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Tatar-Bashkir Report: March 12, 2004

12 March 2004
TIU Claims Cooperation With Communists Only Way To Defend Tatar Rights
The moderate nationalist Tatar Public Center's (TIU) chairman, Reshit Yegeferov, said his Tatar movement chose to cooperate with the Russian Communist Workers Party-Russian Party of Communists in the current parliamentary campaign because it is the only way to get into a parliament that lacks Tatar ethnic-rights supporters, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 11 March. Yegeferov said directors of major republican industrial groups who are distant from the ethnic issues are expected the represent the majority in the next Tatar parliament.

Meanwhile, a Vakhitov district court in Kazan is considering the city administration's suit seeking to cancel its contract on providing the TIU's office with electricity, water, and heating, although the organization paid off its long-standing debts in December.

Tatarstan's Electoral Watchdog Says No Major Violations During Campaign
The chairman of Tatarstan's central election commission, Anatolii Fomin, told a news conference in Kazan on 11 December that unlike the 1999 elections, the current Russian presidential campaign and Tatar parliamentary campaigns "proceeded calmly, without any visible violations." In a seemingly isolated case, a Vakhitovskii district court in Kazan fined the "Puls zhizni" weekly published by Russia's Party of Life the equivalent of $700 for launching the party's promotional campaign before one-month starting date of 12 February.

Strict Sanctions Keep Wage Arrears In Check
Valerii Kandilov, the chairman of Tatarstan's State Statistics Committee, told a republican government meeting on 11 March that wage arrears in Tatarstan's industrial sector currently total 212 million rubles ($7.6 million), or roughly one-third of the figure for the same period in 2003, Intertat reported the same day. Meanwhile, republican prosecutors are investigating possible felony charges against three company directors who allowed their company's wages to fall more than two months in arrears.

Tatar Minister, Zorlu Representatives Say Tupras Deal Moving Forward
A contract for the purchase by Tatneft affiliate Efremov Kautchuk and Turkey's Zorlu of the Turkish state's 66 percent stake in petrochemical holding Tupras will be completed by late April, Intertat reported on 11 March, citing statements at a news conference in Istanbul attended by Zorlu Chairman Akhmet Nazif Zorlu and Tatar government officials led by Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation Minister Khafiz Salikhov.

Minority shareholders in Tatneft, Russia's sixth-largest oil company, have already appealed to Turkey's prime minister to block the group's $1.3 billion deal, the "Financial Times" reported on 12 February. Those parties have alleged procedural violations during the tender (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 10 and 12 February and 1 March 2004).

Tatar Business Leaders To Promote Islamic Education In Tyumen
Reviving a tradition from early last century, Tatar businessmen working in Tyumen Oblast have established an assembly to support Islamic education and grant material assistance to religious tutors who are being educated in Kazan's Muslim religious schools, reported on 11 March.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Prime Minister Concerned About Rising Bread Prices
Bashkir Prime Minister Rafael Baidavletov on 11 March sharply criticized the pricing policy of republican bread producers, RosBalt reported the same day. Baidavletov said the rise in bread prices by an average of 5 percent in January is "completely unfounded" as enough grain was stocked in the republican grain fund the previous year. The prime minister added that such a sharp increase in prices cannot be explained by the increase in energy tariffs. In 2003, Bashkortostan produced Russia's third-largest harvest of 4.2 million tons of grain, 660,000 tons of which were put into the republic's grain fund. Bashkortostan consumes 520,000 tons of grain a year.

Staff Members Of Rakhimov's Rivals Persecuted
Sharan Raion newspaper Deputy Editor in Chief Fail Ekhmetshin, who was connected to Bashkir presidential candidate Relif Safin, was dismissed on 9 March, Ekhmetshin told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 10 March. Ekhmetshin said raion administration head Valerii Seyetov said during the campaign that he will punish people who are campaigning for opposition candidates. Then secondary-school director Zebir Selekhov, who was one, was forced to resign. Ekhmetshin said that the position he occupied was abolished on 6 January, and two months later, he was fired. He appealed against the decision to the raion-level and republican prosecutor's office and the Bashkir presidential administration, but without success. Ekhmetshin listed violations that took place during his dismissal, including the fact that it was not agreed with trade unions and he has not been offered another job. He said he will appeal to a court. Following the December presidential elections, President Murtaza Rakhimov said that people campaigned for opposition candidates will not be persecuted.

Religious Leaders Call For Joining Forces In Fighting Drug Addiction, Spread Of Foreign Sects
The heads of Bashkortostan's three main faiths -- Archbishop Nikon of Ufa and Sterletamaq, chief Rabbi Dan Krichevskii, and Bashkortostan's Muslim Spiritual Directorate Mufti Nurmokhemmet Nigmetullin -- held a joint press conference in Ufa on 10 March, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent and Bashinform reported.

The three leaders expressed concern about the destructive activities of foreign religious sects, alcoholism, and drug addiction and expressed their readiness to cooperate with each other and state and law-enforcement bodies against them. The religious leaders spoke in favor of teaching the principles and spiritual values of the religions in secondary schools. Mufti Nigmetullin said the number of Muslim communities has increased from 17 to over 300 since 1990 but added that training Muslim clerics still remains a problem for the republic. Krichevskii said that the construction of a synagogue will begin in the republic current year and is to be finished by 2006. Archbishop Nikon said the number of Orthodox parishes has grown from 17 to 196 since 1990, some 30 new churches have been constructed, and 28 are being reconstructed. Five monasteries are active in the republic.

Police Official Poisoned With Mercury
Bashkortostan's prosecutor's office has opened a criminal investigation into the attempt on the life of Ufa police chief Viktor Anisimov, RosBalt reported on 11 March. A week before, Anisimov was hospitalized, diagnosed with poisoning from mercury vapors, while on 6 March, mercury was found in the headrest of Anisimov's chair in his office.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova