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Tatar-Bashkir Report: March 11, 2004

11 March 2004
Tatar Civic Leaders Expect New Russian Cabinet To Neglect Ethnic Issues
Fendes Safiullin, a former Russian State Duma deputy from Tatarstan and a leader of the Tatar Public Center (TIU), told RFE/RL's Kazan bureau on 10 March that the fact that the former minister without portfolio for nationalities policies is absent from the new cabinet "raises serious suspicion that Russia will resume its way on the path of federalist development." Safiullin also noted that such fears are compounded by the fact that Dmitrii Kozak, the former deputy chief of presidential staff known for a strict approach to bringing regional legislation in conformity with federal laws, was appointed head of the government staff.

Tatar Public Center Slams Moscow's Ethnic Policies
Also on 10 March, TIU activists running for Tatarstan's parliament with Russian Communist Workers Party- Russian Party of Communists ticket issued a grim public assessment of Moscow's policies on the eve of the 14 March presidential elections and the balloting for the Tatarstan State Council. The party's branch leader in Tatarstan, Rif Zarifullin, said that by failing to ensure the presence of many indigenous nationalities within the federal legislative assembly or establish a chamber of nationalities affairs, abolishing the cabinet-level nationalities-affairs post, freezing state funding related to ethnic policies, cutting the airtime of minority radio and television broadcasts on state-owned media, and imposing restrictions on Tatar Latin script, Russia is violating its own constitutional principles and regressing from previous achievements. The TIU urged President Putin to shed the individuals who are advising him to pursue such dangerous policies.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

HSBC Bank Provides $15 Million Loan For Bashkortostan
The British-based HSBC bank will lend the Bashkir state $15 million, RosBalt reported on 10 March, citing the Bashkir presidential press service. A corresponding agreement has been reached in London during negotiations between Prime Minister Rafael Baidavletov and HSBC. A preliminary agreement was also reached with the management of the London-based Moscow People's Bank on the introduction of a $25 million credit to Bashkortostan. In 1998, Bashkortostan received $45 million in syndicated credit from HSBC and the Moscow People's Bank. Baidavletov also had meetings with analysts of the Standard & Poor's and Moody's rating agencies to discuss confirmation of the republic's international credit rating.

Rakhimov Praises Reduction Of Government Staff
Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov commented on 10 March that Russian President Vladimir Putin has chosen a "correct direction for reforming the cabinet of ministers" aimed at the reduction of the government's bureaucratic staff, RosBalt reported. Rakhimov said this is a very important trend in reducing the number of bureaucrats. He added that, in Bashkortostan, the leadership has always tried to prevent the growth in "the army of bureaucrats" and "in our big region, there are much fewer officials than even in many smaller regions." Currently, a 10 percent staff reduction is being undertaken at the presidential administration and in the government, Rakhimov added. He also said that there are 10,500 federal officials in Bashkortostan "who receive salaries, are busy with something, but produce no material wealth."

UGMK To Manage Bashkortostan's Non-Ferrous Metal Companies
The Ural Mining and Smelting Holding (UGMK) will invest $354 million in the development of Bashkortostan's non-ferrous metal, Prime Minister Baidavletov told a government meeting on 9 March, Interfax reported. Under an earlier protocol signed on 5 March, a zinc-processing facility will be built at the Bashkir Copper-Sulfur Plant. According to the document, state-run stakes of the Buribaevskii ore mining and processing plant, the Uchaly ore mining and processing plant, the Bashkir Copper-Sulfur Plant, and the Kheibullin mining company will be passed to the management of the UGMK-Holding.

New Campaign Methods Used In Bashkortostan
In the run-up to the 14 March presidential elections, the youth organization Russia Needs You will distribute free invitations to discos and nightclubs to voters between the ages of 18 and 30, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 10 March. Hundreds of the organization's activists campaigned on 10 March in the republic's 17 cities and municipalities. The republic's official newspapers published on 9 March an open letter by leading Bashkir writers praising incumbent Russian President Vladimir Putin and calling on people to take part in the elections. The republic's radio and television channels have broadcast campaign slots in which Bashkortostan's famous singers, actors, and politicians have campaigned for Putin, saying only under his rule Russian and Bashkortostan could flourish.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova