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Tatar-Bashkir Report: March 22, 2005

22 March 2005
Cyprus Delegation In Tatarstan
An official Cypriot delegation headed by Trade, Industry, and Tourism Minister Iorgos Lillikas began a two-day visit to Tatarstan on 21 March, Tatar-Inform reported. Following a meeting with Tatar Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov, Lillikas told reporters that power engineering, industry, and high-technology are promising directions of cooperation. He said the Cypriot side is planning to arrange a joint seminar of the commerce and industry chambers of Tatarstan and Cyprus to promote closer contacts among representatives of small and medium-sized businesses. Tatar Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation Minister Khefiz Salikhov said the volume of business partnership between Cyprus and Tatarstan is far from optimal. On 22 March, the sides signed a memorandum of understanding. The delegation met with the leadership of Tatneft on 21 March, and the sides discussed possibilities for a long-term agreement on deliveries of Tatneft production to Cyprus.

Tatneft To Extract Oil In Syria
Tatneft has signed a contract on exploration and development of a new oil-and-gas deposit in Syria, RIA-Novosti reported on 21 March. Syrian Oil Minister Ibrahim Haddad said at the ceremony that "this is the first Russian company in the past two years that signed a contract to take part in oil production in Syria." Tatneft Deputy General Director Khemit Qawiev said the contract is the first one signed by a Russian company in the wake of the January visit to Moscow of Syrian President Bashar Asad. Under the document, Tatneft and the Syrian State Oil Company obtain exclusive right to prospect and extract oil and gas from a field of 1,900 square kilometers in the Deir-ez-Zor Province. Tatneft will invest more than $26 million in prospecting works and $1 million in social and educational programs in Syria over the next seven years.

German Law Enforcers Stop Prosecution Of Citizen Sued In Tatarstan
German law enforcement bodies have stopped a criminal case against German citizen Uve Kruger, who was sued in Tatarstan for allegedly attempting to purchase explosives illegally (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 30 April and 1 July 2004), Tatar-Inform reported on 21 March, citing Kruger's lawyer, Sergei Pronin. Kruger is staying in Nizhnekamsk under a written undertaking not to leave the city. He was accused by investigators of intending to blow up his house in Berlin to obtain an insurance of several hundred thousand euros. The trial against Kruger in Russia has been going on for 21 months behind closed doors. The next hearing is slated for 25 March.

Tatar Taught In Istanbul University
A department specializing in training teachers of Turkish languages, literature, and philology at Marmara University in Istanbul has begun offering courses on Tatar, Tatar-Inform reported on 21 March. Turkish languages specialist Erdal Shahin, who is the author of research on Tatar songs, is delivering lectures on the Tatar language.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Parliament Speaker Calls Blagoveschensk Incident A Violation Of Civil Rights
Konstantin Tolkachev, chairman of Bashkortostan's State Assembly, told reporters on 21 March that he considers the participation of an OMON special police task force in the December 2004 police raid in Blagoveschensk as improper, while the entire operation represented a violation of civil rights, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. Tolkachev also said Blagoveschensk was known as a location where the Soviet Union used to house criminals, and that locals "often feared to go outside their homes." He added that after the appeal of locals, who asked him to bring order to the streets, "police came and showed their low level of professionalism."

Rakhimov Sacks Ministers Of Property Relations, Economic Development
President Murtaza Rakhimov signed a decree on 21 March that dismissed the minister of property relations, Zoefer Ebdrekhimov, and the minister of economic development and industry, Valentin Vlasov, for "failing to ensure the proper fulfillment of their duties," Bashinform reported the same day.

Bashkortostan Cited Among Major Protesters Against Monetization Reform
According to the Russian Center for Political Culture Research (TsIPKR), Bashkortostan was one of the top 10 regions in the Russian Federation to demonstrate most actively against the recent monetization reform, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 21 March. The list also includes Moscow and St. Petersburg, Voronezh, Volgograd, Moscow, Nizhnii Novgorod, and Samara oblasts, Stavropol krai, and the Udmurtia Republic. The center also reported that 1.3 million citizens participated in protest actions in 77 regions across Russia from 9 January to 20 March 2005.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi