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Tatar-Bashkir Report: September 16, 2003

16 September 2003
Tatarstan's Budget Deficit To Rise To 3 Billion Rubles In 2004
Finance Minister Radik Gyizetullin told an expanded meeting of Tatarstan's cabinet on 8 September that in 2004 the republic's budget deficit will be around 3 billion rubles ($98 million), RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 9 September. Seventy-one percent of budget expenditures are earmarked for welfare payments, healthcare, and education. In 2004, Tatarstan will receive some 11 billion rubles from the federal government for developing its economy; 2.2 billion of that money will be spent on reconstructing Kazan for the city's millennium anniversary celebrations in 2005.

Palestinian Officials Watch Tatarstan Organize Elections
An official delegation of the Palestinian national administration arrived in Kazan on 10 September to observe the experience of organizing elections, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. The chairman of Palestine's election commission, Khanna Naser, accompanied by commission members Ali Jarbaui, Mazan Sisanim, and Iskhak Mukhanna, are said to be touring Russia in order to get acquainted with the country's system of voting. The guests have planned meetings with officials of Tatar's presidential staff, the State Council, and the republic's Central Election Commission.

LUKOil To Give Up Gas-Station Network In Tatarstan
LUKOil First Vice President Rawil Maganov told Tatar-inform on 9 September that his company intends to exchange its gas-station network in Tatarstan for 10-12 stations maintained by Tatneft in some other regions of Russia. Maganov explained that Tatarstan's gasoline market "is dominated" by the Tatar oil company and "it would be more useful" for LUKoil to relinquish its gas stations in the republic.

The two oil companies reportedly maintain close cooperation on such projects as oil extraction in the Nurlat region of Tatarstan, where LUKOil branch RITEK annually extracts some 1 million tons of oil, relying on Tatneft infrastructure for transporting the "black gold." Maganov noted that LUKoil President Vagit Alekperov and Tatneft General Director Shefeget Takhawetdinov "are not just acquaintances, but friends who are seeing each other constantly, discussing their strategies. Even in Iraq we go parallel to each other," working on different deposits.

Tatneft Considers Introducing Independent Members To Its Board Of Directors
Tatarstan's prime minister and the chairman of Tatneft's board of directors, Rustam Minnikhanov, said on 8 September that Tatarstan's major oil producer "is considering" the inclusion of independent shareholders on the board of directors, "Vedomosti" reported the next day. The move is reportedly intended to increase investment in the company, but does not mean that the republican government is ready to sell its 30 percent share in Tatneft, which provides 30 percent of the republican budget. The daily commented on this perspective by saying that it was quite unexpected for a closed venture like Tatneft to declare its intention to bring new members onto its board of directors.

Russian President, Finance Minster Discuss Funding Of Kazan Millennium Anniversary Celebrations
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin met on 9 September to discuss the preparations for Kazan's millennium anniversary celebrations in 2005, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. Putin reportedly instructed the minister to hold a meeting of the state commission in charge of the anniversary in Kazan on 12 September.

Kudrin informed the president that his ministry is simultaneously working on two programs: Tatarstan's social-economic development until 2006 and the anniversary celebrations. Kudrin also noted that there are still some unresolved issues with funding for the construction of the Kazan subway system, which is scheduled to have its first line open by 2005.

Meanwhile, the "Vechernyaya Kazan" daily wrote on 10 September that the opening of the first subway line will cost 12.5 billion rubles ($408.4 million), which is equal to three annual Kazan city budgets. Neither the city, nor the republic, have allotted any expenditures for subway construction in 2003. The Russian deputy transport minister, visiting Kazan in 2002, promoted a scheme according to which 20 percent of the subway expenses were to be covered by the federal center, while the rest was to be the responsibility of Tatarstan.

According to Tatarstan's draft budget for 2004, currently under discussion in the cabinet, Moscow is to transfer 9 billion rubles under the republic's social and economic development program and 2.2 billion rubles under the program on reconstructing Kazan for the city's millennium anniversary celebrations (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 9 September 2003).

Russian Communications Ministry Signs Cooperation Agreement With Tatar Government
During the international telecommunications fair, "Russia's Info-communications -- 21st Century," in Moscow on 10 September, Russian Minister of Communications and Information Technologies Development Leonid Reinman and Tatar Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov signed an agreement on cooperation between the federal ministry and the republican government, Intertat reported the same day. After signing the document Reinman said that "Tatarstan is among the leading Russian regions in telecommunications development, which is to a great extent explained by the support of the President Mintimer Shaimiev and the government."

According to an unnamed source in the Tatar Communications Ministry speaking to a correspondent in RFE/RL's Kazan bureau on 10 September, the fact that the agreement was signed by the Tatar prime minister and not Communications Minister Rinat Jelelov seems to perhaps confirm rumors about the minister's impending retirement and possible abolition of his ministry.

Tatar Parliament Votes To Hold Early Elections
The Tatar State Council voted on 11 September to hold parliamentary elections simultaneously with the Russian presidential elections in March 2004, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. The official five-year term of the present State Council expires on 19 December. President Mintimer Shaimiev said during the meeting that moving the date would allow the active participation of the electorate and save the republic "several hundred million rubles." Deputies also passed in the second reading amendments to the republic's constitution, which will increase the number of State Council deputies from 50 to 100, with 20 professionally employed deputies and 80 part-time legislators, who are allowed to maintain their current jobs.

Russian Finance Minister Reviews Preparations For Kazan Millennium
Russian Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin said on 12 September that "it will not be possible to complete all measures of the program for Kazan's restoration and development" by the celebration of its millennium in 2005, Russian and Tatar agencies reported. Kudrin, together with Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev, chaired the same day a meeting of the state commission on preparations for the celebration of Kazan's jubilee. It was reported at the meeting that 14 billion rubles ($457 million) of the planned total of 53 billion rubles, or 26.4 percent, have been allocated for the program since 2001 when the program started. Kudrin said another 24 billion rubles will be allocated for the program through August 2005. The federal budget has allocated 3 billion rubles out of the total of 7.7 billion rubles it is scheduled to donate, the Tatar government has given 6.5 billion rubles of the 20 billion rubles due, and some 5 billion rubles of an expected 20 billion rubles have been secured from nonbudget sources.

Kudrin told reporters following the meeting that he is satisfied with the preparations for the jubilee and that the program will not be limited as new sources will be sought to fulfill the budget. He also said that construction on the subway, the program to move residents from slums into new apartments, and the reconstruction of Kazan State University are priorities that will be finished by the celebrations in August 2005.

During his visit, Kudrin visited sites under construction in the Tatar capital, including the subway. Tatar Transport and Road Industry Minister Vladimir Shvetsov commented that only one-fourth of the work on the subway construction, which is to be finished by August 2005, has been done. Shvetsov also said only 2 billion rubles have been given for subway construction thus far instead of the 14 billion that was to have been allocated by now. Moscow, which originally said it would finance 50 percent of the subway construction, has since said that it will pay for 20 percent of the costs.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Former LUKoil Vice President Joins Bashkir Presidential Race...
Relif Safin, a deputy in the Federation Council representing the Altai Republic and former LUKoil vice president, said on 5 September that he will run for the Bashkir presidency, RosBalt reported the same day. Safin told a press conference that he will officially begin his campaign as soon as the Bashkir parliament fixes the date of the elections. Safin repeated his statement on 7 September in the Bawly Raion, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 8 September. Safin said neither LUKoil nor any other corporations are backing his campaign. He said that he enjoys support from seven parties that signed a memorandum on fair elections in Bashkortostan, which include the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, the Union of Rightist Forces, the Communist Party, and Yabloko. Safin said that incumbent President Murtaza Rakhimov was a person who "has done very much for Bashkortostan." The Federation Council deputy also said he does not plan any revision of what has been done in the republic and said that he does not plan any alliances with either Rakhimov or another possible rival in the presidential race, former Mezhprombank head Sergei Veremeenko.

Safin, a 49-year-old ethnic Tatar, was born in Bashkortostan's Ilesh Raion and graduated from the Ufa Oil Institute in 1975. In 1993, he was elected first vice president of LUKoil. In June 2002, Safin was elected to the Federation Council.

The presidential elections are expected to take place on 7 December (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 5 September 2003).

...As Controversy Around Presidential Election Date Arises
Ildar Isengulov, Beloretsk city council deputy and a member of the local branch of the Yabloko party, appealed to the Bashkir Supreme Court against the law by which the Bashkir parliament extended President Rakhimov's term in office, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 5 September. Isengulov argued that under the Bashkir Constitution, the legislature can not extend the presidential term and demanded that the election date be brought forward to 2 November. Rakhimov's term expired in June. The daily cited State Assembly deputy Zofer Yenikeev as saying that the federal law on electoral rights allows such extensions for up to a year in order to hold regional elections in parallel with federal ones. The Bashkir Electoral Code also allows for the extension of the presidential term, Yenikeev added. The appeal hearing is to start on 8 September.

UralSib Appeals To Court Against False Leaflets
The Ufa Soviet Raion court has filed a lawsuit on an appeal by the UralSib Bank against the distribution of false leaflets in Ufa (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 8 September 2003), "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 9 September. The leaflets, which were distributed across the republic on 5 September, said "rumors about the bank's bankruptcy had spread" in the mass media in the wake of "a conflict between the bank leadership and Russian President Vladimir Putin over the recovery from the bank of 12 billion rubles ($391 million) in concealed taxes" and "a criminal case filed against UralSib President Azat Qormanaev." The leaflet said the bank "is experiencing temporary troubles connected to the payment of underpaid taxes" and that all depositors "can take their money back any time" through 1 October. In his comments to the daily, UralSib press service head Sergei Lobanov called the case "PR-gangsterism." Bashkortostan's National Bank press service issued a statement on 8 September saying that "all of the republic's banks, including UralSib, are financially stable credit organizations." National Bank head Rostem Merdenov called the action "an act of terrorism" against UralSib. Merdenov, together with Qormanaev, spoke on local television the same day to ensure depositors that UralSib is financially stable. Lobanov said that about 10 depositors have thus far withdrawn their money from the bank.

Similar leaflets were distributed on 5 September in Novosibirsk, where UralSib has one of its biggest branches and where bank head Qormanaev, who is nephew of Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov's wife, began his career, "Vedomosti" reported on 9 September. The head of UralSib's Novosibirsk office, Sergei Koblev, told the daily that the branch also appealed to prosecutor's bodies to file a criminal case on the action.

Bashkir Prosecutors Launch Investigation Into UralSib Attack
The Ufa prosecutor's office is investigating the recent phony leaflet campaign directed against UralSib bank, Azat Qormanaev, the bank's president, told a press conference on 10 September. The previous week, leaflets were spread around the republic calling for people to close their accounts with the bank. (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 8, 9, and 11 September 2003). Qormanaev said that two Yekaterinburg residents were detained in Novosibirsk on 9 September in connection with the crime. A document was also seized that, according to Qormanaev, outlined a plan aimed at discrediting UralSib. Qormanaev also said that, along with the distribution of 400,000 leaflets, phone calls were made to account holders in order to create panic. Qormanaev called the action "gangsterism close to an act of terrorism." Commenting on the possible motive, Qormanaev said that the bank is not involved in politics and does not support any political party. The bank, he said, had not suffered from the attack as no account had been closed.

Unified Russia In Bashkortostan Disparages Veremeenko's 'Official' Status In Party
Bashinform published a statement on 9 September by the presidium of the political council of Unified Russia in Bashkortostan, in which its authors decried efforts by Sergei Veremeenko, an opponent and possible rival of President Murtaza Rakhimov in Bashkortostan's presidential election, "to use a name and the popularity of the Unified Russia party for political aims." Visiting the republic the previous week (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 5 September 2003), former Mezhprombank head Veremeenko presented himself as an adviser to Unified Russia's Executive Committee head, Yurii Volkov, and said he was charged by the party with supervising the Volga Federal District. Referring to a position outlined at the August republican conference of Unified Russia in Bashkortostan, the authors of the position listed officials who can represent the party in Bashkortostan. They include leaders and members of the party's Supreme Council, including President Rakhimov; members of the General Council and the Central Executive Committee; members of the republican political council; and the executive committee and of similar bodies in city and regional departments. Other persons or bodies do not have the right to make public statements on the behalf of the party, according to the statement. Veremeenko, in fact, is not an official representative of the party and is not empowered to speak on its behalf, the statement said. They also said that Veremeenko's public statements violate election legislation that prohibits campaigning before an election date is announced.

Ufa Lawyer Sues Russian Post Office In Strasbourg Court
Ufa lawyer Yevgenii Kareev has appealed to the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights against the Russian International General Post Office (GPO), RosBalt reported on 10 September. Kareev told the news agency the same day that GPO has lost six of his letters about violation of human rights in Russia that he sent between January and July to the European court. Kareev has demanded that the GPO pay him 100,000 euros ($111,947) in compensation. Kareev has said that he believes the loss of the letters is the result of "activities by the special services" and Russia's unwillingness to face international publicity regarding human rights violations. Kareev had written to the court appealing against the blocking of streets for the passage of VIP motorcades, the rise in housing and utilities payments, and against censorship on Russian and Bashkir television (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 4 and 6 February, 24 and 31 March, 9 April, and 1 May 2003 and "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 21 March 2003). Kareev said that the GPO has violated Article 34 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which forbids hindering citizens' appeals to the European court.

Daily: Bashkir Economy Less Efficient Than That Of Tatarstan
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" published on 10 September an article comparing economic development in Tatarstan and Bashkortostan, which concluded by saying that the economic situation in the latter is not as rosy as the republic's leaders suggest. Tatarstan's GDP per capita is 58,000 rubles ($1,900) per capita as compared to 45,000 rubles in Bashkortostan. Bashkortostan is twice as big as Tatarstan and its population is 8.5 percent bigger than its neighbor. Despite its smaller size, Tatarstan has produced 16.7 billion rubles worth of agricultural output in the first six months of the year, while the result in Bashkortostan was an output worth 14.2 billion rubles.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Atomic Energy Ministry Reportedly Seeking To Import Spent Nuclear Fuel
Russia's Atomic Energy Ministry has held negotiations with representatives from Hungary's Paksh nuclear plant and the Hungarian economy minister on possible delivery to Chelyabinsk's Mayak plant of some 1,500 tons of spent nuclear fuel, the Agency of Electronic News reported on 11 September, citing the environmental NGO Ekozashchita. Environmentalists warn that the deal, if it is concluded, will contradict Russian law that prohibits imports of radioactive wastes. In 1998, 400 tons of spent nuclear fuel were imported to Russia. In February 2002, the Russian Supreme Court nullified the deal but the Atomic Energy Ministry announced that it will not send the shipment back.

Marii El Civic Leaders Protest Lack Of Freedom Of Speech In Republic published on 10 September a statement by a group of Marii El political and public leaders protesting against the "forcible methods of political struggle" in the republic. Signatories include first deputy Volzhsk administration head Ablyazov, head of the Zvenigov Raion administration in 1996-2002 Zherebtsov, Volzhsk City Assembly Chairman Kalugin, Finno-Ugric newspaper "Kudo+Kodu" Editor in Chief Kozlov, Liberal Russia in Marii El acting head Kozhevnikov, Social-Democratic Party of Russia in Marii El head Mochaev, chairman of Council of All Maris Nikolaev, head of the coordinating council of Marii El creative unions Pirogov, and "Molodezhnyi kurer" Editor in Chief Shcheglov. The statement says that "freedom of speech is prohibited in Marii El" and some 15 local opposition newspapers are printed outside the republic. At the same time, the state-run newspaper "Mariiskaya pravda" libels political opponents of Marii El President Leonid Markelov. It also says the criminal case filed against Volzhsk Mayor Nikolai Svistunov is a reaction to Svistunov's political activity as the most consistent critic of the Markelov's policies, and is an attempt to frighten all independent politicians in the republic.

Candidates For Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Accuse Each Other Of Slander...
Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel filed a lawsuit on 11 September accusing his rival in the second round of the gubernatorial elections, oblast parliament deputy Anton Bakov, of slander, Novyi region reported the same day. Rossel demanded that Bakov publicly retract statements he made on local television about Rossel's 300 million-euro bank account in Germany and links to the organized criminal group Uralmash. For his part, Bakov also filed a lawsuit against Rossel on 12 September to demand that Rossel retract "slanderous information" he spread on local television about "the starvation of people in Serov" during Bakov's term as Serov Metallurgy Plant director.

...As State Duma Deputy Recalls Criminal Case Against Rossel's Rival...
State Duma Security Committee Deputy Chairman Yurii Tsybakin sent an official appeal to Russian Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov on the criminal charges filed in 1999 against Bakov, Novyi region reported on 10 September. Bakov was accused of the theft of 130 tons of nickel from the Serov Metallurgy Plant when he was its director. Tsybakin recalled that evidence against Bakov was sent to the Sverdlovsk Oblast prosecutor on 20 February and asked why the case still has not reached court.

...While Yekaterinburg Resident Complains Of Election Violations
The Yekaterinburg Verkh-Iset Raion prosecutor's office has launched an investigation on a complaint by Yurii Bebenin who claims to have voted three times in the 7 September gubernatorial elections, Novyi region reported on 10 September. Bebenin, who initially voted in Yekaterinburg's Verkh-Iset Raion where he lives, then says he voted in the Sovkhoznyi settlement and in the village of Novoalekseevka near Pervouralsk.

One In Three Industrial Sector Employees To Be Sacked
Sverdlovsk Oblast Metallurgy Minister Vladimir Molchanov told a press conference on 11 September that mass layoffs will take place at oblast enterprises in coming years, Novyi region reported. Molchanov said companies will have to take measures to meet world standards before Russia enters the World Trade Organization. He pointed to the Nizhnii Tagil Metallurgy Plant, which currently employs 30,000 workers, saying foreign companies with similar volumes of production employ 20,000. He also said no layoffs have taken place in recent years in the oblast metallurgy sector, which employs 205,000 people.

Yekaterinburg Residents Can Mark Anniversaries By Driving A Tank
Among the services offered by an agency in Yekaterinburg are driving a tank and firing its cannon, Novyi region reported on 11 September. Agency Director Aleksandr Yakovlev told the news agency that several dozen people in the past 18 months have used the $3,000 service. People usually do it to celebrate their weddings or birthdays, he said. The firm rents the tank and firing ground from a local military unit. Yakovlev also said that in Russia, similar entertainment can only be found in Moscow.

Terms Of Udmurt President, Parliament To Be Extended
Udmurtia's Constitutional Commission adopted amendments to the republican constitution extending the terms of the Udmurt president and of the republican State Council from four to five years, NTA Privolzhe reported on 10 September, citing the republic's presidential and governmental press service. The amendment, yet to be passed by the State Council, will not be applied to the incumbent president and parliament and will come into force after the next presidential and parliamentary elections.

Udmurtia's Pardon Commission Dissatisfied With Presidential Pardons
Udmurtia's republican pardon commission appealed to President Vladimir Putin to explain the commission's purpose, NTA Privolzhe reported on 11 September, citing "Russkii Kurer." Not a single convict recommended by the commission for pardon has in fact been pardoned. At the same time, four convicted women pardoned by the president in 2003 did not deserve to be, the commission members believe. Two of the women are drug traffickers, another is a recidivist thief, and one more committed murder for hire. However, the candidacy of a mother of three children who killed her "sadistic" husband proposed by the commission was rejected. "If the president distrusts us and rejects almost all appeals, what should the commission work for?" the applicants asked.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova