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Tatar-Bashkir Report: April 25, 2002

25 April 2002
Shaimiev Backs Kremlin Draft On Sale Of Land
During a press conference in Kazan on 23 April, Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev backed the Russian government's draft law on the sale of agricultural land, which the Russian State Duma discussed in Moscow the day before, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 24 April. Shaimiev said that in his opinion, the draft "had more supporters than opponents.... While in some of Russia's regions, those introducing land reform are thought to be destroying a prospering agricultural industry." Shaimiev added that, "Today, Russia is unable to provide for itself with domestically produced foodstuffs; this situation will remain as long as the land doesn't have an owner. Besides that, under market conditions, the state will not suffer as many losses as it used to when it supported unprofitable agriculture."

Reminding reporters that Tatarstan already had its own law on the sale of land, Shaimiev said the fact that the republic's chief prosecutor didn't demand that it be abolished "proves that Tatarstan's law is viable and is essential in the scope of the entire country. That's why I think that the Russian law on the sale of land will not have fundamental differences [from Tatarstan's]."

Tatar Religious Leader Says Changes In Constitution A Must For Republic
The website quoted on 24 April Valiulla Yakub, deputy chairman of Tatarstan's Muslim Religious Board, as saying that making amendments to the Tatarstan Constitution "is necessary in the current situation, because the Russian Federation is developing.... It's a necessary compromise between the federal center and Tatarstan." He noted the "special importance" that the new draft constitution preserves "such a fundamental term for the republic and its people as [the republic's] sovereignty." Commenting on possible changes in Tatarstan's religious life after the new constitution comes into force, Yakub said, "Freedom of conscience is secured at the highest level in accordance with international norms. Therefore, amendments to the fundamental law wouldn't cause any change in the general direction of the republic's policies on religion."

KamAZ General Director Steps Down
After weeks of rumors about his impending departure, the general director of the KamAZ automotive concern Ivan Kostin told Interfax on 23 April that he submitted his resignation to the company the previous day, having given "serious thought to whether I would really be able to resume my heavy work schedule at the Kama auto plant [KamAZ] for the next five years" (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 15, 18 April 2002).

Kostin's contract at KamAZ ended earlier this year and an extension was never formally offered. According to Interfax and recent reports in the republic's press, Tatarstan's Minister of Economy and Industry Sergei Kogogin is likely to replace Kostin. The company's board of directors is to elect a new general director on 26 April.

Deputy Ecology Minister: Earthquakes Result Of Soviet-Era Technology
Tatarstan's Deputy Minister of Ecology Anvar Nazipov said on 23 April that the extraction of oil in Tatarstan has "led to a dangerous seismological situation" in the republic, RFE/RL's Kazan correspondent reported on 25 April. There have reportedly been about 700 medium-strength earthquakes in the region of the Romashkino oil deposit in the southeastern part of Tatarstan in the last 20 years. The underground destabilization -- resulting in earthquakes -- can be explained by the use of Soviet-era technology in the republic's oil industry. To extract oil from the deep subsoil, water is pumped into the ground at high pressure. Once the oil is extracted, the water, being of a lower density than oil, fails to keep the subsoil steady, thus leading to tremors and minor earthquakes.

Tuben Kama Military Official Promotes Alternative Service
The military commissioner in charge of recruitment in the Tuben Kama region of Tatarstan, Nail Bashirov, told Efir television on 23 April that, in his personal opinion, "The more people express their desire not to bear arms in our country, the more democratic it becomes." For the first time in the region's history, three recruits stated their desire to serve alternative, civilian service as opposed to military service, which is permitted by the Russian Constitution, though the law on alternative service has not yet entered into force. Meanwhile, Bashirov's superiors at the office of the Tatarstan Military Commission did not issue any comments regarding his statement.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Russian Daily Says Ufa Taking Vengeance On Republic's Supreme Court
The Russian daily "Kommersant" wrote on 22 April that the Bashkortostan Supreme Court is now paying for its independence with the current investigation into allegations of corruption against court officials, including its chairman, Marat Vakilov (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 22, 24 April 2002). The Bashkortostan Interior Ministry is investigating allegations that funds were embezzled by a number of officials from a fund for repairs to the court building. The daily said this is a case of revenge on the part of the Bashkortostan authorities for the role the court played in pronouncing a number of amendments to the Bashkortostan Constitution illegal (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 20 March, 15, 19 April 2002). On 15 March, the court "unexpectedly for all parties" satisfied the challenge of Russian Deputy Prosecutor-General Aleksandr Zvyagintsev against the Bashkortostan Constitution, annulling several key provisions and thus angering the republic's leadership, the daily reported.

Meanwhile, judges from Bashkortostan's Constitutional, Supreme, and other courts are to gather in Ufa on 26 April for a republic-wide conference, Bashinform reported on 24 April. Though the conference is planned for the discussion of reports by the Bashkortostan Council of Judges and the Qualification Board of Judges, Bashinform reported that the agenda will likely also touch on the allegations against Vakilov.

Rakhimov Comments On Relations With Moscow
In an interview in "Trud" daily on 24 April, Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov said that the principles contained in the republic's constitution should be taken into account in the process of harmonizing legislation to meet federal regulations. He also insisted that the courts of general jurisdiction are not prepared to pass judgment on constitutional matters, since ordinary judges to not have the proper qualifications to make such decisions. Rakhimov was referring to the debate surrounding amendments to the republic's constitution in which an ordinary court ruled that certain amendments to the republic's fundamental law did not conform to federal legislation.

In relation to this point, the president criticized the lack of a concept for the development of federative relations in Russia. He said that prosecutors demand formal conformity between regional legislation and federal laws, but they reject the positive legislative experience of the regions. Rakhimov said the republic's authorities have been trying to persuade Moscow that the republic's economic independence and statehood, which have been formed over a long period of time, do not threaten Russia but rather contribute to its power. In any case, the constitution cannot be changed in one day and harmonization must be a two-way street, he said.

President Rakhimov also addressed the issue of treaty-based relations between Bashkortostan and Russia, a tradition dating back to the 16th century. Rakhimov said that federal and republican authorities spent half a year discussing the power-sharing treaty between Moscow and Ufa before it was accepted, pointing out that no one expressed any complaints about the treaty at that time.

Finally, the president commented on norms regulating the number of terms the Bashkortostan president is permitted to occupy his post, saying that the people of the republic should decide on the issue in democratic elections. He said that federal legislators take a controversial position on the issue, since, on the one hand, they do not recognize republics as sovereign states, but on the other hand, they expect us to obey the rules of sovereign states in which heads of state are usually restricted to two terms in office.

Fourteen Die In Road Accident
Fourteen people died in a road accident on the Ufa-Yanaul highway on 23 April, Bashinform reported the same day. A KamAZ truck carrying a steamroller crashed into a bus, killing its driver and 13 passengers.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova