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Tatar-Bashkir Report: February 23, 2004

23 February 2004
Foreign Journalists To Visit Kazan
A group of foreign journalists representing Voice of America, Qatar's Al-Jazeera TV, the Spanish daily newspaper "El Pais" and other internationally-known media are due to visit Kazan from 24 to 27 February in preparation for the Tatar capital's millennium anniversary celebrations slated for 2005, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported today. The reporters will meet Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev, State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin, and Kazan Mayor Kamil Iskhakov, as well as visit some tourist sites. The visit was arranged under an agreement between Tatarstan and Russia's Foreign Ministry on developing the republic's international economic ties.

Gorgaz Forces Debt Repayments
The Gorgaz network of Kazan plans to cut off gas supplies to some 3,000 families because of unpaid bills of more than $110,000, "Vechernyaya Kazan" reported on 21 February. Vladimir Karpov, deputy director of the state-owned company, said that after the cutoff Gorgaz will file lawsuits against the debtors.

KamAZ Revives Cooperation With Postwar Iraq
The KamAZ auto concern won a tender to supply 195 buses to the current Iraqi provisional administration for an unnamed price, KamAZ's press service announced on 20 February. This is the first KamAZ contract with Iraq since the war froze the importation of Tatar trucks to Iraq in 2003. Before 2003, Iraq annually purchased 3,000-4,000 such vehicles under the UN's oil-for-food program.

This is also the first contract for KamAZ buses to be shipped to Iraq, as previously the country was interested only in KamAZ's heavy vehicles. The buses are produced by the KamAZ affiliate NefAZ in Neftekamsk, Bashkortostan, and their regular price is cited at $56,000-$60,000.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Shake-Up In Bashkortostan's Fuel-And-Energy Sector
The Bashkir fuel-and-energy companies united in Bashkirskii kapital holding A underwent management reform in early February, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 20 February. Specifically, the management of oil refineries was transferred to the Institute of Regional Economy and Law, which previously provided legal services to the companies, and the post of executive director was created at Bashneft. The daily cited an unidentified source in the Bashkir government as saying the changes are linked to the companies' forthcoming sale.

As a result of the reform, Bashneft, previously subordinate to Bashneftekhim and then to Bashkirskii kapital, has become more independent. Most of the managing power was transferred to the executive director post now filled by Bashneft chief accountant Vadim Rybinskii. Viktor Gantsev, a former Bashneftekhim general director and until now general director of Bashkirskii kapital, was appointed executive director of the Institute of Regional Economy and Law.

The paper cited unnamed sources in the companies as saying that the shake-up was initiated to introduce distance between Bashneft and the Bashkir oil refineries, on one side, and Bashkirskii kapital on the other, as the latter's privatization is being investigated by the prosecutor's office. Rumors have been circulating in Bashkortostan since the Bashkir presidential elections that Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov has promised federal bodies control over several Bashkir fuel-and-energy companies in exchange for his victory in the elections. The daily cited analysts with investment companies as naming Rosneft and Surgutneftegaz as the most likely buyers of the Bashkir companies.

Russian Delegation Attends Islamic Conference In Indonesia
A Russian delegation headed by Deputy Supreme Mufti Ferit Salman is taking part in an international conference of Islamic theologians that began on 23 February in Indonesia, RIA-Novosti reported the same day. Some 300 leading specialists in Islam representing 43 countries are meeting in Jakarta. The issues of securing peace, education, democracy, economic development, and covering religious issues in the media are on the agenda.

Ufa Opens Representation In Istanbul
Bashkortostan will open a representation in Istanbul, according to a decree signed by President Rakhimov on 20 February, and RosBalt reported. The measure is intended "to promote the further broadening of international relations and developing of foreign economic activities of Bashkortostan." The agreement on opening a Bashkir representation in Istanbul was made in August during a visit to Turkey by Bashkir Prime Minister Rafael Baidavletov.

Bashkir Interior Ministry Officer Killed In Chechnya
A 20-year-old sergeant of the Interior Ministry troops' special detachment called up from Bashkortostan was shot by a fellow officer, also a sergeant, in Chechnya's Achkhoi-Martan, NTA Privolzhe reported on 20 February, citing the troops' headquarters in Khankala. The sergeant was killed as a result of the careless handling of a weapon.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova