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Tatar-Bashkir Report: March 3, 2003

3 March 2003
Current World Oil Prices Said Not To Suit Tatar Economy
Tatar Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov told a cabinet meeting on 28 February that given the rate of mineral resources tax in Russia, $20-$22 per barrel is the optimal world oil price for Tatarstan, TatNews reported the same day. He referred to the current price of Brent oil exported from Russia at $33.65 as "artificially overrated." He added that Tatarstan's economy is more interested in higher oil prices on Russia's domestic market, "but unfortunately it isn't so."

Government Seeks To Double Non-Tax Revenues
Tatar Property Minister Valerii Vasiliev told the annual meeting of his ministry officials on 28 February that in 2003 Tatarstan's budget will seek to double its non-tax-related income compared to the previous year by boosting the profits of state owned enterprises and incomes from renting state-owned land and production premises. In 2002 Tatarstan's budget received 2.3 billion rubles ($72.7 million) in extra revenues. To achieve this goal, the republic will reportedly reform the management of state enterprises and adjust rents according to market prices.

Human Rights Center Announces Bribery Statistics
The "Vostochnii Ekspress" weekly cited experts from the Kazan Human Rights Center on 28 February as saying that the average Tatarstan resident paid local officials two bribes a year, with one bribe averaging 1,932 rubles ($61). The anonymous poll conducted among 1,400 people in Kazan and Chally revealed that traffic police and other Interior Ministry officials received the most bribes.

UNESCO Sign Removed From Kazan Church
The Kazan city administration removed the UNESCO World Heritage Organization sign from the top of the Dvortsovaya Church in the Kazan Kremlin, Intertat reported on 1 March. The sign was put there in early 2002 as part of the city's entrance to the organization and was opposed by the Orthodox Christian Church in the republic. According to Roestem Zabirov, chief architect of the Kazan Kremlin, the Russian committee of the International Council for protecting monuments and historical places under UNESCO recently issued a protocol authorizing the withdrawal of the sign. Under an agreement between Kazan's administration and the Orthodox Church, the building will not be topped by a cross because it is not used for religious purposes, as archeologists provided research data saying that the Dvortsovaya Church was built upon the shrines of Kazan khans. Meanwhile, the other UNESCO World Heritage Organization sign remains at the entrance to the Kazan Kremlin.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Russian Human Rights Organizations Focus On Bashkortostan
The Moscow Helsinki Group and the Russia-wide For Human Rights movement on 27 February held a roundtable devoted to the development of democracy and observance of human rights in Bashkortostan, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 28 February. Speaking at the meeting, Moscow Helsinki Group head Lyudmila Alekseeva said: "If there were no human rights organizations in Bashkortostan, we would never know that human rights are violated there. There are no differences between the local press and outlets of the Josef Stalin era; all vie with each other in praising [Bashkir] President [Murtaza] Rakhimov." After Alekseeva's statement, participants divided into two opposing camps -- those who cited numerous facts of human rights violations and those who provided "documented evidence of achievements" under the leadership of President Rakhimov, the paper said.

For Human Rights movement head Lev Ponomarev said human rights are violated in all federation subjects, but Bashkortostan is a leader in this respect. However, in a message sounded at the roundtable, Bashkir Ombudsman Chyngyz Gazizov said the very idea of discussing human rights in Bashkortostan is insulting and shows the preconception of the event organizers. Gazizov claimed that there are no "significant violations of human rights" in Bashkortostan, and that the republic has a high rate of solved crimes and little unrest among public-sector employees.

Tuimazy human rights activist Vladislav Sadyiqov commented that when law enforcement bodies cannot solve crimes, they report they were committed by innocent people who are dead. Torture is also used to extract confessions, Sadyiqov said. He added that three Bashkir Interior Ministry employees were convicted of torture in 2002 but no report was published about it in the republic. The same reason explains the "calmness" of public-sector employees, since even if a demonstration was planned, they could not obtain information about it from the republic's media.

Fund For Free Elections Director Assesses Situation In Republic...
The visiting executive director of the Russian Fund for Free Elections, Andrei Przhezdomskii, said in Ufa on 28 February that he came to assess the pre-election situation in Bashkortostan, RosBalt reported the same day. Przhezdomskii said that although his visit is not directly linked to an appeal by Bashkir opposition leaders to Russian Central Electoral Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov to secure "honest and fair elections" to the Bashkir parliament (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 28 February 2003), Veshnyakov did ask him to appraise the pre-election conditions in the republic. Przhezdomskii said the situation in the republic on the eve of the parliamentary elections "is not simple" and party leaders told him about "serious, but still not investigated facts of violating legislation." Meeting with Przhezdomskii the same day, Bashkir party leaders asked the fund to prevent the use of administrative levers in the elections.

...As Fund To Open Branch In Ufa
Przhezdomskii told reporters on 28 February in Ufa that a branch of the Russian Fund for Free Elections will be established in Bashkortostan by the November State Duma elections, RosBalt reported the same day. A corresponding agreement was reached at a meeting between fund representatives and Bashkir presidential administration head Ildar Gyimaev and political party leaders. Przhezdomskii said, "We don't need permission from regional authorities to establish our branches but believe doing so without consulting them would be unacceptable."

The fund was established in 2002 to promote the development of institutions of representative democracy and to counteract "black" electioneering. The fund's founders include the Russian Central Election Commission, the Institute of Social and Political Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and Moscow State Juridical Academy. The fund currently has four branches, in Kaliningrad, Pskov, Irkutsk, and Ulan-Ude, and plans to open another in Nizhnii Novgorod soon.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova