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Tatar-Bashkir Report: February 19, 2004

19 February 2004
Committee Passes Amendments To Tatar Presidential-Election Law
Tatarstan's State Council Committee on State Administration, Local Self-Government, and Foreign Relations on 18 February passed amendments to the law on republican presidential elections due to be read by the parliament in its third reading, Tatarinform and reported. The amendment of principle concerns the paragraph saying that a citizen over 30 who is able to vote and to speak the republic's state languages can be elected the republic's president. This is replaced by a provision saying that a citizen meeting the requirements established by the Tatar Constitution and federal law can be elected president. Committee Chairman Vasilii Loginov said that referring to the republic's constitution will avoid lawsuits against the draft law. The similar requirement in the Tatar Constitution about knowledge of state languages for presidential candidates is being contested by the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office in court and the same might happen to this law if the provision remained in it, Loginov said.

Shaimiev Pushes Tax Breaks For Alabuga Companies
Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev said on 18 February that favorable conditions and tax breaks for companies in the Alabuga offshore zone will be maintained, although in Russia there is no legislation about offshore zones and they are prohibited, reported. Federal bodies have been insisting for a year that Tatarstan annul its corresponding law, Shaimiev continued. He also said the Russian Economy Ministry is developing a draft law on free economic zones but in different conditions. "Whatever legislation is accepted, we will insist on keeping favorable regime for enterprises [in Alabuga] even at the expense of reducing revenues to the republican budget," Shaimiev said. The establishment of the Alabuga offshore zone has provided jobs for 5,000 people. According to predictions, 1.5 billion rubles ($52.6 million) in foreign investment will be attracted to Alabuga in 2004-05.

The Russian Supreme Court on 21 March annulled Tatarstan's law on the Alabuga offshore zone but the Tatar Cabinet of Ministers in October issued a resolution under the republican law on investment activities that introduced tax breaks to companies registered in the zone.

South Korean Company To Build Housing In Tatarstan
Tatar Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov and the executive vice president of South Korea's Posco Engineering and Construction, Yong Kyung-cho, on 18 February signed an agreement on establishing a joint construction company by 15 March, reported. The South Korean delegation to Tatarstan arrived on 15 February to develop the bilateral relations begun during the visit by Minnikhanov to South Korea in July. The joint venture will build at least 250,000 square meters of housing a year in the republic. By 31 March, a framework contract is to be signed on construction in Kazan and Chally. Specifically, Posco is to provide equipment and technology for manufacturing blocks from foamed polystyrene.

Municipal-Services Sector In The Black
Tatar Housing Minister Marat Khosnullin said the housing and municipal-services sector in the republic has begun operating without losses for the first time in a decade, "Kommersant" reported on 19 February. In 2003, the ministry provided 13.2 billion rubles ($463 million) for services. Khosnullin said money previously allocated for covering the losses of municipal-services companies is now being distributed in subsidies to residents. Meanwhile, municipal-services tariffs in Tatarstan are among the lowest in the Volga Federal District. Competitiveness grew in the sector and the share of housing served by private companies increased in the past six months from 39 percent to 54 percent, while the Russian average is 15 percent. Khosnullin added that to promote reform in the housing and municipal-services sector, the ministry developed a 30 billion-ruble, seven-year program. However, only 1 billion rubles will be allocated in 2004 for modernizing the sector. The ministry's total budget for the current year is 5.6 billion rubles.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Unified Russia In Bashkortostan Pledges Support For Candidate Putin...
The chief federal inspector in Bashkortostan, Engels Kulmukhemetov, told a meeting of the local branch of the Unified Russia party on 18 February that the party should "ensure the maximum turnout figures and maximum percentage of votes in favor" of incumbent President Vladimir Putin in the 14 March elections, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. In Kulmukhemetov's opinion, party activists are capable of boosting the turnout figures and the number of votes for Putin up to 90 percent. The head of Putin's election campaign headquarters in Bashkortostan, state-service academy rector Ildar Gimaev, said that although "it's the party's duty" to ensure Putin's victory in the elections, it "should not engage in a full-fledged promotional campaign" in order not to compromise his high ratings.

Unified Russia claims to have 15,000 active members and more than 100,000 supporters in Bashkortostan. It also has more than 100 deputies in 120-seat Bashkir parliament, as well as 918 deputies in city and regional assemblies across the republic.

...As Election Commission Head Predicts High Turnout Figures
Bashkir Central Election Commission (USK) Chairman Baryi Kinjegulov told a news conference on 18 February that at least 80 percent of Bashkortostan's voters are expected to show up for the 14 March Russian presidential elections, or 7 percent-8 percent higher than for the December 2003 vote for the Russian State Duma and Bashkir president, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported.

The 14 March vote will combine voting for the Russian president and municipal and regional assemblies in the republic. For the presidential vote, the USK will print the ballots in Russian, Tatar, and Bashkir languages.

Bashkortostan Gets A New Deputy Prosecutor
Mikhail Zelepukhin, former chief prosecutor of Balakovo, Saratov Oblast, was appointed Bashkortostan's deputy prosecutor by Russian Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov on 18 February, RosBalt reported the same day. In December, former Bashkir deputy prosecutor Vladimir Korostile retired after saying publicly that the illegally printed voting ballots seized before the Bashkir presidential elections were ordered by presidential administration head Radii Khebirov. The same scandal is said to be behind the retirement of former chief prosecutor Florid Baikov, who was replaced by his deputy Ramil Iskuzhin.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi