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Tatar-Bashkir Report: April 24, 2002

24 April 2002
President Outlines Agenda For Republic...
Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev held a press conference on 23 April to outline his republic's agenda in light of the 18 April state-of-the-nation address by Russian President Vladimir Putin to the Federal Assembly, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. Commenting on Putin's statement about the necessity of speeding up the country's economic development, Shaimiev said that Tatarstan "had to rely on its own potential without getting additional subsidies."

The Tatarstan president linked this economic goal with his vision of federalism in Russia by saying, "A strong Russia can only be made up of [economically] strong regions."

Shaimiev also informed reporters that he had met with Putin and Russian Prime Minister Sergei Kasyanov on 22 April to discuss Kasyanov's upcoming visit to the republic in May to inspect Tatarstan's main industries.

...And Future Of Tatarstan's Constitution...
During his 23 April press conference, President Shaimiev said he was satisfied with the draft Tatarstan constitution that was passed by the republic's State Council in the third reading on 19 April, adding that he would soon sign it, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 22 April 2002).

Shaimiev did not, however, mention any risk of protests from the federal Prosecutor-General's Office against the final draft constitution, while on 20 April the republic's human-rights commissioner, Rashit Vagizov told RFE/RL's Kazan correspondent that such protests had already been filed, saying that the document violated federal law.

President Shaimiev confirmed that the draft constitution contains a provision stipulating Tatarstan's sovereignty and he noted that it was an expression "of our view regarding federalism [and] our principal position.... Can anyone show me any academic works proving that a state can exist without sovereignty? [In our constitution], we speak of limited sovereignty within the framework of our powers.... This doesn't violate the Russian Constitution. Moreover, it seems to me that not everybody has read the Russian Constitution to the very end. In its last part, there is a section about sovereign republics within the Russian Federation."

With regard to the constitutional provision that presidential candidates in Tatarstan must speak both Tatar and Russian, Shaimiev said that he discussed this issue with President Putin during their 22 April meeting. Putin reportedly said he was surprised that there were any problems regarding this point since he considered this requirement to be natural for the republic.

...Comments On Census Issue�
Following his 22 April meeting with Putin and Kasyanov, Shaimiev told a press conference that he thought census officials should use the same list of nationalities in the October census that they used in the last census in 1989. In that case, Tatars would be listed as a single nationality without being subdivided into various groups, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. The Tatarstan president also addressed the issue of Kreshens (Christian Tatars), saying that separating Kreshens from the Tatar nation on the basis of religious beliefs was wrong (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 15, 16, 18 April 2002). He did not, however, mention how Putin and Kasyanov reacted to this.

...Upholds Free Sale Of Land
Commenting on land reform in Russia, Shaimiev backed the free sale of land, "since this is the only way to make land a valuable product and to know who its real owner is."

Nationalist Organization Protests Visit By Israeli Delegation To Kazan
The Tatar People's Front (TNF), a moderate nationalist organization, issued a public statement on 22 April to protest the presence of an Israeli delegation at the annual Jewish Culture Festival held in Kazan from 22-25 April, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 24 April. The statement said that, "The Israeli delegation's participation in the festival when the entire Muslim world is mourning the numerous victims of Israeli aggression against Palestine affronted the memory of the victims of the aggression and the ethnic and religious feelings of the Tatar people." The statement was given to the festival's organizer, Kazan rabbi Yitzhak Gorelik, and sent to the United Nations on 23 April.

TNF head Farit Khabibullin told reporters the same day that his organization was not against holding the Jewish festival in Kazan, but protested the presence of Israeli representatives. He also pointed out that in the early 1990s, the Tatar Public Center "held public events under the slogan "Hands Off Jewish People" after some unidentified vandals desecrated the Jewish cemetery in Kazan with fascist symbols.

The chairman of the festival's organizing committee, Vladimir Roskin, told Tatar-inform and Efir television on 23 April that, "We are against violence of any kind, against losses among civilians, but we are also against pushing politics toward purely cultural events."

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Corruption Allegations Create 'Judicial Crisis'
Bashkortostan and Russian media have given broad coverage over the past few days to the allegations of corruption against the chairman of Bashkortostan's Supreme Court, Marat Vakilov (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 22 April), RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 23 April. The correspondent said that these current allegations have created what has been widely assessed as a judicial crisis in the republic.

Investigators from the republic's Interior Ministry have reportedly uncovered a number of schemes used by Vakilov in order to embezzle money from the funds allotted for repairs to the Supreme Court building. Vakilov also reportedly obtained a number of free apartments from the state.

Speaking at a session of Bashkortostan's State Assembly on 20 April, Chairman of the Bashkortostan Constitutional Court Ildus Adigamov said the mentioned violations were not the only ones committed by Vakilov, who reportedly also faces allegations of violating the judges' code of honor.

Nevertheless, the chief of the Main Investigation Department of Bashkortostan's Interior Ministry, Anatolii Smirnov, told the same parliamentary session on 20 April that, despite the accusations, a criminal case has not yet been started against Vakilov.

Deputies voted unanimously to dismiss the Supreme Court chairman, as a person "not deserving of such a high post."

Duma Deputy Talks About Prospects For Treaty With Moscow...
Mikhail Bugera, a Russian State Duma deputy from Bashkortostan, told RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent on 23 April that, in light of Moscow's current policy on the harmonization of laws, Bashkortostan "faced the risk of losing its right to self-determination."

He emphasized that, "although the majority of the 42 power-sharing treaties signed between Moscow and the federative subjects have been cancelled, federal law does acknowledge the legitimacy of such treaties."

Bugera admitted that "a number of federal officials in Moscow hope to abolish the power-sharing treaty with [Bashkortostan]," adding that Russian President Vladimir Putin "should actively defend such treaties when they undergo confirmation procedures in the Duma by backing them with special federal laws."

...While Youth Leader Pledges More Action If Republic Loses Its Status
Artur Idelbaiev, former leader of the Bashkir nationalist youth movement in the early 1990s and now an activist in the Ittifak Bashkir youth organization, told RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent on 23 April that youth organizations "still represent a significant force in Bashkortostan." Idelbaiev said that, "While in the early 1990s our movement was characterized by its enormous enthusiasm, now we also possess sufficient experience."

Idelbaiev said his organization "supports legal ways of protecting the status of Bashkortostan by means of finding common solutions between republican and federal legislators. If this proves ineffective, however, youth may undertake more activities than during the wave of youth-related public events" that took place in Bashkortostan after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi