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Tatar-Bashkir Report: May 23, 2003

23 May 2003
New Law To Expand Freedom Of Information
According to a draft law on information technology discussed by the State Council commission on economic development and reforms on 23 May, citizens will have the right to access information currently unavailable to the public, Intertat reported today. The data will include crime statistics, rulings and resolutions of local courts, salary sheets of state employees, activity reports of state and municipal organizations, and incomes and expenses of republican, regional, and municipal budgets. State bodies will reportedly be obliged to publish such information on their official websites.

Tatarstan Increases Planned Oil Exports To Turkey
Tatar Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov on 22 May met with Husametdin Danis, the general director of the Turkish Tupras petrochemical holding, to discuss the increase of Tatarstan's oil exports to Turkey by some 1 million tons in 2004, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. Both sides agreed to hold another meeting in Turkey to sign the contract. In 2003, Tupras is set to purchase 2.4 million tons of Tatar oil.

Supreme Court Overrules Prolonged Detention For Kashapov
On 22 May, Tatarstan's Supreme Court overruled the 6 May decision of a Chally court, which prolonged the detention of Refis Kashapov until 9 August, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported today. Kashapov is the head of the Tatar Public Center branch in Chally. The Supreme Court ruled that the Chally court should reconsider its verdict. Kashapov was arrested on 27 March on charges that his organization incited interconfessional and interethnic discord. Currently Kashapov is being held in a detention center in Bogelme, Tatarstan.

Russian Interior Ministry Appeals Headscarf Verdict
The Russian Interior Ministry has officially appealed to the presidium of the country's Supreme Court asking it to revise the 15 May ruling, which upheld the appeal of Tatar Muslim women that they have the right to wear traditional headscarves for passport photographs, the ministry's press service reported on 23 May.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Duma Speaker Promotes Abolishment Of Federal Districts...
Russian State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, meeting with teachers and students of Bashkir State University on 22 May, said that "federal districts established in Russia for overcoming the threat of the breakup of the state due to [former Russian President] Boris Yeltsin's policies have already fulfilled their task and may be abolished," RosBalt reported the same day. Not commenting on whether the abolishment will actually take place, Seleznev said he "would consider it if I was the Russian president." Seleznev also criticized the idea of establishing a unitary state in Russia by getting rid of ethnic republics and merging the regions. Nevertheless, he upheld the idea of "enlarging" the regions, "if it proceeds carefully, consequentially, and is economically grounded." In the Duma speaker's opinion such a move can "only be done on the basis of the people's will."

...Plans Investigation Into Plots Against Bashkir Fuel And Energy Complex
Speaking on Bashkir State Television on 22 May, Duma Speaker Seleznev announced that he plans to undertake an investigation and reveal the names of "those who are trying to make illegal claims" on the Bashkir fuel and energy complex. He appealed to the Bashkir authorities and asked for information on oligarchs who are interested in privatizing the republic's industries. The results, he said, would be handed over to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Seleznev also criticized Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov's "philosophy regarding state property, [which is] expressed by the thesis that the less state property there is in Russia, the better." Seleznev referred to the privatization of the Slavneft oil company, commenting that it was "incredible that five families owned 74 percent of Russia's oil."

Bashkir Oil Processing Industries Seek To Boost Production
On 22 May, Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov told the Congress of Russia's Oil Industry, currently being held in Ufa, that "the potential of Bashkortostan's oil processing industries significantly exceeds the resources of its mineral wealth," an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported yesterday. Rakhimov said that Bashkir-produced oil represents about one-third of what is processed by the republic's petrochemical industries, which are currently working below their usual annual capacity of 60 million tons. According to recent statements by the Bashkir government's board on the use of mineral wealth, the republic should maintain its current annual oil production of 10-11 million tons for the next 20-25 years. Rakhimov said that 83 percent of Bashkortostan's oil reserves have already been extracted in the last 70 years, which has led local oil companies to focus on preserving the current output within the republic and increasing the extraction in other regions of Russia.

Communists Express Support For Rakhimov's Reelection
A number of Russia's Communist Party branches across Bashkortostan on 22 May announced their intention to support President Rakhimov in his reelection bid, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported yesterday. In December elections, Rakhimov will seek his third presidential term.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi