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Tatar-Bashkir Report: December 16, 2002

16 December 2002
Putin Suggests Further Dialogue Regarding Cyrillic-Only Bill
After signing into law a controversial bill making the Cyrillic alphabet mandatory for all state languages, Russian President Vladimir Putin sent letters to the speakers of the Russian State Duma and the Federation Council in which he said that the "further development of the Russian Federation's legislation on the languages of its peoples is to be carried out through a dialogue between the two chambers of the Russian State Council and the legislative bodies of the subjects of the federation," "Izvestiya" reported on 14 December. The Tatar parliament had earlier appealed to Putin to veto the bill, arguing that it violates the Russian Constitution and international law (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 2 December 2002).

In accordance with the new law, Tatarstan has to abolish within 12 months its September 1999 law calling for the restoration of the Tatar Latin script.

Federal Construction Official Meets With Tatar President
During a meeting with Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev in Kazan on 14 December, Russian State Construction Committee Chairman Nikolai Koshman said his committee would support the idea of granting the Pyramid center of sports and culture a state prize for construction -- if the building is nominated -- since there are no similar buildings in Russia, reported the same day. Shaimiev and Koshman told reporters following their meeting that they reached a consensus on all the issues they discussed, including a program for cleaning up the slums in Kazan, the construction of a metro in Kazan, the development of a mortgage system, and the implementation of energy- and heat-saving programs.

Koshman said his committee would provide all the necessary support for the construction of the Kazan underground. He also praised Tatarstan's efforts in the area of municipal-housing reform, adding that the republic can be a testing ground for housing-reform projects in the rest of Russia.

Oil Refinery To Be Built In Nurlat
Renat Moslimov, President Shaimiev's adviser on natural resources, oil, and gas, made public on 15 December plans for the construction of a new oil refinery in Nurlat, reported the same day. In accordance with the plans, the refinery, which will be able to process up to 3 million tons of oil annually, should be completed within 18 months following the start of construction, tentatively scheduled for late 2003. The refinery will be designed to process high-sulfur oil, the type produced by Tatarstan's 28 independent oil companies, whose production has increased from 3.6 million tons in 2001 to 4.1 million tons so far this year.

Muslim Women Issue Further Complaints About Passport Photos
Several Muslim women from Kazan have appealed to Colonel Valerii Krasnov, the chief inspector of the Russian Interior Ministry's Organization and Inspection Directorate, complaining about actions taken by the Tatar Passport-Visa Service, which has refused to accept photographs of the women in which they are wearing headscarves for new passports, reported on 23 December. The women claimed that one of them had recently been refused admittance to a maternity ward at a hospital because she did not have a new passport. Krasnov said he will pass on the women's demands to officials in the Russian Interior Ministry, adding that he hoped a "wise solution" would be adopted (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 22 November 2002).

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Tatar Group 'Indignant' Over Comments Against Transition To Latin Script
The deputy chairman of the Tatar National-Cultural Autonomy in Bashkortostan, Elfir Sakaev, told an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent on 15 December that his organization "was indignant about the Russian media's campaign against Tatarstan's transition to a Latin-based script and was surprised by the recent message from [Ufa-based Muslim leader] Telget Tajetdin to Russian President [Vladimir] Putin asking him [not] to [veto amendments making the use of the Cyrillic alphabet mandatory for all state languages in the Russian Federation]" (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 10 December 2002). Sakaev said that, "Only Tatars, and not some Muslim leaders or Russian politicians, should decide on how to express their native language."

Republican Companies Repay 200 Million Rubles In Wage Arrears
Bashkir companies have paid 200 million rubles ($6.3 million) in back wages, decreasing the total amount owed in the republic by 15 percent in comparison with the 1.3 billion rubles owed in August, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 December, citing unidentified republican officials.

Bashkir Airlines, Ufa Airport To Be Privatized
The federal-government-owned Bashkir Airlines and Ufa airport are to be privatized in 2003, RosBalt reported on 15 December, citing an unidentified source in the Bashkir Ministry of Property Relations. The two were transferred to federal ownership in September following a court order declaring that they had been illegally handed over to the republican government in the early 1990s. Moscow will reportedly compensate the Bashkir government to the tune of 600 million rubles for investments made in the airline and the airport.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi