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Tatar-Bashkir Report: April 1, 2002

1 April 2002
President Intervenes To Ensure Amendment Of Sovereignty Clause...
The State Council on 29 March began debate over the second reading of a revised Tatarstan Constitution, including discussion of more than 400 amendments. Parliamentary commissions had already recommended the cancellation of some two-thirds of them.

The most controversial amendment was aimed at maintaining Paragraph 61 of the current constitution -� declaring the republic a "sovereign state, subject of international law, associated with Russia on the grounds of the power-sharing treaty" �- and was rejected by lawmakers after President Mintimer Shaimiev intervened against it, "Kommersant" reported on 30 March. The chairman of the Science, Education, Culture, and National Issues Commission, Razil Valeev, said thousands of citizens addressed the commission urging the retention of Paragraph 61, and the commission officially proposed leaving it unchanged in the new document. Deputies rejected the proposal after Shaimiev argued that there is no point amending the constitution at all if Paragraph 61 is maintained. He said the amended version of the paragraph is the result of intense consultations and represents "what has been made possible from [the] impossible."

Legislators passed an amendment requiring Tatarstan's state languages to be equally used by state bodies. Deputies maintained a paragraph declaring that "Tatarstan possesses its own citizenship." Provisions were also passed reducing the number of deputies in the future parliament from 60 to 50 and removing the requirement for parliamentary deputies to be Tatarstan citizens, reported on 30 March. Deputies also adopted an amendment on sanctions for defamation of Tatarstan's state symbols.

The new version of the republican constitution was passed in its first reading on 28 February before authorities encouraged comments and suggestions from the public.

...Before Parliament Unexpectedly Interrupts Session
The State Council session on 30 March unexpectedly adjourned until 2 April, reported. The agency quoted an unidentified State Council employee saying the break was brought on by the fact that a number of documents were distributed among deputies in which federal bodies contested the draft constitution under discussion. Specifically, the source listed a 27 February appeal by Tatarstan Prosecutor Kafil Amirov to State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin, a 7 March resolution by the Russian Presidential Chief State-Juridical Board, and a 26 March letter to Mukhametshin by the head of the Russian Justice Ministry Board in the Volga District, Aleksandr Fedotov.

Though those documents reportedly concede the draft Tatarstan Constitution is largely in line with the Russian Constitution, they suggest it still contradicts the latter and should be the subject of further amendment to avoid further challenges. The authors disagree with provisions declaring Tatarstan's sovereignty, legal supremacy over issues not specifically left to the Russian Federation, the powers of the Tatarstan presidency, and the territorial integrity of the republic.

Prosecutor Warns That Amended Constitution Will Be Protested
Tatarstan Prosecutor Kafil Amirov said he warned the republic's leadership in advance that he will have to protest the amended constitution if his notes and proposals are ignored, reported on 30 March. Amirov stressed that the opinion of the Prosecutor-General's Office was not considered.

Tatenergo Says It Is On Path To Privatization
Tatenergo announced the launch of its privatization, reported on 30 March, citing "Vremya i dengi." Tatenergo is the only completely state-run energy company in Russia. Three joint-stock companies were registered for the respective operations, including power generation, transmission, and controls, the paper said. Long-time Tatenergo employees will be allowed to purchase company shares at a discount of 50 percent.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Federal Inspector Concerned About Spread Of HIV Among Prisoners
The chief federal inspector to Bashkortostan, Rustem Khamitov, held a security board meeting to discuss republican legislation and implementation of a program to fight criminality, reported on 29 March. The spread of HIV infection among prisoners was paid special attention. According to the republican Emergencies Ministry, 2,088 HIV-infected residents were registered in 2001, a majority of them young and drug addicts. One in five HIV carriers is a prisoner.

Bashkir Airlines' Planes Said To Be Okay For European Routes
Bashkir Airlines executives said the company will not face any problems after 1 April, when new noise limits for aircraft are introduced by the International Civil Aviation Organizations (ICAO), Rosbalt reported on 29 March. Airline representatives told the agency that four of the company's 10 Tu-154M aircraft meet both new noise standards and emergency-warning-system requirements. Company representatives said three of the other Tu-154M will fly to the United Arab Emirates, China, and Turkey, while three more will fly domestic routes.

Volga District Education Heads Gather In Ufa
Russian Education Minister Vladimir Filippov on 29 March said that, for the first time in many years, money allocated for the education sector exceeds by tens of billions of rubles subsidies given to the defense sector -- proving that education is a priority for the state -- Bashinform reported. Filippov was speaking at a meeting in Ufa of education officials from throughout the Volga District. Filippov said a state order for training specialists will be distributed among higher educational institutions at competitive conditions beginning from the next year. He said 1.3 million students graduated from secondary schools and 1.23 million entered institutions of higher learning in 2001. Such institutions should not accept all secondary-school graduates, he said, as the country needs not only specialists but workers as well.

Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov, who also addressed the meeting, said the republic is among Russia's leading entities in terms of education. He said 35-40 new schools are constructed in the republic annually and that admission to higher educational institutions has increased by 11,400 in the past six years. He said the commercialization of higher education is becoming a serious problem. Some 80 percent of all schools are rural, and they attract a lion's share of subsidies, Rakhimov said.

At a meeting with President Rakhimov the same day, Filippov reportedly praised the republic's successes in education, both on the regional and Russian levels.

Government Again Says Will Only Lend To Profitable Farms
The cabinet will earmark 1.25 million rubles ($40,000) in credits to agricultural farms for stockpiling some 873,000 tons of grain in 2002, Bashinform reported on 29 March. Some 1.1 million rubles ($35,500) of the sum is to be made up of payments on previous credits. Agriculture and Foodstuffs Minister Grigorii Gorobets told a ministry board meeting that only profitable agricultural farms and food-processing companies will be given credits this year. The government has reduced state-controlled prices for mineral fertilizers and grain and announced a new tender for the delivery of fuel, presumably at lower prices, in efforts ostensibly aimed at supporting the sector.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova