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Tatar-Bashkir Report: December 19, 2001

19 December 2001
Republican Officials Accused of Laxity, Or Worse, On Work Safety Issues
Despite figures showing that 179 people died in accidents in the workplace in 2001, a Tatarstan commission on labor safety on 18 December imposed no serious sanctions on officials deemed responsible; they received only formal administrative punishments. Meanwhile, representatives of the Alabuga oil-drilling company told the commission the same day that a recent government decree tripling the useful life oil-drilling installations -- to 21 years -- increased the risk of accidents in the sector.

President Shaimiev Hails Moscow's Attention To Private Businesses
In the wake of a 19 December session of the Russian State Council devoted to support for private businesses, Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev pledged to cut red tape, Interfax reported on 18 December. "Today it is vital to take a most serious approach toward cutting red tape in the private business sector in order to help people working there," said Shaimiev. "There are a lot of artificial obstacles that...suppress the development of small and mid-sized businesses." He added that it was necessary to "establish a middle class in Russia, because otherwise we won't reach the main goal of economic and political reforms." He called state supports to private business "a political matter" reflecting the true results achieved by Russian society during the period of democratic transformation.

Shaimiev called it "a remarkable fact" that the present situation of private entrepreneurs caused an uproar on the Russian governmental level, adding that President Vladimir Putin recently met businessmen to discuss their problems.

Deputy Finance Minister Pledges Emphasis On Social Supports
Deputy Finance Minister Aleksei Shishkin told a press conference on 18 December that Tatarstan's government will raise state employees' salaries by an average of 64 percent beginning from January, putting the average monthly salary at 2,700 rubles ($90) as opposed to 1,600 rubles ($53).

He noted that Tatarstan has vowed to maintain subsidies to the poor even after the introduction of higher salaries to state employees by the Russian government. As a result, state bodies sponsored by the federal government will offer smaller pay rises to their workers (45 percent, on average) in comparison with those funded by the republic (64 percent).

Tatarstan Is Third-Largest Volga Tax Contributor
The federal Tax Ministry office in Kazan announced on 18 December that Tatarstan was the third-largest contributor of taxes in the Volga federal district, transferring 14.8 percent of the district's overall tax revenues. The Samara Oblast and Bashkortostan top the major taxpaying regions list with 16.2 percent and 15.6 percent contributions, respectively.

Shaimiev Among Strongest Regional 'Lobbyists'
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" and the Economic News Agency rated President Mintimer Shaimiev the third most-influential lobbyist among Russian regional leaders on 18 December. Chukotka Autonomous Okrug Governor Roman Abramovich and Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov outmatched Shaimiev in perceived influence.

TNC Movement Ready To Balk At Political Merger
The Tatarstan-New Century (TNC) movement gathered in Chally on 17 December to discuss draft documents to be adopted at an upcoming TNC congress in Kazan. The Chally meeting and similar assemblies in Elmet and Bua on 18-19 December reportedly indicate member support for refraining from a merger with Unity, Fatherland, and All Russia and instead concentrating on protecting the rights of peoples living in Tatarstan.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Court Backs Tatar Writers Union, But Quick Solution Unlikely
An Ufa Kirov district court upheld a Tatar Writers Union challenge against the Bashkortostan Justice Ministry, which rejected the group's application for registration in 1994, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 17 December. The Justice Ministry has appealed the district court decision, however, saying the case should go to the Bashkortostan Supreme Court -- leaving the seven-year saga in limbo.

Bashkir Bank Lands Loan From European Syndicate
Bashkreditbank signed a $20 million, one-year loan contract with an international banking syndicate, marking a deal the Bashkir bank boasts as having the first "favorable" terms granted a Russian bank since the financial crisis of August 1998. The syndicate was organized by Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein and the loan reportedly carries an interest rate of 3.75 percent above the London benchmark, the LIBOR. The deal was signed in Frankfurt.

International Roundtable Hears Of Government Corruption
Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov joined representatives from a number of federal and international bodies for an anticorruption roundtable in Ufa on 18 December. Bashkir State Assembly Speaker Konstantin Tolkachev noted that "while the Russian state is preparing its first draft law on anticorruption measures, Bashkortostan adopted one in 1994." He alluded to widespread corruption in state bodies, adding that federal officials often combine official duties and powers with their own business interests.

Participants included State Assembly deputies, representatives from the federal Prosecutor-General's Office, members of the European Commission on corruption, and legal experts from Russian and Bashkortostan.

Conference Highlights Dilemma Of War Veterans
Republican officials, psychologists, and Chechen war veterans joined a conference on 18 December on social and psychological counseling for those who served in the Chechen Republic and other conflict zones. Roughly 10,000 residents of Bashkortostan receive social support and low-interest loans stemming from a presidential decree on Chechen war veterans. Some 40 percent of such veterans are still unemployed, officials say.

President Observes Security Service's Professional Holiday
President Rakhimov observed a professional holiday for officers of the Federal Security Service (FSB) on 19 December, praising their role in protecting Russia from international terrorism. Thanking the FSB for its work, he said that Bashkortostan remains "a target for many foreign intelligence services and forces trying to destabilize the situation in our country."

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi