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Tatar-Bashkir Report: December 18, 2003

18 December 2003
Tatar Government Ready To Launch New Housing Program
A new state mortgage program is ready to launch in Tatarstan to help families buy their own apartments, first deputy Prime Minister Rawyl Moratov told a government meeting on 17 December, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. Families will pay mortgage payments of 1,400 rubles ($48) for a single-room apartment each month for the next 10-15 years. The program replaces a previous program, which reconstructed run-down housing. By its completion in 2004, the old program will have distributed free apartments to 60,000 Tatar families. During the 17 December meeting Moratov confirmed that from 2004 "there will be no free housing" in the republic. The new mortgage program will offer favorable loan conditions for young families where one member is under 30. State employees will also get substantial breaks, as their organizations will have to cover 20 percent of the repayments. In Tatarstan, some 161,000 families are said to have no or insufficient permanent residence.

Tatarstan Maintains Low Military Recruitment Figures
Two weeks before the end of this year's autumn military recruitment campaign, only 64 percent of some 5,000 draft-age men have been enlisted for service in the Russian armed forces, "Vechernyaya Kazan" wrote on 17 December. According to the daily, in the Volga region Tatarstan has the lowest recruitment figures. Some 4,000 young men are reportedly evading the draft in the republic -- 245 of them are under investigation by the Tatar prosecutor's office, while three have been convicted. Meanwhile, federal military recruitment agencies are said to already have lowered the annual call-up levels for the republic.

Ukraine, Tatarstan Divided Over Plans For Joint Oil Refinery
Tatarstan, which owns a 56 percent stake in Ukrtatnafta, the joint venture based at the Kremenchug oil refinery in Ukraine, has proposed to issue $200 million worth of extra shares, thus increasing the venture capital by 2.4 times, "Vedomosti" wrote on 17 December. The move is reportedly opposed by the Ukrainian government, which plans to sell its 43 percent share package in Ukrtatnafta to foreign investors. By promoting the issuance of the extra shares, Kazan seeks to attract extra funds for repairing the refinery and increase the amount of shares owned by Tatarstan and its partner investors.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Number Of Hunger Strikers Growing
The number of participants in the hunger strike that began on 13 December in protest at the results of the 7 December presidential elections has reached 200, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 17 December. The majority of the participants are supporters of Relif Safin, the candidate who came in third and is contesting the election results in court. quoted on 17 December an unidentified source in Safin's electoral staff as saying Safin had refused any alliances with candidates in the 21 December voting and does not plan to call his supporters to vote for any of them.

Veremeenko 'Refuses' To Appear On TV
Candidate for the Bashkir president, former Mezhprombank head Sergei Veremeenko, refused to use free airtime provided by the Bashkortostan State Television and Radio Company (GTRK Bashkortostan), RosBalt reported on 17 December. GTRK Deputy General Director Luiza Farshatova told the news agency that Veremeenko's campaign staff had promised to provide a tape of the campaign ad but didn't. Veremeenko's speech was scheduled to be broadcast on 17 December at 5.40 p.m. On 19 December, Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov's campaign ad is to be shown.

Russian Energy Minister Supports Rakhimov's Campaign...
The Russian Energy Ministry plans to sign a new far-reaching agreement on developing cooperation with Bashkortostan's fuel-and-energy complex, Energy Minister Igor Yusufov told GTRK Bashkortostan on 17 December. Yusufov said the agreement will relate to cooperation in oil production and the refining industries and the sale of electrical energy. Yusufov underlined that his ministry is "deeply satisfied" with Rakhimov. "We would like to continue our work with exactly that person since he has worked from the very beginning in the fuel-and-energy sector," Yusufov said. He added that the ministry has "long-term plans with Rakhimov." Yusufov characterized Rakhimov as a "very wise and qualified person," adding that he "would like to support him comprehensively."

...As Does Gazprom Official
Rakhimov is the most acceptable candidate for the Bashkir presidency, Gazprom Deputy Board Chairman Aleksandr Ryazanov told GTRK Bashkortostan on 17 December. Ryazanov expressed his hope that Gazprom employees living in Bashkortostan will vote for Rakhimov. The same day, GTRK Bashkortostan broadcast similar statements by Russian Railways Company President Gennadii Fadeev and Unified Russia General Council Chairman Valerii Bogomolov.

Bashkir Government Pays Children 200 Rubles On Constitution Anniversary
Families with children below 17 will be paid 200 rubles ($7) for each child, RosBalt reported on 16 December. A similar decree was signed by Prime Minister Rafael Baidavletov who is currently the republic's acting president. The measure is devoted to the celebrations of New Year and the 10th anniversary of the republic's constitution marked on 24 December. Some 1 million Bashkir children are eligible for the subsidy, which will cost the republican budget 200 million rubles.

Tatar Congress Promotes State Language Status For Tatar
The Bashkortostan Tatar Congress (BTK) Executive Committee discussed at its 17 December meeting the issue of the status of the Tatar language in Bashkortostan, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. Executive Committee chairman Eduard Khemitov and his deputy Ramil Bignov praised a recent statement by President Rakhimov, who has said that following the 21 December presidential elections, the status of the Tatar language in the republic may be revised (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 12 December 2003). Khemitov and Bignov suggested that BTK promote not state but official status for Tatar. Radik Sibegetov, a philology professor and deputy chairman of the commitee, however, sharply criticized the proposal, saying Tatar should be given the same status as Bashkir and Russian, or a state status, otherwise Tatar will remain a second-rate language in the republic. The committee backed Sibegetov's position and will lobby President Rakhimov and parliament deputies. The committee members also stated that the language issue must be resolved before the 14 March Russian presidential election. Meanwhile, World Tatar Congress Executive Committee Chairman Rinat Zakirov said the results of the 7 December presidential elections in Bashkortostan's Tatar-populated western raions, where ethnic Tatar Relif Safin won, may be considered to be a referendum on the nationalities issue, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 15 December.

Tatar Public Leaders Doubt Status Of Tatar Language Will Improve
Many observers have commented that Rakhimov's statement regarding the Tatar language is only pre-election rhetoric and will unlikely be fulfilled, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 17 December. In an interview with RFE/RL's Kazan bureau, Ruslan Davydov, an expert with the Volga-Ural Analytic Center, said that the Bashkir authorities actively supported a policy of separate ethnic identity and ethnicity-based personnel policy even after Russian President Vladimir Putin criticized last year's attempts to hinder studying native languages in Bashkortostan. Rakhimov reacted to the criticism of nationalities policy in the republic by speeding up efforts to replace the Tatar language with Bashkir in the republic's Tatar schools and classes.

Fire Kills Two Firemen
Two firemen died in a fire in the Ufa Lido restaurant on 18 December morning, Interfax reported the same day. The fire started at 7.40 a.m. when there were not either visitors or employees in the restaurant and was supposedly caused by short circuit or a violation of safety rules.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova