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Tatar-Bashkir Report: October 21, 2003

21 October 2003
Parliament Speaker Upbeat About Russia's Joining OIC...
A day after returning from the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) summit in Malaysia, Tatar State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin told reporters in Kazan on 20 October that Russia's joining the organization as an observer "opened new opportunities" for the country, which has to consider the "opinion of 20 million [Russian] Muslims" in its policy making, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. He noted, however, that "we don't expect any quick dividends from joining, but in future it will allow the expansion of Russia's circle of interaction with OIC member countries."

...And Discusses Tatarstan's Power-Sharing Experience With Chechen President
In Malaysia, Mukhametshin reportedly met with another member of the delegation, Chechen President-elect Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov, upon the latter's request, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 20 October. Kadyrov was interested in discussing the draft power-sharing treaty to be signed by Moscow and Grozny and discussing the experience of Tatarstan's treaty with Moscow dating back to 1994. Mukhametshin agreed with Kadyrov's vision of shared responsibilities between the federal and Chechen governments but opposed Kadyrov's claim that Chechnya should retain all its tax revenues. In Mukhametshin's opinion, such a treaty provision was not viable and would by unlikely to be approved by the federal government.

Military Official Urges More Patriotic Upbringing For Tatar Youth
Tatarstan's deputy chief military commissioner, Dmitrii Litvinov, told a government meeting on 20 October that the existing system of patriotic education in Tatarstan "is not efficient enough," since recent public-opinion polls of students found that 45 percent of respondents found no link between the terms of "protection of the fatherland" and "army service," Intertat reported the same day. Litvinov also said that Tatarstan had the lowest rate of army recruiting compared to other regions, as only 9 percent of young men were enlisted annually.

Japanese Ambassador Visits Kazan
Japan's Ambassador to Russia Issei Nomura met with State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin and Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation Minister Khafiz Salikhov on 20 October in Kazan, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. Nomura said that his country possessed "enormous interest" in cooperating with Tatar petrochemical industry, but there were still no Japanese companies operating in the republic.

Several days before the visit, the Ministry of Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation and the Japanese Mitsui Corporation signed a memorandum of intention on establishing a polyethylene production line at the Kazanorgsintez chemical plant.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Putin Blesses Rakhimov's Election Campaign
During his visit to Malaysia, Russian President Vladimir Putin met on 18 October with his Bashkir counterpart Murtaza Rakhimov, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 20 October. Commenting on the 7 December Bashkir presidential and State Duma elections, Putin said the pre-electoral situation in the republic should not complicate daily life or the economy. At a press conference on 20 October in Ufa, Rakhimov said that during his meeting with Putin in Malaysia, the Russian president supported his re-election bid and permitted him to use pictures of the two men together in his campaign literature, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day.

Prosecutors Investigate Alleged Privatization Violations In Bashkir Petrochemical Sector
The Volga Federal District Department of the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office has filed a criminal case on the "illegal privatization of the petrochemical complex" in Bashkortostan, "Expert-Ural" reported on 20 October. The move came in the wake of an audit carried out by the Russian Audit Chamber in Bashkortostan in the summer (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 23 July 2003), which revealed a largescale theft of assets. According to the audit results, cited by "Expert-Ural," the privatization of these companies -- which include Bashneft, the Novo-Ufimsk Oil Refinery, the Ufa Oil Refinery, Ufaneftekhim, Ufaorgsintez, Bashkirenergo, and Bashnefteprodukt -- may have resulted in damage to the property of the companies, as well as costing the local and federal budgets money.

Daily Reports Purchase Of UralSib By NIKoil
The NIKoil financial corporation has reportedly purchased a controlling stake in the Bashkir-based UralSib bank, "Vedomosti" reported on 21 October, citing unidentified financial sources. The daily reported that the deal, the largest in the history of Russian banking, cost $300 million. Neither UralSib nor Nikoil representatives, however, have confirmed the story, the daily reported. The potential sell-off of UralSib has been a topic of much speculation in the past (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 25 August and 18 September 2003). Established in 1993 as Bashkreditbank, UralSib is Russia's 10th-largest bank in terms of assets and 8th-largest in terms of capital. The Bashkir government, which is UralSib's major shareholder possessing a 37.5 percent stake, plans to sell off 15 percent of the company in an auction on 29 October.

Switzerland Agrees To Pay Compensation For Midair Collision
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said Switzerland has agreed to pay compensation to relatives of victims of the 1 July 2002 midair collision over Germany involving a Bashkir Airlines Tu-154 and a DHL cargo jet, "Expert-Ural" reported on 20 October. The crash killed 71 people, including 56 children (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 2 July 2002). During Ivanov's visit to Switzerland last week, Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey said Switzerland and Germany are setting up a compensation fund but refused to say for how much. "Kommersant" reported on 15 October that the Swiss Finance Ministry said that the two countries will contribute $10 million to the fund each. Zofer Khammatov, the head of a Bashkir public association representing the relatives of the victims, commented that Switzerland's participation in the fund will be a more "civilized approach to the issue than the insulting silence" that was kept for a year following the tragedy. The juridical department of Bashkir Airlines is continuing to demand that the Swiss air-traffic control service Skyguide pay it $29 million in compensation for the aircraft and the crew.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova