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Tatar-Bashkir Report: April 21, 2003

21 April 2003
Leading Tatar Companies To Unite
Tatar Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov said on 18 April that state-owned stakes in the republic's leading companies, including Tatneft, Nizhnekamskneftekhim, Alnas, and Tattelekom, will be transferred to the Svyazinvestnefteholding company that will be established in the near future, Tatar-inform reported the same day. Minnikhanov said the project aims to attract investments in the republic, adding that the current state-run packages of shares "do not work." Tatneft General Director Shefeget Takhawetdinov has made positive noises about the project, "Vremya i dengi" reported the same day. However, the daily reported that the majority of representatives from the republic�s petrochemical companies have negative opinions about the project, saying it aims to deprive companies of their independence.

Pope's Kazan Visit Under Discussion
Joaquin Navarro-Valls, the Vatican's press secretary, said that papal authorities are still discussing whether Pope John Paul II will visit Kazan, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 18 April. Following his talks with Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov in Rome on 19 April, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi told a press conference that he does not exclude the possibility of the pope making a stop in Kazan during his summer trip to Mongolia, NTA Privolzhe reported the same day. The pope was reportedly planning a visit to Kazan to return a holy icon that was stolen from the city in the early 20th century. Berlusconi added he is satisfied with the work he has done to promote the visit and hopes it will take place.

Meanwhile, Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev told ITAR-TASS on 17 April that the pope's visit to Kazan "would contribute to the solution of the issue of relations between the two churches." "Nezavisimaya gazeta" commented that Shaimiev's statement is in line with the position of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has said he is ready to invite the pope to Russia.

Tatneft Intends To Purchase Ukrtatnafta
Tatneft General Director Shefeget Takhawetdinov said the company is seeking to purchase a 43-percent stake in the Ukrtatnafta oil refinery, which is currently owned by the Ukrainian government, reported on 17 April. Tatneft, together with the Tatar government, already owns the remaining 57 percent.

Takhawetdinov also said Tatneft is ready to consider purchasing the state-owned controlling interest in Tupras, a Turkish oil refinery, which is expected to be up for sale soon. Takhawetdinov said Tupras representatives are due to visit Tatarstan in late April, and the issue may be on the agenda of negotiations.

Nizhnekamskneftekhim Reports Production Growth, Modernization Plans
Nizhnekamskneftekhim General Director Vladimir Busygin told an annual shareholders' meeting on 19 April that, in 2002, the company increased production by 3 percent to 19.3 billion rubles ($619 million) compared to the previous year, and made a profit of 2.6 billion rubles, reported the same day. Export sales grew by 9.6 percent to 11.1 billion rubles. The company is planning to modernize its ethylene plant in order to bring its production from 450,000 tons to 600,000 tons a year, Busygin said, adding that the project needs an investment of $255 million. The synthetic rubber plant is also to be modernized -- at a cost of $37 million -- to increase production volume from its current 86,000 tons to 196,000 tons a year.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Liberal Russia Leader In Bashkortostan Says Yushenkov's Murder Was Politically Motivated
Viktor Shmakov, head of Liberal Russia�s branch in Bashkortostan, told the RosBalt news agency on 18 April that, in his opinion, the murder of State Duma Deputy and Liberal Russia�s co-Chairman Sergei Yushenkov in Moscow on 17 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 April 2003) "is purely politically motivated and is linked to the future elections in the Russian State Duma." He emphasized that Liberal Russia planned to join forces with rightist parties such as the Union of Rightist Forces and Yabloko in the elections, slated for December, and "it is evident that someone is not happy with such strengthening of our position and the party has been subjected to a psychological attack." According to the daily "Izvestiya" on 18 April, Bashkortostan's branch of Liberal Russia is among several regional party branches that support the self-exiled tycoon Boris Berezovsky, who initially sponsored the party but was later expelled in a move spearheaded by Yushenkov in October 2002 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 October 2002). Liberal Russia claims to have 5,500 members in Bashkortostan.

Science Sector To Face Budget Cuts In 2003
Robert Nigmetullin, president of Bashkortostan's Academy of Sciences, told the organization's annual meeting on 18 April that in 2003 the republic's scientific institutions will be reduced by 30-40 percent due to federal and republican budget cuts, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported the same day. Nigmetullin called the reduction "a blow to the republic's academic science." In 2002, Bashkortostan's Academy of Sciences spent 15 million rubles ($476,100), money received from both the federal and republican budgets.

Rakhimov Receives High-Ranking Volga District Officials
Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov met with Vladimir Sherbakov, the head of the Main Board of the Russian Interior Ministry in the Volga District, in Ufa on 17 April, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported today, citing the presidential press service. Sherbakov reportedly praised the current anticrime efforts of Bashkortostan's police and presented Rakhimov with an honorary diploma. The same day Rakhimov received Sergei Gerasimov, the Russian deputy prosecutor-general in the Volga district, who commented on the crime statistics of the first quarter of 2003 by saying that they "demonstrated the increase of law enforcement activities" in Bashkortostan.

No More Weather Forecasts For Bashkortostan
From 18 April Bashkortostan's residents will no longer have an official weather forecast, RIA-Novosti reported the same day. The republic's board of hydrometeorology and environmental monitoring reportedly has no funds for repairing its back-up mainframe computer used for processing the weather data. The major mainframe went down over one month ago.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi