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Tatar-Bashkir Report: May 13, 2003

13 May 2003
Shaimiev Promotes Dialogue Between Vatican, Russian Orthodox Church
In President Mintimer Shiamiev's opinion, "handover of the Kazan Mother of God icon to Russia could serve as a starting point for the dialogue between Orthodox and Catholic churches," Interfax reported on 12 May. Shaimiev emphasized that the icon, stolen in Kazan in the early 20th century, is highly revered in the Orthodox world. Shaimiev said that Tatarstan has for several years maintained ties with the Vatican, which is thought by many to possess the icon, and is eager to resume work to secure the return the icon. However, Shaimiev admitted that according to an expert commission of the Russian Ministry of Culture, Orthodox Encyclopedia, the Ancient Russian Art Museum, Tatar, and Vatican officials, the relic currently kept by Vatican is only a copy of the original one, and was created in 17th century. Nevertheless, the president emphasized the spiritual value of the copy, reportedly drawn in the early 18th century, "which is especially respected by Orthodox Christians."

Tatar Public Figures, Artists Issue Appeal In Kashapov's Support
A group of Tatarstan's most prominent public figures, including the State Duma deputy representing Tatarstan, Fendes Safiullin, Tatar Muslim Religious Board chairman Gosman Iskhaqov, and famous singer Ilham Shakirov, addressed an open letter to Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev on 12 May (which was issued five days earlier). Republican Supreme Court Chairman Gennadii Baranov and Chief Prosecutor Kafil Amirov complained that the arrest of Refis Kashapov, head of the moderate nationalist Tatar Public Center's (TIU) branch in Chally, was unfounded, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported yesterday. The letter characterized Kashapov as an ethnic-rights activist and a man of charity, nevertheless admitting that he "had practiced a rather emotional approach" in his activities "and [in his] criticism of republican and central governments, which may be assessed as a natural process, assisting the progress and further perfection of the society." The undersigned urged Kashapov's release and the upholding of his civil rights. Kashapov was arrested in Chally on 25 March and was charged with inciting interethnic and interconfessional hatred (see "RFE/RL" Tatar-Bashkir Report," 26 March). The Chally Prosecutor's Office authorized the arrest after militia discovered TIU leaflets with nationalist content in Kashapov's apartment.

Kazan Gunpowder Plant Fails To Repay Gas Dues, Back Wages
Despite being transferred under the direct jurisdiction of the federal Defense Ministry, the Kazan gunpowder plant (NPP imeni Lenina) remains in a critical economic situation, Efir TV reported on 12 May. The plant is responsible for 37 million rubles ($1.17 million) in wage arrears to its employees and a 40 million ruble ($1.27 million) debt for gas. The Tatgazinvest company, which represents the Gazprom monopoly in Tatarstan, has warned NPP imeni Lenina that it would cut off gas supplies to the plant on 12 May. A group of some 30 plant employees led by trade union leader Reise Galiekberova, who have not received their salaries since 2002, picketed the gas distribution station near their enterprise. Meanwhile, the sanction, which it is feared will badly damage some of the production cycles at the plant, was not enforced during that day.

Comings And Goings
President Mintimer Shaimiev signed a decree appointing Marat Muratov, former deputy head of the Tuben Kama regional administration, as general director of Tatarstan's Mass Communications Agency, "TatMedia" on 12 May and RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported yesterday. Muratov, 37, is a graduate of the journalism faculty at Kazan State University. Also on 12 May, Shaimiev signed a decree appointing Marat Safiullin, former head of the management chair at Kazan's Financial-Economic Institute, as a presidential adviser on social and economic affairs. Until recently this post was occupied by Filze Khemidullin, who's current job is representing Tatarstan in Russia's Federation Council.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Ural Rakhimov Leaves Bashneft Board
Ural Rakhimov, son of Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov, who has been heading the Bashneft board of directors since 2002, was not elected to the company's new board at the 28 April shareholders' meeting, RosBalt reported on 12 May. Controversial candidates from minor shareholders who own 10 percent of Bashneft -- Vostok Nafta Investment Ltd. Executive Director Alex Williams and David Geovanis, the executive director of metals group Basic Element (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 29 and 30 April and 1 May 2003) -- received 0.1 percent and 8.56 percent of the votes respectively and were also not elected. Nine members elected to the new board include Bashkir Property Relations Minister Zofer Geptrekhimov, Bashkir Economy Minister Valentin Vlasov, Bashkir Foreign Economic Relations and Trade Minister Boris Kolbin, Bashneftekhim general director Viktor Gantsev, Bashneft general director Ildar Iskhaqov, Bashkirnefteprodukt general director Rostem Ishalin, Uraltranstefteprodukt general director Kamil Ekmedullin, Bashneft head accountant Vadim Rybinskii, and Bashneft financial department head Yelena Yenikeeva. The Bashkir government -- which has a 2.5 percent share in Bashneft -- controls 63.7 percent of its shares through the company's major shareholder, the state-run Bashkir Fuel Company.

Bashkir Researchers Discover Suicide Genes
Researchers from the Institute of Biochemistry and Genetics at the Russian Academy of Sciences' Ufa Scientific Center have discovered six genes responsible for a predisposition to suicide, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 May. Elza Khosnetdinova, who led the research, said for the first time in the world there is evidence that shows that suicides are linked to genetic imbalance. It is commonly held that suicides are caused by social factors. Among the 58,000 residents who died in Bashkortostan the previous year, 5 percent were suicides.

Daily Says Rakhimov Has Decided To Stay On
Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov has decided to stay for another term in office, according to the 13 May edition of "Nezavisimaya gazeta." The paper said this became clear after the "Bashkortostan" daily published an appeal by a famous dramatist Nejib Esenbaev to the republic's residents to reelect Rakhimov in December presidential elections. The paper wrote that Rakhimov himself had still not confirmed his intention to run for the third time, adding that it is rather Rakhimov's close associates who are concerned they will lose their cushy jobs and be held responsible for their actions under Rakhimov's tenure. The paper also said Rakhimov's personality cult is flourishing in Bashkortostan, while the human rights situation in the republic has not improved since the 1980s. The paper said illegal persecution by the republic's leadership of Bashkir Supreme Court Chairman Marat Wekilov (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 20 and 22 November, 3, 19 and 20 December 2002, "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 6 December 2002) is an example of violations of human rights and the principle of independence of the judicial branch of power.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova