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Tatar-Bashkir Report: January 5, 2004

5 January 2004
Prime Minister Outlines Tatarstan's Priorities For 2004
At a press conference on 30 December, Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov said the issue of Tatarstan's defense industries joining federal holdings will be negotiated in 2004. The Kazan Aviation Plant and the Kazan Helicopter Plant will be included in aviation holdings, while the Kazan Motor Plant will join a corporation of engine manufacturers. Minnikhanov said, "We are ready to participate in all projects but propose our own terms of entering corporations."

Minnikhanov also said that all plans from 2003 on collecting taxes, including the profit tax, have been implemented, while revenues to the Road Fund even exceeded expectations. Meanwhile, he said federal subsidies for the five-year program of Tatarstan's socioeconomic development will decrease in 2004 to 10 billion rubles from the previous year's 11 billion rubles. Tatarstan is expected to significantly increase its production by 2006 when the program finishes and the republic stops receiving money from the federal budget, Minnikhanov said.

The strategy for the republic's economic development is connected to petrochemicals and oil refining, Minnikhanov added, saying Tatarstan will increase its share of oil processed in Russia. Currently about 7 million tons out of a total of 29 million tons are processed in the republic.

Tattelecom To Connect Schools In Volga Federal District To Internet
Tatarstan's Tattelecom company won a Russian Education Ministry tender for connecting Volga Federal District secondary schools to the Internet, reported on 30 December, citing the company press service. Under the project, all of Tatarstan's 2,500 secondary schools will be connected to the Internet. Tatarstan will allocate 20 million rubles ($684,000) for the project in 2004 and the same amount will be contributed by the Russian Education Ministry.

The Volga Federal District entities will allocate in 2004 a total of 200 million rubles for the project, matching the amount provided from the federal budget the year before.

Number Of Pilgrims To Saudi Arabia Growing
Over 200 pilgrims from Tatarstan will make the hajj to Saudi Arabia in late January, reported on 5 January. Last year, 175 Muslims from the republic traveled to Saudi Arabia for the hajj. Pilgrims who travel by plane pay 50,000 rubles, while a bus trip costs 39,500 rubles this year. In Russia, a total of 5,500 Muslims will be eligible to make the hajj. Council of Muftis of Russia Deputy Chairman Damir Gyizetullin told RIA-Novosti that the quota provided for Russia's pilgrims was increased this year by 500 to take into account the possible rise in their number in Chechnya, where state institutions were restored this year. Some 4,000 Russian residents have already obtained the necessary documents for the hajj.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Tatar Satellite Channel Forced Off Air In Oktyabrskii
According to an anonymous member of the Tatar Public Center branch in Oktyabrskii, Bashkortostan, interviewed by an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent on 4 January, local authorities in this ethnic Tatar-dominated city in western Bashkortostan banned the rebroadcasts of the Tatarstan-Yanga Gasyr satellite TV channel via the city's commercial cable TV networks. Meanwhile, Tatarstan's TVT cable network, owned by the influential TAIF group, is offering programs from Bashkir satellite TV within its standard set of channels in most of the cities in the republic.

Rakhimov Mentions Putin In His New Year's Speech
In his New Year's speech to the people of Bashkortostan on 31 December, President Murtaza Rakhimov said that "Russia is entering 2004 with good perspectives, with economic growth ensured, an improving social sphere, and a strengthening of interethnic and interconfessional relations. Thanks to the well-organized work of all branches of government under the leadership of the president of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, the country will continue its way along the path of progress and prosperity."

Rakhimov Extends His Government's Term Of Service
On the first day of his third presidential term on 30 December, President Rakhimov signed a decree prolonging the terms of office for Bashkortostan's cabinet until the formation of a new one, Rosbalt reported the same day. Under the Bashkir Constitution, the president appoints and oversees the activities of the government. Rakhimov will, however, need to have his choice for prime minister approved by the republican parliament. Rafael Baydavletov has been Bashkortostan's prime minister since 1999.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi