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Tatar-Bashkir Report: March 7, 2003

7 March 2003
Prime Minister Suggests Changes To Social-Security Policy
At a government meeting on 6 March, Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov suggested that the republican government stop meeting some of the social-security obligations it inherited from its Soviet past, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 7 March. Minnikhanov said that such obligations -- he didn't detail which ones -- "are suitable for a well-developed economy but are unaffordable for our economy." The prime minister added that the government is unable to meet all of its obligations in this area from year to year, which, he said, undermines the government's authority. Thus, Minnikhanov said, the government should offer only those social-security payments that it can afford to make. Minnikhanov also proposed that the Social-Security Ministry increase its activities with respect to treating and rehabilitating injured people, citing an increase in recent years in requests for government assistance for medical treatment. The prime minister cited official statistics claiming that 64,000 people were certified as disabled by medical and social experts in 1998, while this figure had increased to 72,000 by 2002. Minnikhanov said that the provision of social assistance by the state should not lead to the dependency of the population.

Tatar Special Forces Leave For Chechnya
The Tatar branch of the Russian Justice Ministry sent 25 special-forces troops to Chechnya on 6 March, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 7 March. The unit's commander, Eduard Shebakov, told reporters before leaving that their mission in the Vedeno area of Chechnya would be "a difficult task because the area is practically beyond the control of federal forces, as it is close to the Georgian border." Shebakov added that there are "fast-moving militant groups of 20 to 30 rebels" in Vedeno, adding that "you can't trust anyone there, even the civilians, who smile at you during the day and shoot at you during the night."

Communications Minister Urges Cell-Phone Providers To Reach Agreement
Speaking at an annual meeting of the Communications Ministry on 6 March, Rinat Zalyalov addressed the ongoing conflict between TAIF-Telkom and Vympelkom (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 27 and 28 February 2003), saying the two companies had become "notorious" throughout Russia for "showing an absolute absence of understanding" in their dispute, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 7 March. The minister also urged both parties to find common language and to avoid publicizing their dispute, adding that their customers shouldn't suffer because of their inability to reach an agreement.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Parliament's Upper Chamber Backs Draft On Extension Of Presidential Term...
The Bashkir State Assembly's Chamber of Representatives unanimously adopted on 6 March a draft law to extend the current presidential term of President Murtaza Rakhimov, which expires in June, till December, Interfax reported the same day. The previous day, the draft was passed by the parliament's lower legislative chamber (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 6 March 2003). Rakhimov signed the bill into law the same day.

...As Rakhimov Says He Will Possibly Run For Third Term
President Rakhimov told Interfax following the State Assembly session that "there is no ulterior political motive for the postponement of presidential elections" and that "parliamentarians were only guided by economic reasons." He added that the summer is not suitable for holding elections as this is a very busy time in the agricultural sector, which is a priority in the republic, as well as a time when many people take vacations. Rakhimov said he might run for another term since, in his opinion, both federal and republican legislation permit it. However, he added that he has not made a final decision on the issue.

Parliament Insists On Dismissal Of Bashkir Supreme Court Chairman
Bashkir State Assembly deputies again demanded on 6 March that federal authorities dismiss Bashkir Supreme Court Chairman Marat Vakilov, Bashinform and RosBalt reported the same day. The legislature passed a corresponding appeal to Russian Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov, State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev, and Supreme Court Chairman Vyacheslav Lebedev. Deputies said they were forced to repeat their demand by "a crisis situation in the republic's judicial branch," a split in the judicial community, and the failing authority of judicial bodies, which all are linked to the "incorrect and often illegal behavior of Bashkir Supreme Court Chairman Vakilov." Parliamentarians accused Vakilov of "unscrupulous deeds, intrigues, imprudent pressure on judges, and appeals to various bodies with unfounded complaints," which "excluded any possibility for normal cooperation between legislative and executive branches of power with the judicial one." Deputies also said that the "destructive behavior" of the Supreme Court chairman "negatively affects court activities."

Legislators said federal courts of common jurisdiction in Bashkortostan in 2002 heard 562 cases for more than three months and 286 for more than six months. The number of cases that were under court consideration for more than a year increased by 25 percent. Deputies insist that "the courts' mistakes and cases of procrastination are linked to the crisis situation to which the Bashkir Supreme Court chairman has brought the federal courts." They branded Vakilov's behavior as "inadequate" and said that even temporarily maintaining Vakilov in his post will lead to a deterioration of the crisis and a split among republican judges that will hinder their work.

The Bashkir legislature made an appeal on the issue to federal judicial bodies in April, immediately after the Bashkir Supreme Court annulled a bulk of articles in the Bashkir Constitution. In November, the Bashkir parliament sent a similar appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The fact that federal bodies still refused to issue a legal reply to those appeals demonstrates "a disregard of a real problem and an unwillingness to promote its objective solution to please the falsely understood corporate interests," deputies commented.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova