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Tatar-Bashkir Report: April 27, 2000

27 April 2000
Shaimiev Says Moscow Could Benefit From Contacts with Maskhadov
Tatarstan's president Mintimer Shaimiev told the press conference on 21 April that in his opinion, it was impossible to "fully exclude the possibility of contacts between the federal authorities and Chechen president Alsan Maskhadov in the process of settling the Chechen conflict." Several days later, some national Russian mass media commented on this statement by saying that Shaimiev's opinion was in sharp contrast with that of Vladimir Putin. The Russian president elect has insisted there should be no negotiations with those whom he called "war criminals".

Mintimer Shaimiev is not the only politician in Russia urging a negotiated regulation of the Chechen conflict. Two members of the Russian Duma, Petr Krasheninnikov, (former Russian minister of justice) and Ella Pamfilova (former presidential candidate) recently stated their readiness to act as peacemakers in the rebel republic. Tatarstan's press has observed that the situation in Chechnya may change from open combat into guerilla war because "militant commanders such as Shamil Basayev and Khattab will never give up for they have nothing to lose." In addition, Chechen president Maskhadov condemned the invasion of Daghestan by Chechen militant groups. The Tatarstan daily, "Vremya i dengi," observed there would be "no capitulation of Chechen military commanders without negotiations. Negotiations are unavoidable."

During his press conference on 21 April, President Shaimiev referred to Ingush President Ruslan Aushev's view that Mashkadov controlled about 60% of Chechen militants. Regardless of the accuracy of this estimate, if this force were to be withdrawn from the conflict, it would significantly reduce the power of the insurgents.

In his interview with the "Financial Times" correspondent on 19 April, Shaimiev did not exclude the possibility of joint efforts by Russian Federation and Maskhadov's troops to fight Basayev's and Khattab's forces. "This idea might seem absurd," Shaimev said, "but in time such a variant might come to pass. There's nothing impossible in politics. For example, the Russian authorities have freed Beslan Gantemirov from prison to name him chief of the Chechen militia to fight the bandits. Now Gantemirov has given up his claims on power. Why? First of all, it lead one to conclude that Moscow has not yet decided on whom to rely in the future and who would likely win the support of majority in ChechnyaŠ" According to the Tatarstan president, the Kremlin could deploy Maskhadov's personal hostility to Shamil Basayev, Khattab and Movladi Udugov to select a suitable leader for the rebel republic.

Will Tatarstan also be sued by the Russian Ministry of Taxation?
The Russian Ministry of Taxation has sued the Bashkortostan Republic for non payment of taxes to the federation road fund, news agencies reported on 24 April. Russian national and regional media said this was only the first step by federation authorities in limiting the financial autonomy of Russian regions. Other comments claimed that the Tatarstan Republic was the next target for the ministry. During the recent presidential elections, the Russian national media speculated on whether the new Kremlin ruler would revise relations with those sovereign republics in the Russian Federation with power-sharing treaties with the center. A law suit brought by the federal Ministry of Taxes against Bashkortostan was the first confirmation of such suppositions. According to the daily "Kommersant," Bashkortsotan "has not paid a kopek to the Federal road fund in last 3 years." According to the Tatarstan press, the law suit did not reveal the initiation of a new federal campaign, but was rather the "personal initiative of Russian Minister of Taxation, Alexander Pochinok, who had a long-standing quarrel with Bashkir president, Murtaza Rakhimov." In his comment to the press on 21 April, Tatarstan President Shaimiev said "our republic is not threatened by such a law suit, because Tatarstan, unlike Bashkortostan, is acting according to the inter-budget treaty between the Tatarstan and Russian governments." According to this treaty, the republic is the sole financial source for federal programs on its territory, benefiting only from federal tax recessions without getting any transfers from federal budget.

Failed Attempt To Sell Lethal Chemicals In Chistay
Two residents of the Chistay regional center in Tatarstan were detained when trying to sell a box of containers with yperite, lewisite, zarin and other dangerous gases, Tatarstan media reported on 27 April. One of the two women detainees stole a box of samples of lethal chemicals from the local civil defense center where she worked. Representatives of the Tatarstan interior ministries posed as possible buyers of this package. It turned out that these "containers" held only fake gas. The women were sentenced to two years of a suspended sentence due to their good employment references and their frank confessions of guilt.

According to Tatarstan law enforcement, the women were offered 50 thousand rubles for the containers [less than $1800]. In case the real containers of this capacity were unleashed in a city the size of Kazan, the death toll would have reached about 30 thousand people.

Kyrgyzstan Interested In Tatarstan's Industry
According to the Kyrgyz Deputy Prime Minister Boris Silayev visiting Tatarstan on 24-25 April, the Kyrgyzstan Republic intends to significantly expand its cooperation with the industrial enterprises of Tatarstan. Silayev said that his republic was mostly interested in supplies of KamAZ heavy trucks and spare parts, products of the Alabuga automotive works, helicopters of Kazan Helicopter Plant, equipment from the Kazan optics factory and chemical products.

According to the Tatarstan Ministry of Trade, foreign trade turnover between TR and Kyrgyzstan reached $5 million in 1999 marking a 1.3 times decrease comparing to the previous year. Forty one percent of Tatarstan's exports to Kyrgyzstan were represented by tires of Tuben Kama tires factory and 14,1 percent by machinery. Tatarstan traditionally imports Kyrgyz cotton and tobacco.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi.