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Tatar-Bashkir Report: August 5, 2003

5 August 2003
Shaimiev Opposes Postponement Of State Duma Elections...
President Mintimer Shaimiev does not support the idea of postponement of the December State Duma elections and their holding in parallel with the presidential elections in March, he told Interfax on 25 July. He said he sees neither political nor economic reasons for this, noting that what is the need of a country which is unable to hold elections in due time for financial reasons. He said such proposals may reflect the fact that no political organization has enough time to prepare for the December elections. If we change the date of the elections and rules of play, we will never secure political stability in society, Shaimiev said. He said in early 1990s, there was a more complex situation and numerous voices called for postponement of parliamentary elections but they were held on time.

...And Revision Of Privatization Results
Speaking to Interfax, Shaimiev also said he thinks there is no reason for revision of the results of privatization in Russia. A state and society that chose an aim of becoming a democratic country with a market economy, cannot encroach on property, which is a holy thing for civilized countries, Shaimiev said. He said that despite mistakes that took place during the privatization process, a class of owners appeared in Russia. All three branches of power -- executive, legislative, and judicial -- have to deal with legal or economic violations within the framework of their powers, and each such investigation should not be taken as an attempt by authorities to halt economic and political reforms and turn the country backward. If there are any irregularities related to defense companies securing the country's safety, the state can reach agreement with owners in negotiations or buy the company from its owner but only through a civilized auction procedure, Shaimiev said. He also said the country should in no way deviate from the main direction of market and democratic reforms.

Estimates Differ On Unified Russia's Popularity In Tatarstan
The political council of the Tatar branch of the Unified Russia party met on 29 July to discuss establishing executive bodies of local party departments, the payment of party fees, and fundraising, Tatar-inform reported the same day. The leader of the Tatar branch of the party, Yurii Nejmiev, told the meeting that the branch will hold a conference on 24 August to elect delegates for the party's upcoming congress and discuss the party's electoral program. "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 30 July cited Nejmiev as saying that 48.3 percent of voters will support Unified Russia in the December State Duma elections and 54.7 percent in Tatar State Council elections. According to Nejmiev, the Communist Party have a support rating of 13.6 percent in the republic. The daily also quoted Tatar State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin as saying that 34 percent of the republic's electorate backs Unified Russia. Meanwhile, Midkhet Faruqshin, co-chairman of the Party of Life in Tatarstan, said that those figures are inaccurate. He said that Unified Russia has less than 20 percent of support, while the Communist Party is trailing by about 2 percent. The daily also cited local analysts who said that not all of the 42,000 members in the republic's branch of Unified Russia will vote for the party since many of them, especially state employees, were forced to join the party.

Tatarstan, Kemerovo Oblast To Boost Cooperation
A delegation from Kemerovo Oblast led by First Deputy Governor Valentin Mazikin arrived in Tatarstan on 30 July for a two-day visit, Tatar and Russian agencies reported. Mazikin was received the same day by Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev and Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov. Shaimiev praised the activities of Aman Tuleev as the oblast's governor, while Minnikhanov called for developing direct contacts without mediators between the two regions. He said Tatarstan could share its experience of indicative management and budgetary relations with Moscow. Increasing deliveries by the Tatar Tasma film plant, the Nizhnekamskneftekhim petrochemical company, and the Tuben Kama oil refinery to Kemerovo Oblast, as well as cooperation between the oblast and the Kazankompressormash compressor plant, the YelAZ automotive plant, and the Nizhnekamskshina tire plant are on the agenda of the visit.

Mazikin said the oblast, which is currently replacing hundreds of kilometers of pipes, is interested in cooperation with the Tatar producer of polyethylene pipes, Kazanorgsintez. Deliveries of Tatarstan-produced pipes to the oblast and construction of a joint venture in the oblast were on the agenda of a meeting of Mazikin with Kazanorgsintez General Director Nail Yusupov.

KamAZ representative in Kuzbass Yevgenii Plastinin said that 300 million rubles ($9.86 million) of KamAZ products will be delivered to the oblast in 2003, including 350 trucks and 50 NefAZ-KamAZ buses, reported.

Government Selling State-Run Companies
The Tatar government plans to maintain state control over no more than 100 companies by 2005, Land and Property Minister Valerii Vasilev told reporters on 30 July. Vasilev said that debt of 137 million rubles ($4.5 million) has been repaid as a result of privatizing 28 companies. Currently, 218 state-run companies are in the process of liquidation or bankruptcy, while the property of another 55 has been seized. The ministry has prepared a resolution on the liquidation and bankruptcy of another 31 enterprises. Vasilev criticized state-run companies for inefficient use of property and funds and said a special commission will be set up to supervise sale of state property in those companies. State-owned property was worth 1.4 trillion rubles ($46 billion) on 1 January, according to the ministry, 84 percent of that sum was land. State-run stakes were worth 55 billion rubles.

Mother Of Guantanamo Bay Prisoner Uneasy About Son's Possible Extradition To Russia
Emine Khesenova, the mother of Chally resident Airat Wakhitov, who is being held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 30 July that she is anxious about the possibility of her son being extradited to Russia and being imprisoned there. Khesenova was commenting on a report about negotiations that have started between Russia and the United States on Wakhitov's possible extradition. Wakhitov is suspected of having collaborated with the Taliban during U.S.-led military operations in Afghanistan in 2001 (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report, 5 June 2002 and 3 December 2002). Khesenova said that disease, violence, and cruelty are rampant in Russian prisons and that it would be better for her son to die than go to a Russian prison. Previously, Wakhitov sent a letter to his parents, in which he said, "the prison here [in Guantanamo] is better than a Russian health resort" (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 19 December 2002).

Meanwhile, speaking to an RFE/RL North Caucasus Languages Services correspondent on 30 July, Nina Adizheva, the mother of another Guantanamo Bay prisoner, appealed to the U.S. leadership not to extradite her son Anzor and to instead grant him political asylum, saying otherwise he will be subject to persecution in Russia.

Conference On The Great Volga Route Begins In Astrakhan
An international conference on "The Great Volga Route" started on 4 August in Astrakhan, Tatar agencies reported. The forum, held under the aegis of the Kazan millennium celebrations, is the third stage of a five-year project on studying the history of the Great Volga route and to find ways of resolving ethnic, cultural, environmental, and socioeconomic problems in its cities and regions. It is organized aboard the ship "Kazan," which will travel this year to Makhachkala, Derbent, Baku, Enzeli, Tehran, Isfahan, and Aktau. Representatives of the United Nations, the UN's cultural heritage foundation UNESCO, the Council of Europe, and IRCIKA will take part in the forum. Along the way, conference participants are to hold meetings in Russian embassies and at the trade and industry chambers of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Iran, and to meet with Tatar diasporas in those countries. On 9 August, a Tehran declaration on cooperation between the major cities of the Great Volga route is scheduled to be signed in Tehran. On 3 August, the Kazan delegation headed by Mayor Kamil Iskhaqov met with representatives of Astrakhan Oblast's Tatar community, which numbers some 70,000, and attended a reception held in their honor by Astrakhan Mayor Igor Bezrukavnikov.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Bashkir Speaker Promotes Rights Of Regions, Treaty-Based Relations
In an interview with "Parlamentskaya gazeta" on 26 July, Bashkir State Assembly Chairman Konstantin Tolkachev said there is no accurate mechanism of harmonization procedures capable of eliminating contradictions between federal and regional legislation in Russia. Tolkachev made critical comments about federal laws regulating the joint powers of federal and regional bodies in too much detail, including the laws on local self-government and on elections. Tolkachev said federal legislation often encroaches upon the powers of federation subjects. The Bashkir State Assembly proposed amendments to more than 40 federal laws to defend the interests of federation entities, but the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office has never reacted to violations of the rights of federation subjects occurring in federal laws. The constitutional rights of federation subjects are slighted in Russia, he said. He said spreading the experience of treaty-based federal relations could be a major resource for the country's legal development.

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.

Amended Electoral Code Becomes Law
The new edition of the Bashkir Electoral Code, which was signed by the republic's president into law on 23 July, will come into force on 4 August, 10 days after it has been published in the official republican press, RosBalt reported on 28 July. The code was amended in December to harmonize it with the federal law on elections. The current amendments came in the wake of another federal law on legislative and executive state power bodies of the federation subjects that came into force on 1 July. Under the amended code, legislative bodies are to be formed under a combined party list/majority system. The difference between populations of single-mandate election districts may now be up to 30 percent as against the previous 15 percent. Sixty of 120 seats in the republican State Assembly will now be elected in single-mandate districts, while the others will be from party lists. The next republican parliamentary elections are scheduled for 2008. In December, presidential elections are scheduled in Bashkortostan in parallel with the State Duma elections. Under the Electoral Code, a Russian citizen older than 30 may be elected Bashkir president. According to the Bashkir Constitution, candidates are obliged to speak the republic's state languages, Russian and Bashkir.

Rakhimov, Rossel Sign Cooperation Agreement
Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel and visiting Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov signed on 29 July in Yekaterinburg an agreement on trade, economic, scientific, technical, social, and cultural cooperation between the two entities, Bashinform reported the same day. Rakhimov thanked Rossel for his help in setting up Bashkortostan's plenipotentiary representation in Sverdlovsk Oblast, which will allow "closer relations in different spheres and broaden economic and cultural cooperation." Bashkortostan, Rakhimov said, "cannot imagine itself outside the Urals, although it was included in the Volga Federal District." Visiting Uralmash the same day, Rakhimov said Bashkortostan is ready to sign large contracts with companies from the middle Urals, adding that their details will be negotiated by joint working groups, RIA-Novosti reported.

Rakhimov Denies Accusations Of Privatization Violations
Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov told reporters on 29 July in Yekaterinburg that no violations had taken place during the privatization of the republic's state-run companies, Interfax reported the next day. The previous week, the Russian Audit Chamber said that violations had occurred (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 23 July 2003). Rakhimov, however, said that information from a chamber employee about infractions was not true. "There are not any violations. Privatization was carried out a long time ago and legally," Rakhimov said. He added that Audit Chamber Chairman Sergei Stepashin had informed Russian President Vladimir Putin that no violations had taken place during the privatization process. Chamber auditor Vladislav Ignatov told reporters the previous week that violations had resulted in losses of $113 million. Commenting on Rakhimov's statement, Ignatov told Interfax-AFI on 30 July that, if Rakhimov considers the report by the Audit Chamber to be wrong, he should sue. Ignatov repeated that privatization in Bashkortostan was carried out in violation of the constitution, Russian presidential decrees, and federal legislation.

Liberal Democratic Deputy Says His Participation In Bashkir Presidential Race Agreed With Moscow
State Duma Deputy Aleksei Mitrofanov (Liberal Democratic Party of Russia) announced on 31 July that he plans to compete with incumbent President Rakhimov in December presidential elections, Russian agencies reported. Speaking at a press conference in Moscow, Mitrofanov said that his decision to run was agreed with "forces in Moscow" and has been sanctioned by the Kremlin, "which will not endure feudalism in Bashkortostan," "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 1 August. Mitrofanov said that he has begun studying Bashkir and Tatar as he considers that "a leader should know not only language but [understand] the traditions and culture of the people."

Opposition Minister Calls On Prosecutors To Investigate Defamation Campaign Against Him
Bashkir Tax Minister Aleksandr Veremeenko has appealed to the Prosecutor-General's Office to investigate the "unprecedented campaign" to "discredit" him taking place in Bashkortostan, RosBalt reported on 1 August. Veremeenko said the "apotheosis" of the campaign was a letter Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov gave to Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting in July. It included "unsubstantiated," "unfounded," and "far-fetched" allegations against him, "defaming his honor and dignity and undermining his business reputation." Specifically, Veremeenko said, he was accused of "plundering property," firing objectionable colleagues, committing crimes, worsening collection of taxes, and so on. In addition, blackmailing articles are appearing against him in the press, the Internet, and on television. Veremeenko's appointment as head of the Bashkir Tax Ministry on 23 June irritated the republican leadership, which pushed for his recent dismissal as Bashtransgaz general director in June (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 30 June 2003).

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Chelyabinsk Oblast Residents Win Nuclear Lawsuit
The Ozersk city court in the Chlyabinsk Oblast upheld on 30 July an appeal by four residents of the Tatarskaya Karabolka village in the Kunashak Raion to recognize them as participants in the clean-up operation after a nuclear explosion at the Mayak plant in 1957, reported on 4 August. After the explosion, schoolchildren from Tatarskaya Karabolka were sent to remove buildings in the Russkaya Karabolka village. The village's residents were evacuated after the disaster. Some 50 of them are still alive and are seeking state subsidies for harm to their health caused during those works. In March 1998, the same city court confirmed that 50 residents of Tatarskaya Karabolka took part in the clean-up operation but then annulled the verdict, arguing that there was no documentary proof. Tatar writer and radical nationalist leader Feuziye Beiremova attended the 30 July trial.

Ural Plant Revives Activities In Iraq
The Chelyabinsk Oblast's Ural automotive plant will renew its activities in Iraq from 5 August, Magnitka-inform reported on 1 August. The plant management hopes for an increase in vehicles exported to Iraq, previously one of the company's major foreign partners. In 2002, the plant exported 4,100 vehicles, 45 percent of the total production. This year, the company plans to assemble 9,500 automobiles and to export some 2,000 of them.

Volga Germans Seek Restoration Of Autonomous Republic
Participants in a Saratov congress held by the Association of Germans in the Volga Region have said that they will promote the establishment of an autonomous republic and hope for support from the Unified Russia party, Saratovbizneskonsalting reported on 1 August. The congress discussed a draft law on rehabilitation of Russian Germans. The association head Aleksandr Arndt said Germans have still not received historical justice and that "we are ready to support members of Unified Russia in the electoral campaign, if they, after they become deputies, help us." Unified Russia in Saratov leaders, however, denied that any political agreements with Germans exist, according to the news agency. More than 2 million Russian Germans have emigrated to Germany since 1989. Some 500,000-600,000 ethnic Germans currently live in Russia, 30,000 of them on the territory of the former German autonomous republic in the Saratov Oblast.

First Candidates For Sverdlovsk Governor Registered
The Sverdlovsk Oblast Election Commission registered on 29 July incumbent Governor Eduard Rossel as a candidate for re-election as oblast governor, Novyi Region reported the same day. Rossel has become the first registered candidate in the race. Of 5,792 signatures gathered in his favor, 5,749, or 99.3 percent, were recognized as valid by the commission. On 31 July, the commission issued a certificate of registration for the second candidate, Nyazip Sarvarov, the leader of the Russian Communist Labor Party in the Sverdlovsk Oblast, Novyi Region reported the same day. On 4 August, the election commission also registered Yabloko representative Yurii Kuznetsov, Sverdlovsk Oblast parliament deputy Anton Bakov, and leader of the local organization of veterans from the Afghan war, Yevgenii Petrov, the news agency reported the same day.

Antinuclear Camp Opens Near Yekaterinburg
A 10-day international antinuclear camp is to open on 6 August near Yekaterinburg to mark the 58th anniversary of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima, reported on 1 August. Environmentalists from across Russia and abroad have protested against the use of plutonium at the Beloyarsk Nuclear Power Station and the construction of a new reactor. They also oppose imports of spent nuclear waste to Russia. The annual event is organized by the international environmental group Ecodefense.

Housing, Municipal Sector Employees End Hunger Strike...
Workers in the housing and municipal sector from Sverdlovsk Oblast's Uralets village ended on 1 August a hunger strike they had been holding for two weeks to demand that they be paid back wages, Novyi Region reported the same day. Eighteen strikers, who began their action on 21 July, have been paid a total of 356,000 rubles ($11,700), or between 5,000 and 9,000 rubles each. Several days after the beginning of the strike, doctors recommended that eight people should stop because of concerns about their health, while 10 others continued until the end.

...As Miners Continue Protest Action
Meanwhile, 14 employees of the Levikha copper mine have not left their workplaces for 10 days to protest against unpaid back wages, Novyi Region reported on 4 August. The protesters are owed some 10,000 rubles ($329) each. The building where the strikers are located is guarded by the mine's security service, has no telephone link, and nobody has been allowed contact with the strikers. On 1 August, the mine's management made an attempt to forcibly hospitalize three initiators of the action, the news agency reported the same day. It cited Viktor Solovyev, the acting general director of the mine, as saying that debts to miners will be most likely repaid this week. Sverdlovsk Oblast Metallurgy Ministry spokesman Yevgenii Kharlamov told Novyi Region on 1 August that the ministry is helping the Levikha mine to overcome the crisis and that the Ural Mining and Smelting Company may become an investor in the enterprise.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova