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Tatar-Bashkir Report: April 18, 2003

18 April 2003
Tatar Court Examines More Constitutional Provisions
Deputies of Tatarstan's State Council appealed to the republic's Constitutional Court on 17 April. The deputies asked to present an official interpretation of three articles in the Tatar Constitution, which the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office have said contradict federal laws, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported today. Article 5 of the new Tatar Constitution, which was adopted in 2002, declares that Tatarstan's territory is "single and indivisible," while Article 21 institutes that residents of Tatarstan can hold both Tatar and Russian citizenship. Article 91 requires the republic's presidential candidates to know both the Tatar and Russian languages.

During the same session, State Council deputy Marat Galeev told the court that under the provisions of the Russian Constitution, the federation's republics are considered states and therefore should be entitled to their own single and indivisible territory. This constitutional provision was in line with treaties of international law that had been ratified by Russia, according to Galeev.

Galeev added that being a state, Tatarstan was legitimate in introducing its own citizenship, providing it did not damage the legal status of Russian citizenship. Commenting on the Russian prosecutors' claims that the native language requirement violated the rights of presidential candidates, Galeev insisted that lifting the requirement would mean the rights of Tatarstan�s electorate would be infringed.

Gulnara Khabibullina, a legal expert in constitutional and international law from Kazan State University, testified before the court that the Russian Constitution did not adequately cover issues related to the regions' territorial integrity. She also said that the constitution contained no distinct restrictions that would prevent Tatarstan from declaring itself single and indivisible. Khabibullina added that, being a republic, Tatarstan had a right to introduce its own citizenship, and, as an ethnic republic, it was necessary for its elected leaders to know both Tatar and Russian.

Before the Constitutional Court adjourned, Chairman Seifikhan Nefiev announced that the date for the next session will be announced at a later date.

Tatneft Reports A 52 Percent Slump Of Annual Profits In 2002
Shefeget Takhautdinov, general director of the Tatneft oil company, told a press conference in Elmet, Tatarstan on 16 April that in 2002 Tatneft earned 11 billion rubles ($249.2 million) in profits, which is $280 million less than in the previous year.

The slump is reportedly explained by falling oil prices in 2002 and the failure to sell $158 million worth of oil by the year-end. However, the unsold oil from 2002 is expected to boost this year�s profits.

Tatneft will issue $47 million worth of bonds in 2003 and invest $31 million in the construction of the Tuben Kama oil refinery complex. The company currently owes its creditors $800 million; in 1999, according to Takhautdinov, the debt was around $1.1 billion.

Takhautdinov said that the republic's government plans to merge its oil-chemical industries into a "super holding," which would attract more large-scale investments to the republic, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported today. However, the legal settlement regarding the creation of this "super holding" has reportedly not been prepared yet.

Tatar Official Says Pope Unlikely To Visit Russia, Tatarstan
In an interview published in the "Vremya i Dengi" daily on 17 April, Timur Akulov, head of the Tatar president's foreign affairs department, shed doubts on recent reports predicting the visit of Pope John Paul II to Kazan this July (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report" 15 April 2003). He said that, in his opinion, information about the pope�s visit was "not true" and that someone just wanted to test their reaction. "In any case, so far no one from the Russian Orthodox Church or the pope�s office has contacted us regarding the preparations for this visit,� Akulov said.

Tatar Militia Returns Safely From Chechnya
A group of 100 officers from Tatarstan�s police arrived back home on 18 April after a three-to-six-month stint in the Shelkovskoi region of Chechnya, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported today. No losses were reported among the officers, who focused on guarding checkpoints on the Kizlyar-Grozny road and distributing humanitarian aid from Tatarstan to the residents of the Shelkovskoi region.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Banks Under Liquidation Repay Debts
Bashkortostan's credit organizations whose licenses were recalled by the Russian Central Bank have repaid 99.9 percent of the 53.5 million rubles ($1.7 million) they owe depositors, RosBalt reported on 17 April. Liquidation procedures in the Agro-industrial bank Bashkiriya, Uralinvestbank, Dair bank, Inkombank, Inzer bank, and Bashprogressbank are to be finished by the end of the year. According to the Bashkir National Bank, 18 credit organizations operate in the republic, of which 13 are republican and five affiliates of other regions' banks.

Russian Ministry Plans To Sell Polief
The Russian Property Relations Ministry, which is the owner of the Blagoveshchensk Polief chemical plant, has decided to sell its stake in the facility under construction in an auction slated for 23 May, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 16 April. The initial price is 3.8 billion rubles ($122 million). The first line of the facility is to begin operating in late 2003. Bashkortostan has spent 4 billion rubles on the plant's construction in the last three years. The new owner will have to compensate Bashkortostan for its credits given to the plant. The facility will produce acid used in the production of plastic bottles, tires, and textiles.

Leader Of Bashkortostan's Chechens Says Rights Of Chechens Still Violated In Chechnya
The head of Bashkortostan's Chechen Public Center, Lomali Israilov, told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 17 April that violations of Chechens' rights continue in Chechnya despite the constitutional referendum held there. Israilov, who returned several days before from a visit to Chechnya, said no information is available about a man from his native village of Saidov who was abducted over 20 days ago during a sweep. Israilov also said he was told that two days ago, Shidaev Bayazit Idrisovich and his two sons, who lived in Grozny, were also abducted in a sweep. The elder son, 14, returned home the next day but did not know where his father and brother are. Israilov demanded that federal troops in Chechnya inform local authorities and relatives where detained people are held and for what reason.

Bashkir Red Cross Holds Charity Action
The chairman of Red Cross in Bashkortostan, Yurii Simonov, told Bashinform on 17 April that his organizations distributed 7,000 packages of seeds to needy residents in Bashkortostan's 25 rural raions in the past two months as humanitarian aid. The Bashkir branch of the Russian Red Cross Society was established in 1999 and has 18,000 members in the republic.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova