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Tatar-Bashkir Report: December 14, 2004

14 December 2004
In Turkey, Putin Notes 'Hardships' Of Tatneft's Tupras Ordeal
Russian President Vladimir Putin told a Russian-Turkish business forum in Ankara on 6 December that "we know the hardships that Russia and Tatneft oil company faced" when a Turkish court annulled the results of a tender for a state stake in Tupras petrochemical concern that was won by Tatneft and Turkey's Zorlu holding, Tatarstan-Yanga Gasyr TV reported the same day. "We hope that previously reached agreements will be implemented," Putin said, adding that he discussed the matter with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan. "We regretfully accepted the news that judiciary bodies had canceled the tender's results, but it is not up to us to determine Turkey's economic policies." He assessed Tatneft's participation in the privatization of a major Turkish petrochemical industry as the company's active and positive work "not only within Russia but also on the foreign market."

Russian Minister Admits Ankara Could Revise Its Stance On Tupras Takeover
After the Ankara business forum, Russian Industry and Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko suggested to reporters that the Turkish government is the only body capable of determining the next step following the court decision over the Tatneft-Tupras privatization. He said Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan suggested that Ankara would revisit the topic.

Shaimiev Says Proposed Government Reform Leaves Room For Compromise
President Mintimer Shaimiev told Interfax-Povolzhye on 7 December that he believes that a proposed system under with the Russian president would choose regional leaders, who would in kind be subject to approval by regional parliaments, is a workable system because it allow for always finding a "reasonable compromise."

However, Shaimiev reiterated his belief that it is unacceptable to keep a stipulation in the draft legislation that would allow for the dissolution of parliament in the event it fails to confirm the president's choice twice. He said that in this case, the Russian president should be obliged to take into account the wishes of local citizens.

Russia's Interior Troops Commander Visits Kazan
After a closed-doors meeting with President Mintimer Shaimiev on 7 December, the head of the Russian Interior Ministry's interior troops Nikolai Rogozhkin said that the main topic of discussion was security during the upcoming Kazan millennium celebrations, RFE/RL s Kazan bureau reported. While declining to mention the number of troops that will be used to safeguard the celebrations, he confirmed that special measures will be taken to ensure the safety of Russian and foreign guests.

Later the same day, Tatar Interior Minister Esget Seferov told reporters that a total of some 35,000 police officers and interior troops will work in Kazan during the city s millennium celebrations in 2005. Only 4,500 of them will be from outside Tatarstan, and only 2,500 interior troops will be sent by the Russian Interior Ministry.

Tatar Parliament Expands Terms Of Local Administrations
Tatarstan's State Council passed legislation in all three readings on 9 December to change the procedure for amending the republican constitution, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the next day. The bill reportedly excludes a provision that effectively extends the terms of local administrations nearly a year, until January 2006. The legislation excludes a previous clause that prescribed that the election of deputies to municipal councils and local government must be held no later than the expiry of municipal-council terms. Backers said the move will prevent administrative crisis, since new local-administration, council, and self-governing bodies have elections slated for late 2005.

Environmental Expert Warns Of 'Unconstrained' Land Use
Yaroslavl-based environmental expert Yevgenii Kolbovskii told RFE/RL's Kazan bureau at a conference in Tatarstan on 9 December that he believes Russians are "unable to fully protect their interests as a single social group, allowing the unconstrained use of land by a small group of people." Kolbovskii suggested possible ways of solving the problem through improved definitions of public and private land, citing a number of dubious land sales among Russia's regions, including Tatarstan. Republican Environment and Natural Resources Minister Boris Petrov told RFE/RL 's Kazan bureau that his ministry is often criticized for its bureaucracy when combating environmental and health violations by builders.

World Tatar Congress Calls For Broader Use Of Latin Tatar Script
The World Tatar Congress Executive Committee at its meeting on 10 December in Kazan passed a resolution to wider use of the Tatar Latin script in writing, "Kommersant-Volga-Urals" reported the next day. Representatives of Tatar national-cultural organizations of Tatarstan and Tatar diasporas of the CIS and other foreign countries took part in the forum.

Speaking at the forum, Tatar Deputy Prime Minister Zile Welieva said there is a trend of decreasing use of Tatar even in Tatarstan, where the number of Tatar schools is falling and children in Tatar families don't learn to speak Tatar since their parents speak Russian. Presidential adviser Rafael Khekimov criticized Russia for giving up on the principle of federalism and reducing the powers of Russia's regions. Tyumen University professor Khenise Alishina delivered a statement from Siberian Tatars supporting the preservation of Cyrillic script of the Tatar language, which sparked strong reactions. The meeting also decided to extend the admission of Tatars from outside Tatarstan to republic's higher-educational institutions and training teachers for Tatar schools in Tatarstan and regions with concentrations of Tatars.

Supreme Court Rules 10 Legal Acts In Contradiction Of Federal Legislation
The number of suits considered by Tatarstan's Supreme Court on Tatarstan laws and legal acts contradicting federal ones fell from 42 in 2002 to 18 in the first nine months of 2004, reported on 11 December. Tatarstan's prosecutor has filed suit this year against five republican laws, eight government resolutions, the Declaration of State Sovereignty, and the Tatar Constitution as contradicting federal law. Of 11 prosecutor's appeals considered by the court, nine have been satisfied fully or partly.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Former Bashkir Official Claims She Lost Job After Presidential Bid
Rimma Vodenko, the only female candidate for the Bashkir presidency in 2003 elections, visited Ufa on 6 December to meet with the local ethnic Tatar community, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. Vodenko told RFE/RL that she was dismissed from her post as Bashkortostan's trade and economic affairs representative in Khanti-Mansi autonomous okrug following her presidential bid.

Vodenko expressed surprise that, unlike ethnic Tatars in Siberia, Tatars in Bashkortostan have little opportunity to see Tatarstan television or listen to Tatar radio via local cable networks.

Official Statistics Suggest Bashkirs Represent Second Major Ethnic Group In Bashkortostan
Data released by Bashkortostan's State Statistics Committee on 6 December based on the results of the 2002 national census indicates that 4.1 million people currently live in the republic. Russians reportedly compose the major ethnic group (1.49 million people), Bashkirs were the second-largest group at 1.221 million, and Tatars were the third-largest ethnic group with 990,000 people.

Rakhimov's Opponent Praises Federal Reform For Canceling The Gubernatorial Elections
Aleksandr Arinin, one of the Bashkir presidential candidates of 2003 and director of the Institute of federalism and civil society, member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences told Ufanweb in an interview published on 8 December that he supported the Vladimir Putin's reform for canceling the direct elections of governors as "a way to overcoming the irresponsibility of governors and presidents of the republics and teaching them to respect the law. This reform will allow to break up the unity of business and political elites, which have usurped the power and liquidated free and fair elections in the regions. The reforms will also allow to withdraw the governments from the influence of the criminal groups."

Arinin also emphasized that Russia's political experience of 1991-2004 "showed that the fact of electing the regional heads by direct elections did not guarantee the honest and efficient work of the governors and the presidents of the republics, as well as their compliance with the laws."

President Signs A Decree On Single-Time Subventions To Families With Children
In the light of the coming New Year holidays President Murtaza Rakhimov on 8 December signed a decree on single-time payment of 200 rubles ($7,40) for each child in families, which currently receive monthly child subventions according to the federal law, Bashinform reported the same day. The payment within the presidential program for social support to the children of Bashkortostan in 1999-2005 will be contributed by the republican budget and controlled by the presidential staff.

Conference Considers Possible Regional Mergers
Natalya Zubareva, regional program director of the Moscow-based Independent Institute of Social Policies, said on 9 December that merging the existing regions in Russia to establish new, expanded territorial entities -- as proposed by some politicians -- needs greater consideration in order to prevent the emergence of new problems rather than resolving the old ones, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. Zubareva was speaking at a conference organized by Bashinform news agency and the NGO Open Russia. She suggested that in some cases it would bring positive results if minor entities were merged together, while among the ethnic republics and regions of the North Caucasus, the same actions might bring unpredictable results.

Tatar Rights Movement To Protest Results Of 2002 Census
Following the recent publication of the 2002 results for Bashkortostan suggesting a major rise in the ethnic Bashkir population and a decrease in the number of ethnic Tatars, republican media have produced numerous articles suggesting that Tatar-dominated regions in the northwest of Bashkortostan have a historical Bashkir background, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 9 December. The official press also cited Bashkir history and ethnology researcher Rail Kuzeyev as saying that 1989 census, which indicated 22 percent of Bashkortostan's population is ethnic Bashkir, included incorrect information "because there could not be less than 35-40 percent Tatars." Zahir Khekimov, the head of the Tatar national and cultural autonomy in Bashkortostan, told an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent the same day that the republic's Tatar civic movement will dispute the official results of the census, which in their opinion misrepresented the actual situation with respect to Bashkortostan's population.

EBRD Awards $45 Million Loan To UralSib
The council of directors of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has approved a $45 million credit for the UralSib bank, "Kommersant-Volga-Urals" reported on 11 December. UralSib International Financing board head Leonid Vakeev told the daily that the credit line was opened for a four-year term. EBRD Moscow spokesman Richard Wallis said $30 million will be allocated for loans to small and medium-sized businesses, $10 million for commercial guarantees for foreign trade operations, and $5 million for loans to agricultural companies. Credits to businesses will be issued at 25-27 percent interest rates, which is too high, according to of the Brokerkreditservis analyst Valerii Petrenko. EBRD expert Roman Lesokhin said, however, that the loans' high interest rate is compensated for by the high speed of its provision, since neither a business plan nor a special bank account is needed to obtain the credit.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Explosion In Marii-El Kills Six
Six people died and 14 were injured by the explosion and fire on 9 December in a drying plant at the Mariiskii Freezing Plant, Regnum reported on 10 December. According to preliminary information, the explosion was caused by careless treatment of inflammable substances. Marii-El Emergency Situations Minister Vladimir Nasonov ordered the State Fire-Fighting Service to inspect all facilities in the republic that use explosive and inflammable substances.

1 Million Rubles Allocated For Radiation-Polluted Village
Chelyabinsk Oblast Governor Petr Sumin signed a resolution to allocate 1 million rubles ($35,500) to the Muslyumovo village of Kunashak Raion for the cleanup of the radiation accidents at the Mayak company. The money came from Mayak itself, from processing nuclear waste from foreign nuclear reactors. After the explosion on 29 September 1957 of a radioactive-waste container at Mayak, 30,000 square kilometers of land were polluted, and thousands of people received large doses of radiation. Following the disaster, several Tatar villages, including Muslyumovo, were left in the polluted area. Many of their residents still have not received assistance or compensation from the state.

Defense Industry Plant Director Arrested following Hunger Strike
Former Sverdlovsk Oblast Krasnouralsk chemical plant Director Grigorii Yeremeev was arrested on 8 December, Uralinformbyuro reported on 9 December. Yeremeev was accused of attempting to bankrupt the company and causing especially large damage to state property. This is the first time in the Urals that a defense-plant director was arrested. On 6 September, Yeremeev was convicted by the Krasnouralsk city court for delays in payment of salaries to plant employees. He paid a 15,000-ruble fine at that time. On 30 November-5 December, 27 plant employees went on a hunger strike, after which they were paid some of their unpaid wages for July-October. But they are still owed for September-December 2003 and for March-May 2004. Meanwhile, plant trade-union leader Aleksandr Korelin told Novyi region on 8 December that company workers will begin another strike if wages arrears are not repaid in full.

Unified Russia Candidate Leads Ulyanovsk Oblast Gubernatorial Elections
The second round of Ulyanovsk Oblast gubernatorial elections, between Dimitrovgrad Mayor Sergei Morozov and businessman Sergei Gerasimov, was scheduled for 26 December, reported on 7 December. In the first round, Morozov, who is supported by Unified Russia, received 27.73 percent of the vote, followed by Gerasimov with 20.89 percent.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova