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Tatar-Bashkir Report: January 13, 2004

13 January 2004
Shaimiev's Speech At Rakhimov's Inauguration Published
The Tatar presidential press service distributed to republican media on 5 January the text of a speech by President Mintimer Shaimiev during the inauguration of Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov on 29 December in Ufa, reported the same day. Shaimiev mentioned several controversial issues in relations between the two republics. No live broadcast of the ceremony was available in Tatarstan and the Bashkir media didn't show or mention certain parts of Shaimiev's speech. Specifically, Shaimiev praised Rakhimov's promise to raise the status of the Tatar language in the republic, saying that the move that aroused enthusiasm among Tatars in Bashkortostan and Tatarstan would be a guarantee of the "strengthening of friendship between the two brotherly peoples." He also called for promoting common information, cultural, and economic space. In particular, Shaimiev suggested that Tatarstan's satellite television channel, Tatarstan-New Century, be broadcast in Bashkortostan, noting that Bashkir television is shown in Tatarstan. Shaimiev also referred to the 2002 census, saying, "attempts to interfere in a harsh manner in the course of the census, first of all made by politicized ethnologists, stimulated the growth of ethnic self-consciousness. The census showed that attempts to divide the peoples artificially are hopeless." Tatarstan's leaders repeatedly protested the Bashkir side's efforts to register Bashkortostan's Tatars as Bashkirs during the census in order to increase the share of the titular nationality in the republic, where Bashkirs are a minority.

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.

KAPO To Produce Tu-334s
The Kazan Aviation Plant (KAPO) is launching production of parts for the Tu-334 short-distance airliner and may assemble the jet in the future, Tatarinform reported on 6 January. The plant will also continue production of the Tu-214 aircraft. The Tu-334, designed to replace the Tu-134, is capable of seating 102 passengers and fly up to 3,150 kilometers.

Government To Reduce Number of State-Owned Companies
The Tatar Property Ministry said that only 35 of the republic's 925 currently state-owned companies will be kept, Tatarinform reported on 6 January. In 2003, 173 state-owned companies were reformed, 125 privatized, 19 closed, and 29 reorganized, while 15 filed for bankruptcy. Another 354 state-owned companies are being reformed. State-owned companies brought in 59 million rubles in revenue to the republican budget in 2003, up from the 25 million rubles planned for.

Kazan Company To Supply Ural Federal District Schools With Computers
Kazan's ICL-KPO VS computer plant won a tender to provide computers to Ural Federal District secondary schools, Tatarinform reported on 6 January. In the past four years, ICL-KPO VS has provided over 20,000 computers to secondary schools in Tatarstan and the Volga and Far East federal districts. Under the new contract, the company will deliver 5,500 computers in the first half of the year.

Soviet Communist Party Documents Declassified
The Tatar Cabinet of Ministers' Chief Archive Directorate has declassified over the past 10 years 17,000 archive files that were marked previously as "secret" and "top secret," reported on 6 January. The documents cover the activities of the Tatar Oblast Committee and city and raion committees of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union until 1972. At its last meeting, the directorate's declassification commission considered the correspondence between the Tatar Oblast Committee and the USSR's Academy of Sciences concerning unique telescopes produced at the Kazan optical-engineering plant that were used by the Saturn astronomy station.

KamAZ Has Rough Year
KamAZ recorded uncovered losses in the first 11 months of 2003 of 185.5 million rubles, while in the same period the previous year the automaker made 1 million rubles in profit, RBK reported on 8 January. Production grew in the same period by 19.7 percent to 22 billion rubles, while truck sales increased by 21.9 percent to 21,849. The company's debt increased from 4.5 million rubles in early 2003 to 6 million rubles by 31 November. On 27 October, the KamAZ board of directors reduced the company's planned net profit for 2003 from 112 million rubles, as initially set in the business plan, to 92 million rubles because KamAZ faced extra expenses of 681 million rubles in the first nine months of the year.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Safin Resumes Political Activity In Bashkortostan
Despite the official end of presidential elections in Bashkortostan, former candidate Relif Safin, who is Altai's representative on the Federation Council and a former vice president of LUKoil, has maintained a campaign office in Ufa, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 6 January. His representatives told RFE/RL that having reduced his staff in Ufa, Safin intends to resume his political activity by publishing newspapers in Russian, Tatar, and Bashkir for independent coverage of events in the republic.

On 29 December the Bashkir Supreme Court began hearing an appeal by Safin to annul the results of the presidential elections, RosBalt reported the same day. Safin presented to the court materials concerning over 700 alleged violations in more than 100 polling districts. Safin has said that he was cheated out of 100,000 votes. In the 7 December first round, Safin came in third with 23 percent of the vote, following Rakhimov with 42 percent and former Mezhprombank executive Sergei Veremeenko, who received 25 percent.

Federal Government To Privatize Companies In The Republic
In 2004, 10 major state-owned enterprises in Bashkortostan, including the Ufa international airport, Bashkir Airlines, Ufa Equipment-building Factory, Kumertau Aviation Plant, Ufa Magnetron microelectronics plant, worth an estimated 2 billion rubles ($65 million) will be privatized, Bashinform reported on 4 January. These companies are currently owned by the federal government. About 2,000 of the federal government's enterprises will be privatized in Bashkortostan, bringing in no less than 40 billion rubles ($1.3 billion).

New Year Kicks Off With Another Increase In Energy Tariffs
Bashkortostan's government issued a decree increasing the heating and electricity tariffs for individuals and industries by an average of 15 percent beginning on 15 January, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 6 January. The reason for the hike is the rise in gas and oil prices, as well as the cost of fuel transportation via railroads.

Nevertheless, rural areas will retain favorable energy tariffs, with increases of only 8.5 percent, while urban areas will have to pay 16 percent more.

Monthly Raises Serious Allegations Against Bashkir President
Having won the 21 December presidential elections, Bashkortostan's Murtaza Rakhimov will manage to rule the republic for as long as 18 years, the monthly "Sovershenno Sekretno" wrote in its January issue. The monthly claimed that Rakhimov's victory occurred only because of excessive violations during the vote count.

In 13 years of Rakhimov's leadership in Bashkortostan, one of Europe's major petrochemical industry complexes, with an annual processing capacity of 50 million tons of oil, is said to have reduced its output by several times, as only 40 out of 200 of the oil products remained on it production list.

According to the monthly, famous for its independent investigations, the Russian Audit Chamber and Russian Tax Ministry discovered that the complicated schemes for privatizing Bashkortostan's petrochemical industry complex were made by Rakhimov's son, Ural, who is the chairman of the Bashkir Fuel Company's and Bashkirenergo's board of directors. As a result of the schemes, the federal budget reportedly lost out on at least $115 million in privatization revenues. In addition, Bashkortostan's oil processing industries were accused of tax evasion for registering their Ufa-based production facilities in Kazakhstan's Baikonur offshore zone, in a sum of $400 million.

Despite the republic's industrial might, 90 percent of its population reportedly earns less than $100 per month and 40 percent less than $33. Thirty percent of the work-age population is unemployed in the region formerly known for training high-qualified personnel for various industrial branches.

"Sovershenno Sekretno" cited former presidential candidate and member of Mezhprombank's board of directors, Sergei Veremeenko, as saying that in 2002-2003 Ural Rakhimov ordered Bashneft to sell the monthly amount of some 500,000 to 670,000 tons of oil to 11 private mediating companies for "a favorable price" 30-50 percent lower than the market price for processing at the Ufa oil processing plant and the Salavatnefteorgsintez chemical plant. The mediator companies reportedly owned by Rakhimov's associates, such as Uralneftekhim and Neftek, are alleged to have shared the difference between the purchase price and the final price with the Bashkir president's son. As a result of these operations, Ural's team is suspected of illegally acquiring some $30 million each month.

In addition, Ufa petrochemical plants are also reported to have assisted the aforementioned mediating companies by concealing some 10 percent of the oil produced, while the technological process admits losing only some 3 percent of the raw material during processing. The sale of unaccounted oil products is alleged by some to bring the organizers of the scheme some $100 million per month. These large amounts of money are thought by some to be the reason Rakhimov is willing to go to great lengths to remain in power (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 4 December 2003).

World Bashkir Congress Executive Suggests Non-Bashkirs Should Leave Bashkortostan...
World Bashkir Congress Chief Executive Ekhmet Soliemanov told an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent on 8 January that according to his figures, during the 7 and 21 December presidential elections the Tatar-populated regions of Bashkortostan voted "mostly" for incumbent Murtaza Rakhimov. He said that during the first round, Relif Safin won a majority only in the Ilesh and Durtoile regions because he was born in that area.

Soleimanov added that "surprisingly," Mari, Chavash, Udmurt, and Mordovian peoples submitted few votes for Rakhimov. "If they consider themselves temporary residents here," he said, "they are welcome to leave, you have fatherlands to return to," referring to these peoples' ethnic republics. He explained this by saying, "Tatars, Mariis, Mordovians, Germans, and people from the Caucasus are immigrant peoples in Bashkortostan and we [Bashkirs] are a native, state-forming ethnic group."

...Condemns Those Bashkirs Who Did Not Vote For Rakhimov...
Soleimanov also said that "among Bashkirs there were also those who sold themselves to [opposition candidates Sergei] Veremeenko and [Relif] Safin and what stuns me the most is our [Bashkir] intelligentsia, lawyers, philosophers, and historians did not explain the importance of the presidential vote to the people."

...And Argues Against New Status For Tatar Language
Soleimanov also commented on Rakhimov's pre-election pledge to grant special status to the Tatar language in Bashkortostan, where Tatars are the second-largest ethnic group after Russians, while only the Bashkir and Russian languages have official status. Soleimanov said, "In this case, every nationality living in Bashkortostan will demand official status for its language," and asked rhetorically, "If so, what kind of state will it be?"

Bashkortostan's Tatars Insist On Official Status For Tatar Language
In an interview with RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 9 January, a senior member of the Bashkortostan Tatar Congress and a Tatarstan trade representative said that Tatar civic groups in Bashkortostan continue to believe that state-language status should be extended to Tatar. Ramil Bignov said there are 1.5 million ethnic Tatars in Bashkortostan, which is higher than the number of ethnic Bashkirs in the republic. Bignov was responding to a statement by the chairman of the Bashkir Congress's executive committee, Ekhmet Soleimanov, in which Soleimanov said that granting state-language status to Tatar would prompt demands for similar recognition from the Chavash, Maris, and other peoples in Bashkortostan (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 9 January 2003). Soleimanov conceded that several languages could be afforded official status. Bignov noted that there are seven languages with official status in Daghestan. President Murtaza Rakhimov recently spoke favorably of revising the Tatar language's status in Bashkortostan (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 12 December 2003).

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Russian Supreme Court To Reconsider Appeal By Chelyabinsk Environmentalists
The Russian Supreme Court will hear an appeal by Chelyabinsk environmentalists against the Russian government's resolution regulating imports of spent nuclear fuel, reported on 12 January, citing "Chelyabinskii rabochii." The website quoted leaders of the Movement for Nuclear Safety and Legal Consciousness NGOs as saying that the resolution passed last summer permits not only the import of foreign spent nuclear fuel for processing but also allows it to be kept in the country for an unrestricted term. The NGO representatives said no other country in the world provides such a service. The Russian Supreme Court has rejected the appeal by the Chelyabinsk environmentalists but the court's appeals board has returned it for a new hearing.

Opposition Newspaper Evicted In Marii El
The Marii El opposition newspaper "Dobrye sosedi" was thrown out of its office on 31 December 2003, Regnum-MariNews reported on 8 January, citing the "Moskovskii Komsomolets v Marii El" weekly. "Dobrye sosedi" editor in chief Vladimir Maltsev told the weekly that the State Property Ministry forced the paper out of the office without any explanations. The paper has rented the office since the beginning of January 2000. Maltsev said that despite that fact that all payments were made on time, the landlord said that the newspaper could not prolong its rental agreement and was ordered to vacate the premises. The newspaper is known for condemning the policy of the republic's government headed by Leonid Markelov.

Two Applicants For Alternative Civil Service In Marii El
Only two draftees have appealed for alternative civil service in the Marii El Republic during the past call-up campaign, Region 12 reported on 8 January. In both cases, religious reasons were behind the decision. Marii El Deputy Military Commissioner Sergei Popov said that the alternative civil service was unpopular because it can last for as long as six years, compared to two years for regular military service. The other reason is the necessity for a draftee to provide evidence that he is unfit for military service, Popov said. The final permission for alternative service is issued by enlistment offices.

National-Bolshevik Egg-Thrower Could Face Up To Five Years In Jail
The leader of the National-Bolshevik Party in the Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast Dmitrii Yelkin told the Nizhnii Novgorod Telegraph Agency that Ilya Shamazov, who threw an egg at Unified Russia leader Boris Gryzlov, may receive a sentence of up to five years imprisonment. Shamazov, a student at the Nizhnii Novgorod State Technical University, was charged with intending to destroy or harm other people's property after he threw an egg at Gryzlov and his bodyguard at the Unified Russia congress in Moscow on 24 December 2003. The same day, Shamazov was detained and was released two days later after he gave a written undertaking not to leave his locality.

Club Of Jolly Muslims Set Up In Nizhnii Novgorod
The Nizhnii Novgorod Muslim Religious Board and raion education department announced that they have set up the Russia Club of Jolly Muslims (KVM), Nizhnii Novgorod Telegraph Agency reported on 8 January, citing The club will promote education among Islamic youth, support for gifted students, and promote the idea that Islam is an inalienable part of the culture of Russia's peoples. The measure is devoted to the 10th anniversary of the Nizhnii Novgorod Makhinur Islamic school.

Toys Campaigning For Putin
Toys glorifying Russian President Vladimir Putin have appeared in the Sverdlovsk Oblast, Novyi region reported on 12 January. Six toy hares, which sing a song about the Russian president titled "I want one like Putin," were reportedly bought at a Yekaterinburg department store. The hares, which were made in China, reportedly sing in an accentless Russian. The toys were presented to children at a kindergarten in Revda, Sverdlovsk Oblast. But considering such a politicization impermissible, kindergarten employees removed the musical devices from the hares.

Sverdlovsk Oblast's Credit Rating Raised
The Standard & Poor's credit-rating agency announced on 6 January that it had raised the long-term credit rating of the Sverdlovsk Oblast from B- to B with a "positive" forecast, UralBiznesKonsalting reported on 8 January. The rating increase came in the wake of progress in restructuring a loan provided by the Russian Finance Ministry to Yekaterinburg, guaranteed by the oblast. Economic growth and diversifying the oblast economy, maintaining good budget parameters, and low debt contributed to the move. Irina Pilman, a credit analyst with Standard & Poor's, said the positive forecasts reflects expectations that the growth of the economy and budget revenues will let Sverdlovsk Oblast satisfy investment needs in the social sector and infrastructure without significant debt growth. According to the ratings agency, good budget parameters will likely mitigate possible negative consequences of tax reform and the reform of interbudgetary relations. It is also expected that the oblast will pay on its obligations in full.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova