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Tatar-Bashkir Report: October 18, 2004

18 October 2004
Kazan Residents Mark 1552 Defense Of City, Chide Moscow
Participants in a demonstration on 15 October to mark the defense of Kazan from the forces of Ivan the Terrible in 1552 urged a "restoration of the Tatar Constitution in the form it was adopted in 1992" and "equal rights in relations with Russia within the framework of a potential Eurasian confederation," RFE/RL's Kazan bureau and Tatar media reported. An estimated 300 people took part in the rally, which was organized by the Tatar Public Center on Kazan's Freedom Square. Participants also demanded that steps be taken immediately to commemorate the memory of the city's 16th-century defenders by erecting a monument near the Kazan Kremlin. Some speakers criticized Kazan Mayor Kamil Iskhaqov over his efforts to return the Kazan Mother of God icon to Tatarstan's capital, saying they were linked to "colonial enslavement and humiliation of the Tatar people." Placards handed out at the demonstration called for "Kazan's Millennium Without Kamil Iskhaqov."

The resolution that emerged from the gathering also included calls for a halt to "predatory payments to Moscow," an elimination of "colonial taxes," and the introduction of single-channel interbudgetary relations with Moscow. Speakers accused Moscow of trying to deprive Tatar people of statehood, script, and economic independence, calling the administrative reforms recently urged by Putin a "direct path to a dictatorship." Participants appealed to the republican leadership to "defend the interests of the Tatar people."

Participants eventually marched to the Kazan Kremlin, where they held a prayer in memory of the city's defenders who died in 1552.

Defense Ministry Plans To Order 70,000 Automobiles From KamAZ
Russian Defense Ministry officials told a scientific conference on weapon and military development on 14-15 October at the KamAZ automobile concern in Chally that the ministry plans to place an order with KamAZ for production of some 70,000 vehicles, local news agencies reported on 15 October. Russian Deputy Defense Minister and rearmament head General Aleksei Moskovskii said the ministry spends as much as 4.5 billion rubles ($155 million) a year to maintain obsolete vehicles, adding that it would be cheaper to purchase new ones instead. The need for new vehicles totals about 150,000, he added, roughly half of which the ministry plans to order from KamAZ. Most active purchases are planned from 2006, while the ministry currently purchases some 3,000 vehicles a year.

Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev commented that "the Defense Ministry is not a bad debtor" but also suggested that it "is not the best." "It has debts," he added. "The state thus allows itself loans at the expense of manufacturers." Shaimiev emphasized that KamAZ is ready to fulfill any strategic or tactical orders.

Parliament Opposes Revival Of Death Penalty
Tatarstan's State Council rejected a proposal on 13 October that would have abolished the current moratorium on capital punishment for grave crimes, RFE/RL reported on 15 October. The measure was initiated by the Sakhalin and Bryansk oblast parliaments. Thirty-five republican deputies voted to maintain the moratorium, 31 backed its abolition, and 14 abstained.

Tatarstan Customs Agents Charged Over Illegal Car Imports
The republican Prosecutor-General's Office filed a criminal case against an group it suspects was involved in the illegal customs registration of automobiles produced abroad, RIA-Novosti and reported on 15 October, quoting the prosecutor's office. Three republican customs agents are accused of issuing counterfeit permits, including issuing fictitious court documents to back up the scheme. The suspects -- who are believed to have used the scheme to avoid customs duties on 94 vehicles in 2000 -- were charged with tax evasion, abuse of power, and forgery.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Rakhimov Discusses Cooperation Projects With Kazakh Leadership...
An official delegation from Bashkortostan led by President Murtaza Rakhimov attended the opening of the republic's Kazakh representation in Astana on 15 October, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reported the same day. The office is the republic's 10th mission, following eight in Russia's regions and one in Austria. The republic is preparing to open similar missions in Turkey and Uzbekistan. During his visit, Rakhimov met with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev and Prime Minister Daniyal Akhmetov. A cooperation agreement between Bashkortostan and the Astana administration was signed by Rakhimov and Astana administration head Umirzak Shukeev. Rakhimov also held talks with Russia's legal adviser in Kazakhstan, Sergei Kopeiko, on prospects of cooperation between Kazakhstan and Russia and Bashkortostan. The visiting heads of over 30 Bashkir companies, including Bashneftekhim, Bashneft, Bashkirenergo, and Salavatnefteogrsintez, took part in a business forum of Bashkir and Kazakh business circles.

...And With Business Leaders
Heineken-Russia group President Rolan Pirmez said during his meeting with Bashkir President Rakhimov on 16 October that the company plans to invest 50 million euros ($62.5 million) in modernizing Bashkortostan's Shikhan brewery, which it recently purchased, Bashinform reported the same day. Vim-Bil-Dann Chairman David Yakobashvili, who also took part in the meeting, presented his company's plans to purchase an agricultural farm in Bashkortostan and to reconstruct it using modern technology. Rakhimov said he is ready to support this initiative, adding that "all doors are open in our republic for investors."

Federal Official Praises Ufa For Achievements In Agricultural Sector
Meeting with President Rakhimov in Ufa on 16 October, Federal Agriculture Agency Director Anatolii Mikhalev praised Bashkortostan's achievements in the agricultural sector, Bashinform reported the same day. Mikhalev said Bashkortostan is among Russia's leading agricultural regions and called for distribution of its experience in many other regions where, he said, "there are neither fields nor cows in the country and not even dogs or roosters in peasant homesteads." Among the problems in the sector that need to be addressed by federal authorities, Rakhimov mentioned the lack of high-quality agricultural machinery.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova