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Tatar-Bashkir Report: September 7, 2004

7 September 2004
Tatar President Expresses Condolences To Ossetian People
Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev on 4 September sent a telegram to North Ossetian President Aleksandr Dzasokhov to express his condolences to the republic's people following last week's hostage taking in Beslan that resulted in the deaths of some 335 people, the presidential press service reported. Shaimiev offered Tatarstan's assistance in treating children who were injured during the attack.

Days Of Tatarstan's Economy In Turkey
The Days of Tatarstan's economy were held in Turkey on 3-4 September, including a presentation of Tatarstan's economic potential on 4 September within the framework of the Izmir International Exhibit and a meeting of Tatar and Turkish businessmen at the Izmir Trade Chamber, reported the same day. The Turkish contingent was represented at the event by Izmir Province Governor Ziya Yusuf Geksu, Turkish Foreign Economic Relations Minister Kurshat Tuzmen, Russian-Turkish Business Council Chairman Turgut Gur, and Turkey's former consul general to Kazan Ahmet Riza Demirer. The Tatar delegation was led by Deputy Prime Minister and Economy and Industry Minister Aleksei Pakhomov. Tatarstan's Tatneft, Kazanorgsintez, and Nizhnekamskneftekhim companies took part in the exposition.

Speaking at the presentation, Russian's trade representative to Turkey Vladimir Fitin said Tatarstan plays a large role in Russian-Turkish relations. Bilateral trade turnover between Russia and Turkey is currently up 60 percent over last year's figures over the same period, and is expected to total $9 billion for the year. Trade turnover between Tatarstan and Turkey totaled $700 million in 2003, including $600 million worth of oil deliveries by Tatneft to Turkey. Fitin also expressed his hope that the issue of the privatization of 66 percent of the Turkish oil refining holding Tupras will be resolved and the alliance between Tatneft's German affiliate Efremov Kautchuk and the Turkish Zorlu financial/industrial group will be recognized as the winners of the tender since they did not violate laws of either Turkey, Russia, or Tatarstan. On 3 June, Turkey's Supreme Court annulled the result of a 13 January tender initially won by a joint venture between Efremov Kautchuk and Zorlu (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 7 June 2004).

The Days of Tatarstan's economy were originally scheduled to follow a planned visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin to Turkey that was cancelled as a result of the hostage-taking crisis in Beslan. Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev was also originally expected to attend the event.

Tatarstan's Muslim Leader Says Chechen Separatists Involved In Beslan Hostage Taking
The chairman of Tatarstan's Muslim Religious Board, Gosman khezret Iskhaqov, condemned the 1 September hostage taking in North Ossetia, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 2 September. Iskhaqov stated that as a father of five children he understands the feelings the captive children must have had on the first day of the school year. He called the attack "a disgusting crime, which deserves God's retribution," adding that the best way out for the hostage takers would be to "repent for what has been done."

However, Iskhaqov noted that the Russian government "should have made a hard, yet an essential decision on talks with Chechen separatists, something that could suspend the bloodshed.... All countries, including Russia, urge the political solution to existing conflicts, but few of them follow this path."

Tatarstan Signs A Protocol On Cooperation With Intel
Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov and Intel President Steve Chase signed a protocol on cooperation and the use of the company's technology in the education, health care, social security, and law enforcement spheres on 2 September in Kazan, Intertat reported the same day.

Tatar Deputy Communications Minister Ferit Fazyljanov told reporters after the signing that the protocol is a first step towards attracting other international information technology (IT) companies to Tatarstan.

Chase commented on the agreement by saying that it was the first agreement of its kind to be endorsed by his company and an individual entity of the Russian Federation.

The protocol states that the two sides will launch a number of information and communication technology projects including, but not limited to, the introduction of the WiMAX wideband Internet access protocol, resuming Intel's education programs for school teachers, as well as programs for bringing computers and Internet access to more places in Tatarstan.

According to recent research at the Moscow-based analytical center Yurii Levada as cited by Intertat, 11 percent of Russia's families have computers, while only 4 percent of them are connected to the Internet.

Shaimiev Denounces Hostage Taking In North Ossetia
President Mintimer Shaimiev told reporters on 1 September in reference to the hostage crisis in North Ossetia that it is unacceptable to attempt to resolve problems by placing children s lives in jeopardy, no matter how critical the issue is, RFE/RL s Kazan bureau reported. Shaimiev said the downing of two Russian airliners on 24 August, the 31 August bombing near a Moscow metro entrance, and the hostage taking are "inhumane."

He said he "hopes the children's lives will be spared," adding that "unfortunately, we are getting used to such acts of terror."

Tatneft Pledges Funds Toward Housing Program
Tatneft General Director Shefeget Takhawetdinov said on 1 September that the company will contribute $40 million to Tatarstan s presidential program to replace dilapidated housing in 2004, Intertat reported.

Prior to 2000, the republic used to impose a 1 percent tax for a housing fund. After the tax was abolished due to a federal initiative, the fund depended entirely on contributions from the republic's major enterprises.

Shaimiev Meets With Head Of Federal Statistics Service...
Meeting with Federal Statistics Service head Vladimir Sokolin in Kazan on 31 August, Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev said that he considers it essential to establish a standardized system of regional statistics to make it possible to compare the economic and social-security sectors of different Russian entities, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day.

Sokolin acknowledged during the talks that Tatarstan was the first region in the Russian Federation to begin implementing social policy-oriented statistics when it did so in the early 1990s, adding that Shaimiev "was experienced in his deep knowledge of statistical monitoring."

Sokolin told reporters after the meeting that Shaimiev pledged his government's complete assistance in an agricultural census slated for 2006.

...And The Top Manager Of Gazprom-Media
President Shaimiev and the general director of Gazprom-Media, Nikolai Senkevich, agreed on 31 August that Tatarstan would use the facilities of NTV, one of the Russia's major TV channels, to implement an active media campaign on Kazan's millennium anniversary in 2005, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. After the closed-door meeting, Senkevich told reporters that his company is interested in increasing the presence of NTV in Tatarstan, which currently has weak reception of NTV in Tatarstan's cities but better reception in rural areas. To improve the situation, Gazprom-Media plans to boost the output of transmitters and increase cooperation with local cable TV companies.

Shaimiev Meets With World Bank Official In Kazan...
Meeting with the World Bank's Russia Director Kristalina Georgieva in Kazan on 30 August, Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev assured his guest that Tatarstan's parliament will consider a law on local self-government in its second reading on 9 September, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. Passing the law is necessary for meeting the World Bank's criteria in granting syndicated loans. According to Georgieva, Tatarstan will possibly receive a $125 million World Bank loan to be used for the social and economic development of Tatarstan's capital in advance of its 2005 millennium anniversary. She emphasized that the World Bank was "especially interested that the city [government] uses its own funds and those of the bank in the most effective way. We also hope that during the project's implementation, the city administration also becomes more effective." Georgieva told the reporters that "currently we are in the preparation stage and hopefully the assessment of the Kazan project will be completed in late September." The loan project will be considered by the bank's board of directors before the end of 2004. According to the bank's regulations, Kazan will have to repay the loan in 17 years, with a five-year delay after the credit is issued, with annual interest of 5-6 percent.

...And Congratulates New Chechen President
President Shaimiev on 30 August congratulated the Chechen President-elect Alu Alkhanov on his victory in the 29 August presidential election, the Tatar presidential press service reported the same day. In his message, Shaimiev said that Alkhanov's "resolute victory signifies the high trust of Chechnya's residents as well as the hopes of the Chechen people."

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Trade Unions Have High Hopes For New Agreement With Employers
According to Valerii Apokin, deputy chairman of Bashkortostan's Trade Unions Federation, a new agreement between the Bashkir government, the Trade Unions Federation, and employer's unions will take force from 1 January 2005, Bashinform reported on 2 September. The agreement will represent a revised version of the document used in previous years, which will include the participants' new proposals. In future discussions of the draft document, Bashkir unions will reportedly support a stricter control of housing tariffs and salary increases for teachers and those working in the medical sector, as well as an increase in compensation for work-related injuries.

Sterlitamaq's Industrial Growth Prompts Environmental Concerns
Environmentalists have raised serious concerns about the recent increase in industrial production and air pollution in Bashkortostan's second city Sterlitamaq, Regnum reported on 2 September. The agency quoted Rafael Absalyamov, the head of the city's environmental board, as saying that the current increase of industrial activity has not been accompanied by sufficient air-purifying technology or a system of monitoring and control of the city's environmental situation. Absalyamov said that Sterlitamaq's automated system of monitoring air pollution stopped functioning two years ago.

Bashkir Trade Unions Prepare For Fall Demonstrations
The leadership of Bashkortostan's Trade Unions Federation is currently discussing the collective protest demonstration to be held this fall in accordance with the resolution of the council of Volga Federal District's trade-union association, an RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 1 September.

The association and the Bashkir unions are questioning the financial sufficiency of monetary compensations offered by the federal government in exchange for the former system of in-kind social benefits. According to the association, the federal government has never paid what it should according to the federal laws on subsidies, while 80 percent of the regions that have been assigned to cover 50 percent of the support for the needy are not economically self-sufficient.

Bashkortostan's unions reportedly agreed to step up promotional activities to increase the number of workers to participate in the protest meetings and pickets.

State Commission Drafts Budget For 2005
According to the Bashkir government budget commission, in 2005 the republic expects a 9 percent increase in budget revenues to 66.3 billion rubles ($2.3 billion), Bashinform reported on 31 August. Over 44 percent of that will be transferred to the federal budget, while the republican budget will receive 33 percent and local governments will receive 22.5 percent. Recent changes in the federal tax system, including the lowering of single social tax, reduction of the republic's share in the oil-tax revenues, as well as redistribution of water tax to the federal budget, will bring a general reduction of Bashkortostan's tax revenues by 1.63 billion rubles ($56 million). As for planned budget expenses, 35 percent of next year's budget will be spent on maintaining social and cultural facilities, 13 percent on construction, 5 percent on supporting the housing sector, and 2 percent on supporting agriculture.

BAL Pilots Strike Ruled Illegal
Bashkortostan's Supreme Court ruled on 30 August that the 6 July pilot strike at Bashkir Airlines (BAL) was illegal, Bashinform reported on 30 August. The strike resulted in the delay of four flights and damages to the airline estimated by the company's management at 1 million rubles ($34,360) (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 8, 9 July 2004).

Because of the court ruling, BAL's management is now eligible to seek a refund for the damages caused by the delayed flights, which include lost profits, the cost of passengers' hotel accomodations, and the parking of the jets at airports in Ufa, Norilsk, and Moscow.

A group of BAL pilots announced the strike following the airline administration's refusal to sign the collective agreement proposed by the pilots' trade union. Specifically, pilots are demanding, among other things, that wages be categorized according to an increase in the minimum wage; that pilots who retire receive one-year's salary; and that families of pilots who die while working receive a sum equal to 10-years of the worker's salary.

Later in July, the BAL workers' conference approved a management-sponsored draft agreement for 2004-2006.

Bashkir Police Prepare For 'Phone Terrorism'
By the beginning of the new school year on 1 September, Bashkortostan's police have prepared technical facilities for dealing with the expected rise in "phone terrorism," often by children who call in false bomb reports in schools and other public places, Regnum reported on 29 August. Forty-seven such false alarms have already been called in this year, while the republic's new law on administrative violations, which took force from 12 July, stipulates a fine of 25 minimum monthly incomes ($90) for adolescents involved in "phone terrorism," in addition to the usually charged cost for the services of all emergency services, which usually arrive at the potential crime scene.

Yulaev Monument In Need Of Urgent Help
A special research group that inspected the monument to Bashkortostan's national hero Salavat Yulaev came to the conclusion that the 37-year-old symbol of both the republic and its capital needs urgent repair, Vsya Ufa TV reported on 30 August.

It was established by the group of experts that the metal used for making the monument is seriously worn out, while the makers of the monument failed to install some 30 percent of the bolts initially planned for the statue. The 15-meter-tall statue is the tallest mounted monument in Europe.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Security Measures Taken In Schools
Officials will not be able to help parents to ensure their children's safety in school because of a lack of funding, Sverdlovsk Oblast Education Minister Valerii Nesterov told a press conference on 2 September, reported the same day. The ministry cannot afford guards in schools, Nesterov said, adding that parents can hire them and pay them on their own. Nesterov said the task of educational bodies is to teach while issues of safety are competence of other agencies.

Meanwhile, Chelyabinsk Oblast Education Minister Vladimir Sadyrin told Novyi region (Chelyabinsk) that all schools in Chelyabinsk and the oblast's bigger towns will be equipped with "alarm buttons" within a year, reported on 2 September. Sadyrin said measures to strengthen security in schools will be taken gradually as no funds have been allocated for this purpose in the budget.

In Surgut, in Khanty-Mansii Autonomous Okrug, parents decided to hire private security companies to ensure their children's safety at school.

Speaking to Sverdlovsk Oblast residents on 6 September, oblast Governor Eduard Rossel said, "society is ready to give the [Russian] president additional powers in the fight against terrorism." Rossel noted that Americans after 11 September 2001 decided to restrict their rights for the sake of their children's safety.

Chelyabinsk Authorities Ban Unified Russia Mourning Ceremony
The Chelyabinsk administration rejected a request by the Unified Russia party in Chelyabinsk Oblast to hold a mourning ceremony to commemorate victims of the North Ossetian hostage-taking crisis, and "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 6 and 7 September, respectively. Local party spokesman Yurii Chanov told "Kommersant-Daily" that ceremony organizers planned to express their condolences to the victims' families and to express the necessity of uniting society to realize the danger of terrorism. The authorities said that the denial of permission was due to insufficient security measures. Chanov said the organizers were not going to hire any security, as this has never been required to hold meetings. The party does not plan to give up on the idea of holding the meeting, and will wait for the tension in society to abate.

Mordovian Languages To Be Taught In All Schools In Mordovia
All schools in Mordovia have now begun teaching the Mordovian languages, Erzya and Moksha, in the first grade, reported on 31 August, citing Mordovia's First Deputy Education Minister Tatyana Kargina. A special program will allow schoolchildren to study one of the Mordovian languages at the level sufficient for communication, Kargina said. Classes on computer science and foreign languages have also been introduced in the primary-school curriculum. This year, the republic plans to spend 36 million rubles on computers for secondary schools. Currently, schools are equipped with one computer per 25 students.

Nizhnii Novgorod Journalist Injured By Police
The Nizhnii Novgorod television company Volga called on the oblast prosecutor's office and the local Interior Ministry directorate to investigate an incident in which journalist Olga Rogozhina was beaten by law-enforcement personnel on 26 August, Regnum reported on 1 September, citing Volga news director Aleksandr Rezontov. Rogozhina was beaten during a search by a group of six masked people in the office of the Nizhnii Novgorod branch of the NewsOutdoor advertising company. Rogozhina was hospitalized with minor injuries. Rezontov said the officers also damaged the company's TV camera. NewsOutdoor-Nizhnii Novgorod head Tatyana Shmakova said the search was linked to the criminal case against Nizhnii Novgorod Legislative Assembly deputy speaker Mikhail Dikin. Dikin, according to the news agency, is linked to the Nizhnii Novgorod advertising market and together with Shmakova was publisher of "Argumenty i fakty v Nizhnem Novgorode." Dikin is accused of organizing an attack on Stolitsa Nizhnii General Director Oleg Sorokin (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 31 August 2004).

Prisoners Riot In Samara Oblast Penitentiary
A mass riot of prisoners took place in a Samara Oblast penitentiary on 29 August, reported on 30 August. One prisoner was killed and four injured during the fighting. The prisoners then gathered together and refused to disperse until prosecutors came to take their complaints. Prosecutors accepted 43 complaints from the prisoners and filed criminal cases on the prisoner's murder and on the beating of prisoners by prison guards.

Sverdlovsk Oblast Chechens Offer Help Fighting Terrorism
Sverdlovsk Oblast's Chechen community is ready to provide assistance to the Interior Ministry to defend the region from terrorists and extremists, Salautdin Mamakov, head of the Sverdlovsk Oblast department of the Union of Revival of Peace and Concord in Chechen Republic, told Novyi region on 1 September. He said the 1,000-strong Chechen community is interested in maintaining peace in the oblast that accepted them more than anyone else. "We are ready to inform [police] about any Chechens who threaten the security of Sverdlovsk Oblast residents and take all efforts to help deport those persons," Mamakov said. He also expressed his concern that the offer will go unheeded. "We Chechens are treated as enemies and criminals. This is unfair," he said.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova