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Tatar-Bashkir Report: September 27, 2002

27 September 2002
Tatars Devote Congress To Rights Violations In Bashkortostan
Members of the Tatar Public Center (TIU) met in Kazan on 25 September for a conference on the violation of Tatar rights in Bashkortostan, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the next day. TIU leaders Reshit Yageferov and Gayal Mortazin claimed in their speeches at the conference that in light of the upcoming Russian census in October, Tatar residents of Bashkortostan are facing increasing pressure from Bashkir authorities to identify themselves as Bashkirs in the census and that those who try to resist have faced threats. "The Tatar intelligentsia is being blocked from the mass media in Bashkortostan, while limitations have also been imposed on Tatar-language education and the activities of Tatar artists," Mortazin said (see RFE/RL "Tatar-Bashkir Report," 24 September 2002).

The conference adopted a resolution that calls for demonstrations against "Bashkirization" policies in Bashkortostan and also called on the Tatar media to provide more-detailed coverage of developments in that republic.

Minister Suggests Industries Expand To Russian Regions...
Tatar Economy and Industry Minister Aleksei Pakhomov told a government meeting on 24 September that republican industries could be revived by purchasing bankrupt companies in other Russian regions, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. The minister added that a special leasing company is being created to carry out such transactions.

Pakhomov told the meeting that 36.5 percent of companies in the republic were unprofitable in the first half of this year. The majority of loss-making companies were in the spheres of housing services and agriculture.

...And That State-Owned Companies Be Privatized
Pakhomov told the same meeting that the republic produced 139.6 billion rubles ($4.38 billion) worth of goods in the first eight months of 2002, an increase of 8 percent over the same period last year. Nonetheless, the minister said that many companies in the republic have been facing decreasing profits, largely as a result of competition with such giants as Tatneft and KamAZ. In order to improve this situation, Pakhomov said, more than 1,000 of the republic's 1,260 state-owned companies will be transformed into joint-stock companies.

Draft Commission Report Paints A Poor Picture...
The Tatar draft commission, which is chaired by Tatar Deputy Prime Minister Zile Welieva, held a meeting on 26 September to discuss the most recent enlistment campaign and to make preparations for the upcoming fall draft, which is set to begin in October, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 27 September. The commission paid special attention to the decreasing number of potential draftees over the past five years, as well as to their deteriorating health. According to a representative of the Tatar Military Commissioner's Office, the number of draftees not medically fit for service has increased from 17.8 percent in 1997 to 28.5 percent in 2001. Meanwhile, only 9.1 percent of this year's draftees have actually joined the Russian armed forces, which is among the lowest recruitment rates in the country.

...As Rights Advocate Protests Amendments To Law On Military Service
The head of the Kazan-based Center of Human Rights Protection, German Aletkin, said that the center is planning to launch a campaign protesting a suggested amendment to the Russian law on military service that will reduce the number of reasons allowing potential draftees to be freed from service obligations, reported on 26 September. Aletkin said the amendment won't help replenish armed-forces personnel but will simply result in the decreasing of social protection for draftees. He also said the center would continue to promote the idea of creating a professional army in Russia.

Social Committee Backs Initiatives Of Regional Parliaments
The parliamentary Committee on Social Issues, Children, and Youth Affairs has recommended that the Tatar State Council agree at its plenary session on 2 October with the appeal put forward by Vladimir Oblast legislators urging the Russian State Duma to increase monthly payments to citizens with children to 210 rubles ($6.60), RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 27 September. The committee also resolved to recommend that the Tatar parliament support the initiative put forward by the Tambov Oblast Duma that calls on federal legislators to introduce stricter legislation requiring doctors to report cases on tuberculosis, which they said is becoming a national disaster that already affects 90 people out of every 100,000.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Scholars Send Putin Letter About Tatar-Bashkir Debate
Bashkir media published this week a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin adopted at the 18 September conference Against the Falsification of Bashkortostan's History, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 25 September (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 19 September 2002). The letter claimed that Tatar media have been publishing falsehoods about the violation of Tatar rights in Bashkortostan, stressing that statements about the "Bashkirization" of Tatars in the republic are false. The letter also claimed that there have been open calls for the "liquidation" of Bashkortostan or for its merger with Tatarstan.

In the letter, Bashkir scholars claim that this is part of a "political provocation aimed at assimilating Bashkir and other Turkic peoples" and that it shows the "hegemonic ambitions of Kazan." The authors of the appeal also said that "strengthening the demographic potential" of Bashkirs corresponds to the political interests of the Russian state and the Russian people, since Bashkirs offer a counterbalance to large-scale Tatar expansion in the Volga-Ural region.

Lawyers Says Victims' Relatives May File Joint Suit With DHL...
Elmar Giemulla, a Berlin-based lawyer representing Bashkir Airlines and the relatives of some of the victims killed in the 1 July midair collision over southern Germany involving a Bashkir Airlines passenger jet and a DHL cargo plane, told Interfax-Eurasia on 20 September that there are no plans to sue DHL, but that lawyers for the relatives' victims plan to work with DHL in launching joint lawsuits against the Swiss air-traffic-control company Skyguide. Giemulla said that compensation for moral and financial damages could be between $100,000 and $1 million per victim (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 2 July and 20 September 2002).

...As Victims' Relatives Form Organization
The relatives of Bashkir Airlines crash victims have formed an organization to discuss the design of monuments to the victims, organization Chairman Zufar Khammatov told Bashinform on 20 September. The organization is also considering offers from at least 10 different lawyers or law firms -- Russian, German, U.S., and Swiss -- that have offered to provide legal services in seeking compensation as a result of the crash.

Bashkir Premier Suggests Polyethylene Factory Become Joint-Stock Company
At a meeting with Russian Deputy Property Minister Nikolai Gusev on 19 September, Bashkir Prime Minister Rafael Baidavletov has suggested that the Polief polyethylene facility that is being built in Blagoveshchensk be converted into a joint-stock company called Bashpolimer, RosBalt reported the next day, citing the Bashkir government press service. Baidavletov said he believes the measure would increase the attractiveness of the plant in terms of investment. Gusev backed Baidavletov's proposal and suggested that President Putin work out a draft decree for the project, the agency said.

Republic Asks Ethnic Groups To Participate In Census
Bashkir State Statistics Committee Chairman Ekram Geniev met with the heads of the national cultural centers of Armenians, Georgians, Chechens, Tajiks, Turkmens, and Azerbaijanis on 19 September to inform them about preparations for the national census in October, Bashinform reported the next day. Geniev asked the meeting participants to explain the importance of the census to their compatriots. The ethnic leaders said they will call on their countrymen to take part in the census, and they thanked Bashkortostan's residents for having a positive attitude toward them, the agency reported.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Nizhnii Voter Appeals To Court Over 'Invalid' Ballots
Nizhnii Novgorod resident Tatyana Speranskaya on 23 September asked a city raion court to order that all ballots that were deemed invalid in the first round of the Nizhnii Novgorod mayoral elections on 15 September be checked, Nizhnii Novgorod telegraph agency reported on 25 September. Speranskaya said she is sure many ballots were mistakenly or maliciously deemed invalid and demanded that the court collect all such ballots from the city's election commission. A commission representative insisted that such a step is technically impossible, the agency said.

Election commission member Viktor Chumak has claimed that many ballots in which people voted "against all the candidates" were intentionally classified as invalid so as not to surpass the number of votes for the front-runner, incumbent Mayor Yurii Lebedev. Otherwise, the entire elections would be considered invalid (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 20 September 2002).

Muslim Cemetery Vandalized In Orenburg Oblast
A group of youths vandalized a Muslim cemetery in Buzuluk in the Orenburg Oblast in mid-September, RFE/RL's Orenburg correspondent reported on 24 September. Six schoolboys aged 14-16 destroyed 57 gravestones and caused other damage. Four of the teenagers have been arrested, and a criminal case has been filed. "Yanga waqit" correspondent Damir Rafikov, after visiting Buzuluk, told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 24 September that Buzuluk Muslims said they were recently warned that "blacks" will soon be beaten. Rafikov also said one Buzuluk resident is suing the local mosque, accusing it of Wahhabism. Buzuluk's Colonel Vladimir Moiseev told RFE/RL on 24 September that he doubts the teens had "any intentions of political or ethnic character" and called the act "ordinary hooliganism."

Weekly's Security Director Slain In Penza
Igor Salikov, head of the security department at the "Moskovskii komsomolets v Penze" weekly, was killed on 20 September in Penza, NTA Privolzhye reported on 22 September. Two people met Salikov in the street as he was returning home with his wife shortly before midnight and shot him in the head and chest. The incident represents the fourth case of an attack on someone from the media in Penza since July.

Animal-Rights Defenders Urge Media To Discourage 'Dog-Painting'
Irish animal-rights activists appealed to Penza media to discourage the use of stray dogs for what appear to be unorthodox advertising schemes, NTA Privolzhye reported on 25 September. Penza-based "Molodoi leninets" reported on 18 September that advertising businessmen developed a new ads stray dogs have been spotted with company names painted on them (see also "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 September 2002). Dogs have reportedly been seen with the words Sony, Camel, Dosya, LUKoil, or Yukos painted on them.

GM-AvtoVAZ Joint Venture Launched In Tolyatti
Samara Oblast Governor Konstantin Titov was given the keys to the first Chevrolet-Niva assembled on 23 September at the Russian-American joint venture GM-AvtoVAZ, reported on 24 September. The opening ceremony the same day for the Tolyatti venture was attended by General Motors Chairman Jack Smith, GM-AvtoVAZ Chairman Vladimir Kadannikov, U.S. Ambassador Alexander Vershbow, and British Ambassador Roderick Line. The joint venture is expected to employ 1,200 people, while more than 1,800 jobs will be created among suppliers.

Samarskie Avtomobili Head Murdered In Samara
Yurii Gashimov, general director of the private company Samarskie Avtomobili, was killed when a grenade was fired through the windshield of his car in Samara on 25 September, reported the same day. Gashimov was driving out of his garage when he a grenade shot him. His bodyguard was hospitalized with injuries to his head and a fractured collarbone and upper arm. Samarskie Avtomobili is primarily an auto retailer, according to Interfax-Eurasia.

Rossel Criticizes Budget Relations In Russia
Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel repeated his disappointment with interbudgetary relations within Russia, Novyi region reported on 25 September. Rossel told a press conference the same day that he made certain during his meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, and Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Kudrin that financial centralization is continuing at the federal level. Rossel said donor regions are in a most-difficult situation. Rossel said the Russian Finance Ministry counts real expenditures by regions receiving subsidies from the federal budget but avoids similar tallying for donor regions and takes more and more of their funds. He said the Sverdlovsk Oblast will lose an additional 2 billion rubles ($63 million) in 2003 as a result.

Federal Budget Debt To Defense Companies Growing
The deputy head of a defense companies' union in the Sverdlovsk Oblast, Vladimir Kukarskikh, said on 25 September that the federal debt to such entities in his oblast has increased this year by 240 million rubles to 1.2 billion rubles ($38 million), Novyi region reported the same day. Earlier this year, Federal Industry and Science Minister Ilya Klebanov and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin vowed that debts for state orders would be repaid within several months. Kukarskikh said about 50 defense companies exist in the Sverdlovsk Oblast, and some have been owed state money since 1996.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova