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Tatar-Bashkir Report: December 7, 2001

7 December 2001
State Council's Fate Remains Uncertain...
President Mintimer Shaimiev said those challenging the legitimacy of the republican legislature are impeding work to approximate Tatarstan's constitution with that of the Russian Federation, reported on 6 December. Shaimiev was reacting to the 4 December verdict by the Russian Supreme Court declaring that some provisions of the Tatarstan Constitution contravene Russian law. Shaimiev called assertions of illegitimacy aimed at Tatarstan's constitution "absurd." If that is so, he argued, parliament is also unable to amend the constitution. cited an unidentified judge from the Tatarstan Supreme Court as saying that such a dispute could be resolved by the State Council announcing its dissolution and calling for new parliamentary elections. A new legislature would then be empowered to pass constitutional amendments, the court member said.

State Council Chairman Farit Mukhametshin told Tatar-inform on 5 December that the Russian Constitutional Court is about to decide on whether that legislative body should be permitted to complete its current term. Mukhametshin said previous rulings provide the court will decide "in Tatarstan's favor." State Council Legislation Committee Chairman Marat Galeev predicted to RFE/RL's Kazan bureau on 6 December that the court will likely let the State Council serve out its term.

...While Moscow Turns Up The Heat
"Zvezda Povolzhya" on 6 December commented that the Russian Supreme Court decision is in fact a coup d'etat and effectively represents the dissolution of Tatarstan's State Council. Tatarstan faces a legal deadlock, as it is now unable either to amend its constitution or to pass a new electoral law meeting federal requirements, the paper said. The weekly also reported that Moscow is extremely dissatisfied with a new version of the Tatarstan Constitution that maintains a paragraph declaring the republic's sovereignty. Dmitrii Kozak, a deputy head of the Russian presidential administration, reportedly is taking a "hard position" on the issue and demanding the "total submission" of the Tatarstan Constitution.

Representative To Federation Council Drawing Fire
"Vechernyaya Kazan" on 5 December reported that the powers of Tatarstan's representative to the Federation Council, Rafgat Altynbaev, may be contested since he was chosen in the absence of any opponent. The daily drew a parallel between Altynbaev and Yurii Skuratov, whose nomination as Buryatia's representative to the Federation Council was protested by prosecutors after his nomination was uncontested. The newspaper commented that Russian prosecutors, usually "so vigilant as regards Tatarstan," in the Altynbaev case had paid no heed to this "screaming violation."

Meanwhile, "Zvezda Povolzhya" on 6 December cited an unnamed senior official as charging that Altynbaev has become too independent, stopped following Kazan's advice, and taken a neutral position in a conflict between Moscow and Kazan. Specifically, Altynbaev did not support Speaker Farit Mukhametshin in his public protests against the import of nuclear waste, the paper said.

Tatarstan, Turkey To Boost Cooperation In Education Sector
Turkish Education Minister Keksal Toptan and Tatarstan Education Minister Faris Kharisov signed a cooperation accord on 6 December in Ankara, RFE/RL's correspondent reported. The same day, a delegation of the Tatar World Congress met with Turkish State Minister Abdulhalyuq Mehmet Chai to discuss bilateral cooperation.

Opposition Leader Says Tatarstan Could Link Russia With Islamic World
In an article published in "Zvezda Povolzhya" on 6 December, Airat Sharipov, the leader of a civic movement called Creation, said Russia should develop its partnership with the Arab world rather than promote a temporary "friendship" with the United States. He said Russia could receive loans from the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) without servile terms like those offered by the International Monetary Fund, the Paris Club of creditors, or the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

Sharipov suggested that Russia might receive access to OIC loans if Tatarstan obtains international status and Islam is the official religion in the republic. He said the prospects of Tatarstan becoming a source of investment for all of Russia are quite real.

Sharipov said Tatarstan -- under constant pressure from Moscow -- cannot rely on democratic support from the West, as U.S. President George W. Bush appears to have granted Russian President Vladimir Putin carte blanche and closed his eyes to events in Russia, including in Chechnya.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Bashkortostan's Credit Rating Up
The international ratings agency Moody's raised Bashkortostan's credit rating two notches, from "B-3" to "B-1," Bashkortostan Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Foat Khantimerov told reporters on 6 December. He said republican authorities believe the higher rating will help them attract foreign investment.

Parliament Passes Budget, Proceeds With Harmonization
Bashkortostan's legislature passed in its second and third readings a draft republican budget, reported on 6 December. Budget revenues are to total 57.6 billion rubles ($2 billion) while expenses are set at 37.5 billion rubles ($1.2 billion).

Deputies also approved in their third readings amendments to legislation on: the cabinet of ministers; referendums; a 2001 privatization program; culture; state quality controls on grain; state support for children's and youth organizations; state support for veterans; children's rights; and social contributions to orphans, the presidential press service reported on 6 December.

In their second readings, the parliament passed a 2002 privatization program and amended a law on potable water.

Government Plans To Extract 10 Million Tons Of Oil Annually
The cabinet approved a five-year program to develop fuel and energy enterprises in Bashkortostan, the presidential press service reported on 6 December. Under the plan, annual oil production will stabilize at 10 million tons by 2003. Oil processing is to be increased by 2.2 percent, and gasoline production by 6.7 percent, by 2004.

Privately Funded Orphanage Established In Sibai
A new orphanage has been opened in Sibai, Bashinform reported on 6 December. The institution is housing its first 14 homeless children. Sibai administration head Rail Sarbaev said businesses and organizations in the city contributed to the project, which received no budgetary funds.

Federal Inspector To Strengthen Moscow's Supervisory Role...
The chief federal inspector to Bashkortostan, Rustem Khamitov, told a press conference on 6 December that his efforts in the last year have been focused on harmonization of republican law with Russian legislation and establishment of federal bodies in Bashkortostan. He said some issues on inter-budgetary relations and on ownership of natural resources still must be resolved. Khamitov said a local arm of the federal Anti-Monopoly Ministry is to be created, as the republic's corresponding body is unable to ensure fair competition.

He announced plans to place the republic's television and radio broadcasting facilities under Moscow's control, and establish local bodies in the areas of securities, bankruptcy, and natural resources and geology. The Ufa airport, he said, will likely also be controlled by Moscow due to its strategic importance.

Khamitov said there are many topics that remain "closed" to citizens and the mass media in the republic, adding that human rights institutions receive many appeals from republican residents.

...As Ombudsman Positive About Local Authorities' Policy
Bashkortostan's ombudsman, Chingiz Gazizov, told reporters on 6 December that over 800 Bashkortostan citizens have appealed to him so far this year, 40 percent of them prisoners challenging their sentences. Other frequent appeals are devoted to housing problems, violations of the labor code, and citizenship and pensions issues, he said.

Gazizov's 109 representatives throughout the republic received 3,000 appeals in 2001. Still, Gazizov praised the activities of republican authorities.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova