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Tatar-Bashkir Report: February 8, 2002

8 February 2002
Many Questions On Deserters' Rampage Remain Unanswered
Trying to sum up the bloodshed committed by two deserters from the 31st Airborne Brigade based near Ulyanovsk, most of Tatarstan's media came to the conclusion that most of the developments which terrified residents of the republic on 4-5 February were uncovered leaving many questions unanswered.

According to various sources during the week, it is still unknown where the criminals hid during the day on 4 February when most of the republic's militia force was alerted to the murders of two road policemen and two civilians. It is reportedly also unclear to the investigators why one of the dead policemen used a civilian vehicle with a driver and passenger to chase the car with the two deserters on board, thereby causing the deaths of innocent people. Some of the republican papers raised the rhetorical question: why did ordinary militiamen take part in the final stage of the operation without involving the special "Spetsnaz" force, which is more prepared for combat operations? In addition to the versions explaining the rampage reported by previous RFE/RL reports, the media suggested that one of the deserters -- Almaz Shageev, from Vasilyevo, Tatarstan -- was extremely upset that his ex-girlfriend was getting married and was going to "spoil the wedding" with the help of his friend. Some of the media suggested that both Shageev and his partner Sukhorukov were planning to force the repayment of a $10,000 debt from Shageev's friends also in Vasilyevo.

Tatarstan Interior Ministry officials investigating the case on 6 February rebutted previous statements claiming that both deserters had previously served in Chechnya.

Tatarstan Hopes To Double The Funding Of Kazan Anniversary Celebrations
"Vostochny ekspres" weekly on 8 February commented on the 6 February meeting of state commissions for preparing the Kazan millennium celebrations and the 300th anniversary of St. Petersburg during which President Vladimir Putin praised Tatarstan's government for implementing the housing program which distributes free apartments to residents of the oldest districts of the republic. Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev reportedly had to correct President Putin who said that 4,000 families have already benefited from the program by saying that it was a figure for 2001 only and the total of 22,000 families have already moved into new homes.

Tatarstan's president told the press conference in Kazan airport after returning from Moscow that the 1.1 billion rubles ($36 million) allotted to millennium celebrations by the federal budget would be enough for preparing the event in 2005 and his government was planning to attract just as much in loans under the guarantees of Russian government. However Moscow has not yet stated its agreement on this proposal.

KamAZ Freezes Production
KamAZ automotive concern froze its truck assembly lines due to a lack of assembly parts, "Vechernaya Kazan" daily reported on 8 February, citing the firm's press service. Contrary to the press service statement, the paper suggested that this situation emerged because many of the KamAZ trucks were sold in barter transactions and appeared on the Russian market with lower prices that in the company's official retail price lists. As a result, direct sales by KamAZ slumped and brought only 390 million rubles ($13 million) of income in January while the company needs some 900 million ($30 million) every month to maintain the production. During previous months, management was said to have managed to cover the gap between actual sales and the production cost by means of bank loans.

In 2001 KamAZ produced about 21,000 trucks, its maximum annual production capacity is 150,000 trucks.

Tadjuddin's Aide Accuses Tatarstan's Muslim Leaders Of Ties With Islamic Extremists
Ferit Salman Khaidarov, assistant to Russian Central Muslim Religious Board Chairman Talgat Tadjuddin, in an interview published by the Russian "Versia" weekly on 5 February accused the chairman of Tatarstan's Muslim Religious Board, Gusman Khazrat Iskhakov, of cooperating with Wahhabi organizations of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. Salman also claimed that Iskhakov was commissioned by Tatarstan's leadership to establish economic ties with the Arab world and embezzled the funds provided by Arab countries for building mansions inside and outside Tatarstan.

Ferit Salman, proclaiming himself a "mufti" (Muslim religious leader) of Tatarstan, is head of the Bulgar mosque in Kazan, which openly opposes the Tatar Muslim Religious Board and promotes its submission to the Ufa-based Talgat Tadjuddin.

Gunpowder Plant Workers Get Salaries For Last Summer
According to Tatarstan's press on 7 February, workers of the Kazan Gunpowder Plant began receiving their salaries earned in July 2001. Due to the power cutoff used by Tatenergo company as a lever for forcing the plant to repay its electricity dues, top management of the plant has been working only during the daytime for the last 2 months.

New Type Of Militia Proves Effective
The Tatenergo company announced its plans to increase the staff of its "energy militia force" on 7 February, Tatar-inform reported. The special militia department dealing with prevention of illegal power consumption, thefts of power lines and other pieces of equipment, and ensuring the effective cutoffs of major debtors was formed in 2000.

Kazan Unemployment Figures Expected To Grow But Not To Exceed Norm
Some 19,900 residents of Kazan are currently registered as unemployed, representing 1.1 percent of the working-age population, Labor Ministry official Klara Tazetdinova said on 7 February. She added that during the winter, the number of jobless people increases because the federal budget only prepares the launch its annual anti-unemployment programs.

Milli Mejlis Prepares For Congress
The Milli Mejlis, an alternative public body declaring itself a "shadow government" of the Republic of Tatarstan, is facing substantial hardships preparing for the Tatar People Congress planned for 18 March, its administration head Zukhra Aysina said on 5 February. The Kazan city administration reportedly hasn't yet proposed an office for the congress's organizers after the Milli Mejlis was prohibited from using the premises of the House of Peoples' Friendship occupied by different ethnic communities of Tatarstan.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Construction Of Bashkir Nuclear Station Will Reportedly Go Ahead
"Izvestia" reported on 5 February that a protocol setting out the intention to unfreeze construction of the Bashkir Nuclear Power Station in Agidel is to be presented to the Russian Atomic Energy Ministry in three months. The move resulted from a visit to Bashkortostan by Federal Energy Commission Chairman Georgii Kutovoy and Russian Deputy Atomic Energy Minister Bulat Nigmatullin. The station is slated to become the largest in Russia. Its first block will be launched in 2010 at a cost of $750 million, and three other facilities are scheduled to be completed by 2020.

Robert Nigmatulin, a Duma deputy and the president of Bashkortostan's Academy of Sciences, told the daily that the launching of the first reactor is a "realized necessity" and a resolved issue. Nigmatulin said energy produced in the republic covers only 50 percent of its needs.

The construction will be financed by Moscow with the participation of Bashkortostan. After the project was frozen in 1990, unemployment among Agidel's population of 20,000 rose as high as 26 percent.

Project backers expect protests by environmentalists but are seeking to make a case for the facility's economic efficiency and safety. Residents of raions near the station have been promised a 50 percent discount for heating and electricity.

In the 1980s, some $800 million was invested in the station, $550 million of it in the development of the satellite-city of Agidel. Some $50-70 million was spent at that time on the foundations of the facility, but builders will reportedly start the whole process from the beginning since that progress has not stood up to the elements.

Minister Warns Of Declining Media Subsidies
Press and Media Minister Zufar Timerbulatov told a ministry board on 1 February that the republican budget allocated 115 million rubles ($3.8 million) for republican mass media in 2001. He added, however, that in the future, media are to adapt themselves to market conditions and begin working without budget subsidies. He said just a few republican outlets succeeded in maintaining or increasing their circulation figures in the past year, while a majority saw reductions. Timerbulatov asserted that the main reason for the trend is the poor quality of the media. The minister also criticized the use of administrative control levers during subscription campaigns and urged a halt to such practices.

Audit Chamber Head Dismisses Criticism Of Bashkortostan, But Confirms Funding Probe
Russian Audit Chamber Chairman Sergei Stepashin told a press conference in Ufa on 29 February that his visit to the republic was in no way connected to recent articles criticizing Bashkortostan in Russian newspapers. He referred to some articles as "paid publications." But Stepashin added that his chamber plans to audit the use of funds allocated for federal programs in Bashkortostan.

"Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 19 January wrote of violations at Bashtransgaz, while "Trud" on 25 January reported that Bashkreditbank (recently renamed into Uralsibbank), which handles republican budgetary funds, is collecting money in an underhanded way for the next presidential elections in Bashkortostan.

Meanwhile, Duma's Yabloko faction deputy head, Sergei Ivanenko, told "Otechestvo" on 28 January that the Audit Chamber is temporizing in its response on his inquiry on the use of budget funds in the republic in 1994-2000. Ivanenko said "not all employees of the Audit Chamber are able to counteract an unprecedented pressure against them [within] some federation members."

Observers commented that Stepashin's Ufa visit will result in the republican State Control Committee becoming more dependent on the Russian Audit Chamber, as it joined the federation-wide association of similar bodies established in Ufa. Bashkortostan's committee is not directly subordinate to Stepashin's chamber, and is responsible only to the republican parliament and president.

Tatar Organizations Plan Parallel Census
Bashkortostan's Tatar public organizations have formed a public commission they say will oversee the 2002 census and prevent violations, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 6 February. The body, headed by Tatar Public Center leader Airat Giniatullin, plans to hold a parallel tally in the Tatar-dominated raions of the republic and compare data with official results.

Sibai Authorities Simplify Land Registration, Fight Obscenities
A "one-window" registration procedure has been introduced for land and real-estate transactions in Sibai, Bashinform reported on 6 February. Bashkortostan Deputy Prime Minister Shamil Vakhitov told a meeting of the State Land Committee board that the measure has already brought a reduction in registration time from six to two months, but he called for reducing the procedure to two weeks.

Meanwhile, the Sibai Interior Affairs Department launched a campaign to fight the use of obscenities by city residents, Bashinform reported the same day. The agency cited a department official as saying his body has detained 20 residents for unquotable speeches in public places over past two weeks. All violators were either fined or saw 15-day restrictions slapped on them.

Uralsibbank Increases Network
Bashkortostan's Ural-Siberian Bank (Uralsibbank) provided 31 billion rubles ($1 billion) in loans for the republican economy in 2001, representing 41 percent more than in the previous year, Bashinform reported on 6 February. The volume of deposits attracted from residents tripled to 3.5 billion rubles ($115 million). The bank, which has the second-biggest network in Russia following Sberbank, opened 38 new branches in the republic, and brought the total number of offices in 55 cities of Russia to 250. In 2001, it purchased an 82.2 percent stake in Kemerovo's Kuzbassugolbank, 75 percent of Izhevsk's Eurasia bank, and shares in Chelyabinsk's Dorozhnik bank and Kaliningrad's Stroiinvestbank. Uralsibbank is the 13th-biggest Russian bank by capital.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Kirov Governor Says He May Run For Third Term
Kirov Governor Vladimir Sergeenkov said he would not like to run for governor for a third time but cannot exclude such a possibility, reported on 4 February. Sergeenkov said he will be forced to take part in elections in the interest of oblast residents if he does not have a worthy successor.

Nizhnii Teachers Plan Strike, Governor Calls Move Senseless
Nizhnii Novgorod schoolteachers plan to hold a protest action on 11 February to demand an increase of their average salary to 5,000 rubles, reported on 4 February. One of the action's organizers, school director and city Duma Deputy Igor Bogdanov said the measure marks the first step toward a strike scheduled for 11 March. Bogdanov said teachers received salaries for January according to old wage rates -- less than in December -- adding that "teachers have been deceived at all levels for two months."

Meeting with Bogdanov on 5 February, oblast Governor Gennadii Khodyrev said "calls for a strike are senseless" as the oblast government is doing everything it can to pay state employees their salary increases. He promised that teachers will be paid their increased salaries beginning from December.

Nizhnii Mayor Defends Alternative Civil Service, General Staff Unhappy With Call
Nizhnii Novgorod Mayor Yurii Lebedev said on 4 February that the experiment on alternative civil service in the city will not be stopped despite prosecutors' opposition, reported. Lebedev referred to President Vladimir Putin, who he said "ordered the Russian government to develop a law on alternative service in the shortest [possible] time."

Meanwhile, Russian Military Forces General Staff official General Lieutenant Vasilii Smirnov expressed hope that such a law will help improve the situation with call-ups for military service, adding that his body is dissatisfied with its current state. Smirnov said only 12 percent of draftees registered by enlistment bodies are called for military service.

Ekho Moskvy V Samare Editor Attacked
The editor in chief of the Ekho Moskvy v Samare radio station, Sergei Leibgrad, was beaten and robbed, "Kommersant" reported on 7 February. Leibgrad said he had been repeatedly threatened on the telephone, adding the assault was likely connected to his work. Leibgrad has been a vocal critic of Communists, Samara authorities, and Samara Mayor Georgii Limansky, the daily added.

Inspection Bodies Examine Saratov Speaker's Office
The Saratov Oblast Security Council and officials from the Chief Control Board examined and copied documents in an office where Aleksandr Kharitonov, the chairman of the Saratov Oblast duma, receives constituents, SaratovBusinessConsulting reported on 4 February. Kharitonov told a press conference that officials "illegal checked and searched" his office, thus violating the law on deputy status. He said the Security Council is an unnecessary body and called for its elimination.

Deputy Governor and Security Council head Aleksandr Mitroshin on 4 February issued a statement saying the action was part of an ongoing fight against corruption being conducted according to corresponding federal legislation.

The Chief Control Board appealed to prosecutors to evaluate statements by Kharitonov, whom the board accused of "damaging the authority of the body and discrediting its employees."

Residents Protest Construction Of New Blocks At Balakovo Nuclear Station
Some 200 residents staged a meeting in Balakovo of the Saratov Oblast on 2 February to protest construction of the fifth and sixth blocks at the Balakovo Nuclear Station, SaratovBusinessConsulting reported on 4 February. Participants in the protest, organized by the Union of Rightist Forces in Saratov Oblast, criticized the project's initiators for ignorance of the opinion of local residents.

Meanwhile, the Balakovo Nuclear Station administration on 6 February issued a press release sharply criticizing the meeting. The statement denies accusations by protesters of the facility's environmental effects and influence on an increasing cancer rate, saying the station is one of the most environmentally safe enterprises in Saratov Oblast.

Commissioner Ordered To Pay Draftee 1,000 Rubles
A Perm court has ordered that enlistment commissioner Colonel Dmitriev pay 1,000 rubles ($33) to draftee Roman Maranov in compensation for insulting him, Region-Inform-Perm reported on 6 February. Dmitriev reportedly called Maranov an "evader" after he appealed for alternative civil service. Maranov, who is a lawyer and human rights defender, has defended in court his right to alternative civil service and was involved in 30 similarly successful trials to help other draftees.

Tyumen Independent Trade Unions Bury Citizens Rights
More than 50 members of independent trade unions in Tyumen staged a ceremony marking the loss of citizens' rights with the adoption of a new Trade Code, "Tyumenskaya liniya" reported on 1 February. Picketers appealed to Russian President Putin and Duma deputies to demand restoration of the rights they were deprived of, including open-ended labor contracts, an eight-hour working day, guarantees for working mothers.

Security Service To Defend Lecturers From Students In Ulyanovsk
A security service has been formed at Ulyanovsk University to defend the teaching staff from students, "Mozaika" reported on 1 February. Service head Aleksandr Terekhin told the agency that university lecturers have been threatened with reprisal by students. He said university buildings will also be equipped with video-monitoring facilities.

Infantry Commander Calls For Professional Army
Russian infantry commander General Colonel Georgii Shpak called for the Russian army to be transformed to a contract-based force, RIA-Novosti reported on 5 February. Shpak was commenting on the desertion of two paratroopers who killed nine residents during a rampage in Tatarstan and Ulyanovsk Oblast. Shpak said "the propaganda of violence on TV" is largely responsible for such cases.

Canada To Provide More Aid For Chemical-Weapons Liquidation
Presidential envoy to the Volga district Sergei Kirienko and Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Gram signed a joint Russian-Canadian statement according to which Canada will significantly increase its assistance in the construction of a facility to annihilate poison gases in Shchuchye in Kurgan Oblast, reported on 6 February. Kirienko told ITAR-TASS that he was satisfied with negotiations on the issue during his visit to Canada and stressed the common positions of the two countries concerning acceleration of the annihilation of chemical weapons.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova