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Tatar-Bashkir Report: April 30, 2003

30 April 2003
Russian Government Promotes Papal Visit
Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said on 22 April in Rybinsk that it is possible Pope John Paul II will be invited to Russia, "Vremya novostei" reported on 23 April. Kasyanov said, although the issue is out of the government's hands, "we believe that we will be able to receive the pope in the near future." During Kasyanov's visit to Italy the previous week, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi asked his Russian counterpart to help arrange the papal visit. Kasyanov added that agreement on the visit had been reached between the heads of the Roman Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church. Reports spread the previous week that the pope planned to stop off in Kazan during his August visit to Mongolia, in order to return a holy icon stolen from Kazan a century ago (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 15 and 21 April 2003).

However, Vsevolod Chaplin, the deputy head of the patriarch's Foreign Relations Department, told the daily that although dialogue between the two churches had intensified in the past, a papal visit to Russia was not on the agenda. Chaplin said the Vatican failure to consult the Russian Orthodox Church may block the entire process of negotiations.

Impeachment of Senator Rouses Controversy In Federation Council...
The Federation Council passed on 23 April a resolution on the impeachment of Tatar Senator Refget Altynbaev, the chairman of the Local Self-Government Committee, reported the same day. A new Tatar senator, Filze Khemidullin, was also approved by the council. The decision was passed in two rounds of voting. Before the first vote, Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov urged senators to pass the decision as Altynbaev's powers had already been curtailed by Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev and the Tatar State Council.

However, some of those who were against the decision said senators should not suffer from the "arbitrariness" of regional leaders who can at any time dismiss them without explanation. Lyudmila Narusova, a senator from Tyva, said senators "should not be dependent on the moods and whims of regional heads" and that Altynbaev's dismissal was "political persecution." Senators also called for an early adoption of a draft law on the formation of the Federation Council in order to make it difficult for governors to dismiss their representatives from the upper chamber. Shaimiev, a United Russia co-chairman, explained his decision to dismiss Altynbaev, who is a co-chairman of the Party of Life, by the "impossibility of pulling in different directions while sitting in the same boat" (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 14 April 2003).

...As Shaimiev Comments On Senators� Insubordination
In an interview with Interfax on 23 April, President Shaimiev said the Federation Council harshly violated the federal legislation by its refusal to confirm the Tatar State Council's decision on changing a Tatar senator. Shaimiev said that under the federal law on the formation of the Federation Council, decisions taken by legislative bodies on representatives to the upper chamber of the Russian parliament do not need to be confirmed by the Federation Council. Shaimiev said that "the upper chamber are politicizing more and more, something we were afraid of." By its refusal to confirm the Tatar State Council's decision, the Federation Council was "exclud[ing] Tatarstan from Russia, depriving the republic of the possibility of representing its interests in the upper chamber," Shaimiev added.

Ramstor Hypermarket Opens In Kazan
Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev and Turkey's Ambassador to Russia Kurtulush Tashkent took part on 24 April in the opening ceremony of Kazan's largest hypermarket and trade complex, Ramstor, reported the same day. The new complex is 12,500 square meters and includes 40 shops, four restaurants, and a cinema. Ramstor is capable of serving up to 15,000 clients a day and is the fifth such facility established in Russia by the Turkish company Ramenka.

Turkish Ambassador Meets With Tatar Officials
Meeting with Turkish Ambassador Tashkent on 24 April, President Shaimiev praised the quality of construction work done by Turkish companies in Kazan, in particular the reconstruction of the Tatar presidential residence, the Musa Jelil Opera, the Ballet Theater, the Qol Sherif mosque, and the Pyramid entertainment center, Tatar-inform reported the same day. Turkish construction contracts are worth $30 million-$40 million a year in Tatarstan. Shaimiev also urged speeding up the implementation of a contract on the delivery of 2.5 million tons of Tatar oil to Turkey this year, which was delayed by unsettled property issues at the Kremenchug oil refinery, which is currently controlled by Tatarstan. Tashkent said that under the contract, bilateral trade turnover may reach $500 million and, in the future, could reach $1 billion a year. During the meeting with Tashkent the same day, Tatar Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation Minister Khefiz Salikhov said that deliveries of oil and oil products processed at Ukraine's Kremenchug oil refinery will likely begin in June. This is "the first direct contract on sale of Russian oil to Turkey," Salikhov said.

Indian Delegation Visits Kazan To Boost Cooperation
Ashok Kumar Mukerdzhi, from the Indian Embassy in Moscow, said at a meeting with Tatar Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation Minister Khefiz Salikhov on 21 April in Kazan that India is seeking to improve cooperation with Tatarstan in the information and biotechnology sectors. Mukerdzhi said his visit aims to continue a tradition of annual visits to Tatarstan by employees of the Indian Embassy to Moscow and to increase trade turnover between the two sides. India wants closer contacts between Tatarstan and the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh and to establish joint ventures in the electronic and biotechnology sectors. An increase in the deliveries of KamAZ vehicles and a setting up of a KamAZ assembly line in India, as well as cooperation between Indian and Tatar financial institutions is also under discussion. Mukerdzhi suggested that Indian companies arrange probation programs for representatives of small businesses in Tatarstan. At a meeting with Tatar Deputy Health Care Minister Rostem Safiullin, Mukerdzhi said India is interested in a student exchange and the setting up of joint pharmaceutical ventures with Tatarstan. In 2002, India was Tatarstan's 18th-largest foreign trade partner with turnover of $38 million.

Tatarstan, Transneft Sign Cooperation Agreement
Tatar Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov and Transneft President Semen Vainshtok signed on 22 April a cooperation agreement, reported the same day. Vainshtok also met with Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev and visited the Kovali oil pumping station in Laesh Raion. Vainshtok told a press conference that both sides discussed the possibilities of mutually profitable cooperation. The agreement aims to provide technical, environmental, and legal security for the exploitation of the main oil pipelines in Tatarstan. It also aims to promote the economic and social interests of the local population. Asked about the extra expenses connected with transporting Tatarstan's high-sulfur oil, Vainshtok said he did not think it would be a big problem. Shaimiev also said the republic of Tatarstan profits from the work of the company. The republic's revenues from Transneft have increased from 114 million rubles ($3.7 million) in 1999 to 382 million rubles in 2002. Well-Known Representative Of Tatar Emigration Dies The prominent Tatar scholar in Turkic languages, cultures, and history, Professor Ekhmet Timer (Ekhmet Yarullin), died on 19 April in Ankara, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 21 April. He was 90. The son of a Tatar mullah born in Tatarstan, Timer was persecuted by Soviet authorities and emigrated to Turkey in 1929. He was declared "an enemy of the people" in the USSR and never visited his homeland, even after the collapse of the Soviet Union. From 1961 to 1975, Timer headed the Institute of Turkish Cultural Studies and worked as a professor at Ankara University from 1962 to 1982.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Liberal Russia Leader In Bashkortostan Says Yushenkov's Murder Was Politically Motivated...
Viktor Shmakov, head of Liberal Russia�s branch in Bashkortostan, told the RosBalt news agency on 18 April that, in his opinion, the murder of State Duma Deputy and Liberal Russia�s co-Chairman Sergei Yushenkov in Moscow on 17 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April 2003) "is purely politically motivated and is linked to the future elections in the Russian State Duma." He emphasized that Liberal Russia planned to join forces with rightist parties such as the Union of Rightist Forces and Yabloko in the elections, slated for December, and "it is evident that someone is not happy with such strengthening of our position and the party has been subjected to a psychological attack." According to the daily "Izvestiya" on 18 April, Bashkortostan's branch of Liberal Russia is among several regional party branches that support the self-exiled tycoon Boris Berezovsky, who initially sponsored the party but was later expelled in a move spearheaded by Yushenkov in October 2002 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October 2002). Liberal Russia claims to have 5,500 members in Bashkortostan.

...And Names Another Possible Motive Behind Yushenkov's Murder
Viktor Shmakov, head of the Liberal Russia party in Bashkortostan, told RosBalt on 21 April that the party's money could be another reason for the murder of Liberal Russia's co-Chairman Sergei Yushenkov in Moscow on 17 April (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report" 21 April 2003), the agency reported yesterday. Shmakov said that, according to his information, self-exiled tycoon Boris Berezovsky, who was expelled from the party's leadership had recently offered to front $5.5 million for the party's "My Candidate" campaign. The party planned to give 200 rubles ($6.30) each to hundreds of thousands of citizens across Russia, in return for them filling in questionnaires naming their candidate for the Russian State Duma. "On the day of the murder the money should have reached Yushenkov. It is possible that he was killed by those who knew about the money arriving," Shmakov said. The Bashkir Liberal Russia leader also said that in March Yushenkov had agreed to join forces with Berezovsky. "The regional branches of 15 parties controlled by Sergei Yushenkov were actually starving and materially dependent on Berezovsky, who funded the remaining 40 branches," Shmakov said. "I do not exclude the possibility that the murder aimed at preventing the Yushenkov-Berezovsky talks � slated for 21 April," he added.

Midair Collision Death Toll Up By Two�
The actual number of last year's midair crash victims may be more than the initially reported figure, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 April, citing German media and Michael Vitti, a German lawyer representing the relatives of Russian citizens killed in the collision of Bashkir Airlines Tu-154 and a DHL cargo jet over the German-Swiss border on 1 July 2002 (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 2 July 2002, 23 April 2003). According to previous reports, 68 passengers and crew of the Bashkir Airlines plane and the two pilots of the DHL plane lost their lives in the crash. However, genetic analysis of the crash remains has shown that there were at least two unregistered passengers aboard the jets.

�While Victims' Relatives Said To Receive 100 Million Euros In Compensation
The compensation for the relatives of those lost in the July 2002 midair crash will total some 100 million euros ($110 million), with an average payment of 1.37 million euros for each victim, RIA-Novosti reported, citing lawyer Vitti on 23 April.

Tatar Writers Union Obtains Official Registration
Nine years after its founding, the Tatar Writers Union of Bashkortostan managed to obtain official registration on 23 April, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported yesterday. In 1994, right after registering the union, which was not affliated with Bashkortostan's writers union, the republic's Justice Ministry withdrew the registration. Ferit Gebdrekhim, a leader of the Tatar Writers Union, told RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent yesterday that the final registration of his organization "represented a victory for the 1.5 million Tatar population living in Bashkortostan."

New Appointments Expected On Bashneft Board Of Directors
Two representatives from the Swedish Vostok Nafta Investment Ltd. and Basic Element, a Russian investment holding, will likely be represented on the board of directors of the Bashneft oil company during its shareholders' meeting on 28 April, RosBalt reported yesterday. The agency also cited Bashneft's press service as saying that the candidacies of Bashkir Economy Minister Valentin Vlasov, Property Relations Minister Zoefer Gebdrekhimov, and Foreign Economic Affairs and Trade Minister Boris Kolbin will be proposed for the board.

Ural Rakhimov, son of Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov, currently chairs the oil company's board of directors. Until recently, the republican government owned 63.7 percent of Bashneft's shares, but in August 2002 President Rakhimov issued a decree allowing the company to sell off its shares without the government's authorization. Bashneft press service reported yesterday that in 2002 the company earned 5.8 billion rubles ($184 million) in net profits.

Republican Budget Reports First Surplus In 2003
According to Bashkir Deputy Premier and Finance Minister Ayrat Geskerov, cited by Bashinform on 21 April, the consolidated budget for Bashkortostan (both the federal and republican budgets) some 8 billion rubles ($254 million) was collected during the first quarter of 2003, exceeding budget expenses by 7.7 percent or $19.7 million.

Geskerov confirmed that tax revenues reportedly constitute up to 80 percent of the budget. Compared to the first quarter of 2002, the consolidated budget revenues increased by 18 percent.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Enlistment Office To Compensate Man For Illegal Call Up In Kirov Oblast
The Kirov Oblast court has ruled that the Verkhoshizhemsk Raion Enlistment Office is to pay 5,000 rubles ($160) in compensation to Dmitrii Ladygin, who was given the fitness test for military service although he was diagnosed with hepatitis B, reported on 25 April, citing "Novyi variant." A year ago, the Verkhoshizhemsk Raion court rejected a suit by Ladygin, who accused the enlistment office of calling him up despite numerous chronic diseases. Ladygin then appealed to the oblast court.

Spar Middle Volga To Build Supermarket In Marii El
Marii El President Leonid Markelov and Spar Middle Volga board chairman Paul Price signed an agreement on 22 April on the construction in Marii El's capital, Yoshkar-Ola, of a Spar trade center, the company�s seventh center in Russia, reported the same day. Building the supermarket, located on 1,200 square meters, is to begin in May and is planned to be finished by December. Construction will cost $2 million.

Merger Of Komi-Permyak Okrug, Perm Oblast To Be Accelerated
The interdepartment commission in charge of merging Perm Oblast and Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug decided at its meeting in Moscow that the merger process will be finished by the end of 2007, not in 2015 as was initially planned, "Novyi Region (Perm)" reported on 23 April, citing the Volga Federal District press service. The commission suggested that Komi-Permyak Okrug be maintained as a separate administrative unit within a new federation subject in order to preserve the different cultures of the Kama region. The commission also decided to develop a special program of for the newly created region's social and economic development, which will include connecting Komi-Permyak Okrug to a gas pipeline and the construction of a bridge through Kama. Financing for the program will come from the 2004 and 2005 federal budgets.

VAZ Workers Demand Wages Be Doubled
VAZ employees established a strike committee to demand that wages be doubled and indexed every month and that the difference between the wages of workers and managers is brought to a ratio of one to five, reported on 24 April. Thirteen members of the company's opposition trade union Unity joined the committee, while the official trade union AVTOVAZ stands against the strike and published a corresponding appeal in the VAZ newspaper "Volzhskii avtostroitel." In 1993 and 1994, the Unity trade union held strikes, which then were recognized illegal by a court and 42 participants were fired.

Muslim Culture To Be Taught In Saratov Oblast Secondary Schools
Faculty lessons on Muslim culture will be introduced in Saratov Oblast's secondary schools as of September, reported on 22 April, citing Volga region Muslim Religious Board head Moqetdes Bibarsov. Bibarsov said the project, initiated by the Council of Muftis of Russia, was approved by the Russian presidential administration. A textbook on Islamic history and culture is to be published by September. Bibarsov added that major problems to be resolved are finances and teachers since there are only several people in the oblast that are able to correctly interpret the Koran and teach it to children.

Sverdlovsk Oblast Duma Speaker, Deputy Speaker Dismissed
The Sverdlovsk Oblast Duma dismissed Nikolai Voronin from the post of Duma speaker on 23 April with a 16 to nine vote. Voronin was staying in a hospital, Novyi Region reported the same day. The same day, deputies also dismissed by the same vote Duma Deputy Speaker Nikolai Yezerskii, who was away on a business trip when the vote was taken. Voronin's other deputy, Aleksandr Zaborov, will be the acting speaker, the news agency said. It was the Duma's 20th attempt to dismiss its speakers. Among deputies who backed the dismissal of the speakers, who are supporters of oblast Governor Eduard Rossel, were six deputies of the pro-governor majority in the Duma. The agency speculated that the Ural Mining and Smelting Company is behind the action.

Duma Deputy Wins Suit Against Yekaterinburg Newspaper
The Yekaterinburg Kirov Raion court has ruled in favor of a Duma deputy from the Nizhnii Tagil electoral district in a suit filed against a reporter from the newspaper "Vecherniye vedomosti iz Yekaterinburga." Deputy Valerii Yazev filed the suit against reporter Olga Selezneva and the paper's founders, Dmitrii Polyanin and Svetlana Polyanina, reported on 25 April. Yazev sued the newspaper for a 14 July 2000 report about a brewery in the Kosulino village near Yekaterinburg which reportedly belonged to Yazev and failed to pay taxes. The court decided that the information was false and the defendants must publish apologies to Yazev in the mass media and pay him 60,000 rubles ($1,930) in compensation. "Vecherniye vedomosti iz Yekaterinburga" has not published since fall 2002.

Adviser To Sverdlovsk Governor Claims Police Spy On Him, Listen To His Calls
An adviser to the Sverdlovsk Oblast governor, City Without Drugs Fund President Yevgenii Roizman, said on 22 April that the police have been spying on him and monitoring his calls for the past six days, Novyi Region reported the same day. Roizman said he can provide photos, the names, and positions of the policemen involved. Roizman said that the successful operation of City Without Drugs is likely behind the attention from law enforcement bodies, adding that the oblast's criminal police chief, General Filippov, has tried to obstruct the fund's activities from the beginning.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova