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Tatar-Bashkir Report: March 5, 2004

5 March 2004
International Ombudsman Conference To Be Held In Kazan
European Ombudsman Institute Executive Director Nikolaus Schwaerzler met with Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev on 3 March to discuss preparations for the international ombudsmen conference to be held in Kazan in October, and other media reported. The forum will be devoted to ombudsmen's contribution to preventing ethnic, national, and religious conflicts. Schwaerzler said, "Due to the developed and established work of its ombudsman, Tatarstan occupies a deserved place in the family of ombudsmen in Europe." He noted that mechanisms for defending human rights and freedoms are used successfully in Tatarstan. The Austrian-based European Ombudsman Institute was founded by Schwaerzler in 1988, and since 1994 he has been heading the institute, which supports ombudsmen and supervises the implementation of human rights in the world.

Ukrtatnafta Privatization Postponed
Ukraine's Verkhovna Rada rejected two draft laws on privatization of Tatar-Ukrainian joint venture Ukrtatnafta, which owns the Kremenchug oil refinery, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 4 March. The daily quoted Tatar First Deputy Prime Minister Rawil Moratov as saying that the final privatization of Ukrtatnafta has thus been postponed for at least a year. The Ukrainian Property Fund announced its intention to sell the state's 43 percent stake in the company in April, after which Tatneft General Director Shefeget Takhawetdinov said Tatneft will seek to buy it. Ukraine's UkrSibbank and PrivatBank, as well as the Tyumen Oil Company-British Petroleum and Kazakh KazMunaiGaz also intended to join the auction.

Ukrtatnafta's Tatar shareholders together hold some 56 percent of the company, and according to its charter have priority in purchasing the remaining shares. The Property Fund, however, insisted that the stake be sold in an open auction. Ukrainian deputies rejected both drafts, one of which favored the interests of the Tatar shareholders while the other favored the Ukrainian side. Moratov also said the situation was disturbing as regards further development of the refinery.

Construction Begins In Kazan Of Wholesale Outlet
The German wholesaler Metro Cash & Carry on 4 March announced the start of construction of the first wholesale store in Kazan, reported. The same day's cornerstone-laying ceremony for the outlet was attended by Kazan Mayor Kamil Iskhaqov, who said he is satisfied with the development of cooperation with the Metro company. The facility will occupy 14,000 square meters and construction is estimated at 22 million euros ($27 million) and is scheduled to be finished by late August. The company currently has 450 shopping centers in 25 countries, with seven in Russia.

Number Of Parliamentary Candidates Reduced
Tatarstan's Central Election Commission on 4 March asked the Tatar Supreme Court to annul the registration of Yurii Shcherbakov, a candidate for the State Council who was registered on the list of the Russian Party of Life, reported. Shcherbakov reportedly presented incorrect information about his job. In addition, 10 candidates who were running in single-mandate districts withdrew from the race, so the total number of registered candidates fell to 224. An average of four candidates are competing for each seat in parliament, while in some districts there are up to nine.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Bashkir President Says People Know How To Vote In Presidential Elections
According to Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov on 4 March, there will be a "very high" turnout in the coming 14 March Russian presidential elections. Emphasizing that his people "in general have the right assessment of that event's importance," especially in rural areas, where he predicted turnout figures to vary from 85 to 95 percent, Rakhimov said, "all of us should go as one to the elections, because firstly it is necessary to have a legitimate vote, more than a half of voters should come [to the polling stations]." He added: "Secondly, it is extremely important that in the West they don't have an opportunity to say that in Russia the reforms are conducted by the president who is not supported by the majority of voters."

Bashkir Women Campaign For Greater Rights
Speaking at the Bashkir Trade Unions meeting on 4 March, Bashkir State Assembly speaker Konstantin Tolkachev said that "today a woman's role goes far beyond the limits of the household, as women are advancing as professionals in various spheres of Bashkir life including politics and government," an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 4 March. However, Tolkachev acknowledged that only a few women so far have managed to become public figures or government officials in the republic. Firdewes Khisemetdinova, an activist for women's rights and deputy director of the Ufa History, Linguistics, and Literature Institute, told an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent that "given that women represent half of our society, the distribution of government seats should be based on the parity principle." She promoted the idea of appointing a female head of a regional administration in order to set a precedent.

President Gives Medals To Mothers With Many Children
President Rakhimov gave "Mother's Glory" medals to 57 women with more than five children on 3 March, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the next day. The medals are connected to the Women's Day holiday celebrated on 8 March. The medals were instituted in 1998, following the example of neighboring Tatarstan, and have been given to more than 2,000 mothers of large families. The reward, which seeks to promote public respect for mothers, comes with a payment of 8,000 rubles ($285).

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi