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Tatar-Bashkir Report: June 3, 2002

3 June 2002
President Says Reports Of Layoffs At KamAZ Unfounded
Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev told journalists on 31 May that statements about the laying off of as many as 15,000 employees at the KamAZ automotive concern are unfounded (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 30, 31 May 2002). Shaimiev said that neither he nor KamAZ general director Sergei Kogogin had made such a proposal. Shaimiev said that some structural and personnel changes may take place, but not large-scale cuts.

The company employed as many as 135,000 workers at one point, though that number has been drastically reduced in recent years. Reports in a number of media sources give the current figure as anywhere from 51,000 to 58,000 employees, though exact figures are not available.

Tatarstan Speaker To Attend Congress In Strasbourg
Tatarstan State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin is to take part in a plenary session of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe in Strasbourg on 3-6 June, reported on 1 June. Mukhametshin, who was included in the Russian delegation to the congress in May 2000, is a member of the Congress's Chamber of Regions and its Culture and Education Committee.

Shaimiev Says Moscow Seeking To Strip Regions of Powers
Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev said the concept of power sharing between Moscow and the regions that he proposed in 2001 was probably considered to be "too radical," which is why it was not discussed by the Russian State Duma, reported on 31 May. Shaimiev made this comment at a meeting of the Russian presidential commission on power sharing between Moscow and regions that was chaired by Russian President Vladimir Putin on 30 May in Moscow. Shaimiev said that he does not agree with all the approaches to power sharing that were presented at the meeting. He said that Moscow would like to oversee certain issues that fall, according to the Russian Constitution, under the joint powers of federal and regional authorities. In response, Putin said that the powers of federal authorities should not be artificially increased by reducing those of regional bodies and organs of local self-government.

Shaimiev said Tatarstan "has not refused [to abide by] its [power-sharing] treaty but will work upon its own initiative to amend it, [since] the treaty contradicts the republic's constitution." He said a working group will be formed in several days to deal with the issue.

Civic Organization Offers Reward For Information On TIU Attack
The civic group Creation has put up reward money for information about those who organized and carried out the 29 May attack at the office of the Tatar Public Center (TIU) in Chally, reported on 31 May (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 30, 31 May 2002). After severely beating Rafis Kashapov, the leader of the TIU in Chally, and three other people, a group of unknown assailants broke the Tatarstan state emblem with a hammer and tore away the republican flag, "Vostochnyi ekspress" weekly reported on 31 May.

Kashapov's twin brother, Nafis Kashapov, told a press conference on 30 May that he believes the attack was organized by the Federal Security Service. He fully denied any interethnic tensions as a possible reason for the event, saying, "We have good relations with the Russian [national] movement. I do not have any suspicions concerning its members."

Turkic, Finno-Ugric Peoples Discuss Union
A meeting of the leaders of the national movements of the Turkic and Finno-Ugric peoples of Russia was held in Kazan on 1 June, reported the same day. Delegates from Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Komi, Mordoviya, Marii El, Chuvashiya, and Yakutiya gathered for the forum, which was organized by the Tatar Public Center, the Idel-Ural movement, and other Tatar national civic groups to discuss the establishment of a civic organization and Eurasian regional confederations of Turan peoples. The bodies are intended to unite the efforts of Turan peoples with the goal of preserving their national languages and cultures. Delegates also discussed plans to hold a congress of Turan peoples in Kazan in October.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Rakhimov Says Republic To Develop New Constitution
Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov told a session of the republic's Constitutional Assembly on 30 May that the republic is not planning simply to amend its constitution but to develop and adopt a entirely new fundamental law, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 2 June (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 31 May 2002). "The constitution is not the Koran and it can be changed," Rakhimov said. The president said the existing constitution was the subject of often contradictory criticism from the Russian presidential administration, the Russian Justice Ministry, the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office, the administration of the presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District, and courts of various levels. Well-known writers and public figures have supported Rakhimov's constitutional initiative in the mass media, the correspondent added.

However, the newspaper of Bashkortostan's communists, "Nash vybor," criticized last week the fact that members of the Constitutional Assembly were appointed by presidential decree. The paper said that only those who are loyal to the Bashkortostan president were appointed to the assembly. The same people have already adopted two constitutions that turned out to be unsatisfactory, and the third one will likely have a similar fate, the paper noted.

Meanwhile, "Izvestiya" wrote on 30 May that Rakhimov, as a result of his efforts to develop a new constitution, may win points with the federal government that will help him in Bashkortostan's next presidential elections in 2003.

Bashkortostan Speaker Discusses Constitutional Reform in Moscow
Bashkortostan State Assembly Chairman Konstantin Tolkachev met with Dmitrii Kozak, deputy chief of the Russian presidential administration, in Moscow on 31 May to consider a wide range of issues connected to constitutional reform in the republic, Bashinform reported on 1 June.

President Talks About U.S. Double Standards
In a poll of regional leaders regarding U.S.-Russia relations conducted by "Profil" magazine prior to the 23-26 May summit between U.S. President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Bashkortostan President Rakhimov said he would like to ask Bush: "not to try to rule the entire world and not to consider the entire world a zone of U.S. interests. This will not lead to anything good either for the U.S. or for the rest of mankind," Bashinform reported on 31 May. He added that he would advise Bush: "not to use double standards in international relations. Everybody sees that [Bush] allows [Americans] to do something [he] strictly condemns when it is done by others. Events in Yugoslavia, the Middle East, and Afghanistan have shown this. Can bombings of peaceful populations be democratic?," Rakhimov asked.

LUKoil Denies Reports About Dismissal Of Vice President
The LUKoil press service denied on 1 June reports in various media sources of the dismissal of Ralif Safin, the company's vice president and president of LUKoil Europe Holdings, Ltd. Safin continues to occupy these posts, the press service said. The service claimed that the media reports about Safin's dismissal had been bought and added that the company knows who paid for them. LUKoil said that it retains the right to sue those media outlets that spread information that it claims defamed the company's reputation and honor and the dignity of its leadership.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova