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Tatar-Bashkir Report: July 29, 2003

29 July 2003
Shaimiev Meets With Kuchma
Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev met on 21 July in the Crimea with his Ukrainian counterpart, Leonid Kuchma, reported the same day, citing the presidential press service. Among other things, the presidents discussed the privatization of the Kremenchug oil refinery. The two noted that since the previous meeting between them one year ago that was devoted to improving the efficiency of Ukrtatnafta, personnel changes have been made in the leadership of that joint Ukrainian-Tatar venture and at the Kremenchug plant, which have positively influenced the company's results in 2002 and in the first six months of the current year. Shaimiev said that "mutual understanding exists between the republics, and it is necessary to implement joint plans and resolve existing problems on these grounds." The presidents also considered bilateral cooperation in the assembly of KamAZ vehicles in Ukraine and the maintenance of the Black Sea Fleet.

Tatar Delegation Visits South Korea
A delegation headed by Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov left on 22 July for a four-day visit to South Korea, Tatar-inform and reported the same day, citing the press service of the Tatar Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation Ministry. The aim of the visit is to develop links between Tatar companies and LG International Corp., a South Korean-based trading and investment company. The delegation, including the Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation Minister Khafiz Salikhov, Tuben Kama Mayor Ilsur Metshin, Nizhnekamskneftekhim General Director Vladimir Busygin, Tatneft General Director Shefeget Takhawetdinov, and others, is scheduled to meet with the senior management of LG International to further cooperation in the petrochemical sector, to develop small businesses, and to attract investments in the republic's economy.

Tatar, South Korean Company Discuss Cooperation
A Tatar delegation visiting South Korea met on 23 July with LG International Corp. President Su Kho Li and the heads of LG Engineering & Construction Co, reported the same day, citing the press service of the Tatar Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation Ministry. Tatar Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov signed a memorandum with LG International Corp. and LG Engineering & Construction Co. officials on mutual understanding between the Tatar government and the LG corporation. Under the agreement, the sides will study opportunities for cooperation in the oil and petrochemical sectors and for the development of small businesses in Tatarstan. The two sides will study the need Tatar companies may have for high-tech from the Korean companies and will look at establishing joint ventures in the petrochemical, energy, construction, environmental, agricultural, and food-processing sectors. Trade turnover between Tatarstan and South Korea totaled $17 million in 2002.

Duma Official Concerned About Privatization Of Tatarstan's State-Run Companies
In an interview with Ekho Moskvy on 23 July, Deputy State Duma Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ilyukhin (Communist Party) said there is "a lot of doubt" about the privatization of Tatneft and other Tatar state-run companies and their merger into one holding. Ilyukhin was commenting on an appeal he sent to the Prosecutor-General's Office, the Federal Security Service, and Audit Chamber Chairman Sergei Stepashin against plans by the Tatar government to privatize republican companies, including Tatneft, Nizhnekamskneftekhim, and Tatenergo, by passing their controlling interests to the Svyazinvestneftekhim holding (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 21 May 2003). Ilyukhin said the fact that these leading Tatar companies -- which are involved in very different activities -- are planning to unite "under one roof" arouses anxiety. Ilyukhin claimed that the project is an attempt to repeat the privatization process of early 1990s which, he said, was "illegal and inefficient" and will not result in the economic development of Tatarstan and Russia. He also said the merger moves the companies from the supervision of federal bodies and subordinates them fully to Tatarstan.

TYG Chooses Unified Russia As Ally In Duma Elections
The Tatarstan-New Century (TYG) political council presidium announced on 24 July that it will support Unified Russia in the December State Duma elections, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. The political council passed an appeal to participants of a congress of the republic's political movement scheduled for September, in which it expressed solidarity with the Tatar leadership's policy of promoting principles of raising self-dependence of Russian regions. It also praised Tatar authorities for the policy of harmonization of the interests of Moscow and federation subjects fixed in the Tatar Constitution and the power-sharing treaty between Russia and Tatarstan. The appeal also backed the political position of Unified Russia Supreme Council, co-Chairman and Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev and said the movement will participate in the Duma elections as Unified Russia's ally. TYG leader Farid Mukhametshin said he considers Unified Russia a party that will use the regions as its basis, and the movement cannot divide itself among any other parties. Mukhametshin said, however, that he backs the position by Union of Rightist Forces on budget federalism, which is critical of budget relations between Moscow and regions. Mukhametshin said budget federalism does not exist in Russia as regions are currently not interested in collecting more taxes. Mukhametshin said TYG can hold negotiations and form a bloc with any party as regards the adoption of a budget code.

Russian Party Of Life Reports About Discrimination In Tatarstan
A commission of the Russian Party of Life headed by the party's Nationwide Council Executive Committee secretary, General Vladimir Shuralev, visited Tatarstan to check reports about violations of the law on political parties and discrimination against party members and supporters in Tatarstan, RosBalt reported on 24 July. The commission was established after the party's leadership received numerous complaints from republic residents. Specifically, members of the party's local branches in Kazan and Chally told the visitors that they have been ordered to leave the party and to join other parties, are illegally fired and threatened with physical reprisal, and face interference in their businesses, according to the report. An unnamed commission member told the news agency that "the basis of democracy and civil society, the rule of law, is being undermined in Tatarstan." The commission collected materials for an appeal to prosecutors and the courts. On 24 July Shuralev informed party Chairman Sergei Mironov about the results of the visit. Party of Life Deputy Chairman Refqet Altynbaev, formerly the Tatar president's representative on the Federation Council, was recalled for promoting the Party of Life in the republic to spite President Mintimer Shaimiev, who is a co-chairman of Unified Russia (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 14 and 24 April 2003).

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Criminal Case Against Mezhprombank Halted
The Bashkir Interior Ministry's Chief Investigation Directorate has halted a criminal fraud case involving promissory notes from Mezhprombank's Ufa branch (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 12, 17, 18, and 19 June 2003), RosBalt reported on 21 July, citing the branch's legal department head, Aleksandr Panishev. Representatives of the ministry reported the end of the investigation at an Ufa court hearing on Mezhprombank's appeal against the ministry. Investigators said the decision was made by the Russian Interior Ministry's Investigation Committee, which twice requested materials for the lawsuit from the republican ministry and finally issued a resolution that there is no corpus delicti in the case. The head of the Bashkir Interior Ministry's press service, Ruslan Sherefetdinov, said materials related to the investigation are currently in Moscow and the local interior ministry does not possess the full text of the Investigation Committee's resolution. The Bashkir Interior Ministry was investigating the fraud case against the ChZK DMS company, which allegedly forced the state-run Bashkommundor company to receive, as payment, 2 million rubles ($65,800) worth of Mezhprombank promissory notes under conditions that were unprofitable for Bashkommundor. The Mezhprombank leadership claims that political reasons are behind the criminal case, which it says was initiated in response to former Mezhprombank head Sergei Veremeenko's intention to run for the Bashkir presidency. The bank's Ufa branch is suing the republican Interior Ministry, demanding that it pay 13 million rubles ($428,000) in compensation for damage caused during a search of the Mezhprombank Ufa office.

Will Privatization Of Bashkir Oil Sector Be Annulled?
The Russian Audit Chamber announced on 22 July the results of an audit of the privatization of Bashkir oil and oil-refining companies which revealed that controlling interests in Bashneft and five other Bashkir petrochemical companies with a total annual turnover of $1.5 billion have been taken over by seven private companies, Russian media reported. Audit Chamber auditor Vladislav Ignatov told a press conference that "this is the most unprecedented case of theft of assets from federal property in the history of Russian oil refineries," resulting in losses of $118 million for the budget. The privatization was conducted through decrees by President Murtaza Rakhimov in violation of federal legislation, according to which state-owned 38 percent stakes in companies are to remain federal property. Instead, they were transferred once to the republic and then became private property. Initially, shares of major oil and oil-processing companies were passed to the capital of the Bashneftekhim, headed by the president's son, Ural Rakhimov. Bashneftekhim and Bashneft, both fully owned by the republic, formed the Bashkir Fuel Company, shares of which were then passed to seven private oil-processing companies affiliated with each other. In turn, shares of those companies were intended to be passed to the Bashkirskii Kapital joint-stock company. In addition, Ignatov said, Bashkir oil and oil-processing companies evaded transferring to the federal budget either $113 million in shares or paying that sum in taxes. As a result, he said, both federal and republican budgets were deprived of dividends, while taxes were also not paid as part of the "Baikonur schemes" (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 3 February, 13 and 20 March, 26 May, 6 June, and 17 and 18 July 2003, "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 7 March 2003). Ignatov said the Audit Chamber will inform the Russian president and prime minister of the audit results and send documents to the Prosecutor-General's Office. He said the revealed violations "make it possible to doubt the entire scheme of privatization."

Ufa May Return To Old Constitution
The Bashkir State Assembly will make an attempt to return back to the republic's previous constitution, which was in force until 3 December, State Assembly Chairman Konstantin Tolkachev told RosBalt on 21 July. Tolkachev said the move became possible after the ruling by the Russian Constitutional Court that prohibited nonconstitutional courts to consider suits related to regional constitutions and charters. The new version of the Bashkir Constitution was adopted on 3 December after the Bashkir Supreme Court contested several dozen articles in the previous one, specifically, those including concepts of "sovereignty" and "republican citizenship." Now, Tolkachev said, a reverse process may start, adding that the parliament will appeal to the Constitutional Court to restore provisions of the Bashkir Constitution annulled by the Bashkir Supreme Court. He promoted inclusion of the "sovereignty" concept in the republican constitution, adding that federal authorities should not be monopolist in its use.

Bashkir Presidential Spokesperson Says Bashkir Privatization Cannot Be Revised
Commenting on the results of the audit of the Bashkir fuel and energy sector announced by the Russian Audit Chamber on 22 July, Bashkir presidential administration information directorate head Marat Yamalov said on 23 July that privatization results cannot be revised in the republic. "Nothing new can be found in the republic. Audit Chamber Chairman Sergei Stepashin has been to Bashkortostan many times and knows very well that the legal grounds of our reforms were always reliable," he said. Yamalov said nonconformity between republican and federal legislation is behind the controversy, adding that many republican laws were adopted much earlier than federal ones. "Nobody disputes that privatization in Bashkortostan was held in accordance with republican legislation," Yamalov said, adding that the dispute should be resolved in a constitutional way but not politicized. The head of the legal department of the Bashkir Property Relations Ministry, Rinat Abdurakhmanov, told RosBalt on 23 July that the results of the probe into the privatization of state petrochemical companies in Bashkortostan are "tendentious" and "unfair." Ministry press service head Yulai Kerimov commented that "the results of the probe are a political campaign against Bashkortostan's leadership." "Vedomosti" commented on 24 July that to return Bashkir petrochemical companies to state ownership, Moscow will have to prove that it improperly shared property with Ufa in the early 1990s and that the Bashkir fuel and energy sector is in fact federal property, a very long process deserving attention from the Constitutional Court.

Audit Chamber Head Says De-Privatization Of Property In Bashkortostan Not On The Agenda
Audit Chamber Chairman Sergei Stepashin said the chamber does not favor the de-privatization of state property in Bashkortostan, the Oreanda news agency reported on 24 July. Stepashin said that the Audit Chamber had made critical comments on the management of state property by the Bashkir authorities, but said that didn't extend to de-privatization.

Bashkir Presidential Ideologist Denies Reports Of Opposition To Rakhimov Among Bashkirs
The head of the civic and political development department of the Bashkir presidential administration's information directorate, Emir Yuldashbaev, told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 27 July that the "ethnic card" will be played against incumbent President Murtaza Rakhimov if he runs for re-election. Yuldashbaev said, however, that this would be insignificant as everybody knows that the republican leadership paid constant attention to the issue and did much for all nationalities. Commenting on the statement by Bashkir nationalist leader Airat Dilmokhemmetov about a split in the Bashkir national movement (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 21 July 2003), Yuldashbaev said this is false and there is no split within the Bashkir population in the republic, while Dilmokhemmetov himself does not represent anybody and has no support among Bashkirs.

Less Space For Tatar In Secondary Schools
The Bashkir Education Ministry has issued a closed order demanding that instruction of all subjects in Bashkir be introduced in Tatar secondary schools in Bashkortostan's Tatar-populated raions, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondents reported on 25 July. An unnamed official from the ministry told RFE/RL that 30 percent to 35 percent of Tatar schools may be moved to instruction in Bashkir. In an interview published in the Tatar-language "Omet" newspaper last week, Bashkir Education Minister Galiye Mokhemmedjenova recognized that the number of secondary schools with instruction in Tatar has significantly dropped in the republic recently. Of the more than 3,000 secondary schools in the republic, Bashkir is taught in 849 and Tatar in 458. Several years ago, the Tatar language was taught in over 1,000 schools.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Khanty-Mansii Okrug Given New Name
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree to rename Khanty-Mansii Autonomous Okrug into the Khanty-Mansii Autonomous Okrug-Yugra, reported on 28 July, citing the presidential administration's press service. The decree demands that the new name of the okrug be included in official documents and fixed in the Russian Constitution during the next reprinting.

GAZ To Continue Deliveries Of Automobiles To Iraq
GAZ will renew deliveries of Volga automobiles to Iraq, NTA Privolzhe reported on 22 July, citing company marketing director Viktor Maslennikov. According to Maslennikov, a confirmation on renewals of deliveries has been received from the Iraqi side. However, no information is available on how many vehicles will be sold to Iraq or when they will be sold. A contract on the delivery of 5,000 GAZ-3110 vehicles was signed with the Iraqi Trade Ministry in September 2001. The first consignment of 300 automobiles was sent to Iraq in April.

Permskie Motory Signs $100 Million Contract
The Permskie Motory engine producer and the Ilyushin-finans leasing company signed a contract on the delivery of 17 PS-90A engines, Uralbizneskonsalting reported on 22 July. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Boris Aleshin announced the $100 million deal while visiting Berezniki, Perm Oblast, on 21 July. The PS-90A, the only Russian engine meeting European sound and pollution standards, is used in Il-96-300, Tu-214, Tu-204 jets, and Il-76MF military-transport aircraft.

Interior Ministry Employees Arrested In Samara Oblast
A group of Samara Interior Ministry employees has been arrested and charged in a series of robberies, Saratovbizneskonsalting reported on 22 July. The group is accused of committing 15 highway robberies in Saratov, Samara, Voronezh, and Tambov oblasts, Bashkortostan, and Tatarstan. Eight people, all ethnic Azeris from Georgia related to each other, were arrested, while several more are wanted. The group allegedly used cars and equipment of the State Traffic Safety Inspectorate.

Election Commission Fights Illegal Agitation In Sverdlovsk Oblast
The Sverdlovsk Oblast Central Electoral Commission on 24 July issued a decision obliging Yurii Kuznetsov, a Yabloko-backed candidate for oblast governor, to take down his election leaflets, Novyi region reported on 25 July. Commission Chairman Vladimir Mistivshchikov said residents of Yekaterinburg, Talitsa, Verkhnyaya Pyshma, and Verkhnyaya Salda appealed to the commission complaining that Kuznetsov's leaflets are distributed in illegal places. Representatives of Yabloko did not argue with the decision.

Ulyanovsk Oblast's Shamanov Seeks Re-Election
Ulyanovsk Oblast Governor Vladimir Shamanov told reporters on 24 July that he will run for a second term in 2004, RosBalt reported the next day. Shamanov said he "is not seeking a 'warm' place in Moscow" and will run for re-election. Shamanov also said wage arrears to state employees, which is now 240 million rubles, remains one of the most urgent problems in the oblast.

Yamal-Nenets Court Rejects Appeal Against Noyabrsk Mayoral Elections...
The Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug Court has confirmed a Noyabrsk city court ruling declaring results of the 4 May Noyabrsk mayoral elections valid, reported on 24 July. Losing candidate Anatolii Kudryashov had appealed the city court's ruling. Russian Deputy Prosecutor-General for the Ural Federal District Yurii Zolotov charged the okrug prosecutor's office with "raising the issue on revising in the okrug court the illegal decision by the [Noyabrsk] city court on results of Noyabrsk mayoral elections" after the Russian Central Election Commission had appealed to the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office against violations in the Noyabrsk elections (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 22 July 2003). Incumbent Mayor Yurii Link was declared the winner of the elections with 36.95 percent of the vote after the city election commission declared invalid results in four electoral districts where his major rival, Kudryashov, who received 36.05 percent of the vote, was favored.

...As Prosecutor Insists Results Illegal
On 25 July, Zolotov again brought accusations against the Noyabrsk city election commission of violations during the mayoral elections, reported the same day. He said 12 appeals from deputies of different levels were sent to prosecutors. It was revealed during a probe that the Noyabrsk city election commission announced an illegal break in its work till 2 p.m. the next day after commission members realized that the incumbent mayor was losing the race. During the break, some people signed documents about violations in electoral districts, Zolotov said, adding that some of them were threatened with dismissal if they refused. By 2 p.m., grounds for the annulling results in four out of the 36 electoral districts in the city were provided. Zolotov said the Ural Federal District prosecutor's office will continue protesting the verdict of the Noyabrsk court.

Interior Employees Stage Hunger Strike In Yamal-Nenets Okrug
Four employees of the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug Krasnoselkup Raion interior ministry began a hunger strike on 21 July, reported on 28 July. The strikers protested the fact that they are not fully paid for work on holidays and at night. The employees have been suing the local management for two years in different courts for violating their constitutional and labor rights but have lost every time. On 22 July, however, they halted their protest action after it was reported that a commission from the Russian Interior Ministry Ural Federal District chief directorate was sent to investigate the department.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova