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Tatar-Bashkir Report: January 17, 2003

17 January 2003
Tatarstan To Take Part In EU-Funded Project To Develop Local Self-Government
The European Commission has allocated 2 million euros ($2.12 million) to implement a project on the development of democracy and local self-government in four regions of Russia -- Tatarstan, as well as Penza, Kaluga, and Astrakhan oblasts -- Tatar-inform reported on 16 January.

Security Council Passes Program On Information Policy
The Tatar Security Council approved at its meeting on 15 January a five-year program on the principles of the Tatarstan's state policy in the information and communications sectors, "Respublika Tatarstan" reported the next day. The program aims to establish in the republic a balanced market of information resources and to provide services to satisfy the demand for information. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov and State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin criticized the Communications Ministry for the poor quality and high prices of Internet connections in the republic.

Mukhametshin Discusses Regional Issues, Calls For Greater Cooperation
At a meeting of the Greater Volga Association's Committee on Regional Legislation in Samara on 16 January, Mukhametshin presented a report on cooperation among legislative bodies of the Volga Federal District, reported the same day. Mukhametshin, who is vice president of the association, called on the various regions of the Volga Federal District to consolidate their efforts to prevent the passage of federal laws that are unfavorable to the region. Mukhametshin said that one of the most urgent problems to be resolved is the difference in social and economic development existing among various subjects of the federation. He said that one strategic goal of regional policy should be to promote conditions for economic growth in each region instead of trying to eliminate the differences between them. He also said that the practice of paying subsidies to economically weak regions does not provide incentive for those regions to improve their economies while at the same time undermining the potential of prosperous regions.

Education Ministry Plans To Lay Off Teachers
The Tatar Education Ministry has announced that it will lay off some 9,000 primary-school teachers in the republic in the early part of the year, "Vostochnyi ekspress" reported on 10 January. The head of the ministry's department of financial planning, Nina Maksimov, said that the number of students enrolled in first grade in the republic's primary schools has decreased by 20,000 over the past 15 years.

Oil Company Increases Production By 55 Percent
Mellyaneft, one of Tatarstan's smaller oil companies, produced 85,300 tons of oil in 2002, an increase of 55 percent in comparison with the previous year and 20 percent higher than expected output for the year, reported on 11 January, citing the Solid investment-and-finance company.

Ethnic Azerbaijanis Attacked In Kazan reported on 8 January that seven Azerbaijanis who work in local markets were attacked by 10 assailants in their apartment on 8 January. Ten men, who are allegedly part of an organized-crime group in the Tatar capital, were detained by police after they allegedly broke into the apartment and beat the residents with baseball bats.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Editor Of Independent Paper Hoping For Revival Of 'Free Speech' In 2003
Kaderle Imametdinov, editor in chief of Bashkortostan's independent "Idel-Ural" newspaper, told an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent on 13 January, the 300th anniversary of the founding of Russia's first newspaper, that "free speech is limited to some extent in the republic, because only official newspapers are financially well-off. Meanwhile, independent publications, such as the Russian-language 'Otechestvo' and 'Idel-Ural' newspapers, possess very modest sources of funding." He said that this situation "could change during 2003," which will see parliamentary and presidential elections in the republic, as well as State Duma elections throughout the country, because, as he said, political parties will be interested in using independent newspapers to voice their opinions during election campaigns.

Agency: Ufa Institute Invents Agent For Cleaning Up Oil Spills
ITAR-TASS reported on 15 January that researchers at Ufa's Oil Institute have invented a highly efficient material that can be used in cleaning up oil spills. The new agent contains tiny sacs filled with nitrogen that can reportedly convert spilled oil into a high-density substance that can then be easily separated from water.

Bashkortostan Holds Talks With The Netherlands...
Prime Minister Rafael Baidavletov met on 16 January with Hans Kats, an adviser on agricultural issues to the Dutch Embassy in Moscow, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. The two sides discussed the possibility of increasing imports of agricultural technologies from the Netherlands, which is the republic's top foreign trading partner, having exported $422 million worth of goods to the republic in 2002.

Bashkir Deputy Prime Minister Shamil Vakhitov met with representatives of Chinese trade organizations on 14 January to discuss cooperation in the sphere of joint production of growth agents for cattle breeding, Bashinform reported the same day.

�And Belarus
Bashkir Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Efremov told officials from the Belarusian Embassy in Moscow who were visiting Ufa on 14 January that, among CIS members, Belarus "is the most promising trade partner for Bashkortostan," Bashkir state radio reported the same day. Bilateral trade was reportedly $24.6 million in 2002, an increase of 8.3 percent in comparison with the previous year.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

License Of Chelyabinsk Oblast's Mayak Nuclear Facility Suspended
The only facility in Russia processing spent nuclear fuel, Chelyabinsk Oblast's Mayak company, ceased doing so as of 1 January because the Russian atomic inspectorate, Rosenergoatom, did not extend its license, "Kommersant" reported on 10 January. Mayak General Director Vitalii Sadovnikov said the company was informed by the inspectorate that it won't obtain the license until it stops dumping radioactive wastes in open reservoirs, Lake Karachai, and the Techa River. Sadovnikov said, however, that the technology used at Mayak is unable to avoid producing liquid radioactive waste, but is nonetheless the safest in the world. At the same time, Rosenergoatom is concerned about the Techenskii cascade of reservoirs, which could overfill in three to five years and leak into the Tobol and Irtysh rivers.

"Kommersant" said the $1 billion project on the construction of the South Ural Nuclear Power Station, which could be a solution to the situation, was discussed this month by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chelyabinsk Oblast Governor Petr Sumin, but the prospects for that project are still unclear.

Customs Officers Seize 100 Kilograms Of Heroin
Orenburg customs officials detained a group of drug traffickers with more than 100 kilograms of heroin, reported on 10 January, citing The drugs came from Uralsk in Kazakhstan.

Groups Protest Erection Of Stalin Monument In Saratov
More than 10 political parties, movements, and civic groups in Saratov Oblast, including local branches of the Liberal-Democratic Party, Union of Rightist Forces, the Union of Soldiers' Mothers, and the Balakovo Human Rights Center, have opposed the idea of erecting a Stalin monument in the center of Saratov, reported on 10 January. Constructing such a monument was suggested last year by several local public leaders and backed by State Duma Deputy Valerii Rashkin and oblast duma Deputy and oblast committee Secretary Olga Alimova, both Communist Party members. In their statement, the opponents of the initiative said the communists are trying "to rehabilitate a bloody tyrant," adding that "victory in World War II cannot be linked to the name of Stalin, a person who detested his own people."

Joint Venture Between Saratov Aviation Plant, Boeing Under Discussion
The Saratov Aviation Plant plans to begin production of helicopters in cooperation with Boeing, reported on 14 January. The project was discussed on 13 January at a meeting of Saratov Oblast government Deputy Chairman Vladimir Marov with U.S. Chamber of Representatives member Curt Weldon. Currently the plant manufactures several models of Yak jets.

Uralmash Wins $8.4 Million Order For Indian Nuclear Station
The Sverdlovsk Oblast United Machine-Building Plants corporation won a tender and signed a $8.4 million contract in late December to produce two robot manipulators for the Indian Kudankulam nuclear station, "Novyi Region" reported on 10 January. Uralmashzavod, which will fulfill the order, is scheduled to finish one of the machines in the first quarter of 2005 and the second one in the third quarter of that year. Currently Uralmashzavod is producing two cranes for the Indian nuclear station.

Skinheads Kill Uzbek In Nizhnii Tagil
Nizhnii Tagil prosecutors' office arrested on 7 January two unnamed teenagers, 14 and 17, who savagely killed vagrant Albek Khalmadov, an ethnic Uzbek, Ural-Press-Inform reported on 10 January. Khalmadov's body with numerous stabs and cuts was found on 2 January on a Nizhnii Tagil-Yekaterinburg train. Eye-witnesses told law-enforcement bodies employees that the teenagers, who were going by train from Nizhnii Tagil to their native Novouralsk, beat and stabbed Khalmadov. The boys said after the arrest that they are skinheads and killed Khalmadov because they do not like vagrants and non-Russians.

Unemployment Rising In Sverdlovsk Oblast
Some 7,000 workers will be laid off by April in Sverdlovsk Oblast, "Novyi region" reported on 10 January citing the Federal Employment Service branch in Sverdlovsk Oblast. In November and December, oblast enterprises cut 3,860 employees, and another 3,500 workers will be laid off in the first quarter of the current year. The most recent layoffs were the result of a crisis among oblast metallurgy and mining companies.

Kirienko To Head Aviastar-SP Board
A meeting of the Aviastar-SP directors board elected on 15 January presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District Sergei Kirienko as chairman of the board, reported the same day, citing the district administration's press service.

Surgut Aviators Cancel Flights To Novosibirsk Over Unpaid Debts
The Surgut airport refused to serve flights of the Novosibirsk aviation company because of the latter's 2 million-ruble ($63,000) debt, reported on 10 January citing SIA-press. The airport cancelled a daily flight from Surgut to Novosibirsk on 10 January when a deadline for the Novosibirsk company to pay its debt passed.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova