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Tatar-Bashkir Report: September 26, 2003

26 September 2003
Shaimiev To Take Leave From Presidency Before Duma Election Campaign
Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev, who was nominated to the Unified Russia party's country-wide list for the State Duma elections, will have to temporarily give up his presidential powers until election day on 7 December, the "Zvezda Povolzhya" weekly wrote on 25 September (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 22 September 2003) .Under federal law, executive officials who come out as party candidates are not allowed to combine the candidate status with their jobs. The weekly also hinted that most likely Shaimiev will serve only as a promotional figure for the party, because even if elected he is unlikely to swap the presidential office for a State Duma deputy's seat. Shaimiev reportedly had left for a vacation in Turkey on 24 September.

Ukraine Confirms Interest In Developing Cooperation With Tatarstan
Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich and the Russian Ambassador to Ukraine Viktor Chernomyrdin on 25 September attended an exhibition of major Tatar industries in the Kyiv national exhibition center, Intertat reported the same day (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 24 September 2003). Chernomyrdin told reporters at the event that Ukraine "needs Tatarstan's industrial produce and is interested in developing its cooperation with the republic." Yanukovich agreed with this statement, noting that the majority of current bilateral cooperation concerns oil processing, while there is a strong potential for cooperation in the machine industry. The prime minister said that the Tatar-produced KamAZ trucks were very popular in his country. Tatar Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov said during the exhibition that the republic would be interested in importing Ukrainian-produced metals, energy industry equipment, and further developing cooperation in the aviation industry. Both the Ukrainian prime minister and the Russian ambassador agreed to visit Kazan in late 2003.

Tatarstan To Seek Extra Gas Supplies From Alternative Sources
In order to catch up with growing gas consumption by Tatar industries, the Tatgazinvest company will seek to increase its gas supplies from alternative sources to 2 billion cubic meters in 2004, the company's head Rinat Khanbikov told Intertat on 25 September. Tatarstan's annual gas consumption is currently reported at some 14.5 billion cubic meters, while the Russian Gazprom monopoly supplies Tatarstan with only some 12 billion cubic meters. Khanbikov also added that currently Tatgazinvest is negotiating with Gazprom to obtain direct access to international gas pipelines.

KamAZ Back In China
In 2003-2004, the KamAZ automotive concern will set up a truck assembly line at the joint Chinese-Russian Tyanshan-KamAZ venture, Kama-press reported on 25 September. KamAZ will again sell its trucks on the Chinese market; during the Soviet period it sold some 70,000 trucks, many of which are still being used. KamAZ is opening an office in Beijing and a number of dealers' centers and warehouses.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Mezhprombank Former Board Head Joins Bashkir Presidential Race...
Mezhprombank founder and former Chairman of the Board Sergei Veremeenko held on 25 September a press conference in the Interfax office in Moscow to announce that he will run for the Bashkir presidency to be held on 7 December. Veremeenko said he "was wise enough to consult the Kremlin" on the issue. He also said the move "is not result of his personal conflict with [Murtaza] Rakhimov, whom he still treats with great respect," but originated from his disagreement with Rakhimov's policies. Accompanied by speeches in support of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Veremeenko asserted that a regime has formed in the republic that is based on the restriction of rights and freedom, arbitrary actions by police, and oppression of the opposition and the independent press, adding that free elections have never been held in the republic. Veremeenko said that the privatization of the petrochemical sector in Bashkortostan was illegal, adding that these transactions will be reviewed after he becomes president. He also said he is inspired not by political ambitions but by an eagerness to help his "native Bashkortostan, an inalienable part of great Russia." After becoming president, Veremeenko said he will seek "to overcome stagnation in the economy" and to democratize public and political life in the republic. Veremeenko said Mezhprombank will not finance his campaign as he "is quite a well-to-do person." He said he hopes for support from Unified Russia and does not plan to appeal for help from oligarchs in order to "not be indebted to anyone." Asked whether he speaks Bashkir, Veremeenko said, "the Bashkir textbook is only 70 pages," so if he needs to, he will easily learn it. He added, however, that in today's world it is more important to know English than Bashkir or Tatar.

...As Do Senator, Opposition Leader
Relif Safin, the Federation Council senator from the Altai Republic and former LUKoil vice president, officially informed the Bashkir Central Election Commission (CEC) on 23 September about his intention to run for the Bashkir presidency, RosBalt reported. On 25 September, similar notification was given to the CEC by the leader of the Equality civic movement, Aleksandr Arinin.

Experts Differ On Candidates' Chances
"Vedomosti" cited on 25 September an unidentified source in the Bashkir presidential administration as saying Rakhimov promised the Kremlin that he will secure a victory for Unified Russia in Bashkortostan in exchange for Moscow's support for his candidacy in the presidential election. The daily also cited a source in the Russian presidential administration as saying "it is not a certainty" that Unified Russia will approve Rakhimov's candidacy for re-election. The official also said Rakhimov has "more enemies than friends" in the Kremlin. Meanwhile, Veremeenko, who is currently an adviser to Unified Russia's executive committee chairman, believes that Unified Russia will not support Rakhimov. Rakhimov, who is Unified Russia's Supreme Council member, was nominated number one on the party's regional list in the December State Duma election (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 23 September 2003).

The head of the Bashkir presidential information department, Marat Yamalov, said that Veremeenko has prematurely judged the prognosis about Unified Russia's position regarding Rakhimov. Yamalov said Veremeenko does not have a chance to win because he does not have any experience in state management, is known only as a banker, and has not spent much time in Bashkortostan. "Vedomosti" cited two other sources in the Bashkir government as saying they consider Veremeenko to be Rakhimov's major rival. The vice president of the Fund for the Development of Parliamentarianism, Sergei Kolmakov, commented that if Veremeenko and Safin join efforts, Rakhimov may not be elected in the first round of the election.

"Kommersant" on 26 September cited an unidentified source in the Kremlin as saying President Putin still has not decided whether to support Rakhimov in the race or to oppose him. The source said, however, that although Putin is not too satisfied with the incumbent president, he will not seek to replace him since Rakhimov did implement the harmonization of republican and federal legislation and lately has been completely loyal to Moscow. In the past several months, Rakhimov lost a significant portion of his influence on Bashkortostan's law-enforcement bodies and became much more dependent on Moscow. Now, the Kremlin is going to demonstrate that support for Rakhimov in the republic is much less than the 70 percent he collected in the 1998 elections, the source said.

The president of the Politika Foundation, Vyacheslav Nikonov, told "Kommersant" on 26 September that Rakhimov's competitors have poor chances in the election. Rakhimov has established a system of power and, if one marches into battle against Rakhimov, his failure is virtually secured, he said. Nontraditional methods are needed in this case, Nikonov said. He added that Safin does not enjoy enough support from the Kremlin, while the candidacy of Veremeenko has a greater chance of success.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova