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Tatar-Bashkir Report: December 4, 2002

4 December 2002
Republican Trade Minister Meets With Chinese Businessmen
Tatar Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation Minister Khafiz Salikhov met on 3 December with a delegation of Chinese businessmen from the city of Tsindao to discuss bilateral cooperation, reported the same day. The two sides discussed a number of issues, including cooperation between Tatar and Chinese small businesses; the establishment of joint ventures in Tatarstan to produce plastics; the construction of Chinese hypermarkets in the republic; the participation of Tatar companies in the construction of power-engineering facilities in China; the export of Tu-214 jets, helicopters, and KamAZ trucks to China; and presentations by Tatar companies at international fairs in China. The sides also made proposals on scientific, technical, and cultural cooperation, including information exchange in the fields of science and technology.

Tatar Organization Asks President To Veto Cyrillic-Only Law
The Federal Tatar National Cultural Autonomy called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to veto recently passed amendments to the law on the languages of the peoples of the Russian Federation that would require all written alphabets of such languages to be based on the Cyrillic script (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 18 and 27 November 2002). The organization said in an open letter that the use of the Latin script in electronic communications is especially important for the cultural development of Tatars, who are dispersed throughout Russia and in foreign countries and who face difficulties in supplying Tatar communities with Tatar-language publications. The appeal added, however, that amendments cannot prohibit Tatars from using non-Cyrillic scripts altogether; instead, Tatarstan would simply not be given any federal subsidies for the printing of books and other publications using the Latin script. Even prior to passing the amendments, however, Moscow did not provide any financing for publications in Tatar, the appeal said. The appeal also said that the law cannot be applied to the Tatar language outside Tatarstan, where it does not have the status of a state language. The organization also said that the law cannot be used to restrict the use of non-Cyrillic scripts in local Tatar-language mass-media outlets.

One In Five Draftees Not Fit For Military Service
Tatarstan's military commissioner, Major General Rim Mustaev, told a press conference on 3 December that according to medical commissions set up to examine new draftees in the republic, about 20 percent of recruits are not fit for military service, reported the same day. Mustaev said that the republic has already sent to the armed forces 58 percent of the 4,600 young men it is expected to recruit during the fall draft season, while adding that 2,094 individuals have so far evaded their draft orders. The current recruitment campaign is set to end on 31 December.

Companies To Submit Tax, Accounting Reports Electronically
The deputy head of the Tatar branch of the Russian Tax Ministry, Marat Safiullin, announced on 2 December that Kazan-based companies may now submit their tax and accounting reports by e-mail, "Vremya i dengi" reported the next day. Safiullin added that a similar possibility will be made available in 12 more cities and 14 raions in the republic as of 1 January.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Bashkir Parliament, President Approve New Constitution
The plenary session of both the legislative and representatives chambers of Bashkortostan's State assembly approved legislation adding amendments to the republican constitution in the third and final reading on 3 December, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported yesterday. During the same session, President Murtaza Rakhimov signed the draft, which was followed by a storm of applause by the parliamentary deputies. The former Bashkir Constitution had been in force for two years and one month since it replaced the first post-Soviet constitution, which was adopted in 1993. Both previous documents faced strong criticism by federal bodies for failing to comply with the Russian Constitution. Rakhimov told a press conference after the 3 December parliamentary session that the new version of the constitution "will become the last one he endorses." The key provision defining Bashkortostan's status within the Russian Federation reportedly no longer contains a mention of the republic's "sovereignty," the word being replaced by the term "statehood," thus ending the objections of federal authorities who insisted that sovereignty could only be born by the federative state, not its entities. The new constitution maintains a presidential form of government and combines the posts of president and prime minister. Rakhimov said it is necessary "to maintain a strong executive system of power while simultaneously strengthening control over it by the legislative branch and establishing close working relations between them."

Parliamentary Speaker Comments On The New Constitution
State Assembly speaker Konstantin Tolkachev said in his 3 December report at the plenary session of parliament that the new constitution describes the basics of Bashkortostan's state system as "possessing the full scope of state authority beyond the fields of the Russian Federation's jurisdiction and in the fields of common jurisdiction," an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported. The common jurisdiction includes securing human rights and freedoms together with organizing the system of government in Bashkortostan. The new constitution institutes a new governmental body -- the Republic's Council, which consists of regional and city administration heads and convenes once every three months to discuss topical issues. The document also established an Audit Chamber, a new monitoring body which, similar to its counterpart at the federal level, will oversee the republican budget.

Rakhimov Says He Hasn't Decide About A Third Term...
President Rakhimov told a press conference on 3 December that he hasn't "yet considered the advisability" of running for a third term in office in the 2003 presidential elections, Interfax-Eurasia reported yesterday. He said that the "time for making a concrete decision has not come yet. Everything has to be done in its time and there are many months ahead." Rakhimov admitted that there already are "enough" candidates willing to take over his post, adding "let them propose themselves and the people will elect the best one of them." According to an RFE/RL correspondent in Ufa, Rakhimov also stated that "if there is a young, clever, and promising candidate for the post of the republic's leader -- we would only be delighted, but its too early to speak about my candidacy."

...And That People Chose To Preserve The Presidential Republic
Commenting on the new constitution, which despite the previous plans of the Bashkir government, declared Bashkortostan a presidential and not a parliamentary republic, he noted, "sooner or later, in the future we will switch over to the parliamentary system of government, which is more democratic. But now federal laws don't permit such an innovation." Rakhimov hinted that the preservation of a presidential type of government in Bashkortostan expressed the will of the people in his republic, saying, "I agree with the opinion of the majority of the population, that just as in a family or any other business there must be a single master."

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi