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Tatar-Bashkir Report: February 19, 2002

19 February 2002
State Council Commissions Hold Preliminary Hearing On Draft Constitution...
State Council commissions on the budget and financial issues, environmental safety, and economic development and reforms discussed the republic's draft constitution on 18 February. Deputy Marat Galeev, a Constitutional Commission member, presented the document. He said it was unnecessary to hold a referendum on the new constitution because the new document will be the legal successor to that adopted in 1992 "according to the principal provision defining the state status" of Tatarstan. Still, parliamentary commission members stressed the importance of holding republic-wide deliberations on the draft. All State Council deputies will have a chance to propose amendments to the document at the Council's plenary session on 28 February.

...As Mukhametshin's Movement Plans To Organize Discussions Of The Draft
Meanwhile, State Council Chairman Farit Mukhametshin, who is also a leader of the centrist Tatarstan-Yanga Gasir [New Century] movement visited Chally on 18 February to meet Yanga Gasir's seven territorial leaders in the republic. In his report to the assembly, Mukhametshin addressed the amendment of the Tatar Constitution: The group will focus on organizing public discussions of the draft, participants agreed. The movement had already adopted a resolution demanding that the amended document contain legal norms guaranteeing further development of Tatarstan's statehood, treaty-based relations with Moscow, and protection of various ethnic and confessional communities in the republic.

Russian Daily Attacks Tatarstan For 'Imposing A Tribute' On Moscow
In its 19 February issue, the nation-wide daily "Komsomolskaya pravda" commented on some Russian budgetary allocations planned for 2002. The paper brought up federal subsidies for Tatarstan's development program totaling 12.26 billion rubles ($408 million) and compared it with 5.23 billion rubles ($176 million) earmarked for the development programs of the remaining 88 oblasts and republics. The paper said, "We don't have anything against Tatarstan, it is a good republic; but other regions are also not bad. It also seems that Russia has not been a Kazan khan's tributary for a long time now."

The daily also reported that the federal budget was preparing to spend 1.1 billion rubles ($37 million) on the Kazan city development program for its upcoming millennium, adding that St. Petersburg is preparing for its 300th birthday will get only 251 million rubles ($8.37 million). The daily ignored statements from a meeting of state commissions preparing both cities' anniversaries in Moscow two weeks before by President Vladimir Putin, who said St. Petersburg will get some 13 billion rubles ($433 million) in aid for anniversary preparations.

Broadcast Debts Prompt Blank TV Screens In Some Regions
The deputy director of the Tatar state radio and TV re-broadcasting center under the auspices of the republic's Ministry of Communications, Rinat Sabitov, told Tatar-inform on 18 February that Russian state TV channels owe the center 30 million rubles (roughly $1 million) for services. As a result of mounting receivables, it has itself become a debtor to Tatenergo company, he said. According to Sabitov, a number of small re-broadcasting stations in distant regions of Tatarstan beyond the Volga River basin have had their power cut off due to the 11 million ruble ($366,000) debt.

Top Government Officials Visit Chally
President Mintimer Shaimiev, Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov, and senior officials of Tatarstan's government arrived in Chally on 19 February to meet with the city administration and discuss issues of waste recycling, housing, and the battle against illegal alcohol production in the republic's second city.

Russian Officials Promote Russian Entry To WTO In Kazan
Russia's deputy minister of economic development and trade, Maxim Medvedkov, and Russian representatives negotiating with the World Trade Organization met business leaders from Tatarstan at the Trade-Industrial Chamber on 18 February to discuss the benefits of Russia's entry to the WTO. According to Tatar officials at the meeting, the republic is closely following the negotiating process and preparing for more difficult conditions on the domestic market, expected to follow Russian membership.

Lieutenant's 'Joke' Costs Fellow Soldier His Life
A Russian army lieutenant recruited in Tatarstan and serving at the Kolsky military base in Murmansk Oblast shot and killed a fellow soldier as he jokingly pointed his pistol at the private after removing the ammunition clip, Interfax reported on 18 February. The victim, Ravil Khasanov, was also recruited in Tatarstan and was a close friend of the lieutenant's. Soldiers nearby reportedly prevented the man from taking his own life after he realized what he had done.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Tajuddin Promotes Reintroduction Of Capital Punishment
The chairman of the Ufa-based Central Muslim Religious Board of Russia and the European countries of the CIS, Talgat Tadjuddin, signaled support to Interfax on 16 February for a Russian State Duma initiative to reinstate the death penalty. He said that in his opinion, demands for the full abolition of capital punishment represent a "perverted understanding of humanism." "The traditional faiths of our country preach humanism themselves.... But when we see such terrifying crimes as the one in America on 11 September, what humanism in criminals' respect can we talk about?"

Tajuddin noted that Islam allows for the death penalty for some "crimes against society." He said the absence of such a punishment would bring a rise in violent crime in Russia.

Bashkortostan Growth Figures Outpace Russian Average
According to statistics released by Volga federal district authorities on 18 February, Bashkortostan posted 6.1 percent growth in industrial production in 2001, while the nation-wide average was 4.9 percent. Republican agro-industry's output grew by 13.9 percent, while Russia's average was 6.8 percent.

Labor Safety Reportedly Improving, But Leaves Much To Be Desired
Vladimir Yudin, the head of Bashkorotstan's Labor Safety Board, said on 18 February that 2,494 people were injured at the workplace in 2001, which is 89 more than in 2000. Some 185 fatalities occurred at republican companies last year, while 178 such cases were registered a year before. Some of the republic's manufacturers "managed to improved the labor safety for their employees" after sanctions imposed by the board's inspectors, he said.

Swiss Ambassador Visits Bashkortostan
A delegation led by the Swiss ambassador to Russia, Walter Fecherin, arrived in Ufa on 18 February for a two-day visit, Bashinform reported the same day. On 19 February, Fecherin was to participate in a meeting of Swiss and Bashkir business leaders, and on 20 February he is to meet Tatarstan President Murtaza Rakhimov.

'White Powder' Hoaxes Resume
Bashkortostan's media reported on 18 February that letters, packages, and even magazines with white, powder-like substances inside continue arriving in residents' and enterprises' mailboxes throughout the republic. Interior bodies are investigating such cases in Oktyabrsky and Ufa, to identify the senders and prosecute such hoaxes, presumably playing on the anthrax scare in the United States in late 2001.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi