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Tatar-Bashkir Report: May 31, 2005

31 May 2005
Kulikovo Battle Anniversary Sparks Controversy
Reshid Yegeferov, the coordinating chairman of the Tatar National Council, told Ekho Moskvy on 23 May that the Tatar public is opposed to celebrations marking the anniversary of the battle of Kulikovo, which began 23 May 1380 in the Nikolo-Ugreshskii monastery in the Moscow Oblast city of Dzerzhinskii. Yegeferov said, "Tatar scholars have proven that there in fact was not a major war between the Golden Horde and the Moscow state, only skirmishes between individual princes and khans. And if celebrations of the Kulikovo battle begin nevertheless, this will be made public." He added that "this will be unpleasant for both Tatars and Russians, as the governments of Tatarstan and Moscow are not interested in such scientific discussions. Yegeferov suggested that Tatar activists should meet with representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church to discuss the issue.

Patriarch Alexsii II on 23 May called on people not to look at the Kulikovo anniversary as a symbol of antipathy between the Russian and Tatar peoples, Interfax reported the same day. "One shouldn't think the meaning of the Kulikovo battle was the fight of the Russians against the Tatar-Mongols." The patriarch said there were many Tatars among the fighters loyal to Russian Prince Dmitrii Donskoi, as well as Russians on the side of the Golden Horde's Khan Mamai.

Viktor Ilyukhin, the deputy chairman of the State Duma Security Commission, told Ekho Moskvy on 23 May that Kulikovo should be celebrated as a victory by the Russian people over hostile invaders. He said the Kulikovo battle is "a nationwide holiday, as we fought not against Tatars who lived in the Russian Federation, but against newcomers who were coming to subdue Russia."

Tatar Lawmakers Say Russian Flag Won't Fly Over Parliament...
Tatarstan's parliamentary Committee on the State System and Local Self-Government on 24 May rejected a request by Tatarstan's Prosecutor Office to eliminate violations of the law on Russian state symbols, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. Prosecutors had notified Tatar State Council legislators they were failing to observe the federal law decreeing that the Russian flag be raised permanently at state buildings. The State Council flies only Tatarstan's flag on a permanent basis. Deputies argued that the building is undergoing major repairs and could be damaged if another flagstaff is installed on the roof. They have suggested a decision on the issue be withheld until the reconstruction is complete.

Referendum Against Tatneft Kaliningrad Project Fails
A referendum on the construction of oil port facilities in Svetlyi, in Kaliningrad Oblast, was ruled invalid because of low turnout, "Kommersant-Volga-Urals" reported on 24 May. According to the oblast election commission, 48.59 percent of eligible voters took part in the referendum, 97 percent of whom opposed the construction of the oil facilities. The referendum organizers needed approximately 300 more votes in order to block what they say is an environmentally hazardous Tatneft project to create an oil-export shipping system to Western Europe.

Svetlyi administration head Aleksandr Grigorev told Regnum on 24 May that town authorities will attempt to block project construction despite the formal failure of the referendum. "I simply won't sign the oil companies' documents," Grigorev said, adding he can't go against the wishes of the over 10,000 residents who elected him.

Tatneft branch Baltnafta, working together with Moscow Industrial Base, a branch of Yeniseineft, is aiming to build the oil port facilities.

International Heroin Ring Convicted In Kazan
Tatarstan's Supreme Court on 24 May handed down sentences to members convicted of participation in an international drug syndicate involved in trafficking heroin from the Kyrgyz city of Osh to Tatarstan, "Kommersant-Volga-Urals" reported on 25 May. The group sold over 400 kilograms of narcotics worth 200 million rubles ($7.1 million) over a period of two years. The 12 defendants in the case were sentenced to a total 94.5 years of imprisonment. The court sentenced Kyrgyz citizens Gulnara Yaminova, Kamila Mirzaeva, Akramzhon Abaraliev, Israil Baltabaev, Kabul Kochkarov, Radif Asadullin and Radik Nuraliev to prison sentences ranging between two-and-a-half years and 12 years. Tatarstan residents Sergei Usachev, Ruslan Galimov, Ferit Sadyiqov, Vasilii Prostatov and Airat Qarymov were sentenced to between seven-and-a-half years and 12 years in custody.

A jury on 16 May found all the suspects guilty on charges of participation in a criminal group, smuggling, and the illegal manufacturing, purchase, trafficking, and sale of narcotics. Asadullin, Nuraliev and Qarymov were also accused of organizing a criminal group. The Supreme Court ruled there was insufficient evidence to convict Nuraliev and Asadullin on that charge. The defendants' lawyers said they will appeal the verdict.

Shaimiev Backs Preservation Of Presidential Post In Tatarstan
Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev said the post of president is to be maintained in the republic, Interfax-Povolzhe reported on 25 May. In an interview with the news agency, Shaimiev said he considers it unacceptable to take the approach followed by deputies in North Ossetia's parliament who have abolished the presidential post. Shaimiev said "those erosive...processes that took place during the perestroika years in the republics of the North Caucasus...can in no way be...a model for Tatarstan."

TIU Leader Opposes Celebration Of Kulikovo Battle Anniversary
Tatar Public Center (TIU) Chairman Telget Bariev has said it is incorrect to celebrate the anniversary of the Kulikovo battle in today's Russia, Interfax-Povolzhe reported on 25 May. "Thus we, Tatars, are 'pushed out' from Russia. Russia recognizes Tatars just as stepsons and gives the national movement cause to fight for Tatarstan's independence," Bareev told the news agency. "The Kulikovo battle is based on a myth like many things in Russian history."

Jewish Graves Vandalized In Kazan
The Kazan Interior Ministry is searching for the vandals of 20 graves recently desecrated in the Jewish part of the Kazan Archa cemetery, RIA-Novosti reported on 25 May. The graves were destroyed or daubed with swastikas. The ministry said that the graves of people of "various nationalities" have been damaged. The Kazan City Council appealed on 25 May to religious and public organizations to look into the act of vandalism.

Republican Parliament Sends New Senator To Federation Council...
Tatarstan's State Council confirmed former Deputy Prime Minister and Economy and Industry Minister Aleksei Pakhomov on 26 May as a parliamentary representative to the Federation Council, Tatar-inform, and Interfax reported the same day. Pakhomov replaces Irina Larochkina, who was appointed republican environment minister. The cabinet reshuffle came in the wake of the nomination on 25 March of Mintimer Shaimiev as Tatarstan's president for a new term.

...Postpones Local Elections...
At its plenary session on 26 May, the State Council voted to postpone local elections to self-government structures from 25 September to 16 October, citing the "harvest season" and "vacation period," Tatarinform and reported the same day. Speaker Farid Mukhametshin told reporters the same day that the new date is in line with federal legislation. Analysts suggested that Kazan Mayor Khamil Iskhaqov benefited most from the measure, since Iskhaqov would otherwise have to depart ahead of the balloting for Kazan millennial celebrations. But a presidential adviser on political issues, Rafael Khekimov, argued in "Kommersant-Idel-Urals" on 27 May that it is unlikely that Iskhaqov's interests are behind the postponement of elections, saying, "The mayor is, of course, an important person but not [important] enough to postpone elections to suit him."

...And Agrees To Seek Ways To Place Russian Flag On Parliament Building
The parliament voted on 26 May to consider a request by the republican Prosecutor-General's Office to remedy violations of federal legislation regarding federal symbols, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. Speaking at parliament's plenary session, Tatarstan First Deputy Prosecutor Artem Nikolaev noted that only the Tatarstan flag is installed atop the republican parliament building, while federal law demands the presence of the Russian flag on state administrative buildings.

A committee on the federal system and local self-government the previous day passed a decision to reject the prosecutor's request, countering that installation of another flagpole might damage the building, which is reportedly undergoing major repairs. Speaker Mukhametshin said at the plenary session that "in legal terms, the Prosecutor-General's Office's request is correct." He urged that the prosecutor's request be taken into account, saying, "This means we have discussed the issue...and continue looking for technical ways to satisfy the request."

Human Rights Commissioner Plans Interfaith Conference In Kazan
Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Alvaro Gil-Robles proposed on 26 May that an international interfaith conference on tolerance and religious dialogue in Russia be organized in the Tatar capital Kazan this fall, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reported the same day. Gil-Robles made the suggestion in a meeting with the chairman of the Council of Muftis of Russia, Rawil Gainetdin. The forum would reportedly involve representatives of five monotheistic faiths, including Orthodoxy, Islam, Judaism, Catholicism, and Protestantism. Gil-Robles said he chose Kazan to host of the event after his recent visit to Tatarstan's capital, where he said there is a concord among followers of different religious traditions. Gainetdin backed the proposal and emphasized the importance of such a forum.

In an interview with RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service following the meeting, Gil-Robles said he considers illegal the persecution of people over their membership of any religious organization -- specifically, the banned Hizb ut-Tahrir -- membership of which has served as grounds for the arrest of Muslims in many regions of Russia. Gil-Robles said he is against labeling any religion extremist, adding that countries protecting human rights should reject such a thing.

Tatar President Visits St. Petersburg
President Mintimer Shaimiev took part in celebrations devoted to St. Petersburg's anniversary on 27 May, Tatarinform,, RosBalt, and other news agencies reported the same day. Shaimiev said after his meeting with St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matvienko that Russia needs to preserve its traditions, multicultural nature, and spirituality. Matvienko said after the meeting that St. Petersburg is preparing its present devoted to the Kazan millennium, which will be celebrated in August. The city is reconstructing St. Petersburg Street in Kazan, planning to display Hermitage works in the Kazan Art Gallery, and erecting a bust of a Tatar poet in Kazan. As its present for the St. Petersburg's 300th anniversary, marked in 2003, Tatarstan repaired homes on Kazan Street in St. Petersburg, made improvements to a square near the Kazan Cathedral, and published the book "Tatars in Petersburg."

Tatneft Bows Out Of Tupras Race
Tatneft General Director Shefeget Takhawetdinov said on 26 May that Tatneft has definitively rejected the idea of purchasing a 51 percent stake in Turkish refining concern Tupras, Interfax reported the same day. Takhawetdinov cited risks in the Turkish state-run process, saying, "We won the first tender and didn't violate law, but the auction was deemed invalid. Then...the Turkish government sold a 15 percent stake and again, as we know, trade unions appealed to a court against the winning company. This can continue indefinitely." "If there is such a lawsuit between the government and trade unions, we wouldn't like to participate in this process," Takhawetdinov said.

In February 2004, an alliance between Tatneft-associated company Efremov Kautchuk GmbH and the Turkish financial industrial group Zorlu won a tender to purchase 65.76 percent of Tupras for $1.3 billion, but the decision was later annulled by a Turkish court.

Tupras unites four refineries capable of processing 27 million tons of oil a year, and controls some 90 percent of Turkey's refinery market.

Meanwhile, Zorlu head Ahmed Nazif Zorlu said in an interview with on 25 May that negotiations with Tatneft on joint participation in the next tender on Tupras are continuing and that the decision will be passed in roughly a month.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Registration Of Candidates Completed For Local Self-Government
Three-hundred nine candidates will compete for 35 seats on the Ufa City Council, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 23 May, citing a list of candidates published the same day by election officials. Elections to those local bodies, whose powers are to be expanded under local self-government reforms that should be in place by November, are slated for 26 June.

Ufa Election Commission Accused Of Bias
Five would-be candidates for the Ufa City Council who were refused registration held a news conference on 20 May to accuse the local election commission of unfairness, reported on 23 May. The group includes Novoufimskii Oil Refinery executive Sergei Akulov, Bashkirenergo's Sergei Kasatkin, energy sales executive Sergei Yerokhin, and Novoil's Erik Islakaev.

Durtoile Raion Head Files Defamation Suit
Durtoile Raion and city-administration head Rawil Dewletov filed a defamation suit against resident Egine Bulatova in which he is seeking 1 million rubles ($35,600) in compensation, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 23 May. Bulatova, who campaigned against President Murtaza Rakhimov in the December 2002 presidential election, appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian Interior Ministry to complain of perceived persecution against her that began after Rakhimov's victory. Bulatova has sought 1 million rubles in compensation of moral damages from Dewletov.

Kauchuk Reportedly Struggling
The leadership of Bashkortostan-based Kauchuk, Russia's largest manufacturer of synthetic rubber, said the plant is in crisis and on the verge of bankruptcy, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 23 May. The company reported in its first-quarter results that losses increased during the period by 282 million rubles to 1.1 billion rubles. In 2005, Kauchuk plans to produce 172,800 tons of rubber. President Rakhimov has said Kauchuk -- alongside the Kaustik and Soda chemical plants -- could join the Moscow-based holding Bashkirskaya khimiya this year.

Kauchuk produces 24 percent of Russia's isoprene rubber. Bashkortostan's Property Ministry owns a 25 percent stake in Kauchuk.

Bashkir PM Guarantees Repayment of Foreign Credits If Rakhimov Is Dismissed
The London-based HSBC Bank and Moscow People's Bank will provide between $100 million and $150 million in credits to the Bashkortostan government and companies, Interfax and RosBalt reported on 24 May, citing the Bashkir government press service. Bashkortostan Prime Minister Rafael Baidavletov visited Britain on 17-21 May, during which he held negotiations with managers from Chinatrust Commercial Bank and Standard Bank London, and discussed the possibility of raising Bashkortostan's credit rating with officials from the Standard and Poor's international rating agency and Moody's Investor Service.

Interfax cited Baidavletov as saying obtaining credits has become increasingly complicated because of political instability in the republic. All of Bashkortostan's partners in London "raised the issue on the upcoming resignation of the republic president," Baidavletov said. Commenting on the conflict between President Murtaza Rakhimov and his son Ural, Baidavletov said, "the whole world knows that an unnatural antagonism between father and son that cannot be explained logically doesn't raise our investment attractiveness." The prime minister, however, sought to assure bank managers the Bashkir government will fulfill its financial obligations even if Murtaza Rakhimov is dismissed.

In April, the Moscow branch of HSBC Bank allocated $25 million in credit for the Bashkir government at a rate of 5 percent of annual interest.

Russian PM Thanks Rakhimov For Army Recruits
Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov sent an official letter to Bashkir President Rakhimov to thank him for his achievements in "preparing Russian citizens for military service in 2004," RosBalt reported on 24 May, citing the Bashkir presidential press service. The letter was handed to Rakhimov by Russian armed forces General Staff Deputy Head General-Colonel Vasilii Smirnov. Rakhimov was also granted a certificate of honor by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov for his contribution to the work of the Russian armed forces and for Bashkortostan's distinction in best preparing citizens for military service.

In 2005, Bashkortostan won the competition held by the General Staff. The republic sends 13,000 draftees to the Russian Army every year.

Congress Of Oil, Gas Manufacturers Opens In Ufa
Some 270 fuel- and energy-sector companies from 14 countries -- including Russia, Denmark, France, Germany, and the United States -- displayed their products at the 6th Congress of Oil and Gas Manufacturers, which opened on 24 May in Ufa, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. President Rakhimov and Russian Oil and Gas Manufacturers Union President Gennadii Shmal attended the opening ceremony of the congress.

Prosecutors To Closely Monitor Police Brutality
Bashkir Prosecutor Aleksandr Konovalov said on 25 May that local prosecutors will look into reported cases of suspects beaten during police interrogations, Interfax-Povolzhe reported the same day. He added, however, that such cases are difficult to prove. At a meeting with residents in the republic's third-largest city Salawat, Konovalov said prosecutors will carry out more random checks on pretrial detention facilities during the night. He added that "prosecutors' supervision will be closer to the bodies under surveillance." Konovalov said there is a complex criminal situation in Salawat and this has an impact on the number of police brutality claims. Salawat has four correctional labor facilities and 40 percent of the population has previous convictions.

Tatar NGOs Plan Referendum On Tatar Language Status
Bashkortostan's Tatar civil-society organizations decided at a meeting on 25 May to hold a referendum on raising the status of Tatar in Bashkortostan, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. The union will appeal to Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov to provide premises to hold a conference on the issue to which Russian human-rights activists will be invited.

Bolivia, Bashkortostan Discuss Possible Refinery Project
A delegation of Bolivian state officials and business representatives Bolivia held talks with the leadership of Bashkortostan's state-run Vostok consortium to construct an oil refinery in Bolivia, "Kommersant-Volga-Urals" reported on 27 May. The director of the consortium's Institute for Petrochemicals Processing, Elshad Telyashev, told the daily that the refinery can be built within three years after a contract is signed, while at least one year is needed to sign a contract. Telyashev said the facility will be capable of processing more than 3 million tons of oil a year. The Bolivian side also expressed interest in processing gas into diesel fuel. The daily quoted an unidentified source in the the Vostok leadership, saying the project will cost upwards of $1.2 billion.

British Consul-General Visits Ufa
British Consul General to Yekaterinburg Clive Thompson is visiting Ufa to participate in a congress of Russian oil and gas manufacturers, Bashinform reported on 26 May. On 25 May, Thompson met with Bashkir Deputy Prime Minister and Economic Development and Industry Minister Nikolai Puchnin to discuss economic cooperation. The schedule includes also a meeting with the heads of the republican Construction, Architecture, and Transport Ministry.

Great Britain tops the list of Bashkortostan's economic partners. Bilateral trade totaled $600 million in 2004. Twelve joint Bashkir-British ventures operate in Bashkortostan.

Bashkir Congress Leader Calls For Bashkir Cossack Revival
The chairman of the World Bashkir Congress' executive committee, Ekhmet Soleimanov, told a news conference on 27 May that the concepts of "national republics" and "separatism" should in no way be linked in the way that some politicians insist, Bashinform reported the same day. Soleimanov said Bashkirs voluntarily joined the Russian state and always enjoyed certain privileges -- the most important of which was the right of ownership of ancestral lands, which was annulled after the 1917 October revolution. The Bashkir Cossacks suffered the same fate, he said, adding, "We consider ourselves Cossacks in our souls and are proud of this." Citing a draft federal law on state service of the Russian Cossacks passed in its first reading recently by the State Duma, Soleimanov called for a revival of Bashkir Cossacks as well. "We always lived in peace on this land and protected this peace," he said.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Pro-Government Mari Organizations Disagree With European Parliament
Pro-government Mari national organizations approved an appeal to the European Parliament on 26 May, expressing their indignation towards the parliament's 12 May resolution on the state of the Mari people, "Kommersant-Volga-Urals" reported.

Representatives from Estonia, Hungary, and Finland initiated the resolution in response to the slayings of three Mari journalists in 2001 and an assault in February on the editor in chief of the international Finno-Ugric newspaper "Kudo+Kody," Vladimir Kozlov. He is also the chairman of the Russia-wide Mari public movement Mer kanash and the All-Mari Council. The European Parliament demanded an independent investigation into the attacks in Marii El. In their appeal, Mari organization leaders said that the European parliamentarians were basing their information on rumors.

"People and civic organizations who provided you with information do not have a moral right to speak on behalf of the Mari people," the appeal said. The Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry issued a statement earlier calling the resolution an "inflaming speculative political campaign." Kozlov believes signatories are "involuntary people dependent on money allocated from the local budget." He said the Mari National Congress was established in 2002 by republican authorities.

Yabloko In Nizhnii Holds Demonstrates In Support Of Khodorkovskii
Yabloko regional branch in Nizhnii Novgorod held a small demonstration in support of former Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovskii in the city on 26 May, Regnum reported. The 10 demonstrators hoped to attract attention to the Khodorkovskii trial, which they said has been insufficiently covered by the media. The protesters passed out brochures containing Khodorkovskii's final speech in court and buttons calling for his release.

Referendum To Preserve Direct Elections Of Perm Krai Governor Not Permitted
The Perm Oblast Election Commission rejected an appeal to hold a referendum in Perm Oblast to maintain direct elections of the Prem Krai governor on 26 May, Regnum reported. The commission said the objections raised by the citizens' group don't meet the requirements as stated in Article 12 of the federal law on electoral rights and referendums.

Son Of AvtoVAZ's Top Manager Kidnapped...
The son of the AvtoVAZ Financial Director Galina Kazakova was kidnapped on 26 May, "Kommersant-Daily" reported. The Tolyatti Interior Directorate appealed to city residents to help law-enforcement agencies find Yevgenii Kazakov. He was abducted while standing on the street with his wife and daughter in the late evening. A taxi pulled up beside him and he was forced inside. AvtoVAZ Chairman of the Board Vladimir Kadannikov said a meeting of the AvtoVAZ leadership was held to discuss the incident and the plant is ready to provide any help to aide the investigation. Kazakov is a cofounder of the Atlantida Company that owns a club, bowling center, and bathhouse.

...As Yuganskneftegaz Top Manager Assaulted
Yuganskneftegaz Deputy General Director Sergei Burov was shot in Nefteyugansk on 26 May, Interfax reported. Surgeons removed one bullet from Burov's abdomen and said he will survive.

Investigators believe Burov's activity as a Duma deputy motivated the attackers, "Izvestiya" reported. Burov oversaw several audits of the financial activities of city companies. He openly criticized Nefteyugansk Agroindustrial Association's leadership, accusing it of mishandling state budget money. He also oversaw an investigation into the sale of 70 cottages in Krasnodar Krai that previously were municipal property. It is believed the results of that investigation resulted in the dismissal of Nefteyugansk Mayor Viktor Tkachev.

Burov became Yuganskneftegaz deputy general director in charge of personnel policy two months ago. Previously he headed the company's Regional Policy Department. Burov is also the head of the local branch of Unified Russia and a Nefteyugansk City Duma deputy. Between 1999 and 2003 he was the Duma speaker.

Samara Oblast's Titov Expresses Concern Over Assault On Media Holding Head
Samara Oblast Governor Konstantin Titov chaired a 24 May meeting with law enforcement agency heads to discuss last week's attempted murder of Media-Samara holding General Director Dmitrii Suryaninov (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 24 May 2005), Regnum reported. Titov told reporters following the meeting that such incidents threaten the development of a civil society. He said oblast Prosecutor Aleksandr Yefremov is responsible for the investigation, adding, "any help needed from the governor and the Samara Oblast government will be immediately provided."

Students Protest Reform Of Education Sector In Udmurtia
Udmurt State University students held a meeting on 20 May to protest planned education reforms, Regnum reported. About 100 protesters demanded that student scholarships be increased and a decision to introduce a bachelor's degree and magistracy be reconsidered. No representative met with the students.

IzhAvto To Lay-Off 4,000 Employees
Udmurtia's IzhAvto will lay-off 4,000 of its 12,000 employees by the end of the year, Regnum reported. Plant owner and Samara-based SOK automotive group hopes to cut expenses after experiencing a 40 percent fall in demand last year.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova