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Tatar-Bashkir Report: May 17, 2005

17 May 2005
Glazev Warns Of Ethnic Separatism In Russia
The head of the For A Decent Life party, Sergei Glazev, told a two-day scientific conference on "Topical Issues Of Russia's Development" that opened on 13 May that "ethnic separatists in Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Yakutiya, the Far East, and Kaliningrad might take the control over Russia" as a result of Moscow's declining power over the regions, "Kommersant" reported the next day. The conference -- organized by Motherland, the Communist Party, and Glazev's movement -- focused on purported attempts by the central government to secure its grip over the country.

Social Issues Could Complicate Local Self-Government Elections
This year's elections to the bodies of local self-government in Tatarstan's cities and regions "will be characterized by uneasy debates in the complicated political and economic background caused by the recent social reforms, including monetization," Tatarstan's State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin told a seminar on self-government reform in Kazan on 14 May. Mukhametshin urged incumbent officials of self-government to "prevent" the possible entry of those exploiting the population's discontent with monetization to elected self-government bodies. In response to a recent statement by First Deputy Prime Minister Rawyl Moratov suggesting that the staff of self-government bodies should be reduced to a single individual, Mukhametshin insisted that attempts to reduce the current staff of 3,119 self-government officials are without merit.

Shaimiev Condemns Marches By 'Nazi' Veterans
Commemorating the 60th anniversary of the victorious end of World War 2, Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev praised the priceless contribution of Tatar veterans in defending the motherland, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 9 May. Shaimiev recalled that of the more than 700,000 residents of Tatarstan who fought at the front, fewer than half survived. Addressing recent marches by what he called former Nazi officers in the Baltic countries, Shaimiev said he was saddened that "in the city streets of some countries, Nazis are marching again and the antifascists opposing them are the ones accused of violating public order."

KamAZ Says Top Managers' Arrests Not Affecting Business
The press service of the KamAZ automotive firm announced on 6 May that the recent arrests of a purchasing director and the general director of the company's metallurgical division, KamAZ-Metallurgiya, on embezzling charges will not affect the company's obligations regarding contracts signed prior to the arrests. The statement said company management was in full control of KamAZ and its different divisions.

Tatarstan To Develop Concept For E-Government
Tatarstan's IT Development and Communications Minister Ferit Fazylzyanov told reporters on 11 May that his ministry has formed on the basis of former ministry of communications will concentrate on establishing direct ties between republican government bodies and citizens, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. Fazylzyanov emphasized that access to new information technologies "should not be harmful to security." In Fazylzyanov's words, the government needs to provide a "more adequate" assessment of information security at public Internet access facilities and educational institutions. He added that, along with the development of information and communication technologies, "the threat is also growing."

Federal Minister Visits KamAZ
Russian Industry and Energy Minister and KamAZ board Chairman Viktor Khristenko visited Chally on 11 May to get acquainted with the company's production lines and discussing the company's future, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the next day. Tatar Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov joined Khristenko's meeting with the KamAZ management. Also on 11 May, federal minister left for Togliatti, Samara oblast for a similar visit to AvtoVAZ automotive company.

Before his departure from Chally, Khristenko told reporters that his current tour of Russia's automotive industry is devoted to preparing a meeting of the federal government on the prospects for the domestic automotive industry development. He said Russia's automotive market in 2004 totaled $17 billion and said that amount is expected to double by 2010. Given the sector's current conditions, Khristenko said, it is vital for KamAZ to speed up the launch of the production of truck engines that meet pollution standards ranging from Euro-2 to Euro-5. Commenting on the likely consequences of Russia's possible membership of the World Trade Organization, Khristenko said that "this move will not be destructive for KamAZ and the rest of Russia's automotive industry."

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Trade Unions Oppose Bashneft's Restructuring
The trade unions of Bashkortostan's oil and gas industry workers have sued the management of the Bashneft oil company, which recently announced plans to abolish its regional oil and gas extraction boards (NGDU) and convert them into Bashneft territorial divisions, the Volga-Urals edition of "Kommersant" wrote on 7 May. Prior to the proposal, nine NGDUs had been separate legal entities, maintaining cooperation with Bashneft on a contractual basis. In late 2004, Bashneft management decided to merge the nine boards into three territorial divisions, something that was opposed by the unions, which claimed that their rights were violated by the absence of any official notice of the layoffs that would follow. Bashkortostan's Arbitration Court is now hearing the case. Bashneft is one of the top 10 oil companies in Russia, with an annual output of 12 million tons from oil deposits in Bashkortostan and western Siberia. In early 2003, 63.72 percent of the company's state-owned shares were handed to the Bashkirskii Kapital firm, which is controlled by Ural Rakhimov, son of the Bashkir president, Murtaza Rakhimov.

FSB Looks Into Anti-Rakhimov Opposition Meeting In Moscow
The Bashkortostan branch of the Federal Security Service (FSB) is interrogating journalists who covered the 7 April protest in Moscow that targeted republican President Murtaza Rakhimov, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 11 May. RFE/RL reported that a journalist from Rosbalt news agency was asked by FSB officers on 5 May to confirm the identities of journalists who observed the demonstration. After the 7 April protest, Bashkortostan's opposition submitted a petition to the Russian presidential staff with a purported 107,000 signatures backing Rakhimov's removal.

Former Bashkir Prosecutor Brings Old Team With Him To Yaroslavl
Former Bashkir prosecutor Mikhail Zelepukin, who now heads the prosecutor's office in Yaroslavl Oblast, invited his former employee Yevgenii Mojarov to head his investigation department, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 11 May. Unofficial sources also suggested Zelepukin will pick a deputy from his former Bashkortostan colleagues well.

'Subbotnik' Tradition Lives On In Bashkortostan
A large number of Bashkortostan residents took part in traditional May "subbotniki" -- days set aside for cleaning courtyards and parks near their homes and offices, the press service of Bashkortostan's Natural Resources Ministry reported on 11 May. According to the reports, more than 2 million residents "volunteered for cleaning jobs after the republic's government ordered all local organizations to ensure their territories would be cleaned."

Bashkir Parliamentary Deputy, Former Bashneft Seeks Retirement...
Ildar Iskhaqov, former general director of the Bashneft oil company, filed for retirement from his seat as a Bashkortostan State Assembly deputy, RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 12 May. The move reportedl makes Iskhaqov the fourth republican deputy to seek retirement in the past two months.

February saw a particularly high-profile confrontation between supporters of State Assembly speaker Konstantin Tolkachev and deputies with direct or indirect ties to Bashkortostan's petrochemical industry (see "RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Report," 26 February 2005). A group of deputies led by Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov's son, Ural, attempted to force Tolkachev's dismissal but were opposed by allies of the president. One State Assembly deputy said that Iskhaqov did not support the "plotters" and "convinced a number of Bashneft managers not to take part in the move," which allowed him to maintain his position on Bashneft's board of directors. The same source suggested that by quitting parliament, Iskhaqov is attempting to distance himself from possible conflicts between President Rakhimov and his son.

...As Prosecutors Investigate Bashneft
The Bashkortostan Prosecutor-General's Office has launched a criminal investigation into allegedly illegal business practices by Bashneft oil company, the Volga-Urals edition of "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 13 May. Bashneft is reportedly suspected of exceeding its oil-extraction quotas by more than 4 million tons in the past two years at a total cost of 11.8 billion rubles ($437 million). The violations were allegedly committed under Iskhaqov, who recently was replaced in the post of company general director. The investigators have not leveled any charges against Bashneft's management.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Investigators Search Apartment Of Former Snezhinsk Mayor
Eight million rubles, savings deposits worth $200,000, international credit cards and dozens of gold and silver coins were found during a search of the apartment of Anatolii Oplanchuk, the former mayor of the once-closed Chelyabinsk Oblast city of Snezhinsk, the site of the Russian Federal Nuclear Center, Regnum reported on 13 May, citing the press service of the Ural Federal District Prosecutor's Office. The search was part of a criminal case against Oplanchuk, who is accused of abuse of office and accepting bribes. According to law-enforcement agencies, Oplanchuk illegally allocated 5.2 billion rubles in the Snezhinsk budget for the Sibneft affiliate VS-Profit, which allowed to Sibneft to avoid paying over 2.2 billion rubles in taxes to the city budget. Oplanchuk has been arrested and remains in custody. If convicted, he can be sentenced to a maximum of 10 years in prison for each of the charges against him.

European Parliament Promotes Rights Of Marii Nation
The Strasbourg-based European Parliament on 12 May unanimously passed a nonbinding resolution on the situation of the Marii population in Russia, Regnum and "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 13 and 14 May respectively. The resolution cites restrictions on press freedom, human rights and democracy in Marii-El. It also says the Marii people are being deprived of adequate education in their native language because of a growing shortage of Marii-language schools and textbooks. "Kommersant-Daily" reported that four Marii schools were closed during the past two years, during which time the number of schoolchildren studying the Marii nation has dropped by 11,500.

The resolution also criticizes assaults on opposition journalists in Marii-El, including three murders in 2001 and a 4 February 2005 assault on Vladimir Kozlov, the Marii Congress chairman and editor-in-chief of "Kudo+Kodu," an international Finno-Ugric newspaper. The Marii-El Interior Ministry said the beating was an act of hooliganism, not a political crime.

The European Parliament resolution said local and federal authorities have not taken appropriate legal measures to bring the perpetrators of such crimes to justice. The parliament called on Russia to respect its obligations regarding the protection of its national minority languages and cultures. It noted that the Mariis are not represented in the federal government, and that even in Marii-El's regional government, the percentage of Marii officials has dropped to just four people over the past five years. Some 650,000 Mariis live in Marii-El and constitute some 40 percent of the population in the autonomous republic.

The European Parliament also called for an independent investigation of alleged violations during the 2004 presidential elections in the Marii-El republic. Kozlov told "Kommersant-Daily" that the human rights situation has deteriorated since the re-election of Leonid Markelov.

While the Strasbourg-based parliament's resolution is nonbinding, it may move the Marii issue higher on the European Union's agenda in future dealings with Russia.

Penza Oblast Governor To Serve Third Term
The inauguration of Penza Oblast Governor Vasilii Bochkarev, who was nominated by President Vladimir Putin for a third term, is slated for 26 May, Interfax-Povolzhe reported on 16 May, citing the gubernatorial spokesperson Anton Sharonov. Bochkarev was confirmed by the oblast legislature on 14 May by a 42-1 vote. In 1998 elections, Bochkarev defeated then-Governor Anatolii Kovlyagin and was then reelected in 2002.

Samara Oblast Governor Quits Social Democratic Party
Samara Oblast Governor Konstantin Titov has suspended his membership in the Social Democratic Party of Russia, Interfax-Povolzhe reported on 16 May. According to a statement released the same day by the oblast government press service, Titov made the decision after Russian President Vladimir Putin nominated him as oblast governor, with the support of pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party members in the oblast Duma. Titov said he will concentrate his efforts on enacting Putin policies and protecting the interests of oblast residents. He added his decision is linked to the formation of a power vertical that removes the political aspects of the governor's activities to the background.

Titov established Social Democratic Party of Russia in 2001 together with former USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev, and served as the party chairman. Gorbachev left the party in May 2004, saying he "doesn't trust" Titov. In September 2004, Titov stepped down as party chairman but remained a member of its Political Council.

Uralvagonzavod Obtains 300 Million Euros In Credit From Czech Bank
The Czech Export Bank and the Czech Alta investment company are to allocate 300 million euros in credit for Sverdlovsk Oblast's state-run plant Uralvagonzavod (UVZ), Regnum reported on 11 May. A corresponding frame agreement was signed by UVZ General Director Nikolai Malykh. The credit line will be open until 2009, and the money will be used to purchase new equipment from Czech and other European manufacturers. Malykh also signed a contract worth 100 million euros on the delivery of 3,500 gondola cars to the Czech Republic.

Law Enforcement Agencies Fight Religious Extremism
Vladimir Tatarchuk, an aide to the Volga Federal District presidential envoy, has told reporters that highly secretive religious communities tied to the banned Islamist organization Hizb ut-Tahrir have been discovered in Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Chavashia, Udmurtia, Nizhnii Novgorod, and Kirov and Samara oblasts, Regnum reported on 13 May. Topographical maps, maps of oil and gas pipelines, grenades, cartridges, parts of explosive devices, brochures on bomb-making and military actions, and extremist leaflets were reportedly seized from community members. Tatarchuk also claimed members of Jamaat, a Wahhabi sect, were found in Ulyanovsk Oblast and were nurturing ties to radical Islamist groups and militants elsewhere. Alleged Wahhabists in Tatarstan and Bashkortostan were expelled from Russia. In Udmurtia, authorities annulled the registration of the "Saf Islam" newspaper, which they accused of inflammatory content.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova