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Tatar-Bashkir Report: July 16, 2002

16 July 2002
Russian Ambassadors Visit Tatarstan
Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev met on 15 July in the Kazan Kremlin with the Russia ambassadors to Brazil, Colombia, Kyrgyzstan, and Pakistan -- Vasilii Gromov, Vitalii Makarov, Georgii Rudov, and Eduard Shevtchenko, respectively, reported the same day. The visit is a reaction to Russian President Vladimir Putin advice to more efficiently promote domestic production on foreign markets, which he gave at a 12 July meeting in Moscow with Russian ambassadors. Shaimiev told following the meeting that "Tatarstan is of great interest for countries of Latin America and the Middle East."

The ambassadors were received by Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov and took part in a roundtable at the Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation Ministry. The visitors stressed the necessity of establishing direct contacts between companies in Tatarstan and in their countries. They agreed on to share information between the ministry and the Russian embassies and distribute data about Tatarstan's economy, investment projects, and production of manufacturers in their countries.

The diplomats are due to visit the Nizhnekamsneftekhim and Nizhnekamskshina companies in Tuben Kama on 16 July and to visit KamAZ in Chally and the offshore zone in Alabuga on 17 July to establish direct contacts with Tatarstan's businessmen. Tatarstan has had weak economic ties with these countries, with the slight exception of Colombia, to which it sold 10 Mi-17 helicopters in 1997 and concluded another contract on delivery of $36 million worth of helicopters in 2003.

Wage Arrears Growing
Tatarstan is one of Russia's "leaders" in terms of the wages it owes to state workers, Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov told a Tatar government meeting devoted to the issue on 15 July, reported the same day. Currently the republic has the second-largest sum owed in back wages in Russia following Bashkortostan. The sum of arrears, which on 1 July was 962 million rubles ($30.6 million), increased by 26 percent since 1 January 2002 and by 17 percent since the beginning of the previous year. It was stressed that introduction of the new Labor Code that provides stricter measures to companies owing wages did not affect the entire situation with delays of wages.

Major debts have been accumulated in agriculture -- 451 million rubles ($14.3 million), industry -- 279 million rubles ($8.9 million), construction and municipal services -- 54 million rubles ($1.7 million). Labor and Employment Minister Boris Zakharov said at the meeting that in some agricultural raions workers have not been paid since August. Deputy Prime Minister and Economy and Industry Minister Aleksei Pakhomov listed the major debtors among Tatarstan's large companies: KamAZ owes 115 million rubles ($3.6 million), GUP imeni Lenina 37 million rubles ($1.1 million), and Sviyaga and Nefis-kosmetiks owe 10-11 million rubles ($350,000) each.

Minnikhanov said he is not satisfied with the work of the Labor and Employment Ministry and by the position of the republic's Trade Unions Federation, which should more actively and strictly protect the interests of laborers. Minnikhanov said only three suits have been filed by prosecutors to protest improper payment of wages.

Monument To 'Kursk' Crew Cast In Kazan
Kazan sculptors cast a monument to the crew of the "Kursk" submarine that sank two years ago, RTR-Vesti reported on 15 July. The monument, designed by Moscow architect Lev Kerbel, was produced at the Kazanskii Eksperimentalno-Proizvodstvennyi Zavod by the order of the Russian Defense Ministry. Russian Navy Commander in Chief Admiral Vladimir Kuroedov said during his visit last week to Kazan that the monument is to be erected in Moscow in front of the Military Forces Museum on 5 August, the anniversary of the collision in which the submarine was lost.

Two Arrested For Murder Of Kazan Mental Hospital Head
Two suspects in the killing of Kazan City Psychoneurological Hospital head Rustem Khalitov were detained, reported on 15 July citing the Kazan Vakhitov Raion Prosecutors' Office. Khalitov, 51, was shot in his office on 13 July.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Rakhimov Discusses Decision Of Swiss President Not To Attend Service In Ufa
Speaking to the German delegation that had come to Bashkortostan on 13 July for a memorial ceremony for victims of the 1 July plane crash involving a Russian passenger jet in southern Germany, Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov expressed his regret about reports by some Russian media outlets that Bashkortostan's leadership did not want Swiss representatives to visit the republic for the service, Bashinform reported on 15 July. Rakhimov added that the tragedy was the result of unfortunate circumstances and shouldn't affect the republic's relations with Switzerland.

Swiss President Kaspar Villiger decided not to take part in a memorial service in Ufa on 13 July after the Russian Foreign Ministry informed the Swiss embassy in Moscow that the ceremony was expected to be emotional and that Villiger's visit could have a negative effect, ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko told on 12 July (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 12 July 2002). At the same time, Yakovenko denied reports by several media sources that Villiger made this decision because the Russian side could not guarantee his safety. Igor Chernokov, head of the Federal Security Service in Bashkortostan, said the same day that Villiger made his decision that the safety of all those taking part in the memorial service, including members of foreign delegations, would be guaranteed, Bashinform reported on 12 July.

Head Of Federation Council Meets With Republican Leaders
Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov met with President Rakhimov in Ufa on 13 July and also held a question-and-answer period with parliamentary deputies and met with the republic's religious leaders, "Kommersant" reported on 15 July.

While meeting with Rakhimov, the two discussed constitutional reform in Bashkortostan, the development of federalism, legal reform in Russia, cooperation between legislative and executive authorities, and the demographic situation throughout the country. Attention was also paid to the development of the oil-processing industry in Bashkortostan. In light of this, they agreed that it was necessary to revise the republic's trade policy in the oil sector in favor of selling processed petroleum products rather than oil on the world market.

In his meeting with parliamentary deputies, Mironov said that he was in favor of increasing the term of the Russian president, but against amending the Russian Constitution.

Working Group Established To Amend Power-Sharing Treaty
Bashkir State Assembly Chairman Konstantin Tolkachev met on 15 July with the deputy head of the Russian presidential administration, Dmitrii Kozak, and with the head of the presidential legal administration, Larisa Brycheva, Bashinform reported the same day. They agreed to establish a working group charged with amending the 1994 power-sharing treaty between Bashkortostan and the Russian Federation.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova