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Tatar-Bashkir Report: August 24, 2005

24 August 2005
Hermitage Opens Branch In Kazan Kremlin
The first branch of St. Petersburg's State Hermitage Museum was opened on 23 August in a reconstructed building of a former military school in the Kazan Kremlin, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. An exhibition devoted to the history and culture of the Golden Horde and containing over 800 exhibits is on display. Exhibits were provided by museums in Astrakhan, Voronezh, Ufa, and other cities, in addition to the State Hermitage.

Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev and visiting St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matvienko attended the opening ceremony. The project of establishing the Kazan Hermitage, a gift from St. Petersburg for the Kazan millennium, was supported by Shaimiev. State Hermitage Director Mikhail Piotrovskii said, "An exhibition representing the Golden Horde's material culture in such a large scale has never been held. Such exhibitions occur once in a millennium." He said there are no plans for opening similar Hermitage branches in Russia as "there are few places in Russia where, as in Kazan, such an event may take place. We have no candidates," Piotrovskii said. There are branches of the State Hermitage Museum in Amsterdam, London, and Las Vegas.

TAIF Makes Progress In Taking Over NNPZ
Nizhnekamskneftekhim (NKNKh) on 23 August sold its stake in the Tuben Kama Oil Refinery (NNPZ) to the Tatar-American Investment and Finance (TAIF) group for $139 million, "Kommersant-Volga-Ural" reported on 24 August. Negotiations between TAIF and Tatneft on selling the latter's stake in NNPZ are also almost finished. TAIF General Director Albert Shihabetdinov told the daily that his company plans to finish the process of taking over NNPZ by TAIF's affiliate, TAIF-NK, within two or three months.

Conflicts between TAIF and Tatneft over NNPZ arose in late 2002 (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 1 October 2003). The issue was settled by President Shaimiev during a Tatar Security Council meeting in June. Shaimiev charged Tatneft with constructing a new oil refinery in the republic capable of processing 7 million tons of oil a year and selling its stake in NNPZ to TAIF. TAIF is controlled by President Shaimiev's son Radik.

"Kommersant-Volga-Ural" cited a source in Tatneft confirming that the oil company is negotiating with TAIF about selling its stake in NNPZ, but adding that there are many controversial issues that "are unlikely to be resolved quickly."

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Communist Party Protests Ban Of Its Conference In Bashkortostan...
The presidium of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) released a statement on 23 August on the situation in Bashkortostan in reaction to a ban of the party conference that was due to be held on 20 August, reported the same day.

The document was signed by national party leader Gennadii Zyuganov. The party said it considers its plans to prepare for a referendum in Bashkortostan and on nominating candidates for State Assembly by-elections -- both of which were on the agenda -- as the reasons for the ban. A question on the confidence in Bashkortostan's president, Murtaza Rakhimov, was slated to be one of the questions on the referendum.

The statement charged that the ban was issued "hastily" and for a "doubtful" reason. The KPRF Presidium appealed to the Prosecutor-General's Office, the Justice Ministry, the Central Election Commission, the Russian Supreme Court, and the Russian ombudsman. The KPRF leaders stated in the note that the referendum will be held despite the attempts by the authorities to stifle it.

...As Tatar Autonomy Indignant At 'Provocative' Publication
The Ufa Tatar National Cultural Autonomy (MNKAT) appealed on 23 August to Russian Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov and Bashkortostan's prosecutor, Aleksandr Konovalov, to protest an article in "Moskovskii komsomolets v Ufe" claiming that an arms cache found in Ingushetia is linked to the MNKAT leader and head of Bashkortostan's united opposition Ramil Bignov (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 23 August 2005), and called on officials to immediately investigate the statements in the published article, reported on 23 August.

The statement signed by MNKAT Deputy President Mejit Khujin called the publication "provocative" and aimed at preventing the autonomous delegation from going to Kazan and taking part in the city's millennium celebrations. Khujin predicted that this so-called provocation by the republican authorities will be used to check out and search the delegation on its way to Kazan, perhaps even placing weapons and drugs on its members. Khujin added that the permanent shadowing of Bignov's car in the past few days was not coincidental. Khujin recalled that in April, the flight of the plane carrying representatives of Bashkortostan's opposition was detained for five hours and he called on the prosecutors to personally supervise the departure of the MNKAT delegation to Kazan.

India To Get 1,000 Airplane Engines Under UMPO License
Ufa Engine-Building Plant (UMPO) General Director Yurii Pustovgarov told a news conference in Ufa on 23 August that UMPO has begun developing a licensed production of the AL-55 aviation engines for India's trainer jets, RosBalt reported the same day.

A corresponding agreement on the development of the engine was reached in June, while at the air show MAKS-2004 in August, Rosoboroneksport General Director Sergei Chemezov and Indian KhAL corporation Chairman Ashok Bavedzha signed a contract on arranging the production. Under the contract, worth a total of some $200 million, the KhAL corporation will get 1,000 AL-55 engines. The development of a license will cost $70 million. UMPO will also sell 250 already-made engines. Deliveries of the licensed equipment and documentation will begin in 2006. The Indian side plans to launch production of spare parts and other units in 2008 and serial production in 2010.

UMPO, Russia's leading aviation engine manufacturer, has 266 million rubles ($9.3 million) in capital. The company had a 560 million rubles profit in the first six months of the year.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova