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BBC Monitoring
Tatarstan nationalists threaten Russia with repeat of Chechen scenario
Source: Ren TV, Moscow, in Russian 1830 gmt 11 Feb 03

[Presenter] The Russian Prosecutor-General's Office has taken the Tatarstan parliament to court. Moscow believes that 19 articles of the new constitution of Tatarstan run counter to the federal law and 18 of them are void because they have already been recognized to be in violation of the Russian constitution. Tomorrow [12 February], the Tatarstan Supreme Court will start considering a statement made by Russian Deputy Prosecutor-General [Aleksandr] Zvyagintsev. If Tatarstan is stripped of its - albeit limited - sovereignty, Tatar nationalists threaten Moscow with actions of disobedience and a repeat of the Chechen scenario.

[Correspondent Asya Goyzman, over video showing an elderly woman sawing a log] Anna Nikolyaevna Romancheva is a citizen of the Republic of Tatarstan. She lives in a half ruined house but it stands in Ulitsa Svobody [Freedom Street], in a democratic legal state united with the Russian Federation. This state is a sovereign one - within the limits of its powers - and rejects war and violence. Its coat of arms, flag and anthem reflect the sovereignty of the republic and its president must be fluent in two state languages - Tatar and Russian.

All the above is stipulated in the constitution of Tatarstan and - in the opinion of the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office - runs counter to the federal law. From a formal point of view, the 37 articles of the Tatarstan constitution are a subject for a legal dispute between the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office and the republic's State Council [parliament]. But everybody here realizes that the dispute is a political one. The Kazan Kremlin does not want to share power with the Moscow Kremlin and to give up the last remnants of its freedom and independence.

Tatarstan under [President Vladimir] Putin's rule is very much different from the Tatarstan under [former Russian President Boris] Yeltsin. It is being said in Kazan that Russia is turning from a federal state into a unitary one. If there is anybody who does not see the difference, it will be readily explained to them.

[Marat Galeyev, member of the Tatarstan State Council] For Tatarstan, it has already resulted in an increase of unemployment, a reduction of the [regional] budget by almost a half, and a reduction in road construction by some 60 per cent.

[Correspondent] But - as the popular phrase goes - Moscow does not believe in tears. That is why a plenary session of the All-Tatarstan Public Centre is being held at the National Cultural Centre in Kazan. With a tacit approval of the Tatarstan authorities, it is issuing various warnings to Moscow. Meaningful photos are being put on display by the rostrum: leaders of Tatar nationalists are depicted together with Chechen field commanders. Also, a book called "Jihad of the Tatar People" is on sale for as little as R10. Besides, threatening statements are being made.

[Rafis Kashapov, chairman of the Naberezhnyye Chelny branch of the All-Tatarstan Public Centre] If this pressure on Tatarstan and the republics of the Volga region continues, it will lead to - I would say - extreme measures.

[Correspondent] What do you mean by extreme measures?

[Kashapov] Well, look at what happened in Chechnya.

[Correspondent] Russia is urged to give up its policy of a major power and an empire, and to leave the sovereign state of Tatarstan and its constitution in peace.

[Farit Khabibullin, chairman of the Tatarstan People's Front] We are quite capable of feeding ourselves and providing for ourselves. And we stand firmly in support of our sovereignty.

[Correspondent] A member of the Tatarstan State Council, Midkhat Kurmanov, is trying to smooth things down. Indeed, from the formal point of view, many articles of the Tatarstan constitution run counter to the federal law. But Moscow should not be worried by it so much. It is all a trifle.

[Kurmanov, Tatarstan State Council member] They [the articles] do not lead to a threat to the security of the Russian Federation, to a threat to its defence capability. They will not prevent the federal agencies from exercising their authority on the territory of Tatarstan.

[Correspondent] The Martynovs are pensioners. They refrain from taking part in the discussion on the Tatarstan constitution. They say that there is no difference whether Tatarstan is a sovereign republic or not. In any event, it takes the ambulance three hours to arrive and pensioners do not receive free medicines [they are entitled to].

[German Martynov, pensioner] You go there once, there are no medicines available. You come the next day, they tell you to come in a week's time. You come in a week, they tell you: there are no medicines. So you just give up. So much for free medicines. Who cares what sort of constitution there is? It does not make any difference for us. We are one foot in the grave already.

[Video shows local scenes, session of the All-Tatarstan Public Centre]

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