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Tatar-Bashkir Report: July 15, 2004

15 July 2004
TYG Criticizes Unified Russia
The Tatarstan -- New Century (TYG) political movement accused its political ally Unified Russia of being removed from reality and lacking enthusiasm for reforms, "Kommersant-Povolzhe" reported on 6 July. The statements were made at a TYG congress in Kazan on 3 July. At the congress, TYG concluded that it should help its ally by initiating discussions involving the republic's population as regards reforms in Russia. Tatar State Council Chairman and TYG leader Mukhametshin said at the congress that the new social policy by the Kremlin is not clear to a major portion of the population. Mukhametshin added that Russian society has given in to pressure by supporters of "vertical power." He said he opposes taking away powers from the regions and sharply criticized initiatives to reform Russia's administrative-territorial system, which may result in redrawing the ethnic borders of regions that were established centuries ago. Mukhametshin added that TYG's decision to participate in the last elections with Unified Russia was correct, but that the current views of Unified Russia in the State Duma do not satisfy many supporters of TYG. TYG unites 10 civic groups and has an additional thousands of other independent members, many of whom ran for the Tatar State Council in 2003 in alliance with Unified Russia. In May, TYG formed its own faction in Tatarstan's parliament.

German Citizen In Detention Complains Of Rights Violations
Lawyer Sergei Pronin released to the media on 5 July a letter by his client, German citizen Uwe Krueger, in which he cited violations by law-enforcement bodies in Tuben Kama, "Kommersant-Povolzhe" reported on 6 July. Krueger, who is accused of illegally purchasing explosives, has been on a hunger strike since mid-May (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 1 July 2004). Krueger also said he was moved to a different prison after he complained about the conditions while in temporary detention in Minzele. Krueger said he was kept in one prison cell together with prisoners infected with tuberculosis despite a court order of solitary confinement for him. Krueger also said he was given injections of unknown substances. He has sent letters to Tatar President Shaimiev and Russian President Vladimir Putin about his plight but he believes police did not send them to the addressees. In response, the Tuben Kama Prosecutor's Office has said that Krueger's rights were not violated and there are no grounds for his appeal.

Turkish Companies To Restore Kremlin Library, Build New Consulate
The Turkish Foreign Ministry plans to hold a tender for Turkish companies operating in Tatarstan for the roughly $2 million construction of a Turkish Consulate in Kazan, Turkish Consul-General to Kazan Ismail Haqqi Musa told a news conference in Kazan on 6 July, Tatar media reported. The project is slated for completion by mid-2005. Turkish companies Odak, Monotek, Orimek, and Renaissance are constructing or reconstructing buildings ahead of the Kazan millennium. Musa also said 11 companies will take part in the restoration of the Kazan Kremlin library. That project's total cost is $1.8 million, $1.5 million of which is being covered by Turkish firms as a present for the Kazan jubilee. Bilateral trade turnover between Turkey and Tatarstan totaled $1 billion last year. A Days of Turkey in Tatarstan event will be held in 2005, Musa said.

Communist Leader Loses Suit Contesting Tatar Parliamentary Elections Results
The Kazan Moscow Raion Court rejected a lawsuit on 6 July filed by Communist Party Republican Committee First Secretary Aleksandr Salii, who demanded that the results of the 14 March State Council elections in several electoral districts be annulled, "Kommersant-Povolzhe" reported on 7 July. Salii claimed that falsification of ballot results in several districts included counting votes given to other parties as votes for Unified Russia or Russia's Regions. He also believes the substitution of real protocols with false ones was effected as they were being transferred from district election commissions to territorial commissions -- adding that observers say it took an inordinate amount of time to make such handovers. Salii demanded that election ballots be re-counted in those districts, but the court rejected his request. Salii said he will appeal the Moscow Raion Court verdict with the Tatar Supreme Court.

Federal Inspector Succumbs To Injuries Of Car Accident
A federal inspector to Tatarstan, Denis Ekhmedullin, 31, died on 6 July in the Nizhnii Novgorod Traumatic Surgery and Orthopedics Institute, where he was undergoing treatment for burns and other injuries he suffered in a car accident near Kazan in June, and other Tatar and Russian news agencies reported on 6 July. Ekhmedullin's vehicle strayed into oncoming traffic on 7 June.

Tatar-Korean Company To Produce Ethylene
Tatneftekhiminvest-holding General Director Rafinat Yarullin said on 7 July in Kazan that the Tatar government has decided on the profile of Tatar-Korean Petrochemical Company (TKNK), which is intended to develop petrochemical production, but not gasoline or oil products, "Kommersant-Povolzhe" reported on 8 July. Yarullin said the decision due to the lack of petrochemical products, including ethylene and polyethylene, on the Russian market. He added that the complex will produce up to 600,000 tons of ethylene and Tatarstan can now cover half of the domestic ethylene and benzene market. The daily cited analysts have called the decision controversial as all Russian oil companies are seeking to increase and deepen oil refining domestically to profit on gasoline production. The newspaper speculated that the decision to not produce gasoline must have been come in the interest of Tatar-American Investments and Finances (TAIF), the leadership of which likely agreed its gasoline project with President Mintimer Shaimiev. The joint TKNK venture was established in December by the Tatar government, Tatneft, Nizhnekamskneftekhim, and Tatneftekhiminvest-holding to set up through the Tuben Kama Oil Refinery (NNPZ) a $2.6 billion oil-refining complex. At the same time, however, TAIF, an NNPZ shareholder controlled by President Shaimiev's son Radik, announced its plan to construct a gasoline plant at Nizhnekamskneftekhim.

Tatar, Altai Parliamentary Speakers Sign Cooperation Agreement
A five-year cooperation agreement between Tatarstan's State Council and the Altai Republic's State Assembly was signed on 7 July, the last day State Council speaker Farid Mukhametshin's visit to Altai Republic. Mukhametshin and Altai legislature head Igor Yaimov signed the agreement, which was written in Altai, Tatar, and Russian. Yaimov said during the signing ceremony that Tatarstan's experience in appeals to the Russian Constitutional Court, building its statehood, forming legislation, and developing the agro-industrial sector will be very useful for the Altai Republic. Mukhametshin said Tatarstan will promote the transmission of programs of Tatarstan's Yanga gasyr satellite television and radio station in the Altai Republic. He added that the two republics will develop interparliamentary relations and join efforts to promote the problems of Russia's peoples at the federal level.

First Line Of Underground To Be Launched By Kazan Millennium
Kazan Deputy Mayors Oleg Antosenko and Mansur Khafizov told a briefing of the Tatar Cabinet of Ministers on 7 July that the first line of the Kazan subway will be completed by the Kazan millennium in 2005. Construction of the 8.7-kilometer, five-station line began in 1997. Of the total of 10 billion rubles allocated for the project, 5.5 billion rubles have been spent. In late 2003, Kazan persuaded Moscow to increase the federal government's share in financing the project from 20 to 50 percent. This year, the Russian and Tatar governments allocated 2 billion rubles for the construction. The Kazan subway is planned to include three lines at a total length of 43 kilometers.

Vatican To Return Kazan Icon To Russia
The Vatican announced on 10 July that it will return the Mother of God of Kazan (Madonna of Kazan) icon to Russia during a 28 August ceremony, international news agencies reported. The return of the sacred wooden icon has long been the center of a dispute between the Roman Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church, and Vatican representatives have expressed their hope that the icon's return will help warm relations. Pope John Paul II sought last year to personally return the icon during a trip to Russia, but failed to receive the Russian Orthodox Church's official approval for his visit. Instead, a cardinal will reportedly hand over the icon during a ceremony marking the Assumption of the Virgin holiday, RosBalt reported, citing the BBC. The icon was taken from the Soviet Union some time after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. It was purchased in Western Europe by a Catholic group in the 1970s and later presented to the pope as a gift. It usually hangs in the pope's private chapel. The discovery of the icon among the ruins of Kazan in 1579 was deemed a miracle, and it is believed to have helped Russia win numerous battles against foreign enemies.

Watan Party Promotes Status Of State Language For Tatar
The Watan People's Democratic Party held a roundtable on 8 July in Moscow on bilingualism in European states and to promote state language status for Tatar in Russia, an RFE/RL Moscow correspondent reported on 11 July. Watan has held six rallies in Moscow to promote granting state language status for Tatar. Despite an active advertising campaign, the event drew only about 20 people. In his speech, Tatar deputy plenipotentiary representative to Moscow Almaz Feizullin said the Russian Constitutional Court has pressured Tatarstan to withdraw the Tatar State Council's appeal against an amendment to the federal law on languages that would make Cyrillic script mandatory for all state languages. Feizullin said the low turnout was because federal authorities who opposed the introduction of the Latin alphabet in Tatarstan are now taking measures to block initiatives pertaining to state-language status for Tatar.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Journalist Claims Persecution For Campaigning For Rakhimov's Rival
Fail Ekhmetshin, the deputy editor in chief of a Sharan Raion newspaper who was an adviser to Federation Council Senator Relif Safin in the December presidential elections and was dismissed from his post following the elections, told RFE/RL s Tatar-Bashkir Service on 5 July that he has appealed his dismissal to the Bashkir Supreme Court. He said the Sharan Raion Court, under severe pressure from the republic's authorities, ruled that the dismissal was legal. The Supreme Court heard the case in Ekhmetshin's absence, who did not attend after having his request for a postponement denied, and reaffirmed the raion court verdict. Ekhmetshin said he disagrees with the decision and will appeal it to a higher court. A total of some 500 people in Bashkortostan claim to be the subject of persecution because they campaigned for rival candidates of President Murtaza Rakhimov in the December presidential election. They are planning to hold a meeting in the fall, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 5 July.

Bashkir Police To Help Investigate Ingushetian Terrorist Raid
Seven Bashkir police officers will join the investigation into the 22 June terrorist raid in Ingushetia that claimed the lives of more than 90 people, the Vsya Ufa television company reported on 6 July, citing the Bashkir Interior Ministry's Ufa Board. Criminal investigation specialists will be working in the North Caucasus for two months. Reportedly over 1,000 terrorists were involved in the raids.

Official Calls For Russia's Rapprochement With Islamic Conference
Drawing closer to the Islamic world is in Russia's interests as a Eurasian country, Russia's special ambassador Veniamin Popov said on 5 July, ITAR-TASS reported. Popov said the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) member countries also laud cooperation with Russia and consider it a reliable political partner. He also added that Russia is prepared to hold with the Islamic world a "constructive dialogue that is of special importance at the moment when some forces equalize Islam to terrorism." "Cooperation with the community uniting 57 countries is developing in different directions.... The issue is on the agenda for Russia to obtain observer status in the Organization of the Islamic Conference," Popov said.

Bashkir Airlines Pilots Begin Strike
Pilots of Bashkir Airlines announced a strike as of 8 July, pilots trade-union Deputy Chairman Sergei Yeshtokin told RosBalt on 7 July. The decision was adopted following the airline administration's refusal to sign a collective agreement proposed by the trade union. Agreement has not been reached on more than 40 paragraphs of the document that have been under discussion for seven months. Specifically, pilots demand that all internal documents by the administration be agreed with them, wages be categorized following an increase of the minimum wage, pilots who retire be paid one year's salary, and that families of pilots who die in their workplace be paid 10 years' salary. Bashkir Airlines is currently being prepared for privatization. The number of pilots employed by the airline has been halved over the past two years to 450. The airline possesses 12 passenger jets, including nine Tu-154Ms and three Tu-134s.

Relatives Of Air-Crash Victims Sue U.S. Companies
Relatives of six victims of the July 2002 midair collision of a DHL cargo jet and a Bashkir Airlines passenger jet over Lake Constance, Germany, appealed to a U.S. court in Florida against five U.S. companies that produce electronic air-traffic-control equipment, the "Chicago Tribune" reported on 4 July. The plaintiffs claim that some responsibility for the accident lies with the U.S.-produced equipment used by the air-traffic-control firm that was monitoring the airspace at the time of the crash. The five U.S. companies are also accused of providing insufficient instruction to operators of the equipment. Bill Rivis, representative of Honeywell International, one of the five companies being sued, told RIA-Novosti on 7 July that his company still has not studied the lawsuit and thus cannot yet comment. Rivis noted that "as data provided by investigation of the crash shows, traffic collision alarm systems (TCAS) were functioning in accordance with criteria accepted by the Federal Management of Civil Aviation of the United States."

16,000 Residents Of Bashkortostan Refuse To Change Passports
More than 3.3 million residents of Bashkortostan received new Russian passports as part of the passport reform that ended on 30 June, and some 16,000 who did not exchange their identification documents will be fined, RosBalt reported on 7 July, citing the Bashkir Interior Ministry press service. The passport reform was begun in Bashkortostan and Tatarstan in May 2001, three years later than in the rest of Russia, as the republics insisted on the introduction of a "nationality" entry in the new passports. They eventually agreed to compromise that allowed for inserted pages in either Bashkir or Tatar and featuring those republics' respective state emblems. According to the chief federal inspector to Bashkortostan, 80 percent of Bashkortostan's residents received a passport with the local insert page while 20 percent received ones without it.

Bashkir Airlines Pilots' Strike Gives Way To Compromise
Pilots of Bashkir Airlines launched a strike on 8 July, resulting in the delay of four flights and damages to the airline estimated by the company's management at 1 million rubles ($34,360), according to RosBalt (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 8 July 2004). Union deputy leader Sergei Yeshtokin said the two sides later on 8 July reached a compromise agreement to end the strike, adding that management acceded to union workers' five demands. Yeshtokin said work on a collective agreement between the trade union and the airline administration should be completed within 15 days; otherwise, the trade union might renew its strike. Bashkir Airlines lawyer Radik Gainullin said management plans to appeal to a court "to declare the work stoppage illegal." He said the decision to strike is "irresponsible and illegal," adding that the purported damages figure includes lost profits on four delayed flights, expenses for passengers' accommodations in hotels, and the parking of jets at airports in Ufa, Norilsk, and Moscow.

Turkish Companies To Invest In Glass Containers, Beer In Bashkortostan
Turkey's Anadolu Group and Efes Beverage Group are ready to invest more than $75 million in Bashkortostan's economy, company officials told Prime Minister Rafael Baidavletov during a recent meeting, RosBalt reported on 8 July, quoting the Bashkir government's press service. Anadolu Group plans to invest over 50 million euros in the construction in 2004-05 of a glass-container plant in Ufa with a capacity of 900 million bottles a year. Efes Beverage Group, the owner of a controlling interest of the Ufa Amstar brewery, intends to invest $25 million in its reconstruction. The Turkish businesses were promised tax breaks during the investment period.

Expert Says 2002 Census Results Show Sharp Fall In Bashkortostan's Tatar Population
In an article published in "Zvezda Povolzhya" on 8 July, ethnology professor Damir Iskhakov wrote that under the results of the 2002 census, which have not yet been officially published, the number of ethnic Bashkirs in Bashkortostan increased to 1.2 million, or 29.5 percent of the republic's population, while that of Tatars fell to 940,000, or some 23 percent.

French Concern Buys Stake In Ufa Confectionery Factory
On 9 July, Harry's SNG purchased 20 percent of the Ufa confectionery factory Kondi, "Kommersant-Povolzhe" reported on 10 July. Harry's SNG is a part of the French industrial group Harry's producing pre-packaged baked goods. The company has an annual trade turnover of 530 million euros ($657 million). The stake was sold for 14.3 million rubles ($491,000). Currently Kondi, 74 percent of which is owned by the Siberian Grain Corporation, covers 35 percent of Bashkortostan's confectionery market.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Jewish Center Vandalized In Yoshkar-Ola
The Yoshkar-Ola Jewish community center on 7 July was daubed with swastikas, Regnum reported on 8 July. Community head Vil Khaiet said that he was sure that skinheads were behind the action and that he has appealed to police to investigate the incident. Insulting signs and swastikas have appeared on the building several times in the last year but the culprits have never been found.

Ethnic Russian Muslims Unite In Marii El
The Marii El branch of the National Organization of Russian Muslims (NORM) has been established in Yoshkar-Ola, reported on 7 July, citing "Mariiskaya pravda." The move came after a recent congress of Russian Muslims in Omsk decided to unite ethnic Russians Muslims in a single organization. Head of the NORM press service Grigorii Mavrov said that only Islam can help Russian people overcome their difficulties.

Samara Oblast Election Commission Formed
The Russian Central Election Commission (TsIK) on 6 July formed a temporary election commission for Samara Oblast gubernatorial elections, Regnum reported on 7 July. The body comprises 14 members proposed by political parties and civic groups. TsIK recommended that Yurii Shvetsiv, representing the Russian Union of Afghan Veterans in Samara Oblast, be elected chairman of the commission. TsIK Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov said the 19 September date fixed for the Samara Oblast gubernatorial elections may be postponed. Veshnyakov said the Samara Oblast Court may schedule elections for some time later this current year.

Saratov Government Business Manager, Governor's Wife Under Investigation...
The Russian Prosecutor-General's Office filed on 7 July a criminal case against Saratov government business manager Stanislav Boiko and Olga Sergeyeva, the director of a government-owned hotel complex and the wife of Saratov Oblast Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov, "Kommersant" and news agencies reported on 8 July. The Prosecutor-General's Volga Federal District official Nikolai Sorshnev told the daily that Boiko and Sergeyeva have been accused of fraud and abuse of power. In particular, Boiko is alleged of illegally transferring to Sergeyeva's ownership two houses under construction worth $2.5-3 million.

...As Allegations Against Ayatskov Dropped
Meanwhile, charges against Saratov Oblast Governor Ayatskov alleging the illegal transfer of 68 million rubles ($2.3 million) from the oblast budget in customs duties have been dropped. On 17 May, the Saratov Oblast prosecutor's office accused Ayatskov of abuse of power and he was ordered not to leave Saratov. On 20 May, the Prosecutor-General's Office threw out the resolution on opening the criminal case, saying all financial documents have not been properly scrutinized.

Uralvagonzavod To Produce 30 Tanks For Russian Defense Ministry
Deputy Head of the Federal State Defense Order Service Sergei Mayev told a press conference in Nizhnii Tagil on 6 July that the Russian Defense Ministry will purchase in 2005 30 T-90C tanks from Uralvagonzavod, reported the same day. The previous year, the Russian Army bought 14 T-90C tanks. Mayev said that "many countries have already tried to copy our super-tanks" after stealing the ideas from trade shows. He added, however, that sales of Russian arms increased by 30 percent following trade shows like Russian Expo Arms. For his part, Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel said the exhibition has become profitable for the first time this year. Rossel said Ural manufacturers have sold over $1 billion worth of arms in the past few years.

Tyumen Oblast Reaches Power-Sharing Agreement With Autonomous Okrugs
Tyumen Oblast Governor Sergei Sobyanin and the heads of Khanty-Mansii Autonomous Okrug and Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, Aleksandr Filipenko and Yurii Neelov, respectively, signed on 9 July a five-year treaty on power sharing, Russian news agencies reported. Negotiations between the three entities, two of which are formations within the Tyumen Oblast but have the status of federation subjects, began after the amended law on general principles of the formation of legislative and executive bodies of federation subjects came into force. Under the law, all of Russia's autonomous okrugs fell under the governance of the krais and oblasts in which they are located. The law, however, allows entities and autonomies to agree on their own variants of power sharing. A draft that had been proposed by the okrugs was accepted as the final version of the document.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova