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Tatar-Bashkir Report: February 18, 2003

18 February 2003
Shaimiev Says No Need For Law On State Language
Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev said in an interview with Interfax on 17 February that the Russian Federation Council "should have turned down" the draft law on Russian as a state language approved by the State Duma "without any reservations and without establishing a conciliatory commission. The Federation Council's standing order allows this" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 6 and 13 February 2003). On 5 February, the Duma passed the law, designed to strengthen the right of citizens to use Russian as the state language. The law prohibited the use of foreign words or expressions that have Russian-language equivalents in public documents or in civil, criminal, or administrative court proceedings. The Federation Council on 12 February returned the law for revision.

Shaimiev implied that there was no need to adopt the law because Russian is already the state language and the instrument of interethnic communication in Russia. He added that Russian media criticism of the draft law was "justified."

In Shaimiev's opinion, "many of the foreign words only made the Russian language richer and became an inalienable part of it, so that it is virtually impossible to find identical analogues to them. Specifically this may be said about the words of Turkic or Finnish-Ugric origin. If one withdraws these words from Russian, it will represent a sieve. And is it really possible to solve the problem of preserving and purifying the Russian language by adopting such a law...? Any language is a living substance, which develops regardless of laws."

Noting that the only positive part of the discussed draft was the ban on foul language, which he said, "consists exclusively of Russian words," Shaimiev spoke in favor of preventing further pollution of language by loan words.

Commenting on the Duma's legislative initiatives, Shaimiev urged a more demanding evaluation of laws, because "it is evident that in light of this year's elections, the Duma would be primarily guided by pure populism, rather than constructivism." However, he admitted that by passing the language law, Duma deputies "have lost rather than benefited."

Kazan City Council Complains Of Budget Cuts
Vladimir Zhdanov, chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee of Kazan City Council, told a press conference on 17 February that in 2003 the Tatar capital will keep 35 percent of its total tax revenues, while transferring the rest to federal and republican coffers, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the next day. He said that compared to the previous year, the republic's government decreased the city administration's share by 10 percent in order to compensate for its losses caused by Moscow's increased share of Tatarstan's revenues.

City budget cuts reportedly resulted in the underfinancing of Kazan's police, medical programs, and maintenance of roads and sewage systems. Zhdanov said that the administration was seeking to solve this problem with a $180 million loan from the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development. The loan is to be guaranteed by the federal government, which along with Tatarstan's government is a sponsor of Kazan's millennium celebrations in 2005.

Kazan Factory To Produce Jet Engines With Rolls-Royce
Kazan Motor Construction Plant has agreed to participate in the assembly of Rolls-Royce's BR-710-48 jet engines to be used on the new Tu-414 airliner produced by the Tupolev aviation company, and Finmarket reported on 17 February. The aircraft is expected to be in production in four years.

Tatarstan Seeks To Improve Its Medicine System With The Help Of TACIS
Lavorka Kostovic, who heads a TACIS project for improving primary medical assistance in Russia by introducing the system of general practitioners, met with Deputy Prime Minister Zile Welieva on 17 February to discuss the terms of the program, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 18 February. The program will allot 2 million euros to training medical staff and buying new equipment for two selected regions in the country. TACIS is an EU program for providing grant-based technical assistance to countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, mainly aimed at enhancing the transition process.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Petrochemical Company Floats $9.5 Million Bond
The Salavatnefteorgsintez petrochemical company floated a three-year, 300 million-ruble ($9.5 million) bond on the Moscow Interbank Currency Exchange on 14 February, Bashinform reported the same day. Zenit bank is acting as the underwriter and payment agent for the bond, the first coupon of which has an annual interest rate of 12.7 percent.

The head of the Bashkir Securities Commission, Rawil Ekhtemov, told Bashinform on 17 February that the bond was floated under extremely profitable terms for the Russian market. Ekhtemov credited Zenit bank with releasing the bond at the right time, when the Russian financial market is being positively influenced by the recent deal between British Petroleum and the Russian financial-industrial concerns Alfa Group and Access/Renova (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 February 2003).

Ufa Journalist Makes Claim Of Police Harassment
Rawil Tokhwetullin, the Ufa correspondent for the ITAR-TASS news agency, claimed that he was detained on 13 February by two patrol officers who, he said, held him for "some time" despite the fact that he showed them his press card, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 16 February. Tokhwetullin said that the police bothered him because certain "forces" in the republic were unhappy with his recent publication about a lawsuit filed by an Ufa resident against the Bashkir government in relation to the motorcades of high-ranking officials (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 4 and 6 February 2003).

Would-Be Candidates File Suits Against Election Commission
Individuals and election blocs that were refused registration as official candidates in the upcoming republican parliamentary elections have filed 17 lawsuits in the Bashkir Supreme Court against the territorial election commissions, RosBalt reported on 17 February. In accordance with election laws, the cases must be heard by the court within three days.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova