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Tatar-Bashkir Report: March 7, 2003

7 March 2003
Tatar Senator Says Tatneft 'Sabotaging' Smaller Companies
Tatarstan's representative in Russia's Federation Council, Irina Larochkina, who is also an expert on the oil industry, told a Tatar government meeting on 3 March that the republic's main oil producer, Tatneft, is using a policy of "latent sabotage" against smaller oil companies operating in the republic by refusing to grant them access to geological maps of areas for which they have licenses to extract oil, "Vechernyaya Kazan" daily reported on 4 March.

Defense Ministry To Increase Spending On KamAZ Vehicles
The Russian Defense Ministry plans to increase its purchases of KamAZ trucks fourfold in 2003, the company's press service announced on 5 March. High-ranking Defense Ministry officials visited the automotive concern on 4-5 March to discuss increased production of military vehicles. The Russian Army is reportedly planning to replace some 350 vehicles that were produced by KamAZ in the 1980s. KamAZ did not, however, announce exactly how many additional vehicles it would produce for the armed forces. The military reportedly uses some 75,000 vehicles produced by the Chally-based company.

Republic Expresses Interest In Ukrainian Refinery
Tatar First Deputy Prime Minister Rawyl Moratov told a press conference in Kyiv on 5 March that the Tatar government was prepared to purchase a 43 percent stake in the Kremenchug oil refinery, in which the republican government, Tatneft, Tatneftekhiminvestholding, Suvar Petroleum, and Devon-Kredit bank already share a 37 percent stake, reported the same day. Moratov said that the Tatar government would like Tatneft to take control of the stake, saying "it is natural" for an oil company to own a refinery.

The asking price for the stake, which is being sold by the Ukrainian government, is estimated to be $150 million, though the price could change following an independent audit.

Tatars Establish National-Cultural Autonomy In Marii-El
More than 40,000 Tatars living in the Republic of Marii-El established a national-cultural autonomy in the republic's capital Yoshkar-Ola on 4 March, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. The autonomy's plan for 2003 calls for the development of close ties with the World Tatar Congress and Tatar communities across Russia.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Parliament Appeals To Kasyanov To Help Prevent Bankruptcy Of Bashkir Fuel, Energy Sector...
Bashkir State Assembly deputies passed on 6 March an appeal to Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, in which they accused heads of the Russian Tax Ministry of "preconceived approach to the financial and business operations of Ufa oil refineries," Bashinform and RosBalt reported the same day. They said the ministry seeks to bankrupt companies of the republic's fuel and energy complex.

The controversy arose around the transfer of some equipment by Bashkir oil refineries in rent to companies registered in the Baikonur off-shore zone in 2000-01. They used tax breaks until 25 October 2001, and the Tax Ministry made no claims against them. Now, however, when the tax breaks have been annulled, the ministry seeks to shift the responsibility onto Bashkir companies, which were not subject to "Baikonur privileges," and demand that they pay an additional 10 billion rubles ($317 million) to the federal budget, the deputies said. The penalty could result in the bankruptcy of not only the fuel and energy sector but also of other branches of the republic's economy, thus violating the public's legal rights and interests, they added. The legislators believe such a position of the ministry " unfavorably influences the investment conditions in the republic and results in worsening the economic situation and reduction of living standards." Russian Tax Minister Gennadii Bukaev is a former head of the Bashkir State Tax Inspectorate.

...As Newspaper Says Sergei Pugachev Behind Tax Ministry's Efforts To Bankrupt Ufa Oil Refinery
"Tribuna" wrote on 6 March that oligarchs and some federal ministers are provoking a war to take over Bashkortostan's fuel and energy complex, Russia's last state-run oil and oil-processing giant, which includes Europe's largest oil refineries. The paper said the annulment in late 2002 of licenses on oil production of Belkamneft, the Udmurt oil company in which Bashneft possesses a 38.5 percent share, in fact targeted Bashneft on the eve of its privatization. The paper cited Troika Dialog expert Valerii Nesterov as saying legislation on use of natural resources will be reformed during the next several months, so it is strange that such drastic measures were applied to a single company.

The paper added that the next strange fact is that Russian Tax Minister Bukaev, who appealed in mid-2001 to Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin to remove tax breaks from companies registered in the Baikonur off-shore zone, then only charged Bashkir companies although other Russian companies -- including LUKoil, Sibneft, Yukos, and the Moscow Oil Refinery -- also worked on contracts with Baikonur-based companies. The Tax Ministry filed six cases against the Ufa Oil Refinery, which were all decided against the firm by the same judge, in violation of the Arbitration Procedure Code, the paper said. Under the new Arbitration Procedure Code, tax violations are to be decided by courts in the territory where they took place. Thus, the case against the Ufa Oil Refinery should have been filed either in Orenburg Oblast where Baikonur is located or in Bashkortostan, not in the Moscow Oblast Arbitration Court, which in fact ruled on it.

The paper concluded that the upcoming privatization of the Bashkir fuel and energy sector is behind all these efforts. It claimed the alleged 10 billion-ruble debt of the Ufa Oil Refinery will unavoidably drive the plant to bankruptcy, which then can be privatized for nothing. The paper cited rumors that it is Sergei Pugachev, a new oligarch who is "oriented to Orthodoxy, demonstrates his friendly relations with the Russian president, and desperately seeks to become an oil general," who encouraged Tax Minister Bukaev to target the Bashkir oil sector. The publication added that Pugachev reportedly promised that Bukaev will become the chief candidate for the Bashkir presidency if the Baikonur case is successful.

Ufa Man Who Sued Bashkir, Russian Governments Has Road Accident
Yevgenii Kareev, a 53-year-old Ufa resident who in early February sued the Bashkir and Russian governments for blocking city roads for senior officials' motorcades, was involved in a traffic accident, RosBalt reported on 27 February. Kareev told the agency the same day that he was knocked down by a car and sustained a concussion and a fractured leg on the morning of 26 February as he was running. Kareev said he takes the same route at the same time every day. He also said immediately after the accident, two Road Traffic Security Inspectorate employees and an ambulance appeared at the scene. Kareev commented that the accident could have been planned and been linked to his lawsuits against the Bashkir and Russian authorities. Kareev said he had an invitation to take part in the ORT talk show by Svetlana Sorokina, so the accident must have been scheduled to prevent him from doing so, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 5 March.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Natural Resources Ministry Demands Halt Of Gornyi Chemical Plant...
The Natural Resources Ministry on 3 March ordered the Gornyi chemical plant to stop operation because of a lack of licenses and violations of environmental legislation, RIA-Novosti reported the same day. The Gornyi plant, launched in December, is involved in destroying chemical weapons. The head of the Natural Resources Ministry's Saratov Oblast Chief Directorate, Aleksandr Malikov, told NTA Privolzhe on 5 March that the Gornyi plant has 10 days to address the shortcomings noted by the ministry during its 25-27 February inspection of the facility. The agency also cited the same day Saratov Oblast Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov as saying the plant's processing does not violate environmental legislation and there is no question of stopping it.

...As Kirienko Says Issue Bureaucratic...
Sergei Kirienko, the presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District and the head of the State Commission on Destruction of Chemical Weapons, said the issue of closing the Gornyi chemical plant is not a matter of environmental security but rather a "bureaucratic dispute" between two departments, reported on 5 March, citing GTRK Saratov. Kirienko added that no prohibition exists on the plant's operation. The commission secretary, Aleksandr Kharichev, said the Gornyi plant will not be stopped as "its activity does not present any threat for the environment." Kharichev also said all shortcomings found by the Natural Resources Ministry "are connected with drawing up documents permitting some aspects of the plant's activity."

...While Germany Allocates 6 Million Euros For Facility
Germany will allocate 6 million euros ($6.6 million) for the Gornyi plant, NTA Privolzhe reported on 4 March, citing Saratov Oblast Industry, Science, and Technology Minister Sergei Lisovskii. Lisovskii told a press conference the previous day that the money will be spent on either construction of industrial facilities or of social facilities.

U.S. Consulate In Yekaterinburg Subject To Tomato Attack...
Ural University student Anna Yeretnova, 17, threw rotten tomatoes at the building of the U.S. Consulate in Yekaterinburg on 6 March following a demonstration against a war in Iraq initiated by Communists and Communist Youth Union members, Novyi Region reported the same day. Some 15 protesters staged a theater performance during which a girl in a Russian folklore dress held a tray with rotten tomatoes and wiped her feet on a towel featuring the U.S. flag. After the picketers went out, having left the tray with tomatoes on the consulate's porch, Yeretnova came to the building and began throwing tomatoes and screaming, "Not to the war in Iraq!" Yeretnova was immediately detained by police. She said she is not a member or a follower of the Communist Party or the Communist Youth Union. One of protest organizers, Yekaterinburg Communist leader Sergei Kirin, told the agency that Yeretnova has no relations with patriotic organizations, calling her attack on the consulate "hooliganism" and Yeretnova a "provocateur."

The head of the Public Security Department of the Interior Ministry's Sverdlovsk Oblast Directorate, Sergei Mochalin, told Novyi Region that Yeretnova has been charged with violating order of participation in public event, not hooliganism.

...As Interior Official Says Consulate Security Measures To Be Boosted If Military Action Begins In Iraq
Head of the Interior Ministry's Sverdlovsk Oblast Directorate Vladimir Vorotnikov told a press conference on 6 March that if military action begins against Iraq, interior bodies will strengthen security measures at the office of the U.S. Consulate in Yekaterinburg "even before the consulate asks," Novyi Region reported the same day.

Yekaterinburg LDPR Member To Leave For Iraq
Yekaterinburg businessman Andrei Sherushinin received a passport and visa and purchased a ticket for Iraq, Novyi Region reported on 4 March. Sherushinin, who is a member of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), plans to leave Russia for Baghdad on 17 March. Sherushinin said he has spent so far 90,000 rubles($2,850) to obtain a visa and a ticket to Iraq. Previously, there were reports that the Iraqi Embassy in Moscow and LDPR were ready to cover travel expenses for volunteers to go to Iraq. The LDPR in Sverdlovsk Oblast told Novyi Region that volunteers should pay for their own trip to Iraq.

Housing, Municipal-Services Workers Go On Strike
More than 200 employees of housing and municipal-services companies in Talitsa, Sverdlovsk Oblast, went on strike on 3 March to protest unpaid wages, Novyi Region reported the same day. The strikers, who have not been paid since December, refused to remove garbage or repair municipal-services communications. The strike, involving all of Talitsa's housing and municipal-services companies, is following the law, with employees prohibited by law from striking still performing their duties. The protesters also plan to stage a demonstration on 11 March near the town hall and to block the bridge over the Pyshma River.

Sverdlovsk Oblast's Population Falls Drastically
Sverdlovsk Oblast Deputy Economy and Labor Minister Oleg Zavgorodnii told a meeting of the Ural Federal District administration on 4 March that the population of Sverdlovsk Oblast dropped by more than 230,000 people from 1990 to 2001 and will fall by another 400,000 in the next 15 years, Novyi Region reported the same day. Zavgorodnii said the death rate in the oblast is 1.7 times the birthrate. At the same time, the share of children and teenagers fell from 20.6 percent in 1990 to 14.4 percent.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova