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Tatar-Bashkir Report: November 11, 2003

11 November 2003
TAIF Begins Construction Of Oil Refinery
A time capsule was placed in Tuben Kama on 10 November to mark the beginning of construction of an oil refinery by the TAIF company, reported the same day. The facility is designed to produce 530,000 tons of gasoline and 100,000 tons of diesel fuel a year. The construction of the $76 million complex is being financed by TAIF. Construction will begin in May and is scheduled to last 2 1/2 years.

President Mintimer Shaimiev, who is currently on the vacation required by law during his re-election campaign, attended the ceremony and said that the project does not rule out the continuation of construction of the Tuben Kama oil refinery (NNPZ) by Tatneft with the participation of TAIF. He said of the 30 million tons of oil expected to be produced a year in Tatarstan from 2004, 7 million tons will be processed at NNPZ and the same amount at the TAIF facility. Recently, Tatneft managers made statements opposing TAIF's plans to construct the oil refinery (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 10 October 2003). Radik Shaimiev, the president's son, is chairman of TAIF, which owns 5 percent of Tatneft.

Ballots In Both State Languages To Be Printed In Tatarstan
Tatarstan's Central Election Commission passed a decision to print electoral ballots in both of Tatarstan's state languages, Russian and Tatar, reported on 10 November. The election commissions of the republic's five single-mandate districts -- Elmet, Meskeu, Tuben Kama, Chally, and Idel -- confirmed the forms and texts of ballots for the State Duma elections. Ballots will include names of the 23 political parties and blocs registered in Russia and first three candidates in their federal and regional lists. A total of 2.79 million ballots will be printed in Tatarstan by mid-November.

KamAZ Issues 1.2 Billion-Ruble Bond
KamAZ has issued in Moscow a 1.2 billion-ruble ($40.2 million) bond, reported on 10 November. The bond, organized by the Zenit bank and Vneshtorgbank, is for three years, while interest will be paid every six months. Some 80 percent of the money will be spent on repayment of short-term bank credits used for financing KamAZ investment projects. Among them is a 1.8 billion-ruble project to develop a group of trucks with a carrying capacity of up to 13 tons by 2006. The company plans to issue 1,200 such vehicles this year, with plans to issue some 6,500 by 2006.

Russia's Muslims Number 14.5 Million
Russia's minister with responsibility for nationalities affairs, Vladimir Zorin, told a press conference at Interfax on 10 November that according to the preliminary results of the 2002 national census, there are 14.5 million Muslims in Russia, or 10 percent of the population. Of the seven nationalities in Russia numbering over a million, three are Muslim -- Tatars, Bashkirs, and Chechens. Previously, it was believed that Russia has a population of 20 million Muslims.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Election Commission Puts Off Decision On Veremeenko's Reinstatement
Bashkortostan's Central Election Commission (USK) on 10 November decided to postpone a meeting on the reinstatement of Sergei Veremeenko as a presidential candidate, Rosbalt reported the same day (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 10 November 2003). USK Chairman Bary Kinzyagulov explained the decision by citing a lack of time to consider the documents regarding Veremeenko's election-campaign practices. The commission had denied registration for Veremeenko -- a member of Mezhprombank's board of directors -- based on a complaint by Igor Izmestiev, a Russian Federation Council senator representing Bashkortostan who is also running for the presidency. Izmestiev accused his rival of using other financial sources besides his campaign fund in placing some $130,000 worth of political advertisements. The USK reportedly announced it would postpone the final decision on Veremeenko after his lawyers asked Izmestiev's representatives to provide evidence backing their claims. On 3 November, the Russian Central Election Commission overruled the decision by Bashkortostan's USK to deny Veremeenko's registration.

Independent Radio Station Goes Off The Air
Unidentified civilians accompanied by machine-gun carrying policemen dismantled the transmission antenna of Ufa's independent Bulgar FM radio station on 10 November, a local RFE/RL correspondent reported the same day. The attackers reportedly took the parts of the antenna with them as the radio's lawyers and security approached the scene. The same day, Bashkir state radio and television issued a statement explaining the incident by saying that the antenna atop one of the city's apartments had "interfered with the operation of household equipment and created health problems for its inhabitants." Radio Bulgar has all of the necessary licenses and technical permission to broadcast. Previous attempts against Radio Bulgar were made by Interior Ministry and Orjenikidze Raion officials on 5 November, after an explosion near the home of Ural Rakhimov, the president's son (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 10 November 2003 and below).

Rakhimov's Rivals Ask Court To Cancel His Registration
Bashkir presidential candidates Relif Safin, Altay's senator in the Russian Federation Council, and Khesen Idiyatullin, farmer and former LUKOil deputy president, appealed to the republic's Supreme Court on 10 November to cancel President Murtaza Rakhimov's registration as a candidate in the 7 December election because he has violated election laws, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported today. The plaintiffs stated that Rakhimov abused his powers by usurping the privilege of having access to state and municipal media in Bashkortostan and because he constantly mentions that his candidacy is supported by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The claim specifically mentioned that the presidential press services continue to cover Rakhimov's activities despite the fact that he is currently on an official one-month vacation. Prime Minister Rafael Baydavletov serves as acting president in Rakhimov's absence.

Opposition Website Suggests That Rakhimov Is In Hospital, the website maintained by Sergei Veremeenko's supporters, speculated on 10 November that Bashkir President Rakhimov is in a poor state of health after inhaling poisonous vapors from the Khimprom chemical factory, which suffered a leak on 7 November. According to the report, not confirmed by the governmental press service, the president had a bronchitis attack and will remain in hospital for the next seven days.

Bashkir Parliament Links Bombing To Presidential Elections
Bashkortostan's State Assembly on 10 November urged the republic's citizens to remain calm over the recent terrorist act in the Bashkir capital, Ufa, and to proceed along "the path of economic and social progress and [to] improve the welfare" of all citizens, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. The open letter presumed that the 5 November explosion was related to the "psychological war against the republic, waged by financial, industrial, and political circles." Two people were killed and three were injured when a car bomb exploded in Ufa on the night of 5 November near the residence of the son of the Bashkir president, Ural Rakhimov (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 7, 10 November 2003).

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi