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Tatar-Bashkir Report: June 11, 2003

11 June 2003
Gazprom Official Expresses Satisfaction With Tatarstan's Timely Payments
Aleksandr Krasnenkov, head of the Russian Gazprom monopoly's department of property management and corporate affairs, told a meeting of Gazprom shareholders in Kazan on 10 June that his company was satisfied with Tatarstan's timely payments for consumed gas and the efficient operation of the republic's Gazprom branch, Tattransgaz, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported yesterday. Through its pipelines, Tattransgaz annually transits 170 billion cubic meters of natural gas for export from Russia, while the republic itself consumes about 14 billion cubic meters per year. The majority of gas is consumed by local industries, while the republic's residents use 2.2 billion cubic meters. Krasnenkov confirmed that in 2003 Gazprom increased gas tariffs by 20 percent and a similar 20 percent price hike is expected in 2004 -- the company hopes that will finally allow for a profitable operation. Krasnenkov said that to cover its production expenses, Gazprom needs to increase the gas prices to $24-25 per 1,000 cubic meters. The price of gas in Tatarstan is $22.8 for private consumers and $27 for industrial enterprises.

Wage Arrears Down By 26 Percent
According to official data on 1 June, Tatar industries have managed to pay off 26 percent of wage arrears during April and the overall debt is down to 714 million rubles ($23.2 million), RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 11 June, citing the republican Cabinet of Ministers. Agricultural industries are responsible for 47.7 percent of the arrears, while the rest is distributed among the machinery, transport, and construction industries. Around 20,000 of Kazan's more than 1 million residents reportedly face regular delays in wage payments.

Kashapov To Be Released In 10-14 Days
The Chally city court on 10 June considered the appeal of lawyers representing Refis Kashapov, head of the local Tatar Public Center, who is facing charges of inciting interethnic and interconfessional discord, Kama-press reported the same day. The lawyers disputed the recent court ruling, which prolonged Kashapov's detention until 9 August. After being arrested on 26 March, Kashapov was placed in a Kazan psychiatric hospital for mental examination on 26 May. His lawyers said that the extension of his detention was illegal because under federal law the examination has to be completed in 30 days. Judge Aleksandr Shavanov ruled that Kashapov be released after the mental examination is complete and after he signs a written undertaking not to leave Chally (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 13, 22, 23 May and 5 June 2003).

Parliamentary Deputies Inspect Turkish Lyceums
Tatarstan's State Council Commission on science, education, culture, and ethnic affairs inspected two Tatar-Turkish lyceums in Kazan on 10 June, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported yesterday. The commission is monitoring the implementation of republican education regulations, in particular the teaching of the Tatar language. After the inspection the parliamentary commission chairman Razil Weliev told reporters that the schools had allotted sufficient attention to teaching English, Turkish, as well as perfecting the students' knowledge of Tatar and Russian. He emphasized that the schools had good facilities with Internet access, satellite television, and were characterized by a high level of discipline among students.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Rakhimov Considers Moving Presidential Election To March
President Murtaza Rakhimov's administration is considering the possibility of moving the presidential elections from December to March 2004, the same day as elections for Russian president, Rosbalt reported on 10 June. An unnamed administration official told the agency that this decision is inspired "by the desire to save money and avoid election fatigue." The possible move of the election day would reportedly comply with federal election regulations and will be considered by the republic's State Assembly at its next session. On 6 March, the Bashkir parliament voted to expand Rakhimov's term in office by six months and moved presidential elections from June to December, when elections for the Russian State Duma will be held.

Rakhimov, 69, was elected to his post for the first time on 12 December 1993 and won his second term in June 1998.

Bashkir Government Takes Over Preparations For Tatar Congress
The organizational committee of the second Congress of Bashkortostan's Tatars, headed by Bashkir Prime Minister Rafael Baydavletov, convened on 9 June to discuss preparations for the 5 July congress, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported yesterday. The congress was initially scheduled for summer 2002, but the republican government cancelled preparations in the wake of the 1 July 2002 crash of a Bashkir Airlines plane with a cargo jet over Germany, which took the lives of 60 citizens of Bashkortostan, 44 of them children. Nevertheless Tatar organizations, which initiated the congress as a way of organizing the republic's Tatar community for the October 2002 national census, managed to convene briefly on 3 August 2002 and agreed to hold the second stage of the congress this year.

The organization committee appointed Bashkir Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Culture and Ethnic Policies Khalyaf Ishmoratov to head the group that will administer the final session of the Congress and prepare draft documents to be adopted there.

Election Commission Chairman Says Presidential Campaigning Now Is Illegal
Bariy Kinzyagulov, chairman of Bashkortostan's Central Election Commission, told Interfax on 9 June that the current activities and statements by political parties related to December 2003 presidential elections in the republic are "illegitimate" until the Bashkir State Assembly adopts a special resolution setting the date of the vote and local media publish it. He cited the republican Elections Code, which allows political campaigning only 80 to 100 days before election day.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi