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Tatar-Bashkir Report: August 17, 2004

17 August 2004
OIC Official Optimistic About Russia's OIC Membership
Meeting with Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev on 11 August in Kazan, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the newly elected secretary-general of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the director of the OIC's International Research Center For Islamic History, Art, and Culture, said the issue on Russia's OIC membership may be resolved soon, reported the same day. Ihsanoglu said Russia could receive observer status, adding "I personally wish for Russia to become an OIC member." He added that the Islamic world accepted with great satisfaction the October 2003 statement by Russian President Vladimir Putin that Russia is a country of two confessions, where Muslims and Christians live in peace and concord. Tatarstan is a good sample of what Putin said, Ihsanoglu said. The same day, Ihsanoglu was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Institute of History of Tatarstan's Academy of Sciences. At the following ceremony, he said, "Tatarstan has obtained its representative to the Organization of the Islamic Conference." Ihsanoglu will take the post of OIC secretary-general on 1 January.

Shaimiev praised Ihsanoglu for the organization of the international conference on Islamic culture in Kazan in 2001, adding that the revival of Islam in the hearts of Russia's Muslims is of great importance for Russia. At the meeting, it was decided to hold a conference on the particularities of Islam in the Volga-Ural region in 2005 in Kazan. Ihsanoglu said it "will be our present for the celebration of Kazan's millennium."

Obstacles To Tatar-Abkhaz Cooperation Over?
Tatar Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov said following his meeting with Abkhaz Prime Minister Raul Khadjimba on 10 August that no agreements were reached at the meeting but "spheres of mutual interests and possible cooperation have been determined," Regnum reported the same day. Khadjimba said the visitors "are interested in our health resorts and we are ready to cooperate with Tatarstan in this sector."

Abkhaz Ambassador to Tatarstan Georgii Sangulia told "Kommersant-Povolzhe" on 12 August that Minnikhanov's visit is a good impulse for strengthening bilateral relations broken off 10 years ago and reviving intergovernmental agreements that had been then prepared but not signed. The friendship and cooperation treaty signed between Tatarstan and the breakaway Georgian province of Abkhazia on 17 August 1994 in Kazan angered the Georgian authorities, who said it threatened Georgia's territorial integrity. Following the move, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that "Tatarstan's signing the treaty with Abkhazia opposes the obligations of the Russian Federation resulting from the 1994 treaty on friendship and cooperation between Russia and Georgia" and noted the "inadmissibility of bringing political ambitions to those relations." Tatarstan's Foreign Relations and Issues of the Commonwealth of Independent States Department then responded that there is no any political union between Sukhum and Kazan or intentions of interfering in somebody's internal affairs.

"Kommersant-Povolzhe" speculated that this time the friendship between the two regions in unlikely to draw negative reaction from Moscow, which supports Abkhazia in its conflict with Georgia.

Aerospace Manufacturers Tout Wares In Kazan
The second international exhibition and applied-science conference on Aerospace Technology and Equipment opened in Kazan on 10 August, RIA-Novosti reported the same day, citing the city's press service. More than 150 companies from Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States were expected take part in the event. Prospects for aerospace development and aircraft-leasing and training issues were on the agenda. Tatar Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov will also deliver a report on the state and prospects of Tatarstan's aerospace industry at the conference. The Kazan administration, the Federal Agency for Industry, and the republican cabinet are among the forum's organizers.

Unified Russia In Tatarstan To Meet With Public
Tatar State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin met on 10 August in Moscow with State Duma Deputy Speaker and Unified Russia faction deputy head Oleg Morozov, reported the same day. They discussed the establishment of groups including State Council and State Duma deputies who are Unified Russia members to hold meetings with the public in Tatarstan to consult with them on social, labor, housing, and municipal issues. The move was initiated by local members of Unified Russia in the wake of federal reforms that began in those areas.

Mukhametshin was also supposed to meet the same day with acting Russian presidential-administration head Vladislav Surkov to examine legislation on languages. The Tatar State Council has appealed to the Russian Constitutional Court on whether the federal law on languages, according to which using Cyrillic alphabets is mandatory for all state languages, is in line with the Russian Constitution.

Drug Addiction On The Rise In Tatarstan
The number of officially registered drug addicts in Tatarstan reached 8,000 in the first half of 2004, and the true number of addicts is estimated to be 10-12 times greater, Tatarinform reported on 13 August, citing narcotics experts working for the republican Health Ministry.

Some 20 percent of those registered as drug addicts are women. The most widely used drug is heroin, which is the drug of choice of about 80 percent of registered addicts.

LG's Contract In Tatarstan To Be South Korea's Biggest In Russia
A protocol to begin building a petrochemical and oil refining complex in Tuben Kama with the participation of South Korea's LG International Corp. and Tatarstan's Tatneft, Nizhnekamskneftekhim, and Svyazinvestneftekhim is scheduled to be signed during a visit by South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun to Russia in September, LG President-General Director Byung Joo Keum said on 11 August while visiting Tuben Kama, AK&M reported on 12 August. Keum said his visit to Tatarstan is to prepare for Roh's visit to Russia. He also said the contract on the construction of the Tuben Kama petrochemical facility will be the largest ever between Russia and South Korea.

The entire project -- which is expected to cost $2.5 billion -- will include an oil refinery capable of handling 7 million tons of oil a year, an ethylene plant to produce 600,000 tons a year, and polymer facilities to process them into finished goods. The $1.5 billion first stage of the project will include yearly production of 40,000 tons of foamed polystyrene and 200,000 tons of polyethylene at Nizhnekamskneftekhim and the deep oil processing facility at the Tuben Kama Oil Refinery.

LG International was established in 1953 as a part of LG Corp., and makes up 8 percent of South Korean gross domestic product and 10 percent of the country's exports. In 2003, its sales exceeded $18 billion.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Weekly Claims Governing Elites Are Moving Assets Away From Bashkortostan And Tatarstan
The 13 August Bashkir edition of the weekly "Moskovskii Komsomolets" commented that although President Murtaza Rakhimov seems to have good relations with Moscow, the region is witnessing "a rise of internal tensions." The weekly claimed that in both Bashkortostan and Tatarstan the local governing elites are preparing for future changes in republican governments and are funneling their assets abroad to avoid property takeovers by future leaders.

Along with what the weekly called Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov?s failure to ensure the efficient operation of his cabinet, potential economic and political instability were listed as reasons for Russian President Vladimir Putin?s inability to implement reforms at the same pace as in 2000.

Meanwhile, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 13 August that rumors abound in the Bashkir capital that there will be early elections another term of office for Rakhimov, who began his third term in office in late 2003.

Branch Of Revenge Party To Be Formed In Bashkortostan
Vener Fettakhov, a Bashkir Interior Ministry reserve lieutenant colonel, will head the republican branch of the Revenge party, which held a founding congress in Moscow on 7-8 August, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 9 August.

Fettakhov told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 9 August that the party is united by the idea of protesting the collapse of the Soviet Union. Fettakhov said he proposed including in the party's program provisions on the defense of citizens' rights and on increasing responsibility of courts and judges that currently defend the interests of bureaucrats. He added that the party unites many veterans of the military, Interior Ministry, and Federal Security Service. He said the party wants to revive the Soviet Union and some speakers at the congress admitted that attempts to do so could provoke bloodshed

Privatization Revenues Decrease In Bashkortostan
The Bashkir Property Relations Ministry received income of 670.5 million rubles ($23 million) from privatization and revenues generated from state property in the first seven months of the year, Interfax-Povolzhe reported on 9 August. The figure is 20 percent down from the previous year. Revenues from the sale of state property and state stakes in enterprises totaled 186.6 million rubles, down from last year's figure of 481 million rubles. In 2003, the republican budget collected in total 3.1 billion rubles in revenues from privatization and the use of state property.

More Tatar National Cultural Branches Set Up
A group of leaders from Bashkortostan's Tatar civic groups visited Durtoile Raion on 7-8 August to promote the establishment of a local branch of the Tatar national cultural autonomy organization, reported on 9 August. At meetings with raion residents, it was decided to nominate businessman and Tatar activist Rinat Sekhibjadin as head of the branch. A member of the delegation, Bashkir Tatar Congress Executive Committee Deputy Chairman Ramil Bignov, said new branches will also be established in the Tatar-populated Baltach and Borai raions. Bignov said the branches will be charged with promoting a referendum aimed at raising the status of the Tatar language in the republic.

Bashkir Leadership Critical Of Administrative Reform
Commenting on the decree on administrative reform signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin on 23 July and the establishment of the commission on administrative reform, Bashkir presidential-administration head Radii Khebirov said the law and the commission put regions in unfavorable conditions, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reported on 10 August. Khebirov said the commission seeks to annul extra powers of federation subjects, and that the signing of the document and appearance of the commission are a sign that forces promoting the restriction of regions' powers dominate in Russia's leadership. He added that in addition to the administrative-reform decree, the State Duma has recently passed many documents restricting the rights of regions, in violation of Article 72 of the Russian Constitution. As a result of those activities, numerous regional powers have been transferred to the federal authorities while their financial supply has been shouldered on regions, he said. Khebirov also criticized the practice of appointing officials in the regions without consulting regional leaders, who are in fact responsible for the socioeconomic, political, and public developments there.

Heineken Takes Over Sterletamaq Brewery
Netherlands-based Heineken announced on 10 August that it signed a contract to purchase 100 percent of Russia's Central European Brewing Company (TsEPKO), and other news agencies reported on 10 August. TsEPKO controls 78 percent of the Sterletamaq-based Shikhan brewery and 100 percent of Nizhnii Novgorod's Volga brewery. As a result of the deal, Heineken will become Russia's third-biggest brewer with over 7 percent of the market and volume of 5.9 million hectoliters of beer a year. Heineken executive board member Jean Francois van Boxmeer commented, "The Shikhan and the Volga Breweries offer us a better geographical spread of production facilities in the fastest-growing regions in Russia."

Bashkortostan's Shikhan produced 1.4 million hectoliters of beer in 2003 and controls 24 percent of the republic's beer market.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Chavash NGO Concerned About Language Status
Activists of the Chavash National Congress (CNK) last week monitored the implementation of the law on languages during which they found numerous instances of incorrect writing of the names of places, companies, and organizations in Chavash, "Kommersant-Povolzhe" reported on 17 August. Also, there were Chavash versions at all on some signs. CNK Executive Committee Chairman Konstantin Portnov said the number of distorting rules in Chavash orthography are tremendous, adding that every sign contains a mistake. CNK President Gennadii Arkhipov appealed to State Council Chairman Mikhail Mikhailovskii to amend the law to make it mandatory to have signs of companies and organizations in both of Chavashia's state languages, Chavash and Russian. Parliament deputies, however, persuaded CNK members that the law already includes all necessary norms.

Greenpeace Says Residents Of Polluted Chelyabinsk Oblast Villages Subjected To Experiments
The Russian branch of the international NGO Greenpeace appealed to Russian Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin to take under personal supervision the development of a program on rehabilitating and moving residents of Chelyabinsk Oblast's Muslyumovo and Tatarskaya Karabolka villages polluted with radiation, Novyi region (Chelyabinsk) reported on 9 August.

Official medical experiments on victims of nuclear disasters still continue in Russia, the Greenpeace press release said. Several thousand people still live in the areas polluted by the 1957 nuclear disaster in the oblast by radiation equivalent to 250 of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima in 1945, the NGO said.

Greenpeace cited a document from the Ural Applied-Science Center for Radiation Medicine at the Russian Health Ministry's Federal Board of Medical Biological and Extreme Issues saying the people in Muslyumovo belong to a unique group of village residents near the Techa River who were chronically exposed to radiation. These people are important to the entire world for estimating the risk of carcinogenic and genetic consequences of people being chronically irradiated, the document added, and the observation results may provide the basis for "new estimates of the limits of chronic irradiation of population and personnel." Greenpeace nuclear projects coordinator for Russia Vera Pisareva said, "As long as such inhuman experiments continue, nuclear war against civilian populace cannot be considered over."

Greenpeace has been demanding for several years that the residents of Chelyabinsk Oblast's radiation-polluted villages be resettled. Muslyumovo and Tatarskaya Karabolka are Tatar-populated villages while residents of neighboring Russian villages were resettled immediately after the 1957 disaster.

Former Head Of Unified Russia In Chelyabinsk Accuses Party Of Corruption
Salavat Kurmanov, former secretary of Unified Russia's Chelyabinsk city department, told a press conference on 10 August that he was offered $300,000 to resign voluntarily, Novyi region (Chelyabinsk) reported the same day. Kurmanov said the money was offered by one of the Federation Council members from Chelyabinsk Oblast. Kurmanov also said that after he refused to take the money, an attempt on his life was made on 19 July when his car was rammed by another car whose driver claimed that Kurmanov "has dug his own grave." Kurmanov added that his dismissal was made by the control-revision commission with harsh violations of the party charter. He also said that the appointment of his successor is an example of political corruption on a dangerous scale. Kurmanov claimed that the post of party leader and support in elections became an object of infighting.

Nizhnii Resident Gets 2,000 Rubles In Damages Against Official
Nizhnii Novgorod resident Aleksandr Dolgashev has won a lawsuit against the Russian Finance Ministry seeking compensation of damages caused by the former head of the Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast's Bolsheboldinskii Raion Interior Department, Ivan Chetvertakov, NTA reported on 10 August, citing the Nizhnii Novgorod regional branch of the Committee Against Torture. The court ordered the Finance Ministry to pay Dolgashev 2,000 rubles ($68). The court convicted Chetvertakov of exceeding his authority for beating Dolgashev, who suffered a kidney contusion and hemorrhage. Chetvertakov was sentenced to three years of in prison. Dolgashev had demanded 30,000 rubles. The Committee Against Torture, which represented Dolgashev in court, will appeal to increase the compensation.

Journalists Union Dissatisfied With Interior Ministry's Response On Investigation Of Crimes Against Journalists
Russian Journalists Union Secretary Dmitrii Polyanin labeled as a "formal reply" the answer by the Sverdlovsk Oblast Interior Directorate to the complaint by oblast human rights representative Tatyana Merzlyakova about investigations of crimes against media employees in the oblast (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 20 July 2004), reported on 12 August. Polyanin said the response shows the complete disregard for the representative and journalists. According to the directorate, investigations have not found evidence that the incidents were linked to the professional activities of the victims. It said that the prosecutor's office stopped criminal investigations of three incidents, sent to court the case on hooligan actions against employees of the Sverdlovsk State Television and Radio Company, and identified persons involved in armed robbery of Novyi region employee Pavel Feoktistov.

The Journalists Union complained that the response cited only two cases out of 12 attacks against journalists that took place. "Law enforcers forgot about the killing of ["Novyi Reft" Editor in Chief] Eduard Markevich, assaults on [Politsovet information agency General Director] Fedor Krasheninnikov and [ATN television company General Director] Oleg Rakovich, and the blow with an awl to the head of Aleksandr Stetsun and other crimes. They have the gall to assert that all those assaults have nothing to do with professional activities without providing any evidence."

Yekaterinburg Administration Officials Criticized For Visiting Pornographic Sites
Yekaterinburg Mayor Arkadii Chernetskii on 16 August dressed down city administration employees for visiting pornographic Internet sites, Novyi region reported the same day, citing an unspecified source in the administration. The administration's information technology department had monitored the Internet usage of administration officials in their offices, revealing a record number of visits to pornographic websites.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova