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Tatar-Bashkir Report: February 3, 2003

3 February 2003
Tatarstan Falls Short Of Gas Supplies...
According to Aleksei Pakhomov, minister of economy and industry, Tatarstan will face a 2 billion cubic-meter deficit of fuel in 2003 because it will not be able to afford extra gas supplies, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 31 January. By the end of the first quarter of 2003 the deficit will be some 570 million cubic meters, gradually increasing by the end of the year, he said. Before 2003, Tatarstan consumed annually some 15 billion cubic meters of natural gas.

The growing need for gas will reportedly force republican industries to introduce more energy-saving technologies and create backup reserves of gas. In order to prevent gas supply cuts during the year, the Russian monopoly Gazprom's venture Tatgazinvest plans to insist on timely payments for consumed fuel and promote advance payments by consumers.

Meanwhile, the major gas consumer in the republic, the Tatenergo power and heat company, is owed 2.2 billion rubles ($69 million) by its customers and the increasing debt accordingly prevents it from paying Tatgazinvest in full. As a result, Tatenergo is forced to live in a "maximum economy" mode, saving funds by not investing in new technologies, repairs, and other development programs and by reducing staff.

...While Heating Networks Resume Stable Operation
Meanwhile, cited the first deputy chairman of the Russian State Committee on construction and housing, Sergei Kruglik, as telling a press conference of energy officials that Tatarstan is among the top 10 Russian regions in ensuring "relatively safe heating networks and heating supplies to its residents" during this winter.

Republican Budget Seeks To Soften The Impact Of Housing Reform
Razil Khaziev, deputy minister of construction and housing, said at a 31 January press conference in Kazan that while the federal government has introduced an obligatory payment of 90 percent of rent to be paid by residents in 2003, Tatarstan's budget will cover 29 percent of that sum, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. The supportive measure will cost the republican budget $3.8 billion each month and seeks to prevent a social crisis so that later the majority of renters will begin paying 100 percent of their housing costs while financially needy citizens would continue to get state subsidies.

Residents To Get Guaranteed Right To Access Internet In A Decade
By 2010 the army of Internet users in Tatarstan is slated to be 900,000, 10 times as many as there are today, the weekly "Izvestiya Tatarstana" wrote on 31 January citing the republican Economy and Industry Ministry. After last year's eightfold upsurge in Internet users, some 90,000 residents of Tatarstan are said to be using the Internet regularly. The government expects to cooperate with all 24 Internet service providers in the republic to establish Internet centers in all schools and hospitals and later include Internet on the list of guaranteed services to residents.

Shaimiev Rated Among Russia's Leading Politicians
The weekly "Nezavisimaya gazeta" published a list of the top 100 Russian politicians on 31 January according to a January poll among media experts across the country conducted by the Glas Naroda public opinion center. President Vladimir Putin leads the rating with an average of 8.45 points earned in Moscow and 7.13 points earned in the regions. President Shaimiev was mentioned as 48th in the rating with 3.42 points in Moscow and 3.11 in the regions.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Economist Brings Allegations Of Fraud Against Ural Rakhimov
In an article published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 29 January, Nikolai Petrakov, the director of the Market Issues Studies Institute and a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, listed what he called fraud in the Bashkir oil sector that took place after the son of Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov, Ural, took over the management of state-owned stakes in all the leading Bashkir oil companies.

Specifically, Petrakov said, $3.5 million disappeared from the bank account of Ufaneftekhim, and the company illegally issued hundreds of millions of rubles worth of shares. Bashneftekhim allegedly transferred to the Technip engineering company $2 million unfoundedly withdrawn from the account of a Bashkir oil refinery.

Petrakov also claimed that the Russian Supreme Court revealed a ploy that let Bashkir oil companies skip paying to the budget some 10 billion rubles ($314 million) in taxes for 2001. The scheme involved the Ufa oil refinery and Uralneftekhim, which signed fictitious agreements on rent of their capacities with unknown firms registered in the Baikonur off-shore zone of Kazakhstan. The two Bashkir oil giants then provided documents showing they produced nothing and avoided paying excises, Petrakov said. He added that the debt still has not been paid even after the Russian Tax Ministry exposed the fraud, the Russian Supreme Court issued a corresponding decision, and a criminal case was filed. Instead, President Rakhimov interfered in the situation and used administrative and other levers to pressure the Tax Ministry, Petrakov said.

Ufa, Saratov To Boost Ties
Bashkir Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Yefremov and Saratov Oblast Deputy Governor Vladimir Maron signed on 31 January a protocol to the 1995 bilateral treaty on trade and economic cooperation, which is intended to boost economic and cultural relations between the two regions, Bashinform reported the same day. Yefremov listed cooperation in oil extraction and processing and in assembly of agricultural machinery and buses as the most attractive projects for the two sides. The trade turnover between Bashkortostan and Saratov Oblast has grown fivefold in the past five years and totaled 1 billion rubles ($31.4 million) in 2002.

The previous day, a Bashkir trade and economic representation to Saratov Oblast was opened. Meeting with the Bashkir delegation on 30 January, Saratov Oblast Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov awarded Bashkir Deputy Prime Minister Khelef Ishmoratov with an honorary award to mark his personal contribution to maintaining and developing Bashkir language, culture, and traditions. Ishmoratov said Bashkortostan will help the 8,000 to 9,000 Bashkirs living in the oblast to study Bashkir and will promote retransmission of Bashkir television programs in the oblast.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova