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Tatar-Bashkir Report: March 21, 2003

21 March 2003
Minister Says War In Iraq To Affect Tatarstan's Foreign Trade
Speaking on Efir TV on 19 March, Tatar Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation Minister Khafiz Salikhov expressed regret at the upcoming developments in Iraq "because it has been our important foreign trade partner, with the annual turnover reaching $100 million in 2002." Within the framework of UN sanctions on Baghdad, Tatarstan had supplied its KamAZ trucks and tires to Iraq.

Parliament Speaker Attends European Governments Congress
Tatarstan's State Council speaker Farid Mukhametshin attended a meeting of Europe's Local and Regional Governments Congress in Strasbourg on 19 and 20 March, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 21 March. In his report on cultural policies of Russia's regions, Mukhametshin spoke of the growing responsibilities of the federation's entities for preserving and developing the ethnic cultures. He also presented a report on Kazan and Tatarstan as a historical city and the region and their preparations for the Kazan millennium anniversary celebrations to be held in 2005. Mukhametshin also agreed with congress leadership on holding an international conference on the constitutional status of regions in Russia and other European countries in Kazan in July.

Daily Says Kazan Subway Construction Stalled By Underfinancing
According to the "Vechernyaya Kazan" daily on 19 March, the construction of the Kazan subway, which is to be finished by 2005, is currently stalled at the beginning stages because the republican budget has transferred no money in construction funds for the last three years. Meanwhile the federal center, which is responsible for only 20 percent of the subway's cost, has been maintaining timely payments.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Bashkir Veterans Condemn War In Iraq
The chairman of the Bashkir Council of Veterans of War, Labor, Armed Forces, and Law Enforcement Bodies, Marat Mullagelemov, told Bashinform on 20 March that council members are deeply concerned about the war in Iraq. Mullagelemov said U.S. President George W. Bush unleashed the war in order to rehabilitate himself before the American people for the victims of the 11 September 2001 terrorist acts. However, the war in Iraq is similar terrorism, he said. "We regret such a mighty power as the Soviet Union, which deterred martial 'hawks,' does not exist anymore," Mullagelemov said.

British Bank Gives Bashkortostan $15 Million In Credit...
The Bashkir government on 14 March signed a $15 million one-year credit agreement with the British HSBC Bank, RosBalt reported on 15 March. HSBC Bank Chairman Richard Tikner said during the signing ceremony that the British side considers the event to be a continuation of cooperation with Bashkortostan that began in 1997 when the bank granted Bashkreditbank a $25 million credit. In 1998, the bank allocated another $45 million in credit to the Bashkir government. Bashkortostan is the only entity of Russia that cooperates with the HSBC Bank.

...As Austrian Bank Provides Credits For UralSib
The UralSib bank and Austria's Raiffeisen Zentralbank signed an unlimited basic agreement to finance deliveries of equipment from Austria to Russia, Finmarket reported on 20 March. Under the document, separate credits can be allocated for up to five years under the guarantee by the Austrian Control Bank.

Gazprom Restores Control Over Salavatnefteorgsintez
Bashkir government information department head Marat Yamalov told "Vedomosti" on 21 March that Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov and Gazprom Deputy Chairman Aleksandr Ryazanov on 20 March signed an agreement on transferring the state's controlling interest in the Salavatnefteorgsintez petrochemical giant in management by warrant to Gazprom. The document was signed two months after the Bashkir government annulled a previous similar agreement with the gas monopoly through in court. Under that agreement, 54 percent of Salavatnefteorgsintez was transferred to Gazprom's management in 1998 in compensation for the Bashkir company's 50.3 million-ruble debt. In an appeal to a court last fall to annul the agreement, the government accused Gazprom of failing to implement its terms. The daily cited an unnamed official in the Bashkir Property Ministry as saying that the U-turn in relations with Gazprom is connected to upcoming federal parliamentary and Bashkir presidential elections and privatization of the Bashkir petrochemical complex. "The company that manages Salavatnefteorgsintez will have advantages during privatization," the source said.

State-Controlled Press Gets Pre-Election Instructions
The Bashkir Media Ministry held a meeting of editors in chief of the republics' official media to instruct them on the eve of the beginning of the Bashkir presidential race, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 14 March. Editors were recommended to pay more attention to successes of socioeconomic and cultural policies in the republic. It was claimed at the meeting that federal media began a large-scale attack against the Bashkir leadership and President Rakhimov, in particular, and the Bashkir press was charged with repulsing those efforts.

After the meeting, "Qyzyl tang" on 14 March published an article titled "Do We Need A New President?" The article's author answers the question, "No, we do not need another president, let Murtaza Rakhimov remain our president," since "we answered this question in 1998, when we said we would like Rakhimov to be the republic's leader. This time, we will say the same," the author wrote.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Environmentalists Protest Imports Of Spent Nuclear Fuel To Mayak
Environmental activists from seven Russian cities on 13 March held an unsanctioned demonstration in front of the Hungarian Embassy in Moscow to protest imports of spent nuclear fuel from Hungary to Russia, reported on 14 March. Protesters opposed the burial of any foreign nuclear wastes on the territory of Russia, which, they believe, could result in radioactive pollution and an increased risk of thefts or terrorist attacks involving nuclear substances. Police detained 15 activists who were held for three hours. The protest initiated by the Environmental Defense international environmental group came in reaction to plans by the Russian Atomic Energy Ministry to negotiate this month with officials from the Hungarian Paksh nuclear-power station on the import to Chelyabinsk Oblast's Mayak company of 12,000 units containing spent nuclear fuel. The 1997 contract on the import of 3,500 nuclear-fuel-containing units from Hungary was then announced illegal by the Russian Supreme Court, while the units are still stored at Mayak. Environmental Defense claimed that the Atomic Energy Ministry was paid $400, or 35-50 percent of the international market price, for processing 1 kilogram of waste.

Government Ready To Sell Its Stake In MMK For $175 Million
The Russian government determined the initial price of the state-owned stake in the Magnitogorsk Metallurgy Group of Enterprises (MMK), UralBusinessConsulting reported on 18 March. The government plans to receive for 18 percent of MMK at least $175 million in an auction due to be held this year. Aton company analyst Boris Chipman told "Profil" that the announced price is adequate. The agency said the main customers for the shares include companies controlled by MMK General Director Viktor Rashnikov, Ural Mining and Smelting Company Iskandar Makhmudov, and the Yuzhnyi Kuzbass company.

Kirov Oblast Officers Protest Against Threat Of War...
Some 200 members of the Russian Officers Union in Kirov Oblast on 17 March in Kirov demonstrated against U.S. aggression against Iraq, NTA Privolzhe reported the same day. The protesters gathered on the Theater Square, but city authorities forbade the action there and proposed to hold it near the Stepan Khalturin monument. Protest leaders refused the proposal, arguing that Soviet revolutionary Khalturin was a supporter of terrorist actions.

...As Labor Kirov Group Against Municipal-Services Reform
Some 200 representatives of the Labor Kirov organization on 13 March picketed the government building in Kirov to protest housing and municipal-services reform, NTA Privolzhe reported on 15 May. The picketers held placards calling for the reform to be stopped, the law on veterans not to be violated, pensions raised, and Unified Energy Systems head Anatolii Chubais dismissed. Chief federal inspector in Kirov Oblast Valentin Pugach met with delegates of the protesters.

Journalist Attacked In Saratov...
Journalist Aleksandr Krutov of the Saratov-based newspaper "Bogatei" was attacked in front of his home and severely injured on 13 March, reported on 14 March. After unknown persons attacked Krutov as he was returning home, he managed to get to his apartment and call police and an ambulance. Krutov, known for his revealing articles, was attacked in 1998 but a criminal investigation was never launched in that case

...And Deputy In Yekaterinburg
Sverdlovsk Oblast Duma Deputy and co-Chairman of the Party of Pensioners Gennadii Tveritinov was attacked on 19 March in Yekaterinburg by an unknown individual as he was leaving his home, Novyi region reported the same day. Tveritinov was attacked by an assailant with brass knuckles and received a concussion. Party of Pensioners Chairman Sergei Atroshenko announced he will pay $10,000 for information about the person responsible for the attack.

LDPR In Yekaterinburg Pickets U.S. Consulate To Protest War In Iraq
Some 60 people demonstrated in front of the U.S. Consulate-General in Yekaterinburg on 20 March to protest the war in Iraq, Uralinformbureau reported the same day. The action was initiated by the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR). Local LDPR head Andrei Sherushinin said he plans to appeal to the Iraqi Embassy to obtain Iraqi citizenship in order to get to Iraq, Novyi Region reported the same day.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova