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Tatar-Bashkir Report: May 15, 2003

15 May 2003
New Governmental Body To Overhaul Finances Of State Media
Marat Moratov, the newly appointed director of Tatarstan's state agency for mass communications, told a press conference on 14 May that his agency "would not represent an organ of censorship, but bring the relations between the republican government and mass media into order," RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported today. He added that his first steps as a director would be inspecting the offices of all state media in the republic and working on the issue of state financing. Moratov asked state media heads to get their bookkeeping in order. The agency will also provide assistance to private companies in order to carry out its task of "perfecting the infrastructure" of Tatarstan's media market. More than 30 television companies and 450 newspapers and magazines are currently operating in the republic.

Poll Unveils Major Concerns Of Tatarstan, Volga District Residents
According to a survey taken in the Volga district in late 2002 and published on 14 May at -- the website of the republic's federal inspector -- 62.2 percent of respondents living in Tatarstan said that their major concerns were related to everyday life. The second major reason for discontent among Tatarstan's population was the high level of crime, which was mentioned by 52.4 percent of those polled in Tatarstan and 41.8 percent of Volga district respondents. Poor quality of medical services drew the attention of 44.6 percent of respondents in Tatarstan and 39.3 percent in the Volga district. In addition, 31.3 percent of respondents in Tatarstan named the critical state of their homes as their major concern. Some 29.6 percent of those polled in the republic were most worried about the prospect of finding a job, while untimely payment of salaries and pensions raised strong concerns among 23.7 percent of the respondents.

Supreme Court Considers The 'Headscarf Case' Again
The Russian Supreme Court will today hear the appeal of 10 Tatar Muslim women demanding the right to have their passport photographs taken while wearing traditional headscarves, Intertat reported yesterday. Although the Supreme Court rejected a similar suit on 5 March, the women from Tuben Kama are again contesting the federal passport regulations adopted on 15 September 1997, which request that the photograph is taken without sunglasses and headwear (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 6 March 2003). Before reaching Moscow, the plaintiffs had their case rejected by the courts of Kazan and Tatarstan's Supreme Court.

Metal Snatches Taking Their Toll
In 2003, the state power company, Tatenergo, has suffered more than 600,000 rubles ($19,000) in damages caused by the theft of electricity cables and auxiliary equipment, which is then sold on to private metal recycling companies, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported today citing the company's press service. Four metal thieves died and two were seriously injured this year after they came in contact with the high voltage cables. Tatenergo reportedly blames the current upsurge of such thefts on the illegal metal recycling stations, which accept the stolen metals.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Bashkir Fuel Company Elects New Board
An annual shareholders' meeting of the Bashkir Fuel Company elected on 7 May a new board of directors, RosBalt reported on 14 May. Bashkir Property Relations Minister Zofer Geptrekhimov was nominated head of the board, which also included Uraltransnefteprodukt Kamil Ekhmedullin, Bashkir Economy Minister Valentin Vlasov, Bashneftekhim General Director Viktor Gantsev, Bashneft General Director Ildar Iskhaqov, Bashkir Foreign Economic Relations and Trade Minister Boris Kolbin, and Bashkirenergo General Director Nikolai Kurapov. In 1998, after a decree from the Bashkir president, the Bashkir Fuel Company established Bashneft, Bashneftekhim, Bashkirenergo, and the Bashkir branches of Transneft and Transnefteprodukt.

Ufa Administration Establishes Direct Line To Residents...
The Ufa administration has launched a new campaign -- "A Saturday Call to The Mayor" -- where residents can talk with the administration head, Reuf Nogomanov, RosBalt reported on 14 May. The session, which will be held once a month for one hour, is intended "to establish an accessible and regular connection" between Ufa residents and the city authorities. The administration has said that the direct line will enable it to react to residents' appeals quickly and to remove shortcomings in the operation of the city's services.

...Takes Anti-SARS Measures
The Ufa administration has allocated 1.5 million rubles ($48,000) to city medical institutions to take measures against the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) virus, RosBalt reported on 14 May. The deputy head of the Ufa State Sanitary Inspection Center, Vladimir Yaroslavtsev, told the news agency that money will be spent on the purchase of special isolation units for potential infection carriers, protective measures for medical personnel, and drugs. A special task force has been formed in Ufa to deal with SARS-like cases. People working in the medical, airline, railway, and water transport industries have been given special instructions about SARS symptoms and the procedure if they notice them. Medical examination units have been set up at Ufa's railway stations and the city's airport.

Bashkir Energy Debt Rising
Energy consumers owe an increasing amount to the Bashkirenergo energy supplier, RosBalt reported on 14 May, citing the Bashkirenergo press service. The debt now stands at 4.3 billion rubles ($138.5 million), an increase of 800 million rubles so far this year. Some 1.1 billion rubles are owed by agricultural companies. In the past month, Bashkirenergo disconnected or reduced the energy supply to 19 companies, including the Sterletamaq machine building plant, the Kuganaq ceramic tile plant, the Qarlaman sugar plant, and the Yangawyl construction materials plant.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova