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Tatar-Bashkir Report: April 23, 2003

23 April 2003
Tatarstan, Transneft Sign Cooperation Agreement
Tatar Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov and Transneft President Semen Vainshtok signed on 22 April a cooperation agreement, reported the same day. Vainshtok also met with Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev and visited the Kovali oil pumping station in Laesh Raion. Vainshtok told a press conference that both sides discussed the possibilities of mutually profitable cooperation. The agreement aims to provide technical, environmental, and legal security for the exploitation of the main oil pipelines in Tatarstan. It also aims to promote the economic and social interests of the local population. Asked about the extra expenses connected with transporting Tatarstan's high-sulfur oil, Vainshtok said he did not think it would be a big problem. Shaimiev also said the republic of Tatarstan profits from the work of the company. The republic's revenues from Transneft have increased from 114 million rubles ($3.7 million) in 1999 to 382 million rubles in 2002.

Russian Government Promotes Papal Visit
Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said on 22 April in Rybinsk that it is possible Pope John Paul II will be invited to Russia, "Vremya novostei" reported on 23 April. Kasyanov said, although the issue is out of the government's hands, "we believe that we will be able to receive the pope in the near future." During Kasyanov's visit to Italy the previous week, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi asked his Russian counterpart to help arrange the papal visit. Kasyanov added that agreement on the visit had been reached between the heads of the Roman Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church. Reports spread the previous week that the pope planned to stop off in Kazan during his August visit to Mongolia, in order to return a holy icon stolen from Kazan a century ago (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 15 and 21 April 2003).

However, Vsevolod Chaplin, the deputy head of the patriarch's Foreign Relations Department, told the daily that although dialogue between the two churches had intensified in the past, a papal visit to Russia was not on the agenda. Chaplin said the Vatican failure to consult the Russian Orthodox Church may block the entire process of negotiations.

Communists Mark Lenin's Birthday
Some 30 members of the Communist Party, the Russian Communist Labor Party, and the Labor Russia party staged a meeting on 22 April on Kazan's Freedom Square to mark the anniversary of Vladimir Lenin's birthday, reported the same day. Participants with Soviet flags laid flowers at the Lenin monument on the square.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Liberal Russia Branch Leader Names Another Possible Motive Behind Yushenkov's Murder
Viktor Shmakov, head of the Liberal Russia party in Bashkortostan, told Rosbalt on 21 April that the party's money could be another reason for the murder of Liberal Russia's co-Chairman Sergei Yushenkov in Moscow on 17 April (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report" 21 April 2003), the agency reported yesterday. Shmakov said that, according to his information, self-exiled tycoon Boris Berezovsky, who was expelled from the party's leadership had recently offered to front $5.5 million for the party's "My Candidate" campaign. The party planned to give 200 rubles ($6.30) each to hundreds of thousands of citizens across Russia, in return for them filling in questionnaires naming their candidate for the Russian State Duma. "On the day of the murder the money should have reached Yushenkov. It is possible that he was killed by those who knew about the money arriving," Shmakov said. The Bashkir Liberal Russia leader also said that in March Yushenkov had agreed to join forces with Berezovsky. "The regional branches of 15 parties controlled by Sergei Yushenkov were actually starving and materially dependent on Berezovsky, who funded the remaining 40 branches," Shmakov said. "I do not exclude the possibility that the murder aimed at preventing the Yushenkov-Berezovsky talks � slated for 21 April," he added.

Still No Compensation For Families Of Air Crash Victims
The relatives of those killed in the midair crash of Bashkir Airlines Tu-154 and a DHL cargo jet over the German-Swiss border on 1 July 2002 told Vsya Ufa TV on 22 April that nine months after the tragedy they still have not received any compensation payments from the governments of both countries and the Bashkir air company (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report" 2 July 2002). The international board investigating the air crash has not yet issued an official document naming the guilty parties, the television station reported. Meanwhile, the Bashkir Airlines' insurance company Sotsinvest is ready to pay a $20,000 sum for each of the passengers providing the victims' families agree to seek no further compensation.

Forest Fires In Bashkortostan
The first four forest fires of the season in Bashkortostan destroyed as much as 22 hectares of woodland, RosBalt reported on 22 April citing the republic's Timber Industry Ministry. In 2002, 177 hectares of Bashkortostan's forests were devastated due to fires.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi