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Tatar-Bashkir Report: November 18, 2003

18 November 2003
Russia's Muslims Number 14.5 Million
Russia's minister with responsibility for nationalities affairs, Vladimir Zorin, told a press conference at Interfax on 10 November that according to the preliminary results of the 2002 national census, there are 14.5 million Muslims in Russia, or 10 percent of the population. Of the seven nationalities in Russia numbering over a million, three are Muslim -- Tatars, Bashkirs, and Chechens. Previously, it was believed that Russia has a population of 20 million Muslims

Council Of Muftis Head Disagrees With Census Data On Russia's Muslims
The chairman of the Council of Muftis of Russia, Rawil Gainutdin, on 11 November expressed his disagreement with the preliminary results of the October 2002 census, according to which the number of Muslims in Russia is 14.5 million, "Izvestiya" reported on 12 November. The figure was announced the previous day by the Russian minister in charge of nationalities affairs, Vladimir Zorin (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 11 November 2003), and was obtained from adding up the number of Russia's Muslim peoples. Gainutdin is convinced that at least 20 million Muslims live in Russia. This number was cited by Russian President Vladimir Putin at a recent summit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Gainutdin argued that not all Muslims were registered in the census since at least 4 million illegal migrants, including Azerbaijanis, Kazakhs, Uzbeks, and Tajiks did not take part in the census.

Carnegie Foundation expert Aleksei Malashenko told the daily that "there are many more Muslims in Russia than were registered in the census." The number of 20 million Muslims in Russia was used from the early 1990s, a figure first announced by Muslim politicians and religious leaders, Malashenko said. Western scholars confirmed the figure after checking it, he added.

Offshore Company Loses Lawsuit Against Tatar Government
The Tatar Arbitration Court on 11 November ruled against Newport Capital Ltd. offshore company in its lawsuit demanding that the privatization of state shares in 18 Tatar companies united in the Svyazinvestneftekhim holding be abolished, "Kommersant" and "Vedomosti" reported on 12 November. The court ruled that the procedure did not violate the law and that the plaintiff's claims are unfounded.

Svyazinvestneftekhim was established in April by a Tatar cabinet resolution, which combined 37.7 billion rubles of state-owned shares in 18 of the republic's top companies, including 30 percent of Tatneft, some 35 percent of Nizhnekamskneftekhim, a blocking share in Kazanorgsintez, 40 percent of the Kazan City Telephone Station, 100 percent of Tatkhimfarmpreparaty, and controlling interests in energy companies subordinate to Tatenergo.

Newport Capital owns 0.57 percent of Kazanorgsintez, Russia's leading polyethylene producer, and some 0.1 percent of Tatneft, Russia's fifth-largest oil producer. Newport Capital had previously appealed to the Arbitration Court to annul the government decision on the establishment of Svyazinvestneftekhim. On 4 November, however, it changed course and contested the decision of the republic's Property Ministry on privatization of state property, which, unlike the federal law on privatization, does not demand that the minimum price of state property under privatization be determined. The offshore company insisted that if federal legislation was applied to the privatization procedure, the price of Kazanorgsintez shares would increase by some 20 percent. Newport Capital representative Timur Zykov said the company will appeal to the Volga Federal District Arbitration Court.

Parliamentary Commission Approves Amendments To Language Legislation
The State Council's Commission on Science, Education, Culture, and National Issues approved at a 11 November meeting draft amendments to the languages law, Tatar-inform and reported the same day. The commission also approved a draft 10-year state program on the preservation, study, and development of the languages of Tatarstan's people and recommended that the State Council consider drafts in the first reading. The new version of the program will cost 141 million rubles; a version implemented in 1993 cost 60 million rubles. Commission Chairman Razil Weliev said the republic's language legislation was to be amended after amendments to the federal law on languages and a protest by the Tatar prosecutor against some provisions of the republican law. The draft legislation outlines in what capacity Tatar and Russian should be used.

KamAZ Sells Entire Bond Issue
KamAZ on 12 November sold the entirety of its first bond issue at the Moscow Interbank Currency Exchange, "Vremya i dengi" reported on 13 November. KamAZ Financial Department manager Ekhet Urmanov told the paper that demand for the company's securities exceeded by 58 million rubles the volume of the bond issue of 1.2 billion rubles ($3.35 million). A pool of organizers and underwriters of the issue, including the Zenit bank, Vneshtorgbank, Ak Bars Bank, and the LUKoil-Rezerv-Invest investment company, purchased 900 million rubles in bonds. The annual interest rate on the bond is 15.3 percent, down from the average annual rate of interest on KamAZ's credit portfolio of 16 percent-17 percent.

Tatar Journalists Hold Forum
Over 30 heads of Tatar-language media outlets from across Russia gathered on 13 November in Kazan to take part in a forum of heads of Russian regional mass media titled "The Tatar People in the 21st Century and Mass Media" organized by the executive committee of the World Tatar Congress, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. A seminar devoted to the issues of preserving and developing Tatar-language media, which opened the forum, was attended by Tatar presidential adviser Rafael Khekimov and State Council Science, Education, Culture, and National Issues Committee Chairman Razil Weliev. A resolution promoting establishment of a unified information space of the Tatar people was passed at the gathering.

Communists Demonstrate On October Revolution Anniversary
Some 1,000 residents of Kazan gathered on Gorky Square in Kazan to mark the 86th anniversary of the October socialist revolution on 7 November, reported the same day. Participants in the meeting organized by the Tatar branch of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation called for an end to inflation and the for the lowering of prices for foodstuffs, consumer goods, housing, and the rates for city transport and other consumer services, and to end the per-minute payment rate for telephones. They also demanded that salaries, pensions, grants, and allowances be raised, as well as allocations from the state budget for science, education, health care, culture, and defense. The participants also protested the sale and purchase of farmland and demanded that natural resources, forests, and reservoirs be returned to state control.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Independent Radio Station Goes Off The Air
Unidentified civilians accompanied by machine-gun carrying policemen dismantled the transmission antenna of Ufa's independent Bulgar FM radio station on 10 November, a local RFE/RL correspondent reported the same day. The attackers reportedly took the parts of the antenna with them as the radio's lawyers and security approached the scene. The same day, Bashkir state radio and television issued a statement explaining the incident by saying that the antenna atop one of the city's apartments had "interfered with the operation of household equipment and created health problems for its inhabitants." Radio Bulgar has all of the necessary licenses and technical permission to broadcast. Previous attempts against Radio Bulgar were made by Interior Ministry and Ordzhenikidze Raion officials on 5 November, after an explosion near the home of Ural Rakhimov, the president's son (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 10 November 2003 and below).

Rakhimov's Rivals Ask Court To Cancel His Registration
Bashkir presidential candidates Relif Safin, Altai's senator in the Russian Federation Council, and Khesen Idiyetullin, farmer and former LUKoil deputy president, appealed to the republic's Supreme Court on 10 November to cancel President Murtaza Rakhimov's registration as a candidate in the 7 December election because he has violated election laws, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 11 November. The plaintiffs stated that Rakhimov abused his powers by usurping the privilege of having access to state and municipal media in Bashkortostan and because he constantly mentions that his candidacy is supported by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The claim specifically mentioned that the presidential press services continue to cover Rakhimov's activities despite the fact that he is currently on an official one-month vacation. Prime Minister Rafael Baidavletov serves as acting president in Rakhimov's absence.

Bashkir Parliament Links Bombing To Presidential Elections
Bashkortostan's State Assembly on 10 November urged the republic's citizens to remain calm over the recent terrorist act in the Bashkir capital, Ufa, and to proceed along "the path of economic and social progress and [to] improve the welfare" of all citizens, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. The open letter presumed that the 5 November explosion was related to the "psychological war against the republic, waged by financial, industrial, and political circles." Two people were killed and three were injured when a car bomb exploded in Ufa on the night of 5 November near the residence of the son of the Bashkir president, Ural Rakhimov (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 7, 10 November 2003).

Bashkir Election Commission Again Denies Registration For Veremeenko
After deliberating for two days, Bashkortostan's Central Election Commission (USK) refused on 11 November to register Sergei Veremeenko as a candidate for Bashkir president, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reported the same day. Veremeenko is a member of Mezhprombank's board of directors. Russian Federation Council Senator Igor Izmestiev, also a candidate for the presidency, accused Veremeenko of financing his campaign with funds not allocated through his election fund. The USK decision overturned the Russian Central Election Commission's (TsIK) 3 November ruling. The TsIK had negated the 27 October decision by the Bashkir Commission to ban Veremeenko from the presidential race. Immediately after the USK meeting, Veremeenko's representatives announced their intention to protest the verdict in Moscow.

Power Management Services Contribute To Harassment Of Independent Radio Station
The Municipal Power Service sent a letter notifying Radio Bulgar's management that beginning 12 November the radio station's facilities in Ufa will be cut off from power due to a technical failure following the recent assault on their transmission antenna, reported on 11 November. On 10 November unidentified civilians accompanied by policemen armed with machine guns dismantled the transmission antenna of the radio station, which is known for its independent coverage of the presidential campaign in Bashkortostan (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 11 November 2003).

RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service is Mentioned By Bashkir Official Press
According to an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent on 11 November, many issues of recent publications in the Bashkir State Press attack reports by RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service for "misrepresenting the situation in Bashkortostan" and circulating "unfound criticism that discredits the republic's image." The state-run outlets mentioned Radio Azatliq along with the media of President Rakhimov's opposition, which faces serious administrative barriers when trying to broadcast or publish.

Another Private Radio Station Closed In Ufa
Bashkortostan's Property Ministry ordered Ufa's commercial Hit-FM radio station to immediately vacate its rented premises, "due to the strong necessity" expressed by the landlord, RosBalt reported on 12 November. The station's director, Rimma Zaripova, told the agency that Bashkir authorities ordered Hit-FM to abandon the building within hours and warned of electricity blackouts if the demand was not met.

Hit-FM is a music station offering news programs to some 1.5 million listeners in the Bashkir capital twice a day. The station has maintained coverage of the current presidential election campaign in the republic, including the developments with the failed registration of Sergei Veremeenko. The Property Ministry's actions reportedly violated the terms of the rental contract and the radio intends to dispute the eviction attempt in the republic's Arbitrage Court. This incident follows recent attacks on another private radio station in Ufa this week (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 12 November 2003).

Bashkir Election Commission Seeks To Bar Safin From Presidential Race
Bashkortostan's Central Election Commission (USK) appealed to the republic's Supreme Court seeking to nullify the registration of Relif Safin, the Russian Federation Council senator representing Altai, as a presidential candidate, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported today. Safin is a former vice president of LUKoil. The USK accused Safin of violating electoral legislation by attempting to bribe the electorate, which he had allegedly done by promising to raise the average wages in the republic and offering mortgages to young families. He had also distributed CDs and pop paraphrenalia of his daughter, pop singer Alsu. Meeting reporters in Moscow on 13 November, Aleksandr Veshnyakov, chairman of the Russian Central Election Commission emphasized that "such issues may only be solved in court, since the republican USK has no right to cancel Safin's registration."

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Imprisoned Chelyabinsk Journalist Released
A Chelyabinsk Oblast court has overruled a verdict on the case of "Vechernii Chelyabinsk" Deputy Editor in Chief German Galkin, who was sentenced in August to 12 months' hard labor (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 26 August 2003), and changed it to a one-year suspended sentence, reported on 13 November. Galkin was convicted of publishing several articles libeling and defaming oblast Governor Petr Sumin and his deputies, Andrei Kosilov and Konstantin Bochkarev. Recently, Kosilov and Bochkarev appealed to the court to mitigate Galkin's punishment. Kosilov said that they "continue to insist that German Galkin is guilty of a crime. Today we see that those forces and people who pushed Galkin into the crime now exploit him to aggravate the situation. Articles are published...that Galkin did not write and interviews he did not give are published for him. They try to present Galkin as a victim."

Komi-Permyak Okrug To Become Municipality In Perm Krai
Perm Oblast Governor Yurii Trutnev and Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug head Gennadii Savelev on 11 November signed an agreement determining the legal status of the okrug in Perm Krai, which will be formed as a result of two entities' merger, Novyi region (Perm) reported the same day. The document specifies that the okrug will be a united municipal entity within the system of Perm Krai local self-government. Elections for the first head of the municipality and its legislative body will be held simultaneously with elections for the first governor of Perm Krai. The Komi-Permyak Okrug Duma will comprise 20 deputies. In 2006-08, subsidies from the federal budget to the Komi-Permyak Okrug budget will be transferred in full through the Perm Krai budget. Currently those subsidies are sent directly to the okrug budget.

Tolyatti Newspaper Sued For Publishing Version Of Editor's Killing
The Tolyatti Central Raion Court on 10 November began hearing a lawsuit by Srednevolzhskaya Interregional Managing Energy Company head Vladimir Avetisyan against "Tolyattinskoe obozrenie" to defend his honor, dignity, and business reputation, reported on 12 November. Avetisyan is complaining about an article in "Tolyattinskoe obozrenie" titled "Why Was Aleksei Sidorov Killed," in which the authors claimed that the killing of the paper's Editor in Chief Aleksei Sidorov (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 14 October 2003) might be linked to negotiations about newspaper being sold to the Media-Samara holding controlled by Avetisyan. Avetisyan demanded a retraction in "Tolyattinskoe obozrenie" and 50,000 rubles ($1,700) in compensation. The next hearing was set for 19 November.

Ex-Candidate For Sverdlovsk Governor Charged To Deny Anti-Rossel Statements
The Sverdlovsk Oblast Court ruled on 11 November that former gubernatorial candidate Anton Bakov retract within 10 days his statements defaming oblast Governor Eduard Rossel, Novyi region reported the same day. The oblast court rejected Bakov's appeal against the 18 September verdict by the Yekaterinburg Oktyabrskii Raion Court that obliged him to retract his claims that Rossel and his family are linked to mafia and have 300 million euros in German bank accounts. Bakov, Rossel's rival in the second round of gubernatorial elections, must make a public statement on the Sverdlovsk State Radio and Television Company channel. Rossel's lawyer, Aleksandr Shemelev, told the news agency that Rossel also filed a lawsuit in early October accusing Bakov of libel.

Anti-Drug Agency Head Says Number Of Drug Addicts Ten Times Official Number...
Russian State Committee on Drug Trafficking Chairman Viktor Cherkesov said on 12 November in Yekaterinburg that the number of drug addicts in Russia grew ninefold in the past decade, Uralinformbyuro reported the same day. Cherkesov said 3.4 million residents, or some 3 percent of the country's population, suffer from drug addiction, while official statistics provided by the Russian Health Care Ministry report one-10th of that figure. In the Ural Federal District, there are over 450,000 drug addicts, predominantly men between 16 and 30 years old.

...As Presidential Envoy To Urals Dissatisfied With Efforts On Fighting Drug Trafficking
Presidential envoy to the Ural Federal District Petr Latyshev on 12 November sharply criticized the work of district law-enforcement bodies, Novyi region reported the same day. He expressed special criticism for the head of the district's Interior Ministry, Aleksei Krasnikov, saying entire departments and hundreds of employees do nothing and only manipulate statistics about solving cases. Latyshev said there are regions in the Urals where the number of drug addicts equals that of healthy residents. He added that the 400 kilograms of drugs seized this year is nothing comparing to the amount of drugs consumed by addicts in the district.

Khanty-Mansii Okrug Well Drillers Threaten Hunger Strike
Two-hundred-fifty employees of the Nizhnevartovsk Drilling Company (NBK) warned the city administration and police that they will begin a hunger strike on 20 November to protest unpaid back wages, reported on 13 November. The workers have not been paid for a year and are each owed between 50,000 and 70,000 rubles. The company owes some 10 million rubles in back wages. The news agency cited company director Yevgenii Gavrilov as saying NBK is itself owed money by its clients, the Siberian Service Company and Sibneftegaz, which do not cover their debts despite a ruling by the Khanty-Mansii Autonomous Okrug Arbitration Court.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova