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Tatar-Bashkir Report: March 22, 2005

22 March 2005
Turkey To Sell Tupras Shares In Open Auction
Turkey's market competition Commission has approved government plans to sell a 51 percent state-owned stake in the Tupras petrochemical concern, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 15 March, citing Bloomberg. The shares will reportedly be sold at an open auction in April 2005. In late 2004, Turkey's privatization administration cancelled a $1.3 billion deal to sell the Tupras shares to Tatarstan's Tatneft and the Tukish Zorlu Holding, following protests by trade unions.

Tatar Parliament Amends Constitution To Abolish Presidential Elections
Tatarstan's State Council on 14 March passed constitutional amendments under which the republic's president is to be appointed by the Russian president and approved by the local parliament, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on the same day. The amendments were passed in the second and third readings, thus fulfilling the requirements of the federal law introducing the new procedure, which cancelled open gubernatorial elections. President Mintimer Shaimiev must still endorse the amendments for them to take force.

Putin Officially Nominates Shaimiev For Tatar President
President Vladimir Putin nominated Mintimer Shaimiev as a candidate for president of Tatarstan on 15 March, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. The day before Putin's staff submitted Shaimiev's candidacy, the Tatar parliament finally approved the draft amendments to the republican constitution on the new scheme of appointing the republic's president (see "RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Report," 15 March 2005). After being officially nominated, Shaimiev will be considered by the republican State Council within 14 days. Under federal law, if the Tatar parliament fails to approve Shaimiev as president, Putin has the authority to dismiss the State Council.

Government Interested In Relaunching Kama Alany Nuclear Project
Speaking at the 15 March governmental meeting on the republic's fuel and energy complex development till 2020, Economy and Industry Minister Aleksei Pakhomov said that Tatarstan is likely to unfreeze the project of building a nuclear power plant in Kama Alany, which was halted in 1989, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the next day.

Marat Galeev, the chairman of the parliamentary Economy and Investment Committee, opposed the idea of including the nuclear-power sector in the program of fuel and energy complex development. He said that the government experts in charge of the program used outdated approaches to the nuclear energy industry and standards "as much as 30 years old."

Putin Meets With KamAZ Truck Racing Team
Russian President Vladimir Putin met with the members of the KamAZ Master truck-racing team at Russia's central automotive testing ground in Dmitrov, near Moscow, on 16 March, according to the presidential press service. Putin used the opportunity to congratulate the racers of the Tatarstan-based team on their victory in this year's Dakar race, which is considered the unofficial world championship of off-road racing. After taking a KamAZ sport truck for a test drive, Putin saw several modifications of KamAZ trucks produced in Tatarstan.

Later the same day, Putin told the KamAZ racing team that he admired the their achievements, adding that their team was a symbol for the Russia's entire automotive industry, as KamAZ showed how to produce a competitive product both for domestic and foreign markets.

Putin also told the team that they will receive state awards at an official ceremony to be arranged later in the Kremlin.

Iraq's Ambassador Confirms Interest In Cooperation With Tatarstan
Tatar Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation Minister Khafiz Salikhov met with Iraqi Ambassador to Russia Abd al-Karim Hashim Mustafa on 15 March to discuss the joint projects of the Tatneft oil company and Iraq's Oil Ministry for prospecting new oil deposits and supplying the necessary equipment for extracting the prospected oil, Intertat reported the next day. Iraq is reportedly also interested in increasing the imports of Tatarstan-made heavy trucks and tires.

Party Of Life Official Says Shaimiev Has Right To Fourth Term
Refqet Altynbaev, deputy head of Russia's Party of Life and a former mayor of Tatarstan's second city Chally, told RFE/RL's Kazan bureau on 16 March that he welcomes Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to abolish direct elections for regional governors. He said gubernatorial elections were often marred by unfair practices by local administrations and therefore would have led to diminishing voter trust in elections. Altynbaev, who was long regarded as a political rival of Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev, said he thought the incumbent president has a right to serve a fourth term. Altynbaev said Putin "had had the opportunity" to accept or reject Shaimiev's request for another term in office. Despite his political agenda of challenging Shaimiev's polices within and outside Tatarstan, Altynbaev abandoned the idea of running for Tatarstan's president in 2001.

Kazan Universities Maintain Quota For Students From Distant Tatar Communities
Thirty-nine ethnic Tatars from the autonomous Chinese district of Sinjan-Uygur will be granted the right to study at universities in Kazan in 2005, Tatarinform reported on 17 March. According to an agreement between the Russian and Tatar Education Ministries signed in 2004 and with the support of the federal Foreign Ministry, Kazan's universities invite 70-80 students every year from foreign Tatar communities around the world to study Tatar language and culture as part of their university studies.

Tatar Parliament To Consider President's Candidacy
The Tatar State Council on 25 March will consider Russian President Vladimir Putin's 16 March nomination of President Mintimer Shaimiev to a fourth term as the republic's president, Interfax reported on 19 March. The parliament's presidium set the date during its 19 March session.

CIS Summit To Gather In Kazan
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on 18 March that a summit of heads of the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) will be held in Kazan in August, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reported. Following a meeting of the CIS' Council of Foreign Ministers in Minsk, Lavrov said the meeting approved proposals on major directions of reforming the CIS that will be discussed in Kazan.

Tatneft Purchases Deposits In Samara Oblast
Tatneft affiliate Tatneft-Samara on 18 March won a tender in Samara for the Aksenovskii and Vozdvizhenskii oilfields, "Kommersant-Volga-Urals" reported on 19 March. Tatneft-Samara paid 1.026 billion rubles ($37.1 million) and 2.49 billion rubles, respectively, for them, while the starting prices were 90 million rubles and 150 million rubles. Samara-Nafta shareholder Semen Kukes was Tatneft major rival in the tender. Estimated stocks of oil on the plots are 1.6 million tons and 2.864 million tons, respectively, while experts say real stocks are much bigger. An unidentified Tatneft source told the daily that the company paid slightly more than it planned for the deposits.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Plot Participants Dismissed From Posts
Three deputies from the Bashkir State Assembly: Bashkirenergo General Director Nikolai Kurapov, Institute for Regional Economy and Law head Viktor Gantsev, and Bashkir Economic Development Minister Valentin Vlasov, were expelled on 10 March from the board of directors of the Bashkir Fuel Company (BTK), "Kommersant-Daily" and RosBalt reported on 11 March. RosBalt cited an unidentified source in the republic's leadership saying the three had headed a recent plot in the republican parliament aimed at appointing Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov's son, Ural, as parliament speaker (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 25 February 2005). BTK President Ildar Iskhaqov was also dismissed at the company's board meeting. In January, Iskhaqov was dismissed from the post of Bashneft general director. Ilshat Tajetdinov, the 35-year-old head of the Bashkir presidential administration's socioeconomic development board, was appointed as chairman of the BTK board.

The meeting considered the issue of reevaluating shares of Bashneft and Bashkirenergo that were sold to Bashkirskii Kapital in 2003 for 8 billion rubles. The daily cited an unidentified board member saying the cost of the shares was underestimated. Upon hearing of the charges, President Rakhimov ordered that 63.72 percent of Bashneft and 36.7 percent of Bashkirenergo that had been sold to Bashkirskii Kapital be returned to BTK.

Muslims Protest Alleged Persecution
Some 40 people demonstrated for an hour and a half in the central October Square in Tuimazy on 13 March to protest alleged repression against Muslims and violations of their constitutional rights, Regnum reported the same day. Currently, three Tuimazy Raion residents -- Marsel Gayanov, Salawat Gayanov, and Bulat Gayanov -- are under investigation for alleged involvement in the Islamist organization Hizb ut-Tahrir, which was banned by the Russian Supreme Court in 2003. A similar picket of some 30 Muslims was dispersed by police the same day in Ufa. On 14 November, when the Muslim holiday Uraza beirem (Eid al Fitr) was marked, some 16 people were detained in Ufa, Oktyabrskii, Sibai, and Tuimazy for handing out Hizb ut-Tahrir leaflets.

In a statement released during the pickets, protesters said "the legislative, executive, and judicial systems of not protect the rights of Muslims...criminal cases are fabricated against them." Protesters said Gayanov was beaten in pretrial detention in Ufa on 2 January and suffered numerous injuries. The head of the Bashkortostan's Main Punishment Board, Viktor Pestov, however, denied those allegations and said an investigation did not prove those charges.

Duma Rejects Bashkortostan's Proposal
The State Duma rejected on 11 March a legislative initiative of the Bashkir State Assembly seeking to eliminate the direct election of the heads of the city and raion administrations and have them appointed instead, Interfax reported on the same day. The draft amendments to the federal law on the general principles of the organization of local self-government in Russia was backed in the first reading by 14 deputies and opposed by 226. Bashkortostan Deputy Mikhail Bugera (Unified Russia), who proposed the draft, suggested that local self-government bodies be formed only on the village and city raion level, while governing bodies on the level of cities and republic raions be included in the power vertical.

Human Rights Official Repeats Call For Bashkir Interior Heads Dismissal
Ella Pamfilova, head of the presidential Human Rights Council, told reporters on 16 March that she is bewildered by the fact that the heads of the Bashkir Interior Ministry have still not been dismissed, since there is direct evidence that they neglected their duties during the Blagoveshchensk police raid (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 21 January 2005), NTA reported. Pamfilova said she met with Russian Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov on 15 March to discuss the prosecutor's inspection of the activities of the Bashkir Interior Ministry. Pamfilova described the Blagoveshchensk incident as "scandalous," adding that she has the same position concerning this issue as the Russian ombudsman.

Rakhimov, Rossel Say They Will Serve Out Their Terms
Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov and visiting Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel told a press conference on 17 March in Ufa that they are not going to resign ahead of schedule and appeal to the Russian president to reappoint them, "MK v Bashkortostane" reported. Rakhimov said, "In any case, business executives, not servicemen or actors, should be appointed to head regions."

Citing unidentified sources in Bashkortostan and Tatarstan, reported on 18 March that "the party of strong governors," which includes Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev, Rakhimov, and Rossel, was strongly urged by the Kremlin to resign before their terms end. Following Shaimiev's resignation (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 11 March 2005), Rakhimov and Rossel met in Ufa to consult behind closed doors. cited an unidentified source close to Rakhimov as the two are trying to get absolute guarantees of inviolability at least until the end of their current terms. Rakhimov and Rossel realize that even if appointed now by the Russian president, they could easily be dismissed in several months, the source added.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi