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Tatar-Bashkir Report: April 23, 2004

23 April 2004
FSB Chief Visits Kazan-Based Islamic University
Federal Security Service (FSB) chief Nikolai Patrushev visited the Islamic University of Russia in Kazan on 22 April to tour its educational facilities and participate in a roundtable on the university's history and ways to promote religious tolerance, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported today (see "RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Report," 22 April 2004). At the roundtable, Patrushev told Tatarstan State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin, first deputy Prime Minister Rawyl Moratov, Security Council Secretary Viner Salimov, and university rector and republican Muslim Religious Board Chairman Gosman Iskhaqov, "There are some circles that are trying to use Islam for extremist purposes." But he stressed, "Islam, being one of the classical religions, has nothing in common with extremism and expressions of terrorism." Patrushev added that, in his opinion, state bodies and Islamic clerics face the task of delivering the true understanding of that religion to people. "That is why education at the Islamic University of Russia is important," Patrushev added.

TAIF To Seek Strategic Investor For Kazanorgsintez Petrochemical Plant
Majority owner TAIF Group is preparing a $100 million rights issue that it hopes will usher in a strategic investor at the Kazanorgsintez petrochemical plant, "Vremya i Dengi" reported on 23 April. The previous day, Orgsintez's supervisory board approved a plan for the company's development through 2011 that sets out an increase in annual turnover from the current 12 billion rubles ($414 million) to 35 billion rubles and a fivefold increase in profits. The company plans some $900 million in investment.

FSB, Police Nab Arms-Smugglers
Federal Security Service authorities in Tatarstan detained a group of suspected couriers in possession of 12 hand grenades and 800 grams of TNT in Chally, Tatar-inform reported on 22 April. Special services, along with local police, also recently seized two other groups of couriers attempting to smuggle similar explosives, handguns, machine guns, and ammunition from Chechnya for sale in Tatarstan's Kama region.

Kazan To Supplement Subway With Commuter Train
The city of Kazan will launch construction in 2006 on a commuter train with smaller cars than the city subway that is currently under construction, Intertat reported on 22 April. The aboveground train network, also known as "light subway," will reportedly extend farther than the planned system of subway tunnels because of its lower price tag.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Rakhimov Delivers Annual Message
President Murtaza Rakhimov said in his annual address to parliament and the citizens of Bashkortostan on 22 April that a major priority for the State Assembly this year is to amend the republican constitution so it conforms with federal laws on the formation of legislative and executive bodies in federation subjects, Bashinform, RosBalt and other news agencies reported. He also said the parliament is to provide a legal basis for the federal law on local self-government by revising the system of local state authority and self-government bodies, territories of municipal entities, and the division of state and municipal property.

The president characterized the republic as "one of the strongest regions of Russia," noting that it is a donor region to the federal budget. Much of the republic's budget revenues were generated from the production and refining of oil. The republic exported more than 40 percent of its overall production. Rakhimov also said Bashkortostan must do its part to contribute to the effort to double Russia's GDP by 2010. He said republic's gross regional product grew by 32 percent in 1999-2003. He called for state support of defense and light industries and "reasonable protectionism" in the agro-industrial sector. He promised that the number of staffers working for state officials will be cut and that the fight against corruption will be strengthened.

Rakhimov also said the republic will develop its network of representative offices throughout Russia, the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States, and abroad, and to increase cooperation with member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

District Interior Official Says Bashkir Interior Ministry Among Russia's Best
Vladimir Shcherbakov, the head of the Russian Interior Ministry's Directorate in the Volga Federal District, during a press conference in Ufa on 21 April responded to recent criticism from the media and said that the Bashkir Interior Ministry is among Russia's best, RosBalt reported.

Shcherbakov said the Bashkir Interior Ministry's crime-solving rate beats the Russian average by 1.2 percent for murders and 11 percent for robberies. In addition, Shcherbakov said, the republican ministry has managed to retain its personnel and form one of the most complete staffs in Russia. He also said that the trust rating for the Bashkir interior bodies is 63 percent, as compared to the Russian average of 48-50 percent.

Shcherbakov expressed his concern that numerous media outlets have criticized the republican Interior Ministry's work, saying such reports are "far from the truth." Commenting on the Bashkortostan's Prosecutor-General's Office report to the Russian Interior Ministry on cases of violations committed by employees of the Republican Interior Ministry (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 5 April 2004), Shcherbakov said the rate of improprieties recorded among the ministry's employees is the lowest in all of the Volga Federal District.

Interior Minister Denies Former UralSib President Wanted By Feds
Bashkir Interior Minister Rafail Divaev on 21 April denied rumors that former UralSib bank President Azat Qormanaev is wanted by federal law enforcement bodies, RosBalt reported on 22 April. Divaev the ministry has received no complaints regarding Qormanaev, and that the ministry has no claims against him.

Qormanaev headed UralSib from its founding in 1993 to December 2003, when a state-owned share of the bank was sold off to NIKoil and a former manager of that company, Fuad Akhundov, replaced him. Qormanaev remains a member of the bank's Observation Council.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova