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Tatar-Bashkir Report: December 17, 2003

17 December 2003
Kazan Aircraft Plant Reports Booming Sales
In addition to the recent contract for building four Tu-214 airliners for the Bulgarian Air Sofia and BH Air companies, the Gorbunova aircraft plant in Kazan received an order for constructing two airliners for the Russian Defense Ministry, the "Vremya i Dengi" daily reported on 16 December. Earlier this summer, the Gorbunova plant signed contracts on assembling eight such airliners for Russia's air companies in the next four years. As a result the Kazan plant will be forced to boost its output up to 10 airliners per year, at least until 2007. That could be a stretch for the plant, which used to produce the Soviet-era supersonic bombers Tu-160 and the strength the Financial Leasing Company, established by the federal government for financing KAPO's operation.

Tatneft Said To Be Among Candidates For TUPRAS Takeover
The oil concern Tatneft is among the candidates in the current tender for a 66 percent share in Tupras, Turkey's major oil and gas company, RusEnergy reported on 16 December. The shares package reportedly costs some $1.3 billion. According to RusEnergy, the purchase "would be too expensive for Tatneft alone," so it is expected to join forces with the Turkish Koc or Sabanci holdings. Their rivals are likely to be the Malaysia-based Petronas company, acting with the Turkish-based Calik Enerji. Meanwhile, Tupras's privatization plan is currently stumbling due to protests from staff at its oil refineries in Kirikkale, Batman, Izmir, and Izmit.

Growing Staff Shortage In Production Sector
Economy and Industry Minister Aleksei Pakhomov told a governmental meeting on 16 December that republican industries are currently facing a shortage of young staff, Intertat reported the same day. The average age of production sector employees is 45, while the average age among highly skilled industrial staff is 53. Pakhomov also said that along with the "growing number of educated lawyers and economists annually joining the army of unemployed...young people [also] prefer to stay away from jobs in the production sector." Given this situation, the minister emphasized the role of governmental working groups, which seek to adjust the programs of local universities to meet the needs of major industries.

Tatarstan Looks Into Danish Energy-Saving Technologies
Tatar Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov visited Denmark on 9-11 December to meet with Peter Helmer Stin, the executive director of the Danish Energy Administration, and Lars Gullev, president of the Danish Central Heating Council, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 16 December citing the government's press service. They reportedly discussed Denmark's experience in the use of alternative and renewable fuels and energy-saving technologies. The Tatar authorities are putting together a development program for the energy industry up to 2020. In early 2004, Danish experts will visit Tartarstan to discuss concrete measures of bilateral cooperation.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Details Of Prosecutor's Office Shake-Up Questioned
Salawat Dewletov, head of the Bashkir Prosecutor's Office's personnel department, on 16 December rejected the report that the "illegal activity during the election campaign" is behind the resignation of Bashkir Prosecutor Florid Baikov (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 16 December 2003), RosBalt reported the same day. This was the reason given the previous day by Bashkortostan's acting President Rafael Baidavletov. Dewletov said Baikov resigned voluntarily.

Dewletov also rejected the report about the dismissal of First Deputy Prosecutor Vladimir Korostelev, saying he is currently in his second week of probation at the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office in Moscow. The Bashkir Prosecutor's Office has no documents about his dismissal. "Vedomosti" on 17 December quoted deputy head of the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office information department Natalia Vishnyakova as confirming that Korostelev was not dismissed.

Russian Deputy Premier Stumps For Rakhimov
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Galina Karelova told reporters in Ufa on 17 December that the purpose of her visit to the republic was to support President Murtaza Rakhimov on the eve of the second round of the presidential vote. Karelova said she is proud that she used to work with Rakhimov in the Federation Council. Following a meeting with Rakhimov, Karelova said she "wished success" to Rakhimov "whom I always learned bravery and wisdom from." Karelova said she "can see such an impetuous development of social infrastructure in Bashkortostan as in no other Russian entity with the exception of Moscow," adding that she would like this course to be continued in the republic.

Karelova also met with Supreme Mufti Telget Tajetdin and students of Bashkir State University. At the university meeting, people were surprised by Karelova's repeated praising of Tatarstan's program of construction of youth housing, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 17 December. After she received a note from the public asking about this, Karelova apologized and said everything she said refers to Bashkortostan.

Assembly Of Peoples Of Russia Praises Bashkortostan For Maintaining Interethnic Harmony
Assembly of the Peoples of Russia Chairman Ramazan Abdulatipov appealed on 15 December to Bashkortostan's public not to submit to the political provocations and attempts to raise interethnic discord and distrust occurring in the republic during the presidential campaign. Abdulatipov said the assembly praises the "great work being done in Bashkortostan to take into account and harmonize the interests of all peoples living in the republic." He called on representatives of all peoples of Bashkortostan to preserve and strengthen the friendship of peoples and unity of Bashkortostan.

TsIK To Send Representatives To Observe 21 December Elections
Russian Central Election Commission (TsIK) Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov told a press conference on 16 December that the TsIK will send observers to the second round of the presidential elections in Bashkortostan, RosBalt reported. Veshnyakov also pointed out that the TsIK is thoroughly supervising the investigation of the printing of fake ballots. Concluding this investigation and punishing those who ordered and implemented the illegal act is a "matter of honor of electoral bodies," Veshnyakov said.

Analysts Comment On Kremlin's Turn To Rakhimov
On 17 December "Vedomosti" cited an unidentified source close to the Russian presidential administration as saying the campaign of Sergei Veremeenko, Rakhimov's rival in the second round of the presidential elections, came to a halt after the Kremlin demonstrated its total support for Rakhimov in his re-election bid. On 16 December, even the central office in Ufa was closed, the daily said. Most of Veremeenko's campaign managers returned to Moscow last weekend. Immediately after Rakhimov's meeting with President Vladimir Putin on 9 December in Moscow, the licenses of the republic's two media outlets that most actively campaigned for Veremeenko, the New Television Channel and Radio Bulgar, were suspended.

According to the newspaper, the source attributed Putin's unexpected warm feelings for Rakhimov to the "intensive campaign" of his Moscow lobbyists in state offices and businesses. They "intimidated [Russia's top officials] with a 'second Chechnya' and complicating Russia's relations with Islamic states if ethnic Bashkir Rakhimov let [Russian Veremeenko] have power," the source said.

Meanwhile, Aleksei Makarkin from the Center for Political Technologies considers the possibility of ethnic conflict in the republic very low, saying, "the entire national movement was defeated in the republic in the 1920s." Makarkin also says the case involving fake electoral ballots (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 4 and 5 December 2003) is a means of pressuring Rakhimov. The source close to Putin's administration echoed him, saying that the case was hushed up temporarily and as soon as Rakhimov is re-elected and begins demanding special status for the republic, then all the criminal cases will be recalled.

Merkator head Dmitrii Oreshkin said the Kremlin made its choice in fear of "tipping the balance within the presidential administration toward the 'siloviki.'" Makarkin suggested that Putin was trying to balance the siloviki, who support Veremeenko and promoted the Motherland bloc in the State Duma elections, with the "Family" group that lobbied for Rakhimov's re-election.

"Vedomosti" also quoted an unnamed source close to the security services as saying that the Kremlin backed Rakhimov because "a scandal involving election rigging would now be disadvantageous" as it would enable Putin's opponents both within the country and abroad to also call into question the results of the State Duma elections in Bashkortostan.

Unified Russia's Bashkir Leader Predicts 60 Percent For Rakhimov
In an interview with RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 17 December, Unified Russia's leader in Bashkortostan, Mansur Eyupov, said Rakhimov will likely get more than 60 percent of the vote in the second round of the presidential elections. State Duma Deputy Franis Seifullin told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service that republican authorities, especially in rural raions, appeared to be unable to counteract "such dirty election techniques" as the ones used by the opposition, which is why Rakhimov was not elected in the first round.

New President For UralSib
Azat Qormanaev, previously UralSib president, was appointed chairman of the bank's Observers' Council at an 8 December extraordinary shareholders meeting, "Ekspert-Ural" reported on 16 December. The position had been vacated by Bashkir Prime Minister Rafael Baidavletov. Meanwhile, Avtobank-NIKoil First Deputy Chairman Fuad Akhundov was appointed acting UralSib president. "Vedomosti" reported on 11 December that six of the 11 vacancies on the new council were filled by representatives of NIKoil and another one by the president of the Kopeika Trade House, 50 percent owned by NIKoil.

In late October, NIKoil purchased 14 percent of UralSib, though it denied reports of a takeover of UralSib. The daily commented that both sides still deny such a deal took place, while NIKoil in fact behaves like UralSib's owner. The fact that NIKoil began opening its financial markets within UralSib offices may mean that NIKoil has a larger stake in UralSib than it declared, "Ekspert-Ural" commented. The weekly also suggested that UralSib's alliance with NIKoil may be linked to its attempt to defend the results of its privatization that have recently been contested in court (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 19 and 27 November 2003).

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova