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Tatar-Bashkir Report: November 13, 2003

13 November 2003
Tatarstan, India's Andhra-Pradesh To Boost Ties
An agreement between the Tatar government and the Indian state of Andhra-Pradesh was signed on 12 November in Moscow as part of a visit by Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to Russia, Tatarinform and reported the same day. Tatarstan's Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov and Indian Foreign Minister Jashwant Sinha signed the document, under which the sides will promote development of trade, economic, scientific, technical, and cultural cooperation between companies and institutions of Tatarstan and Andhra-Pradesh. Cooperation in scientific, technical, trade, and economic sectors will include establishment of joint ventures, research bodies, and innovation companies; implementation of investment, scientific, and research programs and projects; exchange of delegations; and holding joint seminars and fairs. The sides will promote establishment of each other's representations on their territories and information exchange. A working group will be formed in accordance with the agreement to coordinate and promote joint activities, which will meet at least twice a year. The trade turnover between Tatarstan and India in 2002 was $37.3 million, one-third of the 2001 rate. In the first six months of this year it was $14 million.

Council Of Muftis Head Disagrees With Census Data On Russia's Muslims
The chairman of the Council of Muftis of Russia, Rawil Gainutdin, on 11 November expressed his disagreement with the preliminary results of the October 2002 census, according to which the number of Muslims in Russia is 14.5 million, "Izvestiya" reported on 12 November. The figure was announced the previous day by the Russian minister in charge of nationalities affairs, Vladimir Zorin (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 11 November 2003), and was obtained from adding up the number of Russia's Muslim peoples. Gainutdin is convinced that at least 20 million Muslims live in Russia. This number was cited by Russian President Vladimir Putin at a recent summit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Gainutdin argued that not all Muslims were registered in the census since at least 4 million illegal migrants, including Azerbaijanis, Kazakhs, Uzbeks, and Tajiks did not take part in the census.

Carnegie Foundation expert Aleksei Malashenko told the daily that "there are many more Muslims in Russia than were registered in the census." The number of 20 million Muslims in Russia was used from the early 1990s, a figure first announced by Muslim politicians and religious leaders, Malashenko said. Western scholars confirmed the figure after checking it, he added.

Offshore Company Loses Lawsuit Against Tatar Government
The Tatar Arbitration Court on 11 November ruled against Newport Capital Ltd. offshore company in its lawsuit demanding that the privatization of state shares in 18 Tatar companies united in the Svyazinvestneftekhim holding be abolished, "Kommersant" and "Vedomosti" reported on 12 November. The court ruled that the procedure did not violate the law and that the plaintiff's claims are unfounded.

Svyazinvestneftekhim was established in April by a Tatar cabinet resolution, which combined 37.7 billion rubles of state-owned shares in 18 of the republic's top companies, including 30 percent of Tatneft, some 35 percent of Nizhnekamskneftekhim, a blocking share in Kazanorgsintez, 40 percent of the Kazan City Telephone Station, 100 percent of Tatkhimfarmpreparaty, and controlling interests in energy companies subordinate to Tatenergo.

Newport Capital owns 0.57 percent of Kazanorgsintez, Russia's leading polyethylene producer, and some 0.1 percent of Tatneft, Russia's fifth-largest oil producer. Newport Capital had previously appealed to the Arbitration Court to annul the government decision on the establishment of Svyazinvestneftekhim. On 4 November, however, it changed course and contested the decision of the republic's Property Ministry on privatization of state property, which, unlike the federal law on privatization, does not demand that the minimum price of state property under privatization be determined. The offshore company insisted that if federal legislation was applied to the privatization procedure, the price of Kazanorgsintez shares would increase by some 20 percent. Newport Capital representative Timur Zykov said the company will appeal to the Volga Federal District Arbitration Court.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Opposition Candidates Ask Putin To Intervene In Bashkir Presidential Election
Bashkir presidential candidates Sergei Veremeenko, Khesen Idiyatullin, and Relif Safin, as well as the Fund for Free Elections Bashkir head Aleksandr Morozov and State Duma Deputy for Bashkortostan and Communist Party leader Valentin Nikitin on 10 November complained to Russian President Vladimir Putin that local authorities are using illegal practices against the opponents of incumbent Murtaza Rakhimov, "by disabling their campaigning activities and pressuring their trusted and active supporters."

They accused Rakhimov's government of "undertaking all measures to destabilize the situation and put the blame on opposition forces" and asked Putin to have the Federal Security Service investigate the 5 November car bombing of bodyguards of Rakhimov's son, Ural (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 7 and 10 November 2003). According to an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent on 12 November, Bashkir Interior Ministry investigators announced that the bombing in the Bashkir capital was allegedly organized by supporters of former Mezhprombank Director Veremeenko.

Veshnyakov Says TsIK Can Register Veremeenko...
The Russian Central Election Commission (TsIK) is able to unilaterally make a decision on registering Veremeenko as a presidential candidate in Bashkortostan, TsIK Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov told Ekho Moskvy on 12 November. He said that if Veremeenko appeals to Moscow for the second time and TsIK upholds his registration, the Bashkir Central Election Commission (USK) will be unable to overturn this decision and will have to appeal to the Russian Supreme Court. On 3 November, the TsIK reversed the 27 October decision by the USK to ban Veremeenko from the presidential race. But on 11 November the USK voted to overrule the TsIK's decision (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 12 November).

Veshnyakov also noted that the TsIK has received numerous reports about election-law violations in Bashkortostan and therefore intends to send inspectors to the republic next week.

...As Bashkir Commission Excludes Him From Ballot
The USK on 11 November approved the form of the electoral ballots to be used for the 7 December presidential vote in the republic, RosBalt reported on 12 November. The ballots will have the names of seven candidates and Sergei Veremeenko is not one of them. According to the agency, if he wins the battle to be registered, the ballots will be reprinted. A total of 2.8 million ballots will be printed, in both state languages -- Russian and Bashkir, while the Tatar-populated areas will reportedly be offered ballots printed in the Tatar language.

Another Private Radio Station Closed In Ufa
Bashkortostan's Property Ministry ordered Ufa's commercial Hit-FM radio station to immediately vacate its rented premises, "due to the strong necessity" expressed by the landlord, RosBalt reported on 12 November. The station's director, Rimma Zaripova, told the agency that Bashkir authorities ordered Hit-FM to abandon the building within hours and warned of electricity blackouts if the demand was not met.

Hit-FM is a music station offering news programs to some 1.5 million listeners in the Bashkir capital twice a day. The station has maintained coverage of the current presidential election campaign in the republic, including the developments with the failed registration of Sergei Veremeenko. The Property Ministry's actions reportedly violated the terms of the rental contract and the radio intends to dispute the eviction attempt in the republic's Arbitrage Court. This incident follows recent attacks on another private radio station in Ufa this week (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 12 November 2003).

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi