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Tatar-Bashkir Report: November 16, 2004

16 November 2004
Ukrainian Parliament Halts Transfer Of Ukrtatnafta Shares To Naftogaz
Ukraine's Verkhovna Rada voted on 5 November to impose a temporary moratorium on privatization of the country's petrochemical industries, thus nixing the planned handover of the 43 percent share package in Ukrtatnafta and 25 percent in the Galichina petrochemical plant to the state-owned Naftogaz Ukraini, "Kommersant" wrote the next day. According to the daily, parliament's actions are contrary to the intentions of the Ukrainian cabinet and have exacerbated disunity among Ukrtatnafta shareholders in Tatarstan. Tatar shareholders currently own 55 percent of shares in the venture. In September, the Ukrainian-owned 43 percent share package was handed to the state-owned Naftogaz Ukraini. Previously, Tatneft had stated its interest in taking over the package. The situation is to be discussed by Ukrtatnafta shareholders on 12 November.

On Tatarstan's Constitution Day, President Comments On Proposed Federal Reforms
President Mintimer Shaimiev marked Tatarstan's Constitution Day on 6 November with an appeal to the public in which he noted that the republic adopted its constitution 12 years ago and the document "has been and still is a reliable guarantor of the rights and freedoms of our citizens, our statehood within the Russian Federation, social and political stability in our society, [and the] concerted and effective work of all branches of power."

Shaimiev took the occasion to remark on political reforms proposed by Russian President Vladimir Putin that would include abolishing direct gubernatorial elections throughout the country, saying, "The fact that the new political program of federal authorities is surrounded by debate is the best proof that Russian democracy is mature enough, that its society is undergoing a major experience of political development."

According to Tatarstan's laws, 6 November is an official holiday, which due to its coincidence with the weekend was moved to 8 November, the day after Russia's national 7 November holiday expires.

Major Tatar Industries Offered To Invest In Housing Sector
Housing Minister Marat Khosnullin told reporters on 9 November that a working group within Tatarstan's government sent a package of investment projects to the republic's major industries -- Tatenergo, Tatneft, Tatgazinvest, Ak Bars Bank, and Intekhbank -- seeking at least 1 billion rubles ($34.5 million) of private investment in the housing sector in 2005 and not less than 33 billion rubles ($1.1 billion) by 2010, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. Khosnullin added that the government hopes to attract potential investors with the "unprecedentedly high" profitability of the housing sector, due to the high tariffs planned for 2005. The amount of investment needed is due to the significant rate of wear of heating and water networks, averaging 40 to 80 percent. On 11 November, Tatarstan's State Council is to pass in the final reading a reform and modernization program for the republic's housing sector in 2005-10. So far, only the Tatenergo energy company has confirmed its interest in the housing-investment program. Suggests That First Deputy Prime Minister Might Be Implicated In Ukrtatnafta Scandal
First Deputy Prime Minister Rawyl Moratov could lose his job over an alleged failure to protect effectively Tatarstan's interests in the Ukrtatnafta joint venture with Ukraine, speculated on 10 November. The website cited rumors that implicate Moratov in a scandal regarding a 43 stake in the company, on whose supervisory board he sits. Tatar shareholders reportedly possess a majority 56 percent stake. reported that Moratov stood by while shares owned by the Ukrainian State Property Fund were handed over to national oil and gas company Nafotgaz Ukrayini and personally removed Ukrtatnafta board Chairman Pavel Ovcharenko. The latter move reportedly "forced the [Tatar] prime minister to agree to the appointment of a new chairman representing Naftogaz Ukrayini -- Sergei Gorshkov," asserted. also cited the Kazan edition of "Kommersant-Daily" alleging that Moratov agreed to "dubious actions [by] the Ukrainian side" in exchange for the permission of Ukrainian shareholders to withdraw Tatnefteprom-Zuzeevneft from a list of assets contributed by Tatarstan to the charter capital of Ukrtatnafta.

Tatarstan government officials reportedly reacted "painfully" to suggestions in the Russian and Ukrainian media that Moratov's actions might have been part of an alleged conspiracy with corrupt officials within the Ukrainian government and a betrayal of Tatarstan's economic interests.

Tatarstan State Council Approves Budget On Second Reading
Tatarstan's State Council on 11 November approved on second reading the draft republican budget for 2005, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. Minor adjustments suggested by the cabinet of ministers were made to the draft, while the parliament rejected amendments promoted by Deputy Aleksandr Shtanin, who sought to eliminate the budget deficit forecast in the draft budget. Shtanin, who represents the Equality and Legality movement RiZ reminded deputies that in 2003 and 2004 the republican government reported budget surpluses by the end of the year. He said revenues for 2005 should be estimated at 53.7 billion rubles ($1.8 billion) and not the 43.5 billion ($1.5 billion) predicted by the government.

Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov explained that the draft document referred to "macroeconomic indicators taken from the federal budget" and reflected budgetary shortfalls that resulted from taking tax revenues from mineral resources from the republic's jurisdiction.

Following the vote on Shtanin's proposal, President Mintimer Shaimiev told deputies that "it would be incautious" to expect extra budget incomes in 2004, given the negative forecast for global oil prices.

...As Deputies Prepare Package Of Amendments To Putin's Government-Reform Initiative
Tatarstan's State Council on 11 November approved on first reading 19 amendments to a federal bill that would eliminate elections of regional governors, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. The drafts prepared by Tatar deputies after they expressed disagreement with President Vladimir Putin's reform proposal during the 25 October session of parliament ("RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Report," 26 October 2004). During that session, Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev called on deputies to approve Putin's proposal, but suggested that they compile a list of amendment proposals.

Among the proposed amendments were calls to expand the powers of regional parliaments to approve gubernatorial heads appointed by the Russian president, and to abolish the president's right to dissolve parliaments that fail to approve the president's appointment twice. The parliamentarians also suggested that the proposal, if it becomes law, only be valid until 2010.

The amendments will be proposed in the Russian State Duma by State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin, Duma Deputy Aleksandr Salii (Communist), and Marat Galeev, who chairs the State Council's committee on economy, investments, and entrepreneurship, and heads the Tatarstan-Yanga Gasyr faction.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Ufa City Adminstration Steps Up Moonshine Inspections
Ufa's city administration has issued a decree on the mandatory inspection of all cosmetics, perfumes, and home detergents, which contain alcohol, Vsya Ufa TV reported on 5 November. The measures have reportedly been introduced to counter the frequent cases of poisoning with such liquids after people drink them for their alcohol content. In September, four people died and six more were hospitalized after drinking such liquids in the village of Kurochkino near Ufa.

The Old and The Young Remember October Revolution In Bashkortsotan's Capital
Following the tradition inherited from the Soviet past, the Bashkortostan and Ufa branches of Russia's Communist Party, the local branches of Labor People Union, Russia's Hope Women Union and the Young Bashkiria movement held a holiday demonstration and a meeting devoted to the 87th anniversary of the October 1917 revolution on 7 November, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. Leader of Bashkortostan communists Valentin Nikitin said at the meeting near the monument to Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin that the revolution gave people new orientation towards patriotism, international fraternity and strong belief in future.

Despite Moscow's plans of abolishing the official holiday of 7th November starting from 2005, the meeting's participants insisted on that the date will remain an important holiday for those who share the values of democracy and socialism, peace, brotherhood and happiness of all peoples. Some 500 people joining the event approved a resolution condemning the federal government's plans of canceling the holiday.

Government Bodies To Swallow 3.1 Percent Of Republican Budget
Government bodies will account for 7.6 billion rubles ($263 million), or 22.8 percent, of the republics budget for maintaining the system of republican and local government and implementing its state policies in 2005, Bashinform reported on 9 November. Maintenance of Bashkortostan's government bodies itself will cost the republican budget 3.1 percent of total expenses slated for the year, or $34 million, according to Bashinform.

Ministry Reports Reduced Revenue From Privatization
Bashkortostan's Ministry of State Property earned the republican budget 1.1 billion rubles ($36 million) in 2004, Bashinform reported on 10 November. The sum reportedly represents earnings from the privatization and leasing of state property. Compared to previous years, the ministry is reportedly getting more revenue from the leasing of state property but receiving less income from the privatization of state assets.

Bashkirenergo To Sue Sterlitamaq Synthetic Rubber Plant
Bashkirenergo spokesman Vyacheslav Abramenko told reporters on 11 November that the company will appeal to Bashkortostan's Arbitration Court to reimburse the 552 million rubles ($19 million) owed by the Kauchuk synthetic rubber plant in Stelitamaq for electricity, Interfax reported the same day. On 21 October the Arbitration Court rejected Bashkirenergo's suit demanding the beginning of bankruptcy procedures against Kauchuk, which led the energy company to the conclusion that the plant is financially well-off. Bashkortostan's government reportedly owns a controlling 25 percent stake in Kauchuk, which is the supplier of raw material for the Yaroslavl, Omsk, and Tuben Kama tire plants.

World Bashkir Congress Concerned With Endangered Bashkir Villages In Sverdlovsk Oblast
The executive committee of the World Bashkir Congress will hold a special meeting on 18 November to consider the situation in Sverdlovsk Oblast, where ethnic Bashkir villages are currently being merged with the expanding capital of the oblast, an RFE/ RL Ufa correspondent reported on 11 November, citing the congress Chairman Ekhmet Soleimenov.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Minor Explosion At Chavash Bus Stop Injures One
One person was injured in an explosion at a bus stop in Cheboksary on 10 November, Regnum and Kommersant-Volga-Urals reported on 11 and 12 November, respectively. The explosive was reportedly placed in a trash container. A 43-year-old man who was passing nearby was wounded in the face and subsequently underwent surgery. On 11 November, the Chavash Interior Ministry reported that a criminal complaint involving charges of hooliganism was filed in the case. Police did not exclude terrorism as a motive. The explosive was apparently homemade and placed inside a juice box. A witness said the man threw something into the container just before the explosion occurred.

Chelyabinsk Oblast Heads, Residents Protest Facility For Destroying Rocket Engines
Chelyabinsk Oblast Governor Petr Sumin sent a letter to federal authorities urging that a facility to liquidate rocket engines be constructed outside the South Urals, Novyi region (Chelyabinsk) reported on 10 November. Sumin was informed at the beginning of last summer that test explosions to destroy spent rocket fuel were scheduled to be performed in the oblast's Kusinskii Raion. Region heads are hoping to leverage public opinion on the issue of the facility's location irrespective of the conclusions of state environmental experts. Residents of Kusinskii Raion, Zlatoust, and Miass have already expressed their oppositoin to construction of the facility. A meeting to protest the project in South Urals was held in Zlatoust.

Spent Nuclear Fuel From Pacific Fleet Submarine To Be Processed In Chelyabinsk Oblast
Fuel from a Viktor-3 class nuclear submarine that was removed from the Pacific Fleet was sent for processing to the company Mayak in Chelyabinsk Oblast's Ozersk, reported on 12 November. Mayak is the only company in the Commonwealth of Independent States involved in processing spent nuclear fuel. An official of the Zvezda Plant in the town of Bolshoi Kamen, Aleksandr Kiselev, said the extraction of nuclear fuel from the submarine was implemented within the framework of the two-year-old Russo-Japanese project, Star of Hope. The reactor portion of the submarine was delivered for storage to a lot managed by the company DalRAO in Primore, while the body of the submarine has been sold. Kiselev said a draft agreement on the decommission of five more nuclear submarines is being negotiated. Some 46 decommissioned nuclear submarines from the Pacific Fleet are subject to disassembly.

Explosive Found Near Newspaper Office In Chelyabinsk Oblast
An explosive device was discovered and liquidated on 9 November near the building that houses Chelyabinsk Oblast's "Tagilskii rabochii" newspaper, Uralinformbyuro reported on 10 November. Tagilpress Director Yelena Ovchinnikova told the news agency that the professional activities of "Tagilskii rabochii" reporters might have been targeted by would-be bombers. Ovchinnikova said the offices of Tagilpress were targeted on 6 November, when three people entered the building, tied up a guard, and removed five computers.

Five Candidates Bidding For Marii El Presidency
Acting Marii El President Leonid Markelov has been registered as a presidential candidate, Regnum reported on 11 November. Markelov presented 50,000 signatures of Marii El voters. The republican Central Election Commission on 10 November registered Markelov. The Marii El regional branch of Unified Russia has announced that it will back Markelov in the presidential election, Regnum reported on 10 November. Five candidates were registered ahead of the 15 November deadline, including: Morkinskii Raion Municipal Property Management Committee Chairman Sergei Grigorev, public auto-transport company acting Director Aleksandr Zagainov, charitable foundation Victory-1945 Deputy Chairman Aleksandr Korotkov, and notary public Mikhail Dolgov.

Marii El Newpaper Accused Of Slandering Government Head
Prosecutors in Yoshkar-Ola filed a criminal slander case on 5 November against the "VO!" newspaper, Regnum reported on 7 November. The case was launched in response to the publication of pieces concerning actions by the head and members of the government of Marii El.

Russian Education Ministry Introduces 'History Of Religion' Course In Secondary Schools
Speaking at a news conference in Perm on 11 November, Russian Education Minister Andrei Fursenko backed the introduction of an obligatory subject on the history of world religions in secondary schools, Novyi region (Perm) reported the same day. Fursenko said two basic textbooks on the subject will be prepared by January. The minister said it would be incorrect to introduce a separate subject on Orthodoxy in a country as multiethnic as Russia but that within the course studying Orthodoxy would be paid special attention to reflect the history of the country's development. The minister added that the subject would be taught by laypeople.

Mayors Of Federation Subject's Capitals To Be Appointed, Not Elected
The heads of the capital cities of Russian Federation subjects will be appointed while all other heads of municipalities will be elected, Sverdlovsk Oblast Duma Speaker Nikolai Voronin said on 9 November, quoting Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov, Novyi region (Perm) reported the same day. Voronin quoted Mironov as saying that some 60,000 municipalities will be established in Russia, and in 87 of them the administration heads will be appointed.

Head Of Television, Radio Company In Ulyanovsk Oblast Wounded By Gunshots
Assailants shot the executive director and editor in chief of the local radio and television broadcaster in Dimitrovgrad in Ulyanovsk Oblast, NTA reported on 11 November. Kochetkov was wounded in the arm, leg, and stomach and subsequently underwent surgery.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova