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Tatar-Bashkir Report: October 10, 2003

10 October 2003
TAIF Plans Said To Compromise The Tuben Kama Oil Refinery Project
The management of the Tatneft oil concern is deeply unhappy with the plans of the Tatar-American Investments and Finance (TAIF) group to build a refinery, which will produce gasoline and other oil products, "Vremya i Dengi" wrote on 9 October. Tatneft is the major investor in the Tuben Kama Oil Refinery (NNPZ) project, in which TAIF also participates. The daily cited an unnamed Tatneft representative as saying that TAIF's new project "compromises the construction of NNPZ and makes it useless." In a recent public statement, Tatneft's press service confirmed that TAIF's actions were not discussed with the NNPZ management; TAIF's press release said that the new refinery "is to meet the demand for high-quality oil products in Tatarstan, Russia, and abroad." Recently TAIF obtained an $60 million loan from Russia's Sberbank for launching the construction of the gasoline factory, (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 9 October 2003).

Prosecutor Confirms That Detained Gang Leader Is In Good Health
Tatar Prosecutor Kafil Amirov told reporters on 9 October in Chally that rumors about the death of Eduard Tagiryanov, head of the "Tagiryanovskie gang," are false, Intertat reported the same day. Members of the gang, which is suspected of involvement in the kidnappings and murders of Chally businessmen, were recently detained by Tatar police (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 9 October 2003). The Prosecutor's Office is also looking into possible connections between gang members and high-ranking police officers. The arrested criminals reportedly had a number of police uniforms in their possession.

Bad Roads A Factor In Many Tatar Traffic Accidents
Tatar Traffic Police Chief Rifget Minnikhanov told a press conference on 9 October that more than 4,300 traffic accidents have been registered in the republic so far in 2003, with 606 people dead and more that 5,400 injured, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. Minnikhanov said that the bad condition of roads caused some 17 percent of car accidents.

Saudi Arabia Limits The Number Of Pilgrims From Russia
On returning from Saudi Arabia, Gosman Khezret Iskaqov, chairman of Tatarstan's Muslim Religious Board, told Intertat on 9 October that 5,500 pilgrims from Russia will be allowed to visit that country in 2003. Saudi Arabia has also introduced extra requirements for pilgrims, including vaccinations and prearranged accommodation.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Rakhimov Enters Presidential Race...
President Murtaza Rakhimov announced on 9 October his intention to run for re-election to a third term in office, Russian and Bashkir news agencies reported. Rakhimov was speaking at a meeting devoted to the 13th anniversary of the Bashkir "Declaration on State Sovereignty." Rakhimov said he has concerns about the interest in Bashkortostan expressed by "some financial circles" and their intention to destabilize the situation in the republic. He further said that the "responsibility for the republic's fate is very great." "I have thought the situation over and have come to the firm conclusion that it is thus far too soon to divest myself of that greatest responsibility." But the final decision will be made exclusively by Bashkortostan's people, he added.

Long before the campaign officially started, those financial circles "brought down an avalanche of deceitful information on the republic," Rakhimov claimed. He quoted President Vladimir Putin as saying: "There is a category of people who have become billionaires in no time. Those so-called oligarchs...have perfectly understood how they can manipulate public opinion. The same way they dealt with natural resources, they began dealing with mass media and nationwide television channels and overriding nationwide interests with their group interests." Rakhimov added that if he left politics under these conditions, it would nullify what has been achieved and betray the people's trust and hopes.

...Receives Backing From Famous Bashkir Writer...
Speaking at the same gathering, Bashkir poet Mostai Kerim backed Rakhimov's decision to run for a third term, Bashinform reported. Kerim said some mass media are attacking Bashkortostan, but "the people know that the course is true and the man at the wheel is wise." He added: "The republic needs you. I am in full confidence that Bashkortostan will reach new heights in its development in the near future."

...And Russian Industrialists Union Leader
Russian Industrialists and Entrepreneurs Union President Arkadii Volskii on 9 October awarded Rakhimov the Peter the Great Order "for services before the Fatherland that promote the flourishing, greatness, and glory of Russia," Bashinform reported the same day. The ceremony took place at the same meeting where Rakhimov announced his re-election bid. Volskii praised Rakhimov's decision to run, saying he came to Bashkortostan to "persuade" Rakhimov to run, "but the president beat me to it." He expressed his confidence that the Bashkir public will help Rakhimov to be re-elected to another term and said Rakhimov should "run to the election commission to present his appeal."

The Peter the Great Order has previously been awarded to Noble Prize winner Zhores Alferov, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and Russian President Boris Yeltsin.

Polief Signs 9 Million-Euro Contract With U.S. Company
The American UOP Sinco company has signed a contract with Bashkortostan's Polief polyethylene facility on delivery of 9 million euros ($10.6 million) in equipment, Bashinform and RosBalt reported on 9 October. The contract is to be fulfilled within a year. The Bashkir government has so far invested 4 billion rubles ($134 million) in the facility, under construction since 2001.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova