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Tatar-Bashkir Report: December 19, 2003

19 December 2003
Tatneft To Compete For Share In Major Turkish Petrochemical Concern
Turkey's State Privatization Committee announced on 17 December that Efremov Kautschuk GMBH from Germany and the Turkish-based Anadolu Ortak Girisim Grubu will compete in the tender for a 65.7 percent stake in the Turkish-based TUPRAS petrochemical concern, which costs some $1.3 billion, reported the same day (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 17 December 2003). The first contesting company is reportedly controlled by Tatarstan's Tatneft oil company, while the other company was established by the Turkish Cukurova Holding and Park Holding specifically for this tender.

More Than 20 Tatar Policemen Convicted In 2003
Sergei Chepushtanov, head of the internal security department (USB) within Tatarstan's Interior Ministry, told reporters on 18 December that in 2003 his subordinates have launched criminal investigations against 23 police officers and punished 55 police officers for misdemeanors. Chepushtanov also said that according to official statistics, his department detects some 50 percent of violations committed by law enforcers. Out of 196 reports of police brutality filed by individuals, 127 reportedly turned out to be false.

Kazan Brewery To Be Sold To Foreign Investor
The Kazan-based Krasnii Vostok brewery and its subdivisions will be sold to a Swiss company for an unknown price, "Vremya i Dengi" wrote on 18 December. Although the deal has not yet been sealed, Russian and Tatar media have already reported that the Swiss company intends to re-sell the brewery's shares to the Australian beer company, Foster's. According to some independent experts, cited by on 17 December, the estimated price of the brewery amounts to some $500 million.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Veremeenko Stops Campaigning
Mezhprombank board member Sergei Veremeenko said on 18 December that he is halting his election campaign for Bashkir president, an RFE/RL correspondent reported the same day. In his statement broadcast by the Bashkortostan and All Ufa television stations, Veremeenko said he "has no possibility to work in the republic." "Active consultations about my work are being held, something that does not let me work in the republic. That is why I decided to stop my campaign so as not to lead voters astray." Veremeenko added, however, that he is not withdrawing his candidacy from the 21 December vote.

According to "Vremya novostei" on 19 December, Veremeenko's statement comes in the wake of his meeting with deputy presidential administration head Vladislav Surkov. Surkov reportedly also met with Ralif Safin, who came in third in the first round of the election.

Human Rights Group Protests Bashkir Prosecutors' Dismissal
The national For Human Rights group appealed to Russian Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov to take measures to reinstate Bashkir Prosecutor Florid Baikov and his first deputy, Vladimir Korostelev, regnum reported on 18 December. The group also demanded that Russian Deputy Prosecutor-General in charge of the Volga Federal District Sergei Gerasimov, who reportedly pushed for their firing, be dismissed.

The group believes that the officials were fired for doing their duty when they filed a criminal case over fake electoral ballots found in an Ufa printing house. The group also demanded that a criminal case be launched against Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov for numerous violations of election law during the presidential campaign. They cited the violations registered in the republic by observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

The group said that because of these alleged infractions, Rakhimov should drop out of the second round. It also criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin's support for Rakhimov, saying, "If the guarantor of the Russian Constitution is unable to secure its observance in a separate region like Bashkortostan, then his ability to guarantee implementation of the Russian Constitution and citizens' rights and freedoms in the entire country is questioned."

Analyst Believes Tatar Issue Behind Kremlin's Support For Rakhimov
Volga-Ural Analytic Center analyst D. Kamili wrote in "Zvezda povolzhya" on 18 December that the Kremlin's active campaigning for Rakhimov on the eve of the 21 December second round is due to its fear of the Russian-Tatar alliance that began forming around Rakhimov's rival Sergei Veremeenko. Veremeenko, considered by some federal media as a protegee of "nationalists" in the Russian government, including the presidential administration, at the same time attempted to mobilize the Tatar electorate by his promise of state-language status for Tatar. Rakhimov responded by accusing Veremeenko of "playing the ethnic card" but it did bring recognition of the language issue's existence by presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District Sergei Kirienko. Kamili commented that this "bright success" by the Tatars might result in a strengthening of their position in the Volga-Ural region, something that might not suit the Kremlin. By supporting Rakhimov's re-election, the Kremlin is trying to maintain the Tatar-Bashkir standoff in Bashkortostan, he added.

Safin Labels Elections A 'Caricature'...
Federation Council representative for Altai Republic Ralif Safin told a press conference on 18 December in Ufa that the 7 December presidential elections in Bashkortostan were "a caricature of presidential elections" and "an imitation." Governors and presidents "might just as well be appointed," he said. Safin, who finished third in the first round behind incumbent Murtaza Rakhimov and Sergei Veremeenko, again claimed that the election results were falsified and he should have been Rakhimov's rival in the second round. Safin protested the persecution of his supporters across the republic. "Hundreds of my collaborators have been fired and others are threatened with dismissal," he said. Safin appealed to the Bashkir president, prime minister, and heads of administrations to "leave my people alone and stop persecuting them." He stressed that administrative pressure on the voters who supported him is bestowing a dubious benefit upon both the Bashkir and Russian presidents who are to be elected. Safin added that he does not think he lost the elections. He also said he will run for Bashkir president in the next campaign.

...Says Bashkortostan Needs Its Own Oligarchs...
During his press conference in the Interfax Ufa office on 18 December, Safin said Bashkortostan should develop its own oligarchs, as power always leans on rich people. Commenting on the anti-oligarch information campaign launched in the republic on the eve of the presidential elections, Safin said, "history will show who was an oligarch." He expressed satisfaction with the fact that Rakhimov included in his program several provisions promoted by Safin in his program, adding he "is ready to help" fulfill them. Specifically, he praised Rakhimov's decision to begin resolving the issue of Bashkortostan's Tatars as "correct" and "just." Safin also said he will try to ensure investigation of the criminal case involving fake electoral ballots found on 4 December (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 4 and 5 December 2003). He said the investigation was stopped but added that, "deputies' inquiries will be sent" on the case. He said he will stay in the republic despite numerous job offers in Moscow and other regions.

In a statement released by his press service on 18 December, Safin said he is not going to vote on 21 December, adding that, "he has never spoken and will not speak in favor of one candidate or the other." In the statement, Safin asserted that he "did not manage to overcome administrative barriers" by republican authorities an "our victory was stolen by officials and bureaucrats." Safin also commented that "the most terrible thing is if people lose their entire trust in local and federal authorities, including in the Russian president."

...Plans To File Defamation Suit Against Bashkir TV
Safin told RosBalt on 18 December that he will sue the Bashkir state TV for harming the reputation of his daughter, pop singer Alsu, for several million dollars. Before the 7 December elections, Bashkir state TV reported that Alsu is pregnant. Safin will also sue the same company for refusing to broadcast his campaign ads during the free air time provided to every candidate by law.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova