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Tatar-Bashkir Report: December 22, 2003

22 December 2003
Tatarstan Receives Extra Gas From Gazprom
The Russian concern Gazprom provided Tatarstan with an extra 400 million cubic meters of gas in the forth quarter of the year, Tattransgaz General Director Refqet Kantyukov said on 19 December. Tattransgaz received the bonus after it had saved 57 million cubic meters of gas as a result of energy-saving measures. The extra gas will be sold to Tatarstan at prices fixed by the Federal Energy Commission. In 2003, the republic received 4 billion cubic meters of gas.

Meanwhile, Tatar Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov said the Tatar government will not provide gas at fixed prices to the republic's companies that plan to construct and use heating facilities independent from Tatenergo, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 19 December, citing Interfax. The measure was explained by the necessity to support Tatenergo. Some of the republic's large energy consumers have promoted the construction of their own energy facilities instead of receiving energy from Tatenergo, as they consider the prices to be too high. Run by the Tatar government, Tatenergo is independent from the Russian Unified Energy Systems.

Parliamentary Election Schedule Adopted
The Tatar Central Election Commission confirmed a plan for the State Council electoral campaign, reported on 19 December. The republic's parliamentary elections will be held in tandem with the Russian presidential elections on 14 March 2004. According to the document, district election commissions will be formed by 29 December, the registration procedure will be carried out from 29 December to 28 January, and the media campaign will take place from 12 February to 13 March. Under the amended law on elections, 50 deputies will be elected in single-mandate electoral districts and another 50 deputies on party lists. Parties who gather at least 7 percent of the vote will be represented in parliament. Twenty deputies out of 100, including the speaker and deputy speakers, the secretary, and heads of parliamentary committees will work in the legislature permanently.

Investigation Into Murder Of Former Ingush Interior Minister Complete
The Tatar prosecutor's office has completed its investigation into the murder of former Ingush Interior Minister Daut Korigov (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 24 February 2003), "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 18 December. Korigov, then the deputy head of the Tatar Interior Ministry's Environmental Directorate, was shot on 21 February by a former employee from Tatarstan's Leninogorsk Raion for $5,000. The murder was allegedly contracted by Korigov's relatives who feared that he would contest their rights to a liquor plant in Nazran.

Guantanamo Bay Prisoners Allowed To Consult Lawyers
Prisoners held at the U.S. Guantanamo Bay military base in Cuba will be allowed to get legal representation and have their cases heard in U.S. courts, RFE/RL reported on 19 December. Among eight Russian citizens being kept at Guantanamo Bay under suspicion of having collaborated with the Taliban during U.S.-led military operations in Afghanistan in 2001, there are Rawil Minhajev and Airat Wakhitov from Tatarstan and Shamil Khajiev and Rawil Gomerov from Bashkortostan (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 5 June and 3 December 2002). In total there are 660 prisoners at the military base alleged of being linked to Al-Qaeda or the Taliban. The Russian Prosecutor-General's Office has said the Russian citizens may be accused of illegally crossing state borders and participation in an illegal military unit and is asking that they be extradited (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 12 December 2002 and 11 August 2003).

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Rakhimov Wins Third Term In Office
President Murtaza Rakhimov won the second round of presidential elections on 21 December with over 78.1 percent of the vote, RosBalt reported the next day. His opponent, Sergei Veremeenko, received some 15.8 percent, while 4.07 percent voted against all candidates. Turnout was about 70 percent for the second round, slightly down from that reported for the first round, 76 percent-78 percent. According to the republic's Central Election Commission (USK), about 10 violations were reported during the 21 December vote, while on 7 December some 400 such violations were reported. About 20 Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) observers and 20,000 nongovernmental monitors observed the first round, while only a few came for the second round.

USK Chairman Baryi Kinjegulov told reporters on 22 December that he had already greeted the incumbent Murtaza Rakhimov with his victory via telephone, and the latter "pledged to preserve his government's policies in future, as well as the positive achievement of previous years."

Rakhimov, 69, a former Ufa oil-processing plant director, began his political career by being elected chairman of Bashkortostan's Supreme Council in 1990 and has been Bashkortostan's president for two full terms from 1993.

USK Chairman Praises General Conduct Of 21 December Vote
USK Chairman Kinjegulov said after the official close of polls in the presidential vote on 21 December that the elections were monitored by fewer observers than the 7 December vote, Bashinform reported the same day.

He said that on 21 December the representatives of presidential candidates and special envoys from the Communist Party "were present, but not in all election districts." He also mentioned that in his opinion, it was "not normal, when on 7 December there were three times more observers present than the members of territorial election commissions."

Kinjegulov admitted that there were some reports of election law violations during the 21 December vote, "but of a minor nature." He emphasized that "with every time the voting system becomes more and more transparent, which proves the ongoing establishment of democratic principles in electoral procedures."

Police Detain Bashkir Journalist In Moscow
Bashkir Interior Ministry investigators arrested Esker Fazliev, director of Ufa's Radio Retro. as he was leaving the Russian Media Ministry building in Moscow, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported on 18 December. Eduard Khosnetdinov, editor in chief of Bashkortostan's "Vechernii Neftekamsk" opposition daily, told RFE/RL that according to his information, Fazliev was detained "on fabricated charges, alleging that he owes someone 42,000 rubles ($1,500)." Radio Retro FM was known for its independent coverage of this year's presidential elections in Bashkortostan.

On 19 December Bashkir Interior Ministry spokesman Ruslan Sherefetdinov in an interview with RosBalt denied reports of the arrest, but confirmed that Bashkir police "tried to detain Fazliev, but only to try to convince him to testify in Ufa." According to the ministry, Fazliev, the former director of TV-6 Ufa, is suspected in the embezzling of some 700,000 rubles in company property.

Unified Russia Denies Support For Rakhimov's Opponent
Unified Russia Political Council Secretary Valerii Bogomolov told reporters in Moscow on 19 December that in the second round of Bashkir presidential elections his party would support the incumbent president, Murtaza Rakhimov, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. Referring to the fact that the other candidate, Sergei Veremeenko, had also claimed to have Unified Russia's backing, Bogomolov said, "Of course it is pleasing for us to be considered the party of victors and to be asked for support, but in this case such statements are unfounded."

Bashkir Premier Accuses 'Oligarchs' Of Trying To Take Over Bashkortostan's Wealth
Bashkir Prime Minister and acting President Rafael Baydavletov told a cabinet meeting in Ufa on 19 December, celebrated as Energy Industry Worker's Day, that Bashkortostan and its fuel and energy industry "has become an object of interest for the oligarchic top of Russia's business circles," RosBalt reported the same day. He stated that "no oligarchs" will be given a chance to "divide" the wealth of the "multiethnic people of Bashkortostan, which will never buy the sweet promises of visitors." He repeated the statement in a 21 December interview at his local voting district to Bashkir State Television.

In this recent presidential elections, President Rakhimov was opposed by St. Petersburg-based Mezhprombank executive Sergei Veremeenko and former LUKoil official Relif Safin.

Russia's NTV Bewildered By Veremeenko's Decision To Abandon Campaigning...
Commenting on the Veremeenko's decision to stop campaigning before the second round of Bashkortostan's presidential election, the weekly "Namedni" program on Russia's NTV said on 21 December that "he told the people who voted for him in the first round not to do so anymore, something that has never happened in the history of elections." The program hosted by NTV anchorman Leonid Parfenov also reported that Veremeenko was not even in Ufa on election day and both opposition candidates, Veremeenko and Safin, had to deal with excessive administrative pressure during their campaigns, while President Rakhimov in his interviews repeatedly emphasized his being supported by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Meanwhile, the transcript of the Bashkir election story is the only one missing from the "Namedni" transcripts section on NTV's official website, something that could be explained by the company's fears of legal action, as the program appeared on election day, or by the fact that NTV is owned by Gazprom, which officially declared its support for Rakhimov prior to the vote (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 December 2003).

...As Bashkir State TV Resumes Political Advertising On Election Day
On 21 December, state-owned Bashkir Satellite Television (BST) aired numerous interviews with people exiting voting booths and saying that they voted for "preserving Bashkortostan's integrity and interethnic accord in the republic," which implied a vote for the incumbent, who has run the republic for the last 12 years. According to Russia's and Bashkortostan's election legislation, political campaigning 24 hours before and on the day of elections is illegal.

BST also broadcast reports of its correspondents demonstratively knocking on the closed doors of Veremeenko's campaign headquarters, abandoned by the staff. The commentary on the footage said that "by leaving Ufa, Veremeenko did not just deceive his supporters, but cynically betrayed them."

Urban Areas Show Less Interest In Second Round
By 4 p.m. Moscow time, three hours before the polls closed, some 60 percent of Bashkortostan's voters had turned out for the second round of the presidential election on 21 December, RosBalt reported the same day. By that hour some of the rural areas, such as Burzyan, Khaibulla, Boray, Kugerchen, and Zilair raions, had already come up with turnout figures of some 80 percent-90 percent, while in Ufa only 45.5 percent took part in the vote.

Traditionally, rural areas of the republic are known for their support of President Rakhimov, while in the first round on 7 December, urban areas were dominated by the opposition. As much as 78 percent of Bashkortostan's voters took part in the 7 December elections.

According to the Bashkir Election Code, unlike the first round, in the second round the winner has to get a simple majority of votes, if it exceeds the amount of votes cast against all candidates on 7 December. That day 2.4 percent voted against all the candidates.

Bashkirenergo Prefers To Stay Unified
Ural Rakhimov, chairman of Bashkirenergo and son of the Bashkir president, told reporters in Moscow on 19 December that his company will be privatized according to principles other that those used by Russia's Unified Energy Systems (EES), Russian and Bashkir media reported. He said that EES agreed that Bashkirenergo "is a vertically integrated company, where production, transport, and sales are concentrated in the same joint-stock venture." Meanwhile, according to the EES scheme, the privatized regional energy producers are to be split into separate production, networking, and dispatching companies.

However, Ural Rakhimov admitted that Bashkirenergo has already established a networking company for transporting electricity through Bashkortostan and a sales company for managing Bashkirenergo's electricity supplies to the Russian energy market.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi