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Tatar-Bashkir Report: March 22, 2002

22 March 2002
Public Joins Discussions On Shape Of Future Constitution
A special working group within Tatarstan's State Council officially stopped accepting draft amendments to the new Tatar Constitution offered by the public on 20 March, RFE/RL's Kazan Bureau reported. According to the group's members interviewed by the republican media the same day, while the number of individuals and political organizations willing to propose their own amendments was expected to be high, the 1,000 proposals was more than was expected. Nearly all political parties and public organizations, Tatarstan's human rights commissioner and the Constitutional Court, and hundreds of urban and rural residents reportedly submitted suggestions, quite often confronting each other. Tatarstan's status within the Russian Federation was reportedly the issue considered by the majority of messages, some of which asked to enter provisions on the republic's sovereignty to the draft, while others demanded that sovereignty not be mentioned at all.

The parliamentary commission on state-building issues, local self-government, and foreign affairs is expected to sum up the proposals and announce which were considered appropriate on 25 March.

Trade Unions Unhappy With Proposed Constitution
State Council Chairman Farit Mukhametshin met the leaders of Tatarstan's Trade Unions Federation on 21 March to discuss changes to be introduced by the new constitution, which is currently being elaborated. The document will reportedly drop an article securing trade unions the right of legislative initiative in the State Council. Federation Chairwoman Tatyana Vodopyanova expressed general dissatisfaction within her organization. Mukhametshin tried reportedly told the group it would still be able to introduce and push for drafts as individuals and by cooperating with political parties.

Federal Prosecutors Close Kazan City Office
The city of Kazan's Prosecutor's Office has been shut down by decree of the federal Prosecutor's Office, Tatarstan's press reported on 22 March. Chief republican prosecutor Kamil Amirov had made a number of statements assuring the public that the city body -- which supporters say has been successful in pursuing organized crime -- would be preserved, especially given the fact that Kazan has more than 1 million inhabitants. In light of the federal Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov's decree, the most notable specialists from the city office are expected to get new jobs at the Amirov's office.

Parliamentary Committee Slams Funds Abuse By Baltach Region Officials
The State Council's Parliamentary Control Committee on 21 March considered numerous allegations of financial abuse by the Baltach region administration, which possesses the highest agricultural sales among Tatarstan's regions at about 1 billion rubles ($32.2 million) in 2001 and at the same time has been late in wages and pensions payments to residents. The committee discovered that about 7 million rubles ($226,000) allotted by the republic for regional veterinary, animal breeding, and emergency services was spent on new cars for the administration staff and distributing interest-free loans among local officials. Baltach administration head Marat Zaripov said, "Nothing can justify what we have done, but we will fix it." Detractors say his seemingly cavalier approach to the committee's investigation bespeak close ties to Agriculture Minister Marat Akhmetov, who before his appointment as minister also headed the Baltach regional administration.

KamAZ Seeks To Return To Afghanistan
KamAZ automotive works and Afghanistan's government signed a protocol of intent to revive the supplies of Tatarstan-produced trucks and spare parts to Kabul, Russian "Izvestiya" daily reported on 22 March. Sides also agreed on rebuilding the KamAZ repair stations for servicing vehicles currently used in Afghanistan. According to Afghan officials, there are over 1,000 state-owned KamAZ trucks and some 5,000 privately owned KamAZ trucks in that country.

Kazan Helicopters Outrun By Cheaper Ulan-Ude Craft
The Malaysian "Star" daily quoted that country's defense minister, Najib Abdul Razak, on 19 March saying that the Malaysian armed forces will purchase 10 multipurpose Mi-171 helicopters produced by Russia's Ulan-Ude helicopter plant. The Kazan Helicopter Plant has also competed for the contract since 1998 by offering its Mi-172 helicopter, which is more expensive.

Ak Bars Says Gerashchenko Departure Does Not Mean Changes
Mudaris Idrisov, board chairman at Tatarstan's Ak Bars Bank, which administers republican government transactions, on 19 March rushed to respond to reports of Russian Central Bank Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko's retirement by saying that it wouldn't change the situation for Ak Bars. "The Central Bank for us is just a monitoring body, and we are obliged to fulfill its orders," Ak Bars officials said. Commenting on the possible fluctuations in the ruble�dollar exchange rate, Idrisov said that his bank's strategy is to keep equal assets and liabilities in dollars. He said that hedged against dollar surges while limiting the bank's possibilities for making money in such cases.

Kirienko Outlines Importance Of Pre-Census Campaign In Volga District
Russian presidential envoy to the Volga federal district, Sergei Kirienko, addressed the government meeting devoted to the approaching national census on 19 March in Nizhnii Novgorod by saying that "the success of the Russia-wide census to a great extend depends on how this campaign goes" in his district.

Kazan Administration Prepares For Holding And International Event In June
Kazan Mayor Kamil Iskhakov visited Marrakech, Morocco, on 18 March to join the 107th session of an international interparliamentary union and receive a UNESCO prize called "Cities for Peace" on the behalf of Tatarstan's capital. On 15 March, Iskhakov took part in a general assembly of historical cities and regions in Strasbourg, France, with a report on preparations for the International Symposium of the European Association of Historical Cities and Regions to be held in Kazan on 20-24 June.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Paper Argues That Ufa Is Ready For Compromise With Moscow...
The Bashkortostan Supreme Court has struck down several aspects of the republic's amended constitution, "Kommersant" reported on 20 March. Justices quashed the inclusion of the 1994 power-sharing treaty between Ufa and Moscow in the constitution's preamble, a requirement for presidential candidates to speak Bashkir, and the condition of republican citizenship. The court announced that 20 of 55 paragraphs challenged by prosecutors contradict federal legislation and 13 more paragraphs are invalid. The paper commented that the very existence of an "anti-Bashkortostan decision" by the republic's Supreme Court �- a body highly dependent on the opinion of local leadership �- proves the latter's readiness to agree on an even bigger compromise with Moscow. Only yesterday the republican leadership firmly defended Bashkortostan's sovereignty, the paper noted.

However, the court upheld constitutional paragraphs asserting republican sovereignty and empowering the republic's president to declare states of emergency and appoint members of the republican election commission, "Parlamentskaya gazeta" reported on 21 March.

Russian Deputy Prosecutor-General Aleksandr Zvyagintsev said he will appeal the verdict.

...As Legislators Chafe At Court Decision
Legislative Assembly members at a 21 March session showed their indignation at a Bashkortostan Supreme Court ruling striking down clauses of an amended republican constitution, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported the same day. Parliamentarians said the verdict was adopted too hastily, and without any legal or linguistic expertise. They said Moscow pressure forced a rushed ruling that is of a political rather than a juridical nature. Russia is refusing federative principles and is turning into a unitary state, some deputies alleged.

A Bashkortostan Prosecutor's Office representative said the verdict may be appealed and annulled by a higher body and advised deputies to try such a course. But the representative added that the Russian Supreme Court may pass a more devastating ruling. The Prosecutor's Office was criticized by deputies for heeding only federal legislation and failing to supervise the way republican laws are implemented.

Zufar Yenikeev said Bashkortostan's first constitution, crafted in 1925, shared a similar fate: Democratic provisions it included did not go into force either. He suggested that the republic adopt "an opposition program."

Deputy Raisa Orenburkina noted that the republic based its constitutional harmonization efforts on a letter of recommendations from Russian President Vladimir Putin to the Bashkir parliament. Specifically, Putin called on the republican legislature to use the 1994 power-sharing treaty between Moscow and Ufa as groundwork in amending the constitution. Orenburkina suggested that the parliament appeal to Putin, as "there is nobody else wishing to hear us."

Deputy Irek Musin criticized the removal of a "nationality" entry from the Russian passport despite citizens' right to identify themselves with any nation is fixed in both Russian and Bashkir constitutions. "If previously I was a Bashkir, now I do not know who I am so both those constitutions disappointed me," he said. Musin stressed that a pardon right passed by a presidential decree to federation entities is a power of federal authorities, according to the Russian Constitution. So Putin's decree contradicts the Russian Constitution but the Prosecutor-General's Office for some reasons does not protest it, he asserted.

Deputy Valiakhmet Badretdinov suggested that a referendum be held on the most controversial of the constitutional amendments.

Government Paints A Picture Of Nuclear Station Advantages
The cabinet on 20 March discussed a draft declaration of intent on the construction of the Bashkir Nuclear Power Station in Agidel, the presidential press service reported. Deputy Prime Minister Engels Kulmukhametov said the document stresses expediency in carrying out the project, which could plug an energy deficit and help save 8.5 million tons of alternative fuel annually. Participants cited environmental advantages of the project versus other energy sources. The approved declaration is due to be signed by the Bashkir government and the Russian Atomic Energy Ministry, the service said.

German Bank Multiplies Credit To UralSib
German Bayerische Hypolind Vereinsbank AG increased a credit within its framework agreement with the UralSib Bank from 5 million euros to 20 million euros, Bashinform reported on 21 March. The German bank also prolonged the terms of the credit and reduced the accompanying interest rate. The agreement includes a contract on the delivery of 300 Windcor Nixdorf facilities for issuing ACCORD chip cards.

Government Asserts That 70 Percent Of Enterprises Are Profitable
Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Sigakov told a government meeting on 20 March that portion of unprofitable companies fell by 5 percentage points to 30 percent of republican enterprises, the presidential press service reported. The cabinet urged the Ufa administration to boost efforts to shut down unprofitable companies. Growth in workplace injuries, professional diseases, and road accidents was also reported at the meeting.

Ukrainians Praise Bashkir Leadership
The chairman of the Ukrainian National-Cultural Center Kobzar, Vladimir Doroshenko, told a press conference devoted to the Year of Ukraine in Russia on 18 March that his organization "has full understanding with republican authorities and enjoys support in all initiatives." Doroshenko said nine of Russia's 12 Sunday Ukrainian schools operate in Bashkortostan. Roughly 60,000 Ukrainians currently live in the republic.

A representative from the Russian Foreign Ministry in Ufa, Zinnur Mardanov, said trade turnover between Bashkortostan and Ukraine has more than doubled in the past three years to $157 million in 2001.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Kirov Oblast Mufti Seeks Help In Combating Wahhabism
The chief federal inspector to Kirov Oblast, Valentin Pugach, pledged his support to local Muslim leaders in their fight against Wahhabism, reported on 21 March. Pugach was commenting on his meeting with the head of the Kirov Oblast's Muslim Religious Board, Abdunnur Kamaluddin, at which the two discussed problems faced by the Muslim community. The mufti expressed his concern about the spread of Wahhabism, which officials view as a radical interpretation of Islam, in the south of the oblast, especially in the Vyatsko-Polyanskii Raion. He asserted that there are many well-educated ideologists who have graduated from Saudi Arabian universities among the Wahhabis and called for establishing educational institutions in the oblast to train priests to promote more traditional Islam. Kamaluddin stressed that only a few Muslim leaders are actively fighting Wahhabism and that they do not enjoy any support �- financial, personnel, or in the form of information.

Mordovian Libraries Suffering Shortage Of Books, Growing Readership
The number of libraries in Mordovia has fallen by 14 in the past decade, while total books on hand fell by 750,000 copies, reported on 20 March. The number of readers, on the other hand, grew by 35,000, the website said. The republic's libraries were given 250,000 rubles ($8,000) for subscriptions to print publications in the first six months of the current year, some 30 percent of what they say is required.

Law Enforcement Looks For Anti-Putin Authors In Sverdlovsk Oblast
The Sverdlovsk Oblast Prosecutor's Office is investigating leaflets criticizing President Vladimir Putin that turned up in Serov, Nevyansk, and Nizhnii Tagil, Uralinformbureau reported on 19 March. The local bodies of the Interior Affairs Ministry and Federal Security Service found several hundred such leaflets -- in which exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky and Governor Eduard Rossel are cited urging a "stop [to] the dictatorship of President Putin." The agency quoted the Serov Interior Board saying it was unable to find anyone who either ordered or printed the leaflets.

Ural Officials Offer Differing Views Of U.S. Steel Duties
A rise in import duties for Russian-made steel introduced by the United States will positively affect further economic development in the Sverdlovsk Oblast, International and Foreign Economic Relations Minister Yurii Osintsev said on 20 March, Uralinformbureau reported. Osintsev believes the measure will force the industry to cooperate more closely with the machine-making sector and develop new processing projects. However, to provide for stable social-economic development, 5 billion rubles ($161 million) should be invested into the industry in the oblast every year, he added.

Meanwhile, Deputy Presidential Ural District Envoy Viktor Basargin said the same day that the new duties may directly affect the development of steelmaking in the district, primarily at Magnitorogsk Metallurgy Plant, which is its main steel exporter. Basargin also said competitiveness may increase as new players -� such as China �- appear on the Russian metal market.

Jewish Community Insists On Challenge Against Yekaterinburg Eparchy
Jewish public groups in Yekaterinburg appealed to Russian Deputy Prosecutor-General Yurii Zolotov to protest a decision by the Prosecutor's Office to close a criminal case against the Yekaterinburg Eparchy which, they charge, rouses national and religious hatred, "Novyi region" reported on 18 March. The president of the Jewish National-Cultural Autonomy in the Sverdlovsk Oblast, Mikhail Oshtrakh, has sued the eparchy for "spreading materials rousing national and religious hatred." But after ordering historical, linguistic, and cultural expert research, prosecutors concluded the eparchy's publications contain no such thing. The Yekaterinburg Jewish Community and the Congress of Russia's National Associations in Sverdlovsk Oblast called on Zolotov to initiate another, "more qualified" investigation.

Kurgan Resident Freed After Reportedly Spending Nine Years In Chechen Slavery
Aleksandr Lavrushchev, a 42-year-old Kurgan Oblast resident, was freed by Russian military forces in Chechnya's Urus-Martan Raion after reportedly spending nine years in captivity, RIA-Novosti reported on 20 March, referring to United Troops Force staff. Lavrushchev claims he was enslaved in 1993 and was kept initially in the village of Novyi Alleroi in the Shali Raion and then in the Gekhi-Chu rural area of the Urus-Martan Raion. He was reportedly forced to construct hiding places for weapons and to bury the dead.

Liberal Russia Activist Attacked In Perm
A member of the Liberal Russia political council, Aleksandr Kostarev, was beaten by three assailants after entering his apartment building in Perm on 19 March, Region-Inform-Perm reported, citing Liberal Russia's press service.

Schoolchildren Who Found Mysterious Powder Suffering From Skin Irritation
A white powder on a parcel students found in a secondary school in the village of Oktyabrskii in the Kirov Oblast appears to have brought on skin irritation and other effects, "Vyatskii krai" reported on 19 March. Schoolchildren were evacuated and the building was inspected by raion sanitary, emergency, and interior officials who said the powder is likely of chemical rather than biological origin. The substance was to undergo analysis.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova