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Tatar-Bashkir Report: August 4, 2003

4 August 2003
Conference On The Great Volga Route Begins In Astrakhan
An international conference on "The Great Volga Route" is to start on 4 August in Astrakhan, Tatar agencies reported. The forum, held under the aegis of the Kazan millennium celebrations, is the third stage of a five-year project on studying the history of the Great Volga route and to find ways of resolving ethnic, cultural, environmental, and socioeconomic problems in its cities and regions. It is organized aboard the ship "Kazan," which will travel this year to Makhachkala, Derbent, Baku, Enzeli, Tehran, Isfahan, and Aktau. Representatives of the United Nations, the UN's cultural heritage foundation UNESCO, the Council of Europe, and IRCIKA will take part in the forum. Along the way, conference participants are to hold meetings in Russian embassies and at the trade and industry chambers of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Iran, and to meet with Tatar diasporas in those countries. On 9 August, a Tehran declaration on cooperation between the major cities of the Great Volga route is scheduled to be signed in Tehran. On 3 August, the Kazan delegation headed by Mayor Kamil Iskhaqov met with representatives of Astrakhan Oblast's Tatar community, which numbers some 70,000, and attended a reception held in their honor by Astrakhan Mayor Igor Bezrukavnikov.

Nizhnekamskneftekhim Begins Production Of Polystyrene
A new polystyrene plant was launched in Tuben Kama on 1 August by the Nizhnekamskneftekhim petrochemical company, Tatar agencies reported the same day. The facility, which will produce shock-proof polystyrene and polystyrene used for general purposes, is the first such plant opened at Nizhnikamskneftekhim in the past 14 years, President Mintimer Shaimiev said at the opening. The first line of the plant is scheduled to produce 50,000 tons of polystyrene a year. The entire project, which is being funded by the Tatar government, aims to establish a complex producing 180,000 tons of different kinds of polystyrene each year. The project will cost $47 million. The U.S.-firm Finna Technology was involved in the project under contract with Nizhnikamskneftekhim to give know-how and equipment for the first production line and for training at the firm's plants in the United States.

Russian Journalists Hold Assembly
More than 140 journalist from across Russia gathered for the Russian Journalists' Assembly held in Tatarstan within the framework of the Russian-wide competition "Ecology of Russia -- 2002, From Century to Century" on 1-4 August, Tatar agencies reported. Forum attendees are winners of a competition that had 768 participants. Along with them, the winners of Tatarstan's competitions on "The Human Race and Nature" and "Environment and Industry" held by the Tatar Cabinet of Ministers and the Environment and Natural Resources Ministry, respectively, were also announced at the event.

Tatneft Boosts Profit
Tatneft made a 7.5 billion ruble ($247.5 million) profit in the first six months of the year, a 27-percent increase as compared to the same period in 2002, reported on 1 August, citing the company's press service. The company's income grew by 23 percent to 54.4 billion rubles, while working assets increased by 60 percent. The company's tire production increased by 13 percent and its technical carbon output by 22 percent. Tatneft's entire production grew by 31 percent to 5.8 billion rubles.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Opposition Minister Calls On Prosecutors To Investigate Defamation Campaign Against Him...
Bashkir Tax Minister Aleksandr Veremeenko has appealed to the Prosecutor-General's Office to investigate the "unprecedented campaign" to "discredit" him taking place in Bashkortostan, RosBalt reported on 1 August. Veremeenko said the "apotheosis" of the campaign was a letter Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov gave to Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting in July. It included "unsubstantiated," "unfounded," and "far-fetched" allegations against him, "defaming his honor and dignity and undermining his business reputation." Specifically, Veremeenko said, he was accused of "plundering property," firing objectionable colleagues, committing crimes, worsening collection of taxes, and so on. In addition, blackmailing articles are appearing against him in the press, the Internet, and on television. Veremeenko's appointment as head of the Bashkir Tax Ministry on 23 June irritated the republican leadership, which pushed for his recent dismissal as Bashtransgaz general director in June (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 30 June 2003).

...As Tax Ministry Disconnected From Running Water
The Bashkir Tax Ministry's offices in Ufa lost running water on 31 July, and RosBalt reported the next day. The Ufavodokanal water supplier said that damaged water pipes were to blame.

The stoppage occurred the day after a visit by Russian Deputy Tax Minister Renat Dosmukhamedov to Bashkortostan to deal with problems concerning the ministry's local offices' electricity. The ministry's offices had their electricity cut off on 25 July, and currently have no electricity, water, or telephone connection.

Bashkir Yabloko Leader Opposes Anti-Yavlinskii Move
The "Yabloko without Yavlinskii" campaign is an attempt to discredit the party and weaken its political influence, according to Yabloko's Bashkir branch leader Igor Rabinovich, RosBalt reported on 2 August. Rabinovich said, "the interest of certain political forces" is behind the initiative announced several days ago by party members in St. Petersburg. He thinks weakening Yabloko will benefit competitors on the right, such as the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS), the Russian presidential administration, and the government. The latter could be hurt by a requirement to report back to the State Duma, Rabinovich added. He said these groups want to make Yabloko seem a "troublemaker" prior to Sate Duma election, since they fear it is gaining strength, and "the number of party members increased tenfold to more than 50,000 in the past four years" and "Yabloko has never been as well-prepared for the elections as at the moment." Rabinovich denied allegations against Grigorii Yavlinskii of authoritarian rule, saying, "all decisions in the party are made collectively, without any pressure from the leader." "Yabloko needs Grigorii Yavlinskii. The party has no perspectives without him," he added.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova