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Tatar-Bashkir Report: November 25, 2003

25 November 2003
Independent TV Station Forced Off The Air In Chally
STV, Chally's first independent television station, was banned from operating until 7 December, Regnum-Kama-press reported on 21 November. The official reason given by the authorities was that it was impossible to evacuate personnel safely from an STV transmitter. STV press officer Yevgenii Pak said that, "we were prohibited from transmitting until the 7 December elections because authorities fear objective evaluation of events and our independent opinion."

Constitutional Court Tackles Tatar Latin Script Issue
The Tatar Constitutional Court considered on 24 November an appeal by the Tatar State Council's Science, Education, Culture, and National Issues Commission concerning whether the Tatar Constitution provides legal ground for Tatarstan to introduce the Tatar Latin script, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. Experts Mirfatyikh Zekiev and Fehime Khisamova, who took part in the hearing, said that continuing to use a Cyrillic script will have a detrimental effect on the pronunciation of the Tatar language. Representatives from the cabinet and the Tatar presidential administration at the court session stated their support for the commission's appeal. Tatar Ombudsman Reshid Wegyizov said the Tatar people should be permitted to determine the fate of their own language, adding that Russian human rights activists also defend such a position.

Alabuga Companies Will Still Receive Tax Breaks In 2004
According to the 2004 budget, investors implementing projects in the former offshore zone of Alabuga will still be exempt from paying certain taxes, Tatar-inform reported on 24 November. They include capital gains, transport, land, and property tax. The Alabuga offshore zone, which was established in 1998, was abolished this year, following protests by the Russian authorities. On the site there are 13 large industrial companies, about half of which are joint ventures with foreign investors. In 2002, production in Alabuga was worth around 1.3 billion rubles ($43.6 million).

Tatar Interior Ministry Sues Duma Deputy For Libel
The Tatar Interior Ministry has appealed to the republic's prosecutor's office to file a lawsuit against State Duma Deputy Sergei Shashurin for libel, and Tatar television stations reported on 24 November. Interior Minister Esget Seferov responded to Shashurin's allegations against the ministry saying the deputy, who is running again for the State Duma, is hysterical and panicking that he will lose his Duma seat. Seferov said that Shashurin has a string of convictions and that law-enforcement bodies are looking into several new cases against him. In the past, Shashurin has been critical of the Tatar government.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Bashkir Supreme Court Confirms Veremeenko's Right To Register...
Bashkortostan's Supreme Court annulled the 20 November ruling by Ufa's Lenin Raion court that prevented Sergei Veremeenko from being officially registered as a presidential candidate, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 24 November (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 24 November 2003). At its 24 November session, the court denied the right of Ufa resident Roestem Gazizov to dispute the 17 November decision by the Russian Central Election Commission (TsIK), which despite resistance by the Bashkir Central Election Commission (USK), confirmed Veremeenko's right to be registered. On 20 November, Gazizov's appeal against Veremeenko's registration by Moscow was approved by the Lenin Raion court. According to federal law, only the Russian Supreme Court has the right to question the legality of the TsIK's decisions.

...As Does Russian Supreme Court
Later on 24 November, the Russian Supreme Court found the 17 November TsIK decision to register Veremeenko as a presidential candidate "legal and grounded," RosBalt reported the same day. The court considered the complaint by another Bashkir presidential candidate, Andrei Pikhachev, who disputed Veremeenko's registration by the TsIK. According to Aleksandr Koval, Veremeenko's representative on the USK, "no other court in Russia is entitled to dispute the candidate's [Veremeenko's] registration any longer. So the Bashkir USK should give the candidate his certificate and include his name in the election ballot."

Interior Ministry Detains Suspect In 5 November Ufa Bombing
The Bashkir Interior Ministry has detained Vyacheslav Senin, who is suspected in plotting the 5 November bombing near the residence of Ural Rakhimov, the Bashkir president's son, (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 7 November 2003), Interfax reported on 24 November. Interior Minister Refeil Divaev told the agency that Senin already confessed to setting a booby trap using five hand grenades at the gates of Aleksandr Veremeenko's house in the Ufa suburbs on 13 May (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 10 June 2003). Aleksandr Veremeenko is the head of the Gazprom affiliate in Bashkortostan, Bashtransgaz, and the brother of presidential candidate Sergei Veremeenko. reported the same day that Senin worked for a private security company in Ufa.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi
Felon Businessman Dropped From State Duma Campaign In Nizhnii
A Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast court struck down on 17 November the decision by the Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast Election Commission (OIK) to register convicted felon and businessman Andrei Klimentiev as a candidate for the State Duma, NTA Privolzhe reported on 18 November. The court invalidated 3,964 signatures submitted by Klimentiev to the OIK, while the required minimum is 4,930. The OIK recognized 5,828 signatures as valid. The court rejected signatories who did not write that they live in Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast but only mentioned Nizhnii Novgorod as their place of residence. Klimentiev himself missed the court hearing, having presented a document confirming his being ill that the court considered invalid.

Klimentiev was elected mayor of Nizhnii Novgorod in 1998, but the election results were declared invalid and he was sentenced to six years in prison for loan fraud. Having served his term in prison, Klimentiev took part in the 2001 gubernatorial elections in which he finished fifth with 10 percent. Klimentiev also ran for Nizhnii Novgorod mayor in 2002 but a court annulled his registration as a candidate.

Manager Wins Defamation Suit Against Tolyatti Newspaper
A Tolyatti court on 19 November ordered the "Tolyattinskoe obozrenie" newspaper to pay 50,000 rubles ($1,680) to Srednevolzhskaya Interregional Managing Energy Company head Vladimir Avetisyan in compensation for moral damages (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 18 November 2003), NTA Privolzhe reported on 20 November. The newspaper had published an article in which the authors claimed that the killing of the paper's Editor in Chief Aleksei Sidorov (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 14 October 2003) might be linked to negotiations about the paper being sold to the Media-Samara holding controlled by Avetisyan. Avetisyan said he will give the money to the Glasnost Defense Fund to go toward the investigation of Sidorov's killing.

Presumed Bombing Attempt On Deputy Prosecutor-General Prevented In Yekaterinburg
A car containing components of a radio-controlled explosive device, including 500 grams of explosive, was found in Yekaterinburg on 21 November, "Kommersant-Daily" and Russian news agencies reported. The suspicious car attracted the attention of a woman living nearby who called police. A photo and a note with the home address of Russian Deputy Prosecutor-General in charge of the Ural Federal District Yurii Zolotov was found in the car, which was located near his home, so investigators believe he was the target. Following the incident, the local Interior Ministry directorate provided bodyguards for Zolotov.

According to "Kommersant-Daily," an attempt on the life of Zolotov's personal driver took place a year ago. Zolotov himself has not previously received any threats related to his professional activities. Zolotov was appointed Russian deputy prosecutor-general in 2000. He began his work in Yekaterinburg with sharp criticism of local interior bodies, specifically, with accusations of concealing crimes and misrepresentation of crime statistics.

Sverdlovsk Oblast TsIK Accuses Yekaterinburg Administration Of Election Violations
The Sverdlovsk Oblast Central Election Commission (TsIK) issued on 20 November a resolution saying that Yekaterinburg mayoral candidates are being deprived of equal opportunities for campaigning since officials from the Yekaterinburg administration and city law enforcement support the re-election of the incumbent mayor, Novyi region reported on 21 November. The TsIK said that employees of the city Interior Ministry directorate detained in the past two weeks more than 1,000 supporters of the main rivals of the incumbent mayor. Some subdivisions of the administration prevent other candidates from placing their campaign materials and renting spaces to meet with the public, the TsIK noted. It also said that the Yekaterinburg Interior Ministry directorate and raion prosecutor's offices have not responded in timely fashion to any of the 14 appeals by the TsIK. The commission decided to appeal to presidential envoy to the Ural Federal District Petr Latyshev and Russian Deputy Prosecutor-General Yurii Zolotov on the alleged violations.

Uralvagonzavod Arranges Tank Assembly In India
The assembly of T-90C tanks produced at the Nizhnii Tagil's Uralvagonzavod has been launched in the India state of Tamilnad, Novyi region reported on 20 November, citing the plant's press service. A total of 186 tanks will be assembled in India. Several groups of Indian specialists have been trained at Uralvagonzavod as part of the contract. The press service added that the plant is unlikely to receive a state order for tank production in 2004 and is re-equipping its facilities to produce road-building vehicles, tank cars, carriages, and other rail cars.

Hunger Strike Ends In Sverdlovsk Oblast...
Nine workers of the Artemovskii Ferro-Concrete Items Plant in Sverdlovsk Oblast, who have been holding a hunger strike since 17 November, ended the strike on 21 November after the plant administration threatened to fire them if they continue it, Novyi region reported on 21 November. Five of the hunger strikers decided to return to work but were unable to do so because of their poor state of health, while the other four resigned and demanded to be paid their back wages in full. No employees of the plant have been paid since July, while the amount of the debt is being concealed by the plant's management.

...And Begins In Khanty-Mansii Okrug
Twenty employees of Nizhnevartovsk Drilling Company in Khanty-Mansii Autonomous Okrug have begun a hunger strike, reported on 21 November. The workers have not been paid for a year and are each owed between 50,000 and 70,000 rubles ($1,680-$2,350). The company owes some 10 million rubles ($336,000) in back wages.

Stepashin Says Oligarchs Outdated Concept
Speaking at a conference on the role and place of auditor agencies in the economic development of Russia's regions in Tyumen on 18 November, Audit Chamber Chairman Sergei Stepashin said relations between the state and big business should not leave space for the "oligarch" concept, reported the same day. Stepashin said so-called oligarchs often use their extreme wealth for unseemly purposes. He also said the Audit Chamber has repeatedly criticized loopholes in Russian law that let businesses legally evade taxes. He cited the results of an audit of the Sibneft oil company, which skipped paying 10 billion rubles ($336 million) in taxes in 2001 alone. Many other Russian oil companies use the same schemes, which threatens Russia's economic security, he added.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova