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Tatar-Bashkir Report: March 7, 2000

7 March 2000
Azatlik Appoints New Chairman, Creates Controversy
Members of the Tatar nationalist youth organization Azatlik gathered at the Tatar Public Center office in Kazan on 4 March and dismissed their chairman, Ramay Yuldashev, and replaced him with Insaf Hamit. Yuldashev was blamed for his part in an appeal to Russian acting President Vladimir Putin calling for the establishment of direct rule in Tatarstan. The appeal was also signed by the Russian Democratic RIZ party, Tatarstan's branch of the Trudovaya Rossiya Party, and the Omet party headed by the former chairman of the Muslim religious board in Tatarstan, Talgat Galiulla.

Tatar Public Center (TPC) chairman Rashit Yagfarov told Tatarinform on 6 March that his organization had excluded Yuldashev for the same reason.

Right after the appeal and the list of signatories were published by the press, Yuldashev claimed that he had never signed the appeal. During a meeting on 4 March, Yuldashev acknowledged that he did sign it, but also promised to "avoid such steps in the future."

Yuldashev insisted that his dismissal was illegitimate because such a step can only be taken "by the plenary meeting of Azatlik involving all its members." The chairman of Tatarstan's branch of the Turkic Youth Association, Bashkortostan's Hamit -- who is also the leader of the Agidel Association uniting Tatar students in Kazan -- was elected as acting chairman of Azatlik. In an interview with RFE/RL on the same day, Hamit said that Azatlik "is planning to boost its activities among Tatar youth and to amend the organization's code."

Yuldashev refused to accept the post as the organization's deputy chairman. He answered criticism from the TPC by saying that Azatlik "was not a TPC affiliate and did not have to answer to the TPC." The next plenary meeting of Azatlik is scheduled for May 2000.

Former Convicted Deputy From Tatarstan Implicates Shaimiev
An interview with Russian State Duma deputy Sergei Shashurin was featured on the 4 March ORT TV program hosted by Sergei Dorenko. Shashurin's represents a district in Tatarstan. In an intro before Shashurin's interview, Dorenko said that the deputy was a reputed criminal known "as a mob leader in Kazan" and "wanted his partners in crime who were listed among the leading Russian politicians to confess, for they used to steal together." In 1992, after a big fire at the KamAZ automotive works in Tatarstan, Russian Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi issued a decree granting a low-interest loan to rebuild the plant. In exchange for the 6 billion ruble loan KamAZ was obliged to supply 5,000 KamAZ heavy trucks that were to be distributed by Shashurin's private company to Russian farmers. In a short period, Shashurin was imprisoned for stealing those trucks. Shashurin continued to plead not guilty and later said that he was grateful to Tatarstan's president, Mintimer Shaimiev, for his assistance in securing Shashurin's early release.

In the interview Shashurin claimed that the trucks were stolen by a group of high-ranking Tatar officials. He named former Prime Minister Mukhammad Sabirov as an organizer of the scheme to resell the stolen vehicles to China, Laos, and Cambodia. Shashurin, twice elected as a State Duma deputy, presumed that "since babay [old man in Tatar -- refers to Shaimiev] is keeping silent about this case, he must be involved." One week before the interview, Shashurin told the Efir TV channel in Kazan that he "had no claims against Shaimiev." Dorenko admitted that his program had no information on Shaimiev's possible involvement in this case.

Chally Branch Of Azatlik Applauds Putin
The Chally branch of the Tatar nationalist youth organization, Azatlik, sent a letter to Russian acting President Vladimir Putin on 6 March. In it, Azatlik welcomed Putin's statement in an interview with the BBC indicating that Russia could possibly join NATO one day. Azatlik has previously appealed to Putin urging him to end the military campaign in Chechnya.

TPC Chairman Says He's Staying On
The chairman of the nationalist Tatar Public Center (TPC), Rashid Yagfarov, refuted the statement of the local Efir TV channel saying that he resigned from his post. Yagfarov stated that his resignation was rejected at the 4 March TPC meeting. Yagfarov said he tendered his resignation because of his health and due to his plans to finish his doctorate.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi