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Tatar-Bashkir Report: March 8, 2002

8 March 2002
Tatarstan's Major Alcohol Producer Seeks To Boost Sales, Facing Hard Financial Problems
General director of the state Tatspirtprom alcohol company Rashit Shaykhutdinov told the governmental meeting on 6 March that his company boosted its output by 21.6 percent in January-February 2002 comparing to the same months of 2001, although the sales of vodka and other strong drinks grew by only 8.7 percent, which is explained by difficulties with promoting this production in other regions of Russia.

According to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Industry Sergei Kogogin, this is due to the high costs and inert marketing policies of Tatspirtprom. Over 50 percent of producing the local alcohol is represented by the cost of grain, because state-owned Tatarkheboproduct offers the alcohol producer its wheat at the price of 3,700 rubles per ton ($119), while its market price is 1,200-1,300 rubles ($39-$42) per ton. Nevertheless Kogogin emphasized that his ministry "would not interfere in disputes between the two companies."

Shaykhutdinov said that Tatspirtprom's development was also put on hold by the recent ruling of the Russian Ministry of Antimonopoly Policy, which prohibited the merger of 14 alcohol and liquor plants controlled by the company. He said the merger would allow his company to avoid double taxation and lower production costs, saving Tatspirtprom as much as 100 million rubles ($3.2 million), which is a reasonable sum because the company is currently facing a 600 million-ruble ($19.3 million) deficit of turnover funds and 308 million rubles ($9.9 million) in unpaid taxes.

Paper Says Tatarstan's Election System Creates Favorable Terms For Tatars
"Vechernaya Kazan" daily suggested on 5 March that the existing system of voting districts in Tatarstan, which is based on administrative-territorial division with an overwhelming amount of rural districts and several urban areas, was created to ensure the Tatar population priority in elections. The paper claimed that Tatars, which form a majority in rural areas, were given an opportunity to elect more deputies than other peoples residing in urban areas, although some of the rural voting districts are several times smaller that the urban ones.

The current requirements of legal harmonization submitted by the federal government to Tatar legislators include the demand to form equally divided polling districts.

Chally TPC Declares Competition For Best Article On Human Rights Violations
The Chally branch of the Tatar Public Center announced on 28 February that it will hold a competition for the best publication about human rights and freedoms violations in Russia and the entire world. The branch, led by Rafis Kashapov, claimed that with assistance of some "foreign sources" it is setting up a website at to publish the best works, which are to be awarded from a total prize fund of $19,000.

Previous statements by Tatar Public Center leaders said that on 13-14 April it would hold a congress, which is to involve professor Roald Sagdeev, a nuclear physicist working at Maryland University in the U.S. who is married to former President Dwight Eisenhower's granddaughter.

State Body Discusses Problems Of Muslim Organizations In Tatarstan
Tatarstan's council on relations between religions and the state on 5 March considered the current achievements in solving the problems of religious organizations as commissioned by President Shaimiev in early 2001. According State Religious Affairs Committee Deputy Chairwoman Venera Abdulkhaeva, concerted efforts by the republic's Muslim Religious Board, the History Institute, and the council "resulted in the partial solution of the problems linked with tax recessions for Muslim organizations." As an example of unresolved issues, she mentioned the difficulties in establishing a new Muslim cemetery in Kazan and reconstructing the historically important buildings currently occupied by the Osmania Muslim school.

School Computerization Successful In Tatarstan
Education Minister Faris Kharisov told a press conference on 5 March that 18,000 computers were available in Tatarstan's schools, which comes to 34 pupils per each machine, which is a higher percentage than Russia's planned average after finishing its school computerization program at 70 students per computer. Students reportedly have begun studying basic subjects like physics, algebra, chemistry, geography, history, and English using multimedia software, while preparation of software on Tatar history, geography, and literature is already in progress.

Having resolved the problem of computer hardware, the schools are reportedly facing a lack of qualified staff to teach computer science.

According to Kharisov, Tatarstan joined the "Innovation project of education development," introduced by the Russian government and the International Bank of Reconstruction and Development for integrating the schools in 24 regions of Russia for computerized information exchange.

Though the demand for modern computers in the republic's schools is considered to be resolved, only 75 Tatar schools in major urban areas have access to the Internet.

Tatarstan Third-Largest Taxpayer In Volga District
Tatarstan transferred 15.9 billion rubles ($513 million) in taxes to the federal budget in 2001 and placed third among tax contributors among the Volga district regions, behind only Samara Oblast and Bashkortostan, the republican branch of the Russian Tax Ministry announced on 4 March. Tatarstan occupies eighth place in the list of major Russian taxpayers, although 40.4 percent of total tax revenues were collected forcibly after attempts to evade taxation.

By the end of 2001 Tatarstan's industries managed to pay off over 30 percent of their long-term tax dues.

Local Ecologists Offer New Method To Save The Baltic Sea
The next plenary session of the Council of Europe in April 2002 will consider the methods of preventing the contamination of the Baltic Sea offered by the Kazan-based International Information-Ecological Parliament and Tatarstan's Informatization Academy, Tatar-inform reported on 5 March. The sea contains about 280,000 tons of German cannon shells with poisonous agents buried there after WWII.

Tatar Official Says Residents Against Abolition Of Wire Radio
According to Deputy Prime Minister Zilya Valeeva, speaking at a Tatar Communications Ministry meeting on 2 March, residents of the republic, especially in rural areas, are against the present gradual abolishment of wire radio, which dates back to first half of this century.

Together with Russian State Radio and Tatarstan State Radio, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service maintains its daily broadcasts through the wire radio [radio tockha] parallel to its longwave transmissions.

New Head Appointed In Muslim Region
The People's Deputies Council of the Muslim region of Tatarstan elected Rishat Habipov its chairman on 5 March, thus upholding the presentation of President Shaimiev proposing him for the post of regional administration head.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Paper Calls Power-Sharing Treaty Bashkortostan's 'Last Bulwark'
"Vremya MN" reported on 28 February that the republic's power-sharing treaty with Moscow is "the last bulwark of [Bashkortostan President] Murtaza Rakhimov" that has remained unchanged despite Bashkir authorities' surrender of many positions and legal pressure from Moscow. The August 1994 treaty includes major principles of Bashkortostan's Declaration of Sovereignty and recognizes that Bashkortostan is "a sovereign state within the Russian Federation." According to the treaty, the republic's powers include republican governance, the ownership and use of natural resources, running a court system and prosecutorial bodies, granting Bashkortostan citizenship, international economic relations, the authority to sign international treaties, and others.

"Vremya MN" said the treaty allows the Bashkir leadership to feel almost independent from Moscow. After signing the treaty, the republic transferred to Moscow 22-27 percent of tax collections, though in 1992-93 �- before the signing �- it transferred nothing at all. Under the treaty's safeguards, Bashkortostan managed to conduct its own model of privatization and keep controlling interests in most large companies, including the largest petrochemical companies in the European part of Russia. By the late 1990s, Bashkortostan conducted trade and economic relations with 90 foreign countries and posted an annual foreign-trade turnover of $2 billion. In an attempt to maintain privileges, republican leaders took the defiant step of including the power-sharing treaty into a new version of the republican constitution, the paper said. President Rakhimov continues to insist that the treaty is open-ended and cannot be annulled unilaterally.

Prosecutor Predicts Victory In Challenge To Bashkir Constitution
Russian Deputy Prosecutor-General Aleksandr Zvyagintsev in "Vremya MN" on 28 February predicted that Bashkortostan's Supreme Court will accept his office's challenge to 54 paragraphs of the republican constitution. He said if the challenges are not satisfied, a new protest will likely be initiated. Zvyagintsev said he is optimistic, since authorities in territorial entities have tended to agree with prosecutors' cases in the past.

Uralsibbank Receives Loan From Belgian Bank
Uralsibbank signed an interbank credit agreement with Belgian KBC Bank NV to finance 75 percent of the delivery to Bashkortostan of 100 harvesting combines from Case New Holland, reported on 1 March. The five-year, 16 million euro credit was guaranteed by the Belgian OND export-credit agency.

Unity And Fatherland Parties Abandon Old Structures
Rim Bakiev, a Duma deputy and the leader of the Fatherland party in Bashkortostan, reported at the party's last conference before liquidation that there are 10,000 party members in the republic, roughly one-third of them youths, Bashinform reported on 28 February. Bakiev said a majority of members have membership certificates. He called on party activists to maintain the organization and join the new party, Unity and Fatherland, as soon as possible. He said the merged party will provide a link between the population and authorities.

Unity in Bashkortostan leader Salavat Kusimov told a similar conference of his party that more than 3,000 members in the republic have party certificates, Bashinform reported. There are 69 city and raion departments and 324 local organizations of the party in Bashkortostan, he said.

Meanwhile, the federal inspector to Bashkortostan, Rustem Khamitov, told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service that he has doubts about the new united party's future. If the Russian Constitution is not changed and Putin serves two terms, he said, the party is unlikely to survive more than 10 years.

Emergency Fatalities, Injuries Reported For 2001
Disaster Medicine Center head Kamil Shakurov told a press conference on 28 February that his service dealt with 226 emergency situations in 2001, 213 of them technical and 13 natural. The incidents resulted in the deaths of 233 people, while another 777 residents were injured. Shakurov said 55 reports of powder-containing messages took place last year, but not a single anthrax case was revealed.

Authorities Close Down Unlicensed Business And Law Institute
The Bashkortostan State Control Committee has shut down the Institute of Business, Economy, and Law, which has accepted 2,000 students to its 18 affiliates throughout the republic and taught them without a state license since April 2000, "Izvestia" reported on 1 March. Students paid tuition of 8,000-10,000 rubles ($258-322) per year. The Ufa Interior Affairs Board has charged rector Lyudmila Usmanova. The paper quoted the chairman of the Bashkortostan Non-State Educational Institutions Association, Yevgenii Minibaev, saying he hopes students will be able to continue their studies at other institutions.

Bashkir Paper Says Tatarstan's Position On Constitution Is Decisive For Ufa
"Qyzyl tang" on 26 February wrote that events in Bashkortostan will depend on the direction Tatarstan takes in amending its constitution. If Tatarstan is "broken," Russia will become a unitary state, the paper said. Tatarstan's position of principle concerning its constitution and Bashkortostan's defense of its constitution in the courts are aimed at turning Russia into a cultural and legal state, the daily asserted.

Bashkortostan Among Leaders In Fighting AIDS
"Parlamentskaya gazeta" on 5 March reported that Bashkortostan is among Russia's three best entities in terms of fighting HIV infection. The paper said the infection rate in the republic is 66.3 per 100,000 residents, while in neighboring Chelyabinsk Oblast it is 225.3.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Court Awards Record Compensation In Wrongful Death Suit
A Yoshkar-Ola city court has decided in favor of the Mother's Right fund in a suit against the Interior Ministry, the Defense Ministry, and the Finance Ministry over the death of a 19-year-old serviceman in Daghestan, reported on 4 March. Those institutions were ordered to pay 500,000 rubles ($161,000) in compensation for the death of Stanislav Vlasov on 10 September 1999. Vlasov was killed as a result of an air attack by Russian defense forces that turned out to be aimed against a federal police unit. It represents the largest sum the fund has ever exacted for the parents of individuals killed during military service, the agency said.

Perm Public Groups Say Someone Is Screening Their Mail
Region-Inform-Perm on 4 March cited civic groups alleging that their mail is "opened and inspected" and saying someone "supervises with great attention their correspondence with foreign partners." The Perm Human Rights Center is launching an action to defend the confidentiality of correspondence.

Samara Teachers Protest For Back Wages
Roughly 300 teachers picketed the Samara city administration to demand the payment of back wages, "Samara segodnya" reported on 28 February. Teachers are currently owed some 40 million rubles ($1.3 million). Deputy Administration head Alla Volchkova told demonstrators that the city budget is unable to fully pay teachers their increased salaries and called for negotiations together with trade unions, Duma deputies, and the federal inspector to find additional sources of financing. Volchkova called on trade unions to be more active and to enter a dialogue with federal representatives.

Heating Cut Off To Samara Residents
Some 100 buildings housing roughly 1,500 residents were disconnected from heating supplies in Saratov on 27 February, SaratovBusinessConsulting reported the next day. The city administration owes gas suppliers 53 million rubles and has taken no steps toward settling the debt, the agency said. Saratov Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov asked the gas distributor to restore deliveries and instead disconnect buildings in which city officials and Saratov Mayor Yurii Aksenenko live.

Samara's Governor Calls For Direct Election Of Federation Council Senators...
Samara Oblast Governor Konstantin Titov called for the direct election of Federation Council members, RIA-Novosti reported on 4 March. He also pushed for adoption of corresponding amendments to the Russian Constitution, the agency said. Titov said the State Duma should not have the right to override vetoes by the Federation Council.

...And Backs Russian Membership To WTO
Governor Titov also said Russia "must" join the World Trade Organization (WTO), RIA-Novosti reported on 4 March. Titov noted that the WTO represents 90 percent of global trade. "We should not lose anything" from the measure, he added, saying people should be informed of the conditions of membership.

Saratov Governor Says Candidates Should Be Proposed By President
In an interview published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 4 March, Saratov Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov called for the direct election of Federation Council senators among regions. Ayatskov said the candidacies of territorial entities' leaders should be proposed by the Russian president and then approved by local parliaments. Regional heads should also be given the power to appoint city mayors and the heads of municipal authorities, he said. Ayatskov called for amending the Russian Constitution and changing the borders of territorial entities within Russia. He said 50 strong economic entities should be formed in the country, while autonomous okrugs in which 98 percent of expenses are paid from the federal budget should be removed.

Balakovo City Council Tries To Salvage Nuclear Project
The Balakovo City Council on 5 March in a 7-5 vote rejected a veto on the construction of the Balakovo Nuclear Power Station, SaratovBusinessConsulting reported. Construction opponents argued that the station is environmentally harmful and technologically dangerous. Balakovo deputy administration head Olga Mazunina said the station is the local budget's biggest source of tax revenues. Deputies agreed to hold hearings on the issue.

Udmurt Government Rejects Construction Of Rocket Engines Utilizing Plant
Udmurtia Prime Minister Yurii Pitkevich announced that the republican cabinet has halted plans to build a facility for spent rocket engines in Votkinsk, "Udmurtia" reported on 28 February. Pitkevich said republican leaders were forced to abandon the project by massive local protests, but added that consultations will continue since the final decision rests with the federal government. The latter passed a resolution on the construction of the Votkinsk plant in late 1997. In a January 1999 referendum in the city, 94.6 percent of residents voted against its construction.

Chief Federal Inspector To Udmurtia Sues Izhevsk Newspaper
The chief federal inspector to Udmurtia, Sergei Chikurov, has filed a defamation suit against the "Den" newspaper and its editor in chief, Sergei Shchukin, "Den" reported on 4 March. Chikurov is seeking 20,000 rubles from Shchukin and 40,000 rubles from the newspaper for several articles published last fall.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova