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Tatar-Bashkir Report: December 3, 2003

3 December 2003
Ethnic Ties Reportedly Contribute To Tatarstan's Trade Turnover
Minister of Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation Khafiz Salikhov told the 4th annual forum Tatarstan's Business Partners on 2 December that by October 2003 the republic's foreign trade grew by 19.4 percent compared to the same period the previous year and reached $2 billion, while the total trade turnover for 2004 is expected to reach $4 billion, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. Increasing trade is reportedly explained by the situation on the world oil market and Tatarstan's industrial development. In the last three years, the republic's industrial output increased 23 percent, while Russia's average is reported at 21 percent. Meanwhile, Tatarstan's gross domestic product grew by 21 percent in three years, as Russia's average was 19 percent.

The forum was also attended by officials from the World Tatar Congress which, in Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov's words, is assisting in developing Tatarstan's business ties with other Russian regions and countries of the world inhabited by ethnic Tatars.

In 2002 Tatarstan contributed 2.3 percent of Russia's annual foreign trade, 2.1 percent of its total exported goods, and 1 percent of all imported goods.

Youth Leaders Join Forum Of Unified Russia
The youth branch of the Unified Russia party, Molodezhnoe Yedinstvo, and Tatarstan's Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sport gathered some 7,000 members of some 100 youth organizations in the republic for a forum held under the slogan "We are unified," RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported today. During the event, Molodezhnoe Yedinstvo leader Aleksandra Burataeva greeted Tatarstan's youth and urged it "to unite in order to make Russia a strong country." Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev, who is running for the Russian State Duma on Unified Russia's party list, addressed forum participants with a similar appeal, saying that "only unity will allow us to take the path of the country's further democratization and establishment of a civil society."

Music groups from Kazan and Moscow performed at the event which, according to Intertat, ended with young people holding hands and creating a circle. To many of the guests at the event this symbolic act reminded them of traditions practiced by youth groups of the former Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

Tatarstan Ready For Duma Vote
During a country-wide press conference on 2 December, Tatarstan's Central Election Commission (USK) chairman, Anatolii Fomin, notified his superior, the chairman of Russia's Central Election Commission (TsIK), Aleksandr Veshnyakov, that Tatarstan is ready for the 7 December Russian Duma elections, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. The territorial election commissions are said to have the necessary space, equipment, and means of communication. Some 6,000 police will ensure safety at the polling stations, while the number of foreign observers monitoring the vote in Tatarstan is unknown.

Fomin predicted the same day that this year's vote could attract up to 70 percent of the voters, something he explained by growing political activity of young people.

Tatneft Drilling For Oil Outside Tatarstan
This year the Tatneft oil company will add 30 million tons to its prospected oil reserves in Tatarstan, the head of the company's Geology Department, Akhtyam Nafikov, told Intertat on 2 December. The company's total oil reserves are reported to be 990 million tons, which is expected to ensure stable oil extraction for the next 40 years. Every year Tatneft spends more than $25 million on prospecting for oil in the Tatarstan, Kalmyk, and Chuvash republics. In 2004, it will also begin prospecting in the Ulyanovsk, Orenburg, and Samara oblasts.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Bashkir Public Figures Warn About Threat Of Terrorism Around Election Time
A group of Bashkir public figures appealed to Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Nikolai Patrushev to investigate potential actions that could destabilize the republic on 7 December, reported on 2 December, citing "Kommersant." The public figures said detachments of fighters, some of whom had fought with the Taliban, were residents of Bashkortostan and were seeking to destabilize the situation. They also said that, "it is not a secret that the Bashkir Youth Union has an ultranationalist 'combat wing' comprising young people who pass special training and are ready to use physical force if necessary." Arson and bombing are not excluded and the falsification of election results is expected, the authors said. They expressed doubt that the republican law enforcement bodies will be able to guarantee public order, calling on the federal bodies "to check the information and to take measures to prevent acts of extremism in the center of Russia." In response, Patrushev told reporters that the FSB and the Russian Interior Ministry have sent their representatives to Bashkortostan to check information about possible acts of terrorism, RosBalt reported on 2 December.

Opposition Leaders Appeal To Putin To Intervene In Bashkortostan
"Gazeta" published on 2 December an appeal by a group of Bashkir opposition figures to Russian President Vladimir Putin, in which they expressed their fundamental disagreement with the position of Russian Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov, who, during his recent visit to Ufa, backed the re-election of incumbent President Murtaza Rakhimov. The 16 signatories said they were "shocked" by Gryzlov's statements, in which he supported Rakhimov, whose "name is associated with the establishment in Bashkortostan of a political enclave governed by his clan." They also said that following Gryzlov's speech praising the work of Bashkortostan's law enforcement bodies, there was a wave of political repression in the republic, during which police officers dispersed pickets and arrested people campaigning for opposition candidates. "The federal authorities...turned out to be a protector of those whom we expected they will defend us from," the authors said. They called on Putin "to intervene in the situation in Bashkortostan."

State TV Refuses Safin Free Campaigning Airtime
The State Television and Radio Company Bashkortostan (GTRK Bashkortostan) refused on 2 December to give free airtime on TV to presidential candidate Relif Safin, a Federation Council representative from Altai Republic, RosBalt reported the same day. Safin's lawyer Olga Ryzhova told the news agency that "the state television and radio company presented no explanations of its move." Safin's lawyers have sent appeals to the Bashkir Central Election Commission (USK) and the Russian Central Election Commission. She also said GTRK Bashkortostan has refused to give free airtime on radio to Safin. On 10 and 11 November, the state-run Bashkir Satellite Television deprived State Duma candidates Artur Asafev, Airat Dilmokhemmetov, and Ildar Isengulov of free airtime. Safin has said he will sue GTRK Bashkortostan after it was claimed on the channel that Safin's daughter, pop star Alsu, is pregnant, while nobody knows who the baby's father is, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 2 December.

Police Seize 1 Million Copies Of 'Phony' Newspaper
Around 1 million copies of the "Argumenty i fakty" weekly were found on 2 December in Ufa by law enforcement bodies, RosBalt reported the same day, citing the head of the Bashkir Interior Ministry press service Ruslan Sherefetdinov. The print run had been stored in a house under reconstruction and several Ufa students were replacing its Moscow insert page, with a page, designed like the weekly itself, but containing critical coverage of the Bashkir leadership and a poll citing widespread support for presidential candidate Sergei Veremeenko. Sherefetdinov cited representatives of both the Moscow and regional offices of the weekly as saying they have nothing to do with the fake inserts. "We suspect that this is another electoral provocation," Sherefetdinov added. He said it was unclear where the fake inserts were printed.

Veremeenko's Income Reported
The Bashkir Central Election Commission (USK) published on 2 December a report about the income and property of presidential candidate Veremeenko, RosBalt reported the same day. According to the report, Veremeenko, the former head of Mezhprombank, earned 1.1 million rubles ($37,000) in 2002. Together with his wife, Veremeenko possesses 21 plots of land in the Moscow Oblast of over 30,000 square meters and two houses. Veremeenko also owns four apartments in Moscow and two in Ufa, as well as four garages. The candidate has eight cars, two trailers, four snow tractors, and a land rover. He also has 3 million rubles in his bank accounts, 1.8 million rubles in promissory notes, and stakes in nine companies.

New Ballots Printed In Bashkortostan
USK Deputy Chairwoman Marina Dolmatova said on 2 December that two print runs of ballots for the Bashkir presidential elections and State Duma elections have been reprinted in the republic and half of them have been delivered to regional election commissions, RosBalt reported the same day. Six million reprinted ballots will be delivered to district election commissions by the deadline of 3 December, she added. The presidential election ballots were reprinted after Veremeenko obtained registration as a candidate and other mistakes had been made. Dolmatova said in total 1 million rubles ($33,670) was spent on the action, some of which was covered by the printing plant responsible for the mistake and the rest by the republican budget. Previously, TsIK Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov said persons responsible for printing improper ballots in Bashkortostan would be punished.

Russian TsIK Still Concerned About Bashkir Presidential Campaign
On 2 December, the TsIK expressed deep concern with the presidential campaign in Bashkortostan saying that republican bodies had failed to defend the electoral rights of citizens, reported the same day. Commenting on the issue, Veshnyakov said, "any attempt to distort the results of voting is an attack on democratic constitutional principles." He advised USK members to reread Articles 141 and 142 of the Russian Criminal Code, which spell out their violations, Veshnyakov said. He added that, "there are officials who try to pressure election commissions in order to obtain the desired result in elections."

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova