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Tatar-Bashkir Report: May 21, 2004

21 May 2004
Shaimiev Criticizes Federal Government Reform...
Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev told Radio Rossiya on 20 May that although the goal of building a democratic society in Russia required some substantial reforms, the regions still haven't seen the effects and remain "bewildered" by the current administrative reform of the federal government.

Shaimiev said that in his career there have been many government reforms, but he did not remember any of them that produced sufficient results "that could positively influence the country's economy."

The Tatar president added that although only 17 ministries remain in the federal government, the cabinet will now have an enormous amount of additional agencies, overcomplicating its structure. Shaimiev suggested that if previously each federal ministry had a representation in Tatarstan, now all of the new agencies are offering to open branches in the republic. He suggested that federal and republican governments should establish state organs of combined jurisdiction to avoid the creation of agencies with duplicate tasks.

...And Refuses To Name Possible Successor
In the same interview, Shaimiev refused to name his successor in the presidential post, saying that in future "power will be transferred by means of democratic elections to those who are currently serving the republic, acting in the interests of its people." He said that "our team involves a young, energetic, and professional government, a stable parliament, and prepared heads of city and regional administrations."

Tatneft Says It's Ready To Pay For Controlling Interest In Tupras
Tatneft General Director Shefeget Takhautdinov told Intertat on 20 May that on 28 May the German company Efremov Kautschuk affiliated with Tatneft and the Turkish Zorlu Holding group will transfer $1.3 billion for the 65.67 percent stake in the Turkish Tupras petrochemical concern. Earlier this year, the Tatneft affiliate and the Zorlu group won the tender for the state-owned stake in the company, which makes up 65 percent of Turkey's petrochemical sector.

In 2003, Tupras processed 23.3 million tons of oil and produced 21.6 percent of oil products. This year, Tatarstan will reportedly boost its oil supplies to Tupras for refining to 4 million tons per year from the current amount of some 3 million. As a result, cooperation between Tatarstan and Turkey remains strongly dominated by oil, with exports of Tatar oil making up some 85 percent of mutual trade.

Former Iraqi Hostage Prefers To Resume His Work There
Kazan resident and Interenergoservis specialist Andrei Meshcheryakov, who was freed on 17 May after being taken hostage in Iraq, has decided to continue working there, explaining that "we are not enemies for the Iraqis," Regnum reported on 20 May. After the recent kidnapping of two Interenergoservis employees and the killing of another, the company evacuated more than 100 contract workers from Iraq, while seven have remained there. Meshcheryakov's family in Kazan reportedly disapproves of his decision.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Ufa, Kazan Take Step Toward Each Other
Bashkir presidential administration head Radii Khebirov met on 19 May with his counterpart from Tatarstan, Eqzem Gobeidullin, in Tatarstan's Aqtanysh Raion, RosBalt reported on 20 May, citing the Bashkir presidential press service. According to the service's official report, the "stage-by-stage implementation of the federal law on general principles of the formation of local self-government bodies" and a "wide range of issues concerning bilateral cooperation of the neighboring republics" were on the agenda. The agency cited an unidentified source close to Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov as saying the officials also exchanged opinions on the issue of the status of the Tatar language in Bashkortostan and "other issues that have caused tension between the neighboring republics." The source said the meeting was initiated by the Tatar side and a private conversation between President Rakhimov and Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev in Moscow during the inauguration of President Vladimir Putin last week initiated the event.

Ufa Seeks To Maintain Control Over Airline
Prime Minister Rafael Baidavletov told reporters on 19 May that at least 50 percent of Bashkir Airlines shares should remain the Bashkir government's property, "Kommersant" reported on 20 May. Baidavletov said Moscow's demand that the airline's 100-percent stake become federal property is "unfair, as the republic has invested large sums in the development of the airline and [the] airport." He said that the construction of the international terminal in the Ufa airport cost the republican budget $10 million. In addition, the republic supplied jets with navigational equipment and purchased several Tu-154s for the company. Baidavletov said republican authorities will insist that the republic remain among the owners of Bashkir Airlines and the Ufa airport, adding that the republic can claim 60 percent of the shares.

Bashkir Airlines owns 12 jets, including nine Tu-154M and three Tu-134. The company's turnover the previous year totaled 1.2 billion rubles ($41.5 million). The privatization of Bashkir Airlines is slated for December.

Russia's Muslim Organizations Unite
The heads of Russia's leading Muslim organizations � the North Caucasus Muslims Coordinating Center, the Moscow-based Council of Muftis of Russia, and the Ufa-based Central Muslim Religious Board -- announced on 20 May the establishment of a joint organization called the United Council of Russia's Muslim Religious Boards on the Counteraction to Extremism and Terrorism, reported the same day. In a joint statement, leaders expressed support for the efforts by the state and President Vladimir Putin in fighting extremism and terrorism. They said international terrorists sometimes use Islamic coverage to bring discord between people but that "terrorists and bandits" have nothing to do with Islam. The council is intended to promote cooperation between Russia's Muslim organizations with the state and society in counteracting extremism and terrorism. This is the first time that Russia's Muslim boards have united.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova