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Tatar-Bashkir Report: March 11, 2002

11 March 2002
Shaimiev Says 'Islamophobia' A Product Of International Terrorism...
In an interview with the "Moskauer Deutsche Zeitung" reprinted by "Respublika Tatarstan" on 7 March, President Mintimer Shaimiev said that the "Islamophobia" currently being fanned may be a result of international terrorism and its attempt to set the West and the Islamic world at odds. He called for a dialogue of civilizations and solidarity in fighting terrorism, mainly in the cultural and information spheres. Shaimiev stressed that the conflicts in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Israel, Chechnya, and the attacks in the U.S. should not be evaluated as battles between civilizations, adding that there are a lot of examples in the world of Muslim and Orthodox/Christian believers living together in peace and concord for centuries -- Tatarstan among them. He added that Russian Islam is more secular and adaptive toward Western democratic and liberal values.

In other comments, Shaimiev said oil production will become a supplementary rather than a main source of revenue for Tatarstan as oil monopolies currently provide revenue to the federal budget while the republican budget is filled mainly by income and profit (capital gains) taxes.

...And Again Promotes Peace Talks With Chechnya
Commenting on the Chechen conflict in the same interview, Shaimiev called for Moscow to begin peace talks with the "real leaders of Chechnya, with those who have power not only handed [to them] but rather [gained in a] legitimate manner." He added that: "It is not enough to appoint [Akhmad] Kadyrov head of the region, he should also become a strong political figure," Shaimiev said. And he said there should not be any rush in the development of the Chechen Constitution and its harmonization with Russian legislation, adding that "treaty-based relations are still legitimate in this case." Shaimiev said Russia cannot be both a unitary and a democratic state at the same time, and said he believes that democracy will succeed in Russia only if it is a federal state. "The doctrine of the so-called democratic centralization is a dangerous mistake," he stressed.

Duma Deputy Says Interbudget Relations Upset Moscow, Regions' Interests
In an interview published in "Respublika Tatarstan" on 7 March, the leader of the Duma's Regions of Russia faction, Oleg Morozov, said Moscow is taking more and more powers and taxes from the regions but the responsibility for the execution of those powers -- including financial ones -- still remains with the regions, according to legislation. Morozov said that if the balance of the interests of Moscow and the regions was maintained while the federal legal space was being strengthened, then the process of reforming economic relations between the two upset this balance and Moscow is haphazardly taking financial and economic powers from the regions. He suggested that donor regions should pay Moscow a fixed sum and be allowed to keep any extra budgetary funds they have above the fixed sums. He said donor regions could also aid regions that require subsidies from Moscow by investing in such regions with the money they don't send to Moscow. Morozov said that the current formation of the Federation Council -- Russia's upper house -- satisfies the desires of President Vladimir Putin to reduce the possibility of regional leaders in the Federation Council influencing decisions made by federal authorities. Morozov suggested that candidates for the Federation Council be approved in votes by the people in the regions.

Criminals From Tatarstan Reportedly Involved In 'Slave Trade' At Moscow Train Station
Quoting the chief of a committee to fight organized crime, Interfax on 7 March reported that a group of Uzbek and Tatar citizens were found to be involved in the trafficking of people at Moscow's Kazan train station. They are reported to have abducted Uzbek and Tatar passengers coming to Moscow seeking work and selling them for 1,500 to 3,000 rubles ($48-$96) to Moscow-area construction companies. The "slaves" usually worked from 1.5 to 2 years for their room and board and then were sent home, Interfax said.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

U.S. State Department Accuses Ufa Of Violating Tatars' Rights
The U.S. State Department in its annual human rights report criticized Bashkortostan's authorities for their refusal to grant the Tatar language official status in the republic, where the number of ethnic Tatars exceeds the number of ethnic Bashkirs, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir service reported.

Rumors Cite Possible Successor To President
RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent on 7 March cited rumors that the newly appointed deputy prime minister in charge of the fuel and energy sector, former republican Tax Police head General Lieutenant Engels Kulmukhammetov, is likely to succeed Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov. Kulmukhammetov reportedly has close relations with Rakhimov. Prime Minister Rafael Baidavletov is also named among potential candidates.

The Bashkortostan supplement to "Argumenty i fakty" this week speculates that a recent call by republican Central Election Commission head Baryi Kinzyagulov for the postponement of presidential elections until December 2003 signals that Rakhimov will not run for a third term and needs additional time to promote a successor. RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir service on 10 March reported that LUKoil and Russia's Unified Energy Systems have shown interest in presidential elections in Bashkortostan. However, the majority of Bashkortostan's population harbors little doubt that President Rakhimov will run for a third term, the service said.

Meanwhile, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 1 March rated Bashkortostan's president 75th among Russia's most influential political leaders, while Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev was 42nd in the list.

Court Sets Date For State-Embezzlement Trial
A trial on the reported embezzlement of 5 billion rubles ($161 million) from the Bashkortostan budget has been set for 18 March, Rosbalt reported on 6 March. The former general manager of Bashkir Airlines, Vilmir Gaziev, and the former head of Bashimpeks, Nadir Valeev, are among seven accused. Prosecutors accuse them of promoting the sales of three Tu-154 aircraft in December 1999 and Keis harvesting combines in September 1999, in which the republican budget reportedly lost 5 billion rubles.

Government To Tighten Measures Against Energy, Gas Debtors
Prime Minister Rafael Baidavletov on 7 March sharply criticized industrial companies and farms over non-payment for energy and gas deliveries, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported the next day. Baidavletov told a government meeting devoted to the issue that the introduction of favorable terms for debtors has failed, instead resulting in a sharp growth of gas and energy debts. Now, Baidavletov said, the practice will be canceled and those who do not pay for energy and gas will be disconnected immediately.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova