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Tatar-Bashkir Report: March 8, 2005

8 March 2005
Tatar Academic Notes Ambiguity Of Abolishing Gubernatorial Elections
Midkhet Faruqshin, a member of Tatarstan's Academy of Sciences and head of the political science department at Kazan State University, wrote in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 25 February that he considers the ongoing reform abolishing the direct election of regional administration heads to be "ambiguous." He said that while the reform is openly antidemocratic and antifederalist, it is a way of putting an end to gubernatorial elections, which are known for their widespread abuse of administrative resources by incumbents. In this respect, he welcomes the end of these elections, though he notes that the reform puts an enormous responsibility on the Russian presidential administration to choose the right candidate for governor.

Government Sums Up Tatarstan's Economic Performance In 2004
President Mintimer Shaimiev told a meeting of Tatarstan's Economy and Industry Ministry on 28 February that "it is especially important" for the republic to develop its non-oil-related industries, such as the machinery and consumer goods industries, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. At the meeting attended by Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov and State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin, Shaimiev added that Tatar petrochemical firms must "significantly expand production."

Meanwhile, Economy and Industry Minister Aleksei Pakhomov told the meeting that in 2004 Tatarstan's gross regional product was $13.5 billion, a 5.5 percent rise in comparison with 2003. Machinery and metal industries reportedly demonstrated the highest growth, at 12.9 percent, while the petrochemical and chemical industries showed 12.5 growth.

Pensions Raised By Almost 40 Percent
Tatarstan's pensioners will have their monthly benefits raised by an average of 36 percent from the first day of March, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported, citing Yelena Polyakova, deputy head of the local branch of the federal Pension Fund. In fact, the hike will represent a $9 increase from the current 660-ruble ($23) monthly pensions to elderly people under 80. Pensioners over 80 will have their pensions increased from 1,320 rubles ($47) to 1,800 ($64). The hike will also affect those pensioners who are under retirement age but declared disabled and unable to work.

Kazan, Moscow Develop Dialogue On Optimizing Use Of Mineral Resources
Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov and the head of the federal agency on use of mineral resources, Anatolii Ledovskikh, signed an agreement of interaction between Kazan and Moscow in the regulation of mineral resources on 1 March, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. Speaking after the signing to the Tatar cabinet, Ledovskikh said the agreement will allow a joint strategy in the field of prospecting for new mineral resources to be elaborated and ensure that both the federal center's and regional interests are observed in a new federal law on mineral resources.

Tatar Environment and Natural Resources Minister Boris Petrov noted at the meeting that Tatarstan currently possesses 145 oil deposits with total prospected reserves of some 1.7 billion tons. The republic currently has the highest oil output in the Volga Federal District and second-highest in Russia, averaging 29-30 million tons annually. In more than 60 years of oil extraction in Tatarstan, some 80 percent of the republic's oil reserves have been exhausted, while the remaining deposits have a high sulfur content, which lowers the price of Tatar oil.

Tatneft Official Confirms Interest In Taking Over Transpetrol
The Volga-Urals edition of "Kommersant" cited the head of Tatneft's information service, Rostem Nafiqov, on 1 March as confirming that his company is interested in taking over a 49 percent stake in Slovak oil pipeline company Transpetrol with the annual transit capacity of some 10 million tons.

In Bratislava on 25 February, President Vladimir Putin announced the Tatneft's interest in taking over Yukos's stake in the Slovak company (see "RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Report," 28 February 2005). Nevertheless, "Kommersant" noted in its report, Tatneft's official investment program for this year does not stipulate any funding for the Slovak deal, while Yukos representatives interviewed by the daily stated that the company had no plans to sell its share in Transpetrol.

The daily also said that Putin could have confused the name of Tatneft with Transneft, the Russian state-controlled pipeline monopoly.

Kazan-Made aircraft Takes An Emergency Landing In Khabarovsk
Following an emergency landing in Khabarovsk on 1 March by a Dalavia Airlines Tu-214 jet carrying Konstantin Myasnikov, Russia's presidential envoy to the Far East federal district, the management of the Kazan Aircraft Plant (KAPO imeni Gorbunova) gathered for a special meeting to discuss the possible reasons for the crash, the Volga-Urals edition of "Kommersant" wrote on 3 March. Despite the refusal of KAPO to comment on the issue, the daily referred to unnamed specialists within the company as saying that the airliner had a problem with an altitude device. After discovering the malfunction the pilot decided to return to the airport of origin and the plane's 130 passengers, including Myasnikov and the general director of Dalavia Airlines, Pavel Sevastyanov, were flown to Moscow on another Tu-214. Khabarovsk Governor Viktor Ishaev told reporters on 2 March that Khabarovsk Dalavia Airlines will purchase three more Tu-214s from the Kazan Aircraft Plant in addition to the two it already has.

Government Official Urges Farmers Not To Sell Land
Tatar Deputy Minister of Agriculture Nikolai Yakushkin used a 2 March press conference to tell owners of land that used to belong to collective farms not to sell their property, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. He referred to reports that some commercial ventures, including the Krasnyi Vostok agricultural company, offered former collective farmers $300-$500 for 3 to 4 hectare plots of land. Yakushkin warned the farmers that the current situation is just the beginning of a trend that will add value to their land.

Police To 'Cleanse' The Streets Of Kazan For Millennium Celebrations
The daily "Argumenty i fakty" wrote on 2 March that in a recent statement, Tatar Deputy Interior Minister Rafail Nogomanov told reporters that before the Kazan millennium anniversary celebrations in August, police will have evicted "dubious individuals" such as prostitutes, panhandlers, and homeless people from the inner part of the Tatar capital.

Long-Wave Broadcasts Of RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service End
Tatarstan's state radio and television station is officially halting the long-wave rebroadcast of RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service programming, citing the formal liquidation of the station to transform it into a local affiliate of Russian state broadcaster VGTRK, RFE/RL reported from Kazan on 3 March. RFE/RL has been broadcasting over long waves in Tatarstan since 1997. FM and satellite broadcasts of RFE/RL programming will continue across the republic via Tatarstan-Yanga Gasyr radio and television.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Opposition Calls For Rakhimov's Resignation...
Bashkortostan's opposition held a rally on Ufa's Lenin Square on 26 February to demand that a December raid conducted by the republic's Interior Ministry in Blagoveshchensk be investigated and that Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov be dismissed, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service, Interfax-Povolzhe, RIA-Novosti and other Russian news agencies reported the same day.

An RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported that roughly 7,000 people participated in the protest action; the Interior Ministry estimated that 2,000 attended.

The protest was organized by the Coordinating Council of eight parties and 26 opposition movements, including Yabloko, the Communist Party, People's Will, Russian Party of Pensioners, the Bashkir People's Congress, Bashkortostan's Tatar civic groups union, the Rus civic association, and the Fund for Development of Local Self-Government.

Meanwhile, Bashkir Interior Ministry spokesperson Ruslan Sherefetdinov said on 26 February that some 100 people took part in a meeting in Ufa the same day to support Bashkortostan's interior bodies, reported. Participants held placards demanding that persecution against the republic's Interior Ministry be stopped.

...As He Blames Opponents
Bashkir presidential press secretary Rostislav Morzagulov told Interfax-Povolzhe on 26 February that President Murtaza Rakhimov characterized calls for his dismissal voiced during protest meetings in Ufa the same day as attempts by some to take advantage of the problems of ordinary people for their own personal political gain. "Those attempts are made by people having no political weight in society, but who have huge ambitions to obtain power. This is another example of businessmen, owners of numerous profitable companies, attempting to obtain power."

Rakhimov Calls For Punishing Plotters In Parliament
President Murtaza Rakhimov has ordered an estimate of the legal consequences of a plot that was revealed at the 24 February session of the Bashkir State Assembly (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 25 February 2005), RosBalt reported on 28 February, citing an unidentified source in the republic's leadership. The source said the police may be brought in to investigate the incident. "The head of the republic is seriously concerned by the actions of parliamentarians who made an attempt to initiate the resignation of speaker Konstantin Tolkachev in order to elect to the post the president's son, Ural Rakhimov. By his order, qualified lawyers are studying legal opportunities for holding the organizers of the 'plot' responsible," the official said. He confirmed that relations between Murtaza Rakhimov and his son Ural, who controls major companies of the fuel-and-energy sector "have become noticeably complicated."

Prosecutors Say More Than Hundred Victims Of Police In Blagoveshchensk Raid
Bashkortostan's prosecutor's office said on 28 February that over 100 people have been recognized as victims of the December operation in Blagoveshchensk involving a special police detachment (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 21 January 2005), Interfax-Povolzhe and RosBalt reported the same day. The office said that accusations of abuse of power, assault, and forgery have been made against six officers of the Bashkir Interior Ministry, including Ildar Ramazanov of the Interior Ministry Blagoveshchensk branch, Blagoveshchensk Interior Ministry Criminal Investigation Department deputy head Oleg Shapeev, district Interior Ministry officers Albert Soltanov, Vasilii Zhukov, and Vil Khemetdinov, and Criminal Investigation Department employee Aidar Gylwanov. Gylwanov is in custody while the others gave written pledges not to leave the area. Special police troop commander Oleg Sokolov was included in the wanted list.

An independent human rights commission that investigated the Blagoveshchensk incident revealed at least 107 victims, including 23 minors.

Bashkir State-Run Paper Refuses To Publish Article By Ombudsman
The editor in chief of Bashkortostan's official newspaper "Respublika Bashkortostan," Natalya Supryaga, refused to publish a statement by Russian human rights ombudsman Lukin, Regnum reported on 1 March, citing Lukin's press service. In the article, Lukin was going to refer to the involvement of former Bashkir Deputy Interior Minister Fetkhlislam Toqombetov in violations of the constitutional rights of republic residents during his service in the ministry. Toqombetov was recently appointed Bashkortostan's ombudsman. Lukin's press service noted that Supryaga violated the federal ombudsman law, which obliges periodicals to publish the ombudsman's statements. Lukin considers requests by Supryaga to provide convincing evidence about Toqombetov's involvement in violating people's rights in contradiction to the law, since the "clear obligation of the newspaper is to publish the official statement by the ombudsman, not to request proof." Lukin added that he has such proof.

Allegations Of Disclosing State Secret Removed From Scholar The Federal Security Service's (FSB) Bashkir branch has accused academician Oskar Qaibyshev of illegal distribution of dual-purpose technologies, misappropriation and embezzlement, abuse of power, and fraud while dropping an accusation of disclosing state secrets, Interfax and "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 2 and 3 March, respectively. Qaibyshev, the director of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of Problems of Metals Superplasticity, was initially suspected of disclosing state secret by selling spherical bulbs made of titanium alloy to the South Korean ASA company.

According to the contract, the bulbs were intended to be used for production of automobile tires while the FSB suspected they would be used in South Korea's space program. Qaibyshev has rejected the charges.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

European Parliament Concerned About Rights Of Mari People
The Estonian Institute for Human Rights backed an appeal to support the Mari people and to call on the Russian authorities to stop the persecutions Mari journalists and the opposition and violations of their human rights (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 1 March 2005), Regnum reported on 28 February. The appeal was signed by public leaders and citizens of numerous countries, including former chairman of the Finnish parliament Riita Uosukainen and former presidents of Lithuania, Vitautas Landsbergis, and Estonia, Lennart Meri. An unidentified representative of the institute said the issue of violations of the Mari people's rights in the Russian Federation will be considered at the next session of the European Parliament's Intergroup, which deals with issues of national minorities and regional languages.

Samara Oblast Governor Claims Plot Against Him
The Samara Oblast gubernatorial press service released on 3 March a statement saying, "some commercial companies located in Samara Oblast are preparing provocative actions against heads of [oblast] authority bodies," "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 4 March. Governor Konstantin Titov, oblast Duma Speaker Viktor Sazonov, and oblast-administration head Sergei Sychev are listed as possible targets of provocations. The statement claims that "the aim of demonstrations and pickets is to destabilize the situation in the oblast and try to appoint to the oblast governor's post their own candidate who will defend the interests of financial industrial groups." At a press conference on 4 March in Samara, Titov said the "commercial company" referred to in the statement is the Volgopromgaz association for business cooperation controlled by Unified Energy Systems official Vladimir Avetisyan, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 5 March.

Germans Arrested For Selling Narcotics
Three citizens of Germany suspected of selling narcotics were detained on 1 March in Oktyabrsk, Samara Oblast, Interfax-Povolzhe reported on 4 March. The three were allegedly selling over 540 grams or 3,000 tablets of ecstasy worth 1 million rubles ($36,000). A criminal case on smuggling and selling especially large portion of narcotics has been filed.

New Governor Appointed In Saratov Oblast
Saratov Oblast Duma deputies unanimously voted at an extraordinary session on 3 March in favor of the appointment of Pavel Ipatov as governor, Interfax-Povolzhe reported the same day. Ipatov's candidacy was proposed to the oblast parliament by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Ipatov, 54, had served as general director of Balakovo Nuclear Power Station since 1989. Ipatov's predecessor, Dmitrii Ayatskov, had headed the oblast since 1996.

Unified Russia Holds Pro-Putin Demonstration In Yekaterinburg
Some 7,000 people took part in a meeting organized by Unified Russia in Sverdlovsk Oblast in Yekaterinburg on 4 March to back the Russian president and reforms, Interfax-Urals reported the same day. Workers of city enterprises, members of civic groups, and students took part. Sverdlovsk Oblast government Chairman Aleksei Vorobev, Yekaterinburg Mayor Arkadii Chernetskii, and local Unified Russia branch leaders appeared at the meeting.

Chornobyl Veterans Stage Demonstration...
Some 300 people who took part in the clean-up of the Chornobyl nuclear disaster from Sverdlovsk, Tyumen, and Chelyabinsk oblasts demonstrated on 2 March in Yekaterinburg to demand payment of compensation, Uralinformbyuro reported the same day. The chairman of the Middle Ural department of the Chornobyl of Russia union, Oleg Solomein, told the news agency that in Sverdlovsk Oblast alone, compensation owed to 4,500 participants in the Chornobyl clean-up is 77 million rubles.

...Stop Hunger Strike
On 3 March, Chornobyl veterans from Nizhnyaya Tura and Lesnoi in Sverdlovsk Oblast halted until 14 March the hunger strike they had been holding for seven days (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 1 March 2005), Interfax-Urals reported the same day. The decision was made following a meeting at which some agreements were reached. Head of the Nizhnyaya Tura branch of Chornobyl of Russia Yevgenii Zvolev told the news agency that the action will be continued if all the issues concerning payment of debts have not been decided by that time. The same day, similar hunger strikers in Kachkanar also stopped their strike.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova