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Tatar-Bashkir Report: May 14, 2004

14 May 2004
Bank Involved In Criminal Case On Murder Of Chally Entrepreneur Closed
Central bank First Deputy Chairman Andrei Kozlov told reporters on 13 May that the Central Bank has withdrawn the license of Sodbiznesbank for money laundering and financing terrorism, "Kommersant," "Vedomosti," and other outlets reported on 14 May. Sodbiznesbank thus became the country's first bank to have its license taken away for such a reason. Activities at the bank have been connected by prosecutors to the kidnapping and homicide case of KamAZ Metallurgy Plant General Director Viktor Faber and plant chief economist Natalya Starodubtseva, who were kidnapped on 27 May in Chally and found four months later buried on an island near Chally (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 4 and 6 June, 18 and 21 July, 7 and 25 August, 30 September, and 2 and 3 October 2003). The two were apparently killed by a Chally organized-crime group immediately after the criminals received 10 million rubles ($344,000) in ransom for the captives, transferred through Sodbiznesbank. Former bank head Sergei Reusov was arrested and is now in custody on charges of laundering funds. "Kommersant" cited Tatarstan deputy prosecutor Ferit Zahidullin as saying that several more Sodbiznesbank employees will be arrested in connection with the case. Sodbiznesbank Chairman Roman Petrov told Interfax-AFI that the bank will appeal the decision in court.

Republic's President Calls For Differentiation Of Tax On Oil Extraction...
At a briefing in the Kazan Kremlin on 13 May devoted to the results of a meeting with President Vladimir Putin the previous day, Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev said he promoted a differentiation of the tax on the extraction of natural resources, RIA-Novosti reported on 13 May. Shaimiev predicted Tatarstan's lost revenues in 2005 due to the increased tax rate at 2.6 billion rubles ($89.7 million). "Oil prices are growing in the world, and this is good for Russia but not for Tatarstan's oil producers," Shaimiev said. Just 5 percent (down from 20 percent in 2002 and 14 percent current year) of the tax on oil extraction will be left in the republic in 2005, while the rest will be transferred to the federal budget. He said raising the tax rates for both new and old deposits might result in making some 7,700 Tatar oil wells unprofitable. As a result, 13,000-14,000 jobs will be lost, he said. Shaimiev added that it is important for the republic to maintain the current rates of oil prospecting and its financing from the federal budget.

...Says New Power-Sharing Treaty Can Be Signed By Kazan Millennium...
Shaimiev said at the same 13 May briefing that Tatarstan's relations with Moscow are a strategic issue for the republic. He gave Putin a new, proposed version of the power-sharing treaty between Tatarstan and Russia developed by a republican commission following amendments to the Tatar Constitution and federal law and current conditions. Shaimiev said it is important to maintain a "status-quo fixed in the Tatar Constitution." He added that Putin charged the commission on power sharing and the presidential administration's legal directorate to consider the document. Shaimiev assumed that the new treaty can be signed before the Kazan millennium in August 2005.

...Concerns About Duma's Legislative Activity
Shaimiev also said on 13 May that he, as co-chair of Unified Russia's supreme council, disagrees with the fact that laws backed by Unified Russia representatives in the State Duma are not discussed in advance by the party's supreme council. "All fateful decisions for the country should be discussed before in the supreme council, which is to decide whether it supports the initiative or not," he said. The Duma majority began passing laws too hastily, Shaimiev said, adding that they have "excessively succeeded" in doing so. "As a co-chairman of the party's supreme council, I, and not only I, begin worrying about it," he said. Shaimiev has criticized the Russian State Duma's quick adoption of legislation raising taxes on oil production.

Shaimiev also pushed for Unified Russia to become a center-right party rather than a centrist one, in his words.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Conference Held On Preserving Biodiversity In The South Urals
The Bashkir branch of the federal directorate on natural resources and the protection of the environment, the biological sciences department of Russia's Academy of Sciences, the academy's Ufa research center, as well as the Urals office of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) held a conference on the problems of preserving biological diversity in the South Urals on 13 May, Bashinform reported. According to the agency, the WWF project for preserving the biological diversity of the South Urals came into existence in 1997 "and became possible after [Bashkir] President Murtaza Rakhimov gave the Earth his gift by promising to expand the protected natural territories from the current 10 to 16 percent" in Bashkortostan.

Argentina Hopes To Expand Trade With Bashkortostan
Argentina's Ambassador to the Russian Federation Juan Sances Arnau met with President Rakhimov and the Minister of Foreign Economic Affairs and Trade Boris Kolbin on 13 May in Ufa to discuss the expansion of the range of goods traded between his country and Bashkortostan, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. The republic reportedly contributes 60 percent of Russia's total exports to Argentina, consisting of fertilizers, oil products, and heavy machinery. Meanwhile, Argentina's exports to Bashkortostan are overwhelmingly represented by agricultural produce. Arnau told the Bashkir president that his country is gradually recovering from the 2001 economic crisis and it intends to step up that process by developing foreign trade.

Bashkortostan Shares Its Experience In Ensuring High Draft Figures
Military commissioners from the regions of the Volga-Ural military district visited Ufa on 13 May to inspect the local recruitment offices and share experiences in preparing the draftees for army service, Rosbalt reported the same day. To make the transition to army service less painful, the Ufa recruitment office has reportedly offered their recruits services such as showers, hair dressing, and adjusting the standard uniforms to their body measurements. They also provide the future soldiers with bedding auxiliaries, towels, and soap. Major General Evgenii Chernokov, head of the organization and mobilization department of the Volga-Ural military district, told the agency that Bashkortostan was picked as a demonstration site for other regions by the mutual initiative of Presidents Putin and Rakhimov. He added that "for many years, Bashkortostan's military commissioner's office has been considered one of the best in Russia."

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi