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Tatar-Bashkir Report: November 2, 2004

2 November 2004
Demonstration Calls For Preserving Regional Elections
Some 400 people took part on 23 October in a demonstration in Kazan against President Putin's proposal to abolish the election of regional administration heads, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. The protest, sponsored by the Creation movement, attracted a mix of people including local communist activists and moderate Tatar nationalist-movement leaders.

Tatar Parliament Reluctantly Backs Abolishing Regional Elections
The 25 October session of Tatarstan's State Council revealed that both opposition and pro-governmental factions have acknowledged that Russian President Vladimir Putin's proposed initiative to abolish elections for governors violates the country s democratic principles, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the next day.

State Council Deputies Razil Weliev and Tufan Minnulin (Unified Russia) said during their speeches during the parliamentary session that under the current circumstances Tatarstan is unlikely to manage to preserve the liberal values earned during last decade. Other Unified Russia deputies, representing the majority in parliament, stated that Tatarstan cannot be considered one of Russia's weaker regions that could thus benefit from having Russia's president appoint their leaders.

In his address to parliament, President Mintimer Shaimiev admitted that he agreed with the deputies, noting that if in [the Russian State] Duma they had the same opportunities to expressing their opinions, if Russia had the same manageability, the same extent of economic liberalization and stability, as well as the same wise parliament [as in Tatarstan], President Putin would not have to come out with an initiative of this kind. Shaimiev later told the deputies that given that 70 percent of Russia's regional leaders have proved to be inept, while more than half of them have come to power by illegal means, Putin's initiative is the only solution that is acceptable to him.

As a result, Tatarstan's parliament cast 57 votes in favor of Putin's proposal, while 19 votes were cast against and three deputies abstained. In its official comment, the Tatar State Council suggested that the draft law on eliminating regional elections should drop its provision for dissolving regional parliaments in the event they fail to approve the Russian president's appointment more than twice, and add a stipulation that there should be no mediators between the appointee and Russian leader. The parliament also promoted an amendment saying that the law on abolishing elections of regional leaders will be cancelled the moment Putin's term expires.

Tatneft To Join Forces With Gazprom In Siberia
Russia's Gazprom monopoly and the Tatneft oil company will join forces in 2005 to prospect the Menzenskaya Sinekliza oil and gas deposits in Arkhangelsk Oblast, Komi Republic, and the Nenets Autonomous Okrug, Russian news agencies reported on 26 October.

Kazan Officials To Make Capital More Attractive To Investors
After the Tatar Parliament adopted a law on the status of Tatarstan city administrations on 25 October, Kazan Mayor Kamil Iskhakov said the capital city has gone "from a modest Cinderella to a materially well-off lady, possessing properties worth some $1.8 billion," the daily "Vechernyaya Kazan" reported on 28 October.

Most of the property is in the housing and education sectors, and its net worth is expected to impress potential investors -- including international banks -- who could grant loans for city development, the daily reported.

The city government is reportedly seeking to cut its budget expenses by privatizing some local markets, the city's printing company, a number of funeral homes, and the providers of other municipal services.

Tatarstan, Kazakhstan Announce Plans To Expand Cooperation
Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev completed his two-day visit to Kazakhstan on 28 October without signing the previously prepared agreement on bilateral economic cooperation, "Kommersant" reported the next day. However, Kazakh Prime Minister Daniyal Akhmetov told reporters on 28 October that the sides "discussed a wide spectrum of issues, which provide for further increasing the level of our relations." He emphasized that the sides confirmed their plans to develop cooperation in petrochemistry, oil extraction, and machine building. Akhmetov admitted that Kazakhstan lacked Tatarstan's experience in the petrochemical industry and sought its assistance in renovating the Aqtau oil refinery. Kazakhstan is reportedly also interested in sharing Tatarstan's technologies for extracting oil from nearly exhausted deposits.

In addition, the KamAZ automaker is preparing a project for assembling its KT-240-K tractor at the premises of the Semipalatinsk machinery plant to meet the demand for modern agricultural machinery in Kazakhstan. Earlier this year, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev said during his trip to Tatarstan that "although the volume of bilateral trade between the two republics rose by 30 percent in 2003 and reached $5.3 billion, Tatarstan's share constituted some $150 million; this is not enough."

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Bashkortostan's Tatars Support Script Reform
The Union of Tatar Organizations in Bashkortostan has issued a public statement supporting the Tatar Latin-script reform. The statement is addressed to the Russian State Duma, the Federation Council, and the Russian Constitutional Court, which is currently considering the legality of Tatarstan's proposed reform. The union, which comprises 18 Tatar civic organizations in Bashkortostan, also sent a copy of the statement to Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev. According to the union's Deputy Chairman Mejit Khujin, Shaimiev is "still undecided" on the reform. At the same meeting, a number of experts in Tatar linguistics emphasized that the Latin-based script was the best means of expressing the phonetics of the Tatar language. Khujin added that federal regulations proscribing the use of the Cyrillic script represented a "violent intrusion of politics into the intimate area of ethnic self-identity."

Bashkir Real-Estate Companies Bear Hopes For State-Owned Buildings
The vice president of the Russian real-estate managers guild, Igor Gorskii, argued to a conference of republican real-estate representatives on 25 October that the state cannot effectively manage its real-estate holdings and therefore private real-estate companies should assume this function, "Kommersant-Daily" reported the next day. Private real-estate firms are already cooperating with the state in connection with certificates used to disburse apartments for military servicemen, Gorskii said, while private companies in Moscow and St. Petersburg already manage 98 percent of the state's property. Meanwhile, Real Estate Association head Rustem Kamalov told the daily in an interview that none of the state property in Bashkortostan is currently managed by a private company. Private property management could held establish a more balanced and dynamic real-estate market in the republic, Kamalov said, adding that Bashkortostan has among the highest residential and commercial real-estate prices in the federation.

Human Rights Defenders Ask Interior Minister To Probe Bashkir Police
The Russia-wide For Human Rights NGO has appealed to Russian Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliev, complaining of numerous human-rights violations by Bashkir police, "Vedomosti" wrote on 27 October. The organization cited a number of cases of illegal conduct, police brutality, and corruption, and emphasized how the Interior Ministry is taking few measures to combat the problem. Nevertheless, in 2004, according to the NGO, 80 Bashkir police officers have received criminal convictions for illegal conduct.

Government Urges Stricter Sanctions Against Debtor Companies
A special government commission on the payment of back wages to employees of state companies has assigned extra powers to the heads of local administrations who will be able to sanction the directors of major debtor enterprises, "Kommersant" reported on 28 October.

According to the State Statistics Committee, Bashkortostan's residents are owed some $11 million in back wages, with 99 percent of the debt related to the industrial sector.

Human-Rights Defender Charged With Sexual Abuse
Investigators in the case of Vladimir Simarchuk, a human-rights activist from Bashkortostan who has been charged with sexually harassing Russian Army soldiers, say that Simarchuk served in the Soviet Army for eight years in the 1970s and committed similar crimes then, Regnum reported on 27 October. Soviet authorities charged him with homosexuality at that time, the investigators said, and sentenced him to a forced mental treatment.

London-Based Bank To Help Bashkortostan With Budget Deficit
Bashkir Prime Minister Rafael Baydvletov said that the government will get a $30 million loan from Moscow's Narody Bank Limited in order to cope with a 2.5 billion ruble ($86 million) budget deficit in 2005, REGNUM reported on 27 October.

Military Commissioner Says Despite Numerous Deaths, Army Service Remains Attractive...
Bashkortostan's chief military commissioner, Major General Timofei Azarov, told a news conference in Ufa on 28 October that "although 55 army recruits from Bashkortsotan died during army service, the number of young men eager to join the armed forces is increasing," an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. As many as 8,100 young men from Bashkortostan will join the army this fall and only 20 of them have applied for alternative army service. Azarov said the alternative army service is harder than the military one and had more deserters.

...As Investigation Of Death Of Bashkir Navy Officer Nears End
The parents of Pavel Mardan, a Russian Navy officer from Bashkortostan, arrived in the Baltic Fleet headquarters in Kaliningrad to study the materials of the murder case of their son, who was found strangled aboard the "Bespokoinii" minesweeper, Regnum reported on 28 October. The investigators have arrested two suspects, including Yurii Konyshev, son of the former chief of staff of the Baltic Fleet naval base, Counter Admiral Aleksandr Konyshev. Previously, Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov had asked Baltic Fleet commander Admiral Vladimir Baluev to ensure the unbiased investigation of the case.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Chavash Legislature Against Putin's Administrative Reform Proposal
The Chavash State Council has expressed its opposition to the provision of the administrative reform proposed by President Vladimir Putin according to which regional parliaments will be dissolved if they reject candidates for regional heads proposed by the president twice, Kommersant-Daily and Regnum reported on 27 and 28 October, respectively. Regnum published the full text of the parliamentary resolution in which the legislature noted that it supports the measures proposed by Russia's leadership to consolidate and strengthen all government agencies and civil society institutions aimed at defending the interests of the states, federation subjects, and citizens of the Russian Federation.

At the same time, the resolution said that the draft amendments are not fully in line with the Russian Constitution and common principles and norms of international law. Specifically, it is said in the document that the draft contradicts the constitutional right of citizens of the Russian Federation to directly elect the highest official of the federation subject. The power of the Russian president to dismiss legislative bodies of federation entities if they reject two candidates for regional heads proposed by the Russian president also contradicts the constitution, the Chavash deputies noted. They also emphasized that the proposed amendments contradict the 18 January 1996 resolution by the Russian Constitutional Court as regards the Altai Krai charter, in which the court ruled that heads of regions cannot be elected by legislative bodies. Chavash State Council Chairman Mikhail Mikhailovskii, however, sent a letter to RosBalt on 29 October saying that the Chavash parliament supports amendments to the law on gubernatorial elections.

Chelyabinsk Official Accuses Local TV Of Arousing Ethnic Discord
Chelyabinsk Media Tsentr TV journalists have filed a defamation suit in Chelyabinsk Central Raion Court against Chelyabinsk deputy administration head Albert Yenaleev, reported on 26 October. They are contesting allegations made by Yenaleev against journalists of the "Personal View" program of inflaming ethnic discord. The program devoted a September show to Tatarstan's transition to the Latin Tatar script and asked viewers to vote whether they believe that reviving national traditions can become grounds for separatism. Slightly more than half of the respondents voted "yes." Commenting on the program at a city administration meeting, Yenaleev, who is responsible for relations with public organizations, including national-cultural autonomies, said it is the first time in 10 years that the media has attempted to arouse ethnic discord in Chelyabinsk.

BBC Starts Broadcasting Network In Chelyabinsk Oblast Penitentiaries
Autonomous radio stations will be established in the Yekaterinburg holding cell for women and six penal institutions in Chelyabinsk Oblast under the "Voices from the Zone" project initiated by the BBC Foundation, reported on 29 October, citing the Federal Correction Service branch in Chelyabinsk Oblast spokesman Valentin Gurenkov. Forty-five educational radio programs devoted to issues of health, legal services, and prisoners' rehabilitation after their release will be produced. Prisoners will be provided consultations about HIV and tuberculosis and other infectious diseases common in penitentiaries. They will be informed about the order of preparation of appeals and other documents and terms of doing educational and professional retraining programs. Former prisoners will share their experiences after release. Penitentiary staff and prisoners will be able to take part in preparing programs. The programs will be broadcast originally on the radio networks of six penal institutions and then will become available for the remaining penitentiaries.

Saratov Government Creditor Wants Monument Sold To Pay Debts
The Rusatommet company appealed to the Saratov Oblast bailiffs service on 28 October to seize and auction off the Stolypin monument in downtown Saratov, Regnum reported on 29 October. The monument belongs to the Saratov Oblast government, which has been unable to pay its debt to Rusatommet. In August, a bailiff seized money and shares belonging to the oblast administration. Bailiffs have not been able so far to get money from government accounts or auction the shares because of delays connected to court procedures. The bronze monument commemorating the famous author of agricultural reform in tsarist Russia, Petr Stolypin, was erected in Saratov in 2002 in front of the Saratov administration and Oblast Duma buildings.

Three Men Sentenced For Kidnappings In Sverdlovsk Oblast
Yekaterinburg residents Rustam Morozovskii and Sergei Veprev were each sentenced on 27 October to seven years in prison for kidnapping a 13-year-old boy, Novyi region reported on 28 October. A third man whose name was not available was sentenced to four years in prison. The boy was kidnapped on 7 March on the street as he was returning home from a computer club. The kidnappers then contacted the boy's father and demanded $500,000 in ransom. The man went to the police, and a week after being kidnapped, the boy was released in a special police operation from a garage where he was being held. According to the Sverdlovsk Oblast prosecutor's office, 41 kidnappings have been registered so far this year in the oblast.

Yekaterinburg Criminal Leader Sentenced To Life Imprisonment
Andrei Shilov, the head of a Yekaterinburg criminal group responsible for eight killings, as well as robberies, robberies, rapes, and illegal arms possessions, was sentenced by the Sverdlovsk Oblast Court on 26 October to life in prison, Novyi region reported the same day. Another member of the group on trial, Aleksei Kokushin, was sentenced to eight years in prison.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova