equipment that "the defense-industry output in the republic provides optimism about prospects for its development.

UralSib Purchases Stake In Tyumen Oblast Bank
The UralSib banking group of Bashkortostan has purchased a 19.27 percent share package in Tyumenprofbank of Tyumen Oblast, RosBalt reported on 24 January. The UralSib group, which is controlled by the Bashkir government, considers Tyumen Oblast, where it already has 10 offices, to be one of its priority areas for expansion. Before this purchase, UralSib already held controlling stakes in Dzerzhinskii Commercial Bank in Perm Oblast, KuzbassUgolBank in Kemerovo Oblast, Bank Eurasia in the Republic of Udmurtia, Dorozhnik Bank in Chelyabinsk Oblast, and StroiInvestBank in Kaliningrad Oblast.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi