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Tatar-Bashkir Report: March 21, 2002

21 March 2002
Tatneft Receives $200 Million Credit
Tatneft and investment bank Credit Suisse First Boston signed an agreement to provide Tatarstan's oil giant with a $200 million, five-year credit facility, Solid-info reported on 20 March. The resources will be used to construct the Tuben Kama oil refinery, NNPZ, in which Tatneft holds a 63 percent stake. The oil company has invested 5 billion rubles ($161 million) in the project, which reportedly will cost $1 billion, and plans to invest 8.3 billion rubles ($268 million) more in the current year. CSFB's managing director, Kevin Khadson, said, "The new loan proves our confidence in the company's long-term financial stability." He said the project was of "strategic" importance. The loan is the third for the project, and is the longest-term credit for Tatneft since it signed a debt restructuring agreement in October 2000. In late 2001, Tatneft received $125 million from Commerzbank for two years and $100 million from BNP Paribas for 30 months.

Tatneft as well issued 100 million rubles' worth of bonds, Tatar-inform reported on 20 March. The two-year securities offer 18-19 percent interest and were aimed at retail investors.

Tatarstan's Credit Rating Rises
Moody's raised Tatarstan's rating on foreign-currency loans from Caa1 to B1, with a stable outlook, AK&M reported on 18 March, referring to international ratings agency's own report. It said the measure reflected improving financial conditions in the republic, which is being viewed as one of Russia's more stable entities. Tatarstan's rating was lowered to Caa3 in September 1998 after the republic announced a default. In October 2001, the rating was raised to Caa1 with a stable outlook.

Compressor Producers Unite Over WTO Entry, Request Protective Tariffs
Executives of compressor and refrigerating plants from throughout Russia called on the Russian political leadership to take measures to protect the sector before Russia joins the World Trade Organization (WTO). The industry fears that membership will kill domestic compressor production, "Vremya i dengi" reported on 19 March. General managers from Moscow, St. Petersburg, Krasnodar, Penza, and other regions gathered in Kazan last week to discuss the issue. The participants said entering the WTO might result in an increase of raw materials exports while Russian goods manufacturers will be unable to compete with foreign companies.

The executives also suggested that the import duty in the sector be raised from 5 to 20 percent before the country joins the WTO, and then be reduced to 15 percent within four years. Kazankompressormash General Manager Ibragim Khisameev said Russia is not ready to open its markets to foreigners. He said compressor and refrigerator production has fallen to one-tenth of what it was a decade ago, while the number of jobs has fallen by two-thirds. While the former USSR provided half of the world's total compressor production, Khisameev said, the imports of such equipment now exceeds domestic production by up to five times.

Shaimiev Third-Best Lobbyist Among Regional Leaders
President Mintimer Shaimiev rated third on the "Nezavisimaya gazeta" list of the most efficient lobbyists among regional leaders, following Chukotka Governor Roman Abramovich and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov. Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov placed ninth in the 20 March results.

National Policies Minister Again Opposes 'Nationality' Entry In Passport
In an interview with Interfax on 18 March, Russian Minister without Portfolio in charge of national policies Vladimir Zorin criticized a proposal by Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov to include a "nationality" entry in Russian passports. "The proposal is ill timed and will not enjoy support by the society," Zorin said. He added that leaving out the "nationality" entry allows for meeting international human rights standards and Russia's obligations before the Council of Europe. Zorin stressed that the issue was dead once passports without such an entry began being introduced in Tatarstan and Bashkortostan. He said the nationality of parents, if desired, is currently reflected in birth certificates so residents can define their nationality themselves -- as is required by the constitution. He noted that the issue of national (ethnic) identity will be fixed in the upcoming census, which will let the state "correctly form ethnic cultural relations and national policy."

Kazan Seeks To Create Regional Development Bank
The Tatarstan government plans to establish a Tatarstan Regional Development Bank within six months, Deputy Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation Minister Rinat Urazaev said on 20 March, AK&M reported. The government will provide 25 percent of its capital, which is expected to total $20-25 million. Urazaev named the U.S. Exim Bank among possible investors.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Bashkir President Meets European, Russian Human Rights Representatives
The European Human Rights Institute's presidium chairman, Nikolaus Schwatsler, and Russian Human Rights Commissioner Oleg Mironov met President Murtaza Rakhimov to discuss developments in Bashkortostan and Russia, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 20 March. Both attended a roundtable devoted to children's rights in Ufa on 19 March and in Sterlitamaq on 20 March. Mironov noted that Bashkortostan was the first Russian region to establish a human rights office. He said it was important for human rights-related activists to pursue a constructive dialogue and consultations with the authorities. The Russian commissioner emphasized that he was glad to see a Russian (Konstantin Tolkachev) chairing the parliament in an ethnic republic like Bashkortostan.

During their talks, President Rakhimov and Mironov also discussed the Chechen issue and reported coming to a common conclusion, saying that there is no possible military solution to the problem and that it should be solved by means of negotiations with religious leaders and elders in the breakaway republic.

Tatar Activists Fail To Get Hearing With Human Rights Officials
Tatar rights movement activists failed to contact human rights officials to offer their view of the human rights situation in Bashkortostan, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 20 March, citing Tatar Public Center branch leader Airat Giniatullin. Giniatullin said the deputy prime minister in charge of ethnic policies, Khalyaf Ismuratov, and Bashkir Human Rights Commissioner Chingiz Gazizov aspired to show a "prospering situation" with human rights in their republic. But Giniatullin said that, "while not just individuals' rights, but the collective rights of the entire local Tatar community are violated by oppressive policies against the Tatar language, Tatar media, and strong pre-census propaganda forcing Tatars to register as Bashkirs during the October national census." According to Giniatullin, Commissioner Gazizov has never replied to a series of appeals from the Tatar Public Center complaining of Tatars' rights being violated -- "obviously demonstrating that his office exists only for decorative purposes."

Unofficial Human Rights Organization Says Snubbed By Visiting Officials...
The leader of an Ufa civic human rights group, Rafika Aminova, who has reported a number of attacks on herself and her family members by unidentified villains, was not invited to the children's rights seminar on 20-21 March. Aminova has been offered asylum by several European and Asian human rights organizations.

...As Official Roundtable Emphasizes Importance Of Cooperation With Government
Bashkir Human Rights Commissioner Chingiz Gazizov told reporters on 20 March that he is "often accused of cooperating with state bodies, but these accusations are absolutely groundless because it is impossible to fulfill my tasks just acting on my own."

Mironov On Children's Rights In Russia
Speaking on the children's rights situation in Russia at a roundtable involving human rights commissioners from regions of Russia on 19 March, Commissioner Mironov said, "Nowadays, they have become the most rights-deprived class because there were as many as 4 million vagrant children" running the country's streets. He added the figures of "2 million children not attending school and 30,000 imprisoned juvenile delinquents." He said that such appalling crimes as child slavery and human-organ hunts were also on the rise in Russia.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi