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Tatar-Bashkir Report: February 21, 2003

21 February 2003
Tatar Parliament Speaker Questions Efficiency Of Moscow-Led Power-Sharing Reform
Tatar State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin told a meeting of the Russian Legislators Council on 18 February that it would be wrong to expect the package of draft reforms on power sharing between the federal, regional, and local authorities presented by the special commission led by deputy presidential administration head Dmitrii Kozak to resolve all the existing contradictions between the different levels of power, "Kommersant" reported on 20 February. The paper said that Mukhametshin was alarmed by the proposed procedure of temporary takeover of regional commissions, which in his opinion, contradicts the Russian Constitution.

Mukhametshin also told the meeting, which included President Vladimir Putin, that power-sharing reforms should be synchronized with housing, energy-sector, and transport reforms.

Tatar Public Center 'Shocked' By Russian Presidential Staff Procedures
The "Zvezda Povolzhya" weekly cited the Tatar Public Center (TIU) leadership on 20 February as expressing shock after the Russian presidential staff refused to accept their appeal composed in the Tatar language. The staff officials reportedly demanded that TIU translate the document into Russian.

Ninety Percent Of Drug Addicts Said To Avoid Official Registration
Some 7,000 drug addicts are officially registered in Tatarstan, while experts believe that the real number is ten time higher, "Respublika Tatarstan" daily reported on 19 February.

Tatar Oil Workers Make Most Money
According to the 19 February issue of "Izvestiya Tatarstana" weekly, Tatar oil-industry workers in the Elmet region have the highest average salaries in the republic at 7,058 rubles ($223) per month, while the collective-farm workers of Bua region are the lowest-paid at 1,482 rubles ($46.8) per month. Meanwhile, the average monthly wage in the republic is reported at 3,854 rubles ($121.8).

Tatars Factory To Resume Equipping Caspian Fleet
The Yeshel Uzen shipbuilding factory will construct a second patrol boat for the Caspian Sea Fleet, newly appointed fleet commander Rear Admiral Yurii Startsev told a press conference in Mahachkala, Daghestan, on 20 February, RIA-Novosti reported. In 2002, the same factory finished assembly of the "Tatarstan" missile cruiser, the Caspian Fleet's flagship. The second ship will reportedly be named after Daghestan.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Reports Say Former Rakhimov Associates Targeting Republic's Oil Industry
"Novye izvestiya" claimed on 12 February that several of Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov's former associates have begun a campaign against him in the media and that in addition to the Bashkir president, they are also targeting the republic's oil industry, which is valued at approximately $10 billion. The paper claimed that the former-associates-turned-adversaries include business tycoon and Federation Council member Sergei Pugachev and Russian Tax Minister Gennadii Bukaev. The paper said that Bukaev has begun an investigation into possible tax violations by Bashkir petrochemical companies (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 3 February 2003) and is also demanding that the republic pay $400 million to $600 million, depending on whose report you read, to the federal budget in back taxes. The paper added that Russian Natural Resources Minister Vitalii Artyukhov is trying to deprive Bashneft of its license to process oil. If this happens, the paper predicted, many companies in the Bashkir oil industry would be bankrupted, thus making them available to potential buyers at an attractive price. "Komsomolskaya pravda," which also commented on this issue on 12 February, predicted that the Bashkir oil industry would be taken over by August.

British Delegation Visits Ufa
A delegation from the British Embassy in Moscow visited Ufa on 19 February for a series of meetings on bilateral trade and mutual cooperation, Bashinform and RosBalt reported the same day. The delegation met with Bashkir Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Airat Geskerov, Foreign Economic Relations and Trade Minister Boris Kolbin, and Ufa administration head Reuf Nogomanov. The reports did not provide any details about the signing of any possible agreements.

Government Concerned About Decrease In Alcohol Production, Sales...
Bashkir Prime Minister Rafael Baidavletov told a government commission for the control of alcohol production and sales on 20 February that companies in the alcohol-production sector decreased their production in 2002 by 2.23 million liters in comparison with the previous year, Bashinform reported the same day. In addition, Baidavletov said that alcohol exports decreased by 3.4 million liters last year. Furthermore, the prime minister added that the overall financial position of companies in the sector is unstable, as they have 1.6 billion rubles ($50.8 million) in debts and are also owed 500,000 rubles from debtors.

Officials from Bashspirt, the state-run company uniting many of the republic's distilleries, said the main reason for the decline in production and sale of alcohol was the high price of grain imported from outside the republic.

In response, the commission recommended that Bashspirt develop a plan to purchase new equipment for companies in the sector and that it also provide the financing for implementing the plan.

...Hopes Material Rewards Will Encourage Healthy Lifestyle
The Bashkir government is planning to adopt a regulation that will allow employers to offer their employees bonuses for implementing a healthy lifestyle, RosBalt reported on 20 February, citing Bashkir Deputy Minister of Physical Education, Sports, and Tourism Vladimir Ivanushkin. Ivanushkin said that the ministry and the Bashkir Council of Trade Unions are working on a proposal that would suggest that companies offer financial rewards to employees who "do not drink, do not smoke, and play sports." Possible rewards could include financial bonuses, additional vacation time, and vouchers to health resorts, as well as other prizes. Ivanushkin added that the planned move comes in response to President Rakhimov's declaration that 2003 is the year of sports and a healthy lifestyle.

Wage Arrears On The Rise
Wage arrears have increased by 13 percent to 1.3 billion rubles so far in 2003, RosBalt reported on 14 February, citing the Bashkir Trade Union Federation. Owing some 400 million rubles in back wages, the construction sector has the largest debt to its workers of any section of the Bashkir economy. On average, workers are owed about 4,000 rubles, which is equivalent to 1.6 months' pay according to the average monthly salary.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

'Kursk' Submarine's Nuclear Fuel To Be Transported To Chelyabinsk Oblast Company
The senior engineer of the Snezhnogorskii ship-repair plant Nerpa, Rostislav Remdenok, said nuclear fuel from the 'Kursk' submarine, as well as from other submarines and ships, will be sent by a special train to the Chelyabinsk Oblast Mayak nuclear facility in the first half of March, reported on 20 February, citing Inform-Ekologia. Remdenok said the route for transportation of the fuel is secret. The agency commented that the shortest railway route from Murmansk to the Mayak company passes through St. Petersburg, Perm, and Yekaterinburg.

Mordovia's Merkushkin Re-Elected By 87 Percent
Incumbent Mordovia head Nikolai Merkushkin was re-elected on 16 February with 87 percent of the vote, ITAR-TASS reported. His closest rival, Communist-backed candidate Anatolii Chubkov, head of the Saransk Instrument-Making Factory, received only about 7 percent of the vote, RFE/RL's Saransk correspondent reported. Three other candidates received less than 1 percent each. Turnout was 83 percent.

Interior Ministry Confiscates Computers With Illegal Software In Nizhnii
Interior Ministry employees confiscated computers from several companies in Nizhnii Novgorod, including the Termal company and several computer stores, for illegal possession of Microsoft software, NTA Privolzhe reported on 18 February. Microsoft representatives also filed suit against the local computer club Evrika for copyright violation. Large industrial companies and banks will also be checked in the near future, the report said.

Communists Burn U.S. Effigy In Perm
Members of the Communist Party held a demonstration in Perm on 15 February to support Iraq, Novyi region (Perm) reported on 17 February. The participants burnt a straw effigy of "the aggressor-country" and passed a resolution demanding that the United States "stop trying to take over Iraqi oil" while urging Russian President Vladimir Putin not to support foreign interests.

Saratov Head Ayatskov Promotes Restoration Of Lenin Monument
Saratov Oblast Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov appealed to oblast residents to help restore the Lenin monument on Saratov's main square, reported on 17 February. Ayatskov said the Lenin monument is in bad shape and needs urgent restoration, adding that, "our people spoke Lenin's name with trembling and love for decades." He called on residents to collect money for the restoration.

Bush Effigy Hanged in Yekaterinburg
Some 100 members of the Communist Party and the Russian Communist Labor Party staged a demonstration on 15 February near the U.S. Consulate in Yekaterinburg against a war in Iraq, Novyi region reported the same day. More than half of the protesters were young, the agency said. Several dozen students, including members of the National Bolshevik Party, joined the meeting later. They brought an effigy of George W. Bush, which they beat and hanged. However, they failed to burn it as they planned because of heightened interests from police. Participants wore slogans "Hands off Iraq!" and "There is no room for the consulate of the aggressor on Ural land!"

On 18 February, Communist activists sent an open letter demanding that U.S. authorities do not begin a war against Iraq to the U.S. Consulate-General in Yekaterinburg, Novyi region reported the same day.

Kalashnikov Name To Advertise German Umbrellas
Mikhail Kalashnikov, the 83-year-old designer of the Kalashnikov automatic rifle, sold the rights to his name to Germany's MMI in exchange for 30 percent of the company, NTA Privolzhe reported on 17 February, citing "The Daily Telegraph." The company reportedly hopes to use the brand to sell products from cars to mineral water to umbrellas.

Commenting on the issue, Udmurt Deputy International Relations Minister Viktor Vikulov said that the " 'Kalashnikov' brand should belong to Udmurtia, as a last resort to Russia, but not to Germany," reported on 20 February, citing Novyi Region TV. Vikulov said legal issues could arise with Udmurtia's Glasov vodka plant, which produces "Kalashnikov Vodka" with Kalashnikov's consent.

Pensioners Send Putin Pension Raises
Pensioners in different Russian regions began a protest in which they mail President Putin or Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov the 30-ruble ($1) raise in their pensions introduced as of 1 February, Russian agencies reported. Novyi region reported on 20 February that several were recently sent in Sverdlovsk Oblast. On 19 February, reported that two Saratov Oblast pensioners, Ella Filimonova and Zoya Ostyakova, sent Putin the money and a cable in which they said the increase insults pensioners and the authorities should deprive government members and deputies of premiums and privileges instead.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova