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Tatarstan Nationalist Leader Encouraged By Court Ruling On Kosovo

Fauziya Bayramova, the chairwoman of the Milli Medjlis, welcomed the decision
Fauziya Bayramova, the chairwoman of the Milli Medjlis, welcomed the decision
KAZAN, Tatarstan -- There have been mixed reactions in the Russian republic of Tatarstan to the International Court of Justice's (ICJ) ruling that Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia did not violate international law, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reports.

There has been no official comment by officials in Tatarstan about the court's ruling on July 22.

But the decision was welcomed by Fauzia Bayramova, the chairwoman of the Milli Medjlis, a self-proclaimed pan-Tatar national assembly. She said on July 23 that she hopes Tatarstan can follow the same path as Kosovo and declare its independence.

"The [ICJ] decision on Kosovo gives us [Tatar independence activists] hope and the chance that in the future Tatarstan and other nations of [Russia's] Volga region can become independent," Bayramova told RFE/RL. "But the leadership of Tatarstan has never appealed to the international community asking for recognition of Tatarstan's sovereignty [and] I don't believe they would do it now."

In 2008, the Milli Medjlis sent out a proclamation on Tatarstan independence to the United Nations and more than 30 other countries. The appeal was later published on several websites and received a lot of publicity.

It came just a few months after Russia had recognized the independence of the breakaway Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Russian authorities said the Milli Medjlis appeal was an attempt to violate Russia's territorial integrity and that it provoked interethnic hatred.

In February, Bayramova was found guilty of fomenting interethnic hatred via the media and given a one-year suspended sentence.

But Midkhat Farukshin, a professor of political science at Kazan State University, said the UN court decision will make no impact on political life in Tatarstan.

"Tatarstan and Kosovo are in different situations," he told RFE/RL. "You can't compare them to each other. The status of Kosovo can be compared to Abkhazia or South Ossetia, but never to the republics in the Russian Federation. There is no separatism [in Russia]."

Tatarstan is about 800 kilometers east of Moscow. It has a population of some 3.8 million that includes a large ethnic Russian minority.