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Tatar-Bashkir Report: November 30, 2004

30 November 2004
Tatarstan Seeks To Preserve Power-Sharing Treaty With Moscow
Tatarstan State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin told reporters on 20 November that a working group revising the power-sharing treaty between Moscow and Kazan met in Moscow the previous day. Mukhametshin, who heads the republic's representatives in the group, said that "we managed to convince the federal center of the necessity of preserving the treaty and making some amendments." He added that it is "unlikely we will manage to obtain any major financial advantages, but we will try to preserve some of the powers."

Tatarstan will reportedly seek to maintain the federal center's subsidies for solving the environmental problems in the oil-rich regions in the southeast of the republic. Extensive oil extraction over the past 50 years has led to serious health concerns for the local population. Mukhametshin said that after decades of oil production, Tatarstan has a right to support from the federal government. He emphasized that during the talks within the working group, the republic will seek to preserve the benefits of statehood stipulated in its constitution.

Parliamentary Commission Chairman Says Tatar-Script Case May Go To Strasbourg Court
Razil Weliev, chairman of Tatarstan's parliamentary committee on culture, science, education, and ethnic issues, told RFE/RL's Kazan bureau on 16 November that following the Russian Constitution Court's ruling against allowing the republic to implement the use of Latin script for the Tatar language, he does not exclude the possibility of disputing that ruling in the European Court of Human Rights (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 17 November 2004). He said a special appeal may be filed by an individual or a public group from Tatarstan, with the help of linguistic experts and lawyers. Also on 16 November, Tatarstan parliamentary speaker Farid Mukhametshin told reporters after the Constitution Court session that the republican government is not planning to appeal the ruling.

Tatar Venture Boosts Its Activities In Libya
The oil-prospecting company Tatneftegeofizika was the only company from Russia to participate in Libyan energy week in Tripoli, Intertat reported on 22 November. The company's presentation reportedly attracted the attention of representatives of Libya's national oil company. In 2003, the venture -- which is a division of Tatneft -- won an international tender for discovering oil and gas in the Libyan desert, and registered its branch in Tripoli earlier this year.

Tatar Legislators Uphold The Move Of Their Colleagues In Astrakhan And Samara To Balance The Proposed Federal Reform
Tatarstan's parliamentary committee on state-building and local self-governments on 23 November approved the package of amendments to the draft federal law on canceling the elections for governors, proposed by the Duma of Astrakhan oblast on 26 October, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. The Astrakhan legislators reportedly expressed general agreement with the document, proposed by Vladimir Putin and suggested that when picking the candidate for governor, Russian president should prefer those who have lived or worked in the region for a significant period of time. The deputies also suggested the strict requirement of proposing alternative candidates and ban on proposing the same candidate more than once, as well as the possibility of dismissing the regional leader in case it is required by the legislative assembly.

Also on 23 November, the Tatar parliamentary committee supported the proposal of Samara oblast Duma, which suggested that in case the legislative or executive branches of power in more than one third of Russia's regions bodies reject a federal draft, Russian Duma should have to convene a conciliatory commission involving regional representatives.

Parliament Finally Approves Draft Budget...
Despite the stipulated 2.191 billion rubles ($75.5 million) deficit Tatarstan's State Council approved the republican budget for 2005 in the final third reading on 24 November, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. Similar to the previous year's parliamentary deliberations, deputy representing Equality and Legality movement (RiZ)

Aleksandr Shtanin numerously stated during the hearings that Tatar cabinet deliberately promotes the adoption of the deficit-containing budget for obtaining extra powers for handing the surplus budget revenues acquired during the year. However, the Cabinet's representatives explained the deficit by that its is necessary to ensure the extra funds for cases such as possible slump of oil prices or other unexpected developments.

Tatarstan's expected state incomes in 2005 are reported at 43.5 billion rubles ($1.5 billion), while the expenses are estimated at 45.7 billion ($1.576 billion). That year is also expected to bring a 6.1 percent growth of gross regional product, as 11.9 billion rubles ($410 million) of the budget will be used for developing Tatarstan's economy.

According to unnamed experts cited by Aleksandr Shtanin for covering the budget deficit, Tatarstan's government will reportedly use loans, revenues from state-owned stocks, incomes from the sale of state-owned land and valuables, which in 2004 already brought the republic some 8-9 billion rubles ($275-$310 million).

Before taking force, the draft budget approved by the Tatar parliament has to be endorsed by president Mintimer Shaimiev.

...As Republic Plans To Get Rid Of Half Of Its External Debt
According to draft Tatarstan's budget, which finally sailed through the State Council on 24 November, in 2005 the republic will reduce its 9.5 billion rubles ($327 million) external debt by almost a half - 4.7 billion ($162 million)

Tatar Public Center Accuse Kazan Mayor Of Boosting Interethnic Tensions In The Republic
The roundtable of moderate nationalist Tatar Public Center (TIU) on 25 November condemned the Kazan mayor Kamil Iskhakov for his efforts for returning the icon of Kazan Godmother to the Tatar capital by its millennium anniversary celebrations, stating assurance in that the return will bring to "destabilization in the republic," RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the next day. Naming the Kazan mayor, who being an ethnic Tatar, made these efforts, TIU called him a "traitor," asserting that the return will increase the tensions between the Russians and Tatas and so will the opening of the Orthodox pilgrimage center, which is expected to be built for the icon worshipped by Russian Orthodox Church since the conquest of Kazan by Russian troops in 16th century. The currently mentioned icon is the copy of the original Orthodox relic, handed as a gift of Pope to the Russian Church.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Bashkir President Upbeat About Putin's Plan To Let Governors Back To The Federation Council
President Rakhimov said he supports the idea of allowing the return of regional administration leaders, governors, and presidents, as well as chairmen of regional legislatures to the Russian Federation Council, Interfax reported on 19 November. Rakhimov reportedly said that Vladimir Putin's proposal for returning to the past method of forming the Federation Council is "absolutely logical" because the council would thus provide "real support for the president." Rakhimov also noted that as members of the Federation Council, the leaders of federative entities would "participate in passing the laws and ensure the implementation of these documents."

Major Bashkir Plants Reports Falling Profits
One of the main industrial players in Bashkortostan, the Salavatnefteorgsintez petrochemical plant, reported third-quarter net earnings of 814 million rubles ($28 million), "Kommersant-Daily" wrote on 22 November. The lower earnings were mainly due to expenses for renovating its facilities, rising oil prices, and rising export taxes for oil products. The daily cited some petrochemical industry experts as saying that if the prices for oil products fail to catch up to rising oil prices, other oil-processing companies in Russia may post losses this year.

Bashkortostan's government owns a 53.9 percent stake in the company.

Bashkortostan Considers The Prospects Of Russia's Entry To WTO
Bashkir Prime Minister Rafael Baydavletov met with the official delegation of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), led by the head of UNIDO bureau in Easter Europe and CIS Dmitrii Piskunov to discuss the bilateral cooperation prospects within the terms of 1999 and 2003 agreements between Ufa and the international organization, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 24 November. Within the framework of these agreements, UNIDO already issued a special report analyzing the ability of Bashkortostan's industries to compete with the other regions of Russia, Russia on the whole and some of the foreign countries in the light of the country's possible entry to World Trade Organization.

Pro-governmental Tatar Congress Condemns The Alternative One Organized By Tatar Civic Groups
The executive committee of pro-governmental Congress of Tatars in Bashkortostan led by Eduard Khemitov made a public statement on 24 November condemning the Tatar civil groups of the republic led by Ramil Biugnov, which are planning to establish an alternative Tatar Congress in Bashkortostan in Moscow, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the next day. According to Khemitov, there will be no Congress of Bashkortostan's Tatars on 27 November because currently there is no need for such gathering, because there is need for "persistent everyday work on solving the existing problems with Tatar culture, which is already being done by thousands of people uin the spirit of respect to our own and other peoples of Russia." The meeting of Tatar national-cultural autonomy in Bashkortostan on 24 November issued a resolution announcing that the abovementioned criticism about the civic Congress of Tatars in Bashkortostan was organized by the public affairs department within Bashkir presidential administration.

Tatar Public Activist Wins Suit Again Pro-governmental Daily For The Third Time
Russia's Supreme Court upheld the claim of the chairman of the Tatar national cultural autonomy in Ufa, Zegyr Khekimov against the state-owned "Kyzyl Tan" daily, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 24 November. Earlier this year the claim was supported by the Sovetskii district court of Ufa, but rejected and disputed by the newspaper.

The Ufa court considered the suit for the second time on 23 November and ruled that the daily should pay Khekimov 10,000 rubles ($344) in moral damages for denouncing him in article published earlier this year. However the summer 2004 ruling of the court in Khekimov's favor had mentioned that 50,000 rubles ($1,724) bet paid to the public acitivist.

Nizhnii Movgorod Amdinistration Bans The Rally For Tatar Rights
The city government of Nizhnii Novgorod on 25 November cancelled its recent approval for Bashkortostan?s Tatar Public Center, which had planned to stage a protest meeting on its way to the civic congress of Bashkortostan's Tatars in Moscow, Bashnews repoted the same day. Tatar Public Center, which seeks to obtain an official status to Tatar language in Bashkortostan, reportedly linked the refusal to an alleged phone call from Bashkortostan's Murtaza Rakhimov to Sergei Kirienko, the Russian presidential envoy in Volga federal district, whose office is located in Nizhnii Novgorod.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Incumbent Wins First Round Of Kurgan Oblast Gubernatorial Election
Incumbent Kurgan Oblast Governor Oleg Bogomolov and Union of Rightist Forces leader in the Kurgan Oblast, Moscow businessman Yevgenii Sobakin, will proceed to the second round of the oblast's gubernatorial elections, Regnum reported on 29 November. The prognosis was made with 98 percent of the vote counted. Bogomolov came in first in the 28 November vote with 36.3 percent, while Sobakin collected 23.9 percent followed by Kurgan Trade Unions leader Petr Nazarov with 23.6 percent. On 21 November, a Kurgan Oblast court annulled the registration of Bogomolov's major competitor, Sverdlovsk Oblast Legislative Assembly Deputy Sergei Kapchuk, on the grounds that he had incomplete documents. On 27 November, the Russian Supreme Court authorized the oblast court's decision.

Mordovian Congress Opens In Saransk
Some 350 delegates from Russia's 20 federation subjects gathered in the Mordovian capital Saransk to take part in the fourth congress of the Mordovian people that opened on 23 November, reported the same day. Mordovia's leader Nikolai Merkushkin told the forum that the Republic of Mordovia had an important historical mission to preserve Mordovia's culture, heritage, and language. He said the issue of preserving the Mordovian languages, Erzya and Moksha, is a complicated one in the republic. He also said that the number of Mordovians has fallen by 10 percent in the republic and by 20 percent in the whole of Russia, according to the results of the 2002 nationwide census. In 2004, Mordovian languages were introduced as a supplementary subject to secondary school syllabuses while the history of the region is mandatory. Meanwhile, the republic's State Assembly on 25 November passed legislation on state support for national-cultural autonomies, under which it suggested to allocate 2 billion rubles ($71 million) in the republican 2005 budget for fulfillment of the law.

Hizb ut-Tahrir Members Arrested In Samara
Two Kyrgyz citizens and one Russian citizen linked to the extremist Islamic party Hizb ut-Tahrir have been detained in Samara, reported on 25 November, citing the Federal Security Service (FSB) in Samara Oblast. A grenade, some 200 books and brochures, over 700 leaflets in Russian, Uzbek, and Arabic were seized during a search. According to the FSB, the group that operated in Samara Oblast included in total 15 people. A criminal investigation has been launched.

Federation Council Investigates Criminal Meeting In Yekaterinburg
The Russian Federation Council appealed on 24 November to Russian Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliev to check information about a meeting of criminals that was openly held in downtown Yekaterinburg on 19 November, reported on 24 November, citing the Federation Council's press service. Senators were reportedly indignant at the reported inaction of law-enforcement agencies. Reportedly, criminal bosses, state officials, and oblast legislature deputies were among the participants in the meeting.

Over 1,000 Protest Sverdlovsk Oblast Lay Offs
Workers of the Tavda Hydrolyze Plant, Sverdlovsk Oblast, protested on 25 November after the facility halted its operation that day and the plant's administration informed over 1,000 employees that they had been dismissed, Novyi Region reported on 26 November. Protesters blocked all entrances and exits of the plant, demanding that plant continue operation and their back wages be repaid. The employees have reportedly not been paid for three months. The plant's owner, Yekaterinburg City Duma Deputy Aleksandr Kukovyakin, told Novyi region that the plant is being closed down because the Russian government has not extended its licenses and production quotas.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova