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Tatar-Bashkir Report: May 18, 2004

18 May 2004
Republic's President Calls For Differentiation Of Tax On Oil Extraction...
At a briefing in the Kazan Kremlin on 13 May devoted to the results of a meeting with President Vladimir Putin the previous day, Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev said he promoted a differentiation of the tax on the extraction of natural resources, RIA-Novosti reported on 13 May. Shaimiev predicted Tatarstan's lost revenues in 2005 due to the increased tax rate at 2.6 billion rubles ($89.7 million). "Oil prices are growing in the world, and this is good for Russia but not for Tatarstan's oil producers," Shaimiev said. Just 5 percent (down from 20 percent in 2002 and 14 percent current year) of the tax on oil extraction will be left in the republic in 2005, while the rest will be transferred to the federal budget. He said raising the tax rates for both new and old deposits might result in making some 7,700 Tatar oil wells unprofitable. As a result, 13,000-14,000 jobs will be lost, he said. Shaimiev added that it is important for the republic to maintain the current rates of oil prospecting and its financing from the federal budget.

...Says New Power-Sharing Treaty Can Be Signed By Kazan Millennium...
Shaimiev said at the same 13 May briefing that Tatarstan's relations with Moscow are a strategic issue for the republic. He gave Putin a new, proposed version of the power-sharing treaty between Tatarstan and Russia developed by a republican commission following amendments to the Tatar Constitution and federal law and current conditions. Shaimiev said it is important to maintain a "status-quo fixed in the Tatar Constitution." He added that Putin charged the commission on power sharing and the presidential administration's legal directorate to consider the document. Shaimiev assumed that the new treaty can be signed before the Kazan millennium in August 2005.

...Concerns About Duma's Legislative Activity
Shaimiev also said on 13 May that he, as co-chair of Unified Russia's supreme council, disagrees with the fact that laws backed by Unified Russia representatives in the State Duma are not discussed in advance by the party's supreme council. "All fateful decisions for the country should be discussed before in the supreme council, which is to decide whether it supports the initiative or not," he said. The Duma majority began passing laws too hastily, Shaimiev said, adding that they have "excessively succeeded" in doing so. "As a co-chairman of the party's supreme council, I, and not only I, begin worrying about it," he said. Shaimiev has criticized the Russian State Duma's quick adoption of legislation raising taxes on oil production. Shaimiev also pushed for Unified Russia to become a center-right party rather than a centrist one, in his words.

Tatar President Expresses Condolences For Death Of Pro-Moscow Chechen Leader
President Mintimer Shaimiev on 9 May sent his condolences over the death of pro-Moscow Chechen President Akhmed-hadji Kadyrov, who was killed by a blast while attending Victory Day ceremonies the same day in Grozny, reported on 9 May, citing the presidential press service. Addressing newly appointed acting Chechen President Sergei Abramov, Shaimiev wrote: "Together with the people of the Chechen Republic and the entire Russian Federation [we] deeply mourn and express confidence that those guilty for the tragedy will be severely punished, while the Chechen people will cope with the challenge posed by international terrorism."

Federation Council Senator Promotes Russia-Wide Muslim Forum
In an interview with "Argumenty i fakty" on 12 May titled "Islamic Extremism Does Not Threaten Russia," Federation Council Senator Relif Safin said Russia has never been a site for religious conflicts. He said attempts to introduce radical versions of Islam, including Wahhabism, in Russia have failed. Safin cited a poll that found that just 17 percent of Russian citizens believe the potential for conflict among Orthodox believers and Muslims poses the greatest threat to the country. Safin stressed Islam's potential for strengthening the Russian state and called for wider cooperation both between Russia's Muslim community and the state and within the community itself. Safin said a Russia-wide forum for Muslims should be established to develop positions on issues that are particularly important to the Muslim community and to foster relations with other faiths and the authorities.

Prosecutor Appeals Tatarstan's Declaration Of Sovereignty
Tatarstan's Supreme Court on 12 May postponed until 15 June its hearing of an appeal by Tatar prosecutor Kafil Emirov against the republic's 1990 declaration of sovereignty, "Kommersant" reported on 13 May. The court satisfied a request by Tatarstan's State Council to postpone the hearing due to illness of a parliamentary representative to the court. Emirov is contesting the provision according to which the republic enjoys sovereignty. The document, passed on 30 August 1990, proclaimed in specific terms that the Tatar Constitution and republican laws have legal precedence over those of the Russian Federation on the republic's territory. The document also declared that republican land, as well as natural and other resources, are the exclusive property of its people. On 31 March, Tatarstan's Supreme Court annulled provisions of the Tatar Constitution proclaiming republican sovereignty and mandating that presidential candidates must be able to speak both of the republic's state languages.

Republican President Meets With Putin
Meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on 12 May in Moscow, Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev talked about preparations for Kazan's millennial celebrations in 2005, RIA-Novosti and Interfax reported the same day. Shaimiev also reportedly briefed Putin on the implementation of a republican program to eliminate ramshackle housing, under which more than 35,000 families have already moved into new apartments. "Kazan has changed in the past years more than in the previous millennium," Putin reportedly said. Shaimiev noted that the program to distribute free housing to the public under the program will be discontinued in 2005, adding that Tatarstan is awaiting federal legislation in this sector, including on mortgage loans for housing construction.

Former Prisoners Of Nazi Concentration Camps Receive Compensation From German Fund
Sixteen former prisoners of Nazi concentration camps living in Chally received financial compensation from Germany and Austria on the eve of Victory Day, reported on 10 May, citing "Chelninskie izvestiya." The total sum received was 6,796 euros, with individual payments depending on the amount of time spent in the camps. The money is paid by the Fund for Mutual Understanding and Reconciliation.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Investigators Conclude Probe Of 2002 Bashkir Airlines Disaster
The final report on the investigation into the 1 July 2002 midair collision of a Bashkir Airlines passenger jet and a DHL cargo jet over southern Germany (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 2 July 2002) are to be published on 19 May, "Vremya novostei" reported on 17 May. Meanwhile, Swiss newspapers on 16 May published records of conversations between pilots of the two jets involved in the accident with the air-traffic controller working for the Swiss company Skyguide. "Matin" outlet commented that "the records show that the Russian crew did not precisely follow orders by the Skyguide air-traffic controller and discussion took place in the airliner on what to do." However, "Vremya novostei" commented that according to the record, on the contrary, the crew precisely implemented the order by dispatcher Peter Nielsen, which unfortunately resulted in the collision. The daily also cited Swiss outlets as reporting that Skyguide is prepared to pay $100,000 in compensation for each person killed in the accident. However, the German lawyer who is representing many of the victims' families is reportedly seeking $1.5 million for each victim. However, Skyguide's offer has reportedly been accepted by relatives of 11 members of the Bashkir Airlines crew. The German lawyer also reportedly plans to file suit in a U.S. court on the basis that a telephone line used by Skyguide that was out of order at the time of the accident was installed by a U.S. company. The collision claimed 71 lives, most of them schoolchildren from Bashkortostan.

Moscow Lawyer Arrested In Ufa
The Ufa October Raion court on 14 May sanctioned the arrest the previous day in Ufa of well-known Moscow lawyer and former Gazprom-Media board member Anatolii Blinov, "Kommersant-Daily," "Izvestia," and RosBalt reported. Blinov is accused of forgery and fraud involving 30 million rubles' ($1 million) worth of a promissory notes of the Ekologia-Tekhno company. On 12 May, Blinov was interrogated in Moscow by Ufa investigator Lyudmila Barabanova. Searches were also held the same day in Blinov's office, apartment, and summer home, and two computers and documents were seized. At Barabanova's request, Blinov on 13 May flew to Ufa, were he was detained upon his arrival. A judge said the decision is based on the fact that Blinov has a foreign passport and thus has the possibility of fleeing the investigation. Blinov's lawyers said they will appeal the decision.

German Ambassador Joins Days Of Germany In Bashkortostan
German Ambassador to Russia Hans-Friedrich von Ploetz arrived in Ufa on 16 May to take part in the Days of Germany in Bashkortostan held on 14-21 May, Bashinform reported on 16 May. Von Ploetz told reporters at the Ufa airport that he will meet with President Murtaza Rakhimov and Prime Minister Rafael Baidavletov during his visit. The event is held at the initiative of the German Embassy in Russia with the support of the governments of Bashkortostan and the German state of Saxony, the administrations of Ufa and Galle, the German-Russian Forum, and Lufthansa airlines. After the official opening of the days on 17 May, the ambassador will attend and lay wreaths at a memorial to victims of the July 2002 Bashkir Airlines air disaster, and take part in a forum. Events will also include screening of new German films, exhibitions, and concerts.

Putin Authorizes Celebrations Of Bashkortostan's Entry To Russia
Meeting with Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov in Novo-Ogarevo on 6 May, Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed that the 450th anniversary of Bashkortostan's entry into the Russian state "will be marked as a federation-wide event," the Bashkir presidential service reported on 11 May. The Russian leader reportedly instructed Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov and head of presidential staff Dmitrii Medvedev to give a federal status to the anniversary slated for 2007. According to the press service, the anniversary has "historical importance, since Bashkortostan's entry to the Russian state halted the feudal conflicts and established wide commercial and cultural ties between Bashkirs and Russian settlers." A working group within the Russian government, the Russian presidential staff, and the Bashkir authorities have reportedly begun developing a program for the anniversary.

Bomb Targets Muslim Cleric In Oktyabrskii
A homemade bomb exploded outside the door of a Muslim cleric's office in the suburbs of Oktyabrskii, Bashkortostan on 10 May, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the next day. There were no casualties reported. Police have detained the suspect -- a local who reportedly has a personal conflict with the imam. The city prosecutor's office has charged the suspect with terrorism.

Main Ufa Street Not To Bear National Hero's Name
The Bashkir government has decided not to change the name of Ufa's main street, which is named after the October 1917 Bolshevik revolution, Bashkir news agencies reported. There were plans to name the street after Bashkortostan's national hero, Salawat Yulaev. This year Bashkortostan is celebrating the 250th anniversary of the birth of Yulaev, who led a peasants' revolt against the Russian empire in the 17th century. A small street in the Bashkir capital, currently named after a Bolshevik diplomat, will now be named after Yulaev.

Different Types Of Patriotism Available In Bashkortostan?
As Bashkir authorities and the Russian government prepare for celebrations in 2007 to mark the 450th anniversary since Bashkortostan voluntarily joined Russia (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 12 May 2004), the republican Education Ministry and the administration of the Salavat region held a scientific conference titled "Patriotic upbringing in schools using the example of Salawat Yulaev." In the home region of the Bashkir national hero, school officials from across the republic attended lessons in patriotism, viewed an exhibition of children's art devoted to Salawat Yulaev, and heard reports from local teachers and education officials at the plenary session of the conference. This year, Bashkortostan is celebrating the 250th anniversary of the birth of Yulaev, who led a peasants' revolt against the Russian empire in the 17th century. In 2007, Bashkortostan will celebrate the 450th anniversary since its peaceful submission to Moscow's Russian Tsar Ivan the Terrible following the bloody conquest of the neighboring Kazan khanate in 1552.

Bashkirs Were Among LDPR's Strongest Supporters in Duma Elections
Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii said at a recent conference of the party's activists that the highest support the party received from the Volga Federal District in the December Duma elections was recorded in the Bashkir Republic, Bashinform reported on 12 May. LDPR took some 11 percent of the vote in Bashkortostan.

Bashkirs Get Ethnic School In Chally
The Bashkir national-cultural autonomy in Tatarstan's second city Chally on 12 May opened its first school for ethnic Bashkirs, an RFE/RL correspondent in Ufa reported. The opening ceremony was attended by World Bashkir Congress officials and Bashkir-language teachers from Sibai, Bashkortostan. The local Bashkir community earlier opened a Bashkir Sunday school.

Conference Held On Preserving Biodiversity In The South Urals
The Bashkir branch of the federal directorate on natural resources and the protection of the environment, the biological sciences department of Russia's Academy of Sciences, the academy's Ufa research center, as well as the Urals office of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) held a conference on the problems of preserving biological diversity in the South Urals on 13 May, Bashinform reported. According to the agency, the WWF project for preserving the biological diversity of the South Urals came into existence in 1997 "and became possible after [Bashkir] President Murtaza Rakhimov gave the Earth his gift by promising to expand the protected natural territories from the current 10 to 16 percent" in Bashkortostan.

Argentina Hopes To Expand Trade With Bashkortostan
Argentina's Ambassador to the Russian Federation Juan Sances Arnau met with President Rakhimov and the Minister of Foreign Economic Affairs and Trade Boris Kolbin on 13 May in Ufa to discuss the expansion of the range of goods traded between his country and Bashkortostan, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. The republic reportedly contributes 60 percent of Russia's total exports to Argentina, consisting of fertilizers, oil products, and heavy machinery. Meanwhile, Argentina's exports to Bashkortostan are overwhelmingly represented by agricultural produce. Arnau told the Bashkir president that his country is gradually recovering from the 2001 economic crisis and it intends to step up that process by developing foreign trade.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Miass Mayor Arrested For Bribe Taking
Miass Mayor Vladimir Grigoriadi was accused of taking a bribe on 14 May, under which he can be sentenced to up to 12 years in prison, Novyi region (Chelyabinsk) reported. Grigoriadi was detained on 12 May in his office as he was receiving a 155,000-ruble ($5,300) bribe.

During a search of Grigoriadi's house, investigators discovered 1.6 million rubles ($59,800), a contract on purchase of a 54,000-euro car, and a 1.4 million-ruble financial document, the news agency reported, citing "Chelyabinskii rabochii."

Nizhnii Novgorod Governor Considers Envoys Unnecessary
The institution of presidential envoys to federal districts is "a needless superstructure in the power vertical and brings nothing but headaches," Nizhnii Novgorod Governor Gennadii Khodyrev told a press conference on 17 May, RosBalt reported the same day. Khodyrev said maintaining federal-district administrations requires additional expenses for employees and other costs. At the same time, the crime rate and tax collection remain at the same level. Khodyrev cited the example of federal property in the oblast, which is supervised by four state bodies. He also claimed that harmonization of regional legislation with federal law is not the envoys' job but that of oblast prosecutors. "It seems like guys on the envoy's staff have nothing to do and they get into our everyday life and are busy promoting the metropolis project [the program of the development of Nizhnii Novgorod as the capital of the Volga Federal District]. I am thankful to them for painting facades but money for this is taken from local budgets." Khodyrev added that he informed President Vladimir Putin about his point of view concerning the institution of presidential envoys.

Criminal Investigation Opened Against Saratov Oblast Governor
The Saratov Oblast prosecutor's office on 17 May charged Saratov Oblast Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov with abuse of office, RosBalt and other news agencies reported. On 13 May, oblast prosecutor Anatolii Bondar filed a criminal case against Ayatskov on allegations of taking 70 million rubles ($2.4 million) from the oblast budget, using the governor's jet and boat for private purposes, and giving loans to state employees to build houses. On 17 May, Ayatskov was interrogated by prosecutors. The same day, he left office on vacation for the extent of the investigation and appointed Deputy Governor Vladimir Maron acting governor.

Ayatskov said the charges against him are "absurd" and the criminal case is politically motivated, adding that prosecutors have begun the campaign for oblast governor to be elected in March "catastrophically early," "Kommersant" reported on 15 May. Ayatskov also said the case was initiated "personally" by Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov. In May 2000, Ayatskov voted in the Federation Council against Ustinov's appointment to the post.

Course On Terror Studies To Be Taught In Saratov Oblast
Saratov Judicial Institute Rector Vladimir Sinyukov and Volga Region Muslim Spiritual Directorate Chairman Moqetdes Bibarsov agreed on 13 May to develop jointly a new course on "terrorology," or terror studies, planned to be taught in the institute, reported on 14 May. Incorrect phrases and concepts unacceptable for Muslims were included in the first variant of the course program that includes issues on aspects of religious sects and extremist movements using religious slogans.

Sverdlovsk Oblast Officials Critical Of Anti-Tajik Meeting
Yekaterinburg Interior Ministry head Boris Timonichenko and other senior oblast Interior Ministry officials held a press conference on 14 May to comment on an anti-Tajik meeting held on 10 May in Yekaterinburg's Shirokaya Rechka Raion, Novyi region reported on 14 May. Some 1,500 raion residents attended a meeting organized by the City Without Drugs NGO to protest Russia's migration policy and demand stronger control over illegal migrants from the CIS countries who, the protesters believe, threaten Russians' livelihood.

Interior Ministry officials sharply criticized the meeting, saying these are issues for the Russian government. Timonichenko said taking the issue "to the streets" is senseless, as this can only arouse interethnic discord. The officials said no more such events will happen in Yekaterinburg and Sverdlovsk Oblast. Previously, it was reported that protests have been planned in Yekaterinburg's other districts.

Commenting on the meeting, Sverdlovsk Oblast Government Chairman Aleksei Vorobev said on 14 May that nobody should trifle with the ethnic issue, reported the same day. Those who violate the law are criminals, irrespective of who they are -- Russians, Jews, or Tatars. He called on journalists "not to incite interethnic conflicts."

During the meeting, City Without Drugs President Andrei Kabanov said: "Tajiks came to the district, settled down here and began driving Russians out. They sell heroin, assault, plunder, violate, and kill local residents.... Police do not want to fight them. That is why we, ordinary people, decided to take the initiative in our own hands." Participants decided to patrol streets of the district, while all Tajiks who lived there left before the meeting.

Khanty-Mansii Governor Opposes Merger With Tyumen Oblast
Khanty-Mansii Autonomous Okrug Governor Aleksandr Filipenko told ITAR-TASS on 13 May that calls to begin the merger of regions with important Russian entities are "not very wise." Filipenko was commenting on the possible merger of the Khanty-Mansii and Yamal-Nenets okrugs with Tyumen Oblast. Filipenko said he supports the initiative on merging regions with depressed economies that are unable to cope with the situation on their own. "But trying this in wealthy regions is possible only after we are convinced that the entire process is painless for the country as a whole," he said. He also refuted the argument of supporters of the merger that the move will result in a reduction in the number of bureaucrats, saying the opposite will happen.

Construction Of Mosque In Tyumen Sparks Protest
A thousand signatures have been collected by opponents of the construction of a mosque in Tyumen, Tyumen Oblast Muslim Spiritual Directorate Chairman Galimjan Bikmullin told on 13 May. A site in a central city raion called Zagorodnyi Sad was allotted to Muslims to replace an old mosque on Lenin Street torn down last summer. Bikmullin said that the petition initiative is unfounded as the site is not close to department stores.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova