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Tatar-Bashkir Report: September 10, 2003

10 September 2003
Palestinian Officials To Watch Tatarstan Organize Elections
An official delegation of the Palestinian national administration arrived in Kazan on 10 September to observe the experience of organizing elections, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported today. The chairman of Palestine's election commission, Khanna Naser, accompanied by commission members Ali Jarbaui, Mazan Sisanim, and Iskhak Mukhanna, are said to be touring Russia in order to get acquainted with the country's system of voting. The guests have planned meetings with officials of Tatar's presidential staff, the State Council, and the republic's Central Election Commission.

Government Hopes For Increase In Average Salaries In 2004
Tatar Minister of Economy and Industry Aleksei Pakhomov told reporters on 9 September that in 2004 the average monthly salary in the republic will reach 5,140 rubles ($168), which is 16 percent higher than the current 4,420 rubles ($144). Pakhomov also cited the government's expectations that the 32,500-strong army of officially unemployed people will increase by 2,500 and reach 1.9 percent of the economically active part of population.

LUKOil To Give Up Gas-Station Network In Tatarstan
LUKOil First Vice President Rawyl Maganov told Tatar-inform on 9 September that his company intends to exchange its gas-station network in Tatarstan for 10-12 stations maintained by Tatneft in some other regions of Russia. Maganov explained that Tatarstan's gasoline market "is dominated" by the Tatar oil company and "it would be more useful" for LUKOil to relinquish its gas stations in the republic.

The two oil companies reportedly maintain close cooperation on such projects as oil extraction in the Nurlat region of Tatarstan, where LUKOil branch RITEK annually extracts some 1 million tons of oil, relying on Tatneft infrastructure for transporting the "black gold." Maganov noted that LUKOil President Wagyt Alekperov and TatNeft General Director Shefeget Takhautdinov "are not just acquaintances, but friends who are seeing each other constantly, discussing their strategies. Even in Iraq we go parallel to each other," working on different deposits.

TatNeft Considers Introducing Independent Members To Its Board Of Directors
Tatarstan's prime minister and the chairman of Tatneft's board of directors, Rustam Minnikhanov, said on 8 September that Tatarstan's major oil producer "is considering" the inclusion of independent shareholders on the board of directors, "Vedomosti" reported the next day. The move is reportedly intended to increase investment in the company, but does not mean that the republican government is ready to sell its 30 percent share in Tatneft, which provides 30 percent of the republican budget. The daily commented on this perspective by saying that it was quite unexpected for a closed venture like Tatneft to declare its intention to bring new members onto its board of directors.

Tatarstan's Parliament To Discuss Proposed Amendment To The Federal Law On Mass Media
Tatarsan's State Council Commission on Science, Education, Culture, and Ethnic Issues on 9 September proposed an initiative by the Orel Oblast People's Deputies Council that would require TV and radio companies to back-up their broadcasts during election campaigns. The legislation would be an amendment to article 34 of the federal law on mass media. The amendment will be discussed at the 11 September plenary session of Tatarstan's Parliament. The deputies will consider whether to endorse the initiative and send a proper appeal for the initiative to the Russian State Duma.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Unified Russia In Bashkortostan Disparages Veremeenko's 'Official' Status In Party
Bashinform published a statement on 9 September by the presidium of the political council of Unified Russia in Bashkortostan, in which its authors decried efforts by Sergei Veremeenko, an opponent and possible rival of President Murtaza Rakhimov in Bashkortostan's presidential election, "to use a name and the popularity of the Unified Russia party for political aims." Visiting the republic the previous week (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 5 September 2003), former Mezhprombank head Veremeenko presented himself as an adviser to Unified Russia's Executive Committee head, Yurii Volkov, and said he was charged by the party with supervising the Volga Federal District. Referring to a position outlined at the August republican conference of Unified Russia in Bashkortostan, the authors of the position listed officials who can represent the party in Bashkortostan. They include leaders and members of the party's Supreme Council, including President Rakhimov; members of the General Council and the Central Executive Committee; members of the republican political council; and the executive committee and of similar bodies in city and regional departments. Other persons or bodies do not have the right to make public statements on the behalf of the party, according to the statement. Veremeenko, in fact, is not an official representative of the party and is not empowered to speak on its behalf, the statement said. They also said that Veremeenko's public statements violate election legislation that prohibits campaigning before an election date is announced.

Yabloko Dissatisfied With Political Situation In Bashkortostan...
The Yabloko party has issued a statement on the political situation in Bashkortostan at its 11th congress on 7 September in Moscow, RosBalt reported the next day. The document adopted at the request of congress delegates from Bashkortostan expresses concern with the political climate that exists in the republic. Bashkortostan "is known as a region where a very complicated situation with regard to freedom of speech and the mass media exists," while methods used by local authorities during the 1998, 1999, and 2003 elections spawn serious anxiety about the fate of the December election, congress participants noted. "Taking into account mass violations of electoral rights to falsifying election results, when opposition candidates are refused registration, when authorities impose massive pressure on the electorate and law enforcers harshly interfere in the republic's political life, Yabloko considers it necessary to draw the federal authority bodies' attention to the political situation in Bashkortostan," the statement read. Yabloko called on the Russian Central Election Commission and other state bodies to secure a free and democratic election in Bashkortostan in accordance with the Russian Constitution.

...As Bashkortostan's Leading Writers Censure Opposition Media
Bashkortostan's state news agency Bashinform published on 9 September a letter sent by Bashkortostan's leading writers to President Vladimir Putin in early August to protest what they call an information war being held in the mass media against Bashkortostan. Signatories to the letter include Mostai Kerim, the republic's prominent poet and owner of all of the biggest Soviet-era awards -- including the honorary title of Socialist Workers Hero and the Lenin Prize -- and his colleagues Nejib Esanbaev and Mikhail Chvanov, the vice president of the International Fund for Slavic Written Language and Culture and the Union of Russia's Writers board secretary; as well Vladimir Samorodov, Bashkir's physical culture, sports, and tourism minister and the leader of the Council of Bashkortostan's Russians. The authors claimed that "under the cover of democratic slogans, even federal mass media have gotten involved in coordinated subversive actions against state authorities" in Bashkortostan. As an example, they cited broadcasts on ORT of ads "aimed at discrediting the Russia-wide census and propaganda of the extremist Tatar People's Front." They allege oligarchs of financing outlets hostile to republican authorities and federal authority bodies. The applicants claim that the opposition newspapers "Otechestvo" and "Vybor naroda" "sow seeds of interethnic and social discord, [and] hatred against the legal state authority," adding that "in unison with them, inflammatory programs are transmitted by Radio Azatliq [RFE/RL]." Those media use the language of "not opposition or criticism but of political war," the authors asserted, and added that "it is strengthen power in the country by weakening and breaking it up into federation subjects." They also criticized law-enforcement bodies that are busy looking for and fighting "separatism" and ignore the fact that "the so-called 'freedom of speech' encourages the erosion of power and more and more unbridled actions by backstage forces -- oligarchic and probably foreign -- that pursue antistate and ant-constitutional aims."

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova