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Tatar-Bashkir Report: February 25, 2005

25 February 2005
First Car For Kazan Subway Produced
The St. Petersburg-based Vagonmash company on 24 February in St. Petersburg finished the first train for the Kazan subway, Prime-TASS reported the same day. Vagonmash won a tender to build cars for the subway in 2004. The 1.5 billion-ruble ($54 million) project was financed by the federal government. Vagonmash is producing trains in cooperation with the Czech company Skoda dopravni technika, which provides and installs electrical and other equipment for them, and will also provide maintenance for three years. The train will be initially tested in the St. Petersburg underground.

Kazan Mayor Kamil Iskhaqov said at the ceremony that by 30 August, when the Kazan subway will be launched, Vagonmash will have delivered five trains of four cars each, and a total of 10 such trains under the contract.

Tatar-Italian Venture To Produce Agricultural Vehicle
Tatneft General Director Shefeget Takhawetdinov and Italy's RAM President Alberto Fantini on 24 February signed a memorandum on setting up a joint investment project to produce agricultural vehicles in Leninogorsk, reported the same day, citing the Tatneft press service. The Russian-Italian joint venture is to employ up to 100 people will produce tractors and harvesters. Tatneft will invest 600,000 euros ($792,000) in the project while RAM will contribute 1.5 million euros ($1.98 million) and technology.

President Calls For Lowering Cost Of Municipal Services
President Mintimer Shaimiev said on 24 February that the most important task of the current stage of the housing and municipal-services reform is reducing the cost of the services by up to two-thirds within two or three years, "Kommersant-Volga-Urals" reported on 25 February. Speaking at a meeting of the Housing Ministry board, Shaimiev said costs could be reduced through the radical modernization of heating systems and transition to more modern, efficient technologies. Housing Minister Marat Khosnullin said at the meeting that 7 billion rubles will be allocated for reforming the republic's heating and energy system in the next five years as part of a program to reform and modernize housing and municipal services initiated in late 2004.

Kremlin Official Meets With Muslim Leaders
Russian deputy presidential-administration head Vladislav Surkov met on 22 February with a group of Russia's Muslim leaders, Tatarinform reported on 24 February. Council of Muftis of Russia Chairman Ravil Gainutdin, Tatarstan's Muslim Religious Board Chairman Gosman Iskhaqov, and Nizhnii Novgorod and Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast Muslim Religious Board Chairman Umar Idrisov took part in the meeting, during which the participation of Muslim organizations in the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II was discussed. Another issue on the agenda concerned religious education, including publishing textbooks for Muslim educational institutions and training imams. Participants criticized the media for spreading negative images regarding Islam as a religion disseminating evil. Ways for religious organizations to cooperate in spreading objective information about Islam, Muslims, and Muslim organizations were also considered.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Rakhimov Denounces Attempt To Remove Bashkir Parliamentary Speaker
President Murtaza Rakhimov told a closed-doors meeting of the Bashkir State Assembly on 24 February that "a group of parliamentary deputies representing the fuel and energy industry" in Bashkortostan had attempted to remove Bashkir State Assembly Chairman Konstantin Tolkachev, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. The group of deputies was Ural Rakhimov, the president's son and chairman of Bashkirenergo's board of directors; Nikolai Kurapov, Bashkirenergo's general director; Rustem Ishalin, the general director of the Bashkirnefteprodukt oil-refining company; and Viktor Gantsev, head of the Institute of Regional Economy and Law, which manages the assets of Ufa's oil refineries.

The deputies reportedly managed to collect some 40 votes, instead of the 60 necessary for removing Tolkachev. During the parliamentary session, Deputy Nadezhda Krylova appealed to Tolkachev and asked for forgiveness for being among the group seeking his removal. She said that she had joined the group because "threats of dismissal" were made against her relatives.

According to representatives of the Bashkir opposition, interviewed by RFE/RL on 24 February and who wished to remain anonymous, the current developments are attempts by Rakhimov to show himself as a defender of state interests and dissociate himself from his son, who has taken control over most of Bashkortostan's petrochemical industries.

Bashkortostan Appoints New Chief Prosecutor
Aleksandr Konovalov was confirmed by an overwhelming parliamentary majority on 24 February as Bashkortostan's new chief prosecutor, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. President Rakhimov had earlier proposed Konovalov for the role. Konovalov previously worked as a deputy chief prosecutor in St. Petersburg. Mikhail Zelepukin, who has served as acting chief prosecutor for past year, will become the deputy chief prosecutor.

Complied by Iskender Nurmi