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Tatar-Bashkir Report: March 1, 2004

1 March 2004
Shaimiev Stresses Importance Of Opposition
Meeting with foreign reporters visiting Tatarstan on 27 February, Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev said the existence of an opposition is necessary and it is impossible to manage without it, RosBalt reported. Answering the question of Swedish television Moscow bureau head Bert Sundstrem, Shaimiev said, "what we should in no way and in no conditions waive is freedom of speech." He said that in Tatarstan, more newspapers, magazines, TV, and radio programs representing different political positions, including opposition, exist than in any other region of Russia. And not a single one of them is subject to pressure by the authorities, he added. "I would like a level of freedom of speech like in Tatarstan to exist in all Russian Federation subjects."

Tatar Minister Says Privatization Of Turkey's Tupras To Go Through
Tatar Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation Minister Khefiz Salikhov told a briefing in the Cabinet of Ministers on 27 February that the deal on privatization of the Turkish oil-refining company Tupras by the joint venture between Tatneft and the Turkish Zorlu Holding is to be completed by the end of April. The two companies will split a 65.67 percent stake in Tupras.

Salikhov was part of a delegation headed by Tatar Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov that visited Ankara on 26 February and held closed-door negotiations with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayiip Erdogan and Finance Minister Kemal Unakitan. Salikhov denied previous reports that one of Tatneft's minority shareholders, the U.S.-based Imanagement Services, is demanding that the deal be abolished, saying the deal followed Russian and Turkish law. Salikhov also denied the possibility of Tatneft's participation in privatization of the Turkish state-run petrochemical company Petkim Petrokimya Holding. Meanwhile, "Kommersant" on 27 February quoted Tatarstan's representative to Turkey Rawil Mewletov as saying that Tatneft is seeking to purchase Petkim Petrokimya Holding, to which Tupras delivers some 1 million tons of gasoline a year. In 2003, Tatneft sold Tupras 2.8 million tons of oil, while this year it plans to sell it 4 million tons.

Killers Of Former Ingush Interior Minister Murder Sentenced
Tatarstan's Supreme Court has sentenced the killers of Daut Korigov, the deputy head of the Tatar Interior Ministry's Environment Directorate and former Ingush interior minister -- Rival Kheirullin, Rufat Mamedov, and Vitalii Gorbunov -- to 18, 13, and 11 years of imprisonment, respectively, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 28 February. However, the motives of the killing are still unclear and the contractor who paid $5,000 for the murder is still wanted.

On 21 February 2003, former policemen Kheirullin shot Korigov as he was leaving his apartment building, while Gorbunov and Mamedov helped Kheirullin. After they were arrested, the three confessed but then Mamedov and Gorbunov refuted their testimony. "Kommersant-Daily" quoted an unidentified source as saying the contractor is Azerbaijani Ismail Bairam-oglu Ismailov. The court also fined the three 1 million rubles ($35,000) in compensation to Korigov's widow.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Bashkir State Media Firmly Behind Putin
Ernst Muldashev, the campaign manager for Russian President Vladimir Putin, said at a 27 February meeting that Putin is responsible for all of Russia's remarkable achievements in recent years, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. In his speech Muldashev emphasized that "Russia is being governed by someone who loves this country very much." Those views are largely shared by the predominantly state-owned republican press. In Bashkortostan, Putin's campaign is based on the premise that life in Russia began improving only after the president came to power. According to research conducted by the Sociology Center at the Ufa Aviation and Technology University, Putin is likely to gain 70-75 percent of the vote in Bashkortostan.

Mistaken Identity In Swiss Air-Traffic Controller Murder
Ufa resident Vladimir Savchuk, who was named by the media as a possible suspect in the murder of a Swiss air-traffic controller, has not left his home town recently, Russian news agencies and NTV reported on 29 February. Peter Nielsen, who was on duty when the Bashkir Airlines and DHL cargo jets collided in midair over southern Germany in July 2002, was killed on 24 February at his home outside Zurich. The air crash claimed the lives of 71 people, most of whom were children from Bashkortostan. Swiss police have reportedly detained a Russian citizen, who, like Savchuk, lost his wife and two children in the accident.

Bashkortostan To Open Representation In Tashkent
Bashkortostan will open an official representation in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 26 February. The republic already has representations in Austria and in the Moscow, St. Petersburg, Chelyabinsk, and Sverdlovsk oblasts. An official statement did not indicate any possible fields of mutual cooperation besides the establishment of ties with Uzbekistan's Bashkir community.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi