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Tatar-Bashkir Report: September 12, 2003

12 September 2003
Tatar Parliament Votes To Hold Early Elections
The Tatar State Council voted on 11 September to hold parliamentary elections simultaneously with the Russian presidential elections in March 2004, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. The official five-year term of the present State Council expires on 19 December. President Mintimer Shaimiev said during the meeting that moving the date would allow the active participation of the electorate and save the republic "several hundred million rubles." Deputies also passed in the second reading amendments to the republic's constitution, which will increase the number of State Council deputies from 50 to 100, with 20 professionally employed deputies and 80 part-time legislators, who are allowed to maintain their current jobs.

TatNeft, RosNeft To Join Forces In Fight To Change Mineral-Resources Tax
Visiting Elmet, Tatarstan on 10 September, Sergei Bogdanchikov, the president of the RosNeft oil concern, told reporters that his company would join forces with the TatNeft oil concern to campaign for a more flexible mineral-resources tax, Intertat reported the next day. Bogdanchikov said that TatNeft's oil deposits in Tatarstan and RosNeft's deposits in Sakhalin and Krasnoyarsk krai, as well as the mineral wealth of Chechnya, should be taxed at different levels to newly opened deposits. Bogdanchikov also noted that his company would share TatNeft's experience in maintaining low maintenance costs for its facilities, in order to lower production expenses.

Tatar Muslims To Organize Russia-Wide Muslim Doctors Association
Tatarstan's Muslim Religious Board is organizing a Russia-wide Muslim Doctors Association, Intertat reported on 11 September. The republic already has its own Muslim Doctors Association, which was founded in 2002 and is said to include several hundred doctors across Tatarstan. The first congress of the nationwide association is to take place in Kazan in early 2004.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Bashkir Prosecutors Launch Investigation Into UralSib Attack
The Ufa prosecutor's office is investigating the recent phony leaflet campaign directed against UralSib bank, Azat Qormanaev, the bank's president, told a press conference on 10 September. The previous week, leaflets were spread around the republic calling for people to close their accounts with the bank. (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 8, 9, and 11 September 2003). Qormanaev said that two Yekaterinburg residents were detained in Novosibirsk on 9 September in connection with the crime. A document was also seized that, according to Qormanaev, outlined a plan aimed at discrediting UralSib. Qormanaev also said that, along with the distribution of 400,000 leaflets, phone calls were made to account holders in order to create panic. Qormanaev called the action "gangsterism close to an act of terrorism." Commenting on the possible motive, Qormanaev said that the bank is not involved in politics and does not support any political party. The bank, he said, had not suffered from the attack as no account had been closed.

Standard & Poor's Warns Ratings Of Russian Regions May Go Down
The Standard & Poor's rating agency has warned that credit ratings of 12 Russian federal entities may be reduced in the wake of tax reforms and shifts between local and regional government, "Vremya novostei" reported on 11 September. Bashkortostan and Tatarstan are on the list. According to an analytical report issued by the agency, the reforms "may impose a significant negative influence" on credit ratings as they suggest that a portion of their budget revenues will be withdrawn. Moscow, St. Petersburg, and the Moscow Oblast will face losses in 2004 when the sales tax is due to be abolished. Regions rich in natural resources might run into trouble in 2005, when they will transfer a much larger proportion of their tax revenues to the federal government. As a result, some regions will lose up to a third of their budget revenues, according to the agency.

Prospects Of Bashkir-Austrian Economic Cooperation Outlined
A working group on economic cooperation between Russia and Austria held its session on 10 September in the Bashkir representation to the Russian president in Moscow, Bashinform reported on 11 September. The meeting was chaired by the Bashkir Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Miniser Airat Geskerov and Johann Zax, an official dealing with foreign economic relations at the Austrian Economy and Labor Ministry. Geskerov said that several joint Bashkir-Austrian ventures have been cooperating successfully, especially in the communications sector. Representatives of Russia's 17 federal entities were in attendance.

Anniversary Of Catholic Church In Bashkortostan Marked
Representatives from Italy, Spain, and Belgium took part in a conference devoted to the 140th anniversary of the Roman Catholic Church in Bashkortostan that begins at the Bashkir State Pedagogical University on 12 September, Bashinform reported a day earlier. The first Catholic church opened in Ufa in 1863 was closed in 1938. It was later restored in 1993.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova