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Tatar-Bashkir Report: February 17, 2003

17 February 2003
Tatar Speaker Discusses Federalism In Russia
Speaking at an international conference on federalism, regional policy, and self-government in Alabuga on 14 February, Tatar State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin said that the creation of a power vertical in Russia was essential for reforming the country, warning, however, that it could also "discourage the regions from taking any initiatives," RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 17 February. Mukhametshin called for clearer distinctions in the distribution of power among the federal, regional, and local levels of government and for amendments to the federal Budget and Tax codes in order to provide the material basis to implement those powers. Mukhametshin also said that Moscow has downplayed the "horizontal" approach toward equalizing the economic situation in the regions, which would allow economically stable federation subjects to transfer funds directly to other regions instead of first passing through Moscow.

Shaimiev Meets With Moscow Officials
President Mintimer Shaimiev was in Moscow on 13-14 February to take part in a 10th-anniversary celebration of the founding of Gazprom, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 17 February, citing Tatarstan's representative office in Moscow. During his visit, Shaimiev also met with Russian Natural Resources Minister Vitalii Artyukhov; Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov; Rinat Akchurin, the head of the Tatar nonprofit organization Watanim; and Vadim Churbanov, the editor in chief of the "Tatarskii mir" monthly. None of the details of any of Shaimiev's meetings were made available.

Suspicious Letters Turn Out To Be Harmless
Two suspicious letters that were confiscated at a Kazan post office on 13 February (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 14 February 2003) turned out to be harmless, reported on 14 February. It was originally reported that both letters were addressed to President Vladimir Putin, though this is not the case. One of the letters was actually a gift being sent from Kazan to a person in Samara. It contained coffee and flour. The other letter was in fact addressed to the Russian president, though it did not contain any dangerous materials. It was a letter from a 39-year-old disabled pensioner who wished to draw Putin's attention to his situation. Law-enforcement officials have closed their investigations into the incidents.

Russian Military To Purchase Kazan-Produced Planes
The Russian Defense Ministry plans to purchase two Tupolev 214 passenger aircraft manufactured by Kazan's KAPO aircraft plant, reported on 14 February. The aircraft, which will be used to transport high-ranking officials in the armed forces, will have several features unavailable on civilian aircraft. Unlike the majority of Russian-produced aircraft, the Tu-214 meets all international standards, including those on noise emissions.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Rakhimov Holds Talks With Federal Official In Moscow
During his visit to Moscow on 13-15 February, Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov met with Russian presidential administration head Aleksandr Voloshin to discuss developments in Bashkortostan's economic and social sectors, problems of the housing and municipal-services sector, and preparations for the planting season, Bashinform reported on 16 February, citing the Bashkir presidential press service. The Bashkir president also met with Voloshin's deputy, Aleksandr Abramov. At Rakhimov's meeting with Russian Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin, issues topping the agenda were financing the federal program of Bashkortostan's social-economic development till 2006, results of 2002, and development of Bashkortostan's economic, budget-financial, and social sectors in the first two months of the year. Rakhimov also took part in celebrations devoted to Gazprom's 10th anniversary and met with Gazprom Deputy Chairman of the board Aleksandr Ryazanov to outline prospects of further cooperation between Bashkortostan and Russia's gas monopoly.

Legislature Seeks To Postpone Bashkir Presidential Elections...
The Bashkir State Assembly informed the Volga Federal District administration that it plans to postpone Bashkortostan's presidential elections, which are planned for June, until December when the State Duma election is planned in order to save money, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 11 February. Presidential envoy Sergei Kirienko told the daily that he won't object to the proposal.

...As Pressure Mounts On President
Meanwhile, according to the daily, President Rakhimov is losing his trump cards in the upcoming campaign, which include the absence of independent media in the republic, the appointment of officials to key posts in the republic, and control over the oil sector headed by Rakhimov's son Ural. Two independent television channels are to begin broadcasting in the republic in addition to the one channel provided by the Bashkir State Television and Radio Company GTRK. One of the new channels belongs to aluminum giant Sibal.

The paper adds that the Federal Tax Police accuse the republic's oil companies of evading $600 million in taxes (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 3 February 2003). It cites unnamed local analysts who said Chief Federal Inspector in Bashkortostan Engels Qolmokhemmetov, who for a long time headed the tax police in Bashkortostan, is behind the exposure. The paper also speculates that Qolmokhemmetov, Murtaza Rakhimov's brother-in-law who was until recently Bashkir deputy prime minister in charge of the fuel-energy sector and was considered Rakhimov's successor, fell into disfavor with Ural Rakhimov, and took Moscow's side.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova