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Tatar-Bashkir Report: February 10, 2004

10 February 2004
Tupras Takeover By Tatneft Affiliate Rumored To Be In Peril
The Turkish government will soon make a final decision on confirming the purchase of the state's stake in the Tupras petrochemical firm by the Zorlu group and the German-based Efremov Kautschuk, "Vedomosti" wrote on 9 February. According to the paper, citing Bloomberg and the Turkish "Vatan" daily, results of the tender may be disputed due to alleged violations in the company's privatization. Nevertheless, "Vedomosti" also added that Turkish privatization-administration spokesman Inci Alturk refused to confirm this information.

According to previous reports, the Turkish Zorlu group joined forces with Efremov Kautschuk, which has ties to Tatneft, to bid on a tender for the state's controlling stake in Tupras, which unites a number of the country's oil-processing companies. The two bid $1.3 billion for the 65.78 percent stake but later Tatneft denied any connection to the deal (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 16 January 2004).

Nizhnekamskneftekhim, Tatenergo Reach Compromise
Tuben Kama Petrochemical Company (Nizhnekamskneftekhim) and Tatenergo will establish a joint venture for renovating TETs-1, a gas-powered heating and power plant in Tuben Kama, Tatarinform reported on 9 February. Both sides will make equal contributions to the $190 million project, and benefit from obtaining the energy at its production cost.

Earlier this year Nizhnekamskneftekhim sought to cut its expenses on electricity by violating Tatenergo's monopoly in the region and building its own power plant. This decision was strongly opposed by President Mintimer Shaimiev and the republic's government. According to the energy company's official policy, industrial energy consumers are offered high tariffs in order to compensate for the low tariffs offered to private consumers.

USK Finishes Registration Of Parliamentary Candidates
Tatarstan's Central Election Commission (USK) officially registered 230 candidates running for the republic's parliament in 50 single-mandate districts, the USK's press service announced on 9 February. As a result an average of over four candidates will fight for votes in each district in the 14 March vote, while in some areas as many as eight candidates will face off. In the single-mandate districts, 126 candidates have the backing of political parties, while 104 are independent.

The other 50 parliamentary seats will be distributed among eight political parties proposing a total of 187 candidates.

Police Officer Arrested For Involvement In Criminal Group
The anti-organized-crime department of the Chally city police detained an unnamed officer of the city's Avtozavoskoi District police department as he was attaching a booby trap to a private car, Tatarinform reported on 9 February. The officer was reportedly following the orders of a local criminal group, which is known for intimidating and extorting local businessmen.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Tatar Leaders In Bashkortostan Plan Further Steps To Raise Status Of Tatar Language...
Heads of Tatar civic groups gathered on 7 February in Ufa to consider measures on promoting the state status of the Tatar language in Bashkortostan, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent and reported on 9 February. On 6 January, Tatar public leaders sent an appeal to Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov asking that the issue be resolved soon. After reportedly receiving no response, the leaders have sent an appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Ramil Bignov, the deputy chairman of Bashkortostan's Tatar Congress Executive Committee, said the issue of the status of the Tatar language has been on the agenda within the republic's Tatar organizations since 1998 when the law on the republic's languages was adopted. Bignov said that Rakhimov was re-elected as president in December 2003 as Tatars trusted his promise to raise the status of the Tatar language. However, if this promise is not fulfilled, the result of the next presidential elections will be different, Bignov said. By failing to resolve the language issue, the republic's leadership is working against Bashkirs, he said.

Zahir Khekimov, the leader of Bashkortostan's Tatar National Front, said if the Russian president does not respond to the appeal then Tatar organizations should organize pickets. Khekimov said in the republic's Chaqmagysh Raion, where 90 percent of residents are Tatars, there is not a single street sign in Tatar. He said that in the raion's Chavash village of Yumash, there are many street signs in Chavash.

Composer Alik Loqmanov said that poor conditions exist in the republic to satisfy Tatars' cultural needs. He said that Bashkir state television, which broadcasts for 100 hours a week, distributes only up to 30 minutes of Tatar programming. He said that Tatar organizations have been asking for an increase in broadcasting time, but the republic's leadership seems unwilling to solve the issue.

...As Bashkir Official Says Raising Language Status Would Violate Bashkir Rights
At the meeting, Emir Yuldashbaev, the head of the Bashkir presidential administration's information department, said the Bashkir language is to be given priority in the republic, like Tatar in Tatarstan and Chavash in Chavashia. He said people who believe the "Tatar issue" will be solved immediately if the language is given a higher status are mistaken. He added that there are more pressing issues in the republic, in particular those involving developments in agriculture, industry, and the social sector. Yuldashbaev also said that the Bashkir World Congress members strongly oppose giving any status to Tatar. Yuldashbaev said that there is no entity in Russia that has more than two state languages. Radik Sibegetov, a philology professor and a deputy chairman of Bashkortostan's Tatar Congress, disagreed and said there were numerous examples of entities with more than one state language, including the Altai Republic and Daghestan.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova
Opposition TV Company Off The Air In Nizhnii Tagil
Telekon, an opposition television company in the city of Nizhnii Tagil, stopped broadcasting on 2 February after its transmission cables were destroyed, Novyi region reported on 3 February. The damage was found in the transmission center, which is located in the city administration building. The station's management says that the cables were sabotaged by the city authorities. The police are investigating the incident. Telekon General Director Aleksei Skomorokhov told a press conference on 9 February that three unnamed police officers detained three Telekon workers as they were repairing the cables thus preventing the station from resuming transmission. Skomorokhov said that Telekon will sue police representatives and the Nizhnii Tagil administration for the damage, amounting to some 300,000 rubles ($10,544). In December 2003, Telekon was told by the city authorities it could not prolong its rental agreement and must vacate the premises by 3 February. On 3 February, the company proposed a referendum to defend independent mass media in the region.

Synagogue, Jewish Library Set On Fire In Chelyabinsk
Unknown perpetrators tried on 5 February to set fire to a synagogue and Jewish library in Chelyabinsk, reported the same day. Three bottles with an incendiary mixture were thrown into the synagogue and one into the library that is located on the second floor of the two-story wood building. Neighbors who noticed the fire managed to extinguish it before fire officers came. Police are investigating whether the incident was hooliganism or an anti-Semitic action.

Karabash Residents Hope Presidential Elections Will Solve Environmental Problems
A group of residents from Karabash, in the Chelyabinsk Oblast, collected several hundred signatures in an appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin about local environmental problems, reported on 5 February. People said they will boycott the Russian presidential elections if no measures are taken by the Russian government to resolve them. Environmentalists say that a local copper plant in Karabash pollutes the area with copper, lead, zinc, and arsenic. The Karabash Copper Plant was launched in 1910 and shut down in 1990 by the Soviet government because of environment concerns. That decision was reversed in 1998. Activists say that the plant has caused high rates of disease and death in the region.

Workers End Hunger Strike In Kurgan Oblast
On 9 February, three workers from Kurgan Oblast's Kataisk Pump Plant ended a hunger strike after five days, Novyi region reported on 9 February. Vladimir Khudyakov, Andrei Shaidurov, and Petr Kuznetsov demanded that the closure of the plant be stopped and back wages for the last four months be paid to all the plant's employees. The strikers also backed an initiative by a group of Kataisk residents to merge Kataisk with the Sverdlovsk Oblast. By 2 February, 1,000 signatures had been collected in Kataisk, which has a population of 15,000, Novyi region reported on 2 February.

Samara Resident Sees Hunger Strike As A Chance To Receive Medical Treatment
Human rights activist and writer Tatyana Kuznetsova has been holding a hunger strike in Samara since 30 January, "Samara Segodnya" reported on 3 February. Kuznetsova is demanding that the authorities carry out an audit of the Asko-Med insurance company, which is responsible for covering medical treatment of Samara residents in city hospitals. According to Kuznetsova, she has been refused treatment for a chronic illness over 50 times in the past six months.

Police Major Arrested For Taking Bribes In Sverdlovsk Oblast
The former head of the Chkalovskii police department's counter-narcotics taskforce Major Nazir Salimov was detained on 5 February by the Federal Security Service (FSB) after allegedly taking a 200,000 rubles ($7,024) bribe, reported the same day. According to police sources, the lawyer of an alleged drug trafficker gave Salimov the money in a bid to have his client's case closed. The FSB reportedly recorded the transaction. If convicted, Salimov could face between seven and 12 years in prison. The Azerbaijani community within the Sverdlovsk Oblast is raising money to bail out Salimov, an ethnic Azeri, Novyi region reported on 9 February, citing an unidentified source within the FSB's Sverdlovsk Directorate. Recently, Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel launched a campaign against corruption and the black economy and named several "inefficient owners" who would soon become a target of law enforcers.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova