20 April 2004
WEEKLY REVIEW FROM TATARSTANBin Laden Calls On Tatars, Bashkirs To Boycott Federal Bodies
Three men were arrested in the Samara railway station last week and literature was seized from them, including an appeal signed by Osama bin Laden to Russia's Bashkirs and Tatars calling on them to boycott federal authorities, "Kommersant" and "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 15 April. Kyrgyz citizens Rafik Iksanov and Bakhtiyar Kulinov and Kazakh citizen Ruslan Aliev have been ordered deported on charges of propagating Wahhabism. The three did not have Russian visas.
The literature was published by the Ibrahim al-Ibrahim foundation, which was banned by the Justice Ministry in 2000. The Federal Security Service deputy head in Samara, Rishat Ibrahimov, told "Kommersant" that the detainees are members of the international Islamic organization Tablig.
State Council Member Says National Republics Are Target Of Mergers
The chairman of the Economy, Investments, and Entrepreneurship Committee in the State Council, Marat Galiev, said in an interview with "Izvestia Tatarstana" on 14 April that if the Russian Federation is truly federative, it is irrelevant how many entities exist within it. If a unified state is created in which the majority of powers belong to the central authority, fewer entities will make it simpler to govern, Galiev added. But he said the latter scenario contradicts the Russian Constitution and the Russian public's choice in December 1993, part of which entailed the major compromise that Russia would become a truly federative state.
Galiev said that since 2000, clear steps on de-federalization and the establishment of a unified state have been taken, including the establishment of federal districts that in fact do not comply with the constitution. A referendum on the merging of entities is in fact an agreement of elites, either voluntary or forcible, and a model that is being created in this process could erode national republics in the future, he added. Galiev rejected the argument that a merging of regions is aimed at reducing the number of entities receiving subsidies from Moscow, saying central authorities already have broad powers in that regard.
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.
Education Official Indicates State Cannot Set Up Nursery Schools For Muslims
Commenting on an appeal by more than 500 parents demanding the establishment in Kazan of nursery schools for Muslim children, Kazan Education Department senior specialist Roza Bogdanova told "Vechernyaya Kazan" on 13 April that the state education bodies will likely have to refuse the appeal because of the separation of church and state. On the same issue, Tatar Muslim Religious Board Deputy Chairman Weliulla Yaqupov said people often appeal to the board on this issue but that the board is not authorized to establish such institutions. "We often see on TV that Orthodox nursery schools and gymnasiums successfully operate in Russian oblasts," Yaqupov said. "It is evident that they are financed from the state budget. It would be good if similar nurseries [for Muslims] are established at the state's expense."
Court Rejects Opposition Lawsuit Against Tatar Election Commission
Tatarstan's Supreme Court on 13 April rejected a lawsuit by activists from the Equality and Legality (RiZ) civic movement against the chairman of Tatarstan's central election commission (USK), Anatolii Fomin, "Kommersant" reported on 14 April. Plaintiffs alleged that the USK leadership violated the law by permitting 49 deputies from the Tatarstan State Council to remain in their positions as state officials. The RiZ activists first filed their lawsuit in January 2001 to annul the registration of those deputies. In July 2003, the Russian Supreme Court ordered that the USK annul its decisions on the registration of the 49 deputies and hold by-elections. In October, the USK appealed to the Russian Supreme Court, the Tatar Supreme Court, and a Kazan Wakhitov Raion court to postpone implementation of the Russian Supreme Court decision until 14 March. The Wakhitov court subsequently granted the USK appeal. On 14 March, parliamentary elections were held in Tatarstan. On 13 April, the Tatar Supreme Court refused to grant an appeal by RiZ members against allegedly illegal actions by the USK leadership. RiZ member and State Council Deputy Aleksandr Shtanin said he will appeal the verdict.
Tatarstan To Construct Oil Terminal In Kaliningrad Oblast
Kaliningrad Oblast is a strategic partner for all regions of Russia, Tatar Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov said on 8 April in Kaliningrad at the ceremony of signing with oblast Governor Vladimir Yegorov of a protocol to the bilateral agreement on trade, economic, scientific, technical, and cultural cooperation of the two regions, RosBalt reported on 9 April. The Tatar delegation including Foreign Cooperation and Trade Minister Khefiz Salikhov, Transport and Road Management Minister Vladimir Shvetsov and directors of republic?s big companies attended Kaliningrad's leading enterprises. Minnikhanov said Tatarstan is interested in moving to the European market trough Kaliningrad Oblast which has the most fitting for the republic geographical location and unfreezing ports. Under the protocol, Tatarstan is going to use Kaliningrad's ports for exportation of oil and to construct in Svetlyi terminal for trance-shipment of petrochemical products. The sides agreed on the development of industrial cooperation in shipbuilding, bank sector, trade, tourism, and health care.
Tatneft To Increase Oil Flow Through Kaliningrad Oblast
Tatar Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation Minister Khefiz Salikhov told a news conference on 13 April that Tatneft will increase the volume of oil it exports by 2 million tons, above the current limit of 10 million tons established by Transneft, following an agreement between Tatarstan and Kaliningrad Oblast. Under the terms of a document signed by Prime Minister Minnikhanov and Kaliningrad Oblast Governor Vladimir Yegorov in Kaliningrad on 8 April, Tatneft will construct an oil terminus in the oblast. Salikhov said Tatneft has already bought a plot of land for the project and will finish construction within a year. He declined to offer a cost estimate. Salikhov said the transport of oil through the offshore zone of Kaliningrad Oblast will be more profitable in comparison with other routes previously considered by Tatneft, including through the Black Sea and Arkhangelsk Oblast's Severodvinsk. For its part, Tatarstan will promote deliveries of fish products from Kaliningrad Oblast to the republic.
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.
Compiled by Iskender Nurmi
WEEKLY REVIEW FROM BASHKORTOSTANBashkortostan Seeks Cooperation With Dutch Ag Companies
While visiting the Netherlands on 12 April, Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov met with that country's deputy minister of agriculture, nature, and quality of foodstuffs, Ate Oostru, and offered joint projects to share experiences in the agricultural industry, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day, citing the presidential press service. Rakhimov expressed interest in training Bashkir specialists in agriculture with Dutch companies and to share modern technology in the production and processing of agricultural products. In addition, the Bashkir president suggested that Dutch farmers could benefit from attending an Ufa seminar on investing in Russia's regional agricultural industries. During the visit both sides reportedly agreed to establish a working group to further develop mutual cooperation. The Netherlands is Bashkortostan's fifth largest trading partner with annual trade turnover of $223 million.
Moscow Rejects Language-Status Proposal
The Russian government has rejected a proposal by Bashkortostan's State Assembly that regional leaders and candidates for leadership positions be required to speak the official languages of the territories they govern, RosBalt reported on 14 April, citing the government's Information Department. Bashkir legislators referred in their request to the federal law on state service, which stipulates that state officials must speak the state language. However, the Russian government said the suggestion was unconstitutional and would violate federal laws. According to the law on election rights, Russia's citizens have a right to elect and be elected regardless of their sex, race, nationality, language, origin, welfare, official status, faith, beliefs, or membership in public organizations.
The initiative was proposed on last July by a Bashkir State Assembly member Nadezhda Krylova (Unified Russia). Russian and Bashkir languages both have official status in Bashkortostan.
Foreign Ministry Concerned Over Delay Of Investigation Into Midair Crash
Russia's Foreign Ministry expressed its concern over Germany's delay in releasing a report on the causes of the 1 July 2002 midair collision of a Bashkir Airlines passenger jet and a DHL cargo plane over Germany, Bashinform reported on 15 April (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 2 July 2002).
The ministry in a statement expressed its hope that the recent appointment of new leadership at the German agency overseeing the investigation will "exclude any further delays in work on the report."
Researcher Predicts Census Results In Bashkortostan
Ethnic policy expert Ildar Gebdrefiqov told an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent on 15 April that according to his information, the results of the October 2002 national census in Bashkortostan will show an increase in the ethnic Tatar and Bashkir population, by some 100,000 each, while the ethnic Russian population he expects to drop by 20,000 as compared to the 1989 census. As a result Russians are expected to toll 1.5 million, Tatars 1.225 million and Bashkir some 1 million of local population.
However, according to the Tatar rights movement in the republic, in comparison with the Soviet-era census, the 2002 census saw serious violations by Bashkir authorities, who put pressure on Tatar-dominated areas to beef up Bashkir population figures.
Unified Russia Dominates Local Legislatures...
Mansur Eyupov, secretary of the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party's political council in Bashkortostan and a State Duma deputy from the republic, told a party conference in Ufa on 15 April that Unified Russia managed to obtain 80 percent of the seats in all local elected government bodies, RosBalt reported the same day.
Unified Russia deputies reportedly make up 90 percent of municipal and regional councils, more than 85 percent in the Bashkir parliament, and more than 80 percent in the Ufa City Council. Eyupov said that gaining such an overwhelming majority was the first step in claiming responsibility for the welfare of Bashkortostan's citizens.
...And Preparing To Take Over Executive Branch
According an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent, the party conference outlined the main tasks for Unified Russia's branch in Bashkortostan, including the "promotion of organizational and ideological work among the party's members and supporters so that the party's decisions and actions were aimed at ensuring the stable development of the country and the republic as well as strong support for the political course of the Russian president, and the president and government of the Republic of Bashkortostan."
The party also resolved that it should "in conditions of democracy and political competition, become the major institution for training and promoting managerial staff." Moreover, Unified Russia's regional branches were given the task of creating a reserve of such staff, "ready to take over any qualified jobs in any levels of authority and management."
Ufa Plant To Sell $200 Million Worth Of Engines To India
India and the Ufa Motor Plant signed a contract on the delivery of 180 rocket engines, "Kommersant" reported on 16 April, citing AK&M. The contract is worth over $200 million and the deliveries will begin in 2005. India also plans to organize production of the engines under a Russian license. In 2003, the Ufa Motor Plant made a profit of $52 million and the plant's sales totaled $420 million.
TsDUM Leaders Refuse To Meet With U.S. Diplomats
The Ufa-based Central Muslim Spiritual Directorate (TsDUM) has issued a statement saying a proposed meeting with high-ranking U.S. diplomats is impossible and demanded that all foreign military forces immediately leave Iraq, islam.ru reported on 16 April. "The past year provided evidence that accusations by the United States and England against Iraq are unfounded," the statement said. "The entire world has been shown proof of the illegal use of military aggression regarding this state." The TsDUM's External Relations Department commented that the statement came in reaction to an appeal by U.S. Deputy Ambassador to Russia John Baerli, U.S. Consul General to Yekaterinburg Scott Roland, and U.S. Department of State representative Omar Halidi to arrange a meeting with the board's leadership.
Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova
WEEKLY REVIEW FROM IDEL-URAL REGIONSynagogue Vandalized In Nizhnii Novgorod
The Nizhnii Novgorod synagogue was vandalized on 11 April when two bottles of bitumen and one of an unknown liquid were thrown into the building, NTA Privolzhe reported on 12 April, citing the Nizhegorodskii Raion Interior Ministry department. The agency quoted Nizhnii Novgorod Jewish community leader Eduard Cheprak as saying that it was a planned attack. The synagogue was the object of similar vandalism about a half-year ago.
Duma Deputy To Run For Nizhnii Novgorod Governor
State Duma Deputy (Liberal Democratic Party of Russia) Aleksandr Kurdyumov told the Nizhnii Novgorod telegraph agency on 12 April that he will run for governor of Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast in 2005. In July, incumbent Governor Gennadii Khodyrev said he will seek a second term in office. Kurdyumov on 10 April was elected a coordinator of the Liberal Democratic Party in Nizhnii Novgorod.
Defense Company Workers Call, Halt Hunger Strikes
Over a hundred former employees of the Nevyansk Mechanical Plant in Sverdlovsk Oblast stopped their hunger strike on 13 April after they were paid wages owed to them, Novyi region reported on 14 April. At first, 23 of the 400 employees laid off a year ago from the bankrupt defense company declared a hunger strike on 5 April, and the next day the plant managers paid them the wages owed them. On 12 April, another 105 former workers began a hunger strike. They were paid in full on 13 April, the report said. The plant owed a total of 10 million rubles ($348,000) to former employees.
Northern Indigenous Peoples In Dire Straits
Participants at a meeting of the Association for Numerically Small Peoples of the North on 14 April in Surgut said 12 percent of Yugra, the indigenous population of the Khanty-Mansii Autonomous Okrug, live below the subsistence level "Tyumenskaya liniya" reported the same day. It was reported that the birthrate is falling while the infant mortality rate is increasing among indigenous peoples. Association member Nadezhda Alekseeva told the gathering that 235 million rubles, or 0.015 percent of the okrug budget, was spent this year for the Yugra's socioeconomic development, which is half that guaranteed by law.
Non-Orthodox Easter Celebrations Banned In Tyumen
Easter celebrations planned by the Council of Christian Churches for 14-15 April were abolished in Tyumen, Regnum reported on 14 April. Local Methodists, Baptists, Pentecostalists, Presbyterians, and members of other churches united to mark Easter and rented the city's sports hall. On 12 April, however, they received a warning letter from the Federal Security Service. On 13 April, the Tyumen Oblast Interior Ministry directorate officially informed them that the gatherings should be abolished because of "some threats." The same day, they received a letter from the director of the sports hall refusing to rent it, as well as a message from the city vice governor.
The Tobol-Tyumen Eparchy had previously expressed its disapproval of the Union of Christian Churches' event, and asked the Justice Ministry in Tyumen Oblast to determine the legality of the group's activity. The NGOs Siberia Orthodox, Siberia Young Orthodox, and For Morality announced that they planned to stage a demonstration near the sports hall during the Easter celebrations to show the Orthodox Church's disapproval.
Ulyanovsk Governor Dismisses Oblast Government
Ulyanovsk Oblast Governor Vladimir Shamanov on 15 April dismissed the entire oblast government, regions.ru reported the same day. Shamanov said the move was due to the abnormal relations between him and some officials and the public's dissatisfaction with others. He said he had planned the move in January but was postponed because of the 14 March presidential elections. Shamanov said a new cabinet will be announced in a week and all dismissed government members will continue performing their duties. Shamanov added that the reform will allow a reduction of government staff by at least 5 percent.
Local Authorities Concerned With Prostitution
Sverdlovsk Oblast's Tugulym Raion Duma plans to establish a committee on morality, Novyi region reported on 15 April. The move came in response to an appeal by Orthodox priest Igor Onkin to combine efforts on raising the moral and spiritual level in the raion. Onkin said banning the sale pornographic magazines and videocassettes in places open to children and fighting prostitution are among the project's aims.
Meanwhile, the Penza Oblast Legislative Assembly at its 14 April session rejected a proposal to legalize prostitution, Regnum reported on 16 April. The legislature held a closed-door hearing of the State Duma draft law on regulating sexual services. Three prostitutes and their pimp were invited as experts to the hearing while journalists were refused access, the report said.
Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova