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Tatar-Bashkir Report: December 28, 2004

28 December 2004
KamAZ Adopts New Costs And Profits-Conscious Business Plan...
KamAZ adopted a new business plan for Russia's heavy truck industry leader in 2005 at its 17 December board meeting in Chally, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 20 December. KamAZ plans to increase production by 8 percent as compared to 2004, which it hopes will increase income by 10 percent and profit by 50 percent. General Director Sergei Kogogin told the board that the planned increases in income and profit are expected to come from higher profits from truck sales and the lowering of production costs. In 2005, the company expects to sell 31,000 heavy trucks and 46,000 Oka compact cars.

According to a source in KamAZ's management interviewed by RFE/RL, the company's cost-reduction measures include the transition of fulltime workers to temporary contracts.

...As Moscow Buries Dreams Of Vneshtorgbank Loan
After the board meeting, Kogogin told reporters that the emergency meeting of KamAZ shareholders in Moscow on 29 October did not support his initiative to take a $150 million loan from Vneshtorgbank "due to the unprofessional decisions of federal authorities," who as KamAZ shareholders blocked the move. Kogogin added that the refusal caused KamAZ "$1 million in damages and no one is going to take responsibility for it.�

FSB Denies Allegations That Tatar Resident Was Beslan Terrorist
RFE/RL's Kazan bureau asked the Federal Security Service (FSB) branch in Tatarstan to respond to a report published in the 20 December issue of "Kommersant-Vlast" magazine, saying that Tatar resident was among the terrorists killed during the Beslan hostage crisis in September. The FSB's press service responded by saying that the cited fact had already been checked and, according to an investigation, no Tatar residents were among the terrorists.

Kazan Aircraft Plant Modernizes Strategic Bomber For Russian Army
Igor Khvorov, the commander of the 37th Army of Russia's Air Force, told reporters in Moscow on 20 December that the Kazan Aircraft Plant is modernizing a Tu-160 aircraft, Interfax-AVN reported the same day. Khvorov said that the strategic bomber "will have a wider range of possible combat functions and new air-navigation equipment, as well as new weapons." Following more than a decade of research, the supersonic long-range strategic bomber went into service in the late 1980s. By 1994, as many as 30 Tu-160 aircraft, known as "Blackjacks" abroad, had been assembled in Kazan. Nineteen of them were based in Ukraine and the rest remained at the disposal of Russia's Air Force.

President Hints At Second Tender For Tupras Stake
President Mintimer Shaimiev has suggested that a second tender aimed at selling state shares in Turkish petrochemical concern Tupras might take place, according to Tatarstan's presidential press service as quoted by Interfax on 21 December. Shaimiev said that Tatar oil company Tatneft, which won the right to purchase the stake in the initial tender in a joint bid with Zorlu holding but saw those results annulled at the request of Turkish trade unions, would take part in the contest under the right circumstances. He characterized the apparent news as "major." Tupras represents 80 percent of Turkey's petrochemical industry. Shaimiev noted that after Russian President Vladimir Putin's recent visit to Turkey, Moscow and Ankara shared the understanding of its importance.

Tatarstan To Pay Its Own Subsidies To Low-Income Families
Tatarstan's Social Security Minister Klavdiya Novikova told a news conference on 21 December that the 2005 republican budget earmarks 8.6 billion rubles ($318 million) for personal subsidies to low-income families, Tatarinform reported the same day. Budget-sector employees, such as teachers and doctors, would receive $10-$23 on average, according to official estimates based on average incomes, while pensioners would receive $13-$33 and families with children $20-$74 per month.

Tatarstan And Turkey Seek To Diversify Bilateral Trade
Following a meeting between Tatarstan Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation Minister Khafiz Salikhov and Turkish Housing Minister Ergezen Zeki on 21 December, Salikhov told reporters that bilateral cooperation is characterized by nearly $1 billion worth of join projects each year, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the next day. "One may take the courage to say that for Tatarstan, the Republic of Turkey is partner number one," Salikhov said. The minister also emphasized that Turkey has "vast opportunities" to expand the range of goods imported from Tatarstan and boost its exports to the republic. In recent years, Turkish construction companies have realized some $50 million worth of contracts in Tatarstan, Salikhov added. During the ministerial talks joined by the Turkish consul in Kazan, Ismail Khakki Musa, Zeki suggested that the two sides should endorse a protocol of intentions in the sphere of small and mid-size businesses to supplement the bilateral-cooperation treaty.

The bulk of Tatar and Turkish trade is represented by exports of Tatarstan's oil for processing by the Turkish petrochemical sector.

Tatarstan Amends Budgets To Reflect Additional Revenues
The republican State Council passed amendments to 2004 and 2005 budget legislation in their third readings on 22 December, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. The budgets were amended to include 8.7 billion rubles ($322 million) in additional budget revenues, including 3 billion rubles transferred from Moscow for construction of a subway in Tatarstan's capital -- a project that is to be launched ahead of the city's millennial celebrations in 2005. Finance Minister Radik Giyzatullin said the budget surplus "arose from industrial growth and the resumption of favorable conditions on the global oil market." Tatarstan's 2005 budget still includes a 905 million-ruble gap, which the minister said will be erased by the end of this year.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Prosecutors Investigating Suspicion Of Wrongdoing At Bashneft
Bashkortostan's acting chief prosecutor, Mikhail Zelepukin, told reporters on 17 December that his office is investigating a case against Bashneft oil company, a major contributor to the republican budget, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. The company is suspected of having exceeded a quota on oil extraction by some 4.2 million tons, representing some 11 billion rubles ($407 million). Unofficial sources and Russian media have suggested that the company was under the control of President Murtaza Rakhimov's family.

Committee Meeting Exposes Rift Within Tatar Congress
Eduard Khemitov, chief executive of the pro-governmental Tatar Congress in Bashkortostan, told a board meeting on 17 December that this year's establishment of Tatar national-cultural autonomy by Tatar civic groups in the republic "split the Tatar national movement in two," an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. Khemitov criticized the autonomy's creation as "dubious business." Leaders of the congress and of the nongovernmental Tatar national movement, including Ramil Bignov and Kerim Yaushev, responded with general criticism of the activities of the Khemitov's committee.

Amount Of Urban Tatars Grows
According to official results of the 2002 national census in Bashkortostan, 67 percent of the republic's Tatars reside in urban areas, while only 42 percent of Bashkirs do the same, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. The previous 1989 census reportedly had 56 percent of Tatars and 45 percent of Bashkirs as urban residents. According to Ildar Gebdrefiqov, an ethnology expert, the shift is due to local Tatars being reported as Bashkirs.

Bashkir FSB Chief Says Terrorism Has No Grounds In Bashkortostan
Igor Chernokov, head of the Federal Security Service (FSB) branch in Bashkortostan, told reporters on 17 December that "there are no fertile social, political, or economic grounds for terrorism and extremism" in the republic, Interfax-Povolzhye reported the same day. However, he admitted that the threat of terrorism "remained dominant" and one of the main tasks of Russia's intelligence services is to prevent terrorism and extremism. Chernokov added that the intelligence services and the Bashkir Interior Ministry are joining forces to investigate an alleged terrorist act committed in Ufa on 5 November 2003.

Putin Endorses Celebration Of Bashkortostan's Entry To Russian State
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on 21 December on marking the 450th anniversary of Bashkortostan's voluntary entry into the Russian state in June 2007, "Kommersant-Daily" reported the same day. The celebrations, which are attributed federal status, will reportedly be organized by a special committee to be formed by federal government. Previously Bashkortostan's Murtaza Rakhimov made numerous remarks saying that the date had "high historical importance" after having played a "destiny-making role for the multiethnic people of the republic."

Bashkir Government Pushes Use Of Bashkir Language
Following the provisions of Bashkortostan's language law, the republican Media Ministry signed agreements with the governments of Tatarstan, Chavashia, and Udmurtia, as well as Saratov, Kurgan, Chelyabinsk, Sverdlovsk, Perm, Orenburg oblasts, and Khanti-Mansi Autonomous Okrug on assisting the development of Bashkir media in those regions, Bashinform reported on 21 December. The agency referred to the same day's meeting of a special press affairs board within Bashkir cabinet as attributing special importance to the work of local journalists, "who are, along with linguistic researchers are responsible for integrity, safety, and purity of the [Bashkir] language." A special commission under the board is responsible for organizing the quarterly seminars of Bashkir, Tatar, Chavash, Marii, and Udmurt journalists, whose work is connected with translating Bashkir.

Bashkir Parliamentary Deputy Wants Duma To Legalize Same-Sex Marriages
A Bashkir State Assembly deputy has appealed to the Russian Supreme Court to challenge the validity of Russia's Family Code, which was adopted in 1995, "Kommersant" reported on 23 December. The legislator wants the entire document nullified until revisions are made that better guarantee the right to same-sex marriages.

The Russian and Bashkir family codes have already been subjected to revision proposals from local legislators. Several years ago, Bashkortostan State Assembly Deputy Guzel Sitdikova promoted the idea of legalizing polygamy and, in early 2004, Edvard Murzin suggested that Bashkortostan's family code allow same-sex marriages. Both proposals were subsequently rejected by the parliament.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

MMK Management Purchases Company's State-Run Stake
The state's 17.8 percent stake in the Magnitogorskii Metallurgy Plant (MMK) was sold on 22 December for $790 million in an auction run by the Russian Federal Property Fund, "Kommersant-Daily" reported the next day. The stake was purchased by UFGIS Structured Holdings, a subdivision of the UFG investment company representing MMK General Director Viktor Rashnikov. Several hours before the auction, the Mechel Steel Group, the other major potential participant, announced that it had sold its 17 percent stake in MMK to a group of investors affiliated with UFG for $780 million. Another $90 million was paid by the group to Mechel for refusal of any financial claims to the MMK management. As a result, the state's stake was sold within two minutes at the initial price.

Mari Opposition Protests Presidential Election Results
An extraordinary congress of the ethnic Mari opposition was held on 23 December in Marii-El's capital Yoshkar-Ola in front of the palace of culture, Regnum reported the same day. Delegates who applied in advance to rent the palace were finally prohibited from using it for the congress and had to hold the forum in the street. Delegates, who numbered 300 according to congress organizers and about 40 according to witnesses cited by the news agency, passed an appeal by the Mari people to Russian President Vladimit Putin, to Finno-Ugric peoples of the world, to the United Nations, and the international public accusing the Marii-El authorities of "mockery of the Mari people."

According to "Mariiskaya pravda" on 24 December, the congress organizers, businessman Igor Kudryavtsev and All-Mari Congress Chairman Vladimir Kozlov, were charged with administrative responsibility under which they may be fined between 1,000 and 1,500 rubles.

On 20 December, 24 members of the Mari national movement held an unsanctioned demonstration in front of the building of the Marii-El government to protest the reelection of Leonid Markelov as the republic's president, Regnum reported on 21 December.

Prisoner To Be Compensated For Being Infected With Tuberculosis In Pretrial Detention
A prisoner identified only as Sergei T. won a lawsuit against law-enforcement agencies for keeping him during pretrial investigation for 33 months in Perm and Chusovskii raion cells where he was infected with tuberculosis, Novyi region (Perm) reported on 21 December, citing the Perm Human Rights Center press service. Lawyers from the Perm Human Rights Center who represented the plaintiff in the Chusovskii city court proved that Sergei T.'s chronic diseases worsened as a result of the "unfir conditions" in which he was kept, including overcrowded cells, lack of bed linen, and one meal a day. The court ruled that Sergei T. is to be paid 25,000 rubles in compensation from the government.

Hunger Strike At Another Sverdlovsk Oblast Plant
Twenty-one employees of the Ivdel Hydrolyze Plant in Sverdlovsk Oblast began a hunger strike on 20 December demanding repayment of 28.4 million rubles in back wages from the past 36 months, reported the same day. On 22 December, another 10 workers joined the strike while one striker was hospitalized with high blood pressure.

A competitive management was introduced at the plant on 7 October 2003, and Moscow representative Yurii Kulikov was appointed manager. On 30 June, however, the plant management announced a plant stoppage after the Uralsevergaz gas supplier to which the Ivdel Hydrolyze Plant owes 70.5 million rubles stopped gas deliveries.

On 21 December, the Ivdel prosecutor's office filed criminal charges against the plant managers for failure to pay wages and other funds. The Ivdel Hydrolyze Plant is owned by Sverdlovsk businessman Pavel Fedulev.

In December, there have been hunger strikes at Sverdlovsk Oblast's Tavda Microbiology Plant and Krasnouralsk Chemical Plant.

125th Anniversary Of Stalin Celebrated In Tyumen Oblast Town
The 125th anniversary of Josef Stalin's birth was celebrated on 21 December in Ishim, the only town in Tyumen Oblast where there is still a Stalin monument, reported the next day. Some 40 people gathered near the monument despite temperatures below minus 30 degrees Celsius. Ishim Stalin group head Tamara Sazhina told the news agency that many more participants attended a meeting on the eve of Stalin's birthday at which they read verses and sang songs about Stalin.

New Governor Elected In Ulyanovsk Oblast
Dimitrovgrad Mayor Sergei Morozov won the second round of Ulyanovsk Oblast gubernatorial elections on 26 December with 52.81 percent of the vote, Regnum-VolgaInform reported on 27 December, citing the Ulyanovsk Oblast Election Commission. The option "against all" finished second with 25.16 percent, while State Duma Deputy Margarita Barzhanova finished third with 20.61 percent. Turnout was less than 39 percent.

The Russian Supreme Court validated on 24 December an earlier verdict by the Ulyanovsk Oblast court annulling the registration of Sergei Gerasimov, who finished second in the first round behind Morozov, as a candidate in the elections following allegations he bribed voters, Regnum reported the same day.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova