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Tatar-Bashkir Report: April 22, 2003

22 April 2003
Tatar Court Examines More Constitutional Provisions
Deputies of Tatarstan's State Council appealed to the republic's Constitutional Court on 17 April. The deputies asked to present an official interpretation of three articles in the Tatar Constitution, which the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office have said contradict federal laws, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported today. Article 5 of the new Tatar Constitution, which was adopted in 2002, declares that Tatarstan's territory is "single and indivisible," while Article 21 institutes that residents of Tatarstan can hold both Tatar and Russian citizenship. Article 91 requires the republic's presidential candidates to know both the Tatar and Russian languages.

During the same session, State Council deputy Marat Galeev told the court that under the provisions of the Russian Constitution, the federation's republics are considered states and therefore should be entitled to their own single and indivisible territory. This constitutional provision was in line with treaties of international law that had been ratified by Russia, according to Galeev.

Galeev added that being a state, Tatarstan was legitimate in introducing its own citizenship, providing it did not damage the legal status of Russian citizenship. Commenting on the Russian prosecutors' claims that the native language requirement violated the rights of presidential candidates, Galeev insisted that lifting the requirement would mean the rights of Tatarstan�s electorate would be infringed.

Gulnara Khabibullina, a legal expert in constitutional and international law from Kazan State University, testified before the court that the Russian Constitution did not adequately cover issues related to the regions' territorial integrity. She also said that the constitution contained no distinct restrictions that would prevent Tatarstan from declaring itself single and indivisible. Khabibullina added that, being a republic, Tatarstan had a right to introduce its own citizenship, and, as an ethnic republic, it was necessary for its elected leaders to know both Tatar and Russian.

Before the Constitutional Court adjourned, Chairman Seifikhan Nefiev announced that the date for the next session will be announced at a later date.

Parliament Votes To Replace Representative To Federation Council
Tatarstan's State Council voted to recall the republic's representative in the Russian Federation Council, Refget Altynbaev, on 11 April, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. According to Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev during the parliamentary session, he had already signed the decree dismissing Altynbaev on 7 April, but the decree had to be authorized by the council to take effect.

Shaimiev said that "every citizen has the right to define himself, especially someone who wants to be a political leader" and that Altynbaev had "made his choice." As Altynbaev is co-chairman of Russia's Party of Life, Shaimiev said that he couldn't have a representative who was working at cross purposes. For his part, Altynbaev thanked Shaimiev for teaching him "how not to bend myself before the circumstances and not to depend on the state of political affairs." He said that he would not back away from his position adding: "Criticism began disappearing from our political life and you [Shaimiev] got used to your words being the final truth. A civil position was called opposition and gradually all of the people with their own opinions have left the republic."

Altynbaev will formally retain his powers as a Federation Council senator until its next session on 23 April.

Pope Expected To Visit Kazan In August...
During his visit to Russia in July, Pope John Paul II is expected to visit Kazan and for returning the Mother of God of Kazan icon, Tatar-inform reported yesterday citing Reuters. The icon was stolen in 1904 and is currently kept by the Vatican.

...While Tatar Official Says The Visit Is Unlikely
In an interview published in the "Vremya i Dengi" daily on 17 April, Timur Akulov, head of the Tatar president's foreign affairs department, shed doubts on recent reports predicting the visit of Pope John Paul II to Kazan this July (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report" 15 April 2003). He said that, in his opinion, information about the pope�s visit was "not true" and that someone just wanted to test their reaction. "In any case, so far no one from the Russian Orthodox Church or the pope�s office has contacted us regarding the preparations for this visit,� Akulov said.

Muslim Women Resume Headscarves' Case
According to the "Vremya i Dengi" daily on 15 April, a group of Muslim women from Tuben Kama in Tatarstan have appealed to the Appeals Board of the Russian Supreme Court to demand the right to wear traditional headscarves in their passport photos. The Supreme Court had previously turned down a similar appeal from the group (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 6 March), but they still refuse to have their passport photos made with uncovered heads, which goes against their religious beliefs. The new appeal states that if they do not obtain new passports Muslim women face difficulties in obtaining insurance policies, getting married, or changing their residential registration.

Human Rights Commissioner Issues Annual Report
Tatar Human Rights Commissioner Reshit Wegyzov presented the annual report on the human rights situation in the republic on 15 April, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. The report, which is available at, assesses the implementation of international and domestic legal norms in the sphere of individual's rights and analyzes the appeals of Tatarstan's residents made to Wegyzov in 2002.

Industries Said To Overcome The Negative Trends Of Early 2003
Tatar Deputy Economy and Industry Minister Sergei Mukhin said on 16 April that despite the industrial slump during the first three months of 2003, Tatar industries managed to achieve a 5 percent growth in production in that period compared to the first quarter of 2002, "Vechernyaya Kazan" reported. Tatarstan's current output is reportedly only 8 percent lower than in 1990, while in 2001 the republic's production was at 85 percent of that level. Tuben Kama Tires Company spearheads this year's industrial growth with 30 percent, while Kazan's Orgsintez chemical plant is second with 22 percent growth.

An average industrial worker currently earns 6,439 rubles ($204) per month, which is 18 percent higher than in the first quarter of 2002. Oil-industry employees still represent the elite of Tatarstan's work force with an average salary of 17,450 rubles ($554) per month.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Parliament Holds First Session, Re-Elects Speaker
At its first plenary session on 11 April, the newly-elected Bashkir State Assembly reelected Konstantin Tolkachev as its chairman, Bashinform reported the same day. Tolkachev, 50, a law professor, has been the Bashkir parliament speaker since 1999. Former Ufa Aviation University rector Salawat Qusymov was elected deputy chairman of the State Assembly. In the previous Bashkir legislature, Qusymov was deputy speaker of its upper Chamber of Representatives.

Members of Unified Russia's Bashkir branch will head five of the seven committees in parliament. Former minister Lev Bakusov became chairman of the Budget, Tax, Finance, and Property Issues Committee; Marat Kharisov will head the Legislation, State System, and Legal Issues Committee; Zofer Yenikeev will chair the Local Self Government, Nationalities Affairs, Public, and Religious Organizations Committee; Zifqet SeetgAliyev the Agrarian Issues, Natural Resources, and Environment Committee; and Elfie Sharafetdinova will chair the Labor, Social Issues, Family, Motherhood, Childhood, and Health Care Committee. Former Salavatnefteorgsintez General Director Nail Qotlygildin was elected head of the Industry, Construction, Transport, Communications, Power Engineering, and Businesses Committee; and the former deputy speaker of parliament's lower legislative chamber, Rafail Mirseev, will head the Education, Science, Culture, Sport, Tourism, and Youth Affairs Committee. Deputies also reelected Igor Izmestyev as the State Assembly's representative to the Federation Council. Izmestyev has been representing the Bashkir legislature in the Federation Council since December 2001 and was a member of the Industrial Policy Committee.

Bashkortostan, Germany To Boost Ties
During a visit by the Bashkir delegation to the German state of Saxony from 8-10 April, Bashkir Prime Minister Rafael Baidavletov and Saxon Prime Minister Joerg Milbradt signed a cooperation protocol to mark the 10th anniversary of cooperation between the two sides and determine the shape of further cooperation, Bashinform reported on 11 April. Visitors, including government officials and directors of companies, took part in celebrations devoted to the jubilee and held negotiations with German businessmen. Press and Mass Communications Minister Zofer Timerbulatov and Bashkortostan Publishing House Director Anatolii Bezrukavnikov concluded a 1 million euro ($1.1 million) contract with the Man Roland plant for the delivery of equipment to Bashkortostan. Bashlesprom General Director Timur Kiladze signed a contract with the Saxony Land Bank on the delivery to the republic of 3 million euros worth of woodworking equipment produced by the Gerischer & Schroeder company. It was agreed that a joint venture between the Beloretsk Metallurgy Plant and the German Kuster firm will be established and employ some 300 workers.

Germany, which provided one-third of foreign investments in the Bashkir economy, invested $255 million in the republic in 2002.

Russian Supreme Mufti Calls On World's Muslims To Elect Common Leader...
Russian Central Muslim Spiritual Directorate (TsDUM) Chairman Telget Tajetdin on 14 April called on the world's Muslims to elect a common leader, Shaykh al-Islam, Halif, RosBalt reported the same day. TsDUM issued an appeal to the heads of Muslim countries, Muslim communities, and muftis of Russian entities, saying the appearance of a single leader in the Islamic world would let Muslims "jointly resolve issues of peace and war, relations between peoples and civilizations, especially in the period when the world is on the threshold of a new war." Tajetdin suggested that a united Muslim leader of the world could be a "more terrible weapon than dollars and pounds." Tajetdin said such an election could be held in Bolgar (where the Tatars adopted Islam), Baghdad, Mecca, Medina, Moscow, or Cairo.

...As Council Of Muftis Of Russia Condemns Tajetdin
The Council of Muftis on 14 April condemned Tajetdin for his 3 April declaration of a jihad against the United States, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported. The council decided that Tajetdin's "emotional declaration in the name of all Muslims in Russia...cannot be considered a private mistake," according to Interfax. The council also stated that Tajetdin's declaration caused great damage to the authority of Russian Muslims and that he has no right to lead an Islamic organization. Ravil Gainutdin, who heads the Council of Muftis, is a long-time rival of Tajetdin's. Commenting on the council's declaration, Muhammad Gali Khuzin, mufti for Perm Oblast, said, "According to our charter, only a congress of Muslims of the Central Spiritual Directorate of Russia can make a decision about stopping the activities of Telget Tajetdin," "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 15 April. According to the daily, Tajetdin's organization is the largest and most influential Islamic organization in Russia, with 49 regional spiritual administrations compared to only 15 belonging to Gainutdin's group.

Russian Ministry Plans To Sell Polief
The Russian Property Relations Ministry, which is the owner of the Blagoveshchensk Polief chemical plant, has decided to sell its stake in the facility under construction in an auction slated for 23 May, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 16 April. The initial price is 3.8 billion rubles ($122 million). The first line of the facility is to begin operating in late 2003. Bashkortostan has spent 4 billion rubles on the plant's construction in the last three years. The new owner will have to compensate Bashkortostan for its credits given to the plant. The facility will produce acid used in the production of plastic bottles, tires, and textiles.

Leader Of Bashkortostan's Chechens Says Rights Of Chechens Still Violated In Chechnya
The head of Bashkortostan's Chechen Public Center, Lomali Israilov, told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 17 April that violations of Chechens' rights continue in Chechnya despite the constitutional referendum held there. Israilov, who returned several days before from a visit to Chechnya, said no information is available about a man from his native village of Saidov who was abducted over 20 days ago during a sweep. Israilov also said he was told that two days ago, Shidaev Bayazit Idrisovich and his two sons, who lived in Grozny, were also abducted in a sweep. The elder son, 14, returned home the next day but did not know where his father and brother are. Israilov demanded that federal troops in Chechnya inform local authorities and relatives where detained people are held and for what reason.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Marii National Organization Changes Leader
A conference of the interregional Marii Ushem (Marii Union) public group replaced Valerii Mochaev as the head of the organization and replaced him with Iraida Stepanova, who headed the Yoshkar-Ola branch, MariNews reported on 18 April. Mochaev stepped down after the forum disagreed with his call to de-politicize the organization and restrict its tasks to the preservation of the Marii language, support of the traditional Marii religion, and development of the Marii culture, the agency said.

GM-AvtoVAZ Won't Assemble Opel Astra
GM-AvtoVAZ head John Milonas said the company has given up on the idea of assembling Opel Astra vehicles at its facilities and will only produce Chevrolet Niva jeeps, reported on 21 April. A month ago, AvtoVAZ Chairman Vladimir Kadannikov said the plant came to an agreement on principle with General Motors on assembling Opel Astra T-3000s at the joint venture. GM-AvtoVAZ, launched in September, produced 456 Chevrolet Nivas in 2002 and is planning to produce 36,000 jeeps this year. Saratov Authorities Make Effort To Prevent Spread Of SARS

The Saratov Oblast Health Ministry on 16 April appealed to businessmen to stop importing
Chinese consumer goods to the oblast as a measure to prevent the spread of the SARS virus, reported the same day. The ministry also recommended that such a measure be extended to Russian regions neighboring the Far East, including Chita, Khabarovsk Krai, and Yakutia.

Yekaterinburg Police Officer Sentenced To 12 Years In Prison For Murder
Yekaterinburg's Kirov Raion Court on 14 April sentenced Lieutenant Matvei Sosnin of the Kirov Raion Interior Ministry department to 12 years in prison for torturing and killing a suspect in detention, reported on 17 April, citing Russian Deputy Prosecutor-General Yurii Zolotov. Sosnin was convicted of killing on 2 November 2001 Aleksei Palichev, whose body he took and buried outside of Yekaterinburg.

Yekaterinburg Prosecutors Allege Large-Scale Money Laundering
The Ural Federal District's Prosecutor-General's Office has filed two criminal cases on laundering large sums of money, Novyi Region reported on 15 April, citing the press service of the district's deputy prosecutor-general. Investigators claim that several Yekaterinburg banks made transfers of $21 million, 600,000 euros, and 1 billion rubles ($32 million) in a short time on behalf of persons who did not possess any money or property. Police claim to have evidence that the operations were intended to launder money of illegal origin.

Yekaterinburg To Present Berezovskii With Lenin Statue
The Yekaterinburg State Property Committee decided to pass to the administration of the town of Berezovskii a statue of Lenin that currently decorates one of Yekaterinburg squares, Novyi Region reported on 18 April. The chairman of the Berezovskii Veterans Council, Gennadii Gulyaev, told the news agency that after vandals blew up the local Lenin monument, communists replaced it with a bust of Lenin, but it was also damaged. Moving and installing the statue from Yekaterinburg will cost the Berezovskii administration 300,000 rubles, the news agency said. Meanwhile, streets and monuments dedicated to Lenin still exist in all of Sverdlovsk Oblast's 78 raion centers, Novyi Region reported on 21 April, citing the Communist Party's Sverdlovsk Oblast Committee. According to the oblast Agriculture Ministry, eight Lenin farms remain in the oblast, while 15 years ago, several dozen farms bore his name.

Udmurtia To Sell Stake In Belkamneft
A united meeting of the Udmurtian State Council presidium and the republic's government on 17 April decided to sell the republic's 33.5 percent stake in the Belkamneft oil company, Den reported the same day. The news agency cited unofficial reports that the most likely buyer of the Udmurtian shares is AFK Sistema or its affiliates. Several days before, the Russian Natural Resources Ministry, which charged Belkamneft with illegally obtaining licenses on oil production, forced Transneft to stop transport of its oil as of 16 April. Deputy Natural Resources Minister Aleksandr Povolotskii said all 15 deposits, with reserves of 80 million tons, of Belkamneft are to be returned to federal property and to be distributed by federal authorities.

Udmurtian Gasoline Sellers Accused Of Setting Prices Too High
The Udmurtian directorate of the Antimonopoly Ministry accused ASPEK and Udmurtnefteprodukt, which together control 85 percent of republic's fuel market, of colluding to set prices too high on fuel, "AiF Udmurtii" reported on 15 April. Directorate head Mikhail Marennikov told the paper that the two companies raised gasoline prices by one ruble as of 9-11 January. Marennikov said the directorate ordered the companies to reduce prices by 25 April. Representatives of the companies, however, deny accusations of collusion, saying the price increase came from the increase of excises and cost of oil on the Russian market.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova