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Tatar-Bashkir Report: June 22, 2004

22 June 2004
Russian Presidential Envoy Says Moscow Not Planning Future Regional Mergers...
According to presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District Sergei Kirienko, the recent merger of Komi-Perm Autonomous Okrug and Perm Oblast "was an individual case rather than an indication of a general trend towards merging all of the regions in Russia," "Izvestiya Tatarstana" weekly reported on 16 June. Kirienko added that when merging federation entities, "it is important to pay attention to the ethnic factor for preserving the unique culture of ethnic minorities" and hold special referendums on mergers. He emphasized that the federal districts were not created to draw the shape of future regions, "but for moving parts of the presidential staff closer to the regions because it is impossible to follow and control what is taking place there from Moscow."

Kirienko asked rhetorically "How can one unite ethnic territorial entities, and which principles should be used to attaching, for example, a poor Ulyanovsk Oblast to the prosperous Tatarstan?"

...And Happy With Shaimiev's Performance As President
Kirienko also said that the federal authorities "regret" that Tatarstan's Mintimer Shaimiev refused to seek another presidential term, which would be his fourth, although it is allowed by law.

Police Detain Kazan Human Rights Activist
"Vechernyaya Kazan" claimed on 15 June that a special police unit dealing with corruption within law-enforcement bodies recently detained Oleg Khabibrakhmanov. The report -- which was unconfirmed -- suggested that Khabibrakhmanov, who cooperates with the Kazan Human Rights Center maintained by the MacArthur Fund, was detained in the act of handing over a $2,000 bribe to a migration officer over the issuance of a passport for a Chechen refugee. The center recently published a series of books on human rights abuses by the police, relying on articles published among Tatarstan's media, while two unidentified perpetrators stormed the center's offices and destroyed several computers and audiovisual equipment on 27 May.

Conference Seeks To Promote Official Status For Muslim Property In Russia
On the first work day of an international conference in Kazan on 14 June dedicated to the management of Islamic clerical property, Tatarstan Muslim Religious Board Chairman Gusman khazret Iskhaq told RFE/RL's Kazan bureau that the republic is the only region in Russia that has preserved property owned by the Muslim religious organizations before the 1917 Russian Revolution (see "RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Report," 14 June 2004). Most of that property, comprising mosques and Muslim religious schools, has already been returned to the Islamic community by the Kazan city administration.

The rector of the Kazan-based Islamic University of Russia, Marat Mortazin, told reporters that under Shari'a, organizations may own donated industries and use their profits for religious and charitable activities. Unlike the law in Tatarstan, he added, Russian law currently has no regulations settling the handover and management of such enterprises.

The Islamic conference is expected to discuss ways of promoting the legal status of religious organizations' property management in the next several days. The event is joined by a representative of Saudi Arabia's Bank of Islamic Development, Feddat Layasi; the deputy general secretary of Kuwait's Muslim Funds Directorate, Abdewahab Al-Hoti; and a representative of the Badr Forte Bank's representative office in Moscow, Abalet Jebiev.

Light Alcoholic Beverages Gain On Vodka
Some 2.8 million deciliters of alcoholic beverages have been sold in Tatarstan in the first five months of 2004, about 1 percent higher than over the same period last year, Intertat reported on 15 June, citing the head of the state alcohol inspectorate. In 2004, Tatarstan's residents reportedly consumed 12 percent more light alcoholic beverages than they did in 2003. Figures also indicate that with the gradual growth of incomes, the share of light alcoholic beverages on the market rose two percentage points to reach a 33 percent share, while the share of hard alcohol fell to 65 percent. Vodka remains the most popular alcoholic drink in the republic, with the locally produced brands of the state distillery Tatspirtprom holding a dominant 93 percent share of the market.

UNESCO Kazan Conference Discusses Ways Of Preserving Cultural Diversity In Eurasia
A two-day United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) conference opened in Kazan on 17 June, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. Representatives of more than 500 UNESCO World Heritage cites from Europe, Latin America, Africa, and Asia, are participating in the conference. They will discuss strategies and programs for preserving the Eurasian cultural heritage. In his opening speech, Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev stressed the importance of the conference, which is part of Kazan's millennium celebrations, and passed on greetings from Russian President Vladimir Putin. Shaimiev said that in this era of globalization, the world needs a mechanism that can preserve and develop ethnic cultures.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Activists Continue Struggle To Raise Status Of Tatar
Representatives of Bashkortostan's Tatar organizations during a 15 June meeting in Ufa discussed further steps in their fight for to obtain higher status of the Tatar language in the republic, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported. It was announced at the gathering that a second appeal has been handed to Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov that calls on him to resolve the issue of granting state-language status to Tatar. They reminded him that they sent an earlier appeal to him on 6 January. The authors said that if the president continues to ignore their appeals they will take other measures to promote official status for Tatar, including initiating a referendum. The activists have included the issue in the agenda of a congress of Bashkortostan's Tatar Public Center slated for 19 June.

Durtoile Company Employees Stage Hunger Strike
An unspecified number of employees of the Durtoile Raion's Tang public catering and entertainment company, which employs 120 persons, announced a hunger strike to protest what they perceive as harassment from raion authorities, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 15 June. Employees of the company earlier held protest strikes (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 3 June 2004). In an interview with RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 15 June, Tang General Director Rinat Sekhibjatin said Durtoile Raion administration head Rawil Dewletov has persecuted the company because the raion intends to take over a plot of land near the company. Sekhibjatin claimed pressure against his company grew following the December Bashkir presidential campaign, during which meetings with voters of presidential candidate Relif Safin were held on company premises.

Hearing Of Falsified-Ballots Case Postponed
Ufa's Kirov court postponed on 15 June the trial of the case on the illegal printing of ballots for the Bashkir presidential elections until August (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 4 and 5 December 2003), RIA-Novosti, RosBalt, and other news agencies reported. The only person accused in the case is the director of the printing house, Marat Weliev, who is accused of producing fake electoral documents. The reason given for the postponement was the vacation of Weliev's lawyer.

Meanwhile, Bashkir presidential-administration head Radii Khebirov labeled the fake-ballot story a "brilliant theater performance," RosBalt reported on 15 June. In a statement released by the presidential press service, Khebirov said that he "strongly doubts that a court will name those who ordered this crime, although they are undoubtedly somewhere nearby."

Leaders Of Bashkir Women's Groups Call For Greater Representation
The leaders of several Bashkortostan's women's civic groups have written Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov complaining that women are underrepresented in Russia's new government, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 14 June. The authors referred to a declaration adopted at the 1995 Worldwide Women's Conference in China that stresses that women should have equal representation in leading posts. Heads of Bashkortostan's Bashkir, Tatar, Ukrainian, and other organizations signed the appeal.

Wages Arrears Grow By One-Third In Bashkortostan
Bashkir Prime Minister Rafael Baidavletov said on 17 June that over 103,000 workers are owed back wages in Bashkortostan, RosBalt reported the same day. Debts have increased so far this year by 31.5 percent or 108 million rubles to 449.5 million rubles ($15.5 million). Baidavletov said it is impossible to resolve the issue of wage arrears without improving companies' financial status as well as structural reconstruction and reform of the economy. He added that 30 to 40 percent of the republic's enterprises are loss making.

Iraqi Students To Study At Ufa University
LUKoil President Vagit Alekperov said on 17 June that 40 Iraqi students will be admitted to the Moscow Gubkin University of Oil and Gas and the Ufa State Oil Technical University within as part of a March agreement between LUKoil and the Iraqi Oil Ministry, reported. Alekperov added that the number of Iraqi students admitted every year to the universities will increase to 100 as of 2005. In late 2003, the company resumed working on the West Kurna-2 oil deposit in Iraq.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Chelyabinsk Oblast Governor Outraged By Government Officials' Poor Russian
Chelyabinsk Oblast Governor Petr Sumin criticized oblast government officials for poor knowledge of Russian, Uralinformbyuro reported on 18 June. At a government meeting, Sumin revealed that many of the oblast's senior officials cannot correctly speak and write in Russian despite the fact that 5 million rubles ($172,000) are allocated every year from the oblast budget for libraries. Shocked by the fact, Sumin decided to allocate an additional 3 million rubles for this purpose and ordered the government officials to learn the fundamentals of the Russian language. The next government meeting will be devoted to checking their knowledge of Russian and, if the officials score badly, they will be sent to Russian language courses.

Perm Plant To Assemble Engines For Cuba
The Perm Engine Plant will produce nine PS-90A engines for Il-96-300 airliners for the Cuban government, reported on 18 June, citing Uralbizneskonsalting. The contract will be completed by 2005. The engines will be installed on two Il-96-300 airliners, one of which will be used by Cuban President Fidel Castro.

Samara Oblast's Chechens Promise Reward For Information About Market Blast
The Chechen diaspora in the Samara Oblast is ready to pay $10,000 for information that may help find those responsible for a 4 June blast at a Samara Kirov market, reported on 17 June. The blast killed 11 and injured some 60 people.

Criminal Investigation Against Saratov Oblast Parliament Speaker Revived
The Russian Supreme Court Presidium revived on 17 June a criminal case against Saratov Oblast Duma Chairman Sergei Shuvalov who was accused of abuse of power in 1998, Saratovbizneskonsalting and other Russian news agencies reported. Shuvalov, when he was deputy head of the oblast's government, was accused of allocating 70 million rubles ($2.4 million) from the oblast's budget to pay customs duties for a privately owned company. The court presidium issued a resolution annulling the December 2002 verdict by the Saratov Oblast Court and the May 2003 ruling by the Russian Supreme Court's Criminal Cases Legal Board about Shuvalov's innocence. The court presidium ruled that all those court decisions are unfounded. In May, the Saratov Oblast prosecutor's office launched a criminal investigation against oblast Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov alleging his involvement in the case. The office subsequently closed the investigation (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 18 and 25 May 2004).

Legendary Sportsman Agrees To Run For Governor In Saratov Oblast...
In an interview with the Kazakh "Karavan" weekly on 17 June, Vladislav Tretyak, a State Duma deputy (Unified Russia) and a former goalkeeper for the USSR's hockey team, said he will run for the Saratov Oblast governor, Regnum reported on 19 June. In December, Tretyak won the State Duma elections in a single-mandate district where local Communist leader Valerii Rashkin was his major rival.

...As Does Local Businessman
Businessman and politician Anzori Aksentev told a press conference in Saratov on 18 June that he will run for the position of Saratov Oblast governor, Regnum reported on 19 June. Aksentev said his four-day trip to the oblast's rural raions showed that the situation there is "catastrophic." He added that oblast people asked him to run for the governor. Aksentev said he will use people who are free from theft and corruption. "Honest leadership" in the region will guarantee investments, he said.

Journalist Assaulted In Sverdlovsk
Olga Surzhikova, a former reporter for the OTV television channel, was assaulted on 15 June, Novyi region reported on 17 June. Three men beat and robbed Surzhikova near her apartment, having taken her bag, mobile telephone, and jewelry. In the past year in Yekaterinburg, there have been 10 reported assaults on journalists. The perpetrators of the attacks are still at large.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova