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Tatar-Bashkir Report: December 20, 2002

20 December 2002
Turkish Ambassador Visits Kazan
Turkey's ambassador to Russia, Kurtulush Tashkent, met in Kazan on 19 December with Tatar Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov to discuss cooperation prospects, Tatar agencies reported the same day. Tashkent, who was appointed as an ambassador in July, said he chose Tatarstan as his first Russian region to visit. Tatar Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation Minister Khafiz Salikhov, who took part in the meeting, said relations between Tatarstan and Turkey are strategically important. He added that opportunities for cooperation provided by the 1993 bilateral agreement on trade and economic cooperation were not fully used.

Meeting with Tatar State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin the same day, Tashkent said close interparliamentary relations exist between the two republics, adding, they should be developed even more under the 1995 cooperation agreement between the parliaments of Turkey and Tatarstan. Tashkent said Tatarstan occupies a special place in Turkish-Russian relations. He said the republic has signed far more agreements with Turkey in the past years than any other Russian region. The ambassador said Kazan has the second-largest number of buildings constructed by Turkish companies after Moscow, among them the Pyramid entertainment center due to open on 20 December.

Tatarstan, Iran To Boost Ties
A memorandum on cultural cooperation between Tatarstan and Iran was signed at a meeting between Iranian First Deputy Culture and Islamic Orientation Minister Mahmud Araki and Tatar Prime Minister Minnikhanov and Deputy Prime Minister Zilya Welieva on 19 December, reported the same day. The document promotes student and teacher exchanges between Iran and Tatarstan at the university level for the studying of languages and culture. The Iranians suggested that forums in Iran on Tatarstan's culture and in Tatarstan of Iranian culture should be held. Araki said, "we are interested in restoring relations that existed between our ancestors, which would increase international trust and strengthen trade and economic relations."

Duma Deputy Proposes Draft Law Permitting Latinization In Tatarstan
"Zvezda Povolzhya" published on 19 December a draft federal law that would allow Tatarstan to restore the Latin-based Tatar script recently outlawed by the State Duma. The bill was developed by State Duma Deputy Fendes Safiullin (Russian Regions). It is noted in the document's preamble that the draft law was developed in accordance with the federal law recently passed that allows non-Cyrillic alphabets to be introduced in a Russian entity only by federal laws (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 12 December 2002). Tatarstan passed a law in 1999 restoring the official usage of a Latin-based Tatar alphabet. The new bill provides for two Tatar alphabets, a Latin-based and a Cyrillic-based one, and they would be used in parallel in Tatarstan through 1 September 2011; Tatarstan supplies Russia's entire Tatar population with textbooks in Latin-based Tatar and all expenses for the implementation of the law are covered by Kazan's budget.

Leader Of Tatarstan's Communists Claims KPRF Tops Poll -- That It Conducted...
The head of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) in Tatarstan, State Duma Deputy Aleksandr Salii, told "Zvezda Povolzhya" on 19 December that his party enjoys the support of 25 percent of some 1,600 Kazan residents polled by Tatarstan's communists, while United Russia had 11 percent support. A generational change is inevitable in the KPRF, Salii said, adding that State Duma Deputy Sergei Glazyev could be the communist candidate to run for the Russian presidency in the next election.

...Backs Nuclear Station Revival...
Commenting on the issue of reviving construction of the Tatar Nuclear Power Station in Kama Alany, Salii said environmentalists in the early 1990s caused great harm to the USSR and Russia when they succeeded in halting the building of the station under the theme of protecting the environment. If the nuclear station is constructed in Tatarstan under the observance of standard safety requirements, Tatarstan will only benefit from this, Salii added.

...Denies Patriarch's Claim On Poor State Of Orthodoxy In Tatarstan
In other comments, Salii said there is a positive trend in interconfessional relations in Tatarstan. Salii categorically denied as "a very big untruth" a recent statement by Patriarch Aleksii II who said the state of Orthodoxy in Tatarstan is worse than in Chechnya (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 10 October 2002).

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Parliament Approves Next Year's Budget
Bashkortostan's State Assembly passed the draft republican budget for 2003 in the third and final reading on 19 December, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. Bashkir Central Election Commission Chairman Bariy Kinzyagulov said at a press conference the same day that according to the document, next year's election campaigns are expected to cost the republican budget 210 million rubles ($6.59 million). Four elections are planned for 2003: for the republic's parliament, municipal self-government bodies, republic president, and Russian State Duma, though the possibility of having the presidential and Duma votes on the same date for voters' convenience (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 18 December 2002) is reportedly being considered.

Kinzyagulov told the reporters that the majority of election-related expenses would go to the republican presidential and the presidential elections. He also noted that in general the budget expenditures on elections "have doubled in comparison with the previous years mostly because we will increase the staff at election commissions, which is provided for by the federal elections laws."

Supreme Court Judges Ask Putin To Look Into Wekilov Affair
Bashkir Supreme Court judges have appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin asking him to look into the "war of compromising materials waged against [Supreme Court Chairman Marat] Wekilov" in the republic, RosBalt reported on 18 December. The judges told the agency that their letter was a response to the recent appeal by republican State Assembly deputies asking Putin to dismiss Wekilov on corruption charges (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 6 December 2002).

The judges' appeal reportedly implied that Bashkir officials "accusing Wekilov of abuse of power, embezzlement of state funds, and destruction of the republic's judicial system...were not perplexed by the absence of any evidence."

Bashkir Village Joins TV Q&A With Russian President
Residents of the village of Tolbazi in the Aurgazi region of Bashkortostan joined the live broadcast of President Putin's answering question posed to him by viewers in the country's regions on 19 December, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. According to the correspondent, only "chosen" locals, who composed their questions with organizers of the program, were allowed to speak with the president.

Bashkortostan Gets Higher Credit Rating
The Moody's international rating agency increased Bashkortostan's credit rating from B with a positive forecast to Ba3 with a stable forecast, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 19 December citing the republic's Finance Ministry. According to an unnamed ministry official, Bashkortostan entered the "top nine" of Russian regions. Only Moscow and St. Petersburg reportedly possess higher credit ratings than the Bashkir Republic, while Tatarstan and Samara Oblast possess the same ratings.

Moody's experts reportedly pointed to the absence of a well-organized system of interbudgetary relations between Moscow and Ufa as one of the key factors preventing a further increase of its rating.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi