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Tatar-Bashkir Report: April 29, 2002

29 April 2002
President Signs Amended Constitution...
Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev signed the bill on amendments to the Tatarstan Constitution into law on 26 April, reported the same day. Meanwhile, three days earlier, Shaimiev said he realizes that there are still provisions contradicting the Russian Constitution in the amended version of the republic's fundamental law. He said prosecutors may again lodge protests against provisions in the constitution and that, "We should be able to formulate our principles and have enough courage to defend them to the benefit of the future federation."

...And Thanks Businessmen For Renovation Of Presidential Residence
Turkey's Consul-General to Tatarstan Akhmet Ryza Demirer presented a rare edition of the Koran to President Shaimiev on 26 April, saying it symbolized friendship between the peoples of Turkey and Tatarstan, Tatar-inform reported the same day. Demirer was in attendance at the first official event after renovations were made to the presidential residence, the former Gubernatorial Palace in the Kazan Kremlin.

During the event, Shaimiev bestowed upon Metin Uckesh Yildirim, regional director of the Turkish construction company Odak in Tatarstan, the title of honorary construction worker of Tatarstan. Odak was in charge of renovations of the presidential office.

Yildirim said his company will publish a book about the Tatar writer Gayaz Iskhaqyi in order to continue bilateral cooperation.

Shaimiev also thanked Nail Yusupov, general director of Kazanorgsintez petrochemical plant, for financing the renovations, saying that Yusupov did for Tatarstan no less than the famous Yusupov princes -- ethnic Tatars -- did for Russia.

KamAZ Appoints New General Director
The board of directors of the KamAZ automotive concern appointed Sergei Kogogin, Tatarstan's deputy prime minister and minister of economy and industry, as general director of the company on 26 April, Russian and Tatarstan media reported the same day (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 15, 18, 25 April 2002).

"Kommersant" daily reported on 27 April that former general director of KamAZ Ivan Kostin was proposed as the new head the department of machine building at the Russian Ministry of Industry, Science, and Technology. According to the official version of events, Kostin resigned from his post at KamAZ "of his own will." Kostin, 15th on "Kommersant's" list of Russia's best managers in 2001, following Unified Energy Systems' head Anatolii Chubais, had been criticized for the low volume of the plant's production and low number of sales, as well as the growing debt that now totals 7 billion rubles ($226 million).

"Vechernyaya Kazan" daily reported on 26 April that Kostin, whose impending resignation had been rumored since January, planned to step down in July. The timing of his resignation was moved forward, however, following the 12 April visit to Kazan by Ilya Klebanov, chairman of the KamAZ board of directors (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 15 April 2002).

The "Vechernyaya Kazan" report cited an anonymous source as saying that an attempt to sell three of KamAZ's plants was prevented during Shaimiev's meeting with Klebanov at the Kremlin in Kazan on 12 April. According to the paper, KamAZ top managers held negotiations in March concerning the sale of controlling interests in three plants to Severstal in order to raise capital to repay the $30 million that KamAZ owed Severstal. The money to pay off the debt could have been raised, however, from the sale of the equipment at just one of the plants. In addition, all three plants are profitable and thus provide support for KamAZ as a whole, which still faces heavy debts. As a result of this discovery, Shaimiev and Klebanov decided a replacement for Kostin should be found sooner, the daily reported.

KamAZ is the only state-run automobile plant in Russia. Some 34 percent of its shares belong to the Russian State Property Committee, 11 percent to the Tatarstan government, and 19.5 percent to state-controlled Vneshtorgbank.

Civic Groups Protest Construction Of Nuclear Power Plants
Some 50 activists staged a protest in Kazan on 26 April against the construction of nuclear power stations in Tatarstan and Bashkortostan, and reported the same day. Representatives of some 15 federal and republican civic organizations took part in the event, including members of the Tatarstan Antinuclear Society, the Tatar Public Center, Yabloko, the Union of Rightist Forces, and several environmental groups. cited a professor from Kazan State University who asked not to be named as saying that the bodies responsible for the development of atomic energy misinform people by saying that nuclear power stations are safe. In addition, they do not take into account the expenses for the transportation and disposal of spent nuclear fuel, he said. Participants also commemorated the 16th anniversary of the meltdown at the Chornobyl nuclear power station in Ukraine.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Judges Seek Dismissal Of Supreme Court Chairman...
At a conference in Ufa on 26-27 April (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 25 April 2002), Bashkortostan's judges discussed the alleged violations by Bashkortostan Supreme Court Chairman Marat Vakilov of the Russian law on the status of judges and of the judges' code of honor, Bashinform reported the same day (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 22, 24, 25 April 2002). The conference submitted to the Supreme Qualification Board of Judges the relevant documents seeking Vakilov's dismissal from the republic's Supreme Court.

Vakilov spoke at the conference, discussing his work over past three years; his current, difficult moral position; and the difficulties currently facing his family. He did not, however, answer questions from judges concerning the charges against him, and his speech was unconvincing, Bashinform commented.

Conference participants also gave a satisfactory evaluation to reports by the heads of the various bodies involved in the republic's judicial system. In addition, 13 judges were elected to the Qualification Board of Bashkortostan and 11 more were elected to the Council of Judges for a two-year term.

Vakilov, who was seeking to be named head of the council, garnered the least votes among the 20 candidates for the position and was not even elected as a member of the council, Bashinform said.

...As Chairman Claims He Is Victim Of Vengeance...
Supreme Court Chairman Vakilov said the corruption allegations against him are a result of the fact that he supported the protest by Russian Deputy Prosecutor-General Aleksandr Zvyagintsev against amendments to the Bashkortostan Constitution, reported on 26 Aril (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 20 March, 15, 19 April 2002).

On 15 March, Bashkortostan's Supreme Court annulled the majority of constitutional amendments against which Zvyagintsev had lodged a protest. The agency cited Vakilov as saying during an unofficial conversation that, immediately after the Supreme Court adopted that decision, the republican leadership suggested that he resign, which he refused to do. Since then, Vakilov claims, he has faced intense pressure from the republic's official mass-media outlets, as well as from law-enforcement bodies.

...And District Official Echoes Claim
Valentin Stepankov, deputy presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District, said that the allegations against Vakilov are an attempt to avoid discussing the harmonization of the republic's constitution with federal legislation, but instead, to present the issue as a conflict surrounding an individual, reported on 26 April. Stepankov said the 27 June 2000 ruling by Russia's Constitutional Court that annulled the preamble to the constitution and said a number of its articles were invalid still has not been published in its entirety in the republic's mass media. Thus, Stepankov said, Bashkortostan residents are still unaware that they are living under a constitution, a part of which lost its legal force almost two years ago.

Between June 2000 and 15 April 2002, prosecutors, as well as other judicial bodies, protested 360 of Bashkortostan's legal acts for contravening federal legislation. Two hundred forty-two of these acts were eventually brought into harmony with federal legislation. The Bashkortostan Constitution, 46 laws of the republic, and 71 acts of the Cabinet of Ministers have yet to be harmonized.

Ufa Authorities Preventing Opposition Actions
The head of the Ufa's Sovetskii raion administration, Ramil Dilmukhametov, refused to grant permission to hold a demonstration -- organized by the Yabloko party of Bashkortostan -- against the import of spent nuclear fuel to Russia, "Vremya MN" reported on 26 April. Dilmukhametov said the reason for the refusal was the "close proximity of high-voltage power lines."

This is not the first time, however, that such an excuse has been used to prevent a group from staging a demonstration. The employees of Ufa's largest department store, also called Ufa, were refused permission to protest violations of their labor rights three times in April. In each case, Dilmukhametov said the reason was the "close proximity to high-voltage power lines."

Furthermore, communists in the republic have also been forbidden from holding their traditional 1 May demonstration in Ufa, the daily reported, commenting that local authorities "are so afraid of any public action that they themselves haven't sanctioned, that they simply forbid them all." Only one or two of every 10 requests by opposition civic organizations to hold public actions are granted, the paper said.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova