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Tatar-Bashkir Report: January 6, 2004

6 January 2004
Shaimiev Attends Rakhimov's Inauguration
Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev attended the inauguration ceremony of Bashkortostan's Murtaza Rakhimov, who officially began his third term in office on 29 December, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reported. Shaimiev said in his speech that the people of Tatarstan considered Bashkortostan "a brotherly republic, which is dealing with the same difficulties and walking hand-in-hand with us." He emphasized Bashkortostan's and Tatarstan's role in shaping Russia's federalism; constitutional, ethnic, and religious policies; and its relations with Islamic countries.

Shaimiev said Tatars of the Bashkortostan and Tatarstan republics "have accepted with great satisfaction" Rakhimov's pre-election statement on his intention to grant special status to the Tatar language in his republic. "This," Shaimiev said, "is a guarantee of the further strengthening of our mutual understanding and friendship between our brotherly peoples."

As a gift to his Bashkir counterpart, Shaimiev presented to him a portrait of the famous ballet dancer Rudolf Nuriev, who began his career in Ufa and Kazan, drawn by the chairman of Tatarstan's Artists Union, ethnic Bashkir Abrek Abzgildin. Also on 29 December, footage of Rakhimov's inauguration was shown on Bashkir Satellite Television, which cut the above-mentioned Shaimiev speech, leaving only his greetings and reference to the brotherly relations between the two republics.

First Mortgages Issued In Kazan
Tatarstan's Mortgage Housing Agency, in cooperation with Intekhbank of Kazan, held a ceremony presenting its first loans to the families of retired Russian Army officers Andrei Tarasov and Sergei Badyarov. The newly established agency, owned by Tatarstan's government and Tatstroi construction company, has already received 700 applications for long-term, low-interest loans in the last month.

The new program offering mortgages will help each family capable of contributing 1,400 rubles ($48) per month for a single-room apartment over 10-15 years (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 18 December 2003).

Shaimiev Praises Tatarstan's Achievements In 2003
Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev said in his New Year television address to the people of Tatarstan on 31 December 2003 that his republic had "managed to achieve most of its goals" by ensuring the growth of monetary incomes per capita "despite the inflation and general growth of prices." Among the year's achievements Shaimiev highlighted stable oil and petrochemical production, the growing output at the KamAZ automotive concern, Tatarstan's high level of agricultural production, as well as the ongoing preparations for the 200th anniversary of Kazan State University in 2004 and Kazan's millennium celebrations in 2005. He added that the December elections for the Russian State Duma revealed that voters had enormous trust in the government, but at the same time unveiled a number of problems that need urgent resolution. Shaimiev said that these problems included low incomes, a lack of security, and drug addiction.

Prime Minister Outlines Tatarstan's Priorities For 2004
At a press conference on 30 December, Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov said the issue of Tatarstan's defense industries joining federal holdings will be negotiated in 2004. The Kazan Aviation Plant and the Kazan Helicopter Plant will be included in aviation holdings, while the Kazan Motor Plant will join a corporation of engine manufacturers. Minnikhanov said, "We are ready to participate in all projects but propose our own terms of entering corporations."

Minnikhanov also said that all plans from 2003 on collecting taxes, including the profit tax, have been implemented, while revenues to the Road Fund even exceeded expectations. Meanwhile, he said federal subsidies for the five-year program of Tatarstan's socioeconomic development will decrease in 2004 to 10 billion rubles from the previous year's 11 billion rubles. Tatarstan is expected to significantly increase its production by 2006 when the program finishes and the republic stops receiving money from the federal budget, Minnikhanov said.

The strategy for the republic's economic development is connected to petrochemicals and oil refining, Minnikhanov added, saying Tatarstan will increase its share of oil processed in Russia. Currently about 7 million tons out of a total of 29 million tons are processed in the republic.

Number Of Pilgrims To Saudi Arabia Growing
Over 200 pilgrims from Tatarstan will make the hajj to Saudi Arabia in late January, reported on 5 January. Last year, 175 Muslims from the republic traveled to Saudi Arabia for the hajj. Pilgrims who travel by plane pay 50,000 rubles, while a bus trip costs 39,500 rubles this year. In Russia, a total of 5,500 Muslims will be eligible to make the hajj. Council of Muftis of Russia Deputy Chairman Damir Gyizetullin told RIA-Novosti that the quota provided for Russia's pilgrims was increased this year by 500 to take into account the possible rise in their number in Chechnya, where state institutions were restored this year. Some 4,000 Russian residents have already obtained the necessary documents for the hajj.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Rakhimov Says Presidential Elections Were Triumph Of Democracy
Presidential elections in Bashkortostan were "a genuine festival for the people" and "a triumph of democracy," Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov said during his inauguration ceremony on 29 December, RosBalt reported the same day. Rakhimov thanked the people of Bashkortostan for trusting him for a third time. "Providing a decisive support for our political course, the people determined further development of the republic, construction of a strong democratic state with a socially oriented economy," Rakhimov said. He also said that Russian President Vladimir Putin played an important role. Rakhimov said the republic's leadership will not undertake "superficial and ungrounded reforms" as "some apologies for politicians advise under the pretence of the necessity to renovate the republic." He criticized the activities of "some public leaders and political forces" who took the opportunity during the electoral campaign "to play the ethnic and religious card, to drive a wedge between the biggest nationalities and confessions in the republic, and to upset the centuries-old friendship of our peoples." "The people appeared to have a strong immunity against such actions," Rakhimov said. He promised to strengthen the economy, to raise people's wealth, to double the country's gross domestic product (GDP), to continue the construction of housing, roads, social objects, sport facilities, and to fight red tape, corruption, criminality, and drug addiction. Rakhimov won the second round of the presidential election on 21 December with 78 percent of the vote.

Shaimiev Again Raises Status Of Tatar Language In Bashkortostan
Speaking at the inauguration ceremony, Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev said nationalities policy is a key issue in Russia that is to be well thought out and must take into account the interests of many peoples. Shaimiev said, "we will not agree with attempts to deprive us of the right of choosing a way for the native language to develop, whether this concerns the alphabet or other attributes." He praised Rakhimov's promise to raise the status of the Tatar language in Bashkortostan, saying this will be a contribution to further strengthening the friendship between the Bashkir and Tatar peoples. Shaimiev also said that the "problems of Islamic-Christian relations are especially sensitive" in both republics.

BTK Leader Opposes Official Status For Tatar
In an interview with RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 26 December, Bashkortostan Tatar Congress (BTK) Executive Committee Deputy Chairman and philology professor Radik Sibegetov said the republic's Tatar civic organizations should promote state status for the Tatar language. "President Murtaza Rakhimov said he would like to raise this issue following the presidential elections, so we should work together with the president in this direction," Sibegetov said. He said two positions exist on this issue -- state status or official status for Tatar. Sibegetov spoke in favor of state status, saying there cannot be two different statuses among the republic's three top languages -- Russian, Bashkir, and Tatar. Russian and Bashkir are state languages in Bashkortostan.

TsIK Chairman Lists Bashkortostan Among Regions With Major Election Violations
Russian Central Election Commission (TsIK) Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov said on 26 December that the TsIK has reports of violations during the presidential elections in Bashkortostan in the registration of candidates and the preparation of ballots, as well as the inability to prevent the usage of administrative resources, RosBalt reported the same day. Veshnyakov added, however, that he does not think there were any serious violations, and even if election results are annulled in some districts, it would not affect the overall results. He added that all alleged violations will be thoroughly investigated.

Veshnyakov criticized attempts by some parties to prove that mass violations occurred during the elections. The TsIK members found no evidence of the violations claimed by the Communist Party, he added.

Daily Speculates On Prosecutor's Killing
The Bashkir police published in republican newspapers a picture of the suspected killer of Sibai Prosecutor Khenif Qarachurin (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 24 December 2003), RIA-Novosti reported on 25 December. The Bashkir Interior Ministry revealed during the investigation headed by minister Rafael Divaev that Qarachurin received repeated threats in the past two years and his house under construction and garage had been set fire to. Qarachurin, 55, has been heading Sibai prosecutor's office for 10 years and was respected by residents and colleagues for his honor, adherence to principles, and strict observance of the law, "Kommersant-Daily" wrote on 24 December.

Qarachurin had had strong conflicts with a local law-enforcement head whom Qarachurin accused of bribe taking, according to the daily. The police official was arrested but then was released. "Kommersant-Daily" quoted an unidentified source in the Bashkir Interior Ministry as saying Qarachurin had reported some two weeks ago that the investigation into the fire at his house was almost finished and evidence would soon be given to the court.

The daily also quoted Aleksandr Slyusarenko, presidential candidate Relif Safin's campaign chief in Zaurale, as saying that the killing might be linked to the strong support Qarachurin provided to opposition presidential candidates' campaigners and independent observers in the 7 December presidential elections. Slyusarenko said that following appeals to the Sibai prosecutor's office, results of the first round were immediately annulled in Sibai's two polling districts and voting results in another four districts were appealed in the Bashkir Supreme Court.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Marii El Boosts Investments
At a New Year's reception on 29 December 2003, Marii El President Leonid Markelov said the republic was rated third in the Volga Federal District in terms of production growth in the past three years, Regnum reported on 30 December 2003. Previously the republic had been rated 13th. In 2003, production grew by 11 percent, while investments in fixed capital increased by 31 percent, the highest figure in the district. The republic's agricultural production was third largest in the district. Budget revenues grew by 40 percent.

Military Officer Detained For Selling Explosives
A captain in the reserves of the Russian air force, who served before 1993 as head of a depot of rocket-artillery ammunition, was detained in Kuznetsk, in the Penza Oblast, trying to sell 1.15 kilograms of ammonite and 15 electrical detonators, Regnum reported on 31 December 2003. The captain explained that he had found the explosive on a firing range, while investigators have said they believe he stole it during his service.

AvtoVAZ Reduces Production
In 2003, AvtoVAZ produced 700,000 cars, down from 703,000 assembled the previous year, reported on 31 December 2003. The concern also produced 200,000 sets of parts for its assembly lines in Russia's other regions and abroad. AvtoVAZ provided 30 billion rubles ($1 billion) of budget revenues in 2003. The previous year, the General Motors-AvtoVAZ joint venture produced 25,235 off-road Chevrolet-Nivas, down from the planned 35,000, Regnum reported on 4 January. General Motors -AvtoVAZ General Director John Milonas said despite the underproduction, the company has made a profit. He also said that in 2004 the venture will increase its dealers' network in Russia from 42 to 90 centers.

Utility Prices Rise In Saratov
Housing and utility tariffs increased in Saratov by 50-100 percent as of 1 January, Regnum reported on 4 January. Heating tariffs have risen by 30 percent and hot water rates by 110 percent. The last time housing and utility tariffs were raised was in August 2002.

Yekaterinburg Police Officer Arrested For Drug Trafficking
Lieutenant Colonel Davron Khusenov, serving in the Yekaterinburg Ordzhonikidze Police Department, was arrested on 27 December 2003 as he arrived in the Koltsovo airport from the United Arab Emirates on allegation of drug trafficking, Novyi region reported on 29 December 2003. Several days earlier, 12 kilograms of heroin was found in Khusenov's house in Yekaterinburg and his wife was arrested. The news agency quoted an unidentified source close to police bodies as saying that Khusenov has been linked to narco-mafia for more than four years. Khusenov's arrest was sanctioned after it was alleged that he took part in delivery of $58,000 to Tajikistan in payment for drugs.

Udmurtia's Volkov Runs For Re-election
Udmurtian President Aleksandr Volkov informed the republican election commission on 31 December 2003 that he will run again for president in the 14 March elections that will be held in tandem with the Russian presidential election, NTA Privolzhe reported on 5 January. Volkov is now the second candidate running for the post, after Kazan lawyer Sergei Kletenkov submitted his application. The two are running as independent candidates, Interfax reported. In October 2000, Volkov was elected the first head of Udmurtia. From March 1995 through October 2000, Volkov was the State Council chairman.

Communist Candidate Switches Districts
A Communist Party deputy in the former State Duma, Vasilii Shandybin, informed the Ulyanovsk election commission that he will not run for the State Duma in the district by-election, but will run in Yekaterinburg's Verkh-Isetsk single-mandate district, Interfax reported on 31 December 2003. The by-elections will be held on 14 March in tandem with the Russian presidential election. Shandybin said he was following a decision taken at an earlier Communist Party congress. Shandybin lost the 7 December 2003 election in a single-mandate district in Bryansk Oblast to Nikolai Denin, a candidate for the Unified Russia party.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova