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Tatar-Bashkir Report: May 20, 2003

20 May 2003
Muslim Women Allowed To Wear Headscarves For Passport Photographs
The appeal chamber of the Russian Supreme Court ruled on 15 May that citizens may have their passport photographs taken with headscarves on if their religious beliefs require so, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. Considering the appeal of a group of Tatar Muslim women from Tuben Kama, the court annulled Article 14 of the Russian Interior Ministry's passport regulations adopted in September 1997, which request that the photograph is taken without sunglasses and headwear (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 15 May 2003). The plaintiffs had previously declared their intention to take their case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg if the Russian court rejected their appeal. Vladimir Ryakhovskii, a Moscow-based lawyer representing the plaintiffs, told "Izvestiya" daily in an interview published on 16 May that "we have won a very important victory because from now on not only Muslim women will be able to be photographed the way their religion requires it. Orthodox nuns also may have their passport photographs made wearing headscarves." The federal Interior Ministry's passport and visa bureau told reporters that it will appeal against the court's ruling.

Tatarstan Prepares Program For Training More State Officials
According to a governmental commission that is discussing a draft program on the reform of the state bureaucracy, an average retired state official will draw a monthly pension of 2,000 rubles ($64), Intertat reported on 7 May. Some 10,000 bureaucrats are currently serving in Tatarstan, 75 percent of them women. Between 15 and 20 percent of positions in the republic's bureaucracy are reportedly unfilled. Due to the large number of officials who are nearing retirement age, around 50 percent of jobs in the bureaucracy are expected to be freed up in the next decade. The state bureaucracy reform is expected to introduce measures for preparing new, qualified personnel. The draft program was approved by the commission on 7 May, but is yet to be endorsed by Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev.

Shaimiev Promotes Dialogue Between Vatican, Russian Orthodox Church
In President Mintimer Shiamiev's opinion, "handover of the Kazan Mother of God icon to Russia could serve as a starting point for the dialogue between Orthodox and Catholic churches," Interfax reported on 12 May. Shaimiev emphasized that the icon, stolen in Kazan in the early 20th century, is highly revered in the Orthodox world. Shaimiev said that Tatarstan has for several years maintained ties with the Vatican, which is thought by many to possess the icon, and is eager to resume work to secure the return the icon. However, Shaimiev admitted that according to an expert commission of the Russian Ministry of Culture, Orthodox Encyclopedia, the Ancient Russian Art Museum, Tatar, and Vatican officials, the relic currently kept by Vatican is only a copy of the original one, and was created in 17th century. Nevertheless, the president emphasized the spiritual value of the copy, reportedly drawn in the early 18th century, "which is especially respected by Orthodox Christians."

Share Of Tatar Population Growing In Tatarstan...
The "Vechernyaya Kazan" daily wrote on 13 May that the preliminary results of the October 2002 national census cited by head of the republican State Statistics Committee Valerii Kandilov the previous day showed that ethnic Tatars constituted 51.3 percent of Tatarstan's population and ethnic Russians represented 41 percent. In the previous 1989 census, ethnic Tatars made up 48.5 percent and ethnic Russians 43.3 percent of the total population in the republic.

...While Birth Rates Reported To Have Declined By Some 40 Percent In Last 10 Years
Mansur Khesenov, president of the Tatar Academy of Sciences, told a conference on social security for Tatarstan's families in Kazan on 13 May that during the last decade the republic's birth rate has declined from 15.3 newborns per 1,000 people in 1990 to 9.4 in 2000. In 2000, the death rate was 11.9 per 1,000 people in urban areas and 16.9 in rural areas. According to the Tatar Ministry Of Youth Affairs and Sport, 32 percent of young families in the republic are strongly dependent on material aid from the state. In 2002, 15,000 families in the republic received 8 million rubles ($254,000) in social security contributions.

New Governmental Body To Overhaul Finances Of State Media
Marat Moratov, the newly appointed director of Tatarstan's state agency for mass communications, told a press conference on 14 May that his agency "would not represent an organ of censorship, but bring the relations between the republican government and mass media into order," RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported today. He added that his first steps as a director would be inspecting the offices of all state media in the republic and working on the issue of state financing. Moratov asked state media heads to get their bookkeeping in order. The agency will also provide assistance to private companies in order to carry out its task of "perfecting the infrastructure" of Tatarstan's media market. More than 30 television companies and 450 newspapers and magazines are currently operating in the republic.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Dismissed Tax Head Restored To His Post
The Russian Tax Ministry issued an order on 7 May to restore Reshit Sattarov to his duties as the head of the ministry's Bashkir Directorate, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 11 May. The ministry had accused Sattarov of allowing Bashkir oil refineries to evade the payment of 10 billion rubles ($324 million) in taxes (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 27 March, 2 and 5 May 2003). After the Ufa Lenin Raion court ruled on 28 April that Sattarov's dismissal was illegal, the ministry was expected to appeal to another higher authority, but didn't. Local experts cited Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov, who reportedly said that Russian Tax Minister Gennadii Bukaev, who headed the Bashkir directorate in the past, is light-fingered himself. Bashkir State Supervision Committee Chairman Petr Bobylev echoed Rakhimov, saying, "We have a thick folder [of compromising material] against Bukaev."

Treasury Directorate Employees On Hunger Strike To Protest Financial Violations
A group of employees from the Bashkir directorate of the Russian Treasury began a hunger strike on 7 May to demand the investigation of violations they say have taken place within the body, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 11 May. Sergei Merezhko, the head of the directorate's human resources department, pitched a tent in front of the directorate's building in downtown Ufa to stage the hunger strike. Another 12 employees have joined the strike without leaving their work places. Merezhko said the Russian Treasury has completed shady transactions, but not a single body is willing to investigate them. On the evening of 8 May the tent was removed by police officers. Merezhko said that the strikers decided to stop their action on 9 May as a sign of respect for Victory Day. He added that if an investigation does not begin on 12 May, they will continue the strike.

Ural Rakhimov Leaves Bashneft Board
Ural Rakhimov, son of Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov, who has been heading the Bashneft board of directors since 2002, was not elected to the company's new board at the 28 April shareholders' meeting, RosBalt reported on 12 May. Controversial candidates from minor shareholders who own 10 percent of Bashneft -- Vostok Nafta Investment Ltd. Executive Director Alex Williams and David Geovanis, the executive director of metals group Basic Element (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 29 and 30 April and 1 May 2003) -- received 0.1 percent and 8.56 percent of the votes respectively and were also not elected. Nine members elected to the new board include Bashkir Property Relations Minister Zofer Geptrekhimov, Bashkir Economy Minister Valentin Vlasov, Bashkir Foreign Economic Relations and Trade Minister Boris Kolbin, Bashneftekhim general director Viktor Gantsev, Bashneft general director Ildar Iskhaqov, Bashkirnefteprodukt general director Rostem Ishalin, Uraltranstefteprodukt general director Kamil Ekmedullin, Bashneft head accountant Vadim Rybinskii, and Bashneft financial department head Yelena Yenikeeva. The Bashkir government -- which has a 2.5 percent share in Bashneft -- controls 63.7 percent of its shares through the company's major shareholder, the state-run Bashkir Fuel Company.

Bashkir President Sets Up Council Of Republic
Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov has signed a decree establishing the Council of the Republic, Interfax reported on 13 May. The new council is a consultative body headed by the president. According to the decree, the main task of the body will be to promote and oversee the cooperation of the republic's state bodies and discuss implementation measures of executive bodies and Russian and Bashkir officials. The council is also intended to discuss socioeconomic development and personnel policy in executive bodies proposed by the president. It is also empowered to discuss draft republican laws proposed by the president.

The council comprises the Bashkir president, members of the Bashkir presidential administration, and the administrative heads of the republic's cities and raions. An executive committee will also be formed within the council and rotated every six months. The head of the presidential administration's information directorate, Marat Yamalov, said the council is similar to the Russian State Council, headed by the Russian president. Before the adoption of the new Bashkir Constitution, heads of the city and raion administrations were members of the upper chamber of the Bashkir State Assembly. The new council is intended to compensate their loss of power after the parliament became a unicameral body.

Ufa Says Agreement On Tuben Kama Reservoir Should Be Elaborated
The deputy head of the Russian Chief Directorate of Natural Resources in Bashkortostan Vladimir Goryachev told RosBalt on 13 May that the Bashkir government considers that the draft agreement on exploitation of the Tuben Kama reservoir proposed by Tatarstan can not be signed until it is elaborated. Bashkortostan has demanded that Tatarstan meet safety requirements, in particular in repairing the dam at the Tuben Kama hydroelectric power station, which allegedly causes a threat of flooding for eight villages in Bashkortostan's Krasnokama Raion, where some 10,000 people live. Goryachev said the dam repair issue will be on the agenda of a meeting of a working group of the Tatar and Bashkir governments scheduled for 15 May in Chally. The draft agreement on the Tuben Kama reservoir -- which spans the territory of Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, and Udmurtia -- includes raising its level from 62.5 meters to 63.3 meters. Any damage the republics will face from the raised water level will be covered by profit from the production of electric energy, which is expected to total 70-80 million rubles ($2.3 million-$2.6 million) a year. According to the draft, each of the three republics will receive 20 percent of the sum, while the remaining 40 percent will be spent on finishing the construction of the Tuben Kama reservoir, repair works, and cleaning up any emergencies. The draft was adopted by the Tatar government and the presidium of the Udmurt government and is expected to be signed in the next few weeks.

Analyst Speculates On Jihad Case
In an article, "Holy Russian Jihad," published in "The Moscow Times" on 15 May, Nikolai Petrov, head of the Center for Political and Geographical Research, speculates on what is behind one of Russia's leading Muslim organizations' declaration of jihad against the United States and its partners in the war against Iraq. The declaration of jihad was made by Supreme Mufti Telget Tajetdin, head of the Central Muslim Religious Board (TsDUM), one of Russia's two main national Muslim organizations (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 4, 7, 8, and 10 April 2003). The U.S. Embassy in Moscow immediately denounced the declaration, and sharp criticism followed from the Prosecutor-General's Office, the Justice Ministry, the rival Council of Russian Muftis headed by Rawil Gainetdin, various muftiyats (higher Islamic administrations), and the leadership of Tatarstan. TsDUM explained that by "jihad" Tadzhuddin had in mind an exclusively spiritual confrontation.

In early April, President Vladimir Putin, first in Tambov and later in Moscow, began his shift to a pro-U.S. stance, speaking of the need to further develop Russian-U.S. cooperation, despite difficulties in relations. That the declaration of jihad was made in Ufa at a Unified Russia rally was also of no coincidence, the author writes. Both Gainetdin and Tajetdin, rivals for the leadership of Russia's 20 million Muslims, enjoy the support of the Kremlin.

Asking who benefits from all of this, Petrov continues that for Putin, it is a chance to make sure that the United States understands the difficulties he faces as the head of a country with a huge Muslim population. And with elections around the corner, the declaration, according to the author, was calculated in order to garner support from radical Muslims in Tajetdin's organization, as well as from pragmatic Muslims who side with Gainetdin.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Mayak To Renew Imports Of Spent Nuclear Fuel
The Chelyabinsk Oblast's Mayak company will begin accepting nuclear waste from Bulgaria in June, the company's press service head Yevgenii Ryzhkov told Inform-Ekologiya on 15 May. Ryzhkov said Mayak is settling bureaucratic obstacles before the final decision on deliveries of spent nuclear fuel can be passed. He said the company will import 20 tons of nuclear waste from Bulgaria's Kozloduy nuclear power station, adding that imports of a ton of nuclear waste cost some $1 million on the world market.

Referenda To Be Held In Perm Oblast, Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug On Merger Issue
At a 13 May meeting in Moscow, the interdepartmental working group dealing with the merger of Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug and Perm Oblast backed a proposal to name the new federation entity Perm Krai, Electronic News Agency reported on 16 May. The heads of both entities' state bodies suggested that Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug would be an integral municipal entity of Perm Krai. A deputy presidential Volga Federal District envoy, Leonid Gilchenko, told the news agency that citizens will vote in referenda on the issue, due to be held in both Perm Oblast and Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug by 10 July. If the populations of the two entities back the idea, the working group will appeal to the Russian president to propose a draft federal constitutional law on the status of the entities.

National Bolsheviks Give Samara Oblast's Titov A Soaking
A National Bolshevik Party (NBP) member splashed water into Samara Oblast Governor Konstantin Titov's face as he was meeting with students at the Samara State University press club on 13 May, NTA Privolzhe reported the same day. Another NBP representative distributed leaflets saying, "today we threw water, but tomorrow we will jail [the governor]." The NBP activists, both teenagers, were detained by police.

Saratov Court Punishes Nationalists For Anti-Semitic Slogans...
A Saratov court sentenced on 16 May Vitalii Sosnin, the leader of the 11 February nationalist movement, to two years of imprisonment for evoking interethnic hatred, the state radio and television company GTRK Saratov reported the same day. Another member of the movement, Yurii Babikov, received a suspended sentence. On 21 September 2001, Sosnin and Babikov organized a meeting in the Saratov Lipki park to mark an anniversary of the Kulikovo battle, during which they verbally attacked Jews.

...Files Suit Against Government-Run Newspaper For Anti-Semitic Article
A lawsuit was filed against the pro-government newspaper "Saratovskie vesti" on 18 January for the publication of an allegedly anti-Semitic article, reported on 16 May, citing the state television and radio company GTRK Saratov. The article's author, who used the pseudonym Ivan Belozubov, has not been identified, the report said. According to prosecutors, the article provoked a strong reaction as many Jews said that it was a direct call to interethnic hatred and anti-Semitism. Following the publication, Saratov Oblast Rabbi Mikhael Frumin recalled his signature on the oblast's Public Consent Agreement (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 24 January 2003).

Russian, U.S. Titanium Producers Set Up Joint Venture
Leading titanium producers in the world, the Sverdlovsk Oblast's Verkhnyaya Salda Metallurgy Industrial Association (VSMPO) and the U.S.-based Allegheny Technologies Inc. (ATI) established a joint venture Uniti, Novyi Region reported on 16 May. In Russia, production will be based at the AVISMA plant in Berezniki in the Perm Oblast. ATI General Director James Merdi said the joint venture will allow ATI to increase its goods turnover and income. VSMPO-AVISMA General Director Vladislav Tetyukhin said the establishment of the joint venture on the threshold of Russia's entry into the World Trade Organization is a move of strategic importance for the corporation.

Town In Sverdlovsk Oblast To Replace Lenin Monument With Catherine The Great
The authorities in the town of Irbit in Sverdlovsk Oblast are planning to replace the Lenin monument on the town's central square and replace it with a monument to Catherine the Great, Uralinformbyuro reported on 16 May. The local organization of Yabloko, of which Irbit Mayor Georgii Shatravka is a member, said that the move is intended to put right history, as it was the Catherine the Great monument that was located on the square in the past. In response, representatives of the Communist Party's Sverdlovsk Oblast Committee said they will stage protests against the move in order to stop "the usual wave of anti-communism." The Communists added that the Lenin monument is of no less historical value than the monument to Catherine the Great.

Gazprom Stops Gas Deliveries To Ulyanovskenergo
On 15 May, Ulyanovskregiongaz disconnected the energy company Ulyanovskenergo from the gas supply, "Kommersant" reported on 16 May. It is the first time in Russia when the entire energy system has been disconnected from the gas supply, the daily said. Representatives of Gazprom in the Ulyanovsk Oblast said that the gas supply will not be turned back on until Ulyanovskenergo, which owes the gas monopoly 32 million rubles ($1 million), repays its debt. For its part, Ulyanovskenergo is owed by consumers a total of 4 billion rubles. Ulyanovskenergo produces 20 percent of the energy consumed in the oblast.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova