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Tatar-Bashkir Report: May 4, 2004

4 May 2004
Kazanorgsintez Adds Gazprom Representatives To Its Board
Kazanorgsintez has added two Gazprom representatives, Moscow-based SAPR-Neftekhim's Soltan Krymshamkhalov and Uniservis-1 department head Vladimir Toporkov, to its board of directors in exchange for gas deliveries, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 30 April. Tatar-American Investments and Finances (TAIF), which owns a controlling stake in Kazanorgsintez, received guarantees that Orenburggazprom will deliver 1.5 million tons of ethane a year in return for TAIF investing $120 million in an Orenburggazprom plant and the establishment of a joint venture with Orenburggazprom to produce polyethylene pipes. Kazanorgsintez has had problems meeting its ethane needs, and in early 2003 Gazprom halted its deliveries of ethane to the Kazan plant. "Kommersant-Daily" cited TAIF Deputy General Director Vladimir Presnyakov as saying that Kazanorgsintez head Leonid Alekhin and Orenburggazprom head Sergei Ivanov have agreed that Orenburggazprom "will supply Kazanorgsintez with enough raw materials to implement the plant's program for the next 30 years."

Federation Council Member Predicts Fall In Oil Production In Tatarstan
Tatar State Council representative to the Federation Council Irina Larochkina told "Kommersant-Daily" of 30 April that the adoption by the Federation Council of a bill that will increase export fees and taxes on the extraction of natural resources will result in a reduction of oil production in Tatarstan. Larochkina said 90 percent of Tatarstan's oil deposits have been exhausted, and that the additional costs for extraction will mean that wells that are currently profitable will have to be shut down. Larochkina argued in favor of imposing different tax levels for oil companies depending on their production, but said "a step in completely the opposite direction" has been made.

The daily also cited Tatneft General Director Shefeget Takhawetdinov as saying that under the bill, tax revenues from oil companies will increase by 3.2 billion rubles ($110 million). According to the legislation, taxes will increase from 347 rubles to 400 rubles per a ton of oil as of 1 January. Experts estimate that the tax burden on oil companies will rise by 25 percent.

Tatarstan's Finance Minister Radik Gaizatullin said the distribution of tax revenues between Moscow and Tatarstan will also change from the previous proportion of 86 percent to the federal budget and 14 percent to the republic, to one under which the republic will only receive 5 percent. He said the measure will result in losses of 1 billion rubles to the republican budget, adding that the sides must negotiate possibilities of compensating the republic for those losses.

Tatneft To Extract Iranian Oil
President Mintimer Shaimiev and an Iranian delegation headed by Iranian Ambassador to Russia Golamreza Shafei reached an agreement on 28 April under which Tatarstan will develop oil deposits in Iran and the Iranian side will construct housing in Kazan, ITAR-TASS and Tatar media reported on 28 April. Mosafazan and Janbazan Fund Chairman Mohammad Fruzande said following the negotiations that the sides "agreed on the establishment of joint ventures with Tatneft to prospect, develop, and extract oil in Iran." "Our construction company will take part in the construction of housing and other buildings in Kazan," he said. Tatar Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation Minister Khefiz Salikhov said Tatarstan plans to process Iranian oil in Turkey, where Tatneft together with the Turkish Zorlu company own the country's largest oil refinery. Salikhov said trade turnover between Iran and Tatarstan has doubled to $3.4 million in the past year.

Furor Continues Over Roman Catholic Church Project In Kazan Tensions are increasing between Old Believers and Catholics in Kazan over a Catholic church due to be constructed next to an Old Believers church, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 26 April. The daily quoted the Reverend Ariel Alvares as saying that the Roman Catholic Church has big plans for the construction of churches throughout the republic. The site on which the Catholic church will be erected was sanctified in October with the participation of the papal nuncio Archbishop Antonio Mennini. "This is only beginning, [and we] will construct more churches here in Kazan and in all of Tatarstan," he said. The Catholic parish in Kazan currently unites about 150 parishioners, some 100 of whom attend regular services.

Old Believers have repeatedly appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev demanding that another location be chosen for the Catholic church. The authorities in Kazan have responded by saying the construction of the church does not contravene the law.

OICC To Hold Meeting In Kazan
The general conference of the Organization of Islamic Capitals and Cities (OICC) held in Dubai on 25-27 April decided to hold the next session of the organization's administrative council in Kazan next spring and to devote it to the city's millennium, and RosBalt reported, citing Kazan's press service.

Kazan Mayor Kamil Iskhaqov said the conference is of great importance to Russia's 20 million Muslims. Iskhaqov suggested that OICC members join efforts to preserve Islamic heritage in Eurasian cities and in promoting dialogue among the followers of different faiths throughout the world.

The OICC, which was set up in 1980 as a subdivision of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), unites 143 capitals and cities representing 54 OIC member states and eight cities of countries that are not OIC members. Kazan joined the OICC in 1992 and is the only Russian city in the organization.

Shaimiev Says Russian Duma Should Not Be Rubber Stamp
Unified Russia's overwhelming victory in December's parliamentary elections has both positive and negative aspects, Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev said on 28 April during his meeting in the Kazan Kremlin with Tatar representatives in the Federation Council and the State Duma. He said Unified Russia's ability to pass measures without hindrance could be a positive, but noted that if such legislation is unfounded that ability could be a negative. He said it should not be permissible for a bill to passed in all three readings at the same time, as was the case with a recent bill on the oil sector. He also said the State Duma should not be a rubber stamp for Unified Russia. Meanwhile, Duma Deputy Speaker Oleg Morozov said at the meeting that there has never been such a strong representation from Tatarstan in the State Duma.

Nizhnekamskneftekhim Ordered To Boost Production?
A Nizhnekamskneftekhim annual shareholders meeting on 23 April decided to pay out 113.4 million rubles ($4 million) in dividends for 2003, 13 percent higher than in 2002, Tatarinform and other news agencies reported. Robert Musin was re-elected chairman of the board of directors and Vladimir Busygin as general director. Busygin announced that the company plans to hike production by 0.5 percent over 2003 levels. Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov responded by demanding that production be increased to equal the republic's average of 4 percent growth. In 2003, the petrochemical giant posted a gross profit of 3.6 billion rubles, up from 2.5 billion rubles in 2002.

...As KamAZ Threatened By Another Crisis
The management of KamAZ has revised the truckmaker's 2004 business plan to estimate that the company will lose 3.5 billion rubles ($121 million) next year, "Vostochnyi ekspress" reported on 23 April. The plan originally predicted profits of 112 million rubles. Subsidiaries of the company have been ordered to cut expenses by 1.2 billion rubles. Rising costs for energy and raw materials are reportedly the primary reason the revised earnings forecast, and the weekly commented that layoffs are the only feasible way to improve the situation. Meanwhile, the weekly cited an official report according to which KamAZ posted a profit of 75.8 million rubles in the first quarter of this year. At the same time, the RBK rating agency the previous week ranked Russia's largest companies in terms of losses in the first nine months of 2003, and KamAZ was listed fourth with losses of 503.8 million rubles. However, the company reported that it finished the year with a profit of 92.5 million rubles.

Day Of Native Language Celebrated In Tatarstan
Deputy Prime Minister Zile Welieva on 26 April addressed residents of the republic on the occasion of the Day of Native Language, saying that native languages ensure the survival of peoples' individuality, "Respublika Tatarstan" reported. Welieva said the republic's authorities constantly work to develop the languages of the peoples of Tatarstan, and noted that a state program is being implemented to protect native languages. Preparations for ratification by the Russian Federation of the European Charter of Regional and Minorities' Languages make it important for Russia and federation subjects to pay greater attention to the issue, Welieva said in a written address.

Meanwhile, the first Tatar gymnasium in Ulyanovsk Oblast will be opened this year in Dimitrovgrad, Regnum reported on 23 April, citing The Tatar language and literature will be taught in all of the school's 11 grades. Instruction on artistic and aesthetic subjects will be held in Tatar, while major subjects will be taught in Russian. Gymnasium graduates will be provided quotas to enter Tatarstan's institutions of higher education.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Bashkortostan Appoints Representative To Turkey
Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov signed a decree appointing Kanshaubii Miziev head of the recently established Bashkir representation in Istanbul, Rosbalt reported on 26 April. Miziev, 53, has been working at Bashkortostan's Ministry of Foreign Economic Affairs and Trade in Turkey since 1997. In August 2003, Bashkir Prime Minister Rafael Baidavletov received official permission from the Turkish government to open a representation in that country. Bashkortostan and Turkey signed a treaty on trade, economic, and technical cooperation in June 1996.

Bashkir Hero's Anniversary Celebrations To Be Postponed
Prime Minister Baidavletov, who chairs a committee organizing celebrations for the 250th birthday of the Bashkir national hero Salawat Yulaev, told a committee meeting on 27 April that due to slow progress in the Salavat region, named after the hero, this year's celebrations are likely to be postponed until next year, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. Baydavletov criticized the regional authorities for failing to ensure the proper use of government funds. Yulaev was one of the leaders in the peasant wars of 1773-1775.

Chechen War Remembrance Ceremony To Be Held Before Victory Day Celebrations
On 9 May, on the eve of Victory Day celebrations, 40 families from the Bashkir capital whose relatives were killed in combat in Chechnya will receive personal copies of "The Memory Book," which is devoted to Bashkortostan's human losses in the Chechen war, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported today. The book contains information on the more than 200 Russian soldiers recruited in Bashkortostan and killed during the war.

Bashkortostan's Duma Deputies Oppose Oil-Tax Boost
All 10 State Duma deputies representing Bashkortostan voted against the increase in oil-extraction taxes recently passed by the Duma, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 29 April. The amendments to the Tax Code were reportedly pushed by the Unified Russia party, which has an overwhelming majority in the lower chamber. Duma Speaker and Unified Russia leader Boris Gryzlov said recently that the amendment seeks to ensure the equal distribution of taxes among all citizens and equalize profits by oil companies to the levels of other industries in Russia.

Speaking with reporters on 28 April, State Duma Deputy from Bashkortostan Mikhail Bugera explained that his fellow deputies disagreed with the draft because it will "bring negative consequences" for the republic's oil industries, because the adopted bill does not take into account the low profitability of "difficult" and old oil deposits with high-density and high-sulfur oil, and offers the same tax rates as for new, easily extractable oil deposits.

Government Considers 'Re-Branding' Bashkir National Hero
Bashkortostan will hold a special contest to create a new image for Salawat Yulaev, the republic's presidential press service announced on 29 April. The object of the contest is to find an original interpretation of his image and create a new "brand" for promoting it in Tatarstan and other Russian regions in the wake of the hero's 250th anniversary celebrations.

Bashkir presidential press secretary Rostislav Morzagulov told reporters that the current image of Salawat Yulaev "is more an image copied from his monument, rather than the person himself." He said that it was necessary to make the national hero's brand "fashionable with Russia's youth, which this way will get a fuller knowledge of this historical personality's scale." After all, Morzagulov said, Yulaev is closer to the people in Russia than popular Cuban revolutionary leader Che Guevara.

Salawat Yulaev was the leader of a rebellion against the Russian empire, who cooperated with the troops of Yemelyan Pugachev in the 18th century.

Suspect In November Ufa Bombing Investigated
Bashkortostan's Prosecutor's Office is investigating the possible connection of an Ufa resident detained on arms-smuggling charges with the 5 November bombing in central Ufa, RosBalt reported on 29 April, citing acting prosecutor Mikhail Zelepukin. He said that the suspect was part of a group arrested on suspicion of drug smuggling, which also included three residents of Chechnya.

On 5 November, a radio-controlled bomb exploded inside a parked vehicle on Chernyshevskii Street in Ufa, near a car used by the head of Bashkirenergo's security service, Ural Rakhimov, the son of President Murtaza Rakhimov. Two bodyguards were killed and two more were injured.

Monument To Air Crash Victims Opens In Germany
Over 60 people who lost relatives in the 1 July 2002 midair collision in southern Germany left Bashkortostan for Germany on 2 May to take part in a ceremony unveiling a monument in Ueberlingen commemorating the crash victims, Radio Rossii reported on 2 May. The delegation is headed by Bashkir Prime Minister Rafael Baidavletov.

The director of the Air Accidents Investigation Department, Wilfried Schultze, said the final report on the investigation of the collision will be published in Germany on 17-23 May, RIA-Novosti reported on 30 April. Schultze said that less than two years after an accident is considered by experts to be a short term in which to finish an investigation. The aim of the investigation was to determine if there were any technical reasons for the collision between the Bashkir Airlines' Tu-154 and DHL's Boeing 757 that claimed 71 lives, most of them children from Bashkortostan.

Tatar Leaders To Appeal To Strasbourg Court On Tatar-Language Issue...
The notion of filing an appeal with the Strasbourg Human Rights Court on the issue of elevating the status of the Tatar language in Bashkortostan was on the agenda of a meeting of the council of Bashkortostan's Tatar civic groups on 30 April, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. Recently, a group of Bashkir scholars from Bashkortostan's History, Language, and Literature Institute sent an appeal to the Bashkir presidential administration to oppose raising the status of Tatar in Bashkortostan to a state or official one.

Bashkortostan's Tatar Public Center head, Airat Gyinietullin, said at the meeting that participants will also prepare an appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin to inform him about the persecution in Bashkortostan of people who backed President Murtaza Rakhimov's rivals in the December presidential elections.

...Promote Opening A Representative Office Of Tatarstan In Ufa
A group of Bashkortostan's Tatar civic leaders adopted an appeal to Tatarstan's leadership to open a representative office in Bashkortostan, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 2 May. In the document, the authors cite numerous allegations of violations of the rights of Tatars living in Bashkortostan and call for the immediate opening of such a mission in the republic. The deputy head of the Tatar Unity Association, Damir Sherefetdinov, said a group of leaders from Bashkortostan's Tatars have sent the appeal to the Tatar presidential administration.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

New Chavash Prime Minister Appointed
An extraordinary session of the Chavash State Council on 27 April nominated Sergei Gaplikov, a former deputy head of the Russian Economic Development Ministry's European Countries Department, as the republic's new prime minister, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 28 April. Chavash President Nikolai Fedorov dismissed the republic's government on 23 April. On 26 April, the presidential administration stated that the dismissal was intended to synchronize "activities of managers of all levels of state authority within the framework of an administrative reform begun by the Russian president." While he was introducing the 34-year-old Gaplikov to parliament, Fedorov drew deputies' attention to the fact that he has three higher-education diplomas, speaks two foreign languages, and has rich experience and extensive contacts in Russia's Economic Development Ministry. Deputies reportedly advised Gaplikov to remember that the republic is not industrial, but agrarian, and to study the Chavash language.

Chelyabinsk Oblast Deputy Governor Pledges To Stay Put During Embezzlement Trial
Chelyabinsk Oblast First Deputy Governor Viktor Timashov on 28 April provided a written pledge that he will not leave the oblast during an ongoing embezzlement suit in which he is testifying as a witness, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 29 April. South-Ural Mining Company Chairman Aleksandr Losev is accused of misappropriating 2.5 million rubles allocated from the oblast budget to Yuzhuralgeologorazvedka (YuUGK) for the purchase of a boring machine. Investigators reportedly suspect that Timashov might have taken bribes in return for lobbying on behalf of YuUGK. However, prosecutors stressed that Timashov's pledge should not be taken as evidence that he is guilty, adding that he has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

Prisoners End Hunger Strike In Chelyabinsk Oblast
Prisoners in the Verkhneuralsk penitentiary have ended their hunger strike without seeing their demands met (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 27 April 2004), Novyi region (Chelyabinsk) reported on 27 April. Chelyabinsk Oblast Human Rights Commission Chairwoman Yekaterina Gorina said the number of complaints by prisoners of the facility and their relatives has doubled in the past six months. Most complaints pertain to the facility's alleged policies of allowing prisoners to wash themselves just once a month, jailing tuberculosis carriers with healthy prisoners, reducing yard time from 90 to 30 minutes per day, and maintaining indoor temperatures below 16 degrees Celsius.

Family Evicted For Failure To Pay For Municipal Services
A family of four in Chelyabinsk Oblast's Satkinsk Raion has been evicted from their two-room apartment for failing to pay for municipal services, reported on 26 April, citing the Electronic News Agency. The family, which includes a child of six and another aged 18, was moved to a communal apartment in which kitchen and toilet facilities are shared by a number of tenants. Oblast officials said the family owes 24,000 rubles ($829) for housing and municipal services that have gone unpaid since 1997. In 2001, the family was taken to court for a 13,000 ruble debt and in a second trial in August 2003 was handed down a strict verdict. The agency cited Satkinsk city court employees as saying that both parents are unemployed and that this marks the first time in the oblast in which a family with minors has been evicted. According to the oblast officials, hundreds of similar cases are being considered.

Bednodemyanovsk Name Change Approved
The Penza Oblast Legislative Assembly has satisfied an appeal by the Bednodemyanovsk administration to rename the town Spassk, its original name, reported, citing Portal Kredo. In 1925, Spassk was named after proletarian poet Demyan Bednyi, although the poet who is known for his anti-Christian verses never visited the town. The town is a raion center so the raion will also be renamed, and all residents will have to change their passports. The decision must be confirmed by the Federation Council.

Krasnoufimsk Leaders, Residents Call For Referendum On Controversial Facility
Krasnoufimsk authorities, civic leaders, and businessmen will unite forces in a struggle against the construction of a monazite-processing plant, reported on 26 April, citing Ural Environmental Union coordinator Olga Podosenova said the decision to unite was reached at an environmental conference in Krasnoufimsk during which Mayor Vladimir Malakhov said the construction of the facility will cause more problems than it will solve, and called for a referendum on the issue. Krasnoufimsk Raion Entrepreneurs Union Chairman Yurii Borisov said heads of the raion's 30 largest companies are ready to sponsor actions protesting the plant. Conference participants cited the high level of cancer recorded in residents of two villages located near monazite-storage facilities and also claimed that local doctors falsify records to mislead the public on the dangers of the radioactive mineral. Environmental activist Tatyana Mamontova said monazite is classified as a "nonferrous metal ore" in documentation kept by the Sverdlovsk Oblast Sanitary and Epidemic Observance Center, so the center cannot monitor them. Mamontova said 16,000 signatures have been collected in support of holding a referendum on constructing the facility. Some 82,000 tons of monazite concentrate have been stored in Krasnoufimsk since the late 1940s. In 2003, it was announced that U.S.-based Channel Construction Worldwide Ltd. will invest in the $50 million to $80 million project to construct the facility.

Former Nevyansk Plant Employees Go On Hunger Strike
Sixteen former workers of the Nevyansk Mechanical Plant in Sverdlovsk Oblast launched a hunger strike on 28 April to demand that they be paid about six months' wages and severance pay, Novyi region reported on 29 April. Four hundred plant employees were laid off last year, and most of them are reportedly still owed back wages. The latest action marks the fourth protest that has been initiated by former employees of the plant. Last month, a group of approximately 100 former employees launched a hunger strike and were paid some money within several days. The success of that action led to two additional actions that were also successful. However, representatives of the plant have said that all of the employees cannot be paid at once and released a schedule for paying off its wage arrears under which the neediest will be paid first. Payment to them would have to be postponed if hunger strikers were paid, according to the representatives.

Udmurtian Aircraft Technicians Announce Strike
The Izhavia aircraft-technicians trade union decided on 24 April to launch a strike on 11 May, reported on 27 April, citing the Electronic News Agency. The trade union earlier held an hour-long preventive strike that resulted in the delay of two flights, but the protest was ignored by Izhavia Director Mikhail Khotomkin (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 27 April 2004). Strikers demand that their salaries be doubled.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova