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Tatar-Bashkir Report: March 20, 2002

20 March 2002
Tatenergo, Ministers Discuss Effort To Raise Tuben Kama
Tatarstan Environment Minister Boris Petrov, Deputy Economy and Industry Minister Farid Tuktarov, and the deputy director of Tatenergo, Fanis Nafikov, discussed the prospects for Tuben Kama reservoir on 19 March. The meeting came in light of recent agreements between Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, and Udmurtia on raising the water level there to aid the generation of hydroelectric power. The republics have reportedly agreed to increase the level at Tuben Kama from the current 63-63.5 meters to 68 meters in the next four to five years to increase output at the Tuben Kama plant and ensure access to the reservoir for Bashkortostan's future Agidel Nuclear Power Plant.

Environment Minister Petrov said the sides have not yet agreed on a date for the markup to begin, a move that is expected to result in the flooding of 90 hectares of land, 50 hectares of which lie in Tatarstan. The minister assured reporters that the lands are not inhabited and are not of any particular environmental value. One week before the briefing, environmental organizations in the republic -- including the Tatarstan Antinuclear Society -- claimed the flood will destroy a number of rare animals in the Tuben Kama area, while the Agidel nuclear plant will pollute water reserves.

Government officials have generally avoided statements on the possible environmental consequences of the markup, generally concentrating on its economic effect. In Tatenergo Deputy Director Nafikov's words, last year's 1.5 meter markup allowed Tatenergo to produce an additional 179 million kilowatt-hours of electricity, which brought 88 million rubles ($2.8 million) in profits. However, these profits and future revenues -- which are expected to be divided between the three republics -- will be spent on bolstering the reservoir's shoreline and maintaining the hydroelectric plant.

Meanwhile, the increased volume of cheap, Tatarstan-produced electricity is expected by company officials to allow Tatenergo to lower its overall production costs and offer cheaper power.

Regional Muslim Leaders Prepare For Elections
Following the second congress of Tatarstan's Muslims, elections for imam (local Muslim leaders) posts have begun in regions throughout the republic, reported on 19 March, quoting the Muslim Religious Boards (MRB) of Tatarstan. According to MRB Chairman Gusman Khazrat Iskhakov, who was re-elected in February, all present imams will remain on their posts aside from one. He pledged that he "will not interfere in the elections process by proposing this or that candidate." However, the MRB press service reported that an "uneasy situation has emerged in Chally" because of the increasing activities of Malik Ibragim and Idris Galautdin, whose books were blacklisted by the Moscow-based Central Religious Muslim Board led by Ravil Gaynutdin, and also because former State Council Deputy Fanavil Shaimardanov, regarded as a radical opponent to the existing Tatarstan MRB, was expected to run for a local imam seat. None of those mentioned has applied for registration.

Deutsche Bank Tests The Water In Tatarstan
Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov met the managing director of Deutsche Bank AG in Russia, Aleksei Rodzyanko, on 19 March to discuss ways to attract investments by the German bank into Tatarstan's economy. During the meeting, Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation Minister Khafiz Salikhov was appointed to coordinate further negotiations on bilateral cooperation.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Rakhimov Hints At Third Presidential Term...
Speaking to Interfax-Eurasia agency on 19 March, Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov said he has "theoretically and practically considered" the possibility of running for a third term, which he said is "permitted by the present legislation." Bashkortostan's Central Election Commission has asserted that the Bashkortostan Constitution was brought into conformity with federal legislation in 2001, while an act on republican presidential elections creates room for Rakhimov to seek another term in June 2003 elections.

Rakhimov insisted he is eligible for proposing his candidacy in future elections to "ensure the stability and positive development of implemented economic and political reforms in Bashkortostan." Nevertheless, he added that the time for concrete decisions has not come yet and there is no need to rush. He insisted he will support such an idea only if it does not contradict federal or republican laws. Rakhimov added that he will "support the decision" of State Assembly deputies if they vote to move the June balloting and hold presidential elections on the same date as elections to the republican parliament and Russian State Duma in December 2003.

RFE/RL's Ufa correspondents have quoted Central Election Commission Chairman Barii Kizyangulov as saying such a decision would be "advisable" for voter convenience.

Roundtable On Children's Rights Begins Work In Ufa
A roundtable devoted to "The Current Problems Of Children's Rights Protection" and joined by Russian Human Rights Commissioner Oleg Mironov and human rights commissioners from more than 20 regions of the Russian Federation began in Ufa on 19 March. In his keynote speech at the event, President Rakhimov said he considers the forum "a sign of special attention to human rights policy in Bashkortostan."

...As Federal Prosecutor Pledges More Suits Against Bashkir Constitution
Russia's deputy prosecutor-general in the Volga federal district, Aleksandr Zvyagintsev, told Interfax on 19 March that Bashkortostan's Supreme Court acknowledged that 20 articles in the republic's constitution contradict federal legislation and confirmed that 13 other articles containing similar provisions are invalid. However, the prosecutor added that the court left provisions on Bashkortostan's sovereignty and a number of others unchanged, despite his challenge. Zvyagintsev thus pledged to appeal the Bashkortostan court ruling.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi