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Tatar-Bashkir Report: June 17, 2003

17 June 2003
Gazprom Official Expresses Satisfaction With Tatarstan's Timely Payments
Aleksandr Krasnenkov, head of the Russian Gazprom monopoly's department of property management and corporate affairs, told a meeting of Gazprom shareholders in Kazan on 10 June that his company was satisfied with Tatarstan's timely payments for consumed gas and the efficient operation of the republic's Gazprom branch, Tattransgaz, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported yesterday. Through its pipelines, Tattransgaz annually transits 170 billion cubic meters of natural gas for export from Russia, while the republic itself consumes about 14 billion cubic meters per year. The majority of gas is consumed by local industries, while the republic's residents use 2.2 billion cubic meters. Krasnenkov confirmed that in 2003 Gazprom increased gas tariffs by 20 percent and a similar 20 percent price hike is expected in 2004 -- the company hopes that will finally allow for a profitable operation. Krasnenkov said that to cover its production expenses, Gazprom needs to increase the gas prices to $24-25 per 1,000 cubic meters. The price of gas in Tatarstan is $22.8 for private consumers and $27 for industrial enterprises.

Parliamentary Deputies Inspect Turkish Lyceums
Tatarstan's State Council Commission on science, education, culture, and ethnic affairs inspected two Tatar-Turkish lyceums in Kazan on 10 June, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported yesterday. The commission is monitoring the implementation of republican education regulations, in particular the teaching of the Tatar language. After the inspection the parliamentary commission chairman Razil Weliev told reporters that the schools had allotted sufficient attention to teaching English, Turkish, as well as perfecting the students' knowledge of Tatar and Russian. He emphasized that the schools had good facilities with Internet access, satellite television, and were characterized by a high level of discipline among students.

Shaimiev Against Merging Russian Territorial Entities
Speaking with Interfax on 11 June, President Mintimer Shaimiev said that the "merger of [Russia's] regions may be practiced exclusively according to the will of the population in a federation's entity...Any radical steps towards uniting [the regions] will bring the supreme separation of the government from the population and the distancing of the central government from the people, causing more opposition to emerge."

According to the Russian Constitution the merger of Russia's entities may only occur through a referendum and the borders between regions are not subject to change without the approval of all sides involved.

Shaimiev cited some "strange commentaries and statements" by "high-ranking officials, State Duma deputies, and the representatives of federal authorities," who mentioned some regional mergers that are being planned. He said such statements are caused by the coming State Duma elections, as candidates began making proposals saying "it would be much easier to rule Russia if, instead of 89 entities, there were two times less." Those who explain it like this have "no idea and no impression" of the scale of Russia's territories, he said. Even stranger, Shaimiev said, "is to hear statements saying that merging [entities] will not require changes to Russia's Constitution."

Shaimiev emphasized the current problem of rural areas, which are constantly being depopulated. In his words, comparing the current situation to the results of the 1989 census, 23 percent of all villages disappeared from Russia's map and tens of millions of hectares of arable land lost their owners by 2001, "while the countryside, not the urban areas, are the main factor in populating the country's territory."

He said that therefore the government had "to be close to the people to know the actual situation in this or that region, its problems, and the concrete measures needed" to improve things. Shaimiev also called it "remarkable" that Russian President Vladimir Putin had previously stated that during his presidency he will make "no proposals to change the Russian Constitution," which currently gives the regions an opportunity to decide on whether to merge with neighboring entities or not.

Kazan Delegation Attends Bishkek Jubilee Celebration
A Tatar delegation led by Kazan Mayor Kamil Iskhaqov took part in celebrations devoted to the 125th anniversary of Kyrgyzstan's capital Bishkek on 13 June, reported the same day. Speaking at the ceremony, Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev said cooperation in oil production is among important issues that link his republic with Tatarstan. Tatneft is developing oil deposits in Kyrgyzstan's southern raions. The Tatar delegation also aims to prolong the 1998 cooperation agreement between Kazan and Bishkek in the social, economic, cultural, trade, and education spheres and to organize industrial fairs in both republics.

Anti-Extremism Conference Held In Kazan
Representatives from the United States, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Ryazan, Stavropol, and Ulyanovsk gathered in Kazan on 13 June for a three-day international conference on preventing extremism, reported the same day. The conference was held within the framework of the Russian-American Climate of Confidence project. Issues of nationalism, extremism, and the psychological aspects of interfaith incomprehension were on the agenda. The conference discussed the possibility of developing the project in the Central Asian republics.

Federal Researchers Present Demography Report In Kazan
The Strategic Research Center of the Volga Federal District presented a report on Russia's migration flows and demographic resources on 9 June in Kazan, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. The document analyses Russia's rapidly dwindling population and sees the liberalization of migration legislation as a main solution for stabilizing the population. Zhanna Zayonchkovskaya, one of the report's authors, said during the presentation that by 2016 Russia's population is expected to fall by 20 million people and -- if the trend is not halted -- the country's population will constitute some 70 million people in 2050. Today, the country's population stands at around 145 million people. Zayonchkovskaya emphasized that Russian society has to be more welcoming to migrants from CIS countries as they will "make up the bulk of the country's industrial labor force." Sergei Gradirovskii, the chief adviser to the Russian presidential envoy in the Volga Federal District, also suggested respecting the culture and traditions of the 5.5 million migrants who have come to live in Russia during the last decade. Zayonchkovskaya said that migration levels are falling because of strict migrant legislation and the unfriendly attitude of native residents to the newcomers.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Gazprom Denies Any Possible Involvement In Bashkir Presidential Elections...
Aleksandr Krasnenkov, head of the Gazprom monopoly's department of property management and corporate affairs, told a press conference in Ufa on 9 June that Gazprom does not intend to interfere in Bashkortostan's upcoming presidential elections, Rosbalt reported the same day. He emphasized that the company will not support any of the potential candidates, "preferring to stay outside politics." According to previous reports Sergei Veremeenko, manager of Russia's International Industrial Bank (MezhPromBank), whose elder brother Aleksandr Veremeenko heads Gazprom's branch in Bashkortostan, Bashtransgaz, is likely to join the race for the republic's presidency (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 26 May, 2 June 2003).

...Wants To Take Over A Number Of Bashkir Petrochemical Industries
Krasnenkov told the same press conference that Gazprom intends to take over the controlling shares of Salavatorgsintez, Kaustik, Kauchuk, and the Gaz-servis companies, all Bashkir petrochemical industries dealing with the management of gas supplies, Rosbalt reported. The Bashkir government reportedly agreed to seal the deal during the next meeting between President Murtaza Rakhimov and Gazprom head Aleksei Miller in Moscow.

Rakhimov Considers Moving Presidential Election To March
President Murtaza Rakhimov's administration is considering the possibility of moving the presidential elections from December to March 2004, the same day as elections for Russian president, Rosbalt reported on 10 June. An unnamed administration official told the agency that this decision is inspired "by the desire to save money and avoid election fatigue." The possible move of the election day would reportedly comply with federal election regulations and will be considered by the republic's State Assembly at its next session. On 6 March, the Bashkir parliament voted to expand Rakhimov's term in office by six months and moved presidential elections from June to December, when elections for the Russian State Duma will be held.

Rakhimov, 69, was elected to his post for the first time on 12 December 1993 and won his second term in June 1998.

Bashkir Government Takes Over Preparations For Tatar Congress
The organizational committee of the second Congress of Bashkortostan's Tatars, headed by Bashkir Prime Minister Rafael Baydavletov, convened on 9 June to discuss preparations for the 5 July congress, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported yesterday. The congress was initially scheduled for summer 2002, but the republican government cancelled preparations in the wake of the 1 July 2002 crash of a Bashkir Airlines plane with a cargo jet over Germany, which took the lives of 60 citizens of Bashkortostan, 44 of them children. Nevertheless Tatar organizations, which initiated the congress as a way of organizing the republic's Tatar community for the October 2002 national census, managed to convene briefly on 3 August 2002 and agreed to hold the second stage of the congress this year. The organization committee appointed Bashkir Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Culture and Ethnic Policies Khalyaf Ishmoratov to head the group that will administer the final session of the Congress and prepare draft documents to be adopted there.

Supreme Court Says Dismissal Of Bashkir Tax Minister Was Legal
The Bashkir Supreme Court on 10 June overruled the recent resolution of the Ufa Lenin Raion Court, which had reinstated Reshit Sattarov, the dismissed head of the Bashkir branch of the Russian Tax Ministry, Rosbalt reported yesterday. The Supreme Court ruled that the March 2003 decree of Russian Tax Minister Gennadii Bukaev suspending Sattarov from service on 12 March and dismissing him on 25 March for failing to carry out his official duties and violating the federal law on state service was legal (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 27 March, 2, 5, and 12 May 2003). Sattarov opposed the federal ministry's stance on demanding the payment of 10 billion rubles ($325.7 million)in taxes from Bashkir oil-processing industries, which had allegedly attempted to evade taxes by registering in the Baikonur off-shore zone in Kazakhstan.

Interior Ministry Raid Mezhprombank Office In Ufa
More than 20 camouflaged Bashkir Interior Ministry officers seized the Ufa office of the International Industrial Bank (Mezhprombank) on 11 June, Rosbalt reported the same day. The bank's employees were reportedly prevented from leaving, while officers confiscated computers, safes, and documents. Yevgenii Vanok, director of the Ufa branch, told Rosbalt the same day that the raid "was authorized by the republican government and was politically motivated." He added that the pressure is "directly linked to reports saying that former head of Mezhprombank's central office Sergei Veremeenko intends to run for the Bashkir presidency." Vanok said that the raid followed the 16 May inspection of the republic's National Bank "which failed to find any violations." Police said afterwards that the search was connected to an investigation of a criminal case involving Mezhprombank's promissory notes.

Tatar National Cultural Autonomy Leader Dismissed
Bashkortostan's Tatar National Cultural Autonomy council expelled Mejit Khujin, the Ufa branch's vice president, from the organization at a 10 June meeting, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 15 June. The council members said that Khujin had misrepresented the activities of the Tatar organization in the media and had violated its rules. The move came after an interview with Khujin appeared in the republic's state newspapers in which he condemned the Tatar National Front (TMF) in Bashkortostan and said that TMF head Zahir Khekimov used the Tatar issue to pursue his own private interests (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 4 and 9 June 2003).

Bashkir, Tatar Youth Leaders Criticize Rakhimov...
Speaking on the federal TVS television channel's "New Century" program on 11 June, Bashkir Youth Union leader Airat Dilmokhemmetov sharply criticized the national, cultural, public, and social policy of the Bashkir leadership. Dilmokhemmetov accused Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov of being a dictator, establishing an authoritarian regime, and pushing the republic into poverty. Zahir Khekimov, the leader of the TMF and Bashkortostan's Azatlyq Tatar Youth Union, who also took part in the program, backed Dilmokhemmetov's accusations.

...Attract Attention From Police
Dilmokhemmetov told an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent on 15 June that police officers arrested him on 12 June in front of the Sport's Palace in Ufa where he was attending a holiday concert devoted to Russian Independence Day. Dilmokhemmetov was released later that day. Meanwhile, Khekimov told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 15 June that six people, one of whom was in a police uniform, searched the Azatlyq office. The men didn't present a search warrant and when Emil Biktimerov, the union member on duty asked them to leave, they reportedly forced him to leave the office. Azatlyq members have since been shut out of the office.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Communists Picket Television Company In Kirov
Some 70 followers of the Communist Party picketed on 10 June the building of the State Television and Radio Company Vyatka (GTRK) in Kirov, reported the next day. The picketers claimed that the company allocates insufficient time for Communist representatives in its broadcasts. Recently, the leadership of GTRK refused to allow broadcast time for Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov and Vladimir Kasakovtsev, the Communist Party's Kirov Oblast Committee head, the report said.

Heads Of Perm Oblast, Komi-Permyak Okrug Send Letter To Putin
Perm Oblast Governor Yurii Trutnev and Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug head Gennadii Savelyev appealed on 11 June to Russian President Vladimir Putin to establish Perm Krai, in which the oblast and the okrug will be merged, Novyi region (Perm) reported the same day. The speaker of the Perm Oblast parliament Nikolai Devyatkin and his counterpart in the Komi-Permyak Okrug, Valerii Vankov, also signed the letter. The leaders suggested that referendums on the issue be held in the oblast and the okrug in December. The merger aims to improve the quality of life in the oblast and the okrug, he added. Vankov said the majority of the okrug population backs the merger. He also said that the Komi-Permyak Okrug will retain a special national status in Perm Krai.

Saratov Court Says Bill Clinton Can Be Sued In Russia
A Saratov Oblast court has satisfied an appeal by five Saratov residents contesting a verdict by the Saratov Volga Raion court, which rejected a lawsuit against former U.S. President Bill Clinton for his role in the NATO bombardment of Yugoslavia in 1999, Saratovbizneskonsalting reported on 11 June. In March, the residents appealed to the oblast prosecutors' office to sue Clinton, who they said violated five articles of the Russian Criminal Code. After the Volga Raion court rejected their suit they appealed to a higher court, referring to Article 12 of the Criminal Code, according to which a foreign citizen can be sued if he causes harm to Russian interests. The applicants said that the bombing harmed Russia because it destroyed Russian pipelines.

National Bolsheviks Burn U.S. Flag On Russian Independence Day
Some 15 followers of the National Bolshevik Party (NBP) staged a meeting in Saratov on 12 June, Saratovbizneskonsalting reported on 16 June. The National Bolsheviks, who officially devoted their meeting to Russian Independence Day, declared that this holiday is "our disgrace" and "we will change our country for the sake of people." The demonstrators made anti-American statements and burned the U.S. flag. Participants also called for the release from custody of NBP leader Eduard Limonov.

French Company Pays Compensation To Yekaterinburg Perfume Concern
The French Saint-Gobain company will pay the Yekaterinburg-based perfume and cosmetics concern Kalina 120,000 euros ($141,725) for careless implementation of a contract, "Kommersant" reported on 16 June. Saint-Gobain was contracted to deliver 56,000 euros worth of perfume bottles to Kalina but didn't complete the order on time. Kalina was also not satisfied with the quality of the bottles. Experts estimated Kalina's losses amounted to 440,000 euros. Kalina appealed to the International Commercial Arbitration Court through the Russian Trade and Industry Chamber. The sides then came to a peaceful agreement. The head of Kalina's judicial department, Valentin Andreanov, said that the compensation payment shows that Western companies are not using double-standards with Russian manufacturers.

Tyumen Oblast Parliament Press Service Head Attacked
The head of the Tyumen Oblast Duma's press service, whose name was not reported, was assaulted in her apartment on 13 June, reported on 16 June, citing Two young men, who allegedly presented police identification, attacked the woman when she opened her apartment door. The woman was hospitalized and nothing was stolen from the apartment. Sergei Nikolaev, an official from the Tyumen Oblast Interior Directorate, said the woman's condition is stable.

Defense Ministry Cuts Financing Of Shchuchye Plant Construction
The Russian State Commission on the Destruction of Chemical Weapons has reduced money allocated for the construction of a chemical facility in the Shchuchye village of Kurgan Oblast in the Defense Ministry's 2003 budget from 1.3 billion rubles ($42.6 million) to 997 million rubles, the Agency of Electronic News reported on 16 June. The measure came in response to violations revealed during an inspection of the Shchuchye plant by Russian Ammunition Agency Director-General Colonel Viktor Kholstov.

Meanwhile, speaking at a meeting of the commission on 9 June in Moscow, the commission's head Sergei Kirienko said funds allocated for anti-terrorist campaigns and programs for securing the safe keeping of poisonous substances were tripled this current year, reported on 10 June. The United States will allocate $168 million and Germany 24 million euros ($28.3 million) under the Global Partnership program of international aid to Russia for the destruction of chemical weapons. In 2003, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Italy will allocate $10 million each for the construction of the Shchuchye plant, reported on 11 June. Ammunition depots in Shchuchye contain shells filled with poisonous gases. The plant is intended to annihilate 2 million shells and chemical rocket warheads.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova