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Tatar-Bashkir Report: November 19, 2003

19 November 2003
Government Offers Support To Domestic Petrochemical Industries
Deputy Prime Minister Rawyl Moratov told a meeting devoted to the development of small and medium-sized businesses in Tatarstan's petrochemical industry on 18 November that the republican government will refine all domestic oil at their facilities, which adds more than 30 percent value to the final product, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the next day. The republic has 10 major and mid-size, as well as 200 small petrochemical companies, with annual production of more than $1.3 billion, which is 10 percent of Russia's overall petrochemical output. The number of small petrochemical and oil-extraction companies has increased in the last five years by some 30 percent.

Rafinad Yarullin, general director of the republic's Tatneftekhiminvestholding company, said during the same meeting that the output of small petrochemical firms in Tatarstan is expected to triple in the near future, "since small businesses have not yet discovered all the opportunities available in the sphere of deep oil processing." However, Igor Privalov, general director of Tatarstan's agency for entrepreneurial development, cited a lack of dialogue between the small and large petrochemical companies, due to the unwillingness of major producers to share access to oil reserves.

Housing Tariffs To Increase 18 Percent Next Year
Deputy Minister of Construction Rauzil Kheziev said on 18 November that in 2004 Tatarstan's housing tariffs will rise by an average of 18 percent, but the tariffs will vary in different cities and regions of the republic, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. The increase is mainly due to the 16 percent increase in electricity and heating tariffs set by the republic's Energy Commission for next year.

The cabinet pledged to cover 29 percent of the housing fees, in order to soften the impact of the current housing reform on the socially vulnerable segments of society.

President Inaugurates New Monument In Kazan Kremlin
President Mintimer Shaimiev attended the opening of a monument to the architects of the Kazan Kremlin, recently included in the UNESCO World Heritage List, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. The monument, created by Moscow designers Aleksandr Golovachev, Vladimir Demchenko, and Tatar architect Rustam Zabirov, depicts two medieval architects. Shaimiev described the monument as a symbol demonstrating the union of Russian and Tatar cultures and the longstanding friendship between the two peoples.

Man Phones In Conversion To Islam
In a first for the local Muslim community, an ethnic Russian man converted to Islam over the telephone at Omsk's Khair-Ikhsan Mosque, reported on 18 November. The young man reportedly called the mosque to declare "shekhed," a phrase of initiation to Islam, and said that he would attend Khair-Ikhsan, which holds sermons in Russian language.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Another Independent Radio Station Attacked In Ufa
A group of unidentified persons accompanied by policemen tried on 17 November to destroy the transmitting antenna of the Retro radio station in Ufa, Retro-Ufa Director Oskar Fazlyev told Ekho Moskvy on 18 November. Retro-Ufa employees and guards prevented the antenna from being dismantled. The same day, the station had its electricity cut off.

Retro-Ufa was already targeted in May, when authorities destroyed the station's tower, reported on 18 November. In the past two weeks, Retro-Ufa is the third independent radio station to be harassed. On 10 November, unidentified persons accompanied by people in police uniforms dismantled an antenna of Bulgar radio, while the Hit-FM radio station was ordered to immediately vacate its rented premises (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 11 and 13 November 2003). In addition, a fake plaster bomb was found in the Hit-FM office, according to the website.

Rakhimov Confirmed As Candidate, Awarded National Olympus Prize
The Bashkir Supreme Court on 18 November rejected a complaint by two candidates in Bashkortostan's 7 December presidential election, Federation Council representative from Altai Republic Relif Safin and farmer Khesen Idiyetullin, who challenged the registration of incumbent President Murtaza Rakhimov as a candidate (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 11 November 2003), RosBalt reported the same day. Safin's lawyers told the news agency that they will appeal the verdict in the Russian Supreme Court.

The same day, the Bashkir Supreme Court began hearing a complaint by another presidential candidate, Andrei Pykhachev, who also demanded that Rakhimov's registration be annulled. Pykhachev accuses Rakhimov of "numerous violations of electoral legislation," specifically, of misuse of power and subornation of the electorate. He cited as examples of bribing voters, Rakhimov's granting of automobiles and diplomas to agricultural workers and using state officials to campaign for him.

Meanwhile, Rakhimov the same day attended the award ceremony of the Russian National Olympus Prize in Moscow, Bashinform and Prime-TASS reported. Rakhimov was granted the "For Honor and Heroism" award as Russia's best president of 2002-03.

Trial On Safin's Registration Begins
The Bashkir Supreme Court began hearing on 18 November a complaint by the Bashkir Central Election Commission (USK) against the registration of Relif Safin as a candidate in the Bashkir presidential election (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 14 November 2003), RosBalt reported the same day. Speaking at the trial, USK representative Vyacheslav Zhukovskii said the commission had removed from its complaint allegations of illegal campaign financing since it does not have enough evidence and is accusing Safin only of bribing voters. Zhukovskii said Safin paid money and provided free services to voters and promised to raise pensions and salaries and to distribute apartments to young families. Previously, the commission had claimed that Safin violated the law by arranging charity shows of pop stars and distributing free audio cassettes and CDs of his daughter, pop singer Alsu.

Court Annuls UralSib's Share Issue
The Moscow Arbitration Court on 18 November declared illegal the 1.9 billion-ruble ($63.7 million) UralSib bank share issue, by which the Bashkir Cabinet of Ministers lost its controlling interest in the bank, "Kommersant-Daily" and "Vedomosti" reported on 19 November. The suit was filed by the Russian Tax Ministry's Bashkir branch, which argued that the May issue, during which the Bashkir government's stake fell from 50 percent plus one share to 37.5 percent, was held in violation of the 1998 Bashkir presidential decree requiring that a stake of 50 percent plus one share remain in the republic's ownership. The Bashkir tax body is headed by Aleksandr Veremeenko, brother of opposition presidential candidate Sergei Veremeenko. UralSib press service head Sergei Lobanov said the bank will appeal the verdict.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova