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Tatar-Bashkir Report: August 3, 2000

3 August 2000
Shaimiev Comments On Federation Council Affair
In a statement published by Tatarstan's press on 3 August, Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev said he would not rule out the possibility of the future abolishment of Russia's Federation Council. Shaimiev said that with the formation of a Russian State Council, as proposed by President Vladimir Putin, "the new Federation Council will be less effective than the present one. That's why the political destiny of the new council is very unclear and the importance of such a body as the State Council will grow comparatively." Regarding the chances of the Russian State Council to be formed, he said: "with the current distribution of forces inside the State Duma and the situation in the Federation Council, there will be no difficulties in amending the [Russian] constitution." According to Russian media, Putin suggested establishing the State Council for governors to resolve the discontent of regional leaders after their withdrawal from the Federation Council.

Shaimiev said that the leaders of the republics within the Russian Federation "will certainly offer to legally protect the interests of ethnic groups...because after the Chamber of Nationalities was abolished there's no proper legislative solution for many of the groups problems."

Tatarstan's Parliamentary Speaker Attends Celebrations In Bashkortostan
Tatarstan's parliamentary speaker, Farit Mukhametshin, arrived in Ufa on 2 August, an RFE/RL correspondent in Bashkortostan's capital reported the same day. Mukhametshin will reportedly join the celebrations of the 6th anniversary of the establishment of the power-sharing treaty between Bashkortostan and the federal government on 3 August. He is also to take part in a seminar on the role of intergovernmental agreements in forming the Russian Federation. In an interview with RFE/RL in Ufa on 2 August, Mukhametshin said he would discuss the current constitutional reforms in Russia with his Bashkir counterparts.

What To Do With Low Quality Food Aid From U.S.
A governmental commission on humanitarian aid in Tatarstan's Cabinet of Ministers discussed on 2 August the use of U.S. aid recently shipped to Tatarstan. The commission reported no violations during the distribution of medicines supplied by the American Project Hope organization. A multilevel system of checkups reportedly ensures the proper use of about $8 million worth of medicines sent to hospitals.

Within the framework of a U.S.-Russian agreement on providing free farm products, 6,800 tons of wheat were delivered to Tatarstan. According to republican officials, the quality of the wheat delivered does not meet bakery standards and can only be used to feed livestock. Humanitarian aid commission officials noted that the federal government strictly insisted on the "direct use" of the wheat--for making bread at hospitals and charitable institutions. It was agreed at the governmental meeting that the wheat would be sent to the republic's farms in exchange for some of their production.

Gun Collection Figures Given
About 400 firearms were forcibly confiscated by Tatarstan's Interior Ministry thus far in 2000, the ministry's press service reported on 3 August. Within the same time period the republic's citizens voluntarily brought over 2,500 guns to local militia stations. High disarmament figures are explained by the reasonable payment and amnesty given to firearm owners to voluntarily give up their weapons.

According to the Interior Ministry, most of the firearms come to Tatarstan from the North Caucasus, Udmurtia, and Kirov Oblast. Eighty percent of the confiscated guns are produced by Russian defense plants and 4 percent by foreign companies, while 16 percent were made by locals. The collected guns are regularly destroyed at the Kazan Compressor Plant.

By Iskender Nurmi