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Tatar-Bashkir Report: February 28, 2002

28 February 2002
State Council Approves Draft Constitution In First Reading
A plenary session of Tatarstan's State Council convened on 28 February to debate a new draft of the republican constitution, following an address from Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev. About 20 Tatar Public Center and Tatar People's Front activists picketed the State Council building with placards urging deputies to preserve Tatarstan's first constitution, adopted in 1992. That document declared the republic a sovereign state and a subject under international law with relations with Moscow based on a bilateral power-sharing treaty. Picketers also urged deputies to "stop selling Tatarstan's sovereignty" and demanded that top Russian officials not violate nationalities' rights.

The document had already met with approval from all the relevant parliamentary commissions. The draft was approved in its first of three readings later the same day, RFE/RL reported, 116-1 with one deputy abstaining.

Deputy Calls Constitutional Changes 'Inevitable'
Leaders of the Tatarstan-New Century movement met reporters at a traditional Press Club gathering to comment on developments regarding a new constitution. The Tatar State Council deputy in charge of legal harmonization talks with the federal government and a member of the Constitutional Committee, Marat Galeev, said changes to the 1992 constitution were "inevitable" and "were demanded by a new political and economic situation in Russia, such as the building of vertical power."

A presidential adviser on political issues, Rafael Khakimov, noted in his statement that although the draft was crafted to fit the framework of federal legislation, right after it is adopted "there will be protests filed with the Russian Constitutional Court concerning some of the articles" still violating federal law.

Supreme Court Deems 2000 Budget Report Unlawful
Tatarstan's Supreme Court upheld a suit by the opposition Equality and Legality (RiZ) movement, which complained that the fulfillment of the republic's budget was not independently audited. The cabinet had presented a resolution by the Budget Committee in Tatarstan's State Council approving the government's report on budget expenses, while under Russian law such approval should be issued by the parliamentary Control Committee.

TPC Chapters Urge Bashkirs To Attend Joint Congress
The Chally, Alabuga, and Tuben Kama chapters of the Tatar Public Center sent an open letter to the Bashkir people on 27 February, offering to call up a join kurultay [congress] of Tatar and Bashkir peoples, who they said are "the closest, brotherly peoples" with common languages, traditions, and religion. According to the letter: "[D]uring the years of the Soviet regime, Bolsheviks did everything they could to raise obstacles to mutual understanding and to [encourage] quarreling between these two...peoples. Without friendship and mutual support from Bashkir, Chavash, and Marii people, the Tatar nation will be unable to preserve itself."

Farmers Told To Seek Loans From Banks, Not The State
A meeting of Finance Ministry officials on 27 February considered the fulfillment of Tatarstan's budget in 2001. After looking into a number of alleged financial abuses in rural regions of the republic, Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov announced there will be no state loans granted to farms in 2002 because they do not get repaid and compromise local budget expenditures in social areas like health care and education. Some regional administration heads exhausted their budgets in 2001 by granting loans to collective farms so that they could buy fuel and fertilizers for the sowing season.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Bashkortostan President Stands Firm Over Power-Sharing Treaty
President Murtaza Rakhimov told Interfax-Eurasia on 26 February that the decision to annul power-sharing treaties between Moscow and nine federation members taken with respect and understanding in Bashkortostan but that the Bashkir treaty will remain firm. Rakhimov said the first document to legally establish Bashkortostan's status within Russia was signed in 1557 and since then it has been piously observed by the two sides despite the passage of time and social changes. He said "we" have no right to destroy something that have been created over centuries, has proven its worth, and fulfills the principles and interests of the federative state. Rakhimov stressed that Bashkortostan does not envisage its future without Russia, and even any hypothetical intention to annul the historical treaty prompts incomprehension in the republic. The republic's parliament has completed a major part of harmonization work and continues efforts to bring republican laws and the constitution into line with federal legislation, but the power-sharing treaty between Moscow and Ufa cannot be subject to any revision or annulment, he said.

Agriculture Increases Production
President Rakhimov said a turning point has been reached in the reform of agro-industry in the republic, resulting in stabilization of financial conditions, production growth, and an increase in the number of individual farms, the presidential press service reported on 27 February. The statements emerged from a government meeting devoted to the development of reforms in agriculture. An increase in agricultural production is a strategic aim of the development of the sector, he said.

Commissioner Promotes Monument Of Chechen War Victims...
Bashkortostan Commissioner Timofei Azarov called for the erection of a monument to commemorate Bashkortostan residents who have died in the world's 38 "hot spots," Bashinform reported on 25 February. Azarov said more than 10,000 republican residents have served in Chechnya and 247 of them have died. In other comments, Azarov called "foolishness" a proposal by Union of Rightist Forces leader Boris Nemtsov to cut the term of military service to six months. Azarov said it takes draftees six months to adapt themselves to army life, while complex military equipment needs at least two years to be mastered. No one is against a professional army, but such an army is now more than the country can afford, he added.

...And Says Almost Not Pretenders For Alternative Service
Commissioner Azarov said only 0.2 percent of draftees in the republic have sought alternative civil service, adding that many do not imagine what it is like, Bashinform reported on 26 February. Azarov said that once they realize the term of alternative civil service exceeds that of military service, no one will want to opt for alternative service. The Bashkortostan Enlistment Office's department head, Vladimir Kalinin, called alternative civil service a loophole for evaders.

The president of the Interregional Association of Committees and Movements of Servicemen's Parents, Vladimir Simarchuk, said the biggest issue is a lack of good conditions for military service in the army and ignorance by the state of servicemen's problems rather than any preference for alternative civil service.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova