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Tatar-Bashkir Report: June 18, 2003

18 June 2003
Orthodox Church Reacts Negatively To Shaimiev's Call For Dialogue With Vatican...
A dialogue between the Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches does not need mediators, deputy head of the Russian Orthodox Church's foreign relations department, Vsevolod Chaplin, told Interfax on 16 June. Chaplin was reacting to statements made by Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev calling for dialogue between the two churches (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 17 June 2003). Chaplin said the Russian Orthodox Church is in permanent contact with the Vatican, and it was problems created by Catholic leaders and bodies rather than an unwillingness for dialogue that prevented the heads of the two churches from meeting. Chaplin said that "the Vatican continues expansion which harms the interests of the Russian church and insults its believers." Chaplin explained that the Vatican promotes the establishment of Greek-Catholic communities in places they had never existed and sends missionaries to areas where there are Orthodox believers.

...As Vatican Says Pope Won't Visit Russia Without Patriarch's Consent
The Vatican's Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano said the pope has been seeking for a long time to visit Russia but does not wish to do so without the agreement of Patriarch Aleksii II, "NG-Religii" reported on 18 June. Meanwhile, the Vatican's Press Secretary Joaquin Navarro-Vals said the pope's visit to Mongolia, previously slated for August, will not take place this summer. The weekly commented that the Vatican might postpone the visit in order to hold additional negotiations with Moscow about the possibility of the pope stopping off in Tatarstan to return the Mother of God icon to Kazan.

Russian Automobile Manufacturers Call For Protective Measures Against Car Imports
Participants in the international "Automobile And Technosphere" conference that opened on 17 June in Kazan appealed to the Russian government to bring the federal law on technical regulation coming into force on 1 July in line with European standards, reported the same day. Under the law, automobiles produced in Russia are to meet euro-2 standards as of January 2004 and euro-3 standards as of January 2006. Participants also demanded that restrictions be introduced for automobiles imported to Russia by age and type of engine, saying that domestic manufacturers face losses of $1.5 billion a year because of unrestricted imports of secondhand cars. In 2002, Russian residents spent $10 billion on buying cars. Forty-five percent of them bought VAZ vehicles, 32 percent bought secondhand foreign cars, and 8 percent purchased new, foreign cars. The conference is accompanied by the international "Automobiles In The Heart of Russia" exhibition, in which over 300 representatives from Russia, Brazil, Germany, Poland, and Turkey among others are taking part. More than 120 Russian, German, Finnish, and Swedish companies showcased their vehicles at the exhibition.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Rakhimov Discusses Cooperation Prospects With Gazprom Head
Gazprom head Aleksei Miller and Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov met on 17 June to discuss the development of Bashkir petrochemical companies, "Vedomosti" reported the next day, citing the Gazprom press service. According to "Kommersant" on 18 June, the sides failed to sign a scheduled agreement on handing over to the gas monopoly the shares of the republic's leading petrochemical companies. "Vedomosti," however, reported that an unnamed high-ranking source in Gazprom said that the agreement will be signed "within the next few days." An unnamed Bashkir official told the outlet that Rakhimov, who saw the draft document yesterday, agreed to sign it after Gazprom's investment obligations are specified. The daily cited the draft agreement, according to which the Bashkir government will receive Gazprom's assistance in handing over state-run stakes in the Salavatnefteorgsintez, Kauchuk, Kaustik, and Gazservis companies for management by warrant. Salavatnefteorgsintez -- of which 54 percent belongs to the Bashkir Property Relations Ministry -- made a net profit of 1.6 billion rubles ($52.6 million) in 2002. The annual turnover of Kauchuk, Kaustik, and Gazservis totals together some 10 billion rubles.

In 1998, the republic handed over Salavatnefteorgsintez shares to Gazprom for management by warrant on account of its debt to the company, but in the fall of 2002 annulled the agreement. In March, the Bashkir Property Relations Ministry again distributed its stake in Salavatnefteorgsintez to Gazprom for management by warrant for five years. Last week, Gazprom board member Aleksandr Krasnenkov said the company seeks to purchase the Salavatnefteorgsintez controlling interest in exchange for Bashkortostan's debt to the gas monopoly, which totals 1.5 billion rubles.

Mezhprombank Appeals To Court Against Bashkir Interior Ministry
Lawyers of the Mezhprombank Ufa branch appealed on 16 June to a republican court and prosecutors' office claiming that a search of the branch office carried out by 20 Bashkir Interior Ministry employees on 11 June (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 12 and 17 June 2003) was illegal, RosBalt reported the next day. Head of the branch's legal directorate, Aleksandr Panishev, told the news agency that the lawyers demanded that the resolution on searching the office be annulled. Interior Ministry employees committed numerous violations of legal procedure during the search, according to the Mezhprombank lawyers.

Bashkir Congress Condemns Establishment Of Tatar National Front...
At a 17 June meeting, the Interregional Bashkir Congress (TBK) Executive Committee reacted to the establishment of Bashkortostan's Tatar National Front (TMF), saying that a "group of Tatar extremists, claiming that there are no equal conditions for nations in Bashkorostan, formed the Tatar National Front," an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. The TBK Executive Committee denied the accusations of discrimination by Tatar civic groups, saying that 38 percent of the Bashkir State Assembly deputies are Tatars, there are six Tatar cultural and public organizations in Ufa, and Tatar theaters and newspapers. The statement said that TMF leader Zahir Khekimov seeks to destabilize the situation in Bashkortostan before the Russian State Duma and Bashkir presidential elections in December. "We condemn extremist activity by Khekimov and see it as driving a wedge between the Bashkir and Tatar peoples," the statement authors said and called on the republic's Tatars to resist that provocation.

...Opposes Law On National Cultural Autonomies
The TBK Executive Committee also criticized the federal law on national cultural autonomies, saying it aims to annihilate national republics within Russia, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 17 June. Historian Marat Qolsheripov, who delivered a report on the issue, said if non-Russian peoples lose their statehood, no conditions remain for them to maintain their language, national education, culture, and traditions.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova