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Tatar-Bashkir Report: August 12, 2003

12 August 2003
Top Russian, International Dignitaries Send Greetings To Volga Route Forum
Russian President Vladimir Putin, his Tatar counterpart Mintimer Shaimiev, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, UNESCO Director General Koichiro Matsuura, Council of Europe Secretary-General Walter Schwimmer, and Ekmeleddin Ikhsanoglu, the secretary-general for the Research Center for Islamic History, Art, and Culture, sent their greetings to "The Great Volga Route" conference that began on 4 August in Astrakhan (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 4 August 2003), reported the same day. Speaking at the opening ceremony, Astrakhan Oblast Governor Anatolii Guzhvin said, "Russia has not had any clear policy as regards the Caspian Sea in the last five or six years" and that "the mission of the to contribute to the mutual understanding between countries and peoples and the Caspian Sea remaining a region of peace." Guzhvin added that three new terminals to store grain, containers, and oil will be constructed in Astrakhan under the program for developing the new north-south transport corridor. Russian Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Viktor Kalyuzhnyi and Russian Deputy Transport Minister Nikolai Smirnov were also in attendance. The same day, Kazan Mayor Kamil Iskhaqov and Astrakhan Mayor Igor Bezrukavnikov signed a cooperation agreement. The two officials also signed a protocol on cooperation between Great Volga Route cities, which the mayors of Makhachkala, Daghestan, Baku, Azerbaijan, and Aktau, Kazakhstan are also scheduled to sign.

Nizhnekamskneftekhim Chooses Partners For Polypropylene Production
The Nizhnekamskneftekhim petrochemical company announced that it will create a plant capable of producing 120,000 tons of polypropylene a year by 2006, "Vedomosti" reported on 4 August. The company plans to attract credits to pay for the $125 million project. Late last week, Nizhnekamskneftekhim signed a trilateral memorandum on the construction of the plant with the Italian companies Basell and Tecnimont. Basell -- a joint BASF and Shell venture -- is scheduled to supply the Tatar company with a license for the production of polypropylene, while Tecnimont is responsible for delivering equipment, and beginning and monitoring the operations. According to the daily, the Japanese Mitsui company was a major competitor of Basell and Tecnimont in the tender. Nizhnekamskneftekhim, one of the largest petrochemical facilities in Eastern Europe, made a net profit of 2.1 billion rubles ($69.2 million) in 2002. The Tatar government owns a 35 percent stake in the company.

State Media Agency Head Says No Plans To Establish Power Vertical On Media Market
Marat Muratov, the general director of the Tatmedia mass communications agency, told reporters on 5 August that encouraging competitiveness among the state-controlled outlets in the media market will be one of the agency's priorities. Tatmedia, established by a 30 April decree by President Mintimer Shaimiev, is subordinate to the Tatar Cabinet of Ministers. The agency should not be treated as an attempt to establish a power vertical in the mass media market, Muratov said. He outlined the major functions of the agency, which include improving the infrastructure of the media market, liaising with media heads, and monitoring state media outlets' budgets. The latter will be done in "quite a strict" manner, Muratov said, adding that all mass media will have to present reports on their incomes and expenses. Tatmedia brings together all the republic's state-controlled media, including eight newspapers, 11 magazines, and the Tatarstan-New Century television and radio company.

Council Of Russian Muftis Praises Russia Possibly Joining OIC
"We fully support the call by President Vladimir Putin for Russia's joining the Organization of the Islamic Conference [OIC]," Council of Russian Muftis Chairman Rawil Gainetdin said, Tatarinform reported on 6 August. Ganetdin's comments came in response to Putin's statement on 5 August in Malaysia about Russia possibly joining the OIC. The news agency cited the Council of Russian Muftis press service as commenting that more than 20 million Russian Muslims have been expressing for a long time their desire to join one of the world's most authoritative Muslim organizations. "Russia's OIC entry would let us not only broaden existing spiritual ties but significantly increase economic and political cooperation between the OIC countries," Gainetdin said.

New Suspects In Kidnapping Case Detained
Police have detained Moscow resident Aleksei Masalov and owner of the Photo World shop network Oleg Belov on suspicion of involvement in the kidnapping of KamAZ top manager Viktor Faber and Chally businessman Bulat Bayazitov (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 4 and 6 June, 18 and 21 July 2003), reported on 6 August. Seven Chally residents and two Moscow Sodbiznesbank senior officials were already arrested in the investigation.

TIU Leader Seeks Case Against Him To Be Filed In Tatar
The Chally city court rejected on 6 August an appeal by Tatar Public Center (TIU) in Chally leader Rafis Kashapov, in which he demanded that materials of the criminal case against him be filed in Tatar as well as Russian, RFE/RL's Chally correspondent reported. The court ruled that it is not necessary to translate documents in full, adding that Kashapov will be provided with an interpreter during the trial. Kashapov plans to appeal the decision in the Tatar Supreme Court. Kashapov is accused of inciting interethnic, racial, and religious hatred (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 26 March, 13 and 23 May, and 7 July 2003).

Ex-Senator Begins Presidential Campaign...
Refqet Altynbaev, Party of Life co-chairman and a former Federation Council member from Tatarstan, told reporters on 7 August in Moscow that he will run in Tatarstan's presidential elections, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 8 August. Altynbaev held a press conference to discuss what he calls persecution against the Party of Life in Tatarstan. Altynbaev said searches held the previous day in the apartment of the leader of the Party of Life's Kazan branch (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 7 August 2003) were illegal since they were not sanctioned by a court, only by a prosecutor. He claimed that a special commission of the party's executive committee revealed the "most flagrant violations of the law on political parties" in the republic (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 25 July 2003). They include, specifically, "serious pressure by law-enforcement bodies through plain statements not to expand political activity and hinting at closure of [party] branches on various pretexts." Altynbaev added that he will inform both Russian and Tatar presidents about those violations.

...As Activist Of His Party In Tatarstan Under Investigation
In searches held in the apartment of the Russian Party of Life's Kazan branch leader, Ferit Khujikhanov, and his auto dealership RAIF-tsentr (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 7 August 2003), policemen seized photos, notebooks, licensing and bookkeeping documents, correspondence, and a personal computer, "Izvestiya" reported on 8 August. The searches were a part of an investigation into a criminal case on the theft of tires at Nizhnekamskshina, in which Khujikhanov was allegedly involved, the daily cited the Interior Ministry's chief investigative directorate representative, Dmitrii Uskov, as saying. In 1998, Khujikhanov was a mediator in a deal under which 20 million rubles ($659,000) worth of tires were delivered to the Kazan Genezis company but the latter's obligations to Nizhnekamskshina were not fulfilled. Genezis Director Igor Myatilev was arrested in April and the Nizhnekamskshina-related criminal case was filed on 20 May.

Commenting on the searches to "Izvestiya," Khujikhanov, who is a Kazan Medicine University professor, said he has been warned that he will face trouble if he continues his party activity. He added that four cars follow him and his telephones are bugged. Meanwhile, the daily cited local activists of the Party of Life as commenting that the searches came in response to a "direct line" that Altynbaev made by telephone with Chally residents on 4 August, the day when Chally Mayor Reshit Khemediev was buried. The action by Altynbaev, who is a former Chally mayor, reportedly irritated the republic's leadership, which supports Unified Russia.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Prosecutors Open Criminal Investigation On Tax Ministry Power Outages
Ufa's Soviet Raion prosecutor's office on 1 August began an investigation into the electricity outages in the Bashkir Tax Ministry's offices in Ufa (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 28 July 2003), reported on 4 August. The ministry appealed six times to the Bashkir Prosecutor's Office and once to the Russian Federal Security Service's Bashkir office to protest illegal stoppages of electricity and running water and illegal actions by the State Fire-Prevention Service and the Energy-Supervision Service. The ministry estimates preliminary damages from the stoppages at 5.4 million rubles, while the final sum will be determined after electricity is restored.

Zhirinovskii: LDPR Candidate To Run For Bashkir Presidency
Visiting Ufa on 3 August, Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii said he has "cool" relations with Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov, adding that the LDPR will nominate a candidate in the December Bashkir presidential elections. Zhirinovskii also said that he does not consider the requirement for candidates for the Bashkir presidency to speak Bashkir obligatory. "Russia will be here forever," he said.

Zhirinovskii also spoke in favor of creating 21 governorates in Russia by dividing the seven federal districts into three parts each. "Governors should be appointed since elections are expensive and criminals and the mafia take part in them, while only the president and State Duma deputies should be elected," he said. Regions should not be divided into donors and those receiving subsidies since the "population is not guilty of the lack of oil, gas, or fish on its territory." Zhirinovskii called for providing maximum powers for regions but only after the introduction of capital punishment for secession from Russia. The "sovereignty" concept should be forgotten, he said, adding that, "it was concocted by Marxists as regards colonial countries."

Commenting on the Bashkir presidential elections, Zhirinovskii said that even if State Duma Deputy Aleksei Mitrofanov, who has announced his intention to run, gives up on the idea and runs for mayor of Moscow, the LDPR will nominate another candidate. He also expressed his hope that his party will receive 45 percent of the vote in the State Duma elections in Bashkortostan, as "Tatars, Bashkirs, and Russians -- all love [him]."

Duma Deputy Appeals To Audit Chamber To Investigate Privatization Violations
State Duma Deputy Aleksei Mitrofanov (Liberal Democratic Party of Russia) has asked Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov if privatization of companies in the Bashkir petrochemical sector was legal, reported on 5 August. Mitrofanov, who announced the previous week his intention to run for the Bashkir presidency (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 1 August 2003), referred to a recent report by the Russian Audit Chamber about "unprecedented violations" that took place in Bashkortostan (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 23 July 2003). He called on the prosecutor-general "to evaluate the activities of citizens and officials," to investigate alleged cases of large-scale fraud, and "to take all necessary measures" to return shares of Bashkir petrochemical companies to the state. Citing violations revealed by the Audit Chamber, Mitrofanov said that the controlling interests of four oil refineries -- the Ufa Oil Refinery, Ufaneftekhim, the Novo-Ufimskii Oil Refinery, and Bashkirnefteprodukt -- had been sold illegally and that those stakes should be returned to the state.

TIU Will Not Support Rakhimov's Re-election
Airat Gyinietullin, the leader of Bashkortostan's most radical Tatar organization, the Tatar Public Center (TIU), told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 6 August that TIU will not support President Murtaza Rakhimov if he seeks a third term in office. Gyinietullin said Rakhimov had done nothing to solve the problems of the Tatar people during his two terms. Instead, new problems have arisen and more interethnic tension has emerged during this time, he said. He added that the ethnic identity of the Bashkir president is not an important factor for Tatar organizations.

BTK Leader Says Tatarstan Should Not Be Indifferent To Tatars In Bashkortostan
Ethnologist Damir Iskhaqov, the deputy chairman of the World Tatar Congress's (BTK) Executive Committee, told RFE/RL's Kazan bureau on 6 August that Tatarstan should not let the Bashkir authorities "privatize" Tatars living in that republic. Iskhaqov was commenting on recent reports aired in Bashkortostan that Tatarstan-based Tatar organizations had interfered in Bashkortostan's affairs. Specifically, a Bashkir presidential administration official Emir Yuldashbaev had said that "Bashkortostan is not an affiliate of Tatarstan," so the activities of Bashkortostan's Tatar Congress need not be approved by the Tatarstan-based BTK. Iskhaqov replied that Bashkortostan's Tatar community is an integral part of the Tatar people and Tatarstan should not be indifferent to the problems of Tatars in Bashkortostan. He cited reports about the decreasing number of Tatar schools in Bashkortostan as an example of federal laws being violated in the republic.

Turkish Company To Purchase Ufa Brewery
The Moscow office of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) announced on 6 August the granting of a $25 million loan to Efes Beverage Group (EBG) for the purchase of the Amstar brewery in Bashkortostan, "Kommersant" reported on 7 August. The loan was issued as part of a $750 million credit line provided by the EBRD to the Turkish Anadolu Efes Biracilikve Malt Sanayii AS, the owner of Efes Beverage. The Ufa Amstar brewery holds some 1.5 percent of the Russian beer market with its two main low-price brands, Belyi Medved and Sokol. EBG, which had brewing capacity in Russia of 3 million hectoliters in 2002, plans to increase it to 8 million hectoliters by 2005.

Federal Interior Minister Rebukes Bashkir Subordinate
Bashkir Interior Minister Lieutenant General Rafail Divaev received a warning that he is not fully meeting his job requirements, and RosBalt reported on 8 August. Bashkir ministry spokesman Ruslan Sherefetdinov said the same day that an order signed by Russian Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov on 10 July was delivered to the Bashkir ministry only in late July.

The order refers to "serious neglect of duties in organization of managing ministry bodies and departments," as well as "decreasing influence of the republican ministry in the republic's regions," revealed in a recent probe of the Bashkir ministry by the federal ministry. The document further asserts that the head of the Bashkir ministry and his deputies "directed their activities at fulfilling orders from republican authorities which often contradict federal legislation." As a result, the ministry became "involved in settling business and political disputes between regional and federal bodies."

Gryzlov noted that interior bodies were used for "levying debts" and that some 1 billion rubles were illegally received from owners in 1999-2001 "with the very active assistance of Divaev and his deputies." Republic police practiced manipulation and upward distortion of statistics reflecting their work results, according to the order. Divaev's "arbitrary" style of management "negatively affected personnel policy" as people were often employed "irrespective of business and moral qualities by personal devotion and ethnic identity." Divaev was ordered to address the problems listed by October. Divaev's first deputy, Nikolai Patrikeev, was also dismissed by the order. Divaev, 52, has headed the ministry since February 1996.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Yabloko Deputy Calls For Moving Residents Of Radiation-Polluted Tatar Village In Chelyabinsk Oblast
State Duma Deputy Sergei Mitrokhin (Yabloko) appealed to Russian Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin to allocate 230 million rubles ($7.6 million) by 2006 for moving residents of the Muslyumovo village of Chelyabinsk Oblast's Kunashak Raion, reported on 6 August. The village was polluted in the 1957 Mayak nuclear disaster. Mitrokhin said 444 families and another 1,500 residents from the village have demanded that they be moved from that territory and provided safe living conditions. Residents from all the villages around Muslyumovo have been moved. In addition, Muslyumovo residents who are subjected to special screening fear that they are participants in a medical experiment in violation of their constitutional rights, Mitrokhin noted.

Antiterrorist Experiment With Fake Suicide Bomber Held In Kirov
The "Moskovskii komsomolets na Vyatke" newspaper together with the Grand TV television company staged an event in Kirov called "Shahidka" (female suicide bomber) to check people's vigilance against a possible terrorist attack, Regnum reported on 5 August. An actress in a black dress and a black headscarf left several parcels and bags in four city locations. In one of the sites, several young men detained the woman in the street and called the police. Bags left by the woman in two stores were immediately discovered by the staff but one left in another store was not. She also successfully placed a parcel in a city pedestrian subway.

Deputy Says Political Motives Behind Mayor's Arrest
Volzhsk First Deputy Mayor Dzheppar Ablyazov issued an appeal to President Vladimir Putin, human rights organizations, and mass media protesting the arrest of Mayor Nikolai Svistunov, Regnum-MariNews reported on 7 August. Ablyazov said Svistunov is being persecuted for his criticism of the policies of the Marii El leadership and because of his plans to run for the Marii El presidency in the next elections. Ablyazov added that Svistunov had exposed facts about the theft of republican property and illegal bankruptcies, and he was arrested in a fabricated case despite a lack of evidence.

In response to Svistunov's criticism, republican authorities have been constantly cutting off gas, heat, water, and electricity to Volzhsk for more than two years. Republican media contribute to the image of Svistunov as a criminal, Ablyazov said, and called on legal and other authorities to stop the tyranny against Svistunov. Svistunov was arrested on suspicion of embezzlement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 July 2003).

Nizhnii's Khodyrev Announces Plans To Run For Re-Election
Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast Governor Gennadii Khodyrev announced his plans to run for re-election in 2005, NTA Privolzhe reported on 6 August. Speaking at a press conference devoted to his second anniversary in office, Khodyrev said he is ready to enter the election in July 2005 as he is "full of strength and energy." In 2001, Khodyrev won the election with 59 percent of the vote.

Perm Oblast Youth Study History Of Gulag
A youth camp was opened in Chermoz, Perm Oblast, to study the history of local Gulag camps, Novyi Region (Perm) reported on 6 August. Volunteers taking part in the project will provide social help to elderly victims of political repression, reveal and describe the locations of local Gulags, and collect folklore and thing related to their history. Camp head Robert Latypov said the project's aim is to develop a model of a camp promoting an open and civic society, which may then spread to the oblast's other areas.

Liberal Russia In Sverdlovsk Oblast Sued For Libel
The Russian Prosecutor-General's Office has begun a criminal investigation for libel against Vladimir Lysenkov, the leader of the Sverdlovsk Oblast branch of Liberal Russia headed by tycoon Boris Berezovskii, Novyi Region reported on 7 August. The lawsuit was filed on a complaint by Viktor Pokhmelkin, co-chairman of Liberal Russia's wing registered by the Russian Justice Ministry, whom Lysenkov accused of involvement in the murders of two party co-chairmen, State Duma Deputies Sergei Yushenkov and Vladimir Golovlev. Pokhmelkin's spokesperson told the news agency that the complaint was sent to prosecutors in early July together with the videotape of an NTV program in which Lysenkov claimed that Pokhmelkin contracted the killings.

Yekaterinburg Civic Group Fighting Violence, Pornography In Media
The "Good to People" foundation has collected some 10,000 signatures calling for a federal law on defense of moral, physical, and mental health of the youth and against propaganda of violence and pornography in the media and public places in Yekaterinburg, UralBiznesKonsalting reported on 6 August. The signatures were collected in the week since the petition drive began on 30 July. Activists hope to collect a total of more than 100,000 signatures. In addition, they have begun picketing places where pornographic materials are sold.

Miners Continue Strike In Sverdlovsk Oblast
Fourteen strikers at the Levikha copper mine in Sverdlovsk Oblast (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 5 August 2003) are continuing their strike despite the fact that management has begun paying one month's wage to employees, Novyi Region reported on 6 August. The strikers have occupied their workplace since 25 July demanding that back wages, reduced now to 8,500 rubles from 10,000 rubles, be fully repaid. Some began a hunger strike. The strikers are isolated by the mine guard service and information about their status is not available, the report said. The miners have not been paid since May.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova