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Tatar-Bashkir Report: April 30, 2003

30 April 2003
Government Reduces Funding Of Subsidized Medicines Program
Some 1.5 million of the 3.8 million residents of Tatarstan are able to buy state-subsidized medicines, Niyaz Geliullin, the first deputy health minister, and Feride Yerkeeva, the head of the Health Ministry's pharmacy and medical equipment department, told a press conference on 29 April, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported today. Geliullin emphasized that issuing subsidized medicines "remains a priority" for the republic's healthcare system. However, despite the growing number of Tatarstan's population eligible for subsidized medication in 2003, the republican budget allotted 303 million rubles ($9.6 million) for this program, which is 16 percent less than in 2002. According to Health Ministry statistics cited by Geliullin, an average Tatarstan resident annually consumes 987 rubles ($31) worth of medicines. In 2002, the retail price of medication rose by 16 percent compared to the previous year.

Tatarstan Takes Measures Against SARS
Niyaz Geliullin, the first deputy health minister, told the 29 April press conference that his ministry will form a special medicines' reserve in case of an outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported yesterday. Tatarstan's medics reportedly have been instructed in the use of "isolation suits" in case they come in contact with the deadly virus and healthcare institutions have introduced SARS vigilance training for their staff. Geliullin noted that although healthcare officials would like to reduce the number of international flights through the Kazan airport, this is under the federal government's jurisdiction.

Shaimiev Acknowledges Difficulty Competing With U.S. Chicken
Visiting the Yubileinaya chicken farm in the Laesh region of Tatarstan on 29 April, President Mintimer Shaimiev admitted that although domestically produced chicken meat is of a higher quality than the one imported from the United States, "it is hard to compete with the low prices of what we call 'Bush's legs,'" RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported today. The president spoke about the need for market-oriented management of agricultural industries in Tatarstan and expanding the markets for the republic's goods. He praised the government's decision to hire the commercial Tatfondbank to manage the Yubileinaya factory after it was converted into a state-owned joint-stock venture in 2002. The same strategy could be implemented for reviving other agricultural industries in Tatarstan, Shaimiev said.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Ufa Takes Anti-SARS Measures
The Ufa administration's emergency situations commission met on 29 April to discuss measures to prevent the spread of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), RosBalt reported the same day. The commission also recommended that tourist companies postpone tours to countries in which the virus has been registered, including China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Canada, and the United States. The commission also outlined the following measures: all passengers arriving by train or plane from abroad will be checked; medical personnel in Ufa hospitals will be trained in personal safety and diagnosing and treating the disease; all cases of the virus are to be reported to the Health Ministry and the Center for State Sanitation and Epidemiology Supervision. In addition, air companies have been ordered to inform crew members and passengers about the main symptoms of the disease and to report all suspected cases. Media organizations were also charged by the commission with informing people about the preventative measures they can take.

Bashneft Minor Shareholder Says He Was Deliberately Prevented From Being Elected To Company Board
Commenting on the controversial Bashneft shareholders meeting held on 28 April (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 29 April 2003), David Geovanis, the executive director of the Basic Element metals group, who along with other minor shareholders was prevented from participating in the meeting, said that his shares alone should have been enough for him to be elected as a member of the board of directors, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 30 April. Geovanis reportedly said that the violations that took place at the shareholders meeting were aimed at preventing him from becoming an independent member of the board. Geovanis said the matter has convinced him of the need to defend the interests of minority shareholders on the board.

Monument To Firefighters Erected In Ufa
A monument commemorating 47 firefighters lost in the last 60 years of firefighting was unveiled on 29 April in Ufa, Bashinform reported the same day. Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov, who took part in the ceremony, said all necessary measures will be taken to improve the efficiency of the fire department. The first unit of firefighters was established in the republic 187 years ago. Currently 14,000 people are employed by the Bashkir Fire Department.

Turkish Company Prohibited From Managing Network Of Bashkir-Turkish Schools
The Bashkir Education Ministry has annulled a cooperation agreement with a Turkish company that was running four Bashkir-Turkish schools in the republic's cities and towns, because of its links to Nurjular, a fundamentalist sect, RosBalt reported on 29 April. The close relations between the Serkhat company, the founders of the schools, and the sect, which promotes pan-Turkic ideas and was banned in Turkey in 2000, were revealed by the Russian Federal Security Service's Bashkir Directorate. In the Bashkir-Turkish schools opened by Serkhat in Ufa, "pro-Turkish moods" were cultivated in students and laws concerning foreigners living in Russia were seriously violated, according to the directorate. In 2001, the director of the Neftekamsk school, Omar Kavakly, was sentenced for abuse of power and forgery and deported from Russia. The directorate reported that over 20 Turkish followers of Nurjular have been deported from Russia in the last two years.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova