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Tatar-Bashkir Report: September 9, 2003

9 September 2003
Mufti Unhappy With Lack Of Attention To Muslims During Saudi Crown Prince's Visit
Interviewed by RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 4 September, the chairman of Russia's Council of Muftis, Rawil Gainetdin, sharply criticized the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Moscow for its failure to include a meeting with Russia's Muslim leaders on the agenda of the 2 September visit by Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah to Moscow. Gainetdin said he personally only had a chance to meet with Abdullah during his meeting with Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov. "The fact that our meeting was not included in the protocol of the visit is a shortcoming in the activity of the Saudis' Moscow Embassy," Gainetdin said. He said the embassies of other Islamic countries always include visits to Russia's Council of Muftis and meetings with its leaders, while the Saudi Embassy has not done this. In the past year, the Saudi Embassy has been evading contact with Russia's Islamic organizations, he said, adding that he complained about this "to the Saudi ambassador's face" during Luzhkov's meeting with Abdullah. Muftis from Mordovia, Karelia, Tatarstan, and the Asian part of Russia, who traveled to Moscow to meet with Abdullah, were unable to see him. Gainetdin said that during his talks with Abdullah he was interested in the number of Muslims and mosques in Moscow. Luzhkov informed the visitor that four mosques were recently built and that the Moscow Islamic University was established.

Gainetdin also said that Russia's intention to join the Organization of Islamic Conference opens new prospects, not only for Russian Muslims but also for Russia as a whole. He said the move marks a turning-point in Russia's attitude toward Islam. Russia has a millennium of experience in the coexistence of Muslims and Christians and provides proof that they can live in peace, Gainetdin added.

KamAZ Seeks Controlling Interest In NefAZ
KamAZ plans to increase its stake in the NefAZ bus plant to 51 percent from the current 36 percent by 2004, "Vremya i dengi" reported on 4 September. KamAZ General Director Sergei Kogogin told the daily that the company's board and shareholders have approved the increase by KamAZ through the purchase of shares, on which it plans to spend 18 million rubles. NefAZ's capital is expected to increase from 6 to 7 billion rubles after the share emission under registration. NefAZ, constructed in 1977 in Bashkortostan's Neftekamsk as a branch of KamAZ, was turned over in 1993 to Bashkortostan, which took over some 40.1 percent of shares. In 1996, the Russian Arbitration Court annulled that decision and restored control of more than 36 percent of NefAZ shares back to KamAZ, leaving the Bashkir government with 37 percent. The sides further agreed that KamAZ's share in NefAZ will be increased to 51 percent, while that of the Bashkir government will be reduced to 25 percent.

Turkish Finance Minister Promotes Bilateral Investments
Turkish Finance Minister Kemal Unakitan on 29-30 August visited Kazan and discussed mutual investment projects in Turkey and Tatarstan, reported. On 29 August, Unakitan met behind closed doors with Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev and held talks with Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov. At a press conference following the meeting with Shaimiev, Unakitan said that Tatarstan, which exports 3.5 million tons of oil a year to Turkey, could take part in the privatization of petrochemical companies in Turkey. In Tatarstan, he said, joint Turkish-Tatar ventures on the production of construction materials could be established. Unakitan also said that Minnikhanov is scheduled to visit Turkey in the near future. He said that he had agreed with the Tatar leaders that bilateral trade turnover is to be doubled.

Ambassadors Visit Helicopter Plant
Ambassadors to Russia from 29 countries, who arrived in Kazan on 29 August at the invitation of Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev, visited on 31 August the Kazan Helicopter Plant (KVZ), reported the same day. Plant General Director Aleksandr Lavrentev introduced the visitors to the new Mi-38 helicopter, capable of seating 44 persons, which, he said, will make its test flight in 35-40 days. The Moscow Helicopter Plant, the Canadian Pratt & Whitney firm, and the French-German Eurocopter contributed to the production of the aircraft assembled at KVZ. An air show was attended by the visitors, where the Mi-17 and Ansat aircraft were demonstrated.

Predecessor To Egerje Administration Head Accused Of His Murder
Prosecutors presented the case of the murder of Egerje Raion administration head Rafis Seyetov to the Tatar Supreme Court on 30 August, "Kommersant" reported on 1 September. Seyetov was shot dead on 31 August 2002 (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 2 and 18 September and 11 November 2002 and 2 January 2003, and "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 13 September 2002). Seyetov's predecessor as raion-administration head and a Tatar State Council deputy, Rostem Zakirov, was arrested and is accused of contracting the killing. Four alleged killers residing in Udmurtia have also been arrested. Investigators believe the killing was due to hostility between Zakirov and Seyetov, whom Zakirov considered responsible for his dismissal from the post of administration head.

Tatar Legislature To Comprise 100 Members
The State Council Commission on State Systems, Local Self-Government, and Foreign Relations adopted on 2 September a draft law on the election of deputies to the Tatar State Council, reported the same day. According to the draft, the Tatar parliament will remain a 100-deputy unicameral body. The Tatar Constitution stipulates that the legislature has 50 deputies. The latter figure was included in the draft law on the election of State Council deputies that was passed in the first reading last fall. On 28 November 2002, however, the draft was withdrawn from the agenda of a parliamentary session. Commission Chairman Vasilii Loginov said the postponement was caused by changing federal electoral legislation. According to the new draft, of the 100 deputies, 50 percent will represent parties and the remainder will be elected in one-mandate districts. Twenty deputies will work permanently and the heads of cities, raion administrations, and state officials will not be members of parliament. The current republican parliament consists of 130 deputies, 30 of whom are there full-time. The parliament is to consider the draft at its plenary session on 3 September.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Tatar Leader Files Defamation Suit Against State-Run Newspaper
Zegyr Khekimov, the head of the Tatar People's Front, which campaigns for Tatar rights in Bashkortostan, has sued the republic's major Tatar-language daily "Kyzyl Tang," an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 1 September. In a recent issue the state-owned newspaper accused Khekimov of "exploiting Tatar ethnic interests for getting a seat in the republican parliament and making money with it." Khekimov has demanded 1 million rubles (around $30,000) in compensation for moral damage caused by the article.

UralSib Management, Bashkir Government Accused Of Illegal Practices
An Ufa court has begun considering a suit filed by Salavat Migranov, the former president of UralSib Bank, against the bank's management and the Bashkir Property Affairs Ministry, "Ekspert-Ural" weekly wrote on 1 September. Migranov told the weekly that his goals are to protect the interests of the state, which were damaged during the privatization of Bashkreditbank (later renamed UralSib) and the interests of the bank's workers. Bashkreditbank was established by Bashkortostan's Cabinet of Ministers in 1993 and, in 1998, it was transformed into a joint-stock venture. In April, Russia's Interior Ministry launched an investigation into the handover of state-owned shares packages in 47 Bashkir companies to Bashkreditbank for further sell-off on the secondary shares market. The case was closed after UralSib President Azat Kurmanaev claimed immunity as a Bashkir parliamentary deputy.

SPS Leader Says Bashkir Government Suppresses Opposition 'By All Possible Means'
Leaders of the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS), Yabloko, Communist Party, Liberal Democratic Party, People's Party, and the Agrarian Party have agreed to set up a common observers board to monitor the December 2003 State Duma elections "in the regions where violations of election legislation possess the most systematic and outrageous character," SPS leader Boris Nemtsov told ITAR-TASS on 1 September. He said that "it is especially important for Bashkortostan and Daghestan, the alternative to the present authorities is being suppressed by all possible means." Under the agreement, the parties will use all their resources to publicize cases of election-law violations through their local branches in the regions.

High-Ranking Police Officers Arrested For Heroin Possession
The Bashkir Prosecutor's Office is investigating the cases of federal drug agency head in Neftekamsk Rim Badretdinov and the acting head of the investigations department in Meleuz region, Sergei Anosov, who were detained with large amounts of heroin. Badretdinov reportedly stored more than 400 grams in his office safe, while Anosov attempted to sell 550 grams. Both suspects are currently in detention.

Possible Presidential Candidate Addresses Open Letter To Rakhimov
Russian State Duma Deputy (Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, LDPR) Aleksei Mitrofanov held a press conference at RIA-Novosti's press club in Moscow on 3 September to deliver an open letter to his possible rival in the race for president of Bashkortostan, incumbent Murtaza Rakhimov, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. Mitrofanov, who is still uncertain if he will run for the post, visited the republic on 27-28 August but was denied the chance to meet with Rakhimov (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report" 28 August 2003).

Mitrofanov's letter said that after the retirement of Bashkir Deputy Interior Minister Nikolai Patrikeev, Minister Rafael Divaev should step down, "which would be a logical step by [federal Interior Minister] Boris Gryzlov in cleaning up the Bashkir police" (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report" 14 July, 11 August 2003). Mitrofanov's second query in his letter was to ask Rakhimov, "in whose interests the state property was privatized in Bashkortostan" and whether the president's son, Ural Rakhimov, had any connection to it. Mitrofanov asked whether Rakhimov was prepared to follow the example of Russian President Boris Yeltsin "and retire with dignity."

Meanwhile, the ultranationalist LDPR leader refused to confirm if he will be a candidate for the presidency. Mitrofanov noted that regardless of whether he runs or not his party will offer a candidate and he would personally oversee the "Bashkortostan issue."

Bashkir Parliament To Set Date Of Presidential Vote
The date of Bashkortostan's presidential election will be determined during the next session of the republican parliament on 17 September, Bashkir State Assembly Chairman Konstantin Tolkachev told Interfax on 3 September. He stated that, "most obviously it will be set to 7 December." If so, the date of the republic's presidential vote will coincide with the date for nationwide elections to the Russian State Duma.

Meanwhile, the chairman of Bashkortostan's Central Election Commission, Bariy Kinzyagulov, told Interfax that all six single-mandate election districts for the Russian State Duma are prepared for the election. He said that in addition to the six deputies representing single-mandate districts there will be six Duma deputies elected in Bashkortostan representing political parties.

A candidate for a Duma seat from Bashkortostan is required to submit 5,000 signatures in his support, which is not less than 1 percent of the number of voters in each voting district or a deposit of 900,000 rubles ($29,400), which represents 15 percent of the maximum election funds allowed each candidate.

Former LUKoil Vice President Joins Bashkir Presidential Race
Relif Safin, a deputy in the Federation Council representing the Altai Republic and former LUKoil vice president, said on 5 September that he will run for the Bashkir presidency, RosBalt reported the same day. Safin told a press conference that he will officially begin his campaign as soon as the Bashkir parliament fixes the date of the elections. Safin repeated his statement on 7 September in the Bawly Raion, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 8 September. Safin said neither LUKoil nor any other corporations are backing his campaign. He said that he enjoys support from seven parties that signed a memorandum on fair elections in Bashkortostan, which include the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, the Union of Rightist Forces, the Communist Party, and Yabloko. Safin said that incumbent President Murtaza Rakhimov was a person who "has done very much for Bashkortostan." The Federation Council deputy also said he does not plan any revision of what has been done in the republic and said that he does not plan any alliances with either Rakhimov or another possible rival in the presidential race, former Mezhprombank head Sergei Veremeenko.

Safin, a 49-year-old ethnic Tatar, was born in Bashkortostan's Ilesh Raion and graduated from the Ufa Oil Institute in 1975. In 1993, he was elected first vice president of LUKoil. In June 2002, Safin was elected to the Federation Council.

The presidential elections are expected to take place on 7 December (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 5 September 2003).

UralSib Targeted In Phony Leaflet Campaign
Bashinform published on 5 September an appeal by the UralSib bank to its clients asking them to ignore leaflets, which were spread around the republic that day, calling for them to close their accounts with the bank. The phony leaflets were made to look as if they were from the bank's press service. In the appeal, the bank's management said neither the press service nor any other department had prepared and distributed any leaflets in the republic and the information was a "bare-faced lie." UralSib has been the victim of an attack by a Moscow oligarchic group that is waging a dirty and slanderous war, the appeal read. UralSib is the seventh-largest Russian bank with a capital of 7.6 billion rubles ($248 million). The Bashkir government, which holds a 37.5 percent stake in the bank, is its major shareholder.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Civic, Muslim Leaders React To Act Of Vandalism At Chelyabinsk Muslim Cemetery...
A group of civic and religious leaders held a press conference on 2 September to protest against a recent act of vandalism in the Chelyabinsk Muslim cemetery on 27 August, when 30 graves were damaged and daubed with swastikas (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Reivew," 2 September 2003), reported the same day. Union of Muslim Journalists Chairman Ali Vyacheslav Polosin, Human Rights Institute General Director Kamilzhan Kalandarov, and Council of Russian Muftis press service head Radik Emirov, who took part in the event, issued a joint statement saying that national-chauvinism and xenophobia are flourishing in Russia. The authors cited recent ransackings of markets where people of Caucasian origin sell their wares, acts of violence against colored people, and militant Islamophobia in some mass media as manifestations of those trends. They expressed concern that law enforcement bodies often qualify such acts as "hooliganism." The leaders said Russia's Muslims wish to obtain information about all political parties' positions on the issue.

...As Chelyabinsk Muslims Begin Patrolling Cemetery
Chelyabinsk Muslims residents have formed a group to patrol the local Muslim cemetery and defend it from vandals, Uralinformbyuro reported on 1 September. The move came in the wake of the recent vandalism. Chelyabinsk's Kurchatov Raion Interior Department head Aleksei Alekseev told the news agency that all local groups of skinheads are under investigation in connection with the crime. Law enforcement bodies will soon begin patrolling local cemeteries in the nighttime, the report said.

Classes For Cossacks Spread In Orenburg Oblast
New classes for Cossacks opened in two Orenburg secondary schools, OrenNews reported on 8 September. More than 40 similar classes in which over 600 schoolchildren study have been opened in Orenburg Oblast. In addition to the standard curriculum, Cossack students study additional subjects, which include theology, hand-to-hand combat, military training, equestrian sport, and history of the Russian Cossacks.

Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor To Be Elected In Second Round�
Incumbent Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel, who collected 42.85 percent of the vote in the gubernatorial elections on 7 September, and his closest rival, Anton Bakov, a deputy in the oblast parliament's upper chamber, who received 14.43 percent, will compete in the second round of elections set for 21 September, Russian media reported on 8 September. Andrei Vikharev, a Federation Council senator representing Kurgan, who was considered Rossel's major rival, came in third with 13.68 percent, while 12.7 percent of the electorate voted "against all candidates." The turnout was 33.6 percent, down from 40 percent in 1999 gubernatorial elections. On 9 September, analysts commented that the inert campaign of Rossel, who headed all pre-election polls, is behind his failure to win in the first round, "Kommersant" reported.

Commenting on the results of the first round, Rossel said "trust in my candidacy is growing from one election to another," "Vedomosti" reported on 9 September. The daily quoted an unnamed high-ranking official from the governor's administration as saying that a large share of those who voted "against all candidates" and the low turnout are the result of the activities of the Yekaterinburg administration.

...As Election Official Says Votes Were Sabotaged
Speaking at a press conference on 7 September following the end of voting in the Sverdlovsk Oblast gubernatorial elections, oblast election commission Chairman Vladimir Mostovshchikov said the voting was sabotaged in Yekaterinburg, Novyi Region reported the same day. Mostovshchikov said that in Yekaterinburg's Verkh-Iset and Zheleznodorozhnyi raions unidentified people changed signs to the polling stations and removed voting instructions from people's mailboxes. In some raions, telephone wires at polling stations were disconnected on the eve of the election.

Suicide Rate Among Children In Sverdlovsk Oblast Twice The Russian Average
Mortality rates among children under 14 years old in Sverdlovsk Oblast in 2002 was 124.4 per 100,000 children, according to a report from the oblast's Center for State Sanitary and Epidemic Supervision, Inform-Ekologiya reported on 2 September. The mortality rate in urban areas has increased by 11 percent to 115 per 100,000, as compared to the 2001 figure. In rural areas, the mortality rate exceeds that of urban areas by 34 percent. The number of murders and suicides among children in the oblast is also growing and is over twice the Russian average, the report said.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova