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Tatar-Bashkir Report: September 16, 2003

16 September 2003
Number Of Tatar Parliament Deputies To Be Doubled
Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev on 15 September signed an amendment the Tatar Constitution into law, Tatar agencies reported, citing the presidential press service. According to the amendment, the number of Tatar State Council deputies will be increased from the current 50 to 100. A part of them will be permanently working and a special law will be developed to determine their number. While passing amendment, parliament members argued that 50 deputies would be "poor representation of the 4 million people of Tatarstan" as the opposition believes elections in smaller electoral districts will be more manageable for the republican authorities.

KamAZ To Renew Exports To Afghanistan
Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov met on 15 September with visiting Afghan Transport Minister Sayyed Mohammad Ali Jawaid, and RosBalt reported the same day. The officials called for more active cooperation in the overland and air-transport sectors, construction and restoration of KamAZ's service centers in Afghanistan, and training personnel. Tatarstan's Transport Minister Vladimir Shvetsov told reporters that deliveries of KamAZ trucks and spare parts to Afghanistan will be renewed in a short time. The sides also expressed their intention to sign a contract on the delivery of 1,200 buses to Afghanistan. Afghanistan's purchase of 140 Kazan-produced helicopters was also on the agenda.

Tatneft's Will Face Fight To Take Over Ukrtatnafta
The bill on privatization of a 43 percent stake in Ukrtatnafta passed in the first reading by the Ukrainian parliament last week (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 15 September 2003) could prevent Tatneft from purchasing it, "Vedomosti" commented on 15 September. The bill came in opposition to a previous draft that was passed in the second reading in early June and provided preferences to Ukrtatnafta's current shareholders in the purchase of the state-owned stake. The new draft deprives them of those preferences. The daily cited an unnamed source in Tatneft-Ukraine as saying Tatneft will take part in the competition in any case. Ukrainian State Property Fund Chairman Mikhail Chechetov told the paper that the valuation of Ukrtatnafta showed that it may cost some $100 million, while an open auction could increase the price to $120 million-$130 million. He also said Tyumen Oil Company (TNK) is a favorite in the competition, adding that the real fight will likely take place between TNK and UkrSibbank. Tatneft currently controls some 57 percent of Ukrtatnafta, which owns the Kremenchug oil refinery, a facility processing high-sulfur oil.

Tatarstan Has Third-Largest Wage Arrears In Volga Federal District
One in 12 employees in Tatarstan is not paid on time, RosBalt reported on 15 September, citing Tatarstan's Cabinet of Ministers. More than 1,000 companies owe back wages while total debt in the republic is 544.8 million rubles, the third-highest in the Volga Federal District following Bashkortostan and Orenburg Oblast. the industry, agriculture, and transport sectors are major debtors.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Presidential Candidate Shares Views On Life In Bashkortostan
Relif Safin, a Russian Federation Council member representing Altai Republic who recently declared his intention to seek the presidency in Bashkortostan, told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 13 September that in his opinion, "the current tensions between Bashkirs and Tatars are caused by an artificial dividing line" drawn between the two peoples in Bashkortostan despite the fact that "they represent two parts of a single people." Safin, an ethnic Tatar who was born in Bashkortostan, said that "in Russia all peoples must be equal, no matter if they are Bashkirs and Tatars. The Bashkir issue has been raised because of the official policies in Bashkortostan, according to which only ethnic Bashkirs are appointed to key posts.... We are living in the third millennium," he added, "and there should be no feudal state in the middle of Russia." He also said that he had warned Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov about his plans to run and suggested that Rakhimov retire as Russian President Boris Yeltsin did in 1999, "so that people could feel respect" for such a dignified act.

Safin commented on the current situation in Bashkortostan by saying that "just like in the Soviet Russia of the 1930s, people are terrified there, feeling afraid of nearly all representatives of state authorities. For example, there is no such situation in neighboring Tatarstan."

Meanwhile, the 13 September issue of the weekly "Yeshlek," published by Bashkortostan's government, featured an article claiming that Safin had to quit his job as a vice president of LUKOil company, "because his $50 million mansion on the 'Rublev shosse' bothered LUKOil President Wagyt Alekperov." The weekly also asserted that Safin "used the company's money to shoot new videos for his daughter, well-known pop singer Alsu."

Bashkortostan Hosts A Nationwide Conference On Education
Ministers of education and heads of state education committees from across Russia arrived in Ufa on 15 September for a conference to discuss the problems of modernizing the country's system of standard education, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported. On 16 September, Russian Minister of Education Vladimir Philippov attended the conference and had a private meeting with President Rakhimov, as well as teachers from Bashkortostan.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi