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Tatar-Bashkir Report: April 14, 2004

14 April 2004
Street Sale Ban Leaves Thousands Of Kazan Families Without Income
A new law banning the sale of goods on the street will leave an army of sellers without any employment opportunities and increase the state's welfare burden, "Vechernyaya Kazan" reported on 6 April. The decision of Kazan's city government and Tatarstan's cabinet to ban the street sale of food and consumer products has been explained by the need to create more civilized conditions for buyers and to make smallholders more competitive against growing chains of supermarkets. According to the daily, only a few Kazan street merchants can afford the $5,000 necessary for opening a kiosk. The daily also noted that despite the grim perspective, Tatarstan's agency for small business development has so far proved inefficient in solving the issue.

Interior Minister Touts Planned Memorial Complex
Tatarstan's Interior Ministry will erect a memorial complex to fallen law-enforcement officers that includes a mosque and an Orthodox Christian church near its main building in the Black Lake area of downtown Kazan, "Vechernyaya Kazan" reported on 7 April. The complex should be completed ahead of Kazan's millennial celebrations in 2005 and will cost an estimated $1.4 million. The daily emphasized that $94,000 in construction expenses will be covered by donations raised among police officers. Interior Minister Esget Seferov said through the ministry's press service that the memorial complex will give subordinates an opportunity to pray for fellow servicemen who fell in the line of duty. He added that an "absence of any ideology within the last decade complicates our work with staff. People have to believe in something, in the law and in the Lord. There's nothing wrong with a person belonging to this or that religion."

Minister Seferov ensured that police officers' donations were made voluntarily, according to "Vechernyaya Kazan." An unnamed officer serving in Tatarstan's Interior Ministry had claimed in a human rights program by RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir service on 28 March that ministry officials were told that they should donate three days' wages to the memorial project or else quit their jobs. Moreover, some non-Muslim officers were reportedly bewildered at being forced to donate to the construction of a mosque because they were unaware the complex would include both a mosque and an Orthodox church.

Court Grants Former 'K-19' Sailor's Compensation Claim
A Tuben Kama city court upheld a workers' compensation claim by retired navy sailor Aleksandr Shashabrin, who had filed a suit against the local offices of Tatarstan's Social Security Ministry. The ministry was ordered to pay Shashabrin 250,000 rubles ($8,800) in for adverse effects on his health stemming from work cleaning up the effects of a nuclear accident aboard the "K-19" Soviet submarine near the U.S. maritime border on 4 July 1961. Shashabrin was subsequently diagnosed with radiation sickness. In 1994, the former sailor was officially acknowledged as disabled and received a special pension until May 2000. The compensation award will supplement Shashabrin's roughly 5,000 ruble ($175) monthly pension.

Roundtable Discusses Corruption And Social Responsibilities Of Local Businessmen
First Deputy Prime Minister Rawil Moratov said at a roundtable at the Tatar president's Institute of State Service on 7 April dedicated to the social responsibilities of businesses and anticorruption polices that people often face "local monopolies" when seeking permission to connect to engineering systems, such as water supplies. He said in such cases it is often easier for a businessman to circumvent the system by bribing an official than to lose months of time obtaining the necessary documentation.

However, Moratov also indicated that businesspeople also neglect their employees' interests by using illegal methods of paying salaries that result in losses of 5 billion rubles ($175 million) to the state budget annually and denies employees decent pensions in future.

Duma Deputies From Tatarstan Vow To Resume Struggle For Republic's Rights
Russian State Duma Deputies from Tatarstan Mikhail Rokitskii, Feride Gainullina, Enber Karmeev, and Ildar Gilmetdinov at a press conference in Kazan on 8 April expressed their disagreement with a recent Tatarstan's Supreme Court ruling that a passage in the Tatar Constitution stating the republic's sovereignty is illegal, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 9 April. The deputies also pledged to "vote against the law banning the Tatar Latin script" that has been introduced by the republican parliament. Tatarstan's representatives to the Russian Duma also vowed to oppose a draft law on the Russian nation, as they believe it would infringe on the rights of other ethnic groups in the Russian Federation.

Kazan Deemed Unprepared For Terrorist Acts
Tatarstan's Interior Ministry and the local branch of Federal Security Service (FSB) has conducted a number of inspections of public places and office buildings in Kazan to determine the city's preparedness in the event of a terrorist attack, the city administration's press service announced on 8 April. The counterterrorism exercise revealed many drawbacks in the security systems of the inspected organizations, and fake explosives were reportedly successfully placed in public places. The special services instructed managers of the inspected sites how to improve their security.

Chally Mayor Concerned With Spread Of Drugs
Chally Mayor Ildar Khalikov demanded at an 8 April press conference that local police formulate "a clear plan" to combat drug trafficking in the city, Kama-press reported on 8 April. Khalikov said in that "unlike the police, every young Chally resident knows where to buy drugs."

Approximately 1,780 drug addicts are officially registered in Chally, 811 of whom are listed as being HIV-positive.

Valerii Kolcherin, head of the local State Drugs Control Department, said at the same news conference that approximately 100 dealers use 10 different channels to bring illegal drugs into Chally.

Tatneft Promotes Differentiated Taxation Of Oil Production
Tatneft Deputy General Director Azat Jegeferov told a press conference in Moscow that the Russian government plans to introduce to the State Duma draft laws increasing taxes for oil companies under which Tatneft will have to pay additional 4.5 billion rubles ($158 million) in taxes a year, Tatar-inform reported on 9 April. Jegeferov said the measure may result in stopping big portion of wells on exhausted oil deposits, fall in oil production volume and tax revenues to all budgets, deterioration of socioeconomic conditions in oil producing regions where deposits are exhausted. If the trend continues, the Romashkino deposit that currently provides two thirds of oil produced by Tatneft will become unprofitable by 2010, he added. Tatneft has appealed to the Russian president, government, and State Duma deputies to introduce differentiated taxation of extraction of natural resources depending on conditions of deposits.

Turkish Religious Official Praises Tatarstan For Tolerant Islam
Turkey may become a mediator in popularization of the Kazan millennium in the Arab regions and Western Europe, visiting Turkey s Religious Affairs Board Head Ali Bardakoglu said on 10 April in Kazan. Bardakoglu said Kazan made a significant breakthrough in the past decade in the development of culture, economy, and social sphere. He also expressed belief that Kazan will become in the nearest future one of the most modern cities in the world. He also said Tatarstan is a founder of a peaceful Islam -- Jadidism and is a good sample in this respect for many Islamic countries. At the meeting with Tatarstan s Muslim Religious Board Chairman Gosman Iskhaqov, it was agreed that students and teachers of the Russian Islamic University will pass probation in Turkey.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Ufa Bread Producers Found Guilty Of Price Collusion
The Russian Antimonopoly Ministry's Bashkir board ruled on 6 April that Ufa's major bread producers conducted "actions aimed at settling and maintaining increased prices for main types of bread," Bashinform and RosBalt reported the same day. The board came to its conclusion after investigating allegations that those companies violated antitrust legislation. The board revealed that Ufa's three largest bread-producing companies, which control 65 percent of the city market, raised bread prices simultaneously on 20 March. In the summer, the same companies were also deemed to have colluded over wholesale prices. The facts provide evidence of "agreed actions" of the companies and represent a violation of federal law on competition and restrictions for monopoly activities on trade markets, the watchdog found. The body ordered the companies to reduce wholesale bread prices to previous levels. Bread prices have grown by 30 percent so far this year despite the fact that Bashkortostan produced Russia's third-largest grain harvest (4.2 million tons), with 660,000 tons sent to the republican grain fund. The republic estimates its requirement at 520,000 tons of grain a year. The government has repeatedly criticized rises in bread prices as unjustified.

Arbitration Court Rules In Favor Of Bashkir Oil Refineries
The Bashkir Supreme Arbitration Court on 7 April rejected a lawsuit by the Bashkir branch of the former Tax Ministry against three Bashkir oil refineries demanding they pay 12.7 billion rubles ($445.6 million) in taxes (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 3 February, 13 and 20 March, 26 May, 6 June, 17, 18, and 23 July, and 24 October 2003, "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 7 March 2003), Interfax and RosBalt reported on 8 April. This is the second time the Arbitration Court has ruled in favor of the refineries after a ruling in November that was appealed by the then-Tax Ministry.

In March 2003, the Audit Chamber and the Tax Ministry accused two partners of the Ufa Oil Refinery, the Novo-Ufimskii Oil Refinery, and Ufaneftekhim registered in Kazakhstan's Baikonur offshore zone of not paying over 10 billion rubles in federal taxes, demanding 12.7 billion rubles with penalties. RosBalt quoted Artur Kheiretdinov, the head of the ministry's legal department, as saying it considers the verdict "judicially incorrect" and is preparing to appeal to the Yekaterinburg Ural Federal District Arbitration Court.

Prosecutors Report Violations In Bashkortostan's Interior Bodies
Bashkir prosecutors addressed two documents to Russian Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliev in March alleging that employees of the republican Interior Ministry and the Beloretsk Raion broke the law, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 2 April. The documents list torture and physical violence against suspects, involvement in narcotics trafficking, and bribe taking among the alleged improprieties.

Some 124 criminal cases were filed against law-enforcement officials in 2003, 58 of which have been turned over to the courts. Twenty-five more investigations have been opened this year, most of which involve suspected abuses of power, cover-ups, or bribes. The Federal Interior Ministry is currently probing Bashkortostan's law-enforcement authorities for wrongdoing.

Former Traffic Police Official Suspected In Sibai Prosecutor's Slaying
Several suspects in the killing of Sibai prosecutor Khenif Qarachurin (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 24 and 29 December 2003) have been detained, including the former head of the Sibai Raion's traffic-inspection department, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 2 April. Bashkortostan's acting prosecutor, Mikhail Zelepukin, said the former traffic official is believed to have contracted Qarachurin's murder. Qarachurin was shot to death in his Sibai apartment in late December.

New Bashkir Election Commission To Be Formed By 15 June
The Russian Central Election Commission (TsIK) extended the term of the formation of the new Bashkir Central Election Commission (USK) until 15 June, RosBalt reported on 7 April. The TsIK sent a similar recommendation to the Bashkir parliament, saying it is currently dealing with reports connected to the Russian presidential elections and cannot supervise the formation of the Bashkir USK. The term of the previous USK expired on 4 April. Under the republican Electoral Code and the federal election law, the new commission is elected for four years. Half of its vacancies will be filled by representatives of parties and election blocs, while the other half will be proposed by local self-government bodies, the previous USK, and the TsIK, which will nominate two USK members. According to the republican code, the USK will comprise 12 members with voting rights.

Former Ufa Administration Head's Election To City Council Annulled
A by-election for the Ufa City Council will be held in the Ufa electoral district in which former Ufa administration head Reuf Nogomanov won in the 14 March election, RosBalt reported on 5 April, citing the Bashkir Central Election Commission (USK). Nogomanov will not be able to participate in by-elections, according to an unidentified member of his campaign staff. The 14 March election results were annulled after the results from many of the district's polling stations were determined to be invalid. The USK reportedly revealed some 400 fake ballots in Nogomanov's favor. The news agency quoted the unidentified staffer as saying that the USK decision is politically motivated, as Nogomanov by a large majority and thus the 400 ballots did not considerably affect the final result. In addition, the staff representative said, election observers made no mention of the fake ballots. According to the staffer, the action is a move by the majority in the City Council to remove a disagreeable candidate. Nogomanov received 47.6 percent of votes, while his closest rival, pensioner Klavdia Palagicheva, collected 23.1 percent and businessman Alaga Mamed-ogly Kuliev 2.45 percent.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Kirienko Wants Audit Of Kurgan Oblast Chemical-Plant Construction
Presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District Sergei Kirienko, who heads the State Commission on Chemical Disarmament, appealed to Russian Audit Chamber Chairman Sergei Stepashin to conduct an audit of the funds used in the construction of the second plant for destroying chemical weapons in Shchuche, Kurgan Oblast, reported on 7 April. Commission Secretary Aleksandr Kharichev told the news agency that the commission already addressed a similar appeal to the Audit Chamber in 2002, when improper use of funds was discovered and criminal investigations against several officials of the general contractor Magnitostroi were launched. The audit also resulted in the shake-up in the leadership of the Russian Munitions Agency.

The Shchuche plant is being built with support from international sponsors, including the United States, which has contributed over $100 million. That money is managed by the U.S. company Parsons under supervision of the U.S. Defense Department's Inspector-General and the Russian Audit Chamber. Over 4 million artillery shells kept in Shchuchye and Udmurtia Oblast are to be destroyed at the plant. The facility is planned to be launched in 2007, while Russia's entire chemical arsenal is to be destroyed by 2012.

Marii El Presidential Elections Set For December
Presidential elections in Marii El will be held in December, Russian Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov told reporters on 5 April. The term of the Marii El State Assembly also expires in December, Regnum-MariNews reported. The current four-year term of incumbent President Leonid Markelov began on 17 January 2001. On 11 June, the State Assembly passed legislation increasing terms for the president and parliament deputies to five years.

Local Administrations In Mordovia Pay Salaries With Vodka
Mordovia's prosecutor's office has discovered several state companies in Insarsk Raion were paying salaries with alcohol, RosBalt reported on 10 April. Raion administrations are interested in increasing alcohol sales as a large part of alcohol excises go to local coffers. Locals, however, prefer buying home-distilled vodka, which is cheaper. To increase the collection of excises, local administrations decided to pay one-10th of wages with vodka. Lists of employees were introduced to local stores, where vodka was distributed to them. Prosecutors imposed fines of 50 minimum salaries, or 30,000 rubles ($1,050), on heads of local administrations and companies.

Explosive Discovered Near House Of Tyumen Oblast Deputy Governor
An explosive was found on 4 April near the home of Tyumen Oblast First Deputy Governor Oleg Chemezov in Khanty-Mansiisk, Russian news agencies reported. The antipersonnel mine with an electric detonator found by Chemezov outside his home was destroyed by police. The explosive device, however, was not properly put together, according to reports. Interfax on 8 April cited Khanty-Mansii prosecutors as saying an attack on Chemezov as a private person or possibly on someone else such as a neighbor are being investigated. Chemezov is in charge of strategic planning of the economic development, foreign economic and interregional relations in the Tyumen Oblast administration. Until mid-January, Chemezov was first deputy government chairman of Khanty-Mansii Autonomous Okrug.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova