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Tatar-Bashkir Report: November 26, 2003

26 November 2003
Muslims Celebrate Eid Al-Fitr
President Vladimir Putin greeted Russia's Muslims on the Eid al-Fitr holiday, saying the religious festival is of exclusive importance for millions of followers of Islam, a world religion based on the high moral values of interfaith tolerance, peaceful disposition, and care for one's neighbor, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 26 November.

Tatarstan's Muslim Spiritual Directorate Chairman Mufti Gosman Iskhaqov on 25 November gave a holiday sermon in the Kazan Bolgar Mosque and passed holiday greetings to all Muslims from Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev, reported the same day. In his address, Iskhaqov noted that "2003 has shown a kind attitude toward Muslims. Our mothers, wives, and daughters were permitted to be photographed for documents [covering their heads]. President Vladimir Putin proposed an initiative on joining the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the recognition of Russia's origin having an Islamic nature as well." Iskhaqov also said, "Tatarstan, known for the wise and considered policy of President Mintimer Shaimiev, remains an example of peaceful coexistence and well-being for many countries."

Meanwhile, reported on 25 November that Tatarstan's politicians also use the Eid al-Fitr holiday in their election campaign. Tatfondbank Chairman Rinat Gobeidullin, a State Duma candidate for Unified Russia, provided a charity meal to break the Ramadan fast in a mosque of the Vasilievo village near Kazan. A similar event was held in Kazan's Nury Mosque by State Duma candidate for Yabloko Irek Mortazin. In the same mosque, supporters of Flyure Ziatdinova, a State Duma candidate for the People's Party, distributed her campaign materials, according to the website.

U.S. Diplomat Visits Kazan
U.S. Embassy to Russia official Jack Sugarman visited Kazan and visited the offices of all political parties and movements of the republic, reported on 24 November. Sugarman met with Kazan students in the American Hall of Tatarstan's National Library. Sugarman said the aim of his trip is to get acquainted with the republic's Muslim community and raise the United States' image among Muslims. He distributed booklets and magazines telling about good conditions for Muslims in the United States.

Electoral Preferences Of Tatarstan's Voters
Kazan Analytic Research Center head Aleksandr Salagaev told RFE/RL's Kazan bureau on 25 November that according to a poll held in the past several days in Tatarstan, about 30 percent of those questioned expressed support for Unified Russia, some 25 percent to 26 percent for the Communist Party, 6 percent for the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, some 4 percent each for the Union of Rightist Forces and Yabloko, and some 3.5 percent for the Motherland bloc. Salagaev said 14 percent of respondents still hadn't decided, while 4 percent said they will vote in the 7 December State Duma elections against all candidates.

According to a poll held by VTsIOM-A and Mayak Radio on 22 November in Belgorod, Vladimir, and Kyshtym, Chelyabinsk Oblast, Unified Russia received the support of 32.7 percent of respondents, the Communist Party 14.3 percent, Liberal Democratic Party 8 percent, the Union of Rightist Forces 7.5 percent, and Yabloko 5.2 percent, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 25 November.

TV Station Cancels Agreement With Opposition Politician
Kazan private television company Efir refused to provide airtime for State Duma candidate for the Party of Russia's Revival/Russian Party of Life electoral bloc Refget Altynbaev, reported on 24 November. Efir, which previously has agreed to broadcast Altynbaev's ads and speeches and has accepted payment, then said it will only show his ads, not speeches. Altynbaev, onetime Chally mayor and representative of Tatarstan's president to the Federation Council, now in opposition to the republic's leadership, has said he will run for Tatar president in 2006.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Rakhimov Boasts The Largest Election Fund In The Republic
Bashkortostan's Central Election Commission (USK) announced that incumbent President Murtaza Rakhimov raised more money for his election fund than any of his fellow candidates, Rosbalt reported on 25 November. TsIK verified that $1.25 million out of $1.58 million in donations were made legally to Rakhimov's campaign. Most of Rakhimov's financial support came from business sponsors, with individual residents donating about $35,000 and Rakhimov investing $30,000 himself. Rakhimov notified the USK that so far he has spent only $17,000 of his election fund.

Igor Izmestiev, Bashkortostan's current senator in the Russian Federation Council and close business partner of Rakhimov, is second in fundraising, totaling $700,000. Izmestiev's fund is equally supported by individual contributions and donations from businesses. According to documents presented by his trustees to USK on 25 November, 12 days before the election, the senator has not spent any of his campaign funds.

Millionaire Relif Safin, senator from the Altai Republic, is third in fundraising, totaling $570,000 after the USK returned nearly $60,000 in donations, claiming that they were fraudulent. Safin reported very modest expenditures of $7,000, leaving the bulk of the fund untouched.

Other candidates, Aleksandr Arinin, director of the Federalism and Civil Society Institute; Andrei Pikhachev from Velikii Novgorod; Khesen Idiyatullin, a farmer and the local Communist Party leader; and Rasul Shugurov, have all raised approximately $370,000. One of the major candidates for the president's seat, the recently registered Sergei Veremeenko, has yet to produce a report on his election fund and its expenditures to the Election Commission.

Veremeenko Still Unable To Get His Candidate's Certificate
Although the Russian and Bashkortostan Supreme Courts on 24 November issued a ruling, permitting Sergei Veremeenko to register as a presidential candidate, Veremeenko has still not received his certificate, "Vremya Novostei" and "Izvestiya" wrote on 25 November (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 25 November 2003). Veremeenko's aides are reportedly looking for Bashkir Central Election Commission Chairman Bariy Kizyagulov, who hurriedly left for "an emergency business trip" to Bashkortostan's Baymaq region on 24 November and left the certificate in his office safe.

Veremeenko fears that without a certificate he will be unable to complete all necessary legal procedures before the 7 December election and will be dropped from the ballot. He told "Izvestiya" that during previous presidential elections in Bashkortostan, Kinzyagulov has been known to "vanish" on the eve of election deadlines.

Tambov Court Annuls The Handover Of Leading Industries' Shares
The Kotovsk city court in Tambov Oblast on 20 November upheld a complaint made by Petr Komarov, the minor shareholder of key Bashkir petrochemical and energy industries (Bashneft, the Ufa oil processing plant, the Novoufimskii oil processing plant, Ufaneftekhim, Ufaorgsintez, and Bashnefteprodukt), which protested the handover of his shares to the newly established Bashkirskii Kapital company, "Kommersant" wrote on 25 November. The court ruled that Viktor Gantsev, working as a general director of the Bashneftekhim concern, "organized a series of transactions for alienating the controlling shares packages," which transformed the plaintiff "from a shareholder of the companies with the state-owned controlling share and transparent scheme of monetary flows into a shareholder of companies owned by unidentified proprietors." The aforementioned companies were forced to return the interest to their initial owners, the Bashkir fuel company and Bashneftekhim.

According to an unnamed expert on corporate conflicts cited by "Kommersant," the legal suit could be a result of the interests of Basic Element Holding, which owns a 10 percent share in Bashneft and wants to secure the price of the company's shares. The expert also said that the suit could be influenced by Mezhprombank's former top manager and current Bashkir presidential candidate, Sergei Veremeenko, who does not want the controlling interests of the leading domestic companies moved outside the republic. Veremeenko could reportedly be coordinating his actions with the Basic Element Holding, headed by Oleg Deripaska. Earlier this year, the Russian Audit Chamber announced that the state-owned Bashkir petrochemical giants, Bashneftekhim and Bashkir Fuel Company, with the consent of President Rakhimov, handed the controlling interests in major petrochemical companies to private companies, which later transferred them to the Bashkirskii Kapital company.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi