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Tatar-Bashkir Report: November 24, 2003

24 November 2003
Shaimiev Comments On Russia's Federalism Issues
In an interview with "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 21 November, Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev said centralization of power in Russia was carried to extremes during the campaign on strengthening vertical power. Shaimiev added that some federal laws contradict the Russian Constitution and Russia's international obligations, specifically the law on languages of the peoples of Russia, which prohibited Tatars from introducing the Latin Tatar script. The law violates Article 68 of the Russian Constitution, which guarantees for all peoples the right to develop their native language, and the European Convention on National Minorities, which obliges all countries to promote the development of national languages and cultures, Shaimiev said.

Asked about attempts to merge Russia's entities, including calls to reduce their number to 25, 12 to 15, or seven, Shaimiev said they can be accepted if public in these regions agree on them. Shaimiev spoke against revising the Russian Constitution, saying it "can remain in force for many years."

2004 Budget Deficit At 2.9 Billion Rubles
Tatarstan's State Council increased allocations for the educational sector by 100 million rubles ($3.4 million) while passing the republic's 2004 budget on 20 November in the third and final reading, RosBalt reported the next day. Amendments passed during the third reading resulted in an increase of projected revenue from 40.8 billion rubles to 41.1 billion rubles and of spending from 43.4 billion rubles to 44 billion rubles, increasing the deficit from 2.6 billion rubles to 2.9 billion rubles. The export price of oil is estimated at $20 per barrel, while the exchange rate is projected at 31.3 rubles to the dollar.

According to the draft, prices are expected to rise in Tatarstan next year by 10.4 percent, gas tariffs by 22 percent, and energy tariffs by 20 percent. The gross regional product is expected to increase by 4.1 percent to 282 billion rubles, while industrial production volume is expected to grow by 4.1 percent to 246 billion rubles. Some 1 billion rubles will be spent next year on law enforcement and security activities; 6.3 billion on the industrial, energy, and construction sectors; 1.9 billion rubles on the housing and municipal-services sector; 5.1 billion on health care; 2.2 billion rubles on social policy; and 325 million rubles on agriculture.

New Program On Language Development Passed In First Reading
Draft amendments to Tatarstan's law on languages and the proposed state program on the preservation, study, and development of the languages of peoples of Tatarstan scheduled for 2004-2013 were passed in the first reading at the State Council's 20 November session, and other Tatar and Russian news agencies reported. The draft law calls for a permanent system of Tatar-language courses be organized and the responsibility of heads of state offices for violating language legislation be introduced. The proposed program specifies that office work, visual and audio information, consumer goods, information technology, and education are obligated to use both of the republic's state languages, Tatar and Russian. It also provides measures to develop languages of all peoples living in Tatarstan and to preserve and develop the Tatar language outside the republic. The program is to be allocated 140.8 million rubles.

New Location For Controversial Chally Church Found
Construction of the Orthodox St. Tatyana Church in Chally will begin soon in a new location, "Izvestiya" reported on 21 November. This agreement was reached at a meeting between Chally Mayor Ildar Khalikov and Archbishop Anastasii of Kazan and Tatarstan. Khalikov said the Chally administration will allocate money from the budget for the construction. Anastasii said he considers the decision to remove the construction from the controversial site correct.

Local Muslims have opposed for several years the construction of the church near Victory Park, which commemorates victims of World War II, saying that not only Orthodox believers fought in the war. In October 2002, three elderly Muslim women were charged with vandalizing the church's foundation (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 3, 4, 7, 10, 14, and 31 October, 4 and 25 November, and 30 December 2002). Then a Chally court annulled a city administration resolution allotting a plot of land near Victory Park for the construction of the church, arguing that it was passed in violation of the city construction plan (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 6 December 2002).

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

TsIK Irritated By Ufa Court's Resolution On Veremeenko Case...
Russia's Central Election Commission (TsIK) has said that the 20 November ruling of Ufa's Lenin Raion court, which prevented former Mezhprombank head Sergei Veremeenko from officially registering as a presidential candidate, is illegal, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day citing Russian news agencies. Oleg Velyashev, deputy chairman of the TsIK, told a news conference in Moscow on 21 November, that only the Russian Supreme Court has the power to overturn TsIK resolutions. The federal official also said that on 24 November the Russian Supreme Court will consider the claim of another Bashkir presidential candidate, Andrei Pikhachev, who is disputing Veremeenko's registration. Velyashev said that the situation before the election in Bashkortostan has "raised serious concerns," while the "actions of the republican Central Election Commission [USK] has compromised the presidential elections." He emphasized that failure to implement the TsIK's decisions "did not promote the lawful proceeding of the election campaign" and, as a result, "Veremeenko was deprived of the possibility" to conduct a political campaign. According to the "Izvestiya" daily on 21 November, the raion court's decision and the continuing stance of the USK, "may lead to the commission's [USK] dissolution by the Russian TsIK." The daily noted that dissolution had already been used by the TsIK against the Central Election Commission of Krasnoyarsk Krai, which refused to acknowledge the results of gubernatorial elections.

...As Veremeenko Files Charges Against Judge
The unregistered presidential candidate Veremeenko has appealed to the Bashkir prosecutor's office seeking criminal charges against the chairman of Ufa's Lenin Raion court Salavat Weliullin, who on 20 November denied Veremeenko the right to be registered as a presidential candidate, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the next day. The court upheld the verdict of the USK, contrary to the resolution of the TsIK. Veremeenko has also disputed the court's ruling in the Bashkir Supreme Court and has appealed to the republican Judges Qualification Board seeking to disqualify Weliullin. The Bashkir Supreme Court will hear the case on 24 November. Within the last 30 days, the USK has twice rejected Veremeenko's registration.

Supreme Court Throws Out USK Suit Against Safin
The Bashkir Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from the USK against Relif Safin, a Russian Federation Council senator running for the Bashkir presidency, Rosbalt reported on 22 November. The USK sought to annul Safin's registration as a candidate, accusing him of bribing voters. The plaintiff's representative, Vyacheslav Zhukovskii, told the court that Safin had paid money and provided free services to voters and had promised to raise pensions and salaries. Previously, the USK had said that Safin had violated the law by arranging a pop concert of his daughter, pop singer Alsu, and by giving away CDs of her music. After the trial, Zhukovskii said that his organization would protest the ruling in the Russian Supreme Court.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi