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Tatar-Bashkir Report: October 8, 2003

8 October 2003
Tatar Parliament To Discuss Next Year's Budget Deficit
Deputies in the Tatar State Council have finished considering the draft republican budget for 2004, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 7 October. Economy and Industry Minister Aleksei Pakhomov said that next year's budget revenues are predicted at 40.7 billion rubles ($1.3 billion), while planned expenditures already reach 43.4 billion rubles. The republic expects to produce 29.5 million tons of oil in 2004, while the income of Tatarstan's population will reportedly grow by 9 percent.

State Employees Receive 21 Percent Pay Rise
Deputy Economy and Industry Minister Alevtina Kudryavtseva told a press conference on 7 October that, staring this month, the salaries of state employees would be increased by 21 percent from the average 1881 rubles ($60) per month to 2273 rubles per month. The hike has been introduced because of new state employee regulations taking force in Russia from 1 October. Currently, 302,000 people are employed by the state in Tatarstan -- 19 percent of the republic's economically active population. Besides the payments regulated by the federal authorities, Tatarstan's state employees receive an extra monthly payment worth 25 percent of their salary from the republican budget. However, Kazan-based Efir TV on 7 October speculated that along with the introduction of new federal tariffs, Tatarstan will discontinue the extra support to state employees. According to Deputy Finance Minister Aleksei Shishkin, speaking at the same press conference, 49 percent of the republican budget would be spent on state salaries in 2004.

Russian Communist Leader Visits Kazan
Gennadii Zyuganov, head of the Russian Communist Party, on 7 October held a press conference in Kazan to announce that his party expects to collect up to 1 million votes in Tatarstan during the December Russian State Duma elections, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. Zyuganov said that there was an "anti-popular regime" in Russia and that his party obliged each Duma deputy to hold frequent meetings with local residents. The press conference was held in Kazan's Lenin museum, a former residence of the Bolshevik leader's family.

New Data Might Support Merger Of Tatarstan, Ulyanovsk
According to NTV on 6 October, archeologists working on the site of an ancient Bolgar city in Tatarstan have discovered evidence that the city of Ulyanovsk, capital of the neighboring Ulyanovsk Oblast, is older than originally thought. Archeologists reportedly found a stone, which stated that Ulyanovsk was founded 600 years ago. The city is commonly believed to be 350 years old, the report said. NTV said that the discovery had attracted the interest of Ulyanovsk officials and politicians, "because the number of those promoting the oblast's merger with Tatarstan has recently been increasing." The report said that the new historical data could be used as another argument in support of a merger of the two entities.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Bashkir Interior Minister Warns Local Communist Leaders Of Possible Provocations
Interior Minister Rafail Divaev has sent an official warning to Valentin Nikitin, a State Duma deputy and head of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation's (KPRF) Bashkir branch, regarding possible provocations against him and other members of the KPRF, RosBalt reported on 7 October. According to Divaev's letter, which was dated 1 October and received on 6 October, the ministry "possesses operational information" that "some forces involving criminal elements" are engaged in "provocative actions" and "coercion" against Deputy Nikitin and other KPRF party members. These forces, according to Divaev, plan to take advantage of the resulting situation to "destabilize the political situation and discredit Bashkortostan's leadership." Divaev asked that Nikitin "take the information into account" and informed him that "the Bashkir Interior Ministry is taking all necessary measures to prevent the above-mentioned provocative actions." Rostem Yaqupov, an assistant to Interior Minister Nikitin, confirmed that threats to the personal safety of Nikitin and other KPRF members exist. However, Yaqupov declined to identify the "forces involving criminal elements" Divaev referred to in his letter. Nikitin told RosBalt that "either the police, in fact, have grounds to worry about the security of KPRF members, or this is a threat in response to my deputy's appeals that resulted in numerous inspections of the republican Interior Ministry." Nikitin previously appealed to the federal Interior Ministry and Prosecutor-General's Office to investigate the Bashkir Interior Ministry for possible violations. As a result of the subsequent investigation, Russian Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov issued an order in June that listed major shortcomings in the activities of the Bashkir Interior Ministry, including manipulation of statistics, extreme personnel policies, and the implementation of a political order that violated federal law pertaining to militias.

Head of Russian Journalists Union Expresses Support For Rakhimov
Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov and Russian Union of Journalists Chairman Vsevolod Bogdanov, during their meeting in Ufa on 7 October, criticized the use of "black PR-technologies" they said are increasingly being used irresponsibly by the mass media, Bashinform reported. Bogdanov said many editors in chief become businesspeople and, instead of increasing print runs and studying readers' demands, they only focus on selling space in their publications. Bogdanov told reporters following the meeting that Rakhimov is a person who feels "great responsibility for the fate of his republic and peoples living on its territory." Bogdanov said he does not agree with Union of Journalists Secretary-General Igor Yakovenko's statement that Bashkortostan has the "most unfavorable political regime" of all of Russia's regions and is the "most unfavorable region in terms of freedom of press and degree of general freedoms as a whole" (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 21 August 2003). Bogdanov said Yakovenko's statement does not represent the views of the Union of Journalists.

Environmentalists Again Protest Creation of Yumaguzin Water Reservoir
Russia's leading environmentalists have appealed to Russian Natural Resources Minister Vitalii Artyukhov to halt work on the Yumaguzin water reservoir (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 16 July 2003), Interfax reported on 7 October. Signatories of the document include, among others, Russian Academy of Sciences corresponding member Aleksei Yablokov; Greenpeace Russia head Ivan Blokov; and Igor Chestin, the director of World Wildlife Fund in Russia. The applicants noted that the reservoir is being created on the territory of the Bashkiriya nature reserve without first undergoing an environmental-impact assessment conducted at the federal level. They also said that the development of Russia's largest reservoir, located on the Belaya (Agidel) River, was revived in 1998 in violation of the Russian Constitution and Water, Land, and Forestry codes. Laws on environmental protection, nature reserves, and animal protection were also seriously violated, the appeal read. Greenpeace representative Mikhail Kreindlin told Interfax that electricity generated from the hydroelectric dam on the Yumaguzin reservoir "can only be considered cheap if environmental losses and the interests of local people are ignored." Kreindlin added that work on the dam also threatens plant and animal species included in the "Red Book."

Bashkortostan's State-Sector Employees To Receive Cash Bonus On Anniversary of Sovereignty Declaration
State-sector workers will be granted 500 rubles ($16) in honor of the 13th anniversary of the adoption of Bashkortostan's state-sovereignty declaration, Bashinform reported on 7 October. A corresponding decree was signed the same day by President Rakhimov. An estimated 300,000 employees are eligible for the cash bonus.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova