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Tatar-Bashkir Report: June 8, 2004

8 June 2004
Tatarstan's Bakeries To Unite For Single-Market Policy
The Tatar government agreed on 31 May to form the United Bread Company to manage bakeries and preserve their independent status, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. The company was formed after Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov told his cabinet the same day that Tatarstan should have a single organization to represent the interests of the baking industry. He said there were not any organizations uniting the bread industry and working for a common market policy.

Aleksei Pakhomov, deputy premier and minister of economy and industry, agreed with Minnikhanov's call and spoke in favor of promoting a more corporate management of bread production as a way of attracting investment and minimizing taxes.

Meanwhile, Tatarstan maintains one of the lowest bread prices in the Volga Federal District, averaging $0.30 per loaf, which is 30 percent lower than in neighboring Samara Oblast. The state-controlled prices are said to be designed to aid those citizens in a lower-income bracket. At the same time, bread producers and local grain manufacturers complain that they are forced to operate with almost no profit.

Russia-Belarus Union Official Visits Kazan
Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov has met with Russia-Belarus Union Secretary Pavel Borodin in Kazan to discuss cooperation in the aircraft industry, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 1 June. In July 2002, Borodin visited Tatarstan to sign a treaty on the union's strategic cooperation with Tatarstan. According to Borodin, at least two Belarusian companies are interested in establishing a consortium with Tatar companies in the aircraft industry. The issue will reportedly be discussed at the union's ministerial conference later this year. A Tatar governmental delegation is expected to visit Belarus on 22-23 June to sign a treaty on cooperation. Tatarstan and Belarus exchanged $380 million worth of goods in 2003, mostly Tatar petrochemical products and heavy trucks.

Shaimiev: Moscow Wants To Shift Social-Security Burden Onto Regions
Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev, who attended a recent session of the State Council in Moscow that discussed sharing power with the regions (see "RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Report," 2 June 2004), told reporters on 2 June that the federal government is planning to hand over responsibility for 60 percent of those receiving social support to regional authorities. The other 40 percent of beneficiaries, comprising World War II veterans and disabled, will have their social compensations paid directly from Moscow.

Shaimiev said he doubted that all of the regions will be able to afford the additional expenditures, which would mean more financial pressure on the regions that contribute more to the center than they receive, such as Tatarstan.

Conference Discusses Civil Development In Multiethnic Societies
The Carnegie Foundation and the Kazan Institute of Federalism Studies held a conference on 2 June dedicated to building a civil society in multiethnic and multiconfessional regions, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. Kazan State University professor Galina Morozova told the conference that according to public-opinion surveys, Tatarstan's youth has little confidence in governmental bodies in general, while in comparison with Moscow, young people have more confidence in regional authorities because they regard it as "closer and easier to understand." Morozova's report also mentioned that modern Russian society is heading toward authoritarian rule rather than a democratic state.

Bashkir professor Rushan Gallyamov told the same conference that in his opinion, both Tatarstan's and Bashkortostan's political leaders, researchers, and ethnic organizations have to take the first steps towards resolving the situation with Tatar rights in Bashkortostan, "without waiting for the permission of federal government."

Conference Discusses Reform Of Tatar Script
Political science researcher Rafiq Mokhemmetshin said in his report to a conference in Kazan on 3 June devoted to the establishment of civil society in multiethnic and multiconfessional regions that the reform of the Tatar script, which is promoted by Tatarstan and strongly opposed by Moscow, mostly consisted of political, rather than linguistic factors, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 2 June. He said that the scientific component of the transition from Cyrillic to Latin-based Tatar script is understudied, while federal government regards the reform as a way of increasing Turkey's influence on Tatar society.

Moscow State Institute of International Relations professor Aleksei Malashenko told the same conference that the situation of ethnic rights in modern Russia's society is alarming and needs to be discussed more often at forums such as the recent one held by the Carnegie Foundation and the Kazan Institute of Federalism (see "RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Report," 3 June 2004).

State Council Urges Moscow For A More Flexible Oil Tax
Tatarstan's State Council on 3 June appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin and the government seeking a different approach regarding the taxation of the industry, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. The statement said that given the current standardized tax rate, Tatarstan will have to shut down all of its low-output oil wells, which will cut output by 3.5 million tons of oil annually, eliminate some 20,000 jobs, and wipe out some $90 million in republican tax revenues.

Turkish Court Annuls Results Of Oil-Refinery Tender
The Ankara Supreme Court on 3 June annulled the results of a 13 January tender on the sale of some 66 percent of Turkey's leading oil refinery Tupras to the alliance between Tatneft's German affiliate Efremov Kautchuk GmbH and the Turkish Zorlu financial/industrial group, "Kommersant-Daily" and other news agencies reported on 4 June. The court thus satisfied a lawsuit by the Petroleum Workers Union opposing the tender on the grounds that it violated competition legislation and also that the $1.3 billion winning bid was undervalued. Trade Union leader Mustafa Oztashkyn on 3 June told Turkish NTV that "no sale will take place until the Turkish government appeals to the country's parliament to approve the deal."

On 25 May, the Ankara municipal court satisfied a lawsuit by trade unions and froze the selling of Tupras shares. The decision was appealed by the Turkish Supreme Privatization Committee.

"Kommersant-Daily" cited an unnamed source in the Tatar government as saying that everything in this situation depends on retaliatory activities by the Turkish side. "Turkish Finance Minister Kemal Unakitan publicly promised [on 3 June] that he will activate other mechanisms to complete the deal." However, the source added that the move was a reaction to the number of opponents.

Tatneft was seeking to obtain its own oil refinery through the purchase of Tupras, as the company, Russia's sixth-largest oil producer, does not have its own facility. Meanwhile, the possible purchase of Tupras was not backed by President Mintimer Shaimiev, who told a Cabinet of Ministers meeting in February that oil refining should be developed within the republic rather than outside it.

Tatarstan, Buryatia To Establish Joint Helicopter Holding
Tatarstan and Buryatia have agreed to establish a joint helicopter-construction holding, President Shaimiev and his Buryat counterpart Leonid Potapov told a press conference following their meeting on 3 June in Kazan. Shaimiev said it not acceptable that helicopter plants in Ulan-Ude and Kazan produce the same modifications for Mi-8 and Mi-17 aircraft, and "compete with each other on the world market." He said those companies along with other helicopter-producing enterprises and scientific-research institutes should "join a unified scientific production association, introduce specialization, increase competitiveness of domestic helicopters, and establish a civilized market." During its two-day visit, the Buryat government delegation drew from Tatarstan's experience in social reforms, including in the housing and municipal-services sector, programs to remove ramshackle houses, and the optimization of state expenses.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Three Bashkir Petrochemical Companies To Be Taken Over By Gazprom
Bashkir petrochemical companies Kauchuk, Kaustik, and Salawatnefteorgsintez will be taken in trust management by Gazprom, RosBalt reported on 3 June, citing the Bashkir presidential press service. The subject was discussed during a meeting between Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov and Gazprom Chairman Aleksandr Ryazanov the previous day in Moscow. Last summer, Gazprom official Aleksandr Krasnenkov stated that the gas monopoly is seeking to take over controlling interests in Kaustik and Kauchuk. Currently, Gazprom is keeping in trust management a 54-percent stake in Salawatnefteorgsintez.

Yabloko Loses Suit Against Results Of December Duma Elections In Bashkortostan
The Bashkir Supreme Court has rejected lawsuits by Yabloko in Bashkortostan against the December State Duma elections in the Ordzhonikidze, Sovetskii, and Kumertau single-mandate districts, RosBalt reported on 1 June. Leaders of Yabloko's republican branch were seeking annulment of the election results on the basis of violations witnessed by its observers during the elections. The head of Yabloko in Bashkortostan, Igor Rabinovich, said the court considered the observations invalid as they were not officially registered. Such registration is the duty of election commissions but they usually avoid it, Rabinovich said. He said the party's lawsuit was rejected not for its substance but for formal reasons. In the State Duma elections in Bashkortostan, Unified Russia won with 38.9 percent, followed by the Communist Party with 13 percent, the Liberal Democratic Party with 10.9 percent, and Motherland with 6.5 percent. Yabloko came in sixth with 3.6 percent.

Prosecutor Says Fight Against Back Wages Toughens...
Bashkir prosecutor's office head Lyudmila Ekhmetshina told a press conference on 28 May that 20 criminal cases have been opened in Bashkortostan so far this year for delays in paying wages, while the total of back wages owed has grown by 18 percent to 405.7 million rubles ($13.5 million), RosBalt reported the same day. In 2003, 10 such cases were opened, five of which went to trial. One company director was given a three-year suspended sentence, while two other cases were settled out of court. Ekhmetshina said private companies are the main wage debtors.

Bashkortostan's acting prosecutor Mikhail Zelepukin said on 28 May that 337 officials have been fined in the past 18 months for breaking laws on paying wages. Zelepukin said prosecutors failing to prosecute nonpayment of wages will also be punished, adding that the Ishimbai prosecutor has been fired for this reason.

...As Collective Farm Pays Wages With Salt
Employees of Mishkin Raion's Fetkhetdinov collective farm were paid their wages in salt, "Trud" reported on 28 May. Depending on their wages, people were given from 50 to 100 kilograms of salt. Households, including even sheep and cows, now have salt supplies for the next five years, the newspaper wrote. Workers at the farm haven't been paid all their wages with money since 1991. In Mishkin Raion villages, where 40 percent of farms lose money, wages are also paid with milk, grain, hay, and manure. The head of the raion administration was dismissed after the "salt wages" case was reported in the media, while local residents have been told "what they can and what they can't discuss with touring journalists," the daily reported.

Agroindustrial Complex Trade Union Central Committee official Ivan Furman said that there are similar farms paying wages fully in agricultural products in 60 regions. Even on prosperous farms, 20 percent of wages are paid in goods.

Bashkir NGOs Show No Interest In Forum On Bashkortostan's Peoples Friendship
Professor Rushan Gallemov, a member of Bashkortostan's Tatar Congress Executive Committee and organizer of the 21 May "Cooperation and Friendship of Bashkortostan's Peoples" conference, told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 30 May that leaders of the republic's Bashkir national and civic groups not only didn't attend the conference despite strong encouragement from the organizers, but even tried to hinder the event. Gallemov said the conference resolution includes a paragraph supporting the suggestion by President Murtaza Rakhimov that the status of Tatar in Bashkortostan be raised. Another paragraph mentions the necessity of promoting friendly relations between Bashkortostan and Tatarstan.

Prosecutors Reject Court Chairman's Complaint
The Prosecutor-General's Office of Bashkortostan has rejected a motion by Bashkir Arbitration Court Chairman Fenil Safin against authorities' sealing of his office on 14 May, "Kommersant" reported on 31 May. Investigators seeking to question Safin sealed his office after they failed to find him in it. The Safin was authorized by the Russian Judges Supreme Qualifying Board at the request by the Prosecutor-General's Office after he was accused of corruption. Safin, when he appeared in his workplace, broke the seal, entered the office, and then appealed to the Bashkir Prosecutor-General's Office to investigate whether the sealing was legal. Now prosecutors, in turn, are investigating whether Safin legally removed the seal on the office. Speaking at a news conference on 28 May in Ufa, acting Bashkortostan prosecutor Mikhail Zelepukin said investigators are also working on several other instances in which misuse of power is suspected.

Bashkir Audit Chamber Finds Violations By Emergency Situations Ministry...
Bashkortostan's financial-control and audit authority has revealed some 3.5 million rubles in misspending in 2002-03 during an audit of the Bashkir Civic Defense and Emergency Situations Ministry, "Trud" reported on 2 June. During this period, the ministry was allocated more than 1.1 billion rubles, 85 percent of which was spent to maintain the state fire service. Ministry staff reportedly exceeded limits on cellular-phone usage by 146,000 rubles and overpaid insurance companies 1.3 million rubles.

...And Concerns About Criminal Privatization
The head of Bashkortostan's financial-control and audit authority, Petr Bobylev, told a news conference on 1 June that his chamber is concerned about the current redistribution of property in the republic, RosBalt reported. Bobylev said an increasing number of attempts are being made "to assume republican property," for which "commercial structures that grew rich during the first wave of privatization in Russia have rushed into the region." Those structures are often criminal, Bobylev added. He listed intended bankruptcies at an "experimental furniture factory," a garment factory, and a state-run company as examples of the trend.

At the same news conference, Bobylev praised closer cooperation that has been established between the chamber and the republic's prosecutorial bodies. The number of criminal charges filed based on complaints filed by the audit authority has increased to around 30-40 percent, he said. Bobylev added that the chamber and the prosecutor's office are about to sign a cooperation agreement.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Publishing House Official Assaulted In Mordovia
Aleksandr Yudakov, director of the Soliton company, a branch of the Stolitsa S Publishing House, was assaulted in Saransk, reported on 3 June.

Unknown persons beat and injured Yudakov in the apartment where he lives demanding that he stop his work. The head of the publishing house, Stanislav Kholopov, issued a statement on 3 June saying he considers the assault on Yudakov and the demands of the attackers another attack "on freedom of speech in Mordovia." He said he believes that the event was intended to influence the editorial policy of the publisher's newspapers. He added that a similar attempt was made in early January on "AiF v Saranske" Editor in Chief Oleg Gerasimov. Kholopov also said that the people putting a contract on the heads of his employees are "well known" and he "is bewildered by the inability of law-enforcement bodies to "defend the freedom of the press." The Stolitsa S Publishing House issues "Stolitsa S," "AiF v Saranske," and "MK v Saranske" newspapers and is the owner of the Stolitsa S information agency.

Corruption On The Rise
The cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg as well as the Moscow, Nizhnii Novgorod, Saratov, and Chelyabinsk oblasts, and the zone between Rostov Oblast and the Volga region are the most corrupt in Russia, according to the rating of "Leaders and Outsiders of Russian Corruption in Regions" composed by the Transparency International organization and the Russian fund Information Science for Democracy, Saratovbizneskonsalting reported on 3 June. Karelia, Yaroslavl, Tyumen, Arkhangelsk, and Omsk oblasts were rated the least corrupt. The black market is worth some 550 billion rubles ($19 billion), or about one-fourth of the federal budget. Experts also said that corruption in the country is growing. In the past year, extortion in interior bodies has increased from 30 to 40 percent, by judges from 26 to 47 percent, and among administrators and teachers at higher educational institutions from 36 to 52 percent. The average rate of a bribe in educational institutions has grown from 4,300 rubles to 10,000 rubles, while the total volume of money taken in bribes by a State Road Traffic Security Inspection employee has increased from $370 million to over $1 billion. The data was received in a survey of some 6,000 residents and over 1,500 people involved in small and medium-sized businesses in Russia's 40 regions.

Perm Human-Rights Activists Oppose Putin's Anti-NGO Maxim
The Perm Regional Human Rights Center and the Perm Civil Chamber issued a statement on comments made by President Vladimir Putin on civic groups that he made in his annual address to the Federal Assembly, reported on 4 June. The document from the NGOs states that "a president of a democratic country has no right to interfere in the affairs of public organizations if they do not violate the law.... A public statement by the head of the state against something is comprehended in Russia as a signal to action, an order to be fulfilled, irrespective of his personal wish. Several passages by the president.... have been perceived by the public as launching a campaign against international charity funds and human-rights organizations." The human-rights activists said in the document that a major threat to human rights in Russia are its law-enforcement bodies and corrupt bureaucrats. The statement added that Putin does not hold the state levers to defend human rights nor do Russian courts and prosecutors defend human rights.

Saratov Man Ends Two-Week Hunger Strike
Saratov resident Igor Karmishin ended on 7 June at doctors' request his two-week-long hunger strike to protest the stoppage of a case by the oblast's Prosecutor's Office of Criminal Prosecution against oblast Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 25 May 2004), "Kommersant" reported on 8 June. Karmishin said he lost eight kilos during the action begun on 25 May in front of the oblast's government building. The hunger strike was supported by the "Fund for the Struggle Against Ayatskov," led by oblast Duma Deputy Vyacheslav Maltsev. The fund supplied Karmishin with a tent and antigovernor posters as well as arranged public relations. Before starting the action, Karmishin sent a telegram to President Putin saying the launching of an investigation against Ayatskov resulted in an enthusiastic response among people while its stoppage led to dissatisfaction. On 7 June, Karmishin received a reply from the presidential administration in which he was told that his appeal was sent to the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office. At a press conference on 7 June, Karmishin said he was offended by the way oblast authorities' ignored his protest. "Only once did a Volga [car] with government numbers stop near the tent. I was thrown change from it and [someone yelled] that I [should] buy some food for myself," he said. On the other hand, some students showed their support for Karmishin's initiative by holding "eating" strikes nearby; some students held placards saying they ate "to support Ayatskov," while others did this "against him."

Groups Initiating Referendum On Tyumen Oblast Merger Refused Registration
The Yamal-Nenets Election Commission has refused to grant registration to a group that initiated a referendum on a merger of federation subjects within the Tyumen Oblast, reported on 2 June.

The merger of the Khanty-Mansii and Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrugs, with the Tyumen Oblast is supposed to be decided in the referendum. The official reason for the denial is that two of the 51 people initiating the referendum are not residents of Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug while seven others on the list withdrew their signatures and refused to support the idea of the referendum, officials claimed. Thus, the number of initiators fell below the 50 required by local legislation. In the meantime, the Khanty-Mansii (Yugra) Election Commission rejected for a third time an appeal for registration by a similar initiative group calling for the referendum. On 3 June, the group appealed the decision to the Yugra District Court. The Khanty-Mansii Election Commission also reported that some noncitizens of that okrug are among the initiators.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova