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Tatar-Bashkir Report: March 22, 2000

22 March 2000
Authorities Pressure TPC To Cancel Rally Against Putin
The Chally branch of the nationalist Tatar Public Center said on 21 March that it cancelled its protest picket on the occasion of acting Russian President Putin's arrival to the city. TPC said that the picket was cancelled "under the unprecedented pressure of Tatarstan's Ministry of Interior Affairs, the State Security Committee, and the Federal Security Service." Protesters reportedly intended to wave placards such as: "We are for the friendship of peoples, but equal peoples," "Putin is Yeltsin's heir, teammate of Berezovsky, Chubais, and Abramovich," and "Who will be responsible for the blood of civilians shed in Chechnya?"

Putin Visits Kazan
Acting Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Kazan late on 21 March. Tatarstan's top officials, headed by President Mintimer Shaimiev, met Putin at the airport and then proceeded to the Grand Concert Hall of Kazan for a special concert. Security was very tight. Before Putin's arrival militia required the residents of buildings close to the route of the escort to stay inside, and people's backgrounds were checked. Earlier that day, chains of soldiers spaced out every 10-15 meters guarded the streets of central Kazan.

At the concert hall, Putin made an informal speech saying that Tatarstan had a feel for collecting all of the best things in Russia.The next day he visited the Orthodox Blagovescheniye Cathedral and the building site of the Kol Sharif Mosque in the Kazan Kremlin.

Ways for solving the contradictions between federal and republican legislation were discussed at a meeting between a Russian governmental delegation, headed by Putin, and the Tatar government on 22 March. Putin stressed that legislation in Tatarstan ought to be brought in accordance with federal laws. He said that the treaty on power sharing between Moscow and Kazan "was the only correct choice," calling President Mintimer Shaimiev a "founder of the Russian Federation in" its present form. Shaimiev noted that there were not only contradictions between Tatarstan's laws and federal ones, but even between laws of oblasts within the Russian Federation. He suggested that the resolution process be carried out bilaterally by competent working groups from both sides. Earlier that day, Putin visited a rundown area in central Kazan and the newly constructed apartment blocks in the Azino area. He met with inhabitants of the old apartment house that is to be demolished within months and the residents of a new block constructed with funds from a program to replace decrepit housing in Tatarstan.

During a meeting of the State Commission preparing for the celebrations for the 1000th anniversary of Kazan, Putin said that he was impressed by the look of "old Kazan" and the "distinct achievements" in the city. After walking on Bauman Street he said that "everything is excellent [there], better than in many cites of the world." At the same meeting he noted that there was more rundown housing in Kazan than in other parts of Russia, but he said it was being replaced quicker in Kazan than in the other cities. Putin said that Kazan managed to effectively solve the problems of subway construction and the renovation of historical buildings. Putin called Kazan "an example of multinational and multiconfessional peace and consent, because it is the place where the culture of the West and the East were tightly" intertwined. "Future celebrations of the anniversary of Kazan's founding must become a nationwide event or perhaps even on a world scale," he said. Before leaving for Chally, Putin saw an exhibition of aircraft constructed by the Kazan Aircraft Plant (KAP) at the Kazan airport. He personally handed the approved flight-test certificate of the new Tu-214 aircraft to KAP directors. In Chally, Putin will join a governmental meeting on machine construction and visit the KamAZ auto works. Later he will head to Ufa, Bashkortostan. Putin is accompanied on his trip by Deputy Premier Ilya Klebanov, Minister of Economics Andrei Shapovalyants, Russian Central Bank chairman Victor Geraschenko, and Minister of Culture Mikhail Shvidkoi.

Rakhimov Opponent Gets New Appointement
Aleksandr Arinin, a former State Duma deputy from Bashkortostan who failed to pass registration for the Duma elections in December, was appointed advisor to acting Russian President Vladimir Putin, an RFE/RL correspondent in Ufa reported on 21 March. The correspondent said this appointment could create problems for Bashkortostan's president, Murtaza Rakhimov, because Arinin used to accuse him of using undemocratic means to deal with his opponents.

Putin's Campaign Machine Rolling Along
Acting Russian President Vladimir Putin's campaign officials in Tatarstan--the general-director of the KamAZ auto works, Ivan Kostin, and the deputy-general director of Tatneft, Rishat Abubakirov, visited Tuben Kama and Bogeleme on 21 March. Both men held meetings with local denizens to promote Putin, with the goal of ensuring that after the presidential elections "Tatarstan will not step back from its achievements but will intensify its activities in all spheres," the republican press reported on 22 March.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi