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Tatar-Bashkir Report: August 23, 2004

23 August 2004
New Auditor Finds Same Old Problems At Tatneft
Auditing agency Ernst & Young have refused to endorse a Tatneft report on the company's management practices, "Vechernyaya Kazan" reported on 21 August. Ernst & Young was hired in July after the PriceWaterhouseCoopers auditing company issued a report to Tatneft recommending that Tatarstan's major oil company introduce more transparent management practices. Clean audit reports are vital for the company, which has been listed by the New York Stock Exchange for nearly a decade. Ernst & Young also cited certain "unusual transactions" by the company.

Nearly Two Dozen Recruits Allowed To Perform Alternative Military Service
At least 23 army recruits from Tatarstan will be permitted to perform civil service instead of military service, in accordance with their religious beliefs, Aleksandr Gorshenev, the head of the Labor and Employment Ministry's department for military service affairs, told reporters on 20 August, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. Meanwhile, 14 other applications for alternative service were rejected by the special commission under the republican recruitment office, which has the authority of assessing the true motive of each appeal. Unlike regular army service, which last two years, alternative service is 3 and 1/2 years long. Only two of Tatarstan's recruits with pacifist religious beliefs are currently known to be serving alternative service.

Tatarstan's Land Tax Ruled Illegal
Tatarstan's Supreme Court upheld the claim of a resident who disputed the legality of current land tax rates, "Vechernyaya Kazan" reported on 21 August. The court ruling said that the laws from Tatarstan's budget in 2002, 2003, and 2004 introduced illegal land tax hikes because, according to federal laws, such hikes must be published no later than by 30 November each year, while Tatarstan's state budget is usually published in late December. Moreover, federal regulations prohibit the republican legislators from defining the land tax, which is the exclusive authority of local self-government bodies. In May, Tatarstan's Supreme Court rejected the aforementioned legal suit, but this verdict was then overridden by the Russian Supreme Court. Tatarstan's government has the right to appeal the court ruling before it takes legal force.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Bashkortostan's Tatars Accuse President Of Not Keeping His Promises
The 20 August conference of Tatar rights organizations in Bashkortostan adopted a public statement condemning the Bashkir government's failure to fulfill President Murtaza Rakhimov's decree on "additional measures for meeting the ethnic and cultural needs of Tatars in Bashkortostan" signed on 4 July 2003, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. The document stipulated that Tatars should get more opportunities for learning their native language in schools and holding more cultural events.

In February, leaders of the Tatar civic movement in Bashkortostan sent a letter discussing the decree to Rakhimov, but have not received an answer.

The Tatar civil leaders also condemned the Education Ministry's unofficial, yet effective policy on introducing obligatory lessons of Bashkir language in all schools in the republic.

Rakhimov Meets With Russian Ambassador To Kuwait
President Rakhimov met with Russian Ambassador to Kuwait Azamat Kolmokhemmetov in Ufa on 22 August to discuss possible cooperation between the oil-rich country and the republic known for its vast oil-refining industry, Bashinform reported the same day. Kolmokhemmetov, who was born in Ufa, said during the talks that Russian President Vladimir Putin had approved the idea of close cooperation between the diplomatic service and the regional governments in boosting the country's foreign economic activities.

Tuymazi Mosque Offers Islamic Sermon In Russian
Seeking new ways to attract locals to Islam, the religious tutors of Al-Fatikha Mosque in Tuymazi added sermons in the Russian language to its traditional services held in Arabic and Tatar, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 23 August. The decision was reportedly made due to the falling number of people fluent in both Arabic and Tatar.

Bashkir Communist Executive Pessimistic About Party's Fund-Raising Campaign
Rinat Gabidullin, second secretary of the Russian Communist Party's committee in Bashkortostan, told Bashinform in an interview published on 20 August that the recent call for donations by Chairman Gennadii Zyuganov "is not likely improve the party's material situation." Semigin complained to the agency that he has paid the salaries of local party executives in the last several months from his personal savings and has yet to be repaid by the party.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi