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Tatar-Bashkir Report: December 4, 2003

4 December 2003
Shaimiev Urges New Approach For Oil Tax
Speaking to Interfax on 3 December, Tatar President and co-chairman of Unified Russia's Supreme Council Mintimer Shaimiev, who is running for the Russian State Duma, said: "The situation when [Russia's oil] companies of different capacities pay around the same taxes is abnormal and needs to be corrected." He said that his republic had invested sufficient funds into prospecting for new oil reserves and ensuring the full extraction of existing deposits, "while some of the oil companies in the chase for fast profits prematurely abandon the prospective oil well, thus depriving Russia of the opportunity to use them in many years to come." According to Shaimiev, despite the increasing difficulty of extracting the high density Tatar oil, which has a high sulfur content, Tatneft is obliged to pay higher taxes than companies developing new deposits in Siberia.

Police Reports Growing Drug Traffic
In 2003, Tatar police blocked 13 drug trafficking channels to the republic, six of them from other Russian regions and seven from CIS countries maintaining direct air and train connections with Kazan, Tatar media reported on 3 December, citing the head of the Interior Ministry's Drug Enforcement Department Valerii Krasilnikov. The Tatar police have detected more than 3,800 drug-related crimes so far in 2003, which is 32 percent higher than in the same period of the previous year. More than 625 kilograms of drugs were seized, including 14 kilograms of heroin. Krasilnikov said the growth was due to the rich opium harvest in Afghanistan.

Two Tatar Residents Hospitalized With Anthrax
The Tatar Health Ministry confirmed on 3 December that two people living in the village of Kugushevo in the Yeshel Uzen region of Tatarstan were hospitalized after being in contact with anthrax-ridden beef, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported today. The deadly infection is said to have emerged from a cow, which most likely caught the disease from one of the unregistered burials of anthrax-infected cattle in the Kazan suburbs. "Vechernyaya Kazan" wrote the same day that unregistered burials of cattle killed by anthrax date back to 1936, 1937, and 1954 and neither the Health Ministry nor the police has managed to locate them.

Kazan Gets Monument Back
Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev and members of the republican and Kazan city governments presided over the opening ceremony of a monument to prominent Russian poet and public figure Gavriil Derzhavin in Kazan's Lyadskoi Garden on 3 December, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. The monument is a replica of one erected in Kazan in 1847 and destroyed by the Soviet authorities in 1933. Earlier this year, Derzhavin's 260th birthday was widely celebrated in his home region of Layesh in Tatarstan.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Fire At Bashkir Printing House
A fire at a Bashkir printing house destroyed election ballots on 4 December, which opposition figures have alleged were false, RosBalt reported. The printing house belongs to the Bashkir presidential administration. According to and RosBalt, presidential candidates Sergei Veremeenko and Relif Safin and State Duma candidate Airat Dilmokhemmetov, who came to the printing house on the night of 3 December-4 December said they saw "electoral ballots through a window." They called police and representatives of the Federal Security Service and the Bashkir Prosecutor's Office. Some 500 people, including State Assembly deputies and public figures, gathered outside the building and shortly afterwards the fire started. Investigators have not yet established the cause of the fire. RosBalt cited an unidentified Bashkir Central Election Commission (USK) member as saying that the papers were the same as the official ballots printed at an Ufa printing house.

Police Shut Down Safin's Screen Ads
Campaigners for presidential candidate Relif Safin have said that the republic's police prevented them from showing a campaign ad on a screen at a gas station. Safin's staff said that they were taken to the police station and were detained. Speaking to Interfax, Bashkir Interior Ministry press service head Ruslan Sherefetdinov confirmed that the incident between police and Safin's representatives had taken place. He said, "police acted this way since organizers of the action do not have permission from the city administration for the use of the screen for campaigning." He said two police officers had been charged with guarding the screen, but they were attacked by 15 people.

State TV Official Explains Why Safin Was Refused Free Airtime
State Television and Radio Company Bashkortostan (GTRK Bashkortostan) Deputy Director Irek Musin told "Kommersant-Daily" on 4 December that presidential candidate Safin was refused free airtime on the TV station (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 3 December 2003) because his speech contained "expressions insulting the dignity of the incumbent president," specifically, about "the regime of Rakhimov" that "is to be changed." Musin said that according to electoral law, if Safin's speech was shown, GTRK Bashkortostan would have to give the incumbent president a chance to "present his denial or other explanation to defend him." However, Musin said, no free time is available on the TV channel up to 7 December. Safin told "Kommersant-Daily" that GTRK Bashkortostan also refused to sell him airtime.

Veremeenko Claims 800,000 False Ballots Prepared
Some 15 representatives of opposition candidates for the Bashkir presidency and the State Duma will monitor 7 December elections at each of the republic's 3,500 electoral districts, presidential candidate Veremeenko told a press conference at the Interfax Ufa office on 3 December. He added, however, that despite this fact, "the possibility of falsifying elections results remains." Veremeenko claimed that some 800,000 false ballots, between 5,000 and 10,000 in each raion, are currently at the disposal of raion administration heads. Veremeenko said that in case Rakhimov wins the elections, he will push for transition to a parliamentary republic in Bashkortostan and will hand over power to his son, Ural Rakhimov, by electing him as the parliament speaker.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova