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Tatar-Bashkir Report: July 15, 2003

15 July 2003
Shaimiev Promotes Shared-Sovereignty Principle For Russian Federation
Speaking at a conference titled "Constitutional Status of the Region in the Russian Federation and Other European Countries -- the Role of the Regional Legislative Bodies in Strengthening 'Unity in Diversity'" organized by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities in Europe on 11 July in Kazan, Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev said, "Given that historically Russia was built either by means of gradual conquests or voluntary entry of different states, ethnic and confessional factors of federal relations will always remain important [here]." He promoted the role of federalism, "which is not only a political system, but an acknowledgement of peoples' rights to defend their interests," simultaneously with the process of regional integration.

Commenting on the current situation of federalist development in Russia, Shaimiev noted that "there are still voices calling for the re-establishment of a unitary state in Russia." As an example, he noted that in 2002 Moscow passed amendments to the law on the languages of the peoples of the Russian Federation that effectively halted Tatar script reform, promoted by the World Tatar Congress and Tatar State Council (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 and 27 November, 3 December 2002). Shaimiev said that the amendment represented an interference into the exclusive right of his republic to decide on its state language, stipulated by Article 68 of the Russian Constitution.

Shaimiev said that Tatarstan will resume promoting the principle of shared sovereignty for building a true federation in Russia, where regions voluntarily hand over some of their powers to the federal government. He said the republic is an example of stability acquired by maintaining the balance between interests of different ethnic and confessional groups.

Shaimiev, Zorin Say State National Policy Concept To Be Amended
Implementation of the state national policy and resolutions of the Third World Tatar Congress were on the agenda of a meeting between Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev and Vladimir Zorin, the Russian minister without portfolio for national policy, on 4 July in Kazan, Tatar-inform and reported the same day. The two agreed that the concept of state national policy needs further development and improvement. Specifically, they emphasized the need to develop corresponding legislation, to take additional measures to promote rights on national language, information, and culture, and to create mechanisms of cooperation between public national organizations and executive and legislative authority bodies. Zorin said that according to the preliminary results of the October census, no one nation or ethnic group had been lost despite the turmoil of the transition period. Their number might even increase, he added. Shaimiev and Zorin also discussed preparations for the celebration of Kazan's millennium in 2005.

Research Center Names Unified Russia Most Influential Party In Tatarstan
Professor Dmitrii Olshanskii, head of the Center for Strategic Analysis and Prognosis, told a press conference in Kazan on 7 July that a poll carried out by the center had found that the Unified Russia party was the most influential in the republic, Intertat reported the same day. The party was followed by the Communist Party, the right-wing Yabloko and Union of Rightist Forces, and the People's Party led by Gennadii Raikov. Vladimir Zhirinovskii's Liberal Democratic Party, the Pensioners' Party, Russia's United Industrial Party, and the Agrarian Party were all on the fringes. Olshanskii emphasized that despite the wide range of parties, opposition forces are weak in Tatarstan, which, in his opinion, does not help the consolidation of democracy. He also warned that the upcoming December elections for the Russian State Duma may face an unprecedented, low turnout, as some surveys have suggested only 25 percent of potential voters will take part.

Tatneft To Meet Demands Of NYSE
In conformity with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act passed by the U.S. Congress in 2002, Tatneft's board of directors will establish an audit committee involving independent directors for maintaining internal audits, holding auctions, and controlling financial flows, AK&M reported on 9 July. This requirement is reportedly promoted by the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), where Tatarstan's major oil producer has been listed since March 1998. The new law stipulates a two-year term for complying with its provisions. The first Russian energy firm to be listed on the NYSE, Tatneft is also listed on the London, Munich, Frankfurt, Dusseldorf, Berlin, and Stuttgart stock exchanges.

Tatar Delegation Seeks U.S. Investments, Technological Cooperation
Meeting with officials from the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce on 8 July, the Tatar governmental delegation headed by Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov talked about U.S. investments into Tatarstan, diversifying the production of the republic's oil- and gas-processing industries, as well as the creation of a joint innovation and production center to be based at the Kazan State Technological University, Tatar-inform reported yesterday. Later on 8 July, Colorado state Secretary of Technology Mark Holtzman told Minnikhanov that his republic possesses "all the necessary means for a breakthrough in the sphere of innovations." In January, Holtzman visited Tatarstan with the delegation of Colorado Governor Bill Owens.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Justice Ministry Warns Opposition Tatar Organization
The Chief Directorate of the Russian Justice Ministry in Bashkortostan sent materials about the activities of the Tatar Public Center (TIU) to the republic's prosecutor's office, RosBalt reported on 4 July. The head of the directorate's department on registration of public organizations, Aliye Kheibullina, told the news agency that the appeal calls on Bashkir prosecutor Florid Baikov to react to the second warning issued by the directorate against TIU. The warning came in response to TIU's initiative to hold an alternative census in Bashkortostan which allegedly violates the federal law on population censuses. Kheibullina said the warning is the second one issued against TIU this current year. The first one claimed that the organization violated the law on extremist activity by its statement about the "pro-Bashkir nature of the national policy in Bashkortostan" and the demand to introduce ethnic quotas in state bodies (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 1 July 2003). Repeated warnings as regards TIU may result in the abolishment of the organization through a court verdict, Kheibullina said.

Independent Tatar Organizations Question Outcome Of Tatar Congress In Bashkortostan
The Kazan ethnological monitoring center led by Damir Iskhakov, along with leaders of Tatar rights movement in Bashkortostan, held a briefing to sum up the results of Bashkortostan's second Tatar Congress, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 8 July (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 7 July 2003). Ayrat Giniyatullin, chairman of the Tatar Public Center (TIU) in Bashkortostan, said that despite declarations of the government's support for the Tatar population in the republic, state-owned republican media concentrated on anti-Tatar propaganda, saying that there are no Tatars in Bashkortostan and there are only misrepresented Bashkirs. Zahir Khekimov, leader of the National Cultural Autonomy of Tatars in Bashkortostan and former head of the Tatar People's Front, added that "we have no freedom of speech, we can't publish our newspaper in Bashkortostan, and there is no opportunity to make a statement on the TV or radio." Both Giniyatullin and Khekimov were prevented from participating in the congress by Bashkir authorities.

During the same press conference Rimzil Weliev, chairman of the Federal National Cultural Autonomy of Tatars in Russia and deputy chairman of the World Tatar Congress Executive Committee, questioned the lawfulness of the government-run congress, which despite its charter involved numerous Bashkir government officials of non-Tatar nationality as delegates.

Tatar Congress Said Not To Meet Government's Expectations
Despite its loyalty to the Bashkir authorities, Bashkortostan's second Tatar Congress did not adopt the resolutions that the government expected, reported on 8 July (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 7, 8 July 2003). The news agency reported that republican officials had suggested that congress delegates should pass a resolution supporting Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov in December elections, but this matter did not even appear on the congress agenda. Rakhimov will seek his third presidential term.

Mezhprombank To Seek Compensation For Illegal Search Of Its Office
Aleksandr Panishev, the head of the legal department in Mezhprombank's Ufa office, told Rosbalt on 8 July that his bank estimates the damage caused by a recent Bashkir Interior Ministry search of its offices to be 13 million rubles ($420,000) and said the bank will demand reimbursement in court (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report" 4 July 2003). Panishev said Mezhprombank will initiate the legal procedures after Bashkortostan's Supreme Court considers the ministry's appeal against the verdict by Ufa's Lenin District Court, which ruled that the search was illegal (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report" 9 July 2003).

New Magazine To Publish Official Elections Forecasts
Bashkortostan's Central Election Committee has launched its own quarterly magazine, "Vestnik Tsentralnoi Izbiratelnoi Komissii Respubliki Bashkortostan," to publish official forecasts for upcoming elections for the Russian State Duma and the presidency of Bashkortostan, Bashinform reported on 9 July. The new magazine will reportedly focus on denouncing the illegal campaigning techniques known as "black PR" and analyze their effects on the electorate.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Official Says Bulgarian Spent Nuclear Fuel Won't Be Buried At Mayak
Nikolai Shinkarev, head of the press department of the Russian Atomic Energy Ministry, denied Russian media reports that the ministry plans to bury Bulgarian spent nuclear fuel at the Mayak plant in Chelyabinsk Oblast, Inform-Ekologiya reported on 11 July. Shinkarev said the fuel from the Bulgarian Kozloduy nuclear power station will be processed at Mayak and then delivered back to Bulgaria. Mayak spokesman Yevgenii Ryzhkov said on 7 July that a barge loaded with the spent nuclear fuel from the Kozloduy nuclear facility is on its way to Mayak and is expected to come in late July, a month later than was planned, because of special navigation rules for dangerous cargo.

Nizhnii Novgorod Plants Poorly Protected From Terrorists
Anatolii Kozeradskii, the chief federal inspector in Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast, said that 97 percent of the oblast's companies are not ready to counter terrorist acts, RosBalt reported on 10 July. Kozeradskii said that after checking the oblast's most important companies it was clear that there were many violations of safety procedure and added that this was due to a lack of financing. According to Kozeradskii, there are 878 such companies in the oblast.

National Bolshevik Party Activist Convicted Of Displaying Nazi Symbols
A Nizhnii Novgorod court fined on 9 July Dmitrii Yelkin, the leader of the regional branch of the National Bolshevik Party for displaying Nazi-like symbols at a 26 June meeting near a building of the Volga Federal District administration, NTA Privolzhe reported on 10 July. Yelkin is to pay a fine of 2,250 rubles ($74).

Mayakovskii Monument Vandalized In Samara
The Vladimir Mayakovskii monument in Samara was vandalized on 8 July, "Samara segodnya" reported the same day. Vandals sawed the statue of the famous Soviet poet into three parts.

State Duma Deputy Calls For Investigation Of 'Ural Link' In Yukos Case
State Duma Deputy Nikolai Daikhes (Communist) appealed on 14 July to the prosecutor's office to investigate "an Ural link" in the Yukos affair, Novyi Region reported the same day. The oil giant is currently under investigation by the authorities. Daikhes said that the Federal Tax Police's Ural District Chief Directorate has illegally closed a criminal case on tax violations by several companies linked with Yukos. The companies, which were registered in the closed administrative-territorial entity of Lesnoi in the Sverdlovsk Oblast, were allegedly given 10 billion rubles ($329 million) worth of illegal tax breaks, according to the deputy.

Public Body To Look Into Influence Of Media On Children's Health
The Chamber of Representatives of the Sverdlovsk Oblast Legislative Assembly passed on 10 July a resolution to establish a council under the chamber, which will react to appeals by residents about the negative influence of mass media on the physical health of children and teenagers, Uralinformbyuro reported the same day. The council, headed by chamber deputy Anatolii Marchevskii, comprises 18 members, including the head of the Sverdlovsk Oblast children's clinic Sergei Boyarskii, Yekaterinburg Theater Institute rector Vladimir Babenko, and Ural Mining Geological Academy rector Nikolai Kosarev.

Orthodox Radio Station Established In Yekaterinburg
Resurrection, a 24 hour, Orthodox radio station, began broadcasting on FM in Yekaterinburg on 7 July, reported the same day. Head of the Yekaterinburg eparchy's information and publishing department, Dimitrii Baibakov, said the station will not just broadcast religious programs but also music and news. Baibakov said the potential audience of the radio was around 3.5 million listeners.

Interior Group Set Up To Investigate Corruption Cases
Head of the Russian Interior Ministry's Sverdlovsk Oblast Directorate, General Vladimir Vorotnikov, said an operational group has been set up after a recent public meeting in Yekaterinburg devoted to fighting organized crime, UralBiznesKonsalting reported on 8 July. Vladimir Filippov, the first deputy head of the directorate, is heading the group.

FSB Seeks Increased Role In Privatization
Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Nikolai Patrushev said the organization is to supervise issues connected to the privatization of industrial companies, specifically those in the defense sector, Interfax reported on 7 July. Speaking in Ulyanovsk following a meeting of the FSB Volga Federal District directorates on 4 July, Patrushev said the FSB is concerned about several deals in the region. "In case our position is ignored, we will inform the [Russian] president about our point of view and insist it is taken into account," he said. Sergei Kirienko, a presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District, said that the FSB had recently prevented the theft of a state-run stake in a defense industry enterprise in the Kirov Oblast. On 7 July, Audit Chamber Chairman Sergei Stepashin commented on Patrushev's statement, saying that he is in favor of FSB participation in the privatization of defense companies, but only within the framework of existing legislation.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova