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Tatar-Bashkir Report: November 25, 2002

25 November 2002
Government Expects Smaller Oil Companies To Boost Oil Extraction
Tatarstan's smaller oil-extraction companies established an association with a coordinating board including not only their top managers but also Tatneft oil company General Director Shefegat Takhaudinov and presidential advisor on oil and gas Rinat Moeslimov, in Elmet on 22 November, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 25 November.

Moeslimov told the meeting that despite the growing difficulty of extracting its high-sulfur oil, Tatarstan seeks to increase its annual output from the current 28 million to 30 million tons. He said the major producer, Tatneft, will maintain its annual production at the current 24 million tons, while the smaller companies are expected to act as the major increasing factor because of their flexibility and lower production expenses. He said that 80 percent of Tatarstan's oil reserves are officially assessed as "difficult to extract," meaning that the oil producers will have to drill 3-5 times deeper wells than they did before. In 2002, the 28 small oil companies operating in Tatarstan will extract 4.1 million tons of oil and are expected to reach their maximum of 6.5 million to 7 million tons in the near future.

Agency Cites Lenient Treatment Of Illegal Firearm Possession
There were 560 cases of possession of illegal firearms tried in Tatarstan in the first 10 months of2002, Intertat reported on 25 November. Only 77 of 322 convictions in the cases resulted in prison sentences, while the majority of those found guilty received only suspended sentences.

The news agency cited a case where an owner of several unregistered guns in Kazan was given a six-year suspended sentence, despite the federal Interior Ministry's appeal for a general crackdown on illegal weapons.

Ninety-seven crimes involving the use of firearms have been registered so far in 2002, including 22 murders, 17 robberies, and 27 cases of violating public order. The main flow of weapons reportedly comes to Tatarstan from Izhevsk in the neighboring Urdmurtia Republic, which has Russia's biggest firearms plant, and Vyatskie Polyani in Kirov Oblast, which also has a small arms plant.

Elderly Women Facing Vandalism Charges To Sue Chally Mayor's Office
Nionella Fazlyeva, Elfie Zinnurova, and Marzyia Shakirova -- the elderly pensioners accused of vandalism against the St. Tatyana Church being built in Victory Park in Chally (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 3 and 30 October 2002) -- told Efir TV on 22 November that they will sue the Chally administration for violating the city's general architectural plan. The women said that former Mayor Refget Altynbaev, currently representing Tatarstan in the Russian Federation Council, and current Mayor Reshit Khamadeev both made such violations by authorizing the construction of an Orthodox church in the city's park devoted to World War II. They argued that Victory Park was dedicated to people of all nationalities and confessions killed in the war, so the construction of an Orthodox church would hurt the non-Orthodox peoples' feelings.

Chally City Court Chairman Radik Nakimov told Efir the same day that the city administration is allowed to enter corrections to the general plan and therefore cannot be held legally responsible for exercising this right.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Daily: Moscow Behind Rejection Of Draft Constitution
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" commented on 25 November that the Bashkir State Assembly rejected a draft constitution calling for a transition from a presidential to parliamentary republic (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 13 November 2002) not because of requests from working people as Ufa has claimed but because of pressure from Moscow. The paper said that the Kremlin would prefer that President Murtaza Rakhimov get an honorary pension rather than a new presidential term. The paper added that federal officials are critical of Rakhimov's management style and for transferring too many financial resources to his son Ural.

Republic To Get Two Private TV Stations
Bashkortostan will soon be home to two privately owned television stations, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 25 November, one of which will be owned by Russian Aluminum, which the paper called a strong anti-Rakhimov move.

Minister: Regional Reforms Should Be Initiated 'From Below'
The Russian minister without portfolio in charge of nationalities questions, Vladimir Zorin, said on 22 November that he is "categorically against any administrative-territorial reform [initiated] 'from above,'" RosBalt reported the same day. Speaking at a roundtable devoted to amendments to Russia's nationalities policy in Tolyatti, Zorin commented on the State Duma's 14 November parliamentary hearings on draft reforms aimed at reducing Russia's current 89 territorial entities to 20 or 26. Zorin said that if such reforms take place, they "should be initiated from below, in accordance with the constitution, and [should] take into account the opinions of the people living in those regions." Zorin said that Russia's nationalities concept that was adopted in 1996 is important but that certain issues require new approaches. Zorin added that there cannot be a single solution to Russia's nationalities questions, since there are 176 different ethnic groups in the country.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova