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Tatar-Bashkir Report: June 3, 2003

3 June 2003
Interior Minister Issues Official Permission For Passport Photographs With Headscarves
Russian Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov signed a decree abolishing Article 14 of the ministry's passport regulations adopted in September 1997, which stipulates that the passport photograph is taken without sunglasses and headwear, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported today, citing a RIA-Novosti report of 2 June. The new document allows the use of headwear if it is required by an individual's religious beliefs providing their face is not covered. On 15 May, the appeal chamber of Russia's Constitutional Court upheld the claim of a group of Tatar Muslim women, demanding their right to be photographed with traditional headscarves (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 16 May 2003). After the court session, Interior Ministry officials pledged they would contest the ruling. Gryzlov said that the decision represented "the further development of Russia as a multi-confessional country, building a legal state and civil society."

Kazan Signs Communique With UNESCO
UNESCO Director General Koitiro Matsuura arrived in Kazan on 2 June to meet with President Mintimer Shaimiev, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported today. They will reportedly sign a bilateral communique on UNESCO's participation in the 2005 celebrations of Kazan's millennium. They will also discuss the inclusion of the remains of the medieval town of Bolgar and the fortress of Sviyazhsk on UNESCO's list of world heritage sites. After the signing ceremony Matsuura said that the traditional Tatar Sabantuy holiday had recently been nominated as a possible candidate for UNESCO's list of masterpieces of "verbal and non-material heritage."

Government Concerned With Helping Street Children
Tatarstan's Cabinet of Ministers held a special meeting on 2 June to discuss the problem of homeless children in the republic, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported today. Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov said that 3,229 homeless children were officially registered in the republic. Some 20,000 Tatar families, with a total of 50,000 children face serious challenges in their home lives, which may cause them to leave; 3,261 children are reported to live in conditions that are "dangerous for life and health." Teenagers were responsible for 10 percent of the total crime registered in the republic in 2002. Minnikhanov acknowledged that republican ministries have taken insufficient measures in preventing the rise in the number of street children and in stabilizing the situation in their families.

Tatneft Hopes To Return To Iraq
After the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq, Tatarstan's Tatneft oil company is pushing to return to the country, the "Vechernyaya Kazan" daily wrote on 3 June. Tatneft, which has a history of working in Iraq, is said to have established a joint venture with the German company Mineraloel Rohstoff Handel.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Ufa Government Moves Against Local FM Radio
Ufa city authorities destroyed the transmission tower of Retro radio station on 31 May, Rosbalt reported on 2 June. Vsevolod Baskakov, a Retro representative, told the agency that the city government had refused to renew the rent contract for the land used by the tower and the station filed a complaint to a Bashkir court. The court hearing is due to take place today. Without waiting for the court's decision, the authorities damaged 500,000 rubles ($16,129) worth of equipment. Damages incurred from lost advertising have yet to be calculated. Baskakov said that the move "quite obviously was related to the preparations for presidential elections in the republic." He continued: "the municipal authorities have prevented the possible use of this tower by the opposition."

Daily: Safin Won't Run For Bashkir President
The 30 May issue of the "Kommersant" daily said that the previous day's meeting between President Murtaza Rakhimov and Relif Safin, the Russian Federation Council member representing the Altay Republic, was a sign of conciliation between the two rivals (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 30 May 2003). The daily wrote that the meeting itself "could be called a sensation." The paper continued: "Very recently Safin was one of Rakhimov's enemies, since he intended to run for the Bashkir presidency in December 2003 elections. According to unofficial sources, yesterday he announced to Murtaza Rakhimov that he won�t run." According to the paper, when Safin was a vice president of LukOil, one of Russia's leading oil companies, and Bashkortostan's oil processing industries were suffering from a shortage of oil, the Bashkir president offered Safin the job of prime minister. Later, after announcing his plans to run for the Bashkir presidency, Safin became a persona non grata in the republic where he was born.

Parliament To Amend Laws On Elections, Traffic Safety, And Smoking
The Presidium of Bashkortostan's State Assembly gathered on 2 June to discuss future amendments to the republic's laws on elections, traffic safety, and smoking restrictions in the republic, Bashinform reported the same day. The drafts will be included in the agenda of the next session of the Bashkir Parliament.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi