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Tatar-Bashkir Report: January 27, 2004

27 January 2004
Publications Claim Female Suicide Fighters Being Trained In Chally
A female Muslim group uniting women between 16 and 25 years of age has been established in Chally, Kama-press reported on 22 January, quoting an unidentified official source in law enforcement. A free-distribution Chally newspaper with a print run of 140,000 copies handed out to city residents published similar information under the title "Are Female Suicide Islam Warriors Trained In Chally?" RFE/RL's Chally correspondent reported on 21 January. Both reports claim that the purported group's members follow "pure" Islam, and people from outside Tatarstan instruct them in Wahhabism and provide psychological training for them to become suicide fighters. The publication claimed that law-enforcement agencies have warned people to be careful when they meet young women with their headscarves knotted behind their head and whose clothes are made of dense fabric. The Chally Interior Directorate's press service and other law-enforcement bodies did not confirm the allegations reported in those publications, RFE/RL's Chally correspondent reported.

In an interview with RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 21 January, World Tatar Congress (BTK) Presidium member Feuziye Beiremova expressed her disagreement with the published reports. She said everyone should defend young Muslim women from persecution. She added that the failure to condemn such reports could contribute to future violations of others' rights. The same day, Beiremova sent an open letter to President Shaimiev to protest the reports as well as appealing to the World Tatar Congress and Tatarstan's ombudsman over the issue.

Tatar Parliament Likely To Appeal First To Duma Over Language Law
The presidium of State Council decided on 21 January that Tatarstan's parliament will not challenge before the Russian Constitutional Court an amendment to the federal law on languages that makes the Cyrillic script mandatory for all official languages (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 18 November and 12 December 2002), reported. The State Council Commission previously appealed to Tatarstan's Constitutional Court for a ruling on whether the Tatar Constitution empowers the republic to decide for itself over use of the Latin script. On 24 December, that court issued a decision saying it is within Tatarstan's power to choose which script it uses for Tatar and to restore the Latin script for Tatar (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 25 December 2003). Commission Chairman Razil Weliev said at the presidium meeting that deputies are satisfied with the court verdict. He suggested that the State Council appeal to the State Duma to seek to annul amendments to federal language legislation on the grounds that they contradict the Russian Constitution and international law; the presidium backed that proposal. He noted that the Tatar parliament might eventually appeal to the Russian Constitutional Court, if necessary.

Election Commission Approves Unified Russia's Party List...
Tatarstan's election commission on 20 January approved Unified Russia's lists of candidates for the republican parliament, the commission's press center announced. The party list, published in "Vostochnyi ekspress" of 16 January, includes 49 candidates, while another 42 Unified Russia representatives will run in single-mandate districts. Among single-mandate candidates, 29 serve companies as general or executive directors or their deputies, or as board chairmen or heads of observation councils. The party list is topped by State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin; the chairwoman of Tatarstan's Trade Union, Tatyana Vodopyanova; Kazan State University Rector Meqzum Selekhov; and Youth Unity leader and TNV telejournalist Dmitrii Vtorov. With the exception of Mukhameshin, all would be newcomers to parliament. Of the businesspeople included in the party list or running in single-mandate districts, few work for companies that are not linked to the state. Among those who do not are Ilshat Kheirullin, head of the Edelveis group and brother of State Duma Deputy Airat Kheirullin, and Meta company head Aleksandr Sapogovskii. There are 10 women on the party list, but no women from the party are running in single-mandate districts. Ten candidates on the party list and 20 single-mandate candidates are currently State Council deputies. State Council elections will be held in Tatarstan on 14 March in parallel with the Russian presidential elections. To be represented in the Tatar parliament, parties must receive 7 percent of the vote.

...As Rightist Parties Compile Their Lists
The Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) in Tatarstan has compiled a party list of 12 candidates for the State Council elections, Tatar-Inform reported on 19 January. The SPS list is topped by Aleksandr Tarkaev, chairman of the Trade and Industry Chamber's Administrative Council, followed by Association for Support for Entrepreneurship Director Emil Geniev and the chairman of Tatarstan's Young Scientists Council, Sergei Yushko. Branch Chairman Fedor Fomushkin told Intertat on 19 January that following the SPS' failure to join the State Duma in the December elections, it decided against running former candidates. Another 13 candidates will represent the party in single-mandate districts. Aleksandr Shtanin, who is the only opposition candidate in the current State Council, will run in the Gabishev district. Commenting on the State Duma elections in Russia, President Mintimer Shaimiev recently expressed regret that right-wing parties failed to achieve representation in the Duma, which gave the SPS in Tatarstan hope of being elected to the State Council. "Vostochnyi ekspress" commented on 16 January that "the issue of the rightists" is supervised by First Deputy Prime Minister Rawil Moratov at Shaimiev's behest, and the SPS might come in second with some 10 percent of the vote.

Meanwhile, former State Duma Deputy Ivan Grachev heads the Development of Entrepreneurship party list, which includes 12 candidates, "Vostochnyi ekspress" reported on 16 January. Grachev, who lost State Duma elections in Kazan, will run in the Derbyshki single-mandate district.

Company With Tatneft Ties Wins Tupras Tender...
Efremov Kautchuk GmbH, a Germany-based company that operates independently but reportedly acts in Tatneft's interest, was named the winner of a tender for a controlling stake in Turkey's Tupras oil refinery, reported on 16 January, citing Reuters. Efremov Kautchuk bid $1.3 billion for a 65.76 percent stake in Tupras, which controls 87 percent of Turkey's oil-refinery market, compared to a $770 million bid offered by Anadolu Ortak Girisim Group. Turkish Finance Minister Kemal Unakitan said the Turkish government will not change its decision, despite Anadolu Ortak Girisim Group's subsequent offering of a larger sum.

To take part in the tender, Efremov Kautchuk established a joint venture with the Turkish Zorlu Group, which works in country's textile industry and energy and banking sectors. The result of the tender is to be confirmed by Turkey's government and prime minister by the end of January, "Vedomosti" reported on 19 January.

In 2002, Tupras processed 23.3 million tons of oil and produced 21.6 million tons of oil products. The company is expected to post $11 billion in sales for 2003. Tatneft, Russia's sixth-largest oil producer, currently delivers 19 percent of the oil processed by Tupras.

...And Seeks To Take Over Czech Oil Refinery
Efremov Kautchuk GmbH is taking part in a tender a tender for a 63 percent stake in Unipetrol, the Czech Republic's leading oil refinery and seller, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 15 January, citing Reuters. The British-Holland company Royal Dutch/Shell, Poland's PKN Orlen, Hungary's MOL, Kazakhstan's Kazmunaigaz, and the Czech-Slovak Penta financial group are among the competing bidders. Canada's Norex Petroleum was dropped from the list of participants because its proposal did not meet the requirements of the tender, reported on 16 January, citing Reuters.

Prosecutor Reports Progress In Extradition Request For Guantanamo Prisoners
Senior investigator Igor Tkachev said on 15 January that the United States is prepared to extradite Russian citizens currently being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 January. The issue was reportedly on the agenda of Tkachev's meeting with members of a working group on criminal investigation from the U.S. Defense Department. Tkachev said Washington is prepared to cover the expenses of those prisoners' transportation to Russia. "An agreement in principle was reached that our citizens are to bear responsibility on our territory, even for crimes committed outside Russia," Tkachev said. He added that investigations are continuing in some cases, however. Russian citizens are among those being held at Guantanamo as "enemy combatants." They include, from the Republic of Tatarstan, Rawil Minhajev and Airat Wakhitov; and Shamil Khajiev and Rawil Gomerov from Bashkortostan.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Bashinform Ponders A Perceived Dearth Of Foreign Investment
In a 19 January commentary, the state-controlled Bashinform news agency considers reasons for a perceived lack of foreign investment into Tatarstan and Bashkortostan's petrochemical industries. The piece suggests that foreign investors are deterred because those industries are considered key strategic sectors in both republics, and therefore local governments are interested in preserving single-handed control over them. Bashneft accounts for 25-30 percent of Bashkortostan's industrial production, the agency asserts, while it writes that Tatneft is said to account for half of Tatarstan's industrial output.

Bashinform cites the Expert RA ratings agency as saying that, in 2002-03, Bashkortostan was 11th among Russia's regions in terms of investment risk, having overtaken oblasts like Samara, Leningrad, Tyumen, and Sverdlovsk. Bashkortostan was rated 15th among Russia's oblasts in terms of investment potential, above the Leningrad and Novosibirsk oblasts and the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, the agency reports.

The agency adds that the monopoly-like position of a handful of industrial ventures in regions such as Bashkortostan -- where 12 companies accounted for 72 percent of the republic's industrial output in 2002 -- is widely believed to discourage potential investors. As in many other regions of Russia, much of Bashkortostan's tax revenue depends solely on the fuel and energy sectors, a fact that negatively affects the region's long-term credit rating.

The agency also writes that local governments are cool and reserved regarding possible foreign investors.

FSB Honors Bashkortostan's President
President Murtaza Rakhimov met with Viktor Kolmogorov, deputy director of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), in Ufa on 19 January to discuss security issues in Bashkortostan, the presidential press service announced the same day. Kolmogorov also delivered a medal to the Bashkir president "for cooperation with the FSB," including Rakhimov's "considerable personal contribution to the achievement of positive results in joint activities with state security bodies," the presidential press service announced.

Opinion Poll Suggests Lack Of Trust In Ufa Police
The head of information and analysis for the police department in Bashkortostan's capital said on 20 January that nearly one-third of respondents in a recent survey said they would turn to friends rather than the police if they felt their lives were in danger, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported the same day. Fifty-four percent of respondents said they would seek police help under such circumstances, according to Marat Gazizov. More than half of those who would avoid police assistance cited police indifference, while 45 percent cited rudeness by police and the remainder consider it useless to contact police in such situations. Three of four respondents said they are eager to assist police when necessary. Official statistics show 189 crimes per 1,000 inhabitants in Ufa in 2003, a figure that is lower than in the capitals of neighboring Perm, Chelyabinsk, and Orenburg oblasts.

Putin Campaign To Open Representation Office In Ufa
Vladimir Putin's campaign headquarters in Bashkortostan will on 23 January open a representation office in Ufa, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 21 January. Lawyers and political experts will be on hand at the office to answer the public's questions regarding the 17 March presidential election. Putin reportedly chose famous eye surgeon Ernst Muldashev to be his main trustee in the republic. This decision reportedly came unexpectedly to Muldashev, who cancelled an overseas trip to take part in Putin's re-election campaign.

Putin's supporters in Bashkortostan have reportedly collected 70,000 signatures backing Putin's registration as a candidate by Russia's Central Election Commission. Some 50,000 of those signatures have reportedly been sent to Moscow.

Editor Claims Support For Opposition Candidate Cost Him His Job
Fail Ekhmetshin, who actively supported opposition candidate Relif Safin in Bashkortostan's December presidential elections, told an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent on 21 January that the Sharan-region newspaper "Sharan Kingleklere" recently abolished the deputy-editor-in-chief position he held and ordered him to leave immediately. Ekhmetshin claimed he was dismissed because of his support for Safin's campaign. Under the Russian Labor Code, Ekhmetshin is eligible to remain at his position for two months after receiving notification of his dismissal.

Following his victory in the republican presidential elections, President Murtaza Rakhimov pledged in interviews that those who were members of his rivals' support teams would not be persecuted.

Bashkortostan's Media Minister Discredits Diversity of Opinion in Press
Zofer Timerbulatov said at a 22 January ministerial conference of heads of state-owned media outlets that, in his opinion, "expression of two different opinions" by one print media source is akin to a person having a split personality, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported.

Local Media's Performance During Presidential Campaign Criticized
During his speech at the above-mentioned 22 January ministerial conference, Media Minister Timerbulatov said that during the presidential election campaign "virtually all" of the regional newspapers in Bashkortostan limited their work to republishing reports from the state-run Bashinform news agency and from statements by republican officials, while demonstrating little initiative of their own, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported.

Bashkir Congress Opposes Improving Status Of Tatar
The World Bashkir Congress Executive Committee recently held a meeting to discuss results of the December republican presidential elections and to discuss the status of languages in Bashkortostan, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported. Ildus Ileshev, the director of the Bashkir Academy of Sciences' History, Language, and Literature Institute, spoke against giving the Tatar language the status of state or official language in Bashkortostan, noting that the World Bashkir Congress and top Bashkir scholars strongly oppose the idea. The deputy chairman of Bashkortostan's Tatar Congress, Radik Sibegetov, responded that Ileshev's comment is evidence that now that the presidential elections are over, Bashkortostan's leadership has reneged on its promise to revise the status of Tatar. Sibegetov said that it is unlikely Ileshev's comments were his own, and rather he must have been voicing the stance of the republican authorities. Such a shift would not contribute to the improvement of interethnic relations in the republic in the future, Sibegetov added. He said Tatars' hopes were once again unjustified, and they will learn not to trust the republican leadership.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Union Leader Resumes Hunger Strike
Chelyabinsk Miners Independent Trade Union branch Chairman and Kopeisk City Council member Vladimir Rodyuk on 21 January resumed his hunger strike "to protest violations of the labor and constitutional rights of Chelyabinsk Oblast residents," Regnum reported on 22 January. Rodyuk had held a hunger strike from 24 December till 8 January with the same demands. Strikers are demanding that persecution of the union and workers of the Chelyabinsk Mining Company be stopped, a collective agreement be signed, and a six-hour working day and additional vacation be introduced. The union leaders also requested that heads of the Chelyabinsk Mining Company who broke the law and the Russian Constitution be brought to trial and 35 workers be restored to their positions. On 22 January, union member Eduard Kinstler of the Chelyabinsk Mining Company joined the hunger strike.

Yukos Samara Refinery Head Jailed
Samara's Oktyabr Raion court on 21 January sanctioned the arrest of Kuibyshev Oil Refinery Chairman Rafail Zainullin, reported on 22 January. According to the report, Zainullin is accused of tax evasion in 1999 when he was general director of the refinery, specifically of avoiding payment of 67 million rubles ($2.3 million) in excises. Aleksandr Shadrin, a spokesman for Yukos, which owns the refinery, said Yukos considers the decision illegal and in violation of numerous laws. Shadrin said Yukos will appeal the decision as unfounded. Shadrin added that "the arrest of the head of the Kuibyshev Oil Refinery belonging to Yukos will in no way affect operation of the plant," which is capable of processing up to 7 million tons of oil a year. Zainullin was general director of the refinery from 1997 to 2001.

Mass Illness Of Draftees In Volga-Ural Military District
Over 200 draftees in the Volga-Ural Military District were hospitalized with pneumonia in Kamyshlov, Sverdlovsk Oblast, and Shadrinsk, Kurgan Oblast, Novyi region (Perm) reported on 21 January. Some of them reportedly caught cold at the assembly point in Syzran where draftees from the district's different regions -- Chelyabinsk, Perm, Samara, Saratov, and other oblasts -- gather while others got sick while being driven for several hours in tarp-covered trucks to Syzran. Meanwhile, Volga-Ural Federal District spokesman Konstantin Lazutin denied the report, saying draftees were delivered to Syzran not by trucks but passenger trains, Regnum reported on 21 January.

The prosecutor's office of the Volga-Ural Military District is investigating the incident. Volga-Ural Military District Deputy Prosecutor Vladimir Kapralov said on 22 January that the Shadrinsk hospital accepted 82 draftees called up last fall over the month of January, Novyi region reported.

Another case involving the death of one newly called-up draftee and the hospitalization of more than 100 others in Magadan earlier this month is under investigation by military prosecutor's bodies.

Sverdlovsk Export Of Motorcycles To Iraq Resumed
Sverdlovsk Oblast's Irbit Motor Plant resumed deliveries of motorcycles to Iraq, Uralinformbyuro reported on 20 January. As part of the contract, 2,000 vehicles are to be sold to Iraq in 2002-04. Before the U.S. military operation in Iraq, the plant had delivered some 500 motorcycles and another 80 were sent this month. Some 87 percent of the company's production is exported. The Irbit motorcycle costs $2,600 on the world market.

Indigenous Peoples Of North Association Calls For Merger Of Yamal-Nenets, Dolgan-Nenets, Nenets Okrugs
The Association of Indigenous Small Peoples of the North appealed to the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug Duma suggesting that Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug be merged with the Dolgan-Nenets (Taimyr) or Nenets autonomous okrugs, Uralinformbyuro reported on 20 January. The appeal will be considered at the next session of the okrug duma on 28 January. Association leader Aleksandr Yevai said if Yamal Okrug is merged with Tyumen Oblast, financial support for the autonomous okrug will be low and this may result in elimination of social-security programs in the okrug. Yevai said the merger with the Dolgan-Nenets or Nenets autonomous okrugs is a way to preserve the current status of Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug.

Meanwhile, Yamal Governor Yurii Neelov has opposed the idea of the merger of Tyumen Oblast or Khanty-Mansii and Yamal-Nenets autonomous okrugs, saying the social sphere of the three regions would suffer from such a merger. In addition, Neelov said, changes in budget legislation beginning in 2005 will result in a total loss for those regions of 40 billion rubles ($1.3 billion).

Positive Opinions Of Lenin Dominate Negative Ones
In a survey by the VTsIOM-A polling service on the eve of the anniversary of Soviet state founder Vladimir Lenin's death, 36 percent of respondents said the memory of Lenin will be kept but nobody will follow his way anymore, while 26 percent believe Lenin's ideas were misrepresented by his followers, Regnum reported on 21 January. Another 24 percent think that Lenin brought the country along the way of progress and truth. Twenty-one percent said Lenin tried to rest upon people's best hopes and thoughts in order to lead them to a bright future. Among those who gave negative opinions, 16 percent said Lenin led the country along a wrong path that resulted in numerous misfortunes and troubles; 14 percent said he was a cruel person who used violence to reform the country; and 13 percent believe he was mistaken in his expectations about revolution and communism. Nine percent are sure that Lenin's ideas will even in the new century illuminate people's way to a better life. Twice as many people over 55 compared to those under 25 had positive opinions of Lenin.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova