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Tatar-Bashkir Report: August 8, 2003

8 August 2003
Ex-Senator Begins Presidential Campaign...
Refqet Altynbaev, Party of Life co-chairman and a former Federation Council member from Tatarstan, told reporters on 7 August in Moscow that he will run in Tatarstan's presidential elections, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 8 August. Altynbaev held a press conference to discuss what he calls persecution against the Party of Life in Tatarstan. Altynbaev said searches held the previous day in the apartment of the leader of the Party of Life's Kazan branch (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 7 August 2003) were illegal since they were not sanctioned by a court, only by a prosecutor. He claimed that a special commission of the party's executive committee revealed the "most flagrant violations of the law on political parties" in the republic (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 25 July 2003). They include, specifically, "serious pressure by law-enforcement bodies through plain statements not to expand political activity and hinting at closure of [party] branches on various pretexts." Altynbaev added that he will inform both Russian and Tatar presidents about those violations.

...As Activist Of His Party In Tatarstan Under Investigation
In searches held in the apartment of the Russian Party of Life's Kazan branch leader, Ferit Khujikhanov, and his auto dealership RAIF-tsentr (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 7 August 2003), policemen seized photos, notebooks, licensing and bookkeeping documents, correspondence, and a personal computer, "Izvestiya" reported on 8 August. The searches were a part of an investigation into a criminal case on the theft of tires at Nizhnekamskshina, in which Khujikhanov was allegedly involved, the daily cited the Interior Ministry's chief investigative directorate representative, Dmitrii Uskov, as saying. In 1998, Khujikhanov was a mediator in a deal under which 20 million rubles ($659,000) worth of tires were delivered to the Kazan Genezis company but the latter's obligations to Nizhnekamskshina were not fulfilled. Genezis Director Igor Myatilev was arrested in April and the Nizhnekamskshina-related criminal case was filed on 20 May.

Commenting on the searches to "Izvestiya," Khujikhanov, who is a Kazan Medicine University professor, said he has been warned that he will face trouble if he continues his party activity. He added that four cars follow him and his telephones are bugged. Meanwhile, the daily cited local activists of the Party of Life as commenting that the searches came in response to a "direct line" that Altynbaev made by telephone with Chally residents on 4 August, the day when Chally Mayor Reshit Khemediev was buried. The action by Altynbaev, who is a former Chally mayor, reportedly irritated the republic's leadership, which supports Unified Russia.

Communications Ministry To Be Reformed
Communications Minister Rinat Jelelov told a ministry board on 7 August that the ministry's income increased by 20 percent to 3 billion rubles in the first six months of the year in comparison to the same period in 2002, Tatar agencies reported the same day. Plans for the ministry's reorganization into the Information Ministry were announced at the gathering. It was reported that the total number of telephone subscribers grew by 25,600 to 870,000, while that of cell-phone users increased by 251,000 to 711,000. Internet users totaled 74,000. He said subscription for periodicals in the second half of the year totaled 2.1 million copies, or 541 copies per thousand of the population. Seventy-four percent of the publications are republican periodicals.

Muslim Groups Formed In Tuben Kama Kindergartens
Experimental Muslim groups will open in two Tuben Kama kindergartens in September, reported on 7 August, citing the Tatar Education Ministry. There are no plans to teach the Koran but the groups will only provide meals meeting Islamic requirements and cultivate Islamic moral and ethical norms, according to the ministry.

Kazan Zoo Inundated With Parrots
The Tatar customs office seized 78 parrots that were being illegally transported by a citizen of Azerbaijan, RIA-Novosti reported on 7 August. The birds were taken to the Kazan Zoo.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Turkish Company To Purchase Ufa Brewery
The Moscow office of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) announced on 6 August the granting of a $25 million loan to Efes Beverage Group (EBG) for the purchase of the Amstar brewery in Bashkortostan, "Kommersant" reported on 7 August. The loan was issued as part of a $750 million credit line provided by the EBRD to the Turkish Anadolu Efes Biracilikve Malt Sanayii AS, the owner of Efes Beverage. The Ufa Amstar brewery holds some 1.5 percent of the Russian beer market with its two main low-price brands, Belyi Medved and Sokol. EBG, which had brewing capacity in Russia of 3 million hectoliters in 2002, plans to increase it to 8 million hectoliters by 2005.

Federal Labor Minister Visits Bashkortostan
Labor and Social Development Minister Aleksandr Pochinok told reporters in Ufa on 7 August that allocations from the federal budget for Bashkortostan's social sector will be increased, Bashinform reported. Pochinok said that during his meeting with Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov the two agreed on boosting cooperation in the social-policy sector. Specifically, an extension of Moscow State Social University will be established in the republic to expand the training of specialists for the social sector. The first branch of the institution will be set up in the republic's second-largest city, Sterletamaq.

The same day, Pochinok handed out keys to Oka cars to 60 disabled in Ufa. He commented that state support for the disabled has increased fivefold in the past three years. He also said that pensions, including those of the military, will be increased.

Names Of Russian Guantanamo Detainees Publicized
The names of the eight Russian citizens held at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo, Cuba, were announced on 6 August, Russian media reported, citing RFE/RL. They are Shamil Khajiev and Rawil Gomerov from Bashkortostan, Rawil Minhajev and Airat Wahitov from Tatarstan, Rasul Kudaev and Ruslan Odigov from Kabardino-Balkaria, Rostem Ekhmerov from Chelyabinsk, and Timur Ishmoradov from Tyumen Oblast. They were detained by U.S. troops in 2001-02 in Afghanistan and are alleged to have connections with Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Recently, Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov was in the United States discussing the issue of their possible extradition.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova