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Tatar-Bashkir Report: October 28, 2003

28 October 2003
Parliament Speaker Upbeat About Russia's Joining OIC...
A day after returning from the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) summit in Malaysia, Tatar State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin told reporters in Kazan on 20 October that Russia's joining the organization as an observer "opened new opportunities" for the country, which has to consider the "opinion of 20 million [Russian] Muslims" in its policy making, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. He noted, however, that "we don't expect any quick dividends from joining, but in future it will allow the expansion of Russia's circle of interaction with OIC member countries."

...And Discusses Tatarstan's Power-Sharing Experience With Chechen President
In Malaysia, Mukhametshin reportedly met with another member of the delegation, Chechen President-elect Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov, upon the latter's request, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 20 October. Kadyrov was interested in discussing the draft power-sharing treaty to be signed by Moscow and Grozny and discussing the experience of Tatarstan's treaty with Moscow dating back to 1994. Mukhametshin agreed with Kadyrov's vision of shared responsibilities between the federal and Chechen governments but opposed Kadyrov's claim that Chechnya should retain all its tax revenues. In Mukhametshin's opinion, such a treaty provision was not viable and would by unlikely to be approved by the federal government.

Regional Officials Discuss Housing Development Concept
Russian Deputy Prime Minister and former St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev chaired a meeting of regional housing officials from central and southern Russia in Kazan on 21 October, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. During the conference, dedicated to the Russian Federation's housing development strategy, Yakovlev and Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev shared the opinion that state banks such as Sberbank should be more involved in mortgage loans in order to speed up the construction of new housing. In 2004, 49,000 families in Kazan will get free apartments from the state. Shaimiev said that in the future Tatarstan will switch to a program offering mortgages.

Shaimiev Takes Vacation Before Duma Campaign
Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev announced on 22 October at a press conference that he is taking a vacation in order to prepare himself for the December elections for the Russian State Duma, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the next day. Shaimiev, along with the Russian Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov, Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu, and Moscow mayor Yurii Luzhkov is running on Unified Russia's party list. Under federal law, Shaimiev is prohibited from combining his presidential responsibilities with political campaigning. Until the 7 December vote, Tatar Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov will hold presidential powers.

Shaimiev said at the press conference that "some people say that Russia's president has all of the power and he is ruling single-handedly, but as a matter of fact we are the ones who are giving him this power. Who else should govern, if not a single party that has managed to take on responsibilities on behalf of the voters that supported it?"

The Tatar president rejected rumors of his plans to step down and said that "after the elections I will resume my work in Tatarstan."

Shaimiev Reveals His Income
According to, President Shaimiev on 22 October reported an annual income of some $38,000 and 525,034 rubles ($17,500) in savings in his Sberbank account. Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov declared to tax authorities an annual income of more than $39,000. Rakhimov's account at UralSib bank reportedly contains more than $100,000.

Tatarstan's President Backs Live TV Debates
President Mintimer Shaimiev, who is also co-chairman of the Unified Russia party and third on that party's list of candidates for December's State Duma elections, told Interfax on 23 October that he thinks national debates among party leaders should be broadcast live rather than on tape delay, as ORT and RTR are planning. Shaimiev also commented on media concerns regarding recently enacted election legislation that strictly regulates media coverage of the campaigns by saying that "mass media and candidates for deputies' seats are encountering the outcome of their actions in the previous electoral campaign." Shaimiev recalled the 1999 Duma campaign, in which former ORT anchorman Sergei Dorenko earned the nickname "TV killer" with controversial programs that many viewed as harsh on the Fatherland-All Russia bloc.

Shaimiev said both media and politicians "should learn political culture with a single purpose of preserving free speech and the citizens' right to information, which by no means may be infringed under current conditions of heightened political activity."

Election Commission Closes Registration Period For Duma Elections
Tatarstan's Central Election Commission announced following the 22 October deadline for candidates to apply for the 7 December Duma elections that only a fraction of the expected candidates have completed the official registration process. The CEC press service reported on 23 October that the current list of registered candidates shows that in the republic's Privolzhskii raion, Tatar State Council deputy and high-profile businessman Aleksandr Sapogovskii will face another parliamentary deputy, the Equality and Legality (RiZ) movement's Aleksandr Shtanin, State Duma Deputy and Development of Entrepreneurship Party leader Ivan Grachev, Communist Duma Deputy Aleksandr Salii, and journalist Irek Mortazin.

In the Tuben Kama raion, Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) candidate Shamil Smirnov will compete against Unified Russia's Shamil Salikhov. The Chally district will witness a race that includes independent Leonid Ivanov; Communist and stock-market expert Khafiz Mirgalimov; the Party of Life's Bulat Yanborisov; Unified Russia's Oleg Morozov; and independent historian Shamil Ibyatov.

Elmet raion voters will reportedly choose from among the People's Party's Selimkhan Ekhmetkhanov, Unified Russia's Marat Mehdiev, Communist Vladimir Kazakov, and Sergei Brusov from a local WWII veterans' group. The Moskovskii raion of Kazan so far has no officially registered candidates, while the Election Commission has 10 more days to consider the filed applications.

Duma Speaker Visits Kazan
State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev visited Kazan on 24 October, Tatar agencies reported the same day. At his request, Seleznev had a meeting with President Mintimer Shaimiev, who is on vacation. Discussion about legislative work and the socioeconomic development of regions and the federation as a whole were on the agenda. Seleznev had a tour of the Kremlin and viewed the recently built entertainment center Pyramid and basketball arena. Seleznev also met with deputies of the State Council and the Kazan City Council, officials from the Tatar presidential administration, the Cabinet of Ministers, parliament, and reporters. Seleznev said the State Duma had long debates before it raised the electoral barrier for parties to be represented in the Duma from 5 percent in the December elections to 7 percent in the next Duma elections. He said it would be better to let the next State Duma to resolve the issue. Seleznev said the extreme left and the extreme right political forces are not likely to be represented in the new State Duma, and that the major struggle for seats will take place in the political center. He also called for the adoption of legislation regulating the recalling of deputies who move from one faction to another after they have been elected. Speaker Farid Mukhametshin praised Seleznev and the Duma for passing important legislation promoting tax, administrative, pension, and land reforms and for support of the federal program on Tatarstan's socioeconomic development.

Gazprom To Purchase KamAZ Trucks
A visiting Gazprom delegation headed by the gas company's transport department head, Suren Bagdasarov, signed an agreement in Chally on the purchase of 60 KamAZ dump trucks, reported on 24 October, citing the KamAZ press service. The sides also discussed cooperation in promoting natural gas engines. KamAZ Technical Director Ildar Gyilfanov said KamAZ will adjust its service centers to take part in Gazprom's projects on moving transport with natural-gas powered vehicles, a fuel which is said to be 30-40 percent cheaper than gasoline. Gazprom representatives, for their part, said the company will further develop its network of gas stations, of which there are currently 218.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Ten Remain In Presidential Race
Nine candidates remain in the running with incumbent Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov in the 7 December presidential elections, "Kommersant" reported on 23 October. Ten of the 20 people who had announced their entry in the race submitted the required number of signatures or sum of money to the republic's Central Election Commission (TsIK). They include Rakhimov, former Mezhprombank head Sergei Veremeenko, Federation Council representative from Altai Republic Relif Safin, former State Duma Deputy Aleksandr Arinin, and the Bashkir Communist Party's candidate, Resul Shugurov. The names of the others are not available.

The republic's election code sets one of the highest registration fees in Russia, 9.75 million rubles ($324,000) compared to 4.5 million rubles in Moscow. On the other hand, donations that can be contributed to candidates' election funds are very small -- 10,000 rubles for individuals and 200,000 rubles for legal persons, while candidates themselves may donate to their election funds no more than 1 million rubles.

Investigators Search Office Of Bashkir Presidential Candidate
Representatives from the Russian Interior Ministry's Investigation Committee and Federal Service on Economic and Tax Crimes on 23 October searched the Corus-Holding company and an office of its former director, Federation Council Senator from Bashkortostan Igor Izmestev, who uses it as a public reception, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 24 October. Corus-Holding, one of subsidiaries of Corus Group controlled by the son of Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov, Ural, was a founder of Corus-Baikonur, the company that was allegedly used in 2001 by the Bashkir Ufa and Novo-Ufimsk oil refineries to avoid paying 12 billion rubles ($400 million) in taxes (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 3 February, 13 and 20 March, 26 May, 6 June, and 17, 18 and 23 July 2003, "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 7 March 2003).

The same day, the Volga Federal District office of the Russian Interior Ministry's Investigation Committee seized documents in several Bashkir oil refineries subordinate to Bashneftekhim, including Ufaneftekhim and the Ufa and Novo-Ufimsk oil refineries, RosBalt reported the same day, citing an unidentified source in the directorate. "Kommersant-Daily" cited the Bashkir Interior Ministry press service as saying that employees of the republican ministry "did not take part in any investigation measures." Several days before, Izmestev entered the Bashkir presidential race and is considered President Rakhimov's main "back-up." Izmestev's candidacy is disadvantageous to Rakhimov's main rival, former Mezhprombank head Sergei Veremeenko, the daily commented. Sergei Veremeenko's brother, Aleksandr, heads the Bashkir Tax Ministry.

Public Body Set Up To Monitor Presidential Elections
A public council has been established in Ufa to monitor the 7 December Bashkir presidential elections, "Kommersant" reported on 21 October. The council was set up by representatives of Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov's major rivals in the campaign, former LUKoil Vice President Relif Safin and former Mezhprombank board Chairman Sergei Veremeenko. The council also brings together representatives of local branches of political parties in the republic. Among the five co-chairs of the council, there are representatives of Safin, Veremeenko, and other candidates, Reshit Islamov and Roman Narbutov.

The daily cited local observers as saying that the council could preclude the appearance of an united opposition candidate in case a second round of the election is held. Islamov and Narbutov told the daily that opposition candidates plan to send their observers to the republic's 3,500 polling stations. They added that the Russian Fund for Free Elections has launched courses in Ufa to train activists how to act in different electoral situations.

Meanwhile, Veremeenko told "Kommersant-Daily" that the heads of city and raion administrations had ordered local post office employees to remove from residents' mailboxes all campaign literature with the exception of those that supported the incumbent president.

Daily Reports Purchase Of UralSib By NIKoil...
The NIKoil financial corporation has reportedly purchased a controlling stake in the Bashkir-based UralSib bank, "Vedomosti" reported on 21 October, citing unidentified financial sources. The daily reported that the deal, the largest in the history of Russian banking, cost $300 million. Neither UralSib nor Nikoil representatives, however, have confirmed the story, the daily reported. The potential sell-off of UralSib has been a topic of much speculation in the past (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 25 August and 18 September 2003). Established in 1993 as Bashkreditbank, UralSib is Russia's 10th-largest bank in terms of assets and 8th-largest in terms of capital. The Bashkir government, which is UralSib's major shareholder possessing a 37.5 percent stake, plans to sell off 15 percent of the company in an auction on 29 October.

...As UralSib Denies Report Of Selling Controlling Interest
The UralSib press service officially denied a report about a controlling interest in the bank being sold to the NIKoil financial corporation published by "Vedomosti" on 21 October, Russian agencies reported on 22 October. The bank considers the article in the daily to be a special action against UralSib, the statement read. It said the bank is preparing to file a criminal complaint on publication of untrue information about the bank that harm its reputation and discredit the bank before its contractors. NIKoil also denied the report about purchasing UralSib.

Putin Blesses Rakhimov's Election Campaign
During his visit to Malaysia, Russian President Vladimir Putin met on 18 October with his Bashkir counterpart Murtaza Rakhimov, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 20 October. Commenting on the 7 December Bashkir presidential and State Duma elections, Putin said the pre-electoral situation in the republic should not complicate daily life or the economy. At a press conference on 20 October in Ufa, Rakhimov said that during his meeting with Putin in Malaysia, the Russian president supported his re-election bid and permitted him to use pictures of the two men together in his campaign literature, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day.

Bashkir Airlines Caught In Tax Evasion Again
Bashkortostan's branch of the Tax Ministry ordered Bashkir Airlines to pay 82 million rubles ($2.7 million) in delayed taxes, RosBalt reported on 17 October. The company was being inspected for the second time since the September, when the ministry discovered nonpayment of 76 million rubles in taxes ($2.5 million).

Gazprom Expresses Interest In Acquiring Another Bashkir Firm
The Gazprom monopoly intends to take over the Kauchuk synthetic-rubber company in Sterletamaq in addition to the Salavatneteorgsintez chemical plant it already acquired, "Vedomosti" reported on 17 October. The daily noted that under an agreement between Gazprom and Bashkir government signed in late 2002, the Bashkir government will help Gazprom obtain state-owned stakes in Bashkir chemical companies. Kauchuk produces 33 percent of Russia's isoprene synthetic rubbers and 40 percent of polymeric synthetic rubbers.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Perm Oblast Human Rights Activists Protest Erection Of Dzerzhinskii Statue
Solikamsk human rights activists have protested the restoration of a statue of Soviet secret-police founder Feliks Dzerzhinskii in Solikamsk, Perm Oblast, Novyi Region (Perm) reported on 22 October. The monument was moved from the Nyrob municipality to the territory of the Solikamsk penitentiary, where it has already become a place where newly-weds lay flowers. The Solikamsk Human Rights Center, the Assistance human rights organization, and the Anti-Military Union sent an appeal to the penitentiary's authorities protesting "the establishment of a monument to a person whose name is tied with the most tragic events in Soviet history."

Komi-Permyak Okrug To Be Given Subsidies From Moscow Through 2009
Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug Governor Gennadii Savelev said on 23 October that the federal budget will continue allocating subsidies for the entity through 2009, Novyi Region (Perm) reported the same day. The measure was agreed at a meeting of a working group in charge of the merger of Perm Oblast and the okrug the previous day in Moscow. The meeting was attended by Savelev and Perm Oblast Governor Yurii Trutnev. Savelev said that in the meantime the okrug should develop its economy so that budget revenues would exceed expenses. After 2009, the budgets of the two entities will be merged.

Name Of Alleged Killer Of Tolyatti Newspaper Editor Released
The Tolyatti prosecutor's office announced on 27 October that it is charging Yevgenii Maininger, a 29-year-old welder from Kuibyshevazot, with the killing of "Tolyattinskoe obozrenie" Editor in Chief Aleksei Sidorov, RosBalt reported the same day. Maininger has been charged with premeditated murder.

AvtoVAZ Bosses To Be Charged With Theft
Russian Deputy Prosecutor-General Vladimir Kolesnikov told reporters on 21 October that the Prosecutor-General's Office will charge several heads of the AvtoVAZ automotive plant with theft and abuse of power, Russian agencies reported the same day. Kolesnikov also said that some state officials in the Samara Oblast are under investigation in connection with the case. He said the investigation revealed that 1 billion rubles ($33.2 million) worth of spare parts had been misappropriated from the plant.

In another AvtoVAZ-related case under investigation by the Prosecutor-General's Office, the former heads of LogoVAZ, an AvtoVAZ dealer, Boris Berezovskii and Yulii Dubov, have been accused of fraud and stealing 2,000 vehicles from AvtoVAZ in 1994-1995. Russia has been pushing for the extradition of Berezovskii and Dubov, currently living in London, but so far the British courts have refused the application.

Income Of Duma Candidates In Tyumen Oblast Reported
The Russian Central Election Commission has published data about the income and assets of Unified Russia candidates for the State Duma elections running in the Tyumen Oblast, reported on 22 October. The incomes and assets of Governor Sergei Sobyanin, Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug head Yurii Neelov, and Khanty-Mansii Autonomous Okrug head Aleksandr Filipenko were revealed. Sobyanin earned 1.6 million rubles ($53,475) in 2002; Neelov earned 3.3 million rubles; Neelov has 1.2 million rubles in an account at Zapsibkombank and owns a small stake in Gazprom; Filipenko earned 1.4 million rubles in 2002. State Duma elections will be held in December.

SPS Leader Forgives Tomato-Throwers
Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) leader Boris Nemtsov has sent a telegram to officials at Tyumen State University asking that students who threw tomatoes at him during his 25 September visit to Tyumen are not punished, reported on 21 October. Nemtsov appealed after he was informed that the students who were involved in the action would be expelled. It is unclear exactly how many people were involved in the tomato-throwing incident.

Schoolchildren Protest Energy Cut-Offs In Ulyanovsk Oblast
On 22 October, a group of some 50 schoolchildren tried to block a railway in the town of Inza, in the Ulyanovsk Oblast, in protest at the recent electricity cut-offs in their school, Russian agencies reported. The school, which is attended by 700 students, is disconnected from electricity for several hours each day. According to RosBalt on 22 October, local police prevented the protesters from reaching the railway., however, reported on 24 October, that the schoolchildren managed to block an electric train before police and officials from the school administration met with them.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova