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Tatar-Bashkir Report: February 13, 2003

13 February 2003
Tatar Constitution Hearing Postponed...
The Tatar Supreme Court decided on 12 February to schedule for 25 February a hearing on Russian Deputy Prosecutor-General Aleksandr Zvyagintsev's challenge of 37 articles of the Tatar Constitution, reported on 12 February. The court met a request by the Tatar State Council to postpone the trial, which demanded that the 7 February decision by the Tatar Constitutional Court on Tatarstan's sovereignty be taken into account (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 10 February 2003). State Council representatives also demanded that the 31 January verdict by the Tatar Supreme Court, in which it rejected Zvyagintsev's charge that the Tatar State Council avoided implementing court decisions on the Tatar Constitution, be taken into account as well.

...As Parliamentary Resolution On Tatar Nuclear Plant Discussed
At its 12 February meeting, the Tatar State Council presidium dropped from the next session's agenda a draft resolution on annulment of the 17 April 1990 resolution by the Tatar Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic's Supreme Council on halting construction of the Tatar nuclear-power plant, reported on 12 February. Rosenergoatom, which is seeking to restart construction of the power plant, demands that the 1990 resolution be annulled before it begins an environmental expert study to clarify whether the station is located on a tectonic break.

Kazan Gunpowder Plant Facing Bankruptcy
Tatar Deputy Economy and Industry Minister Sergei Mukhin told a briefing of the Cabinet of Ministers on 12 February that the Kazan NPP Lenin gunpowder plant will be unable to avoid bankruptcy even if the federal government approves its charter as a state-run company, reported the same day. Fifty million rubles ($1.6 million) allocated for the plant in the federal budget has yet to be approved. although the Russian government adopted the decision on the plant's becoming a state-run company in September. Mukhin said the plant has debts of 700 million rubles ($22 million), including 40 million rubles owed in back wages, and another 80 million rubles owed for consumed energy. The plant "has no perspectives," Mukhin said, adding that the plant currently cannot even pay wages, taxes, or municipal services, and some of its creditors have initiated bankruptcy procedures.

18 Million Rubles In State-Owned Shares Sold
A state-owned 11 percent stake in the Elmet-based Bulgarneft oil company was sold at auction on 12 February for 15.5 million rubles ($489,000), Tatarinform reported the same day, citing the Property Ministry press service. The company produces 300,000 tons of oil a year. A total of 18 million rubles in state shares in four companies were sold at the auction.

New Mobile Communications Operator Enters Tatar Market
The federal operator of GSM 900/1800-standard cellular communications, MegaFon, launched its network in Tatarstan and opened a mobile communication center in Kazan on 12 February, RosBalt and reported the same day. Currently, MegaFon has 35 stations providing communications in Kazan, Chally, and Nizhnekamsk, as well as along the republic's main highways and plans to double that number by June and to increase it to 150 by 2004. MegaFon has 3 million subscribers throughout Russia, while its Volga region branch, MSS-Povolzhe, has 540,000 subscribers.

Interpol Looking For Rarities Stolen From Kazan's Lobachevskii Library
Ferit Safiullin, the head of the Tatar branch of Interpol's Russian National Central Bureau, told reporters on 12 February that Interpol is investigating into recent reports that "The Fundamentals of Chemistry" by Dmitrii Mendeleev in two volumes printed in his lifetime, which was stolen from Kazan's Lobachevskii Library, were sold at auction on 13 December at Sotheby's in New York, reported on 12 February.

TIU In Chally Leader Says Volunteers Appeal To Fight In Iraq
Tatar Public Center (TIU) in Chally Chairman Rafis Kashapov said several dozen Chally residents seeking to fight against the United States if it begins combat operations against Iraq have appealed to the local TIU branch, "Trud" reported on 13 February. However, the TIU denied involvement in any recruitment activity and playing the role of a "shady enlistment office," the paper said. The paper cited the Iraqi ambassador to Russia as claiming that more than 2,000 Russian citizens appealed to the embassy to join the Iraqi people in the possible U.S. military campaign in that country. In an interview with RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 12 February, Kashapov said there are ethnic Russians, Chavashs, Tatars, Mariis, and Udmurts among those volunteering to go to Iraq. He added that the TIU in Chally informs them that it cannot help them as this would contradict Russian law.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Public Conference Calls For Clean Elections...
The Public Conference under Bashkortostan's president uniting local public, ethnic, and political organizations met on 12 February to discuss the issue of the 16 March elections for republican parliament and self-government bodies to be held in March, as well as participation of public groups in activities promoting a healthy lifestyle in the republic, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day.

The conference issued an appeal calling for a responsible approach to the elections "so that the elected bodies are represented by competent and honest people, able to constructively interact with other state bodies" to defend the interests of their electorate.

The appeal also called on all candidates to avoid the use of "dirty election techniques, which previously were noted in some of the country's regions."

...As Registration Of Candidates Ends...
Bashkir Central Election Commission Chairman Bariy Kinzyagulov told the Public Conference meeting that on 13 February his commission had stopped accepting registrations from State Assembly candidates and the election campaign will begin on 14 February. Some 600 candidates have applied for official registration so far, with 380 already registered.

...With Unified Russia Dominating Candidate Lists
Aleksandr Ogarkov, representative of the Unified Russia party branch in Bashkortostan, said at the same meeting that his party has put forward 111 candidates for the 120 seats in the republican parliament, which is the highest number among parties planning to participate in the 16 March vote,. Meanwhile, the leader of the local branch of the Union of Rightist Forces, Vyacheslav Gilyazetdinov, said that his organization put forward 86 candidates for local self-government councils across the region and 18 for the State Assembly.

Minister Calls For Further State Supervision Of Media
Bashkir Media Minister Zoefer Timerbolatov told the annual meeting of his ministry on 12 February that regardless of the regular budget cuts for the republic's media, "state regulation of their activities may not be lost and must be based upon the thorough monitoring of the information and media market," RosBalt reported the same day. According to Timerbolatov, such control over the work of media "serves the interests of the entire society."

Ufa-based Muslim Leader Speaks Against Military Action In Iraq
The chairman of the Ufa-based Central Muslim Religious Board of Russia and the European part of the CIS, Telget Tajetdin, said in his morning sermon during the Muslim Korban Beyrem holiday celebrations on 11 February that he was against the use of force for resolving the crisis over Iraq, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 12 February.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi