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Tatar-Bashkir Report: November 20, 2003

20 November 2003
Wages Arrears Fall By More Than Half This Year
Tatar Labor Minister Boris Zakharov told the meeting of the republican Coordinating Committee on wage arrears payment on 19 November that the current amount owed in back wages by local companies to their employees is 317.3 million rubles ($10.5 million), which is 23.5 percent less than the month before. In 2003, these companies have managed to reduce wages arrears by more than half, as the number of companies owing back wages also fell from 1220 in January to 508 in November.

Case Of Alleged Explosives Purchase Sent To Court
The Federal Security Service's (FSB) office in Tatarstan completed its investigation into an alleged attempt by German citizen Uwe Krueger to purchase some 20 kilograms of explosives in Tuben Kama earlier this year, Intertat reported on 19 November. Krueger reportedly also intended to hire a Russian demolition expert to bomb his own three-story apartment building in Berlin for the insurance. A Tatar court will hear the case on 3 December.

International Agency Cites Increase In Prospected Oil Reserves In Tatarstan
According to the Miller&Lants company, Tatarstan's Tatneft oil company possesses some 838.4 million tons of real, prospected oil reserves, which is some 35 million tons more than reported in early 2003, Tatar news agencies reported on 19 November. The Romashkino oil field is still the republic's biggest deposit with 455.4 million tons, while the rest is reportedly spread among Novoelkhovo, Bauli, Sabanchi, and smaller deposits. The majority of the prospected oil is said to contain high amounts of sulfur, which lowers its price. This is currently compensated for by Transneft, which manages Russia's oil pipelines. Transneft mixes the Tatar oil with higher-quality oil from Siberia and the Urals.

Tatneft's annual oil production is currently stable at some 24 million tons, while another 6 million are extracted in Tatarstan by small private companies.

Alabuga Offshore Zone Is History
A state company named the Directorate of the Investment Programs in Alabuga Industrial Zone was established to replace the administration of Tatarstan's Alabuga offshore zone on 19 November, AK&M reported the same day. The offshore zone was established by Tatarstan's government at the Alabuga Automotive Plant (YelAZ) in 1998 and was abolished following protests by federal prosecutors, which disputed the republic's right to open its own free economic zones. Thirteen industrial ventures are still operating in the former offshore zone, half of them with foreign investors. In 2002 the Alabuga companies had annual production of more than $40 million.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Envoy Says No Conflicts Exist Between Ufa, Federal Authorities
Presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District Sergei Kirienko visited Ufa on 19 November to supervise preparations for the winter season, Bashkir and Russian agencies reported. Speaking on his arrival at the Ufa airport, Kirienko praised the republic for being "a calm stable region that always was among the district's three leaders in terms of main socioeconomic parameters." He said, "It is impermissible to force the situation [in the republic] on the eve of elections," adding, "no conflict exists between Bashkortostan and federal authorities."

Following his closed-door meeting with Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov, Kirienko said payment of increased salaries to state employees was on the agenda. He commented that "there are no problems concerning this issue in Bashkortostan and all salaries are being paid in full." Meeting with government officials, Kirienko ordered them "not to let the electoral situation deteriorate." He said the Bashkir Interior Ministry must ensure the safety of people during the election campaign and complete the investigation of the 5 November bombing in Ufa (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 7 November 2003.

Kirienko also said all election disputes should be resolved in election commissions and courts, adding that he, "as a federal official, would not like to and will not interfere" in them. Kirienko added that he will next visit Bashkortostan to attend the president's inauguration.

Statement Says Interior Ministry Tapped Phones Of Opposition Leaders
A group of Bashkir Interior Ministry employees issued a statement saying they were ordered to tap telephone conversations of the Bashkir opposition, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 20 November. The statement's authors also published on the Internet transcripts of telephone conversations of several opposition leaders, including Rus movement leader and State Assembly deputy Anatolii Dubovskii, Bashkir presidential candidate Aleksandr Arinin, Bashkir parliament deputy and State Duma candidate Gennadii Shabaev, former Bashkirenergo director German Galkin, and Nikkolo-M agency head Igor Mintusov. "We have been ordered to intercept telephone conversations and hold outward observation of not only opposition politicians but also of members of their families as well as all persons who had if only occasional contacts with them," the statement read.

Writing in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 20 November, Dubovskii said the published telephone conversations involving him did in fact take place. He said he appealed to the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office to punish the officials responsible for the phone tapping. Commenting on the publication of the statement, Arinin said he was not surprised by the fact of his phones being tapped and is not going to sue anybody, "Gazeta" reported on 19 November.

Man From Bashkortostan Resident Sentenced To Death For Robbing Thai Bank
Two men from Bashkortostan were convicted of robbing a bank in Pattani, Thailand, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 19 November. Renat Kudoyarov was sentenced to death and Marat Minlekeev to a long prison term, according to the report. The Russian Foreign Ministry's representative to Bashkortostan, Zinnur Merdenov, commented that the two could be extradited to Russia, if their parents appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and he then appeals to the Thai monarch.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova