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Tatar-Bashkir Report: November 28, 2003

28 November 2003
Public Figures Protest Construction Of Catholic Church
A group of public figures appealed to Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev to protest against plans by the city of Kazan to build a large Catholic church in the center of Kazan near an Old Belief church, "Zvezda povolzhya" reported on 27 November. In an open letter published in the weekly, the authors say the intention to build a Catholic church in Kazan, which has only several dozen Catholics, many of them foreigners, demonstrates the Vatican's missionary activity in Tatarstan, where Islam and Orthodoxy are the main beliefs. The Russian Orthodox Church has condemned such expansionist plans by the Vatican, they added. Society for Russian Culture Chairman Aleksandr Salagaev, People's Will party regional branch head Sergei Gavrilov, and Democratic Party of Russian in Tatarstan deputy head Sergei Nikitin are among the signatories.

The church is designed to be 64 meters high, higher than the Geliesker Kamal Tatar National Theater located nearby, the paper reported. According to the weekly, the church is intended to be the place where Pope John Paul II will return the Holy Mother of God of Kazan icon stolen from Kazan a century ago and currently in the Vatican's possession. This would free the pope of the necessity to hand over the icon to the Russian Orthodox Church. John Paul II has repeatedly expressed his intention to return the icon to Kazan, though the Russian Orthodox Church has protested against his visit to Russia until disagreements between the Vatican and the Moscow Patriarchy are resolved (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 15, 21, and 23 April and 31 October 2003).

Tatar Council Speaker Says Position Regarding Tatar Language Key One To Back Candidate For Bashkir President
Interviewed on Bashkir State Radio and Television during a visit to Ufa on 26 November, Tatarstan's State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin said, "any choice made by the multinational people of Bashkortostan" in the 7 December presidential elections will be respected by Tatarstan, "which always promotes maintaining good-neighborly relations with Bashkortostan." Mukhametshin added that he believes Bashkortostan's Tatar population will vote for a candidate who shows a clear perspective for preservation and development of the Tatar language and customs.

In an interview with RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 27 November, political analyst Mekhmut Ekhmetjanov said Mukhametshin's Ufa visit on the eve of the Bashkir presidential elections and his attendance with President Murtaza Rakhimov of the opening ceremony of a hall in the Ufa Nur Tatar Theater is a clear sign of support for Rakhimov, who is responsible for the poor state of the Tatar language and violations of Tatars' rights of national cultural development in Bashkortostan.

Duma Candidate Reports Violations By Rival
State Duma candidate Ivan Grachev appealed to the Volga Federal District election commission to accuse another candidate in the same single-mandate district, Krasnyi Vostok brewery Chairman Airat Kheirullin of Unified Russia, of violating election law, "Zvezda povolzhya" reported on 27 November. Grachev claimed that Krasnyi Vostok workers are involved in removing and damaging campaign materials of other candidates, first of all Grachev's. He also said company employees are forced to join Unified Russia under threat of firing and financial penalties. Salespeople of the Edelveis stores co-owned by Kheirullin were charged with distributing his campaign materials to customers, Grachev said. He asked the commission to stop Kheirullin's illegal activity and to appeal to law enforcement bodies to hold him responsible.

Nizhnekamsneftekhim To Develop Projects With Foreign Companies
Nizhnekamsneftekhim and Italy's Ballestra will set up a joint venture in Tatarstan's Tuben Kama in early 2004 to produce linear alkyl benzene, which is used in perfume and detergent production, RosBalt reported on 27 November, citing the Nizhnekamskneftekhim press service. The $2.4 million facility is expected to produce up to 45,000 tons of the substance per year. Production is scheduled start on 1 February. The Tuben Kama venture will sell the chemical to Procter&Gamble. The total demand for linear alkyl benzene in Russia is estimated at 120,000 tons, while the only Russian company producing it, Kirishinefteorgsintez, produces 50,000 tons a year and exports 70 percent of it.

Nizhnekamskneftekhim and LG International Corp. have signed an agreement on intentions to construct a foamed-polystyrene plant, reported on 27 November, citing the Tatar Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation Ministry. The $50 million plant is planned to produce 40,000 tons of foamed polystyrene a year.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Federal Officials Investigate Bashkir Central Election Commission...
The Russian Central Election Commission (TsIK) suspects the Central Election Commission (USK) of Bashkortostan of committing "criminal negligence," TsIK Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov told reporters on 27 November, Russian news agencies reported the same day. Veshnyakov explained that the TsIK was informed about ballot forms for the Russian State Duma election being printed with violations of election laws. The ballots, which have already been distributed to voting districts across the republic, were reportedly printed "on paper of inappropriate color and inappropriate quality." Special TsIK inspectors are currently investigating the affair and if the initial report turns out to be true, the improperly printed ballots will be destroyed. In this is the case, the TsIK is entitled to initiate a criminal investigation against the USK, which could be accused of criminal negligence.

...As USK Begins Destroying Ballot Forms For Presidential Election
Meanwhile, the Bashkir USK on 27 November included the name of opposition candidate Sergei Veremeenko on the list of presidential candidates for the 7 December elections, thus completely fulfilling the 17 December decision of the Russian TsIK on officially registering him as a candidate, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 26 November 2003). Within the next five days, the USK must destroy the ballot forms printed without Veremeenko's name.

Bombing Suspect Remains In Custody
Ufa's Kirov Raion court on 27 November ruled to keep Vyacheslav Senin in custody, Interfax and RosBalt reported the same day. Senin is suspected of plotting the assassination of Aleksandr Veremeenko, the former head of Mezhprombank's Ufa office and brother of Bashkir presidential candidate Sergei Veremeenko (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 10 June 2003). According to Senin's lawyer, Petr Femichev, Senin is currently charged with illegal possession of firearms and false reporting of an act of terrorism. After being arrested on 24 November, Senin confessed to setting a booby trap of five hand grenades at the gate of Veremeenko's house "with hooligan intentions," but now is denying his confession, insisting that he was pressured into confessing.

Although the investigators had previously claimed that Senin is also connected to the 5 November bombing in Ufa, according to the lawyer, these charges "were not even discussed during the court session" (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 7 November 2003). The suspect reportedly worked for the private Intertekhbezopasnost security company and his job was to guard Veremeenko's residence.

Opposition Leaders Claim Privacy Infringed
A Bashkir State Assembly deputy representing Yabloko, Gennadii Shabaev, and the leader of the republic's opposition Rus organization, Anatolii Dubovskii, told a press conference in Ufa on 27 November that Bashkortostan's Interior Ministry is taping their home telephones, Interfax and RosBalt reported the same day.

Recently Shabaev and Dubovskii had transcripts of their telephone discussions on the republic's coming presidential elections published on the Internet with a note saying that the transcript was prepared by "a group of Bashkir Interior Ministry officers" (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 20 November 2003).

The opposition leaders reportedly filed a complaint on violation of their privacy to the Bashkir Prosecutor's Office. Interior Ministry spokesman Ruslan Sherefetdinov told RosBalt after the press conference that his ministry was not in any way connected to the tapping, which in his opinion was not proved by the complainants.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi