From: MSN NicknameEagle_wng (Original Message) Sent: 2/23/2007 9:23 AM Russian Federation Council HQ / photo: Lenta.ru Russian Federation Council HQ / photo: Lenta.ru Russian Parliament Rejects Power Sharing Agreement With Muslim Internal Republic
MosNews Russia’s upper house of parliament on Wednesday rejected an agreement on separation of authority between the federal government and Tatarstan, The Associated Press news agency reports. The Federation Council voted 93-13 with 15 abstensions to reject the document, which maintained the Tatar language’s dominant status in the province and reaffirmed local authorities’ grip on its mineral wealth. The lower house of Russian parliament approved the agreement earlier this month. Both houses of parliament are dominated by the Kremlin, and the rejection of the treaty by the upper house indicated its desire to keep Tatarstan’s ambitions at bay. The oil-rich, predominantly Muslim region on the Volga River has enjoyed the broadest autonomy among Russian provinces, and fears that it may try to secede following Chechnya’s example have haunted the Kremlin since the Soviet collapse. Since President Vladimir Putin came to power in 2000, he has pushed through laws limiting the region’s self-rule and strengthening federal authority. Tatarstan’s regional president, Mintimer Shaimiyev, initially opposed a Kremlin-initiated law scrapping popular elections of regional chiefs and enabling Putin to effectively appoint them instead. However, he made a turnaround, and last year won Putin’s blessing for another term in office. The power-sharing agreement, which Tatarstan proposed last year, lowered its ambitions but still gave the province far more autonomy than other regions. The agreement, which needs to be ratified by the federal parliament, obliged the leader of Tatarstan to speak the Tatar language in addition to Russian and allowed regional authorities to issue “internal passports” - the main identification document for Russian citizens — with an insert in Tatar. Among other things, the agreement also stated that the federal government and Tatarstan’s regional administration are to reach a deal giving Tatarstan authorities a say in decisions on economic, environmental, cultural and other issues in the region. The 1991 Soviet collapse encouraged pro-independence movements among Tatars, whose warrior ancestors conquered Russia in the early 13th century. Tatar historians and veterans have urged the Kremlin to stop celebrating a 14th-century battle in which a Moscow prince defeated their forebears, calling it an insult to their ethnic pride, and Shaimiyev recently expressed concern about a rise in ethnic bias among ethnic Russians.
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