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Tatar-Bashkir Report: March 15, 2004

15 March 2004
Tatarstan's Voters Overwhelmingly Back Putin, Unified Russia
Some 82.6 percent of Tatarstan's voters backed incumbent Russian President Vladimir Putin in the 14 March presidential election, reported on 15 March, citing preliminary results announced by the republic's central election commission based on returns tallied by 10 a.m. Among republican voters, Nikolai Kharitonov placed second with 6.6 percent of the vote, Irina Khakamada collected 3 percent, Sergei Glazev received 2.4 percent, and 2.1 percent of Tatarstan's voters cast their ballots against all candidates.

According to the preliminary results of the Tatar State Council elections received by 10 a.m. on 15 March, 70.5 percent of the republic's voters supported Unified Russia's party list. The second-place Communist Party received 6.2 percent of the vote, and 4.3 percent cast a ballot against all parties, followed by: the Russian Regions party -- 3.4 percent; the Party of Life -- 3 percent; Liberal Democratic Party of Russia -- 2.7 percent; the Union of Rightist Forces -- 2.3 percent; and the Motherland bloc -- 2.2 percent. Voter turnout was 79 percent in Tatarstan.

Former Tatarstan Official Appointed To Represent Ingushetia In Federation Council
The Ingush People's Assembly has appointed Vasilii Likhachev -- a former vice president and State Council chairman in Tatarstan and, until May 2003, Russia's representative to the European Communities -- its representative to the Federation Council, "Kommersant" and other media reported on 12 March. In the latter position, Likhachev was replaced by Mikhail Fradkov, who has since become Russia's prime minister. Ingush President Murat Zyazikov commented on 11 March that Likhachev is "known in Russia and Europe." He added, "I think his appointment will contribute to the further establishment of peace and stability in the North Caucasus and deciding on issues of the republic's socioeconomic revival and strengthening federative relations in Russia." "Kommersant" speculated that the Ingush leadership hopes Likhachev will help overcome the consequences of Ingushetia's conflict with North Ossetia more than a decade ago. Since then, tens of thousands of Ingush refugees have been unable to return to their homes in North Ossetia's Prigorodnii Raion. Likhachev is considered a strong lobbyist for the republic on the federal level.

Construction Of Three Objects Halted
An emergency commission established in Tatarstan following Moscow's Transvaal Park disaster in mid-February ordered the suspension of three projects in Kazan that had not secured the required documentation, Tatar-inform, RosBalt, and other news agencies reported on 12 March. According to the report, construction on the LetoStop water park was continuing without the required permit from experts; work on the Orlenok hotel was continuing despite a negative conclusion by experts; and a group of luxury Suvorovskii homes on the Kazanka River was reportedly erected on a landfill. An expert commission within the Federal Licensing Center of the Russian Construction Committee's Tatar branch has also suspended the licenses of 23 construction enterprises in Tatarstan and issued warnings to four other builders, the center's deputy director, Vazyikh Bikmullin, told RosBalt.

Meanwhile, Tatarstan's chief natural-resources board addressed a stern warning to Turkey-based Enka, which is working on an IKEA retail center in Kazan, "Kommersant" reported on 13 March. Construction allegedly began in the absence of a green light from an environmental study, which could entail a violation of federal law. The board has reportedly levied a fine of 5,000 rubles ($175) against project manager Michael Bierklund in connection with the finding.

Pharmaceutical Company Pays Compensation For Child's Death
The state-run Tattekhmedfarm pharmaceutical company has paid 500,000 rubles ($17,500) in compensation to a family that whose newborn baby died at Kazan First Children's Hospital, "Vostochnyi ekspress" reported on 12 March. The child was one of three infants who died at the hospital three years ago, after they were treated with a tainted solution that was supplied by Tattekhmedfarm.

After pharmacists were sentenced to seven years of conditional imprisonment, the parents of one of the newborn victims appealed to a Moscow Raion court for 5 million rubles in psychological damages; the baby's mother, Dinara Galieva, told "Vostochnyi ekspress" that she is partly satisfied with the verdict. Moscow Raion Judge Sergei Yakunin said the size of the compensation is unprecedented, as, even in Moscow, similar sums do not exceed 100,000 rubles.

Tattekhmedfarm General Director Yakov Margulis continued to insist that improper conditions under which the solutions were kept at the hospital were responsible for the children's deaths.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Putin Takes Strong Lead In Bashkortostan
With 86 percent of the votes counted, Bashkortostan's Central Election Commission announced at 1:00 a.m. Moscow time on 15 March that Vladimir Putin led with 92.42 percent, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported. Communist Party candidate Nikolai Kharitonov was in second with 3.73 percent, while the Motherland Party's Sergei Glazev and the Union of Rightist Forces' Irina Khakamada both received 0.99 percent, the Liberal Democratic Party's Oleg Malyshkin 0.46 percent, and Party of Life leader Sergei Mironov 0.3 percent. Meanwhile, 0.64 percent of voters are said to have voted against all candidates.

An unnamed source in the Bashkir presidential administration told RFE/RL on 15 March that despite the predictability of the election results, Moscow instructed republican authorities to "ensure" that Kharitonov finishes in second place and not Glazev, allegedly to conceal the latter's popularity.

Civic Groups Urge Bashkortostan's Tatars To Support Putin
The 12 March issue of "Qizil Tang" daily published an appeal by Tatar civic groups urging the 1 million Tatar residents of Bashkortostan to support the incumbent Vladimir Putin in the 14 March Russian presidential election. The appeal said that Putin was the only candidate suiting the requirements of Bashkortostan's Tatars, because during his first term "he proved a true internationalist," standing up for the rights of various ethnic groups. "Qizil Tang" is the Bashkir government's Tatar-language newspaper.

The civic groups have appealed to the Russian president asking for his help in obtaining official status for the Tatar language in Bashkortostan.

Federal Government Suspends Financing Of Agidel Nuclear Project
Russia's Atomic Energy Agency froze the funding for the nuclear-power plant construction in Agidel, Bashkortostan, despite the requirements of federal program for development of the nuclear energy complex approved in 2000, RosBalt reported on 12 March, citing Vasilii Melnichuk, head of the Bashkir governmental department on the fuel and energy complex. The Agidel nuclear power plant is to be completed in 2002, while Moscow's Atomenergoproekt research institute has not even begun projection work.

Few Bashkir Taxpayers File Taxes On Internet
Only 0.25 percent of Bashkortostan's companies intend to file their taxes for 2003 via the Internet to avoid long queues in the tax service offices, RosBalt reported on 12 March. According to the republican branch of Russia's Tax Ministry, the number of those using the Internet to file in Bashkortostan is some 1/15th that in neighboring Tatarstan. The most technically advanced taxpayers of Bashkortostan are said to be in the republic's capital Ufa.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi