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Tatar-Bashkir Report: May 11, 2004

11 May 2004
Telephone Networks To Grow By Some 40 Percent In 2004
Communications Minister Marat Jelelov told reporters on 4 May that in 2004 the republic's communications sector will receive no less than 2 billion rubles ($69 million) in investments, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 5 May. In addition to the current 1 million landline network users and 1 million of cellular network users, Tatarstan expects to have 175,000 more landline connections and 585,000 new mobile-phone users. By Kazan's millennium celebrations in 2005, the penetration of landline networks is expected to reach 100 percent in Tatarstan's capital and 26 connections per 100 people in Tatarstan. Current mobile-phone penetration in Tatarstan is reported at 25.1 percent.

World War II Veterans To Get Free Phone Calls On Victory Day
On the day before and on Victory Day in Tatarstan, the republic's Tattelekom will allow World War II veterans and those who worked for victory on the home front to make free intercity and international phone calls to greet fellow veterans, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. However, the calls are not to exceed a total duration of 10 minutes per veteran. Veterans will also get a 20 percent discount for sending telegrams inside Russia.

Kazan Brewery Invests $80 Million In Tatar Farms
Within the last two years the Kazan-based Krasnyi Vostok brewery has invested some 2.3 billion rubles ($80 million) in building new grain and cattle-breeding farms in Elki, Yeshel Uzen, and Yugary Oslan regions, Intertat reported. Tatar Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov is currently visiting the rural Kama region of Tatarstan. Minnikhanov told Intertat that the brewery's investments are raising the standard of living in formerly depressed areas by renovating roads and social infrastructure. Breaking the old tradition of Soviet farming, the investor reportedly prefers to import agricultural machinery because, despite its high price, the machines are more reliable.

Iran Interested In Sharing Tatarstan's Petrochemical Experience
Khemze Bagmanov, general director of the Tuben Kama oil-processing plant (NNPZ), met with a delegation from the Iranian Mostazafan financial and industrial group, led by Vice President Kiani Gholamali, the "Vremya i Dengi" daily reported on 6 May. The group reportedly expressed interest in sharing NNPZ technologies and consider the plant to be the "newest, most highly developed and efficient operating" in Russia.

Tatar Daily Predicts Higher Gasoline Prices
The recent rise of oil excise taxes and VAT on Russian oil producers, as well as the strong orientation toward exports as a result of rising global oil prices is expected to result in higher domestic gasoline prices, the daily "Vechernyaya Kazan" reported on 7 May. With spring and summer come increased demand for gasoline, and prices are expected to rise at least 5 percent. According to the daily, currently gas stations achieve a profit margin of about 15 percent, which, considering annual inflation, can be considered the minimum possible profit margin. Over the winter season, gasoline prices in Tatarstan rose approximately 10 percent.

Elektropribor To Undergo Privatization
Tatarstan's Land and Property Affairs Ministry on 6 May authorized the privatization plan submitted by the Kazan Elektropribor plant, formerly a classified Soviet Defense Ministry factory that produced sophisticated aircraft-navigation equipment, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported today. The privatized company will have a registered capital of some $9 million, with a 51 percent controlling stake owned by the state. The plant earned some $1.4 million in net profit in 2003, employing 2,224 specialists with an average monthly salary of some $150.

Tatar Police Send Supplies To Chechen Schoolchildren
Tatarstan's Interior Ministry have sent school supplies for schoolchildren in the village of Grebenskaya in Chechnya's Shelkovskoi Raion on 7 May, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported today. The load included school books, toys, musical instruments, sports equipment, cameras, tape recorders, and computers paid for by donations from Tatar policemen, local companies, and Youth and Sports Ministry.

Tatarstan's police officers have been safeguarding public order in Grebenskaya since 2002.

Watan Party Demands Official Status For Tatar Language
The National-Democratic Watan (Motherland) party staged a sparsely attended picket on 5 May on Pushkin Square in Moscow to demand that Tatar be given the status of a second state language in Russia, an RFE/RL Moscow correspondent reported on 8 May. About 15 members of the party held placards with slogans such as "We demand equality" and "Russia, show your tolerance." Protesters also called for reform of the Cyrillic alphabet by adding six letters to enable the proper spelling of Tatar names. Watan Chairman Mokhemmed Minachev told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 8 May that raising the status of Tatar to a state language status would contribute to Russian stability. Meanwhile, Russian Academy of Sciences member Yurii Vorotnikov told Ekho Moskvy on 5 May that the demand for such status for Tatar is absolutely unfounded.

Land, Property Relations Ministry Accused Of Corruption
At a meeting of the interdepartmental commission in charge of the timely payment of wages on 7 May, Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov criticized the Tatar Land and Property Relations Ministry for affiliations between officials there and property assessors who allegedly underestimate the value of state property slated for sale, "Kommersant" reported on 8 May. Tatar Deputy Interior Minister Rafael Gyilmanov listed a handful of dubious state-property transactions from 2003-03, including the construction of a downtown Kazan cinema. Gyilmanov suggested that companies on an Interior Ministry black list be deprived of the right to valuate state property. Deputy Prime Minister Rawil Moratov listed ministry officials with relatives who head companies in the same sector. Minnikhanov demanded that radical measures be taken, reminding that promotion by an official of the interests of an affiliated firm entails corruption.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Tatar Leaders To Appeal To Strasbourg Court On Tatar-Language Issue...
The notion of filing an appeal with the Strasbourg Human Rights Court on the issue of elevating the status of the Tatar language in Bashkortostan was on the agenda of a meeting of the council of Bashkortostan's Tatar civic groups on 30 April, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. Recently, a group of Bashkir scholars from Bashkortostan's History, Language, and Literature Institute sent an appeal to the Bashkir presidential administration to oppose raising the status of Tatar in Bashkortostan to a state or official one.

Bashkortostan's Tatar Public Center head, Airat Gyinietullin, said at the meeting that participants will also prepare an appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin to inform him about the persecution in Bashkortostan of people who backed President Murtaza Rakhimov's rivals in the December presidential elections.

...Promote Opening A Representative Office Of Tatarstan In Ufa
A group of Bashkortostan's Tatar civic leaders adopted an appeal to Tatarstan's leadership to open a representative office in Bashkortostan, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 2 May. In the document, the authors cite numerous allegations of violations of the rights of Tatars living in Bashkortostan and call for the immediate opening of such a mission in the republic. The deputy head of the Tatar Unity Association, Damir Sherefetdinov, said a group of leaders from Bashkortostan's Tatars have sent the appeal to the Tatar presidential administration.

Bashkir President's Fate Said To Have Received Kremlin Boost
Bashkortostan's President Murtaza Rakhimov received the political equivalent of an endorsement from Russian President Vladimir Putin in a meeting between the two men in Novo Ogarevo on 6 May, according to an unidentified source quoted by RosBalt the same day. The source claimed that since Putin and Rakhimov discussed Bashkortostan's social and economic development through 2008 -- when Rakhimov will have served out his five-year term in full -- the discussion "can be considered Putin's indirect consent on Rakhimov's remaining in his post until"

Few Trade Union Members Join May Day Event
The Bashkir Federation of Trade Unions failed to muster the 8,000 participants it vowed to attract for a May Day gathering, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 3 May. Many of the participants in the meeting on Lenin Square appeared to be pensioners. Federation Chairman Emirkhan Semirkhanov told the meeting that joint efforts by trade unions and employers have resulted in a dramatic reduction in unpaid wages. "The Russian president stated that it is necessary to cut in half the number of poor residents in the country," Semirkhanov said. "We believe poverty should be eliminated completely, rather than reduced. The task should be resolved through the development of production, economic growth, and a well-considered social policy."

Monument To Air Crash Victims Opens In Germany
Over 60 people who lost relatives in the 1 July 2002 midair collision in southern Germany left Bashkortostan for Germany on 2 May to take part in a ceremony unveiling a monument in Ueberlingen commemorating the crash victims, Radio Rossii reported on 2 May. The delegation is headed by Bashkir Prime Minister Rafael Baidavletov.

The director of the Air Accidents Investigation Department, Wilfried Schultze, said the final report on the investigation of the collision will be published in Germany on 17-23 May, RIA-Novosti reported on 30 April. Schultze said that less than two years after an accident is considered by experts to be a short term in which to finish an investigation. The aim of the investigation was to determine if there were any technical reasons for the collision between the Bashkir Airlines' Tu-154 and DHL's Boeing 757 that claimed 71 lives, most of them children from Bashkortostan.

Yulaev's Role In Bashkir History Revisited
Changing views on the role in Russian history of Yemelyan Pugachev, the leader of a peasant revolt, has led to a revision of the role of Salawat Yulaev, a Bashkir national hero and Pugachev's comrade-in-arms, in the run-up to his 250th anniversary in July, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 4 May. While during the Soviet period Pugachev was considered a hero fighting against tsarism, which oppressed ordinary people, now he is believed to be a gangster who pillaged cities, towns, and people. On 24 April, "Respublika Bashkortostan" wrote that the participation of Bashkirs under the leadership of Yulaev in Pugachev's rebellion resulted in great misfortune for the Bashkir people, as after the rebellion was suppressed, a lot of Bashkir villages were annihilated and many Bashkirs, including children, were killed.

Religious Leaders Concerned About Prostitution
Religious leaders in Bashkortostan, including Archbishop Nikon of Ufa and Sterletamaq, Central Muslim Spiritual Directorate Chairman Telget Tajetdin, and Bashkortostan's Central Muslim Spiritual Directorate Chairman Nurmokhemmet Nigmetullin, sent an open letter to President Murtaza Rakhimov to demand that he personally take measures to prevent the spread of prostitution, RosBalt reported on 5 May. They said that prostitution in Ufa in the past three years had reached "unprecedented scope," "with the complete connivance of law-enforcement bodies."

They added that the situation is worse than it has ever been, and blamed the authorities turning a blind eye to advertisements for prostitutes and bordellos. They said that the police have not closed a single house of prostitution in the last year, while ads from more than 300 such houses are printed every week with a total print run of 1 million copies. The leaders reminded the president that "prostitution is still considered a crime" and called on him to remind the police and the Media Ministry that prostitution and its advertisement are impermissible.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Russian Justice Minister Makes Sweeping Indictment Of NGOs
The first deputy head of the Russian Justice Ministry's department of corrections, Valerii Kraev, alleged at a news conference on 7 May that some Russian human rights groups are financed by organized-crime groups, reported the same day. among them For Human Rights headed by Lev Ponomarev, Kraev added that 173 Russian NGOs are sponsored by self-exiled tycoon Boris Berezovskii. He also accused human rights activists of being behind recent protests at penitentiaries in the Irkutsk and Chelyabinsk oblasts (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 27 April and 4 May 2004). The head of one of the groups Kraev suggested has ties to organized crime, Lev Ponomarev of the NGO For Human Rights, vowed to sue Kraev for "not only moral compensation but also his dismissal from the post." Ponomarev said, "He discredits the Justice Ministry with such statements."

Russia, Hungary Sign Protocol On Nuclear Waste
Russian Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko and Hungary's Plenipotentiary Ambassador to Russia Ferenc Kontri signed a protocol on deliveries of nuclear fuel and spent nuclear fuel, Novyi region (Chelyabinsk) reported on 7 May. The Mayak chemical plant in Chelyabinsk is a major facility for processing spent nuclear fuel. The protocol is aimed at regulating shipments to Russia of spent nuclear fuel from Hungary's Paksh nuclear power station in the wake of Hungary's recent accession to the European Union. Russia and the European Commission agreed to prolong 17 existing contracts involving cooperation on nuclear-fuel issues from acceding EU countries.

Report: Chelyabinsk Mayor Earns More Than Federal Ministers
Chelyabinsk Mayor Vyacheslav Tarasov is among the highest-paid officials in Russia with a monthly salary of 100,000 rubles ($3,500), Novyi region (Chelyabinsk) reported on 6 May. Tarasov signed a resolution doubling his salary on 9 December, citing the "special status of the head of the city." Tarasov's salary is thus higher than that of federal ministers, who earn some 90,000 rubles following an April decree by President Vladimir Putin to raise that figure fivefold. The NGO Legal Conscience has claimed that Tarasov's salary is illegal and called for the money to be allocated instead to childcare, schools, and orphanages.

One In Four Chelyabinsk Residents Lives In Poverty
Ten percent of the population of Chelyabinsk Oblast received roughly 28 percent of the oblast's household income in the first quarter of 2004, while the poorest 10 percent of the population received just 2.4 percent of total income, Ural-Press-Inform reported on 6 May. The average monthly income of the highest-earning 10 percent was 11,500 rubles ($397), while that of the bottom 10 percent was 982 rubles. Some 984,700 oblast residents, or nearly 28 percent of the population, make less than a subsistence wage.

Construction Workers Protest For Unpaid Wages
Employees of the Perm Oblast's Kompaniya Nikolaev Posad construction company have spent two weeks picketing the Berezniki Meakir brick plant, which reportedly owes the company over 3 million rubles ($103,600), reported on 15 May, citing Verkhnekamskoe news agency. Constructors who have not been paid since December -- due in part to the debt -- say they will continue their action until they are paid in full.

Sverdlovsk Teenager Charged With Desecrating Russian Flag
Sverdlovsk Oblast's Slobodo-Turin Interior Department filed a criminal case against a 17-year-old technical-school student for allegedly desecrating a Russian state flag, Regnum reported on 5 May, citing a source in law enforcement. The student allegedly removed the flag from the building of the Bobrov rural administration on 1 May and threw it into a trash pit.

Yamal-Nenets Leader Says Putin Gave Assurances Over Regions' Fates
Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug Governor Yurii Neelov told a news conference on 6 May that during a recent meeting with President Vladimir Putin in Salekhard on 28-29 April, the Russian president said no one is going to merge regions of the country against the will of their people. Putin said there is no general line aimed at the artificial merger of the federation subjects, and such a merger can take place only after a referendum. Neelov also criticized legislative efforts to hand many of the okrug's powers over to Tyumen Oblast authorities, saying such efforts have been hasty and ignore specific features of many regions.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova