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Tatar-Bashkir Report: December 10, 2001

10 December 2001
Mukhametshin Elected Greater Volga Vice President
Tatarstan State Council Speaker Farit Mukhametshin was elected vice president of the Greater Volga association, replacing the former speaker of the Ulyanovsk Oblast's Legislative Assembly, Sergei Ryabukhin. Ryabukhin has become a member of the Russian Audit Chamber, reported on 7 December.

Speaking at an association meeting in Saransk the same day, Mukhametshin criticized the current method of splitting budget revenues between Moscow and regions. He said direct investment by donor-regions to needier ones would be more efficient, adding that poor regions currently spend what they receive from Moscow on food. Mukhametshin said donor-regions pay Moscow up to 25 percent more than federal legislation requires.

The association also accepted Kirov Oblast as a Greater Volga member.

Prosecutors Say Altynbaev's Appointment Legal
The Tatarstan Prosecutor-General's Office said the procedure by which Rafgat Altynbaev was appointed Tatarstan's representative to the Federation Council did not contravene federal legislation, since executive appointments need not be competitive processes, "Vechernyaya Kazan" reported on 8 December.

The daily had predicted that Altynbaev's nomination might be nullified, since prosecutors challenged the election of Yurii Skuratov to represent the Buryat legislature in the Federation Council (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 and 20 November 2001). "Vechernyaya Kazan" proposed that Tatarstan's parliament elect Yurii Skuratov its representative to the Federation Council in order "to get even" with Moscow for "profaning" the Tatarstan Constitution.

Khakimov Says Russia Repeating USSR's Mistakes
Rafail Khakimov, an adviser to Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev, told "Vostochnyi ekspress" on 7 December that Russia is repeating the mistakes that led to the Soviet Union's collapse. He cited the establishment of a vertical power structure, the use of force in managing ethnic groups, and the promotion of a unitary state. Khakimov was speaking in connection with the 10th anniversary of the USSR's disintegration, saying an "artificial" federalism had contributed to that event. He said a new union treaty could give Tatarstan better conditions than it has at present, since Tatarstan should gain the status of a republic within such a union.

Kabardino-Balkaria Backs Initiative To Exempt Teachers From Military Service
Kabardino-Balkaria's parliament supported a legislative initiative by Tatarstan's State Council to exempt all secondary school teachers from military service, Tatar-inform reported on 7 December. Tatarstan's legislature has sent the Duma a proposed amendment that would extend the exemption to include urban teachers as well, in hopes of keeping male teachers in the education system.

TPC Accuses Putin Of Ignoring Russian Muslims At Ramadan
The Tatar Public Center in Chally has criticized President Vladimir Putin for a failing to make a statement to Russian Muslims on Ramadan, Tatar Radio reported on 7 December, citing a letter from the TPC to the Russian president. TPC leaders said Putin had expressed greetings to the Muslin world only through Jordan's King Abdullah II.

Tatarstan Official Lauds Zorin's Appointment As National Policy Minister
Kim Minnullin, a Tatarstan government official in charge of languages development, welcomed the appointment of Vladimir Zorin as Russian national policy minister. Minnullin was previously a deputy presidential envoy to the Volga district. RFE/RL's Kazan bureau on 7 December cited Minnullin as saying that Zorin understands the current problems in the development of Tatar culture.

"Vremya novostei" commented the same day that Zorin had always opposed radical solutions to ethnic conflicts -- including in Chechnya, where he called for "very careful" action on national issues. "Vremya MN" reported that Zorin "dealt very efficiently with Bashkiria and Tatarstan and played a positive role in returning these republics to a [common] legal and economic space." "Izvestia" cited Zorin as saying the religious diversity of the Volga district and all of Russia is a "source of development."

"Kommersant-Daily" cited an unidentified source in the Volga district administration as saying that Sergei Kirienko has been filling jobs with his closest staff members. The paper reported that Kirienko's efforts indirectly confirm rumors about his forthcoming replacement with land troops commander Georgii Shpak.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

President Launches State Authority Bodies Reform
Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov on 8 December signed a decree ordering 10 percent staff cuts and other austerity measures for a number of government bodies, reported. The reductions involve the presidential administration, the cabinet, the parliament, state committees, and other departments. "State authority bodies are guarantors of efficient social policy in the republic, [and] that's why they started cutting budget expenses with themselves," announced the presidential press service.

Bashkortostan To Assemble New Holland Harvester Combines
Senior officials from the Russian Federation, Bashkortostan, and agricultural equipment maker Case New Holland signed a protocol on plans to produce harvester-combines in Bashkortostan, Bashinform reported on 6 December. Signatories included Russian Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister Aleksei Gordeev, Bashkortostan President Rakhimov, and Case New Holland Vice President Gerrard Shiffer. The sides agreed to establish a joint venture on the site of the Inmash concern in Sterletamaq to assemble at least 300 vehicles a year and produce spare parts. Shiffer said favorable investment conditions in Bashkortostan ensure the project will be successful.

Journalists Union Congress Under Criticism
RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent on 7 December cited delegates of a recent Journalists Union congress as saying the republican forum was reminiscent of similar assemblies held in the Soviet era. Participants leveled criticism at Press and Mass Media Minister Zufar Timerbulatov, who chaired the congress, saying it demonstrates that the Journalists Union remains under ministerial control. "Vechernyaya Ufa" on 7 December published an open letter by its reporter Aleksandr Kasymov to Union Chairman Marsel Salimov in which he announced he was leaving the Journalists Union. Kasymov criticized the activities of the Journalists Union, the Press and Mass Media Ministry, and relations between republican authorities and mass media in general. He said the Union, which is obliged by its charter to defend journalists' rights and freedom of speech, in fact does nothing for those ideals, adding that journalists remain subject to strong pressure from republican authorities.

Russian Ombudsman Lauds Republic's Care For The Disabled
Russian Ombudsman Oleg Mironov praised Bashkortostan's experience in social care for the disabled and elderly, Bashkortostan Human Rights Commissioner Chingiz Gazizov told Bashinform on 7 December. Gazizov said, however, that some 700 disabled people are waiting for new apartments, adding that service centers for this section of the population should be established in all of the republic's urban and rural areas.

Tatar Youth Forum Held In Ufa
Representatives from Bashkortostan, Tatarstan, Udmurtia, and the Perm and Chelyabinsk oblasts gathered in Ufa to take part in Tatar Youth Days on 7-9 December, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 7 December. A congress of Bashkortostan Tatar Youth Union, Azatlyq, discussed national and cultural development, and elected a chairman and board.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova