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Tatar-Bashkir Report: September 16, 2002

16 September 2002
Tatarstan President Visits Chelyabinsk Oblast
President Mintimer Shaimiev and Chelyabinsk Oblast Governor Petr Sumin signed a memorandum on economic and cultural cooperation between their regions on 14 September, during Shaimiev's visit to Chelyabinsk on 13-14 September, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 16 September. The document reportedly expanded and filled in some of the details of a bilateral treaty signed in 2000. Speaking at the press conference after the signing, Shaimiev emphasized the ties between Tatarstan's machinery industries and Chelyabinsk's metal manufacturers, while Sumin noted that his oblast "has something to learn from Tatarstan in implementing social projects, an urban development program, gas-network development, construction, health-care programs, and social security."

The previous day, Shaimiev and Sumin took part in Chelyabinsk's 266th anniversary celebrations and inaugurated Tatar industrial exhibitions there. During his visit, Shaimiev visited Chelyabinsk's ChTZ-Uraltrac tractor plant and an exhibition of South Urals area industries and met representatives of Chelyabinsk's Tatar community. According to the 1989 census, there are some 250,000 ethnic Tatars in Chelyabinsk.

Unified Russia Branch Says Union With Tatarstan-New Century Possible
According to Yurii Nezmiev, the head of the centrist Unified Russia party branch in Tatarstan said on 13 August that his organization "could possibly unite with the Tatarstan-New Century" (TNV) movement, led by Tatar parliamentary speaker Ferit Mukhametshin, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported today. He also noted that there were no difficulties with the TNV activists who began working for Unified Russia in Tatarstan because TNV "is not a political organization." Nevertheless, during the republic's 1999 parliamentary elections, TNV proposed candidates in many of Tatarstan's polling districts, and some local media suggested the group represented the republican government's attempt to establish a party of power -- with limited success.

Meanwhile, Unified Russia party counts 12,577 members in Tatarstan. Nezmiev claimed that 15,000 people have applied for party membership and their appeals have been sent to Moscow for consideration. The party's General Council plans to visit Kazan on 16 October as a part of its tour of Russia, Nezmiev added.

Communications Sector's Revenues Reportedly Soaring
Rinat Zalyalov, Tatarstan's minister of communications, told a meeting of ministry officials on 13 September that gross revenues from communications-related businesses increased by 54 percent year-on-year to 2.4 billion rubles ($76.19 million) during the first half of 2002, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the next day. One hundred sixteen thousand new fixed-line subscribers have been registered in the republic so far this year. The number of cell-phone owners grew by 40 percent to over 273,000. Zalyalov reported that more than 61,000 regular Internet users are currently registered in Tatarstan, which is 355 percent above the figure of the previous year.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Bashkir Airlines To Sue For Up To $20 Million
A Berlin-based lawyer representing Bashkir Airlines has said that compensation claims stemming from a 1 July midair collision between a Bashkir Airlines passenger jet and a DHL cargo jet (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 2 July 2002) could total $15 million to $20 million, reported on 12 September, citing the German paper "Stuttgarter Nachrichten." Elmar Giemulla said Bashkir Airlines plans to make claims against the Swiss aviation company Skyguide, whose air-traffic controllers were in charge of the planes at the time of the collision, as well as against DHL delivery service.

Bashkir Airlines first deputy general manager Vener Shakirov said that the airline would sign an agreement with the law firm next week when German representatives visit Ufa. Shakirov added that he hoped an amicable settlement could be reached.

Republican Speaker Comments On Tatar-Bashkir Relations, Presidential Elections
In an interview with Bashinform on 13 September, Bashkir State Assembly Chairman Konstantin Tolkachev rejected claims of a conflict between Bashkirs and Tatars. Tolkachev was commenting on a recent publication in "Argumenty i fakty" weekly titled "Who Needs a Second Chechnya?" (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 12 September 2002). Tolkachev said he cannot think of two other peoples in the world so closely related to each other by language, culture, traditions, and who also have so many mixed marriages.

Tolkachev also responded to suggestions that he was a possible candidate for the Bashkir presidency in upcoming elections, saying that he was very satisfied with the work of the current president, Murtaza Rakhimov, whom he called a "wise and efficient manager."

Bus Drivers Go On Strike In Ufa
Drivers of privately owned buses in Ufa went on strike on 12 September to protest a fourfold increase in taxes and demands by the Traffic Security Inspectorate that they make repairs to their buses, Bashinform reported the next day. The drivers also said they were dissatisfied with fines imposed by the Bashkir department of the Russian Transport Inspectorate for violating licensing conditions.

The agency reported that the strikers punctured the tires and broke the windows of buses whose drivers did not participate in the strike. Police arrested 15 drivers in connection with this.

Commission Says Draft Constitution Ready
At a recent meeting of the Bashkir constitutional commission, the commission revealed that it had completed a new draft constitution for the republic and that all the requirements of the federal government had been taken into account, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 13 September (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 22 July 2002 and 5 September 2002). The commission plans to submit the draft to federal lawyers in the near future. The correspondent said the constitution is expected to be passed in late October or early November.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova