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Tatar-Bashkir Report: June 14, 2005

14 June 2005
Shaimiev Approves Initiative Of Governors' Nomination By Parties...
President Mintimer Shaimiev told "Vedomosti" daily in a 6 June interview that although he is not currently planning to retire, he is already considering the candidacy of his possible successor.

"We already have some well-prepared guys, but it is extremely important to pick the right one," Shaimiev said.

He said that federal authorities will shape the future government of the republic "with my opinion taken into consideration."

"If the candidate is forced from the outside, this will just not pass through the [Tatar] parliament," he said. The parliament approves the president's candidacy.

Shaimiev also said he supports Russian President Vladimir Putin's initiative allowing political parties to nominate candidates for governor. Shaimiev said this would allow the creation of a "real multiparty political system."

...And Says Moscow Should Pay More Attention To Interests Of The Regions
Tatarstan has halted Latin Tatar script reform, Shaimiev said in the same interview. He said that switching from Cyrillic-based writing would isolate Tatars in Russia.

He said that the transition was inspired by Tatars living outside Russia and emphasized, "This issue is over politicized, obviously due to fears of the disintegration of the country and the difficult situation in Chechnya."

However, as a part of its well thought-out ethnic policies, the federal center should take into consideration the interests of peoples populating historical lands," Shaimiev said. "Russia is not a unitary state. Especially given that the absolute majority of ethnic republics and their peoples are behaving a lot more calmly than in some of the regions, where the ethnic chauvinism against individuals of Caucasus or other nationalities is unfortunately growing."

Shaimiev Meets Tunisian Ambassador
Delegations of businessmen from Tatarstan and Tunisia will exchange visits to study the potential for bilateral cooperation and expansion of existing contacts, according to an agreement reached by President Shaimiev and Tunisian Ambassador to Russia Mokhammed Bellaji on 6 June, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported.

According to the Tatar minister of trade and foreign economic cooperation, Khafiz Salikhov, the development of Russia and Tatarstan's active cooperation with Tunisia is currently stumbling due to a lack of information about potential cooperation.

New ZMA Owner Admits Oka Production Will Be Halted
Vadim Shvetsov, general director of the Severstal-Avto joint-stock company, told reporters in Kazan on 6 June that the production of Oka small-sized vehicles in Chally, Tatarstan may be halted due to its inability to meet the requirements of the modern automotive market in Russia, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the next day.

Severstal-Avto recently purchased 99.3 percent of the ZMA plant for $50 million. The ZMA plant produces the Oka vehicles. Tatarstan's government is planning to use its facilities to launch the production of the Ssang Young Rexton off-road vehicle jointly with South Korea's Ssang Yong Motor Company. Svetsov also said that his company is considering replacing Oka with a more modern model in the same class.

Tatarstan Considered Possible Place To Build Mercedes Cars
On a tour of Russia, representatives of Daimler-Chrysler's Moscow office visited the Alabuga automotive plant in Tatarstan on 6 June to see if the facilities are suitable for the production of Mercedes vehicles, Interfax reported. Gerhard Hilgert, head of Daimler-Chrysler's representation in Russia, told the news agency that the final decision on the location will be made in July.

Tatenergo Imposes Stricter Terms On Energy Consumers
Tatenergo, Tatarstan's state-owned energy monopoly, will tighten the requirements for its small business customers by altering the standard power supply contracts, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 8 June. The contracts will include a new provision which will require customers to use their planned amount of energy for a one-year term or face a 50 percent penalty charge on the amount of unconsumed energy.

Experts quoted in Russian and Tatar media said this situation is unique in Russia. An unnamed executive within Russia's Unified Energy Systems told an RFE/RL Kazan correspondent that Tatenergo's initiative is a result of the company's energy overproduction and their failure to reach markets outside Tatarstan.

Tatarstan, Gazprom To Prolong Cooperation Treaty
Prime Minster Rustam Minnikhanov, meeting with Gazprom's deputy chairman of the board, Aleksandr Annenkov, in Kazan on 7 June, said Tatarstan will sign a new cooperation agreement with the monopoly, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. The contract will run from 2006 until 2010. The agreement is similar to previous contracts and will provide stable gas supplies from Gazprom. The company will also purchase Tatarstan-produced goods such as KamAZ heavy trucks.

Poll Reveals Large Gray Labor Market in Tatarstan
Over 20 percent of Tatarstan's employable population is working illegally, State Statistics board official Valerii Kandilov said during a Tatar government meeting dedicated to gray labor market enforcement in Chally on 8 June. Some 468,000 people work illegally and of those 83 percent maintain an above-average lifestyle, research showed. The data was compiled from a public opinion poll in which respondents' identities were kept anonymous.

Only Part Of Top-Secret Aviation Enterprise Shares Handed To Moscow
Tatarstan's government will hand over a blocking stake in the Elektropribor aviation-electronics plant to the federal government, "Kommersant Volga-Urals" reported on 9 June. This move follows the plan to gradually privatize strategically important Russian companies. However, it is questionable whether Elektropribor will further incorporate with Russia's aerospace corporation because Kazan will soon pass a controlling stake to the holding division of the Ak Bars family of companies.

Siemens Interested In Expanding Its Presence In Tatarstan
Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev met with the president of the Russian branch of Siemens, Heinrich Fristatski, in Kazan on 8 June to discuss the German company's plans to expand its operations in Tatarstan, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. Fristatski said Siemens will offer Tatarstan its communications, medical care, and industrial equipment and is interested in developing the republic's Tekhnopark Ideya venture projects support center. Siemens would invest in the most promising Kazan research projects.

Tatarstan, Finland Seeking Ways To Develop Cooperation
Finland's Trade and Industry Minister Mauri Pekkarinen said his country was interested in "expanding its economic ties with Tatarstan," "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 9 June.

While Finnish and Tatar representatives discussed closer ties to develop industrial projects, Pakkarinen said, "it would be premature" for Tatarstan to expect serious foreign investments.

Tatarstan's Ministry of Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation said Finland is among Tatarstan's top foreign trade partners, with turnover around $440 million in 2004. Trade between Finland and the republic is dominated by imports of Tatar oil products.

Kyrgyz Nationals Kazan Will Be Allowed To Vote In Presidential Election
Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Roza Otunbaeva said Kazan and 10 other Russian Federation cities would host voting sites for Kyrgyzstan's 10 July presidential election, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 10 June.

The vote will be coordinated by the Kyrgyz ministry's office in Russia and the Kyrgyz Ethnic-Cultural Association in Tatarstan, a member of Tatarstan's Association of Ethnic and Cultural Organizations. More than 1,000 Kyrgyz citizens are expected to take part in the Kazan vote. The Tatar Interior Ministry's migration-affairs department and the passport-visa service will monitor the vote.

Tatarstan To Hold New Tender For Refinery Project
Tatarstan's Security Council on 10 June discussed a project for the construction of a second oil-refining plant in the republic, local news agencies reported. Tatneft will announce a new tender to design, finance, and construct a $3 billion facility with a processing capacity of 7 million tons per year.

The new project should replace a previously planned joint venture with South Korean LG International.

The Tatar-Korean Petrochemical Company (TKNK) was established in December 2003, while TKNK, Tatneft, and LG International representatives signed an agreement in September 2004 on the design, delivery of equipment, and construction of the refinery. Since then, however, TKNK's board has failed to approve a feasibility report and financing from the Korean Exim bank has failed to provide financing -- both conditions within the agreement on the refinery's construction.

"Kommersant-Volga-Ural" quoted an unidentified source within the Tatar government on 11 June as saying the republic's leadership decided to hold a new tender rather than wait for a new proposal from LG International. LG International is not excluded from participating in the new tender, the same source said. Tatneft will reportedly organize the financing under the new plan, rather than the Korean Exim bank.

Stanford University To Divest From Tatneft Over Work In Sudan
Stanford University President John Hennessey said the university's board of trustees has decided to request a divestiture from a number of companies that include Tatneft to protest their activities in Sudan, "Kommersant-Volga-Urals" reported on 11 June, quoting a Reuters report. Hennessey asked investment managers to sell off shares in Tatneft, the Swiss-Swedish engineering concern ABB, and the Chinese PetroChina and Sinopec oil companies, saying they have close links to Sudanese authorities and to violations of human rights in that country. "It is obvious that in Darfur [a Sudanese province in which 180,000 people have died over the past two years and more than 2 million forced to flee their homes] genocide is taking place," Hennessey said, adding that Stanford investments in those companies represents an undesirable link that "directly contradicts principles of Stanford University."

Tatneft representatives countered that their company has no commercial activities on Sudanese territory, adding that negotiations with the Sudanese leadership on oil prospecting that began in 2000 provided nothing. Tatneft officials called Hennessey's statement a political provocation.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Ufa Election Commission Chairwoman Calls Warning Leaflets A Provocation
Golshat Arslanova, chairwoman of the Ufa city election commission, told reporters on 6 June that leaflets which appeared in the mailboxes of many Ufa residents warning of a 3,000 ruble ($107) fine for those who fail to vote at the upcoming elections for local self-government bodies have nothing to do with her commission, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. Arslanova insisted the leaflets represented an effort to sabotage the elections. She confirmed that federal, republican, and municipal legislation contained no provision that would sanction those who abstain from voting. The leaflets were signed by the Election Commission and refer to the 26 June vote.

Bahkirskii Kapital Ready To Return Shares Of Bashkri Industries To State
Bashkirskii Kapital holding suggested to Bashkortostan's Ministry of State Property that they will return previously acquired shares in leading petrochemical companies to the state if the ministry withdraws its suit from the Arbitrage Court of the Republic, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported. The court reportedly suspended its proceedings after the company, controlled by President Rakhimov's son, Ural, declared its intention to return the shares. Prior to that, the court had ordered the return of the controlling shares package in Bashneft and the blocking shares package in Bashkirenergo from Bashkirskii Kapital back to the state on 14 May.

Prosecutor Opposes Out-Of-Court Resolution In Privatization Case
Bashkortostan's chief prosecutor, Aleksandr Konovalov, expressed strong opposition to a purported attempt by the investment group Bashkirskii Kapital to resolve problems stemming from the handover of state-owned shares in Bashkir petrochemical enterprises, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported, citing Konovalov's 7 June news conference (see "RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Report," 7 June 2005). Konovalov claimed that deals through which stakes were acquired by Bashkirskii Kapital -- which is said to be controlled by members of President Murtaza Rakhimov's family -- should be overturned by a court. Meanwhile, a Bashkortostan arbitration court hearing a case brought by the republican property ministry against Bashkirskii Kapital has declared a recess until 9 June.

Senior Police Officer Accused Of Abuses
Bashkortostan's Prosecutor-General's Office filed a criminal case against Baryi Eminov, the head of police in the Dim region, in connection with his allegedly concealing violence by a subordinate during an interrogation, Bashinform reported on 8 June. Eminov is accused of providing false information about the origin of numerous injuries by a suspect.

Bashkirskii Kapital Fighting To Keep Control Over Petrochemical Industries
Despite recent claims by the Bashkir Property Ministry, the state-owned stakes in Bashkortostan's leading petrochemical ventures could remain under the management of Bashkirskii Kapital (BK), "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 8 June (see "RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Report," 8 June 2005). BK, headed by Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov's son Ural, is reportedly discussing the possibility of leaving the shares under BK's control and allowing the republican government to appoint the top managers of certain industries. The future reassessment of the value of stakes, which were reportedly handed over to BK at minimum possible cost, is also under discussion. However, the intention of BK representatives to settle the illegal privatization issue outside the Bashkir Arbitrage Court is strongly opposed by the republic's prosecutor, Aleksandr Konovalov.

Legal Dispute Over Parliament Seat Resumes
Russia's Supreme Court on 8 June ordered Bashkortostan's Supreme Court to reconsider the case of Anatolii Dubovskii, the head of the Rus opposition group, against the republic's election commission, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. After Dubovskii won a seat in Bashkortostan's State Assembly from Ufa's Chernikovskii electoral district in the March 2003 elections, the result was overruled by the commission and a second round of elections were initiated. The second vote was won by Federal Employment Service official Florida Fartukova. This vote was later declared illegal by the Bashkir Supreme Court and the case was appealed to the federal Supreme Court in Moscow.

Disputed Privatization Case To Be Settled Among Presidential Family Members
Bashkortostan's State Property Ministry declared on 9 June the withdrawal of its Arbitration Court claim against the handover of state-owned stakes in republican petrochemical companies to Bashkirskii Kapital, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day (see "RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Report," 9 June). An unnamed source within the Bashkir government has suggested that the son of Bashkorotstan President Murtaza Rakhimov, Ural, and the ministry agreed on leaving the private company in control of the shares and returning Bashneft and Bashkirenergo shares to Bashkirskii Kapital in exchange for 13 billion rubles ($464 million) and a pledge by Ural to his father to abstain from politics and concentrate on business activities.

In February, President Rakhimov denounced what he called an "attempt to remove" the speaker of the Bashkir legislature, Konstantin Tolkachev, by a group of petrochemical-industry tycoons led by his son, Ural. Rakhimov demanded that formerly state-owned shares in Bashkir petrochemical industries be withdrawn from the management of Bashkirskii Kapital.

However, during 9 June Arbitrage Court hearings, prosecutor Gulnara Bikbulatova insisted that the case involved an infringement on state interests and therefore must be resolved by a court. She also suggested that Bashkortostan prosecutors would file a case against the State Property Ministry.

Ufa Police Seize Explosives In Hands Of Soldier
Ufa railroad authorities detained a 20-year-old soldier from a Moscow military detachment with 200 grams of TNT at the railroad station in the republican capital, RIA-Novosti reported on 9 June. An investigation is probing the origin of the explosives, and felony proceedings have been launched against the soldier.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Marii Congress Calls For Dismissal Of Marii-El President
The second extraordinary congress of Marii-El's Marii people passed a resolution on 5 June condemning the policies of Marii-El President Leonid Markelov in ethnic relations and calling for his dismissal, Regnum reported on 7 June, citing the interregional civic organization Marii Ushem. The congress, attended by some 70 representatives of the republic's nine raions and capital Yoshkar-Ola, was prepared in deep secrecy and held in a forest in the presence of foreign reporters and guests.

Germany Opens Consulate In Yekaterinburg
Germany has opened a consulate in Yekaterinburg, Uralinformbyuro reported on 10 June. The consulate will be headed by Tilo Klinner, who previously served as an adviser at the German Embassy in Moscow. The new consular district will include Bashkortostan, as well as Kurgan, Orenburg, Perm, Sverdlovsk, Tyumen, and Chelyabinsk oblasts and Khanty-Mansii, Komi-Permyak, and Yamal-Nenets autonomous okrugs.

Prosecutor's Office Fights Concealment Of Crimes
An investigation by the Ural Federal District's prosecutor's office revealed that 6,485 crimes haven't been registered by law-enforcement authorities since early May, while a total of 10,753 crimes have gone unreported this year, Regnum reported on 10 June, citing the office's press service. These figures were reported at a meeting held by Deputy Prosecutor-General in the Ural Federal District Yurii Zolotov with district prosecutors and local law-enforcement heads. According to the press service, crime is increasing in all subjects of the district while the practice of hiding crimes by refusing to register them by police departments continues. Prosecutors have filed 70 criminal cases against law-enforcement officials for forgery and abuse of power. Zolotov urged extra measures to stop similar violations and conferred responsibility for the issue to the heads of law enforcement agencies of the federation entities.

One In Four Russians Celebrate 12 June Holiday
According to an opinion poll by the All-Russia Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM) on 28-29 May among 1,581 people in 46 oblasts, krais, and republics, 26 percent consider the Day of Russia on 12 June a holiday, Regnum reported on 10 June. Sixteen percent of those people linked the holiday to Russia's entering the path of a developing democracy and market economy while 10 percent tied it to Russia's freeing from the necessity to economically support republics of the former Soviet Union. Thirty-nine percent said the day has no meaning and is only one more day off while 19 percent said that they don't understand the holiday's meaning. Eleven percent consider the holiday a tragic date that was the beginning of the collapse of the Soviet Union. In Moscow and St. Petersburg, this opinion was expressed by 23 percent of respondents. Twenty-three percent believe Russia became a fully sovereign state after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, while 31 percent have the opposite opinion, and 33 percent are sure that Russia lost the real sovereignty the Soviet Union had. Forty-one percent think the adoption of the Declaration of Sovereignty on 12 June 1990 was to Russia's favor while 38 percent disagree.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova