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Tatar-Bashkir Report: May 30, 2005

30 May 2005
Human Rights Commissioner Plans Interfaith Conference In Kazan
Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Alvaro Gil-Robles proposed on 26 May that an international interfaith conference on tolerance and religious dialogue in Russia be organized in the Tatar capital Kazan this fall, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reported the same day. Gil-Robles made the suggestion in a meeting with the chairman of the Council of Muftis of Russia, Rawil Gainetdin. The forum would reportedly involve representatives of five monotheistic faiths, including Orthodoxy, Islam, Judaism, Catholicism, and Protestantism. Gil-Robles said he chose Kazan to host of the event after his recent visit to Tatarstan's capital, where he said there is a concord among followers of different religious traditions. Gainetdin backed the proposal and emphasized the importance of such a forum.

In an interview with RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service following the meeting, Gil-Robles said he considers illegal the persecution of people over their membership of any religious organization -- specifically, the banned Hizb ut-Tahrir -- membership of which has served as grounds for the arrest of Muslims in many regions of Russia. Gil-Robles said he is against labeling any religion extremist, adding that countries protecting human rights should reject such a thing.

Tatar President Visits St. Petersburg
President Mintimer Shaimiev took part in celebrations devoted to St. Petersburg's anniversary on 27 May, Tatarinform,, RosBalt, and other news agencies reported the same day. Shaimiev said after his meeting with St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matvienko that Russia needs to preserve its traditions, multicultural nature, and spirituality. Matvienko said after the meeting that St. Petersburg is preparing its present devoted to the Kazan millennium, which will be celebrated in August. The city is reconstructing St. Petersburg Street in Kazan, planning to display Hermitage works in the Kazan Art Gallery, and erecting a bust of a Tatar poet in Kazan. As its present for the St. Petersburg's 300th anniversary, marked in 2003, Tatarstan repaired homes on Kazan Street in St. Petersburg, made improvements to a square near the Kazan Cathedral, and published the book "Tatars in Petersburg."

Tatneft Bows Out Of Tupras Race
Tatneft General Director Shefeget Takhawetdinov said on 26 May that Tatneft has definitively rejected the idea of purchasing a 51 percent stake in Turkish refining concern Tupras, Interfax reported the same day. Takhawetdinov cited risks in the Turkish state-run process, saying, "We won the first tender and didn't violate law, but the auction was deemed invalid. Then...the Turkish government sold a 15 percent stake and again, as we know, trade unions appealed to a court against the winning company. This can continue indefinitely." "If there is such a lawsuit between the government and trade unions, we wouldn't like to participate in this process," Takhawetdinov said.

In February 2004, an alliance between Tatneft-associated company Efremov Kautchuk GmbH and the Turkish financial industrial group Zorlu won a tender to purchase 65.76 percent of Tupras for $1.3 billion, but the decision was later annulled by a Turkish court.

Tupras unites four refineries capable of processing 27 million tons of oil a year, and controls some 90 percent of Turkey's refinery market.

Meanwhile, Zorlu head Ahmed Nazif Zorlu said in an interview with on 25 May that negotiations with Tatneft on joint participation in the next tender on Tupras are continuing and that the decision will be passed in roughly a month.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Bashkir Congress Leader Calls For Bashkir Cossack Revival
The chairman of the World Bashkir Congress' executive committee, Ekhmet Soleimanov, told a news conference on 27 May that the concepts of "national republics" and "separatism" should in no way be linked in the way that some politicians insist, Bashinform reported the same day. Soleimanov said Bashkirs voluntarily joined the Russian state and always enjoyed certain privileges -- the most important of which was the right of ownership of ancestral lands, which was annulled after the 1917 October revolution. The Bashkir Cossacks suffered the same fate, he said, adding, "We consider ourselves Cossacks in our souls and are proud of this." Citing a draft federal law on state service of the Russian Cossacks passed in its first reading recently by the State Duma, Soleimanov called for a revival of Bashkir Cossacks as well. "We always lived in peace on this land and protected this peace," he said.

Bashkir Deputy Criticizes Rossel Proposal To Abolish 'National' Republics
Bashkir State Assembly Deputy Fenil Tayipov told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 27 May that a proposal by Sverldlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel to eliminate national republics in Russia should in no way be applied to Bashkortostan and Tatarstan. Speaking at a conference on state nationalities policy in Yekaterinburg on 25 May, Rossel suggested that federation entities should be formed in Russia only on the basis of territorial principles, and not ethnic ones. Rossel also called for fixing a common "Rossiyanin" nationality in the passports of all Russian citizens. Tayipov suggested that Rossel was trying to please the Kremlin with this suggestion, as he seeks reappointment as governor.

Recess Announced In Government Lawsuit Against Bashkirskii Kapital
The Bashkir Arbitration Court announced a recess until 6 June in a hearing in the lawsuit filed by the republican Property Ministry against Bashkirskii Kapital, which is reportedly controlled by Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov's son, Ural, AK&M reported on 27 May, citing the court press service. In the wake of a 1 March decree by President Rakhimov, the Bashkir government is trying to restore control over five fuel-and-energy companies, including the Ufa Oil Refinery, Novo-Ufimskii Oil Refinery, Ufaneftekhim, Ufaorgsintez, and Bashkirnefteprodukt. The hearing began on 17 May. On 14 May, the court issued a verdict whereby a 63.7 percent stake in Bashneft and 32 percent stake in Bashkirenergo were returned to the Bashkir Fuel Company, which is controlled by the republican government.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova