21 September 2004
WEEKLY REVIEW FROM TATARSTANTatar President Backs Putin's Proposed Reforms, Goes One Step Further...
Commenting on the political reforms unveiled by Russian President Vladimir Putin on 13 September, Tatarstan's President Mintimer Shaimiev told a news conference in Moscow the same day that "Russia remains federal and democratic state" and "everything will be done within the framework of the current constitution." Shaimiev said legislation introducing the election of Russia's regional leaders by local parliaments based on proposals by the Russian Federation's president will be developed by the end of the year. He added that the measures can be carried out without amending the Russian Constitution. Shaimiev said local legislation, including on the election of Tatarstan's president, will have to be amended. Shaimiev claimed that in some regions -- including the Caucasus republics -- it is difficult to hold elections of heads of regions for many reasons.
The weakening of the roles of regional heads that has taken place in the past has not always been justified, Shaimiev said. Individuals have risen to power in some regions whose financial backing is of dubious origin, he added. Shaimiev also said those who are unable to govern come to power through populist slogans.
Shaimiev also suggested that the influence of state authorities should be increased in local self-government during the transition period. "But in the future, we will use the experience of civilized countries," he added.
...As Republican Politicians Oppose The Attempt
Asked by "Kommersant-Volga-Urals" if he has bid farewell to democracy following the presentation by President Putin of a package of antiterrorist measures, the chairman of the State Council's Economy, Investments, and Entrepreneurship Commission, Marat Galiev, said, "It is unclear how this is related to fighting terrorism. This is only ground for the establishment of a unified state. We bade farewell long ago to democracy, since federalism is its part. I think supreme federal authorities are not ready for democracy."
Tatar Public Center Chairman Reshit Jegeferov said: "The central authority does not need the voice of people. A majority of Tatars will be dissatisfied with such innovations, and fermentation will set in. We of course strive toward democracy in our souls, but it seems that we should say goodbye to democracy."
Prime Minister Visits Vietnam, Promotes KamAZ
The first consignment of KamAZ trucks was assembled at the Vietnamese Kamfa automotive plant owned by the national coal corporation Vinacoal, "Kommersant-Volga-Urals" reported on 14 September. A Tatar delegation headed by Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov began a visit to Vietnam on 13 September, intertat.ru reported the same day. The delegation's schedule includes participation in the launch of KamAZ's first assembly line in Vietnam, meetings with the Vietnamese deputy prime minister, the industry minister, the trade minister, and national defense minister, and negotiations with Vinacoal executives. In the first six months of 2004, bilateral trade turnover between Tatarstan and Vietnam grew by 22 percent year-o-year to some $8 million.
In the past 3 1/2 years, the republic has sold $73 million worth of KamAZ trucks (roughly 3,500 units) to Vietnam. In addition to an existing joint venture to produce existing models, KamAZ is seeking to establish a plant to assemble vehicles with the so-called Euro-2 engine, "Vedomosti" reported on 14 September. KamAZ controls 33 percent of Vietnam's truck market.
Leading Tatar Companies Agree To Finance Mortgage Construction
The presidential representative for the State Housing Fund, Executive Director Telget Abdullin, told the cabinet on 14 September that agreements have been reached with republican companies under which they will allocate 3 billion ($103 million) of the total 5.2 billion rubles expected in 2005 for a mortgage and housing-construction program, "Kommersant-Volga-Urals" reported on 15 September. The program is supposed to contribute to the construction of 450,00 square meters of housing, or 100,000 square meters higher than the current year's expected volume.
The program's stated aim is to help house 161,000 families over a period of 28 1/2 years.
Tatneft and Nizhnekamskneftekhim are reportedly major contributors to the program.
Ukrainian Decision Sidesteps Tatar Shareholders
Ukrainian State Property Fund Chairman Mykhaylo Chechetov said Ukraine has the legal right to transfer a state stake in oil refiner Ukrtatnafta to the Ukrnafta oil company without agreement from the Tatar majority shareholder, intertat.ru reported on 14 September. Tatarstan state institutions control roughly 56 percent of Ukrtatnafta shares, while 43 percent owners from the Ukrainian government are seeking to incorporate the stake in the basic capital/charter fund of Ukraine's leading oil company Ukrnafta. Tatar First Prime Minister Rawil Moratov has issued an official statement suggesting that Tatarstan plans to participate in developing a mechanism for transferring the 43 percent stake to Ukrnafta. Chechetov, however, cited lawyers as saying that "there is no strict necessity to agree the handover of Ukrtatnafta's state stake with the Tatar side," as it is not a sale but merely a transfer.
Oil refiner Ukrtatnafta reduced oil-processing volume by 3.7 percent to 6.6 million tons in 2003 compared with the previous year, and posted a 95 million gryvnya net profit in 2003.
Monument To Tatar Writer To Be Erected In Moscow
A monument to prominent Tatar poet Gabdulla Tuqai will be erected in Moscow in the nearest future, Interfax reported on 15 September. A corresponding decision was passed on 14 September by the Moscow City Duma's commission on monuments. The chairman of the commission, architect Sergei Petrov, said the monument will likely be located in a public garden in front of the Tatar Cultural Center building. Petrov also said Moscow's Tatar community will foot the bill for the construction of the monument. Representatives of the Tatar community pointed out that the 120th anniversary of Tuqai's birth will be marked in April 2006.
New Election Commission Starts Operations
Anatolii Fomin was reelected chairman of Tatarstan's Central Election Commission (USK) on 15 September during an organizational session of the republic's newly appointed USK, intertat.ru and other news agencies reported. Minfaiq Wafin was reelected deputy chairman, and Valentina Kamenkova was elected commission secretary. The new commission was formed in September after the term of the previous body expired. The commission comprises 14 members, including three representatives of parties -- Union of Rightist Forces, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, and the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia -- and members of the government, parliament, representatives of local self government, directors of republic's enterprises, and businessmen. Half of the members were appointed by Tatarstan's president while the other half was elected by the republic's State Council. Six members belonged to the previous commission.
Belarusian Prime Minister Visits Tatarstan
A delegation headed by Belarusian Prime Minister Syarhey Sidorski arrived in Kazan on 16 September for a two-day visit, intertat.ru reported the same day. The delegation's agenda includes negotiations of cooperation between Tatarstan's YelAZ and Belarus's Minsk Tractor Plant, joint investment projects in the chemical and petrochemical sectors, and opening Belarusian trade house in Tatarstan. The visitors are scheduled to meet with Tatar Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov.
World Tatar Congress Develops Ties With China's Xinjiang-Uighur Autonomous Raion
A protocol of intent between the World Tatar Congress (BTK) Executive Committee and the Society for Research of Tatar Culture of China's Xinjiang-Uighur Autonomous Raion was signed in Kazan by BTK Executive Committee Chairman Rinat Zakirov and society Chairman Ilchi Sairani, Tatarinfo reported on 16 September. A delegation of the society is on a visit to Kazan. The protocol includes the exchange of delegations between the two bodies and deliveries of Tatar literature, video, and audiotapes to Xinjiang. The sides also stated the intention to promote contacts between businessmen of Tatarstan and Xinjiang.
Shaimiev Receives Telephone Greeting From Turkish President
Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev, who is on vacation in Antalya, held a telephone conversation on 17 September with Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, the Tatar presidential press service reported the same day. Sezer praised dynamic development of cooperation between Turkey and Tatarstan and the success Turkish companies in Tatarstan. Sezer expressed his regret that a planned visit to Turkey by President Vladimir Putin was postponed recently because of the hostage crisis in North Ossetia. Sezer said the visit will take place at a later date and he looks forward to meeting with Shaimiev, who will be a member of the delegation accompanying Putin.
Tatar Political Analysts Criticize Putin's Proposed Reforms
In an interview with the "Zvezda povolzhya" weekly on 16 September, the head of Kazan State University's Political Science Department, professor Midkhet Faruqshin, commented on President Putin's recent proposal for government reform. Faruqshin said the proposal, which calls for popular elections in Russia's regions to be eliminated and replaced with a system under which the president would propose regional leaders, is "a step backward in the democratic development and further reduction of federalism."
In an editorial titled "Vova's Day" in the outlet's same issue, "Zvezda povolzhya" Editor in Chief Reshit Ekhmetov said that Putin's proposal not only violates Tatarstan's Constitution but would directly lead to the annulment of the post of Tatarstan's president. Ekhmetov noted that Putin long ago said "there should be only one president in Russia."
Religious Leader Links Extremism To Corruption
In an interview published in "Vostochnyi ekspress" on 17 September, Tatarstan's Muslim Religious Board First Deputy Chairman Weliulla Yaqupov said he considers corruption among bureaucrats to be one of the reasons for the spread of extremism under Islamist slogans. Yaqupov was commenting on a report released at Tatarstan's Security Council session on 10 September stating that "representatives of Wahhabi Islam operate in Tatarstan's several rural raions." Yaqupov said all madrasahs in the republic are licensed by the republic's Education Ministry, which inspects all of them several times a year. "In a 'peaceful' time, no violations are found here. But as soon as an act of terrorism takes place, Wahhabis are immediately recalled and a concrete place [showing their areas of operation] is shown." Yaqupov also said the republic's Muslim Religious Board is in a difficult financial situation that complicates its work in the sphere of Islamic education.
Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova
WEEKLY REVIEW FROM BASHKORTOSTANBashkir Politicians Comment On Restructuring Of Political System In Russia
Answering a question from "Kommersant-Volga-Urals" on 14 September on whether the reforms proposed by President Vladimir Putin on 13 September mean a denial of democracy, Bashkir State Assembly Legislation, State Construction, and Legal Issues Committee Deputy Chairman Fenil Tayepov said: "It is impossible to resolve the issue of security only by appointing the head of a republic, this will only aggravate the situation. Society itself should eradicate terrorism and this can be only achieved if the heads of republics express the will of the people. This is only possible if the head of a republic is elected by the people, not appointed from outside."
Bashkir Communist Party First Secretary Valentin Nikitin said: "These reforms will not result in increasing security. The president appointed ministers and judges, but the judicial and executive powers remained are still corrupt and impotent before the threat of terrorism."
Rostem Ekhmedinurov, the deputy head of Unified Russia in Bashkortostan, said, "We are unlikely to bid farewell to democracy since all legal acts will pass the approval procedure by a public chamber and in the elections of heads of [federation] constituents, all candidates proposed by the Russian president will be approved by legislative bodies in the regions."
Yabloko Holds Another Demonstration Seeking Dismissal Of Bashkir Interior Minister...
Yabloko staged a demonstration on 14 September in front of the Russian Interior Ministry (MVD) building in Moscow to demand that Bashkir Interior Minister Rafael Divaev be dismissed, Interfax, RIA-Novosti, RosBalt, and other Russian news agencies reported the same day. According to Interfax, between 30 and 35 people took part, while the Interior Ministry press service said there were about 20. Most of the demonstrators are residents of Bashkortostan whose relatives were killed by Bashkir MVD employees. One demonstrator said, "Innocent people die in the republic while criminal cases accusing Interior Ministry employees disappear without leaving a trace." Yabloko's Moscow leader Sergei Mitrokhin, For Human Rights group head Lev Ponomarev, Bashkir human rights activist Ildar Isengulov, and Russian presidential Human Rights Commission member Valerii Borshchev spoke at the demonstration. Protesters held signs saying: "Divaev Must Be Dismissed," "Let's Clean the Interior Ministry Of Werewolves And Murderers," "Bashkortostan's Interior Ministry Is Today's Gestapo," "Fascists, Get Out Of MVD," and "Who Will Stop Divaev's Bloody Business?" A similar demonstration was held in Moscow on 15 July (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 16 July 2004).
...As Russian MVD Official Again Promises Investigation
The Russian MVD will investigate violations of human rights in Bashkortostan reported by human rights activists and republican representatives, an MVD spokesperson told RIA-Novosti on 14 September. The official said protesters sought to inform the MVD about violations of human rights that allegedly took place in Bashkortostan. Main Organizing and Inspection Directorate deputy head Nikolai Mamontov and acting Information Directorate head Valerii Gribakin met with the protesters and assured them that the ministry will investigate all reported violations. The spokesperson also said that a ministry special commission that for several months has been inspecting the activities of Bashkortostan's Interior Ministry has completed its work and the information is now being accumulated and analyzed.
Bashkir Religious Leaders Call For Religious Concord
Muslim Spiritual Directorate of Russia and the European countries of the CIS head Telget Tajetdin and Archbishop Nikon of Ufa and Sterletamaq announced at a press conference in Ufa on 15 September their full support for state measures on fighting terrorism, Interfax reported the same day. Tajetdin said that "followers of the Muslim and Orthodox faiths have been living together in Russia in peace and mutual respect and there have never been bloody conflicts between believers of those confessions." Tajetdin added that "the attempt to represent terrorism as a display of religious intolerance, in the first instance, of Muslims to Christians, is in fact aiding and abetting terrorists who do not have either true faith or nationality in the direct sense as they defy all written and unwritten laws." He labeled the proposal by some politicians to extend responsibility for terrorists' crimes to their relatives "an extreme impasse."
Nikon expressed his concern that the "enemies of multinational Russia make provocations to compromise Muslims and bring discord in confessional balance." He said that "a believer cannot commit an act of terrorism aimed against people, especially against children." Such crimes are committed by criminals not for religious but for political reasons, Nikon said. Commenting on changing the procedure of electing the heads of regions, Nikon said, "The church does not interfere in affairs of state authority, but as a citizen of Russia I support this proposal and consider it grounded."
Bashkortostan's Unified Russia Leader Criticizes Putin's Proposals
The leader of the Unified Russia faction in the Bashkir State Assembly, Vladimir Kashulinskii, said Russian President Vladimir Putin's proposal to abolish direct elections of heads of regions is unacceptable for Bashkortostan, the Vsya Ufa TV reported on 15 September. Vsya Ufa also cited Bashkir political analysts as saying that as a result of the proposed political reforms, the state machinery will become more manageable but civil democratic freedoms will be inflicted a serious blow.
Bashkir Human Rights Activists Appeal To Russian President
Human rights activists held a press conference in Moscow on 16 September in the wake of a recent rally there calling for the dismissal of Bashkir Interior Minister Rafail Divaev (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 15 September 2004), Regnum reported on 16 September. Moscow Helsinki Group Chairman Lyudmila Alekseeva said some participants appealed in a letter addressed to President Vladimir Putin, Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliev, Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov, and Federal Security Service Director Nikolai Patrushev to ensure that violent actions carried out by employees of law enforcement bodies, including killings and tortures resulting in death, are reported. They also called for the prevention of the hindrance of investigations into criminal cases against republican Interior Ministry employees and their relatives.
Rakhimov Calls Putin's Reform Proposals 'Democratic'
President Murtaza Rakhimov said on 16 September that Russian President Vladimir Putin's recent proposals for the reform of the political system will "actually lead the country along an democratic path." "What took place during the elections of heads of regions cannot be described as anything other than bacchanal," Rakhimov said. He added that "democracy cannot be implemented with the stroke of a pen if there are no century-long traditions of democratic will." Putin proposed that regional governors (except for the presidents of the republics) be nominated by the federation president and then approved by the local legislature. Those proposals have been criticized as undemocratic by the West. However, Rakhimov expressed confidence that the Russian president would appoint worthy candidates. However, he added, a procedure should be established that would allow the veto of appointments, and make them subject to parliamentary approval.
Rakhimov continued that he supports setting up a similar system for appointing heads of raion administration. He said the republic is among Russia's leaders in terms of practically all socioeconomic parameters, which he added is "the result of 100-percent manageability." Rakhimov called for making some federal bodies subordinate to governates, which he said would "drastically reduce the army of Russian bureaucrats whose number exceeds all reasonable limits."
Bashkortostan's Opposition Unites In Public Chamber
Leaders and activists from some 20 Bashkir civic groups, national movements, and parties gathered in Ufa on 16 September to establish an independent Public Chamber capable of opposing the republic's government and protecting people's interests, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 17 September. The move was initiated by republican opposition parties and movements, including the Union of Tatar Groups of Bashkortostan, the Bashkir People's Congress, the Rus movement, and local branches of Yabloko, the Communist Party, and the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia. Speaking at the meeting, Rus leader Anatolii Dubovskii said the new Public Chamber has nothing to do with a public chamber proposed by President Vladimir Putin. Union of Tatar Organizations head Ramil Bignov said the worsening economic situation in Bashkortostan, harsh violations of human rights, and official corruption forced the republic's opposition to unite and establish the Public Chamber. Bignov said the chamber is not intended to replace the Bashkir government but to become an instrument of influencing the government's policy and defending human rights. Meeting participants elected Dubovskii chamber head.
BTK Criticized For Lack Of Effort In Defending Tatar Rights
Speaking at a meeting of Bashkortostan's Tatar Congress (BTK) Executive Committee on 17 September, sociology professor Jewdet Gyilajetdinov said the Russian authorities, instead of studying the reasons for terrorism, would rather restrict democracy. He said over 200,000 peaceful residents, including 35,000 children, have been killed in Chechnya. He also sharply criticized attempts in Russia to transform national republics into governorates. BTK Executive Committee Deputy Chairman and Union of Tatar Groups of Bashkortostan head Ramil Bignov criticized the BTK for its inability to defend the right and interests of Bashkortostan's Tatars, since it's a pro-government body, and said this is why the republic's Tatar organizations had to establish a union. He said the formation of Tatar national-cultural autonomies being promoted by the union is being hindered by local authorities but in spite of all obstacles, a forum will be held in November to establish a republic-wide Tatar national-cultural autonomy. He said the main task of Tatar organizations is promoting official status for the Tatar language. BTK Executive Committee Chairman Eduard Khemitov cited the introduction of teaching Bashkir in place of Tatar and closing Tatar classes in the republic's secondary schools. Durtoile Raion administration head Rawil Dewletov said conditions for teaching Tatar have been provided in the raion but his statement was refuted in speeches of numerous participants in the meeting.
Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova
WEEKLY REVIEW FROM IDEL-URAL REGIONNizhnii Novgorod Mayor: Administrative Reform May Lead To Authoritarian Regime
The Nizhnii Novgorod Telegraph Agency quoted on 20 September comments by Mayor Vadim Bulavinov on the reform of the political system proposed by President Vladimir Putin in which he spoke of "the danger of the establishment of an authoritarian regime," "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 21 September. According to Bulavinov, "the initiative by the president is right and timely" but an authoritarian regime may result from "the system of a strong vertical of executive power at the lack of normal mechanisms of control." He said, "Very much will depend on who is the person in the state." "Every executive power defends itself, thus depressing democratic institutions."
The mayor's press service, however, clarified the same day that Bulavinov was misunderstood and he "was just thinking about what could take place if the constitution and the president did not guarantee observation of our democratic rights."
The daily commented that Bulavinov has always been loyal to the Russian president. Bulavinov was elected mayor of Nizhnii Novgorod in September 2002 with the support of the Volga Federal District. In May, he joined the Unified Russia party.
Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Says No Need For Presidential Envoys
Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel said on 14 September that if President Putin's initiative on appointing governors is adopted, heads of regions will become presidential representatives, uralpolit.ru reported the same day. Then the role of the current presidential representations in federal districts will be unclear, Rossel said. He added that he agrees with Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev, who proposed at Putin's 13 September meeting with the governors that all mediating bodies between governors and the head of the state should be eliminated.
Rossel also said the package of draft laws Putin ordered developed by November may include the appointment of heads of raion administrations by governors at the recommendation of the regional legislative bodies. If so, Rossel said, instead of participating in political life, mayors will take over their direct responsibilities, including providing residential services.
Official Says Beloyarsk Nuclear Station Not 100 Percent Protected
The head of the Emergency Situations Ministry's Sverdlovsk Oblast Chief Directorate, Vasilii Lakhtyuk, told a press conference on 16 September that living in the oblast, which is full of dangerous facilities, is unsafe, as even the Beloyarsk Nuclear Power Station is not 100 percent secure, regions.ru reported the same day. Lakhtyuk said there is enough bodies capable to defend residents of the oblast but the issue is how they operate. "The system of management existing now in our country would suit Zimbabwe rather than a country owning such a number of nuclear arms," he added. He also said an educational program will be shown on local television to train residents how to behave in emergency situations.
Tyumen Oblast Speaker: Moscow, St. Petersburg Representatives Will Replenish Ranks Of Governors
Tyumen Oblast Duma Chairman Sergei Korepanov said if the method of electing regional heads by local parliaments as proposed by President Putin is introduced, many representatives from Moscow and St. Petersburg may appear among regional leaders, newsprom.ru reported on 16 September. Korepanov expressed his concern that personal followers of the president will be put forward as governors. He said it will no longer be possible for the opposition to gain senior posts, whereas currently some regions are led by opponents of the Kremlin on the left and right. "I doubt that the president will recommend his opponents," Korepanov said. He added that the main shortcoming of the presidential reforms is the removal of public elections for the highest officials of federation subjects. Not a single federal state in the world has such a scheme for electing heads of federation entities, Korepanov said.
Justice Ministry, Ulyanovsk Oblast Prosecutors Disagree With Former Officer's Pardon
Ulyanovsk Governor Vladimir Shamanov has confirmed the decision by the oblast's pardon commission to pardon former Russian Army Colonel Yurii Budanov, who was convicted of murdering a 17-year-old Chechen girl, Elza Kungaeva, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 21 September. Budanov may be released as soon as the decree pardoning him is signed by President Putin. The Justice Ministry and the Ulyanovsk Oblast prosecutors' office, however, have opposed the decision by the Ulyanovsk Oblast commission.
The Justice Ministry said Budanov's appeal must have been considered in violation of procedure. Budanov's appeal says that 11,000 rubles ($377) have been paid in compensation to Kungaeva's family, while the verdict against him ruled he must pay 380,000 rubles, the ministry noted.
Ulyanovsk Oblast prosecutor Viktor Malyshev appealed to Shamanov, saying the pardon decision was made "without due evaluation of the public danger of Budanov's crimes." Pro-Moscow Chechen leaders, including First Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov, sharply criticized the decision to pardon Budanov. On 20 September, a similar statement was released by Unified Russia's political council in Chechnya.
Budanov was sentenced in July 2003 to 10 years in prison. Shamanov was Budanov's commander during his service in Chechnya.
Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova