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Tatar-Bashkir Report: February 22, 2005

22 February 2005
Tatar Government Seeks More Foreign Investment
Tatar Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation Minister Khefiz Salikhov told a news conference on 21 February that foreign investment into the republican economy totaled $596 million in 2004, and "Kommersant-Volga-Urals" reported on 21 and 22 February, respectively. Foreign direct investment contributed 15-19 percent of the figure, while the rest came in the form of loans and portfolio investment. More than $410 million was invested into the fuel industry, $25 million into the petrochemical sector, and $40 million into the trade sector. Salikhov said the figure does not include ruble-denominated investments made predominantly in the trade sector, adding that taking such numbers into account could at least double the figure. The Tatar government is dissatisfied with the level of foreign investment nevertheless and formed a council in late 2004 on attracting investors that is headed by Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov, Salikhov said. Some 70 percent of the foreign representatives in Tatarstan's 440 joint ventures are dissatisfied with the rate of openness of "dialogue between authorities and businesses."

Premier Considers Monetization Poorly Implemented
Prime Minister Minnikhanov said on 18 February that the "monetization [of social benefits] is necessary and became imminent but is being implemented in the country incorrectly," "Kommersant-Volga-Urals" reported on 19 February. He said that "both federal [and republican] spend much more money" as a result of the social-benefits reform, but added that the measures are justified by the fact that "we are building a normal market-oriented system." Minnikhanov suggested that the authorities "did not expect the issue to be so complex, especially with the formation of a database [of benefits recipients] that already contains a lot of incorrect data, distortions, and mistakes." He added that the allocation of huge sums of money has not prevented "chaos in supply with medicines." "The situation in the housing and municipal-services sector is even more complex," Minnikhanov said.

Soldiers' Mothers Form Party Branch In Tatarstan
A constituent meeting of the Tatar regional branch of the political party Unified People's Party of Soldiers' Mothers, Tatarinform reported on 21 February. Sixty-one residents of Chally and Alabuga took part in the gathering, which elected Mariya Kupreichuk branch chairwoman. Thirty-eight participants in the meeting have asked to join the party. Kupreichuk said the branch's major task is to bring the number of its members to 120 to be able to register it with the Justice Ministry.

Twenty Schools Closed
Twenty secondary schools were quarantined was in Tatarstan due to influenza outbreaks, reported on 21 February. More than 21,000 cases of viral respiratory infection, including 2,228 cases of flu, were registered in Tatarstan during the past week, 9 percent up on the previous week's rate. The threshold for flu and viral respiratory infections has been exceeded by 62 percent in Alabuga, 56 percent in Chally, 28 percent in Leninogorsk, and 5 percent in Kazan.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Blagoveschensk Incident Remembered At Pickets In Moscow, Voronezh
A pool of human rights organizations from Voronezh staged a special event on 22 Ferbuary to express solidarity with the victims of police brutality in Blagoveschensk, Bashkortostan, �Regnum� reported the same day (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 24 January 2005). During the action, human rights activists collected signatures for a petition to Russia�s Human Rights Commissioner and Interior Minister urging the establishment of a telephone hotline for victims of police abuse. One of the organizers, Natalya Zvyagina, told the news agency that activists intended to show their support for the Blagoveschensk residents staging a picket and a hunger strike in Moscow. According to the television network TV-Tsentr on 21 February, some 10 protesters staged a rally in Moscow that day, demanding an end to a probe into the protests by Russia�s chief prosecutor as well as the dismissal of senior officials in the Bashkir Interior Ministry. The protesters hid their faces, fearing retaliation by Bashkir police. The protests came after previous rallies on 16 February (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 16 February 2005).

FSB Brings Espionage Charges Against Ufa Researcher
The Bashkir branch of the Federal Security Service (FSB) charged Oskar Kaibishev, head of the Ufa Institute of Metal Super-plasticity, with selling top-secret technologies to South Korea, RFE/RL�s Ufa correspondent reported on 21 February. According to the investigators, Kaibishev shared technologies that could be used for both civilian and military purposes. The alleged deal reportedly caused Russia some $100,000 in damages. Kaibishev told RFE/RL on 21 February that the FSB has thoroughly monitored his institute�s work for the last two years and that the technology cited in the case was already patented in the United States, thus undermining the claims of its high secrecy. If convicted for sharing a state secret to third parties, the researcher would face 10 years in prison.

Russian Court Confirms Claim Against Bashkir Refineries
Russia�s Constitutional Court has rejected an appeal by the Bashkir government against a Tax Service demand that the republic�s petrochemical industry pay Moscow some $500 in back taxes, RFE/RL�s Ufa correspondent reported on 21 February. Previously, the republican authorities sought to evade federal taxes by registering Bashkir oil refining facilities in the Baykonur offshore zone in Kazakhstan. Soon after his re-election in late 2003, President Murtaza Rakhimov pledged that his government would acknowledge and repay the refineries� debt.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi