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Tatar-Bashkir Report: May 24, 2005

24 May 2005
Prosecutor Questions Legal Status Of Tatarstan Science Academy
Tatarstan Prosecutor Kafil Emirov is questioning whether Tatarstan's law on science and scientific activities complies with federal law, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 16 May. The federal law reportedly stipulates that state science academies may only be created at the behest of the Russian president or government, and only through the introduction of a special federal law. This would appear to undermine the status of Tatarstan's Academy of Sciences, which was established in 1991 by the decree of Tatarstan's president. Emirov reportedly appealed to the Tatarstan State Council, suggesting that the academy's founding decree be amended, by abolishing the provisions on state funding. Razil Weliev, the chairman of Tatarstan's parliamentary committee on culture, science, education and ethnic issues, told RFE/RL the same day that, in addition to considering the suggested amendments to the republic's law on the Academy of Sciences, the Tatar parliament would appeal to federal legislators for amendments to the federal law. Tatarstan's Academy of Sciences has 37 academics, 69 corresponding members, and 11 honorable academics, as well as six scientific institutes.

Tatneft To Keep Post-2008 Annual Output At 25 Million Tons
Tatneft's chief geologist, Reis Khisamov, told a meeting of the oil company's board of directors board on 17 May that after 2005 the firm will reduce the amount of oil extracted n Tatarstan, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. The company's annual output is currently reported to be some 27 million tons; after 2008, the amount is expected to remain steady at 25 million tons. A long-term development concept for Tatarstan's oil industry foresees some 30 million tons of oil being extracted annually through 2020, as smaller oil companies are expected to assume control of the exhausting deposits from Tatneft.

Tatarstan's Major Alcohol Producer Facing Sharp Production Slump
Tatspirtprom General Director Reshit Sheikhetdinov told a meeting of Tatarstan government officials on 17 May that his company has halted production at seven of eight of its alcohol plants due to a dramatic drop in sales, Interfax-Povolzhe reported on 17 May. Sheikhetdinov said the shutdowns were the result of the high cost of alcohol produced in the republic. Average market prices for alcohol in Tatarstan are some 12 percent higher than those in Russia. Vodka prices, specifically, are 16 percent higher in Tatarstan. Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov said during the same meeting that Tatarstan's government is "concerned" by the current situation at Tatspirtprom, which was recently privatized and which is looking for ways to create "preferential conditions" for its business "without limiting the rights of alcohol producers from other regions."

Tatar-Korean Project Reportedly Stumbles
Ferit Tuqtarov, deputy minister of economy and industry, told reporters on 17 May that the previously announced launch of the construction of a major petrochemical complex in Tatarstan is being delayed by its investors, who reportedly are undecided over the nature of production facilities they want, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. In December 2003, South Korea's LG Corporation and Tatarstan's Tatneft, Nizhnekamskneftekhim, and Svyazinvestneftekhim started a joint venture to build refining and polyester-, polyethylene-, and ethylene-production facilities at Tuben Kama Petrochemical Plant (NNPZ). The parties are reportedly still discussing a list of technical facilities they might build despite Korean Eximbank's declared readiness to grant the company a $600 million loan.

Party-Sponsored Security System Installed In Kazan School
The Tatarstan State Council chairman and local head of the Unified Russia party, Farid Mukhametshin, and fellow party member and State Duma Deputy Chairman Pavel Pozhigailo on 17 May attended the inauguration of an electronic security system installed in a Kazan school, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. The system's $14,800 price tag was reportedly picked up by a Unified Russia support fund. It has been described as an effort to protect the school from possible terrorist attack.

Public Opposes Construction Of Tatneft Terminus In Arkhangelsk
A Svetlyi city court rejected a suit by Baltnafta, an affiliate of Tatneft's branch in Arkhangelsk Oblast, against a resolution by the Svetlyi City Council, the Volga-Urals edition of "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 18 May. City deputies issued a resolution on holding a referendum on the possible construction of a Tatneft oil terminus in that town. Anna Begicheva, leader of the public group organizing the referendum drive, said the problem would not arise if Tatneft were not attempting to build the facility in the center of the city, near a children's hospital and a sports stadium. Begicheva suggested that such difficulties would not arise if Tatneft built its terminus outside the city.

Tatneft is reportedly seeking to establish its own channels to European markets of oil and oil-based products.

IBRD Loan For Kazan Approved
The Russian government on 19 May approved an agreement signed by Russia and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) on a $125-million loan to finance a project on increasing Kazan's attractiveness to investors, "Kommersant-Volga-Urals" reported on 20 May. The first tranche of $50 million will be allocated immediately after the agreement comes into force. The Russian Finance Ministry, along with the Kazan administration and the Tatarstan cabinet, agreed that the remainder will be provided on the condition that city authorities strengthen the management of Kazan's budget and finance matters, take steps to improve social welfare, and introduce market mechanisms in the housing and municipal-services sectors. The loan will be serviced and repaid through the federal budget. The IBRD board of directors approved the Kazan project on 24 February.

Tatar Scholar Questions Results Of 2002 Census In Bashkortostan
Ethnologist Damir Iskhaqov told a press conference on 20 May in Kazan that the roughly 200,000 Tatar-speaking Bashkirs registered in Soviet-era census counts disappeared during the 2002 census in Bashkortostan. In their place, said Iskhaqov, a new ethnic group appeared -- the Bashkir-speaking Tipters. Iskhaqov claimed the phenomenon is the result of a policy decision made during the census by Bashkortostan authorities and scholars from the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology at the Russian Academy of Sciences. During the 2002 census, Iskhaqov said, at least 225,000 Tatars were registered as Bashkirs. The ethnologist presented the data in his book, "The 2002 Census in Bashkortostan," which was presented to the executive committee of the World Tatar Congress (BTK) on 20 May. During the press conference, BTK leaders called for the results of the 2002 population count to be contested in court.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Arbitrage Court Hears New Bashkirskii Kapital Challenge
A court of arbitration in Bashkortostan resumed hearings on 17 May in the republican State Property Ministry's suit against the Bashkirskii Kapital company, which conducted the state sale of shares in major petrochemical enterprises, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. The court previously concluded that the handover of Bashneft and Bashkirenergo shares to Bashkirskii Kapital, which is reportedly controlled by President Murtaza Rakhimov and his son Ural, was illegal. The current allegations reportedly concern Bashkirskii Kapital's acquisition of shares in the petrochemical company Bashkirnefteprodukt and four oil refineries in Ufa.

Bashkortostan To Mark Anniversary Of 1557 Entry To Russia
Bashkortostan will celebrate the 450th anniversary of Bashkiria's joining the Russian state in June 2007, Murtaza Rakhimov told a meeting of the republican government dedicated to anniversary preparations, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 17 May. President Rakhimov reportedly stressed the date's "enormous historical importance" and pledged that it will be marked with the introduction of new public facilities "designed to serve our people."

Bashkirskii Kapital Trial To Resume On 27 May
Bashkir Arbitration Court Judge Zohre Shihabetdinova said during the 17 May hearings of the State Property Ministry's case against the Bashkirskii Kapital company that the trial will resume on 27 May, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day (see "RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Report," 17 May 2005). She requested that, by the next hearing, both sides should agree on the total revenues received by Bashkirskii Kapital from shares in Bashkir petrochemical industries.

Bashkortostan, Tatarstan Referred To As 'Separatist' Regions
"Unlike Ukraine, which only experiences the humbly theoretical threat of pro-Russian separatism, there are separatist regions existing in Russia, where real power belongs to separatist elites. First of all there is Tatarstan and Bashkortostan" -- "Russkii Zhurnal" weekly wrote in an article devoted to Russia and geopolitics on 17 May. According to the weekly, "any sufficient weakening of the federal center will inevitably cause these republics to separate from Russia and then the creation of hostile, quite possibly radical Islamist states in the Volga area."

Rakhimov's Annual Address Emphasizes The Importance Of Self-Government Reform...
In his annual message to the Bashkir Parliament on 19 May, President Rakhimov said this year will be dedicated to the development of local self-government, as there will be new municipal institutions formed, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. According to Rakhimov, the power-sharing treaty between Moscow and Ufa will be amended to hand over some of the powers born by federal and republican authorities to municipal bodies. Along with declaring the goal of wider implementation of modern technologies, Rakhimov mentioned that in 2005 Bashkortostan's agricultural output will exceed the 2000 figure by 50 percent.

...And Suggests A List Of Federal Reforms
In his message, Rakhimov also said that in 2005 his government will propose federal legislators to reform the Russian Federation Council so that regional governors and parliamentary speakers will return there after the reform which had led to their departure. In Rakhimov's words, he will propose that Moscow allow governors to control the activities of some of the federal agencies operating in the regions. He also noted that it was important to observe the harmony between the legally approved sources of budget revenues and the actual size of budget expenses.

Another Bashkir Parliamentary Deputy Steps Down
Following the recent retirement of Bashkir State Assembly Deputy Ildar Iskhaqov, another businessman closely related to Ural Rakhimov, former UralSib Bank President Azat Qormanaev was deprived of his deputy status for failing to attend parliamentary sessions in the last three months, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 18 May (see "RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Report," 13 May 2005). According to unofficial sources interviewed by RFE/RL, Qormanaev is currently residing outside Russia.

Human Rights Activist Convicted Of Rape
A court on 14 May sentenced Vladimir Simarchuk, the former chairman of Bashkortostan's Committee for the Social Defense of Servicemen, to three years in prison for the rape of an 18-year-old army deserter (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 14, 15 and 29 October 2004), Regnum reported on 19 May. In September 2004, the deserter appealed to Simarchuk for help, but several days later, he filed a lawsuit against the human rights defender accusing him of rape. Simarchuk's lawyers told a press conference on 16 May that they will appeal the verdict in the Supreme Court. Simarchuk continues to deny the charges. Investigators have reported the human rights worker was charged with homosexuality during his own military service in the 1970s and was sentenced to involuntary mental treatment. The committee, which was established in 1990, delivers humanitarian aid to servicemen in Tajikistan, Daghestan and Chechnya. Simarchuk has criticized the fact that Bashkortostan regularly sends far more conscripts for army service than Moscow, which has a much larger population than the republic.

Justice Ministry Recalls Lawsuit Against Tatar Civic Group
The Bashkortostan board of the Russian Justice Ministry recalled its lawsuit against the republic's Tatar Public Center (TIU), an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 20 May. In late April, the board appealed to the Ufa Kirov Raion court to abolish TIU, arguing the center failed to report on its activities and was operating without proper registration. A hearing on the case was scheduled for 19 May, but the board then called back its appeal in order to "examine it more thoroughly." TIU Chairman Airat Giynietullin said the Justice Ministry claim against the center was unfounded from the beginning. He did not exclude, however, the possibility that legal actions against TIU will continue.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Russian Foreign Ministry Counters European Parliament's Mari Statement
The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 20 May saying that the European Parliament's claim that the rights and freedoms of Marii El's indigenous people are restricted (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 17 May 2005) is incorrect, Regnum reported the same day, citing the ministry's information and press department. The ministry said "it is obvious to us that the aim of this resolution is to distract the attention of international publicity from the unfavorable situation regarding human rights, first of all from the Russian-speaking minority in the Baltic states."

The ministry said the Marii El authorities have a reasonable policy aimed at supporting and developing Mari culture and promoting cooperation between different ethnic groups living in the republic. The Foreign Ministry also denied allegations, aired by the resolution authors, about the unequal importance given to the Mari and Russian languages in the republic. The ministry argued that both languages have equal status, as fixed in the constitution, there are Mari schools in the republic, and literature and media in Mari is published.

The European Parliament resolution cited difficulties Maris face in being taught in their native language and a decrease in the amount of Mari textbooks published.

GAZ Workers Support Government Plan To Develop Domestic Automobile Production
Over 2,000 employees of the Gorkovskii Automotive Plant (GAZ) on 20 May staged a meeting in Nizhnii Novgorod to back Russian government plans on the development of domestic automobile production, Interfax-Povolzhe reported the same day. The meeting participants resolved to support the federal government's plan to increase customs' duties on second-hand foreign cars and to reduce the age of foreign cars being considered old from seven to five years. People bore slogans such as: "Second-hand Foreign Cars Mean Poverty for 700,000 Workers" and "Old Foreign Cars Are The Rust Of The Russian Economy."

Penza Muslims Dissatisfied With Authorities' Interference In Mufti Elections
At a 20 May meeting in Penza with Chief Federal Inspector to Penza Oblast Vladimir Fomin, Muslim Religious Board of the European Part of Russia Deputy Chairman Abdurrauf Zabirov expressed his concern about the interference of oblast authorities and law-enforcement agencies in the affairs of the Muslim community of Penza Oblast, reported the same day. Zabirov said Federal Security Service (FSB) officers have attended mosques and asked imams and ordinary Muslims whom they are going to elect as mufti. Zabirov also said authorities have prepared two of their "own" candidates for the post.

Media Holding Head Beaten In Samara
Dmitrii Suryaninov, the general director of the Media-Samara information holding, was beaten near his apartment in Samara, Interfax-Povolzhe reported on 23 May. Suryaninov was hospitalized with a concussion, bruises, and a wound to the head. The assailants reportedly used baseball bats. Suryaninov has said the assault was connected to his professional activity. Media-Samara comprises a number of local weeklies, dailies, and magazines.

Saratov Oblast Muslims Appeal To Putin Against Allegations By District Official
The Muslim Religious Board of the Volga region addressed a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin on 17 May to express its concern about a statement made by Vladimir Tatarchuk, an assistant to the presidential Volga Federal District envoy, who said the international Islamic group Tablig was an extremist organization, Regnum reported the same day. During a press conference on 13 May, Tatarchuk said several foreign organizations had increased their activities in the district, adding that three representatives of Tablig were found in Saratov Oblast. The board said that "Tablig has never been legally recognized as an international extremist organization."

Prosecutors Close Criminal Case Against Wife Of Saratov Oblast Ex-Governor
The Russian Prosecutor-General's Office's Volga Federal District department has closed the criminal case against Olga Sergeeva, wife of former Saratov Oblast Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 12 April 2005), Regnum reported on 18 May. Sergeeva was accused of illegally taking over two cottages in Saratov worth over $3 million. The lawsuit was closed after Sergeeva admitted her guilt, compensated the state in full, and repented. In April, a court ruled that the cottages must be returned to the state.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova