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Tatar-Bashkir Report: January 10, 2003

10 January 2003
Daily: Volga District Prosecutor To Get Promotion
Aleksandr Zvyagintsev, the chief prosecutor in the Volga Federal District, is likely to leave his current position for the post of Russian deputy prosecutor-general, the daily "Vechernyaya Kazan" wrote on 9 January, citing an unnamed source in the Tatar Chief Prosecutor's Office. During his work in the Volga district, Zvyagintsev became well known in Tatarstan for pushing for a thorough revision of the Tatar Constitution of 1992 in order to eliminate contradictions with the 1993 federal one.

This led to the adoption of the passage of the new republican constitution in 2002. Along with raising the issue of the illegality of Tatarstan's fundamental law, he also appealed to Tatarstan's Supreme Court to demand the dissolution of the republic's State Council, which along with professional legislators involved representatives of the executive branch. Sergei Gerasimov, head of the scientific research institute within the Prosecutor-General's Office and the former chief prosecutor of Moscow, is reportedly expected to take over Zvyagintsev's seat.

Duma Deputy From Tatarstan Questions Russia's Economic Growth
Ivan Grachev, a Russian State Duma deputy representing Tatarstan, told the weekly "Novaya Vecherka" in an interview published on 9 January that "there was no economic growth in Russia in 2002 because the 4 percent growth of gross domestic product and budget surplus were...[a result of] high oil prices." He added that the "chances of these high prices continuing for a long period are small, especially if the United States manages to quickly change Iraq's political regime."

To improve the country's economic situation, he called for tax cuts for small businesses because, "in reality the tax burden on private firms has only increased."

Tatarstan Contributes 10 Percent Of Grain Sold At The State Grain Auction
Anatolii Krasnov, head of the agriculture department in Tatarstan's Cabinet of Ministers, told reporters on 9 January that his republic contributed a 10 percent share to the total amount of grain bought by the Russian government during an auction organized to support domestic farmers, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported today. More than $135 million worth of grain was sold during the auction in late 2002 and this supportive measure will resume in 2003.

Russian Official Praises Tatarstan's Program On Substandard Housing
In an interview published by "Izvestiya" on 10 January, Nikolai Koshman, head of the Russian committee on construction and housing, said that Tatarstan "is a good example of a region solving the problem of run-down housing."

Koshman said that in some Russian regions the problem of old housing "is reaching an extreme level," but Tatarstan expects to have resolved this issue by 2004, with all residents of old housing slated to receive free apartments by late 2004.

KamAZ Team Leads Dakar Race
A KamAZ truck crew headed by Vladimir Chagin is currently leading the Telephonica-Dakar international off-road race that runs through several African countries, TatNews reported on 10 January. The crew of a second KamAZ truck driven by Firdaus Kabirov reportedly brought up the rear of the race due to a broken semi-axle 50 kilometers before the finish.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

German Police Officers Mourn Air-Crash Victims, Receive Honorary Medals
A delegation of German police officers took part in a memorial service on 4 January for the victims of a midair collision over southern Germany on 1 July involving a Bashkir Airlines passenger jet (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 2 July 2002), Bashinform reported the same day. Sixty residents of Bashkortostan were killed in the crash, including 45 children, Bashinform reported the same day. At a ceremony with officers from the Bashkir Interior Ministry, 28 police officers from the German state of Baden-Wuerttemburg were given honorary medals.

Opposition Paper Expresses Doubt Over Harvest Figures
In its December issue, the opposition "Otechestvo" monthly newspaper expressed doubt about the veracity of official statistics regarding the grain harvest in the republic in 2002. According to official reports, 4.5 million tons of grain were harvested in 2002, with average productivity of 3 tons per hectare of sown land. The paper argued, however, that grain was sown on 2 million hectares of land, which would provide 6 million tons of grain if the figure for average productivity were correct. The paper also expressed doubt about official harvest statistics from previous years.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Chelyabinsk Oblast Legislature Adopts Program To Fight Radioactive Pollution
The Chelyabinsk Oblast Legislative Assembly in late December approved a three-year program to clean up the effects of nuclear accidents at the Mayak chemical plant, Ural-Press-Inform reported on 5 January. The 210 million-ruble ($6.6 million) program is intended to provide secure living conditions in areas near Mayak and to rehabilitate residents living on territories polluted by radiation. After the 1957 explosion at Mayak, an area of 23,500 square kilometers was polluted around the plant. The local Techa River, where radioactive waste was dumped from 1949 to 1956, also remains polluted, while Lake Qarachai is dead. Meanwhile, the federal program responsible for cleaning up after nuclear accidents has received only 37 percent of its planned funding.

Man With Bomb Arrested In Khanty-Mansi Okrug
A man with an explosive taped to his chest threatened on 5 January to blow up a store in the city of Raduzhnyi in Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug, demanding that he be given a registration in the city, reported on 7 January. The individual was disarmed and detained as a result of a special operation, the agency said.

Five Candidates In Mordovian Race
Mordovian Central Electoral Commission Chairman Valentin Tarasov told RosBalt on 9 January that the registration of candidates for Mordovia's presidential election on 16 February has ended. Tarasov said the commission has registered five candidates, including incumbent Nikolai Merkushkin, Sergei Guryanov of Kontakt-TV, Anatolii Chubukov of the Saransk Instrument-Making Factory, Aleksandr Sharin of Medobrudovanie, and Yurii Bormusov of Zhelezobeton.

Perm Residents Able To Block Publishing Of Their Phone Numbers
Perm residents will be able to block publication of their telephone numbers in telephone directories, Region-Inform-Perm reported on 4 January. Under an agreement signed by Perm Oblast Ombudsman Sergei Matveev and the Uralsvyazinform communications provider, the company is obliged to obtain permission from subscribers for publication of their names, postal addresses, and phone numbers. Similar information about organizations and companies is not included in the agreement, however.

Yekaterinburg Mayor To Run For Re-Election
Yekaterinburg Mayor Arkadii Chernetskii told Ekho Moskvy-Yekaterinburg on 3 January that he will run for re-election in December. He also said it is definite that he is not going to run for governor of Sverdlovsk Oblast. Chernetskii lost the previous race for the post.

Yekaterinburg Businessmen Protest Growing Taxes
The heads of seven groups in Yekaterinburg representing 11,000 businessmen appealed to Yekaterinburg Mayor Chernetskii to protest plans of the administration to double rents for business space, "Novyi region" reported on 8 January. The leaders said the oblast duma introduced a maximum 5 percent rate of the sales tax, while other regions reduced or abolished it. They also said rent for land used by businesses of the trade and service sectors has doubled in the oblast in 2002 and will increase by another 80 percent this year, adding that the rent increase will be harmful for small and medium-size businesses.

Tyumen Oblast Deputies Promote Yermak Monument
The Tyumen Duma Committee on Social Policy discussed on 9 January the erection of a monument to commemorate Yermak, the Russian conqueror of Siberia, "Tyumenskaya linia" reported the same day. The proposal was made by archpriest Sergei Shvalev of the Tyumen Znamenskii church. Deputy Gennadii Kutsev opposed the idea, arguing that such a move could be harmful for the authorities and that they should take into account the opinions of all peoples living in the oblast. Others, Kutsev said, would rather that Siberian Khan Kuchum was commemorated instead of Yermak and "a battle over monuments" may begin. Deputies, however, approved the proposal to construct the Yermak monument and passed their decision to the duma's other committees and the Tyumen administration.

Orthodox Newspaper Editor Accused Of Inflaming Interethnic Hatred In Ulyanovsk
The Ulyanovsk Leninskii court has begun hearing the case against Sergei Seryubin, former editor in chief of "Pravoslavnyi Simbirsk," of arousing interethnic discord, reported on 5 January. Several civic and religious leaders sued Seryubin after the outlet published in its 24 April 2002 issue several anti-Semitic articles, including calls for the mass deportation of Jews from Russia. The Ulyanovsk Orthodox eparchy then dismissed Seryubin at the recommendation of local authorities, the agency said. The court has passed the case to the Ulyanovsk Lenin Raion prosecutors' office for additional investigation, RIA-Novosti reported on 9 January.

Ural District Envoy Opposes Idea Of Expanding District
Presidential envoy to the Ural Federal District Petr Latyshev denied rumors that he wants to expand his district's borders, Ural-Press-Inform reported on 4 January. Latyshev said he sees no sense in the proposal, adding that the district is already one of the strongest in Russia. Latyshev also commented on the demands by Kurgan Oblast residents that the oblast be divided and merged with other federation subjects, saying such an issue can be only decided in a referendum. Latyshev said he has not received any official proposals in this respect, so the district administration is promoting measures to help the oblast overcome its economic depression.

Chemical Accidents In Idel-Ural District
Three workers died on 31 December in hydrocyanic-acid leak at the Saratovorgsintez chemical plant in Saratov Oblast, reported on 4 January. One person died and 14 workers were injured as a result of a poisonous-gas leak on 9 January at the Novokuibyshevskii oil refinery in Samara Oblast, reported the same day. Seven residents were injured on 8 January by a gas explosion in an apartment building of the village of Svetlyi in Orenburg Oblast, reported the same day. The blast destroyed six apartments in the 60-apartment building.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova