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Tatar-Bashkir Report: March 2, 2004

2 March 2004
Elmet Administration Supports Religious Education In Schools
According to "Kazanskie vedomosti" on 20 February, Reshit Abubakirov, the head of administration of Tatarstan's oil-rich Elmet Raion, approved the idea of teaching Islam and Orthodoxy in local schools, due to the "need to overcome the spiritual crisis currently afflicting youth and society in general." With the highest standard of living in the republic, Elmet also officially has the highest drug addiction rates in Tatarstan.

Antidrug Body Registers First Case Of Drug Promotion
For the first time in the Volga Federal District, the Tatar branch of the State Antidrug Committee shut down a kiosk selling T-shirts, labels, and stickers depicting cannabis in the center of Kazan, Intertat reported on 23 February. Kazan's Vakhitovskii Raion Court convicted the kiosk owner and fined him 2,000 rubles ($70), while the maximum penalty for promoting the use of drugs according to Russian law is 2,500 rubles ($90).

Shaimiev Says Members Of Former Russian Cabinet Had Opposing Views
Commenting on the recent shakeup of the Russian cabinet, Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev told Interfax on 25 February that "it is the right of the country's president to dismiss the government" adding, however, that "it is the first time the Russian government was sacked during the electoral campaign, three weeks before the presidential elections." Shaimiev said that "the fact that Viktor Khristenko and not [former Prime Minister] Mikhail Kasyanov became the acting prime minister raises a question of whether the dismissal of the cabinet was directly linked to Kasyanov's removal." As for the future government's agenda, Shaimiev said the new cabinet will have to concentrate on ensuring Russia's further development without relying on exports of raw materials. He said that his republic is also considering new technology-based projects for boosting the economy and fulfilling the Russian president's aim of doubling gross domestic product by 2010.

Parliament To Sign Off On Tatar Script Affair...
The Tatar parliament resolved in its 26 February session to appeal to the Russian Constitutional Court about the legality of the Russian Federation's Peoples' Languages law, which obliges territorial entities to use the Cyrillic script for their ethnic languages, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. The State Council noted in its address that the Russian Constitution allows the ethnic republics to adopt and maintain other state languages besides Russian and therefore republics should be allowed to regulate their own linguistic matters. This point was upheld by Tatarstan's Constitutional Court on 24 February, however two months from that date officials from the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office appealed to the Tatar Supreme Court seeking to annul the 1997 law on the reform of the Tatar Latin script. In March, along with electing the Russian president, Tatarstan will hold a vote for the republic's new parliament.

...Adopts New Law Defining President's Status
Tatarstan's State Council approved a package of amendments to the republic's constitution in a third and final reading on 26 February, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. The amendments, which are now to be endorsed by the president, say that the republic's top executive cannot combine his duties with work as a State Duma deputy, Russian Federation Council deputy, a judge, or any other state posts. The president is also not allowed to undertake any paid work besides teaching, research, or creative work. The amendments also specify that it is illegal for the president to reject the constitutional amendments or the draft constitution if they are adopted by a republic-wide referendum. During the same parliamentary session, deputies adopted a draft law on the presidential elections in the final reading, which unlike the previous law limits the number of presidential terms to two and allows candidates to nominate themselves or be nominated by political blocs without submitting signatures from their supporters or candidature fees. The proposed term for the Tatar president will not affect Shaimiev's right to run for a fourth term in office.

Tatar Minister Says Privatization Of Turkey's Tupras To Go Through
Tatar Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation Minister Khefiz Salikhov told a briefing in the Cabinet of Ministers on 27 February that the deal on privatization of the Turkish oil-refining company Tupras by the joint venture between Tatneft and the Turkish Zorlu Holding is to be completed by the end of April. The two companies will split a 65.67 percent stake in Tupras.

Salikhov was part of a delegation headed by Tatar Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov that visited Ankara on 26 February and held closed-door negotiations with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayiip Erdogan and Finance Minister Kemal Unakitan. Salikhov denied previous reports that one of Tatneft's minority shareholders, the U.S.-based Imanagement Services, is demanding that the deal be abolished, saying the deal followed Russian and Turkish law. Salikhov also denied the possibility of Tatneft's participation in privatization of the Turkish state-run petrochemical company Petkim Petrokimya Holding. Meanwhile, "Kommersant" on 27 February quoted Tatarstan's representative to Turkey Rawil Mewletov as saying that Tatneft is seeking to purchase Petkim Petrokimya Holding, to which Tupras delivers some 1 million tons of gasoline a year. In 2003, Tatneft sold Tupras 2.8 million tons of oil, while this year it plans to sell it 4 million tons.

Killers Of Former Ingush Interior Minister Murder Sentenced
Tatarstan's Supreme Court has sentenced the killers of Daut Korigov, the deputy head of the Tatar Interior Ministry's Environment Directorate and former Ingush interior minister -- Rival Kheirullin, Rufat Mamedov, and Vitalii Gorbunov -- to 18, 13, and 11 years of imprisonment, respectively, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 28 February. However, the motives of the killing are still unclear and the contractor who paid $5,000 for the murder is still wanted.

On 21 February 2003, former policemen Kheirullin shot Korigov as he was leaving his apartment building, while Gorbunov and Mamedov helped Kheirullin. After they were arrested, the three confessed but then Mamedov and Gorbunov refuted their testimony. "Kommersant-Daily" quoted an unidentified source as saying the contractor is Azerbaijani Ismail Bairam-oglu Ismailov. The court also fined the three 1 million rubles ($35,000) in compensation to Korigov's widow.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Bashkir State Media Firmly Behind Putin
Ernst Muldashev, the campaign manager for Russian President Vladimir Putin, said at a 27 February meeting that Putin is responsible for all of Russia's remarkable achievements in recent years, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. In his speech Muldashev emphasized that "Russia is being governed by someone who loves this country very much." Those views are largely shared by the predominantly state-owned republican press. In Bashkortostan, Putin's campaign is based on the premise that life in Russia began improving only after the president came to power. According to research conducted by the Sociology Center at the Ufa Aviation and Technology University, Putin is likely to gain 70-75 percent of the vote in Bashkortostan.

Shake-Up In Bashkortostan's Fuel-And-Energy Sector
The Bashkir fuel-and-energy companies united in Bashkirskii kapital holding A underwent management reform in early February, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 20 February. Specifically, the management of oil refineries was transferred to the Institute of Regional Economy and Law, which previously provided legal services to the companies, and the post of executive director was created at Bashneft. The daily cited an unidentified source in the Bashkir government as saying the changes are linked to the companies' forthcoming sale.

As a result of the reform, Bashneft, previously subordinate to Bashneftekhim and then to Bashkirskii kapital, has become more independent. Most of the managing power was transferred to the executive director post now filled by Bashneft chief accountant Vadim Rybinskii. Viktor Gantsev, a former Bashneftekhim general director and until now general director of Bashkirskii kapital, was appointed executive director of the Institute of Regional Economy and Law.

The paper cited unnamed sources in the companies as saying that the shake-up was initiated to introduce distance between Bashneft and the Bashkir oil refineries, on one side, and Bashkirskii kapital on the other, as the latter's privatization is being investigated by the prosecutor's office. Rumors have been circulating in Bashkortostan since the Bashkir presidential elections that Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov has promised federal bodies control over several Bashkir fuel-and-energy companies in exchange for his victory in the elections. The daily cited analysts with investment companies as naming Rosneft and Surgutneftegaz as the most likely buyers of the Bashkir companies.

Bashkortostan's Tatar Leaders Appeal To Putin To Protect Tatar Rights
Leaders of Bashkortostan's Tatar civic groups have signed a letter addressed to Russian President Vladimir Putin, in which they highlight violations of Tatar rights in Bashkortostan and the "forcible" registration of Tatars as Bashkirs during the October 2002 census, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 22 February. The authors said that they respect Putin's support for the Russian-speaking population of the ex-Soviet republics. However, in Russia itself, the authors wrote, Tatars are subject to oppression, even though they are protected by the Russian president who is a guarantor of the Russian Constitution. They asked Putin to take resolving Tatars' problems in Bashkortostan under his personal supervision.

State Newspaper Raises Issue Of Status Of Tatar Language In Bashkortostan
In an article devoted to the status of the Tatar language in Bashkortostan, "Komsomolskaya pravda" argued on 21 February that President Rakhimov, who promised during the December 2003 presidential election campaign to promote the status of Tatar, has so far done nothing in this respect. The daily cited Bashkir World Congress Chairman Ekhmet Soleimanov as saying that if ethnic minorities exceed the size of the indigenous population then a struggle for national liberation could turn into war.

Presidential Administration Issues New Accreditation Rules
The Bashkir presidential administration has confirmed new accreditation rules for journalists, RosBalt reported on 24 February, citing the presidential press service. The new regulations are intended to promote "openness and glasnost of work by the president and the government, improvement of the population's awareness of their activities, and creation of required conditions for journalists' professional activities." The regulations are founded on the federal law on mass media and cannot be used for "introduction of censorship and other restrictions of journalists' and residents' rights on timely receiving true information" about activities of the republic's head, the government, and authorities.

The right of accreditation was provided to all registered Russian media outlets regardless of their ownership and founders and all foreign media outlets accredited by the Russian Foreign Ministry. At the same time, the Bashkir president's press secretary can refuse accreditation to advertising and other outlets that do not cover the activities of the president, the government, and other authorities. The press secretary can also remove registration from reporters for violating accreditation rules or spreading false information defaming the honor and dignity of the president and the government, if so ruled by a court.

NIKoil Representative Elected UralSib President
NIKoil financial corporation representative Fuad Akhundov was elected UralSib president at the bank's extraordinary shareholders meeting on 24 February, "Kommersant-Daily" and RosBalt reported. Former president Azat Qormanaev remained the head of the bank's observer council. Akhundov, who was previously NIKoil's first vice president, has been acting UralSib president since December. The Bashkir government's stake in UralSib decreased from 66.3 percent in January 2003 to 22.5 percent in October. In February, NIKoil requested the Russian Antimonopoly Ministry to register its ownership of 75 percent in UralSib.

Rakhimov Comments On Government Dismissal
Commenting on the dismissal of the Russian government on 25 February, Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin is looking for the next government to be more ambitious, RosBalt reported. Rakhimov said that although Putin denied he had any qualms with Mikhail Kasyanov's cabinet, "there were questions to ask it." Specifically, Rakhimov listed the unfounded growth of bread prices, which was supposed to be regulated by the government, and the growth of fuel prices. Despite the fact that the move was unexpected, it is "exceedingly correct and responsible," Rakhimov said.

Announcement Of Midair Collision Investigation Results Postponed
Yuliya Fedotova, who is representing the families of victims of the July 2002 air crash in south Germany (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 2 July 2002), told RosBalt on 25 February that publication of the official investigation report on the crash, scheduled for 31 March, has been postponed again until July. Fedotova said German lawyers representing the relatives of the crash victims informed them on 25 February that this decision of the local investigators. This is the third time the report's release has been delayed since summer 2003.

Commenting on the killing the previous day of the Swiss air-traffic controller who was on duty during the accident (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 25 February 2004), Fedotova said reports by some media outlets about the possible involvement of victims' relatives are "unethical" and "unfounded."

Mistaken Identity In Swiss Air-Traffic Controller Murder
Ufa resident Vladimir Savchuk, who was named by the media as a possible suspect in the murder of a Swiss air-traffic controller, has not left his home town recently, Russian news agencies and NTV reported on 29 February. Peter Nielsen, who was on duty when the Bashkir Airlines and DHL cargo jets collided in midair over southern Germany in July 2002, was killed on 24 February at his home outside Zurich. The air crash claimed the lives of 71 people, most of whom were children from Bashkortostan. Swiss police have reportedly detained a Russian citizen, who, like Savchuk, lost his wife and two children in the accident.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Suspects Accused Of Desecrating Muslim Graves Detained
Marii El police officers have detained some 20 teenagers suspected of desecrating Muslim graves at the Yoshkar-Ola Turunov cemetery (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 24 February 2004), reported on 25 February. According to police, those detained are between the ages of 15 and 19 and were drunk at the time.

Editor In Chief Assaulted In Mordovia
Oleg Gerasimov, the editor in chief of "Argumenty i fakty v Saranske," was assaulted on 27 February outside the newspaper's office in downtown Saransk, reported the same day. Gerasimov was hospitalized after two unknown assailants inflicted knife wounds on him. He is currently in a stable condition. Investigators suggest that the attack might have been linked to his activity as editor in chief or as the commercial director of the "Stolitsa S" weekly, which has the biggest print run in Mordovia, RosBalt reported the same day.

Chechens In Perm Oblast Protest Statement By Presidential Candidate...
The Chechen representation in Perm Oblast issued a statement protesting "ethical violations" during electoral debates on a local television channel, reported on 25 February. According to the report, Aleksandr Kadochnikov, a campaigner for Communist candidate Nikolai Kharitonov, misrepresented a phrase attributed to Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying he had called for the killing of "Chechens in a latrine." The statement said that, in fact, Putin had said to kill "terrorists," not Chechens or any other ethnic group.

...As Yekaterinburg Tajiks Accuse NGO Of Slander
The Tajik community in the Sverdlovsk Oblast has appealed to the Tajik Embassy in Moscow against the activities of the Yekaterinburg-based NGO City Without Narcotics, Novyi region reported on 26 February. A report prepared by the NGO and titled "Yekaterinburg -- Kosova Number Two. Tajiks in Yekaterinburg," links Tajiks in Yekaterinburg to the drug trade. The previous week, the report was sent to the State Duma Security Committee. The Tajik community has accused the NGO of slander and rousing interethnic hatred.

Two Tyumen Entities Announce Merger Plan...
Tyumen Oblast Governor Sergei Sobyanin and his Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug counterpart Yurii Neelov announced on 24 February the beginning of the merger between the oblast and the okrug, which is currently an independent federation subject located within Tyumen Oblast, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 25 February. A commission will be formed shortly to facilitate the integration. Previously, Yamal-Nenets authorities had threatened with a referendum on secession from the oblast. Following the 24 February meeting in Tyumen, the two leaders said the "complex integration of the [Tyumen] region" is on the agenda. "Kommersant-Daily" speculated that Neelov's about-face can be explained by the fact that Moscow has pushed the merger of the three entities of the Tyumen region (the other is the Khanty-Mansii Autonomous Okrug). The paper also predicted that governors of Khanty-Mansii and of Yamal-Nenets, Aleksandr Filipenko and Neelov respectively, will be guaranteed to remain in power until 2010.

...As Presidential Candidate Says No Sense In Merger Of Federation Subjects
Speaking in Yekaterinburg on 26 February, presidential candidate Sergei Glazev said the idea of merging federation entities is "senseless bother," reported the same day. Glazev argued that "there is not any difference of managing 100 or 10 subjects" as "we don't live in the Russian Empire where weeks were required to deliver mail." Nothing hinders the management of any number of federation subjects, Glazev said. He added, however, that some federation subjects are "too different" and it is necessary to change relations between them and develop new mechanisms of taxation and the use of federal funds.

Putin's Blooming Campaign In Tyumen
A brand of sunflower seeds called "Worthwhile," the packets of which are decorated with photos of the eyes of President Vladimir Putin and the colors of the Russian flag, have gone on sale in Tyumen, Radio Zapadnoi Sibiri reported on 27 February. "Worthwhile" in Russian sounds like "Putnye" and the product's slogan is "Your taste is the right choice." Asked by a reporter if the product could be considered illegal campaign material, the head of the Tyumen Oblast electoral commission Igor Khalin said it is unclear whether the product's name is linked to the Russian president.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova