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Tatar-Bashkir Report: October 14, 2003


14 October 2003
WEEKLY REVIEW FROM TATARSTAN
Government Concerned With Reducing Budget Expenditures...
Speaking at a cabinet meeting on 6 October, Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov reiterated the necessity of cutting 20 percent of the government's staff, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 6 October 2003). Some 450,000 people are currently employed by budget-financed institutions and although 147 of some 1,600 institutions have been abolished in the last three years, the number of those employed during that period has increased by 10 percent. Minnikhanov confirmed his intention to present his program for reducing the governmental work force to President Mintimer Shaimiev.

...And Fighting Drug Addiction
Deputy Prime Minister Zile Welieva told an interregional scientific conference on measures against drug addiction on 6 October that Tatarstan plans to spend 275 million rubles ($9 million) from 2002 to 2006 to fight the spread of drug addiction, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. The government's antidrug program involves treatment and rehabilitation of addicts, fighting drug trafficking, and public campaigns promoting a healthy lifestyle.

According to the head of the republic's antidrug center, Roza Sadyiqova, speaking at the same conference, the 7,000 drug addicts officially registered in Tatarstan lead experts to estimate the real number of addicts at 70,000. She also pointed out the slowing spread of addiction in Tatarstan, as 20 new drug addicts were registered per 100,000 people in 2002, while in 2000 the rate was 67.8 per 100,000.

State Employees Receive 21 Percent Pay Rise
Deputy Economy and Industry Minister Alevtina Kudryavtseva told a press conference on 7 October that, staring this month, the salaries of state employees would be increased by 21 percent from the average 1,881 rubles ($60) per month to 2,273 rubles per month. The hike has been introduced because of new state employee regulations taking force in Russia from 1 October. Currently, 302,000 people are employed by the state in Tatarstan -- 19 percent of the republic's economically active population. Besides the payments regulated by the federal authorities, Tatarstan's state employees receive an extra monthly payment worth 25 percent of their salary from the republican budget. However, Kazan-based Efir TV on 7 October speculated that along with the introduction of new federal tariffs, Tatarstan will discontinue the extra support to state employees. According to Deputy Finance Minister Aleksei Shishkin, speaking at the same press conference, 49 percent of the republican budget would be spent on state salaries in 2004.

New Data Might Support Merger Of Tatarstan, Ulyanovsk
According to NTV on 6 October, archeologists working on the site of an ancient Bolgar city in Tatarstan have discovered evidence that the city of Ulyanovsk, capital of the neighboring Ulyanovsk Oblast, is older than originally thought. Archeologists reportedly found a stone, which stated that Ulyanovsk was founded 600 years ago. The city is commonly believed to be 350 years old, the report said. NTV said that the discovery had attracted the interest of Ulyanovsk officials and politicians, "because the number of those promoting the oblast's merger with Tatarstan has recently been increasing." The report said that the new historical data could be used as another argument in support of a merger of the two entities.

Kazan City Government Sues Tatar Public Center
Tatarstan's Arbitration Court on 6 October held preliminary hearings on Kazan city's Communal Property Management Committee's lawsuit against the moderate nationalist Tatar Public Center (TIU)," the daily "Kommersant" reported on 8 October. The committee is demanding 120,000 rubles ($3,950) it says TIU owes in back rent for its office in Kazan's municipal building. TIU Chairman Reshit Yegeferov testified that the lawsuit is justifiable but said his nonprofit organization was unable to pay the rent because the donations it depends on dried up. However, he said TIU would pay the debt within weeks.

Aside from individual donors, TIU's leadership reportedly sought help from Tatarstan's Cabinet of Ministers and Kazan's administration, but did not succeed. The committee's lawsuit states that TIU should pay the debt and vacate the premises, which is located in the city center.

The Arbitration Court will investigate whether TIU manages to pay the debt by 24 October. TIU reportedly pays approximately $500 per month for rent.

TAIF Plans Said To Compromise The Tuben Kama Oil Refinery Project
The management of the Tatneft oil concern is deeply unhappy with the plans of the Tatar-American Investments and Finance (TAIF) group to build a refinery, which will produce gasoline and other oil products, "Vremya i dengi" wrote on 9 October. Tatneft is the major investor in the Tuben Kama Oil Refinery (NNPZ) project, in which TAIF also participates. The daily cited an unnamed Tatneft representative as saying that TAIF's new project "compromises the construction of NNPZ and makes it useless." In a recent public statement, Tatneft's press service confirmed that TAIF's actions were not discussed with the NNPZ management; TAIF's press release said that the new refinery "is to meet the demand for high-quality oil products in Tatarstan, Russia, and abroad." Recently TAIF obtained an $60 million loan from Russia's Sberbank for launching the construction of the gasoline factory, (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 9 October 2003).

Saudi Arabia Limits The Number Of Pilgrims From Russia
On returning from Saudi Arabia, Gosman Iskhaqov, chairman of Tatarstan's Muslim Religious Board, told intertat.ru on 9 October that 5,500 pilgrims from Russia will be allowed to visit that country in 2003. Saudi Arabia has also introduced extra requirements for pilgrims, including vaccinations and prearranged accommodation.

Duma Elections Cost 51 Million Rubles In Tatarstan
The preparations for and holding of the State Duma elections in Tatarstan will cost 50.9 million rubles ($1.7 million), RosBalt reported on 10 October, citing the Central Election Commission's press center. The December campaign will be more expensive than the one in 1999. Each of 2,900 district election commissions will be allocated 10,800 rubles, 63 territorial election commissions will get 41,000 rubles, and five okrug election commissions will receive 146,500 rubles. In the republic's five election districts, some 70 people have stated their intention to run for office. Unified Russia and the Communist Party have five candidates each, the Democratic Party and the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia have four apiece, the Union of Rightist Forces, the Eurasian Union, and the Party of Russia's Revival/Russian Party of Life bloc, the People's Party, and the Rus party, among others, have three candidates; the Party of the Development of Entrepreneurship have two members running, and the Unity party, People's-Patriotic Union, Yabloko, the Party of Peace and Unity, the Party of Pensioners, and the Russian Communist Party��Party of Communists one candidate each. Twenty-eight people are running as independents. There are 2.7 million eligible voters in Tatarstan.

Environmental Damage At Tuben Kama Dam To Be Monitored
Issues related to the possible raising of the level of the water in the Tuben Kama dam were on the agenda of a roundtable held in Chally on 9 October, Tatar-inform reported on 10 October. Tatar Deputy Prime Minister and Economy and Industry Minister Aleksei Pakhomov, the Russian Nature Ministry's Water Sector Directorate head Sergei Bednaruk, and officials from Bashkortostan and Udmurtia attended the event. Establishment of a monitoring system on the reservoir's impact on the environment was viewed as necessary to promote projects on increasing the level of the water to 66-68 meters. In July, the governments of Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, and Udmurtia agreed to exploit the reserve at a level of 63.3 meters and they adopted a plan to secure economic efficiency and environmental security upon the possible raising of the water level. Although the decision to increase the water level to 68 meters -- which is supported by Tatarstan but opposed by Udmurtia and Bashkortostan -- still has not been made, the meeting in Chally was helpful in the process of finding a solution to the issue, the report said.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

WEEKLY REVIEW FROM BASHKORTOSTAN
Prime Minister Unhappy With Interior Ministry Inspections
Prime Minister Rafael Baidavletov has expressed his concern about frequent inspections of the Bashkir Interior Ministry by the federal authorities, RosBalt reported on 6 October. Speaking at the ministry's board meeting the same day, Baidavletov said not all inspections were a "necessity." He added, "Nothing serious has been revealed, but under pressure, one after another commission has come." Baidavletov said that the republic's leadership had recently discussed the issue with Russian Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov, adding that "the minister agrees, but new inspections have been initiated behind his back." In June, Gryzlov conducted an inspection of the Bashkir ministry's activities at the request of State Duma deputy Valentin Nikitin (Communist).

Bashkir Interior Minister Warns Local Communist Leaders Of Possible Provocations
Interior Minister Rafail Divaev has sent an official warning to Valentin Nikitin, a State Duma deputy and head of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation's (KPRF) Bashkir branch, regarding possible provocations against him and other members of the KPRF, RosBalt reported on 7 October. According to Divaev's letter, which was dated 1 October and received on 6 October, the ministry "possesses operational information" that "some forces involving criminal elements" are engaged in "provocative actions" and "coercion" against Deputy Nikitin and other KPRF party members. These forces, according to Divaev, plan to take advantage of the resulting situation to "destabilize the political situation and discredit Bashkortostan's leadership." Divaev asked that Nikitin "take the information into account" and informed him that "the Bashkir Interior Ministry is taking all necessary measures to prevent the above-mentioned provocative actions." Rostem Yaqupov, an assistant to Interior Minister Nikitin, confirmed that threats to the personal safety of Nikitin and other KPRF members exist. However, Yaqupov declined to identify the "forces involving criminal elements" Divaev referred to in his letter. Nikitin told RosBalt that "either the police, in fact, have grounds to worry about the security of KPRF members, or this is a threat in response to my deputy's appeals that resulted in numerous inspections of the republican Interior Ministry." Nikitin previously appealed to the federal Interior Ministry and Prosecutor-General's Office to investigate the Bashkir Interior Ministry for possible violations. As a result of the subsequent investigation, Russian Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov issued an order in June that listed major shortcomings in the activities of the Bashkir Interior Ministry, including manipulation of statistics, extreme personnel policies, and the implementation of a political order that violated federal law pertaining to police.

Veremeenko Notifies Election Commission Of Entry In Race
Former Mezhprombank head Sergei Veremeenko has informed the Bashkir Central Election Commission of his intention to enter the Bashkir presidential race, Interfax reported on 8 October. Veremeenko, considered to be the strongest rival of incumbent President Murtaza Rakhimov, told reporters the same day: "I realize what difficulties and obstacles will be created in order to save the incumbent president of the republic from true rivals. But there are enough qualified lawyers in my team to prevent violations of the law and to prevent similar facts in competitors' campaigns." Veremeenko expressed his hope that the electoral struggle will not be reduced to attempts to promise as much as possible but will become a competition of precise plans and productive ideas on the improvement of voters' lives. Veremeenko has said that he plans to campaign using his own money.

Bashkir Prime Minister Meets With Trade Unions
Meeting on 8 October with Bashkir Trade Union Federation Chairman Emirkhan Semirkhanov and leaders of republican trade-union committees of budget-sector employees, Bashkir Prime Minister Rafael Baidavletov said that low wages in the budget sector are the most urgent issue for the entire country, Bashinform reported the same day. Bashkortostan's economy easily allows for implementing the Russian presidential decree for a 33 percent wage increase for budget-sector employees. Baidavletov added that this measure is not enough to resolve the issue, saying the Bashkir president has issued a decree on payment this month of a 500-ruble ($16) cash bonus for all budget-sector employees. Semirkhanov said the meeting was devoted to the planned nationwide trade-union demonstration, adding that given the partnership between the republic's trade unions and the government, Bashkir trade unions had decided not to stage demonstrations but to pass their demand to increase wages for teachers and doctors to State Duma deputies from the republic.

Veremeenko Notifies Election Commission Of Entry In Race
Former Mezhprombank head Sergei Veremeenko has informed the Bashkir Central Election Commission of his intention to enter the Bashkir presidential race, Interfax reported on 8 October. Veremeenko, considered to be the strongest rival of incumbent President Murtaza Rakhimov, told reporters the same day: "I realize what difficulties and obstacles will be created in order to save the incumbent president of the republic from true rivals. But there are enough qualified lawyers in my team to prevent violations of the law and to prevent similar facts in competitors' campaigns." Veremeenko expressed his hope that the electoral struggle will not be reduced to attempts to promise as much as possible but will become a competition of precise plans and productive ideas on the improvement of voters' lives. Veremeenko has said that he plans to campaign using his own money.

Bashkir Prime Minister Meets With Trade Unions
Meeting on 8 October with Bashkir Trade Union Federation Chairman Emirkhan Semirkhanov and leaders of republican trade-union committees of budget-sector employees, Bashkir Prime Minister Rafael Baidavletov said that low wages in the budget sector are the most urgent issue for the entire country, Bashinform reported the same day. Bashkortostan's economy easily allows for implementing the Russian presidential decree for a 33 percent wage increase for budget-sector employees. Baidavletov added that this measure is not enough to resolve the issue, saying the Bashkir president has issued a decree on payment this month of a 500-ruble ($16) cash bonus for all budget-sector employees. Semirkhanov said the meeting was devoted to the planned nationwide trade-union demonstration, adding that given the partnership between the republic's trade unions and the government, Bashkir trade unions had decided not to stage demonstrations but to pass their demand to increase wages for teachers and doctors to State Duma deputies from the republic.

LDPR Nominates Presidential Candidate
The Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia's (LDPR) Bashkir branch has nominated State Duma Property Committee Deputy Chairman and Federal Security Service Colonel Aleksandr Novikov as a candidate for the Bashkir presidency, RosBalt reported on 4 October. Speaking at a party conference the same day in Ufa, Novikov said the decision on his candidacy is not by chance, given that clannish, ethnic-based regimes have formed in republics and oblasts that have been governed by the same leaders for a long time. State management has become inefficient in those regions, including Bashkortostan, he said. Novikov specified his main goals as a presidential candidate as increasing the openness of information in the region, removing obstacles in the registration of businesses, and doubling the salaries of state-budget employees. Bashkortostan's population believes in the nice image broadcast by the official media while there are in fact a lot of problems in the republic, he added. Novikov, 52, served in the army, the State Security Committee, and the Federal Security Service from 1974 to 1994.

Rakhimov Receives Human Rights Award
The International Committee for the Defense of Human Rights has awarded President Murtaza Rakhimov the "Honor and Dignity" award, RosBalt reported on 3 October, citing the presidential press service. Committee Chairman Igor Danilov sent a letter to the presidential administration saying that the award marked Rakhimov's services "to the international community and personal contribution to the defense of human rights and strengthening international relations." The Kyiv-based committee has 42 offices around the world, including in Russia, Great Britain, Austria, the United States, and the Czech Republic, and in the International Human Rights Court in Strasbourg.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

WEEKLY REVIEW FROM IDEL-URAL REGION
Khanty-Mansii Okrug's Airline Signs $19 Million Contract With UN
The United Nations has signed two contracts together worth $19 million with the Russian UTair airline for providing transport services for the UN peacekeeping mission in Liberia, uralpolit.ru reported on 8 October, citing the UTair press service. Under the contracts, the UN will use five Mi-8MTV and two Mi-26 helicopters belonging to UTair for transportation of passengers, cargoes, and emergency and medical evacuations. One of the company's Mi-8MTV helicopters is already being used in Liberia under a previous contract with the UN, and another 14 of its aircraft are providing transportation for UN missions in East Timor, Sierra-Leone, Eritrea, Congo, and South Africa. UTair, based in the Khanty-Mansii Autonomous Okrug, has a fleet of 294 aircraft and is one of Russia's largest airlines.

Nizhnii Novgorod Politicians, Leading Journalists Sign Agreement On Electoral Rules
Leading journalists in the Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast signed on 9 October a public agreement on holding a free and fair election, "Nizhegorodskie novosti" reported the next day. The heads of the local branches of Russia's leading political parties signed the document on 3 October. Representatives from NTR, "Seti-NN," "Volga," the Borsk and Dzerzhinsk television companies, "Nizhegorodskie novosti," "Zemlya nizhegorodskaya," "Nizhegorodskaya pravda," Kreml and NTA-Provilzhe news agencies, and the Journalists' Union took part in the event. Elections for the Russian State Duma are to be held in December.

Leading Opposition Editor Killed In Tolyatti...
Aleksei Sidorov, the editor in chief of "Tolyattinskoe obozrenie," was killed on 9 October in Tolyatti, Samara Oblast, NTA-Privolzhe and RosBalt reported the next day. Unknown assailants attacked Sidorov with a knife near his apartment. Officials from the Russian Interior Ministry's Criminal Investigations Department have arrived in Tolyatti to investigate the murder, Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov said on 10 October in Nizhnii Tagil. Gryzlov said that solving the crime was a question of honor for Interior Ministry officials and added that Sidorov's murder was likely linked to his professional activity.

...As Local Journalists Appeal To Putin
The Samara branch of the Russian Journalists' Union sent a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin saying that Sidorov's murder is the sixth against journalists in Tolyatti in the past eight years, RosBalt reported on 10 October. The case is part of "a criminal war against freedom of speech and...those who defend it," the authors wrote. The letter's authors commented that Russian Deputy Prosecutor-General Vladimir Kolesnikov promised the previous year to personally supervise the investigation of the April 2002 murder of Valerii Ivanov, the former editor in chief of "Tolyattinskoe obozrenie," but the case is still unsolved (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 3, 10, and 17 May 2002). Andrei Ulanov, the editor in chief of "Tolyatti segodnya" was killed in 1995; Nikolai Lapin, editor in chief of "Vse obo vsem," was killed in January 1997; Lada TV Director Sergei Ivanov was killed in October 2000; and Lada TV editor in chief Sergei Loginov was killed in November 2000.

Severouralsk Miners End Strike
Some 6,000 miners at the Severouralsk Bauxite Mine (SUBR) in the Sverdlovsk Oblast ended their 10-day strike on 10 October after their wage demands were partially satisfied, Novyi Region reported the same day. Aleksandr Anisimov, the deputy chairman of the miners' independent trade union, told the news agency that representatives of the SUBR management and the strikers had agreed on raising wages for specialist miners by 35 percent. Non-specialist miners will also see wage increases, but by less than 35 percent.

Former Candidate For Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Sued For Libel
Anton Bakov, a former candidate in the Sverdlovsk Oblast gubernatorial elections held in September, is being sued for libel by the eventual winner of the race, Governor Eduard Rossel, Novyi Region reported on 8 October. Bakov was a major rival of the incumbent governor and during the campaign repeatedly made public statements about Rossel being linked to organized crime. If he is convicted, Bakov could receive a fine, community service, or up to a six-month prison term.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

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