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Tatar-Bashkir Report: April 28, 2003

28 April 2003
Tatarstan To Get More Than $15 Million From Moscow
Aleksei Pakhomov, Tatarstan's deputy prime minister and economy and industry minister, told a meeting of the Tatar government on 25 April that in 2003 Moscow will transfer more than 500 million rubles ($15.9 million) for the republic's direct investment programs, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. Pakhomov urged government officials to prepare for next year's reduction of federal budget expenditures. The complete "wish list" of the republican government reportedly amounts to 10 billion rubles.

Government Pledges Energy Cutoffs For Debtor Industries
Tatarstan's industries owe more than 600 million rubles ($19.04 million) for utility payments, reported on 25 April, citing the republican government. The list of debtors reportedly includes former Defense Ministry enterprises such as the Kazan Gunpowder Plant (NPO imeni Lenina), the Sviyaga research and production venture, Kazan Optical and Mechanical Plant, as well as civilian goods producers. The agency quoted Aleksei Pakhomov, the deputy prime minister and economy and industry minister, as saying that from May 2003 "only those who pay for energy resources will get them" in order not to increase the looming republican debt to Russia's Gazprom gas monopoly and to Russia's United Energy Systems for heating and electricity.

Despite Distance, Chornobyl Tragedy Still Affects Tatarstan
Around 100 Kazan residents who had worked at the site of the 1986 Chornobyl disaster gathered on 26 April to mark the 17th anniversary of the tragedy, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported today. Some 3,200 former emergency workers who helped clean up the aftermath of the disaster currently reside in the republic; 630 of them are disabled. Despite federal regulations that provide free housing for those who sacrificed their health at Chornobyl, many of them still have no permanent residence and, in most cases, have been rejected by potential employers because of poor health, the daily "Vechernyaya Kazan" wrote on 26 April. Those involved in the clean-up operation are reportedly 3.5 times more likely to suffer poor health than the average resident of Tatarstan.

Meanwhile, according to on 26 April, Tatarstan is among the 19 Russian regions affected by the Chornobyl disaster. The agency cited the Kazangeofizika scientific research board as reporting that in some locations, the riverbanks are contaminated with the radioactive element Caesium-137. In addition, underground water supplies in oil-rich regions in Tatarstan contain high doses of radium, which can exceed safety norms by over 100 times. Tatarstan reportedly still has no map of radioactivity zones, which would show the most unsafe locations to live in.

Tukay Prizewinners For 2003
A well-known Tatar publicist Mosegyit Khebibullin, as well as the conductor and violinist Roestem Abyazov, have won this year's Gabdulla Tukay prizes, awarded by Tatarstan's government, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 27 April. The prizes, which bear the name of the greatest Tatar poet, were reportedly given for Abyazov's tribute concerts to outstanding Tatar composers and Khebibullin's historical book "Kubrat khan."

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Joint Bashkir-Italian Venture Launched In Oktyabrskii
Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov and Bashkir Prime Minister Rafael Baidavletov took part on 25 April in an opening ceremony of the joint Bashkir-Italian company ItalBashkeramika in the town of Oktyabrskii, Bashinform reported the same day. The plant will produce 2.2 million square meters of ceramic tiles a year. Seventy percent of the 500,000 rubles ($16,160) invested in the construction came from the Bashkir budget, while the rest was paid by the Italian side and taken from the Oktyabrskii city budget.

Bashkortostan's Credit Rating Up
The Standard & Poor's rating agency has announced that Bashkortostan's long-term credit rating has risen from a B to a B+, which represents a stable prognosis, Finmarket reported on 25 April. Despite the growing financial burden, the republic's conservative debt policy and successful budgetary implementation are responsible for the increase, the agency reported.

German Police Deny Reports About Additional Air Crash Victims...
German law enforcement bodies have denied reports that the true number of victims of the 1 July 2002 midair collision between a Bashkir Airlines Tu-154 and a DHL cargo jet over southern Germany might be higher than was earlier reported (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 2 July 2002 and 24 April 2003), reported on 24 April, citing ITAR-TASS. Volfhanh Ventzel, an official from the Tuebingen Police Board, said the same day that "from the police's point of view, there are no signs that any other passengers were aboard the collided planes." He added that all the victims had been accurately identified, although there had been difficulties identifying two people.

...As Lawyer Proposes Fund To Help Victims' Relatives
Michael Vitti, a lawyer representing the families of the victims of the 1 July midair collision, told a press conference on 26 April in Ufa that Swiss representatives of the Skyguide air traffic control service, which was controlling the planes when they collided over southern Germany, have been refusing to meet with the victims' relatives for nine months since the crash. Vitti also said that Switzerland had treated the Russian families as second-class citizens. Vitti suggested that a fund be set up to compensate the relatives -- an idea that has received support from the Swiss and German authorities. The Swiss and German governments, Skyguide, Bashkir Airlines, DHL, and insurance companies are supposed to make contributions to the fund, although how much each participant contributes will not be disclosed, the lawyer said. $1.5 million will be paid to each victim, according to Vitti.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova