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Tatar-Bashkir Report: November 12, 2003

12 November 2003
Two New Railway Stations Open In Nurlat, Egerje
Visiting state Russian Railways Company President Gennadii Fadeev took part on 11 November in the opening of two new railway stations in Tatarstan's Nurlat and Egerje municipalities, Tatar and Russian agencies reported the same day. Fadeev said that seven new railway stations were opened in Tatarstan in the last two years, adding that the figure is to be doubled in the near future. The construction of the Egerje facility, which cost 123 million rubles ($4.1 million) and can hold up to 3,600 passengers, was finished within 16 months. The project was financed in equal parts from the republican budget and the Gorkii Railway. Of the 63 million rubles paid for the reconstruction of the Nurlat railway station, 75 percent was paid by Tatarstan and 25 percent by the Russian Railways Ministry. While in Egerje, Fadeev and Tatar Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov signed a cooperation agreement between the Tatar government and the Russian Railways Company. Fadeev said Tatarstan is at the forefront of railway development in Russia and that the railway sector contributes 1 billion rubles a year to the Tatar budget.

Parliamentary Commission Approves Amendments To Language Legislation
The State Council's Commission on Science, Education, Culture, and National Issues approved at a 11 November meeting draft amendments to the languages law, Tatar-inform and reported the same day. The commission also approved a draft 10-year state program on the preservation, study, and development of the languages of Tatarstan's people and recommended that the State Council consider drafts in the first reading. The new version of the program will cost 141 million rubles; a version implemented in 1993 cost 60 million rubles. Commission Chairman Razil Weliev said the republic's language legislation was to be amended after amendments to the federal law on languages and a protest by the Tatar prosecutor against some provisions of the republican law. The draft legislation outlines in what capacity Tatar and Russian should be used.

TV Head Calls For Creation Of 24-Hour Tatar News Channel
Some 60 regional television companies from Russia's central zone took part in a Russia-wide television competition, TEFI-Region, which opened on 11 November in Kazan, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. Among Tatarstan's 13 television companies taking part, only Chally TV presented a program in Tatar. Eduard Sagalaev, the president of the National Association of Television and Radio Transmitters and the head of the competition's jury, told RFE/RL that the competition organizers did not require the programs to be in Russian, however most television companies producing programs in national languages did not enter the competition. Sagalaev said that television companies featuring local-language programming can compete with Russian-language stations. He expressed regret that there is not a Tatar-language round-the-clock television news channel available around the world. "I am convinced that in Moscow, where a million Tatars live, it would be a profitable commercial project if a cable television channel in Tatar was arranged," Sagalaev said.

Tatar Officials Attend Russian Investment Symposium At Harvard
Tatar Deputy Prime Minister and Economy and Industry Minister Aleksei Pakhomov and the republic's permanent representative to the United States, Lenar Latyipov, took part in the seventh Russian Investment Symposium held at Harvard University on 11-15 November, the foreign relations department of the Tatar presidency reported on 11 November. Delegates from Tatarstan have attended the symposium since 1999 to further cooperation with foreign partners and investors. The forum is intended to develop Russia's investment climate, financial infrastructure, corporate management, and to encourage small- and medium-sized entrepreneurs.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Bashkir Election Commission Again Denies Registration For Veremeenko...
After deliberating for two days, Bashkortostan's Central Election Commission (USK) refused on 11 November to register Sergei Veremeenko as a candidate for Bashkir president, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reported the same day. Veremeenko is a member of Mezhprombank's board of directors. Russian Federation Council Senator Igor Izmestiev, also a candidate for the presidency, accused Veremeenko of financing his campaign with funds not allocated through his election fund. The USK decision overturned the Russian Central Election Commission's (TsIK) 3 November ruling. The TsIK had negated the 27 October decision by the Bashkir Commission to ban Veremeenko from the presidential race. Immediately after the USK meeting, Veremeenko's representatives announced their intention to protest the verdict in Moscow.

...As State Bashkir Media Target Safin
Meanwhile, the Bashkir State Bashinform Agency continues to publish its "political satire" articles targeting another contender for the Bashkir presidency, Relif Safin, an Altay senator and former vice president of the LUKOil company, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported today. Raising allegations against LUKOil's political practices, as well as the origin of Safin's wealth, the agency is writing unflattering articles about him. To back its case, Bashinform also reported that the oil company had attempted to evade taxes by registering its production facilities in the Baikonur offshore zone in Kazakhstan. However, the agency did not mention that LUKOil has already repaid the $100 million owed to the Russian Tax Ministry, nor did it tell of similar schemes practiced by other Bashkir oil refineries who refuse to pay their taxes. Bashinform's publications are reprinted by the predominantly state-owned republican press.

Rakhimov Praised By Military Commander
The chief commander of the Volga-Ural Federal District, General Colonel Aleksandr Baranov, visited Bashkortostan on 11 November to honor the republic's high recruitment figures, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported today. While most other regions in Russia have difficulty gaining recruits, the Bashkir Chief Military Commissioner's Office was able to enlist a majority of recruit-aged men and, because of its fall recruitment campaign, will send 415 draftees to join the army. Baranov showed his appreciation by awarding President Murtaza Rakhimov with a personalized handgun for his contribution to the Defense Ministry's recruitment efforts. The ceremony took place despite Rakhimov's pre-election vacation. This is the second gun to be awarded to the Bashkir president. The head of the Federal Security Service, Nikolai Kovalev, presented Rakhimov with the same pistol model in 1999.

Power Management Services Contribute To Harassment Of Independent Radio Station
The Municipal Power Service sent a letter notifying Radio Bulgar's management that beginning 12 November the radio station's facilities in Ufa will be cut off from power due to a technical failure following the recent assault on their transmission antenna, reported on 11 November. On 10 November unidentified civilians accompanied by policemen armed with machine guns dismantled the transmission antenna of the radio station, which is known for its independent coverage of the presidential campaign in Bashkortostan (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 11 November 2003).

RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service is Mentioned By Bashkir Official Press
According to an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent on 11 November, many issues of recent publications in the Bashkir State Press attack reports by RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service for "misrepresenting the situation in Bashkortostan" and circulating "unfound criticism that discredits the republic's image." The state-run outlets mentioned Radio Azatliq along with the media of President Rakhimov's opposition, which faces serious administrative barriers when trying to broadcast or publish.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi