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Tatar-Bashkir Report: March 10, 2003

10 March 2003
Trial On Tatar Constitution Postponed Again
The Tatar Supreme Court on 7 March postponed until 11 March a hearing on a suit by Russian Deputy Prosecutor-General Aleksandr Zvyagintsev against the Tatar Constitution (see �RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report,� 26 February 2003), reported the same day. A representative of the Tatar State Council said in the courtroom that the parliament wants the court to take into account the 31 January verdict by the Tatar Supreme Court that states that the State Council did not avoid implementing court decisions on the Tatar Constitution (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 27 and 31 January and 6 February 2003) and appeals by the Tatar parliament to the Russian Constitutional Court (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 3 October 2002). It was reported that the 31 January verdict (mentioned as a reference above) came into force on 4 March, while the Russian Constitutional Court is scheduled to consider appeals by the Tatar parliament in late March.

TAIF-Telkom Ordered To Renew Connections With Competitors
The federal Supervision of Communications Agency (Gossvyaznadzor) warned TAIF-Telkom, Tatarstan�s leading cellular communications provider, that it has to restore connections with telephones of competing companies that TAIF-Telkom recently blocked (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 27 and 28 February 2003), the daily "Vedomosti" reported on 7 March. The warning came in response to appeals by Vympelkom, SMARTS, and MegaFon to the Tatar Communications Ministry and the Antimonopoly Ministry in which they complained that TAIF-Telkom restricts connections to its subscribers, while legislation obliges it to ensure the connections between all providers. An unnamed representative from TAIF-Telkom told the daily that the recommendation by Gossvyaznadzor is not mandatory as it says access should be permitted "in accordance with agreements between [companies] on providing services," while TAIF-Telkom has not yet signed such agreements. The official said TAIF-Telkom informed the other companies of the technical conditions they must provide in order to connect to subscribers.

Representatives of the company SMARTS said it has met all necessary requirements to connect to TAIF-Telkom, adding that the latter tries to hold negotiations on the issue in order to obstruct rivals. SMARTS First Deputy General Director Yurii Maslennikov said, however, that the blockage has not negatively affected the company or the number of new subscribers. Valerii Yermakov, the general director of MegaFon's Tatar branch, also said the controversy with TAIF-Telkom has seemingly had no influence on the number of subscribers.

TAIF-Telkom, working in Tatarstan since 1998, has 310,000 subscribers, while BeeLine's Vympelkom, which began operating in August, serves 60,000 users. Some 5,000 subscribers have connected to MegaFon since February when it joined the Tatar cell-phone market.

Tuben Kama Tire Plant Delivers Exports To Jordan
Tatneft Deputy General Director Khemit Qawiev said the Tuben Kama Tire Plant completed a contract on the delivery of a test consignment of 1,000 tires to Jordan, reported on 6 March. Tatneft, which owns 63 percent of the plant, promotes sales of its production to Arab countries, Qawiev added that 28,000 tires were sold to Iraq in 2002.

BTK To Monitor Tatar Ethnic, Cultural Processes
The World Tatar Congress (BTK) Executive Committee established the Center of Ethnological Monitoring at a meeting on 6 March, Tatar-inform reported the next day. The center, subordinate to the BTK Executive Committee, will monitor ethnic and cultural processes among Tatars and coordinate scientific research to provide a concept for the development of ethnic Tatars.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Tatar Leader Accused Of Causing 'Interethnic Discord' In Election Campaign
Bashkir authorities are planning to file a lawsuit against the leader of the Tatar Public Center in Bashkortostan, Ayrat Ginietullin, who is running for a seat in the State Assembly, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 7 March. Ginietullin has been accused -- the report did not identify his accusers by name -- of fomenting interethnic discord in the republic by calling for the official abolition of the terms "titular" and "nontitular" nationalities in the republic. Ginietullin has claimed that non-Bashkirs in Bashkortostan have fewer rights than the titular ethnic group, Bashkirs.

Unified Russia Fielding One-Third Of Candidates In Parliamentary Election
The AROMI news agency reported on 7 March that nearly one-third of the candidates in the 16 March State Assembly election are from the Unified Russia party. Other parties putting forth candidates include the Communist Party (6.5 percent of all candidates), the Union of Rightist Forces (less than 3 percent), and Yabloko (less than 2 percent).

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi