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Tatar-Bashkir Report: July 14, 2003

14 July 2003
Shaimiev Criticizes Federation Council, Law On Local Self-Government
Speaking live on Russia's Mayak Radio on 12 July, Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev commented on the efficiency of the current federal government. "In my view, President Vladimir Putin adequately responds to the current challenges and the tasks which have to be done in society," Shaimiev said. "As far as the State Duma is concerned, it is better than the first two convocations. In those times, the Duma used to shoot down all reformist laws, because the Communist Party held a dominating position there. If we take the Federation Council, in my opinion, in its present shape it represents the worst of the variants and the shape in which it existed before." Shaimiev said that "it is unacceptable to leave the Federation Council in its present shape," and it would be more efficient if candidates were put to general public discussion efficiency. He warned, however, that "one should take a very cautious approach towards reforming any government body, especially where the transition period is concerned. When political reforms fail to catch up with economic ones, they are implements with less efficiency."

Referring to his own government's efficiency, Shaimiev said, "First, we managed to maintain the staff continuity at all times, justification for which can be seen in the results of the republic's socioeconomic development." He noted that Tatar authorities "did not rush" to introduce local-self government on the municipal and regional level, leaving the local self-government system only for villages. Shaimiev criticized the existing federal law on local self-government for not presenting a mechanism of gathering income for the budget.

Unified Russia Leader Names Reasons For His Party's Popularity In Tatarstan
In a paid supplement to Tatarstan's most-popular daily, "Vechernyaya Kazan," on 12 July, Unified Russia in Tatarstan head Yurii Nazmeev presented four reasons why his party "dominated public opinion" in the republic. He said the first factor was President Shaimiev, who, as a member of Unified Russia's Supreme Council, "held enormous authority among the republic's population." Nazmeev admitted that "we consider him as an important political resource not only in Tatarstan, but in Russia."

Nazmeev said that "serious political campaigning winning wide public support" for the party was the second reason for its strength in the region. In the 1 1/2 years since the creation of the local branch, 42,000 members and 30,000 supporters are said to have joined Unified Russia.

As the third reason, Nazmeev gave the "centrist ideology" which took shape in Tatarstan since the early 1990s and brought the republic its "political stability and economic progress." According to Nazmeev, Tatarstan has traditionally supported centrist parties by giving the majority of votes to Our Home is Russia in 1995 and Fatherland-All-Russia as well as Unity in 1999.

Nazmeev said that his party's ratings in Tatarstan were also explained by the subsequent support in the republic for President Putin's policies "aimed on strengthening the state, bringing life back to order and legality, resuming economic reforms, and improving ordinary people's lives."

Back Wages Down By 20 Percent
According to Tatarstan's Ministry of Trade and Labor on 11 July, wage arrears owed in the republic so far have been reduced by 20 percent since 1 January 2003 to 621.4 million rubles ($20.4 million), RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported today. The ministry hosted a meeting of the trilateral commission including Tatarstan's government, trade unions, and local industries, which focused on four agricultural and one road-construction company with large debts to their employees. A total of 56 such companies are under strict monitoring by the commission, most of them farms, since agricultural companies are responsible for 70 percent of the remaining back wages.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Bashkir Parliament Asks Duma To Pass State Languages Requirement For Presidential Candidates
At its 10 July session, Bashkortostan's State Assembly filed an official appeal to the Russian State Duma proposing an amendment to the federal election law, RosBalt reported the same day. The Bashkir parliament asked the Duma to include a requirement for candidates for president or governor to know the region's official languages. Such a requirement is already included in Article 86 of the Bashkir Constitution. Both Russian and Bashkir are official languages in Bashkortostan.

Interior Ministry Denies Rumors About Fired Deputy Minister
Bashkir Interior Ministry spokesman Ruslan Sharafutdinov on 10 July denied reports saying that Deputy Minister Nikolai Patrikeev was dismissed on corruption charges, RosBalt reported the same day. Sharafutdinov said that a recent investigation into possible ties between Patrikeev and crime boss Erast Fomichev, initiated by State Duma Deputy (Communist) from Bashkortostan Valentin Nikitin, failed to prove the allegations and Patrikeev was on vacation.

In April the controversial website published a recording and transcript of what it claimed was a conversation between Patrikeev and Fomichev planning a party with prostitutes (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 6 June 2003).

Rakhimov, Putin Discuss July 2002 Air-Crash Investigation
In their telephone conversation on 12 July, Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed Bashkortostan's economic and political situation, as well as developments in the investigation of the July 2002 crash of a Bashkir Airlines jet, the Bashkir presidential press service reported the same day (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report" 9 and 10 July 2003). Rakhimov thanked Putin for his readiness to help with compensation payments to the victims' families expressed in his 11 July meeting with Swiss President Pascal Couchepin. Putin told Couchepin: "I'm sure that neither I nor you will allow this problem to sink in legal complications.... We very much expect that this problem will be positively resolved, just the way it would be if it was not a Russian aircraft and an aircraft of any other national air company."

Currently, compensation payments are being delayed because the German investigators are still verifying the details of the crash, which claimed 71 lives, 52 of them children of high-ranking Bashkir officials.

Government Establishes Commission For Ensuring Data Security
Bashkortostan's government and the office of the presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District established a republican commission on protecting the republic's information databases from foreign intelligence, RosBalt reported on 11 July. The new commission, chaired by Prime Minister Rafael Baydavletov, will oversee the operation of state bodies working with classified information, hold quarterly meetings, and train specialists in information security.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi