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Tatar-Bashkir Report: March 2, 2005

2 March 2005
Pensions Raised By Almost 40 Percent
Tatarstan's pensioners will have their monthly benefits raised by an average of 36 percent from the first day of March, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported, citing Elena Polyakova, deputy head of the local branch of the federal Pension Fund. In fact, the hike will represent a $9 increase from the current 660-ruble ($23) monthly pensions to elderly people under 80. Pensioners over 80 will have their pensions increased from 1,320 rubles ($47) to 1,800 ($64). The hike will also affect those pensioners who are under retirement age but declared disabled and unable to work.

Kazan, Moscow Develop Dialogue On Optimizing Use Of Mineral Resources
Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov and the head of the federal agency on use of mineral resources, Anatolii Ledovskikh, signed an agreement of interaction between Kazan and Moscow in the regulation of mineral resources on 1 March, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. Speaking after the signing to the Tatar cabinet, Ledovskikh said the agreement will allow a joint strategy in the field of prospecting for new mineral resources to be elaborated and ensure that both the federal center's and regional interests are observed in a new federal law on mineral resources.

Tatar Environment and Natural Resources Minister Boris Petrov noted at the meeting that Tatarstan currently possesses 145 oil deposits with total prospected reserves of some 1.7 billion tons. The republic currently has the highest oil output in the Volga Federal District and second-highest in Russia, averaging 29-30 million tons annually. In more than 60 years of oil extraction in Tatarstan, some 80 percent of the republic's oil reserves have been exhausted, while the remaining deposits have a high sulfur content, which lowers the price of Tatar oil.

Tatneft Official Confirms Interest In Taking Over Transpetrol
The Volga-Urals edition of "Kommersant" cited the head of Tatneft's information service, Rustam Nafikov, on 1 March as confirming that his company is interested in taking over a 49 percent stake in Slovak oil pipeline company Transpetrol with the annual transit capacity of some 10 million tons.

In Bratislava on 25 February, President Vladimir Putin announced the Tatneft's interest in taking over Yukos's stake in the Slovak company (see "RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Report," 28 February 2005). Nevertheless, "Kommersant" noted in its report, Tatneft's official investment program for this year does not stipulate any funding for the Slovak deal, while Yukos representatives interviewed by the daily stated that the company had no plans to sell its share in Transpetrol.

The daily also said that Putin could have confused the name of Tatneft with Transneft, the Russian state-controlled pipeline monopoly.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Putin Says Investigation Of Blagoveshchensk Raid Must Be Brought To End
President Vladimir Putin said on 1 March that the investigation of the December Blagoveshchensk police operation (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 21 January 2005) that left hundreds of people beaten will be brought to a close, Interfax reported the same day. Putin said during a meeting with Russian human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin that "in Blagoveshchensk, prosecutor's bodies and the Interior Ministry should finish the investigation. After this, [we] will make a corresponding decision."

For his part, Lukin said, "responsible people, not insignificant people...must bear responsibility for the Blagoveshchensk events." He said one in three complaints he receives concern "arbitrariness and improper actions by law enforcement bodies."

Bashkir State-Run Paper Refuses To Publish Article By Ombudsman
The editor in chief of Bashkortostan's official newspaper "Respublika Bashkortostan," Natalya Supryaga, refused to publish a statement by Russian human rights ombudsman Lukin, Regnum reported on 1 March, citing Lukin's press service. In the article, Lukin was going to refer to the involvement of former Bashkir Deputy Interior Minister Fetkhlislam Toqombetov in violations of the constitutional rights of republic residents during his service in the ministry. Toqombetov was recently appointed Bashkortostan's ombudsman. Lukin's press service noted that Supryaga violated the federal ombudsman law, which obliges periodicals to publish the ombudsman's statements. Lukin considers requests by Supryaga to provide convincing evidence about Toqombetov's involvement in violating people's rights in contradiction to the law, since the "clear obligation of the newspaper is to publish the official statement by the ombudsman, not to request proof." Lukin added that he has such proof.

Rakhimov Orders Bashneft, Bashkirenergo Shares Return To State
President Murtaza Rakhimov abolished on 1 March his decree by which the state-run Bashkir Fuel Company holding was allowed to trade shares of the republic's leading fuel-and-energy companies, RosBalt reported the same day. The news agency cited an unidentified source in the Bashkir government saying the cabinet is charged with securing the return to the Bashkir Fuel Company of the Bashneft and Bashkirenergo stakes sold to other companies.

The Bashkir Fuel Company was set up in 1998 as a vertically integrated holding owned by the state. The Bashkir Property Ministry transferred to the holding the state's stakes in Bashneft (63.72 percent) and Bashkirenergo (36.7 percent). Bashneftekhim, which unites Ufa oil refineries and the Bashkortostan branches of Transneft and Transnefteprodukt, also was included in the holding. In April 2003, 13 billion rubles ($469 million) worth of state-owned stakes in Bashneft, Bashkirenergo, Ufa oil refineries, and Bashkirnefteprodukt became the property of Bashkirskii Kapital, which is controlled by Ural Rakhimov, without any tender while the state received no money for the stakes.

"Kommersant-Daily" quoted an unidentified senior official in the Bashkir government on 2 March as saying President Rakhimov long ago came to the conclusion that he gave his son too much economic power in the republic and believes he manages assets inefficiently. "Ural Rakhimov pursued business interests that constantly contradicted the interests of the elder Rakhimov as a state official," the source said, adding that the 1 March decree can be seen as a measure aimed at weakening the position of the son.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova