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Tatar-Bashkir Report: March 23, 2004

23 March 2004
Tatarstan's Voters Overwhelmingly Back Putin, Unified Russia
Some 82.6 percent of Tatarstan's voters backed incumbent Russian President Vladimir Putin in the 14 March presidential election, reported on 15 March, citing preliminary results announced by the republic's central election commission based on returns tallied by 10 a.m. Among republican voters, Nikolai Kharitonov placed second with 6.6 percent of the vote, Irina Khakamada collected 3 percent, Sergei Glazev received 2.4 percent, and 2.1 percent of Tatarstan's voters cast their ballots against all candidates.

According to the preliminary results of the Tatar State Council elections received by 10 a.m. on 15 March, 70.5 percent of the republic's voters supported Unified Russia's party list. The second-place Communist Party received 6.2 percent of the vote, and 4.3 percent cast a ballot against all parties, followed by: the Russian Regions party -- 3.4 percent; the Party of Life -- 3 percent; Liberal Democratic Party of Russia -- 2.7 percent; the Union of Rightist Forces -- 2.3 percent; and the Motherland bloc -- 2.2 percent. Voter turnout was 79 percent in Tatarstan.

Unified Russia Wins Constitutional Majority In Tatar Parliament
Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev told a press conference on 15 March that Unified Russia secured a constitutional majority in the Tatar State Council in republican parliamentary elections on 14 March. Shaimiev said that in addition to the 45 or 46 seats the party won through proportional balloting, 35 of its representatives won elections in single-mandate districts. State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin, who headed Unified Russia's party list, won in a single-mandate district with 74 percent of votes. Three or four representatives of the Communist Party appear to have been elected in single-mandate districts, while not a single representative from another party was elected through a party list or in a single-mandate district. Meanwhile, six independent candidates earned seats in the State Council. Shaimiev said the republic's ethnic composition and its female population are better represented in the new parliament.

The president opined that right-wing parties lost the elections because neither the Union of Rightist Forces nor the Russian Regions party has an influential branch in the republic. "We would like those parties to gain a further foothold on Tatarstan's political scene," Shaimiev said.

Commenting on administrative reform, Shaimiev said the Russian model cannot be applied to the Republic of Tatarstan without modifications, adding that Tatar reform will have another shape.

Shaimiev said President Vladimir Putin will have to speed up reforms to heighten the public sense of well-being, and added that such progress depends on how freedom of speech and further democratic reforms are secured under Putin's administration.

The Tatar Central Election Commission on 17 March officially announced that Unified Russia won 85 seats in the 14 March State Council elections, 39 of them in single-mandate districts, Tatar-inform,, RosBalt, and other news agencies reported. Four Communist Party members won seats, including the leader of party's Tatar branch and former State Duma Deputy Aleksandr Salii and activists Robert Sadyiqov, Nesime Stolyarova, and Khafiz Mirgalimov. The remaining 11 mandates were won by independent candidates. Among those winning in single-mandate districts, 33 directors of companies or organizations, one journalist, and two deputies of administration heads were elected.

The head of Unified Russia in Tatarstan and former State Council speaker Farid Mukhametshin told a press conference on 17 March that representatives of Unified Russia will occupy key posts in the newly elected State Council. Mukhametshin said support for Unified Russia in Tatarstan rose from 59 percent to 69 percent between the 7 December State Duma elections and the parliamentary elections. Commenting on the Russian Party of Life's poor results, Mukhametshin suggested that party Chairman Sergei Mironov should resign following the party's failures in the State Duma, Russian presidential, and Tatar State Council campaigns. The number of females parliament members rose from five to 13. The new legislature will comprise 62 Tatars, 36 ethnic Russians, and two representatives of other nationalities.

The first session of the new parliament is slated for 26 March. The agenda will include the Tatar president's annual message to the State Council.

Prosecutors Audit TAIF As Questions Arise Over Source Of Accusations
Tatarstan prosecutors launched an inspection of the Tatar-American Investments and Finance (TAIF) company on 24 February at the behest of the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office following an inquiry by Deputy State Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin, "Vremya i dengi" reported on 18 March. In his inquiry, Ilyukhin referred to an appeal he received in early February from an individual who introduced himself as Nizhnekamskneftekhim petrochemicals company employee Nail Weliev. The employee reportedly expressed concern about alleged "numerous incidences of legal violations during the establishment of TAIF made with the connivance of the republic's leadership."

The daily cited the Tatar Prosecutor-General's Office as saying the TAIF inspection will be finished by April.

Meanwhile, Nizhnekamskneftekhim Deputy General Director Nail Weliev told a news conference on 18 March that he had nothing to do with any such appeal, and that he informed Deputy Ilyukhin, the Russian prime minister, and federal media outlets of that fact in mid-February, Tatmedia news agency reported. Weliev added that there is no other "Nail Weliev" at the company. TAIF spokesman Dmitrii Nemanov said at the same press conference that the incident damaged TAIF's reputation and that the company is conducting its own investigation to determine who initiated the scandal. The news agency quoted observers saying the incidents might be linked to the Tuben Kama Oil Refinery's ELOU-AVT-7 plant.

In the purported appeal to Ilyukhin, the author also reported that TAIF is negotiating with a foreign company to sell its shares. Radik Shaimiev, who is the son of President Mintimer Shaimiev as well as being general director of the Nira-Eksport company that holds 10 percent of TAIF and an adviser to TAIF's general director, recently said TAIF shareholders are not going to introduce any changes to the list of company owners. Established in 1975, TAIF controls 7 percent of Tatneft, 10 percent of Nizhnekamskneftekhim, 7.5 percent of Tuben Kama Oil Refinery, and has a majority stake in Kazanorgsintez. TAIF unites more than 30 companies from the construction, refining, services, financial, and petrochemical sectors.

Weekly Ascribes Communists' Electoral Success To Presidential Adviser
The "Zvezda povolzhya" weekly on 18 March accused an adviser to President Shaimiev on political issues, Rafael Khekimov, of promoting the Russian Regions party, which garnered 3.58 percent of the parliamentary vote but will not be represented in the parliament. The publication speculated that Khekimov, having persuaded Shaimiev on the eve of the elections to call on people to vote for Russian Regions, thus damaged the Tatar president's authority. The weekly said administrative levers were used to promote Russian Regions, as the heads of rural raion administrations were ordered to secure 15 percent support for the party. The publication also claimed that two of three votes in favor of the Motherland bloc, which it believes collected 7 percent, were counted as votes for Russian Regions. As a result of Khekimov's misguided strategy, the paper claimed, a faction of the Communist Party appeared in the new Tatar parliament and it will be much more difficult for its speaker to cope with the new legislature than with its predecessor. "Zvezda povolzhya" claimed it is the third "ruinous political project" in which Khekimov was involved for Shaimiev.

Former Duma Deputy Arrested
Former State Duma Deputy Sergei Shashurin was detained by Tatar Interior Ministry authorities in Moscow on 12 March, reported on 15 March, citing the ministry's press department. Shashurin is suspected of fraud that caused some 3 million rubles ($105,000) in damages. Kazan's Wakhitov Raion court reportedly sanctioned his arrest on 13 March. "Vechernyaya Kazan" on 16 March cited the Tatar Interior Ministry's press service as saying that criminal investigations against Shashurin were opened long ago but were halted because of Shashurin's parliamentary immunity. Some probes are reportedly linked to the KamAZ automotive concern and the Tatkhleboprodukt bakery.

Construction Of Three Objects Halted
An emergency commission established in Tatarstan following Moscow's Transvaal Park disaster in mid-February ordered the suspension of three projects in Kazan that had not secured the required documentation, Tatar-inform, RosBalt, and other news agencies reported on 12 March. According to the report, construction on the LetoStop water park was continuing without the required permit from experts; work on the Orlenok hotel was continuing despite a negative conclusion by experts; and a group of luxury Suvorovskii homes on the Kazanka River was reportedly erected on a landfill. An expert commission within the Federal Licensing Center of the Russian Construction Committee's Tatar branch has also suspended the licenses of 23 construction enterprises in Tatarstan and issued warnings to four other builders, the center's deputy director, Vazyikh Bikmullin, told RosBalt.

Meanwhile, Tatarstan's chief natural-resources board addressed a stern warning to Turkey-based Enka, which is working on an IKEA retail center in Kazan, "Kommersant" reported on 13 March. Construction allegedly began in the absence of a green light from an environmental study, which could entail a violation of federal law. The board has reportedly levied a fine of 5,000 rubles ($175) against project manager Michael Bierklund in connection with the finding.

Pharmaceutical Company Pays Compensation For Child's Death
The state-run Tattekhmedfarm pharmaceutical company has paid 500,000 rubles ($17,500) in compensation to a family that whose newborn baby died at Kazan First Children's Hospital, "Vostochnyi ekspress" reported on 12 March. The child was one of three infants who died at the hospital three years ago, after they were treated with a tainted solution that was supplied by Tattekhmedfarm.

After pharmacists were sentenced to seven years of conditional imprisonment, the parents of one of the newborn victims appealed to a Moscow Raion court for 5 million rubles in psychological damages; the baby's mother, Dinara Galieva, told "Vostochnyi ekspress" that she is partly satisfied with the verdict. Moscow Raion Judge Sergei Yakunin said the size of the compensation is unprecedented, as, even in Moscow, similar sums do not exceed 100,000 rubles.

Tattekhmedfarm General Director Yakov Margulis continued to insist that improper conditions under which the solutions were kept at the hospital were responsible for the children's deaths.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Bashkir President Welcomes Putin's Re-Election
Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov said on 15 March that the previous day's Russian presidential election was well-organized and proceeded calmly. Voter turnout was high even in the regions, which is not usually the case, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported. Rakhimov said that it would be wrong to say that there was nothing intriguing about the election, because first, there were six candidates and it was possible to pick any of them, and second, Putin had practically no election campaign, and his opponents were always on TV. In this case one could assume that they would win a majority of the vote, but the people decided otherwise, Rakhimov claimed.

The Bashkir president also noted that it was also intriguing whether the voters would turn out at all, as many opposition politicians tried to convince people that voting would make no sense, because everything had already been arranged.

Rakhimov claimed that the next four years of Putin's presidency would represent a turning point for Russia, as fighting corruption and speeding up economic growth will be the main challenges for the president-elect.

Election Commission Announces Official Results Of Presidential Vote
Bashkir Central Election Commission Chairman Baryi Kinjegulov told a news conference on 15 March that according to the final count, 89.09 percent of Bashkortostan's 2.5 million voted in the Russian presidential elections the previous day, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported. Vladimir Putin received 91.79 percent of the vote.

This is a significant increase compared to the 2000 elections, in which Putin won 60.25 percent of the vote in Bashkortostan. The rural Baltach region of the republic reportedly showed the strongest support for Putin, casting 99.77 percent in his favor, while in the regions of Borai and Buzdyak, Putin's support also exceeded 99 percent.

Bashkir Election Watchdog Critical Of American System Of Voting
In a 16 March editorial, the state news agency Bashinform attacked the "ungrounded" criticism in Western media about the recent presidential elections in Russia. The agency cited Bashkortostan's Central Election Commission chairman Baryi Kinjegulov as saying that Charles Maggie, an American observer, who monitored the recent Russian presidential elections in the republic on behalf of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, was "quite surprised to see such a technological novelty as electronic voting booths." Kinjegulov said that the Bashkir system is far more advanced than the U.S. system.

Unified Russia Wins Majority In Ufa City Hall
As a result of 14 March elections for Bashkortostan's municipal councils, the Kremlin-backed Unified Russia party entered 50 of its members to the 60-seat Ufa City Council, while three more members will go to court to challenge the outcome of voting in their districts, Rosbalt reported on 16 March. Unified Russia already has about 110 representatives among 120 deputies in the Bashkir parliament. Bashkortostan's Central Election Commission is yet to release the very final results of the votes for Russian president and the municipal councils in late March.

Tatar Civic Groups Unsuccessful In Ufa City Council Vote
Following Bashkir media reports that the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party placed at least 50 of its candidates on the 60-seat Ufa City Council, Airat Gyinietullin, leader of the Tatar Public Center branch in Bashkortostan, told an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent on 17 March that none of the candidates proposed by local Tatar civic groups managed to defeat candidates backed by the republican and city authorities (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 17 March 2004).

The civic groups, representing the interests of some 1 million ethnic Tatars in Bashkortostan, have never managed to get candidates elected to the Russian State Duma or the republic's parliament.

Metro Cash&Carry Comes To Ufa
The German wholesaler Metro Cash&Carry company will invest 20 million euros ($25 million) in a multifunction shopping complex in Ufa, the company's representatives announced during a meeting with Mayor Pavel Kachkaev on 18 March, RosBalt reported. The shopping center reportedly will not serve individuals, offering its goods only to companies. Metro is currently considering four possible locations for construction, while it plans to open eight such wholesale stores in cities across Russia by the end of the year.

Anniversary Of Soviet Bashkir Autonomy Marked
Speaking at a conference devoted to the 85th anniversary of the establishment of the Bashkir Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic on 18 March in Ufa, Bashkir Deputy Prime Minister Khelef Ishmoratov promoted special, increased rights for Russia's national republics, including Bashkortostan. "If attempts to turn national republics into governorates are continued, the country will again fall under threat of disintegration," Ishmoratov said. Marat Qolsheripov, a history professor at Bashkir State University, said at the forum that the 1919 document that set up the Bashkir Autonomous Republic still maintains its historical value as it contributes to the preservation of federalism in Russia. A separate Bashkir republic was established in 1919 in opposition to the Tatar-Bashkir Republic, which was being promoted by Tatar leaders.

Arms Smugglers Arrested In Ufa
A criminal group involved in smuggling arms from Chechnya to Bashkortostan was detained in Ufa on 18 March by the Bashkir Interior Ministry, the republican Federal Security Service, and the prosecutor's office, RIA-Novosti, RosBalt, and other news agencies reported. Three Chechnya residents and one Ufa resident were arrested. In the latter's home in Ufa, three Kalashnikov assault rifles, seven Makarov pistols, four silencers, eight grenades, and over 400 cartridges were seized. A car that was allegedly used for arms smuggling was also found.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Police Warn About Possible Terrorist Acts In Volga Region
The Chavash Interior Ministry appealed to residents of the republic and neighboring regions to help find suspects who are allegedly preparing an act of terrorism in the Volga region, "Izvestia" reported on 19 March. Two men and a woman, who were carrying sports bags, are wanted. According to the ministry's press service, information that the three were planning a terrorist act came from a "trustworthy source."

High School Student Expelled For Calling For 'Against All' Vote
A court in Chelyabinsk Traktorozavodskii Raion has expelled Nikolai Matveyev, a student at the Chelyabinsk Institute of the Interior Ministry, reported on 17 March. Matveyev, a Youth Patriotic Organization member and fifth-year student, had distributed leaflets on 9 March calling for citizens to vote against all candidates in the 14 March presidential elections.

Chelyabinsk Oblast Teachers Protest Salary Cuts
Some 250 teachers staged a meeting on 19 March in front of the Chelyabinsk Oblast's Ozersk city administration building to express their lack of support for the city administration head, reported the same day. The demonstration was organized in reaction to proposed 10 percent salary cuts for state employees as of 1 April.

Head Of Marii El Presidential Guard Accused Of Exceeding Powers
The Marii El prosecutor's office has filed a criminal case against the head of the Marii El presidential guard Lieutenant Colonel Oleg Vershkov for allegedly exceeding his powers, "Kommersant" reported on 23 March. On 9 March, according to the newspaper, a car belonging to the presidential guard was damaged by a thrown snowball near the village of Studenka. The same day, a group of men who introduced themselves as the president's bodyguards, came to the village and fired at a nearby tractor. Then they severely beat several men residing in Studenka, accusing village residents of damaging the car. As they were leaving, "Kommersant" reported, the guards promised to come every week and beat the village residents. Marii El First Deputy Prosecutor Vasilii Maslov told the daily that the case had been filed by a Studenka resident allegedly beaten by guards. Vershkov, however, had denied the allegations.

FSB Questions Three Nizhnii Administration Officials
The Federal Security Service's (FSB) Nizhnii Novgorod Directorate interrogated on 18 March three senior officials of the Nizhnii Novgorod governor's administration, RosBalt and NTA-Privolzhe reported on 19 March, citing directorate employee Nikolai Sintsov. The three are suspected of violating citizens' private lives. The names and positions of the officials have not been released. Governor Gennadii Khodyrev, commenting on the event in an interview with RosBalt, said it was a "provocation" and that the employees "were detained illegally."

Suspect Accused Of Murdering Newspaper Editor Officially Charged
Yevgenii Maininger, the suspect accused of murdering "Tolyattinskoe obozrenie" Editor in Chief Aleksei Sidorov (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 14 October 2003), was officially charged on 16 March with murder, Regnum reported the same day. According to the criminal code, the crime is not tried by jury. The news agency speculated that investigators, perhaps concerned about lacking evidence, have pushed hard for a jury-less trial. According to investigators, Sidorov's murder had nothing to do with his work as a journalist and he was killed after refusing to share some alcohol he was drinking in the street. Meanwhile, lawyers and representatives of the Fund for the Defense of Glasnost have repeatedly said that Maininger is a "nominated murderer," while the real one is still at large. Sidorov's predecessor, Valerii Ivanov, was killed in April 2002. The case is still unsolved (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 3, 10 and 17 May 2002).

Nationalist Group Calls For Non-Russians To Be Expelled
Activists from the neo-Nazi Party of Freedom staged an unsanctioned demonstration on 16 March at the Izhevsk Central Square in Udmurtia to commemorate the victims of the recent Moscow subway attacks, Regnum reported on 17 March, citing TBC. During the demonstrations, swastika-clad party members called for non-Russians to be forced out of the country. The demonstrators were detained by police, the report said.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova