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Tatar-Bashkir Report: September 28, 2004

28 September 2004
Construction Of Tatar-Korean Oil Refinery Launched In Tuben Kama
Tatar Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov and South Korean LG International Corporation representatives planted a capsule on 23 September symbolizing the beginning of the construction of a $3 billion petrochemical and oil-refining complex in Tuben Kama, reported on 23 September and "Kommersant-Volga-Urals" on 24 September. The contract on the project was signed on 21 September in Moscow at a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 22 September 2004).

Nizhnekamskneftekhim General Director Vladimir Busygin said on 23 September that the first, $52 million contract on setting up the facility capable of producing 40,000 tons of foamed polystyrene a year may be signed in November. Minnikhanov said the first stage of the entire project, alongside the polystyrene plant, will also include the construction of the new ELOU-AVT-7 oil refinery capable of processing 7 million tons a year and of a facility to produce 200,000 tons of linear polyethylene a year.

"Kommersant-Volga-Urals" quoted Korean Export-Import Bank President Shin Dong-kyu as saying a credit line may be opened by the end of the year. The bank will provide $600 million from its own resources, and another $500 million will be invested by the Tatarstan-Korean Petrochemical Corporation, and $200 million more will be attracted from European banks.

World PEN Congress Appeals To Russian Constitutional Court To Promote Tatar Latin Script
A congress of PEN clubs held in Troms, Norway, earlier this month appealed to the Russian Constitutional Court to speed up consideration of the appeal against the ban on restoration of the Tatar Latin script, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 23 September. International PEN Club President Jiri Grusa told reporters, "We hope that the appeal will make a start for resolving this issue." Tatarstan was represented at the forum by Tatar PEN Center members Ekhet Mushinskii, Gerei Rekhim, and Gazinur Morat. A previous PEN congress in Macedonia in 2002 also passed a resolution backing the right of the Tatar people to decide on its own which alphabet to use.

The law restoring the Latin Tatar script was adopted by the Tatar State Council in September 1999. In 2002, the State Duma passed an amendment to the law on languages of the peoples of Russia making the Cyrillic-based script mandatory for all state languages in Russia.

State Council Culture, Science, Education, and National Issues Committee Deputy Chairman Tufan Minnullin told "Rossiiskaya gazeta" that the Cyrillic-only amendment infringes on the rights of nationalities as they are not allowed to decide which script to use. Minnullin said the amendment to the law on languages of the peoples of Russia should be abolished as contradicting international law.

Tatarstan, Korea Launch $3 Billion Project
Russian President Vladimir Putin and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun were present at the signing on 21 September in Moscow of a $1.7 billion investment agreement on construction of an oil refinery and petrochemical plant in Tuben Kama, the Tatar government press service announced the same day. Under the project, an oil refinery capable of processing 7 million tons of oil a year, a plant producing 40,000 tons of foamed polystyrene a year, and a plant producing 200,000 tons of linear polyethylene will be constructed in the first stage. The second stage includes construction of a $1.2 billion plant capable of producing 600,000 tons of ethylene a year.

At the presidents' meeting, an agreement on the design, delivery of equipment, and construction of the oil-refining and petrochemical complex was signed by Tatar-Korean Petrochemical Corporation (TKNK) Chairman and Tatneft General Director Shefeget Takhawetdinov and South Korean LG International President Keum Byung-joo. At the same meeting, Tatar Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov and Korean Export-Import Bank President Shin Dong-kyu signed a memorandum on opening a $1.3 billion line of credit at the Korean bank for Tatar companies. TKNK was established in January by Tatneft (which owns 45 percent), Nizhnekamskneftekhim (36 percent), LG International Corp. (9 percent), and Tatarstan's state-run Svyazinvestneftekhim holding (9 percent).

BTIU Head Maintains His Post
Tatar Public Center (BTIU) Chairman Reshit Yegeferov was reelected to his post at a BTIU plenum on 18 September in Kazan despite the efforts of a group to dismiss him, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 20 September. Of the 40 members at the BTIU plenum, 22 joined the pro-Yegeferov gathering and another seven backed its decisions by proxy while the opposition group representing organizations from Aznaqai, Chally, Chistai, Yeshel Uzen, and Qazan branches, which was headed by radical Tatar nationalist Zeki Zeinullin, held an alternative meeting. The Yegeferov-led plenum passed a resolution in which it protested Russia's federative system and what it called the infringement of people's social rights and religious feelings.

Under the pressure from the opposition, Yegeferov said he would resign from his post (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 6 August 2004).

Religious Leader Links Extremism To Corruption
In an interview published in "Vostochnyi ekspress" on 17 September, Tatarstan's Muslim Religious Board First Deputy Chairman Weliulla Yaqupov said he considers corruption among bureaucrats to be one of the reasons for the spread of extremism under Islamist slogans. Yaqupov was commenting on a report released at Tatarstan's Security Council session on 10 September stating that "representatives of Wahhabi Islam operate in Tatarstan's several rural raions." Yaqupov said all madrasahs in the republic are licensed by the republic's Education Ministry, which inspects all of them several times a year. "In a 'peaceful' time, no violations are found here. But as soon as an act of terrorism takes place, Wahhabis are immediately recalled and a concrete place [showing their areas of operation] is shown." Yaqupov also said the republic's Muslim Religious Board is in a difficult financial situation that complicates its work in the sphere of Islamic education.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Kauchuk Shareholders Elect New Board
Shareholders of the Sterletamaq-based Kauchuk have elected a new board of directors at their extraordinary shareholders meeting, "Kommersant-Volga-Urals" reported on 21 September. Three of the four representatives of the Gazprom-controlled Salavatnefteorgsintez (SNOS) have left the board since the Bashkir government broke off its agreement with SNOS on the trust management of the state-run stake in Kauchuk. Kauchuk produces 33 percent of Russia's isoprene rubber and 40 percent of co-polymer rubber. The daily reported that St. Petersburg's PetroTEK Holding is seeking to manage the state-run package that has recently increased to 25 percent. PetroTEK Holding has already taken over the Sterletamaq-based Kaustik. The paper also quoted an unidentified source close to the Bashkir government as commenting that "the political line on the establishment of a holding in alliance with Gazprom including SNOS, Kaustik, and Kauchuk" has not been changed. The source commented that changing the board of directors is linked to the complex financial condition of Kauchuk, which is on the verge of bankruptcy.

Idea Of Establishing Parliamentary Republic Revived In Bashkortostan
The State Assembly may reconsider the idea of transforming Bashkortostan into a parliamentary republic at its 23 September session, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 20 September, citing unidentified sources. Under the plan, executive powers in the republic would diminish and those of the parliament would significantly increase. The daily commented that, in this case, the election of the parliament speaker would be the republic's responsibility rather than the Kremlin's.

Rakhimov Calls For Governors' Return To Federation Council...
Commenting on the administrative reforms proposed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Murtaza Rakhimov criticized the activities of the current Federation Council and called for a return to having regional leaders sit on the council, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 21 September. Rakhimov said the heads of federation entities provided "support for the [Russian] president," adding that "we have never stood against the president." Meanwhile, the "money bags" who are currently Federation Council members act based on their own interests. The existing Federation Council does not meet current requirements, he added. Rakhimov also said the Russian Constitution should by no means be changed.

...Has Nothing Against Serving Another Term
Asked by reporters what he would do if he is nominated by President Putin to lead Bashkortostan again, Rakhimov criticized the existing practice of restricting regional leaders to two terms, saying if the leader "is normal," it does not matter how many terms he serves. "Everything depends on how he works. If he works excellently and people and the State Assembly support him, let him work," Rakhimov said.

Authorities Concerned About Rise In Deaths From Drinking Alcohol Substitutes
Stricter measures to control the sale of liquids containing spirits will be introduced in Bashkortostan, the presidential administration's economic development and social policy board head Ilshat Tajetdinov told a press conference on 22 September, RIA-Novosti reported. A corresponding resolution has been developed and is going through a consultation procedure in ministries and departments. This comes in the wake of a rise in the number of deaths from drinking liquids containing spirits. Most recently, in Bashkortostan's Kaltasinsk Raion three people, including one woman, died and three others were seriously poisoned after drinking window cleaner. Selling spirit-containing products will be permitted only in specialized stores or sections, and only after control of its quality and safety. Health Minister Fenil Shemigulov said Russia is among the leaders in terms of deaths from drinking alcohol substitutes. He said in Bashkortostan, 407 people died from poisoning in 2003.

Bashkir Parliament Promotes Strengthening Power Vertical
At its plenary session on 23 September, the Bashkir State Assembly proposed amendments to the federal law on general principles of organization of local self-government in the Russian Federation under which the implementation throughout Russia of the Bashkir model of organizing local government, RIA-Novosti reported on 23 September and "Kommersant-Volga-Urals" reported on 24 September. Deputies called for the withdrawal of large cities and municipal raions from municipalities, and making them subordinate to the state. Thus, the current municipal system of power would only be used at the level of rural councils and raions within cities.

Local Self-Government Issues Committee Chairman Zofer Yenikeev said the issue was not included in the session's agenda and was developed and proposed at the last minute as "a response to the initiatives by Vladimir Putin on strengthening the vertical power."

Bashkir authorities consider the existing republican system their brainchild, due to which complete manageability of territories was maintained in the republic. Yenikeev said residents do not care what kind of management system a city or raion falls under, caring more that the system "provides heat and electricity rather than controversies between different levels of power as is the case, for example, in Vladivostok." Heads of city and raion administrations are currently not elected but appointed by the Bashkir president. The system has come under strong criticism from the local opposition, which considers the system a holdover from the old state-administrative system.

High-Ranking Ufa Interior Official Charged With Illegal Possession Of Weapons
The Bashkir Prosecutor's Office has completed its investigation into a criminal case against Ufa Interior Directorate Deputy Head Mikhail Savintsev, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 23 September. Savintsev was initially accused of attempting to poison Ufa Criminal Police head Viktor Anisimov with mercury. He is currently charged with illegally possessing weapons. Prosecutor Rostem Mokhemetshin told the daily that Savintsev fell under suspicion following an incident in which mercury allegedly fell out the headrest of Anisimov's office chair while Anisimov was being treated in a hospital (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 12 March and 1 April 2004). It was revealed that Savintsev had access to Anisimov's office and mercury was found in Savintsev's blood.

Two TT pistols and some 2,000 rounds of ammunition were allegedly subsequently found during a search of Savintsev's garage. Mokhemetshin said Savintsev, who has been relieved of his duties, has been charged with illegally possessing arms, and the mercury-poisoning allegations remain under investigation.

Bashkir Delegation Joins Celebrations Of Salawat Yulaev's Jubilee In Estonia
A delegation headed by Bashkir Deputy Prime Minister and Culture and National Policy Minister Khelef Ishmoratov began a visit to Estonia on 23 September devoted to the 250th anniversary of Bashkir national hero Salawat Yulaev, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. The delegation will lay flowers at the Salawat Yulaev monument in Paldiski, where Yulaev was imprisoned by Tsarist forces and later died at the age of 46. A Yulaev museum will also be opened there and a festival devoted to the jubilee will be held. In Tallinn, the Tatar delegation is to hold meetings with Estonian Culture Minister Urmas Paet and Population and Ethnic Affairs Minister Paul-Eerik Rummo.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Marii El Presidential Elections Scheduled
The Marii El State Assembly decided on 24 September to set the republic's presidential elections for 19 December, reported the same day.

Public In Marii El Unhappy With High Pensions Of Republic's Former Presidents
A group of Marii El pensioners complained to republican President Leonid Markelov to abolish the legal provisions under which the republic's ex-presidents, Vladislav Zotin and Vyacheslav Kislitsyn, each receive 57,000 rubles ($1,950) in monthly pension, Regnum reported on 21 September. The pensioners argued that such high pensions are being paid to people who were in power when the republic reached the threshold of economic collapse and rights of residents were violated. The news agency cited an unnamed source in the Marii El presidential administration as saying that Markelov is unlikely to defend the former presidents, especially given that lately Zotin has openly been opposing Markelov and has been complaining about the disastrous situation in the republic. A decision on the issue is up to the Marii El legislature.

Mordovian Languages Still Not Mandatory In Saransk Secondary Schools
The obligatory teaching of Mordovian languages in secondary schools ordered by Mordovia's Education Ministry prior to the new school year is not being implemented in schools in Saransk, RIA-Mordovia reported on 22 September, citing city education department head Vasilii Marychev. He said Mordovian languages in Saransk secondary schools are being taught only as elective courses. Marychev said obligatory teaching of national languages requires special scientific grounds and preparing children for the additional load.

Supreme Court Postpones Samara Gubernatorial Elections
The Russian Supreme Court has annulled the decision by the Samara Oblast Court setting oblast gubernatorial elections for 19 September, RosBalt reported the same day, citing the Russian Central Election Commission (TsIK), and "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 28 September. The oblast court ruled on 30 June that Governor Konstantin Titov's current term expires not in 2005 but on 2 July 2004 (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 6 July 2004). The 30 June decision by the oblast court was protested by the TsIK, which argued that the elections should be fixed to a later date to secure equal conditions for all candidates.

In the meantime, the Samara Oblast prosecutor's office received a response from the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office, according to which Titov's powers expired on 2 July, prosecutor's office department head Lyudmila Gorozhanina told on 24 September. Gorozhanina added that neither federal nor oblast legislation gives Titov the right to stay in his post. "Kommersant-Daily" speculated on 28 September that since the entire decision by the oblast court, not only the part concerning the election date, has been annulled, then the issue of the legality of Titov executing his duties after 2 July has also been removed.

Yukos Subsidiary Official Killed In Samara Oblast
The deputy general director on security of Yukos's Otradnenskii Gas Processing Plant, Vyacheslav Shcherbakov, was shot to death on 21 September in the morning near his house in Kinel, Samara Oblast, reported the same day. Shcherbakov, 49, had worked for over 20 years in law enforcement.

Yekaterinburg Railway Workers Stop Hunger Strike
Nine Yekaterinburg railway workers who on 22 September joined a hunger strike announced by the Russian Trade Union of Locomotive Brigades (RPLBZh) stopped their protest on 23 September, Uralinformbyuro reported the same day. The strikers demanded that blackmail and pressure from the branch leadership and the Russian Railway Workers Trade Union be stopped, minimum wages be raised to the European level, and bonuses be introduced for dangerous working conditions. Yekaterinburg depot trade union chairman Matvei Salnikov told the news agency that depot heads agreed to meet with strikers on 23 September and to consider their demands.

Assault On Foreigners Labeled Hooliganism In Sverdlovsk Oblast
The Sverdlovsk Oblast Chkalovskii Raion Interior Ministry department has finished investigation of an assault on Uzbek workers that took place on 21 September in the village of Shabry, reported on 23 September, citing the department's press service. A group of drunk people attacked Uzbek workers in a dormitory. Ten of the Uzbeks were beaten and robbed and five of them were hospitalized. Suspects have been detained. According to the report, department officials said that the attack was simple hooliganism and not motivated by ethnic hatred.

Human Rights Official Visits Khanty-Mansii Okrug
Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Alvaro Gil Robles visited Khanty-Mansii Autonomous Okrug on 21-22 September to prepare a report on the state of human rights there, reported on 21 September. Meeting with heads of human rights organizations, state authority bodies, and law enforcement, Robles was interested in relations between authorities and indigenous peoples of the north, attitudes of the populations to law enforcement, cases of domestic violence, and migration processes.

Ulyanovsk Jews To Get Synagogue
The Ulyanovsk Jewish community will be provided a building in the city center to establish a synagogue, reported on 22 September. The decision was passed at a meeting between Ulyanovsk Oblast Governor Vladimir Shamanov and Chief Rabbi of Russia Berl Lazar on 20 September. There are 5,000 Jews in Ulyanovsk. Ulyanovsk's Jewish community is known for its activity among Jewish youth. The community has a Sunday school, a library, youth and family clubs, and arranges summer camps for children.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova