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Tatar-Bashkir Report: September 23, 2003

23 September 2003
Kazan, Moscow At Variance As Regards Candidates For Duma
Unified Russia's branch in Tatarstan sent 17 delegates to Moscow on 18 September to take part in the party's third congress set for 20 September, reported on 18 September. Among the delegates were Nurlat Raion administration head Fatykh Sibegetullin, Krasnyi Vostok brewery General Director Airat Kheirullin, Deputy Emergency Situations Minister Shamil Karatai, and Tatfondbank Chairman Rinat Gobeidullin. The party's Supreme Council co-chairman, Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev, and head of the party's Tatar branch, State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin, will also attend the congress. Mukhametshin said the party branch has put together a campaign staff and nominated State Council Secretary Valentina Lipuzhina to head it.

Meanwhile, "Zvezda povolzhya" on 18 September reported on a disagreement between Moscow and Kazan in nominating candidates for the December State Duma election in Tatarstan. In the republic's Volga electoral district, Moscow supports the candidacy of State Duma Deputy Ivan Grachev, while Kazan promotes Krasnyi Vostok brewery General Director Kheirullin. The weekly cited an unnamed source as saying that Kheirullin donated $25 million to the election campaign of Unified Russia's Tatar branch.

Tatar Politicians Comment On Christian Tatar Issue
The Interregional Union of National Cultural Associations of Kreshens (Christian Tatars) issued an appeal to the Russian president and the head of the Russian Orthodox Church claiming that Kreshens are not recognized as a separate people and are prevented from professing Orthodoxy in Tatarstan, "NG-Religii" reported on 17 September.

In an interview published in the same weekly, Rafail Khekimov, the director of the Institute of History of Tatarstan's Academy of Sciences and an adviser to the Tatar president, said the appeal was inspired by forces outside Tatarstan. Khekimov said policy on Christian Tatars in the republic is based on the Russian Constitution, which enables people to consider themselves representatives of any nationality, but that Christian Tatars cannot be considered a separate nationality as there are no differences in language and culture between Christian and Muslim Tatars. He said some 10 to 15 Christian Tatars issued the appeal while the majority do not support the move. He also said there is no discrimination against Christian Tatars in Tatarstan and many of them are prominent persons in the republic. Citing the claim by the authors of the appeal to the patriarch that they are forced to adopt Islam, Khekimov said he is not aware of any such cases and the media never reported them.

The weekly also published comments on the issue by Damir Iskhaqov -- the deputy chairman of the World Tatar Congress's Executive Committee, history professor at the Institute of History of Tatarstan's Academy of Sciences, and head of the Center for Ethnological Monitoring -- who said the Russian Orthodox Church is trying to increase its influence on the Tatar nation, and that Christian Tatars are being used to split the Tatar community. Iskhaqov also said that during the 2002 census the Ethnology and Anthropology Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences pushed an artificial division between Christian Tatars, who consider themselves a part of the Tatar people, and Kreshens, who seek to be recognized as a separate people. The number of Kreshens turned out to be less than the Moscow scholars predicted, which is why the issue of violations of Kreshens' rights in the republic is being raised, he said. Iskhaqov also criticized the policy of Tatar authorities on Christian Tatars, saying more money should be spent on their cultural needs.

Number Of Tatar Parliament Deputies To Be Doubled
Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev on 15 September signed an amendment the Tatar Constitution into law, Tatar agencies reported, citing the presidential press service. According to the amendment, the number of Tatar State Council deputies will be increased from the current 50 to 100. A part of them will be permanently working and a special law will be developed to determine their number. While passing amendment, parliament members argued that 50 deputies would be "poor representation of the 4 million people of Tatarstan" as the opposition believes elections in smaller electoral districts will be more manageable for the republican authorities.

Russian Finance Minister Reviews Preparations For Kazan Millennium
Russian Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin said on 12 September that "it will not be possible to complete all measures of the program for Kazan's restoration and development" by the celebration of its millennium in 2005, Russian and Tatar agencies reported. Kudrin, together with Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev, chaired the same day a meeting of the state commission on preparations for the celebration of Kazan's jubilee. It was reported at the meeting that 14 billion rubles ($457 million) of the planned total of 53 billion rubles, or 26.4 percent, have been allocated for the program since 2001 when the program started. Kudrin said another 24 billion rubles will be allocated for the program through August 2005. The federal budget has allocated 3 billion rubles out of the total of 7.7 billion rubles it is scheduled to donate, the Tatar government has given 6.5 billion rubles of the 20 billion rubles due, and some 5 billion rubles of an expected 20 billion rubles have been secured from nonbudget sources.

Kudrin told reporters following the meeting that he is satisfied with the preparations for the jubilee and that the program will not be limited as new sources will be sought to fulfill the budget. He also said that construction on the subway, the program to move residents from slums into new apartments, and the reconstruction of Kazan State University are priorities that will be finished by the celebrations in August 2005.

During his visit, Kudrin visited sites under construction in the Tatar capital, including the subway. Tatar Transport and Road Industry Minister Vladimir Shvetsov commented that only one-fourth of the work on the subway construction, which is to be finished by August 2005, has been done. Shvetsov also said only 2 billion rubles have been given for subway construction thus far instead of the 14 billion that was to have been allocated by now. Moscow, which originally said it would finance 50 percent of the subway construction, has since said that it will pay for 20 percent of the costs.

KamAZ Covers 40 Percent Of Russia's Heavy Trucks Market
The KamAZ board of directors discussed on 17 September at its meeting in Moscow implementation of the 2003 business plan and company results in the first eight months of the year, the KamAZ press service reported on 18 September. KamAZ claims to have increased its share of the Russian heavy-truck market from 29 percent late 2002 to 40 percent. The company currently assembles one in two trucks with a capacity between 6 and 20 tons produced in Russia and the CIS.

Shaimiev Elected To Unified Russia Party List
The 20 September congress of the Unified Russia party elected Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev to the party's country-wide list for the December State Duma elections, Russian and Tatar news agencies reported the same day. The other three members of the top list are the party leader, Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov, Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu, and Moscow mayor Yurii Luzhkov.

Chief Ideology Expert Quits Tatar Branch Of Russian Party Of Life
Midkhet Farukshin, a political science fellow at Kazan State University, has left the local branch of Russia's Party of Life, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported today. The party is led by Refget Altynbaev, a former Chally mayor and representative in the Russian Federation Council. Altynbaev was recently dismissed by the republic's parliament. Farukshin said that Altynbaev had failed "to fulfill his previous pledges" and had failed to take Farukshin's advice on the party's political program.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Presidential Candidate Shares Views On Life In Bashkortostan
Relif Safin, a Russian Federation Council member representing Altai Republic who recently declared his intention to seek the presidency in Bashkortostan, told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 13 September that in his opinion, "the current tensions between Bashkirs and Tatars are caused by an artificial dividing line" drawn between the two peoples in Bashkortostan despite the fact that "they represent two parts of a single people." Safin, an ethnic Tatar who was born in Bashkortostan, said that "in Russia all peoples must be equal, no matter if they are Bashkirs and Tatars. The Bashkir issue has been raised because of the official policies in Bashkortostan, according to which only ethnic Bashkirs are appointed to key posts.... We are living in the third millennium," he added, "and there should be no feudal state in the middle of Russia." He also said that he had warned Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov about his plans to run and suggested that Rakhimov retire as Russian President Boris Yeltsin did in 1999, "so that people could feel respect" for such a dignified act.

Safin commented on the current situation in Bashkortostan by saying that "just like in the Soviet Russia of the 1930s, people are terrified there, feeling afraid of nearly all representatives of state authorities. For example, there is no such situation in neighboring Tatarstan."

Meanwhile, the 13 September issue of the weekly "Yeshlek," published by Bashkortostan's government, featured an article claiming that Safin had to quit his job as a vice president of LUKoil company, "because his $50 million mansion on the 'Rublev shosse' bothered LUKoil President Vagit Alekperov." The weekly also asserted that Safin "used the company's money to shoot new videos for his daughter, well-known pop singer Alsu."

Rakhimov Claims To Have Moscow's Blessing For Re-Election Bid
President Rakhimov told Bashkir Satellite Television on 16 September that in his meeting with Russian Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov and presidential administration head Aleksandr Voloshin he received "confirmation" of Moscow's future support in the 2003 presidential elections in the republic. Rakhimov noted that despite "some destructive forces" that "spread speculation about worsening living conditions in Bashkortostan," Gryzlov assessed the policies of the current republican government positively.

Bashkir Government Reportedly Arranging Sell-Off Of Profitable Industries
Bashkortostan's government has begun selling off the state's shares in extremely profitable republican industries, the "Ekspert-Ural" weekly wrote on 15 September. Since the beginning of September, federal and republican authorities have reportedly organized auctions for selling a 47.7 percent stake in Ufamolagroprom dairy and 100 percent of Polief synthetic-materials factory, which is owned by the federal government. The dairy shares were bought by the Vimm-Bill-Dann foods company, which already owned 50.13 percent of the firm, while Polief failed to find a buyer. The weekly commented that the chemical plant is the only producer of terephthalic acid and one of the two producers of polyethylene terephthalate in Russia. Both materials are considered to be good sellers as products essential for the manufacturing of polymeric packaging in Russia.

In his interview with Bashkir Satellite Television on 16 September, President Rakhimov commented on the Polief affair by saying that Russia's Gazprom is interested in buying the plant. He added that Gazprom is the only company in Russia that could ensure the supply of the necessary raw materials for the plant in sufficient amounts.

Bashkortostan's Prosecutors Confirm Tax Ministry's Complaint Against Ministry Of Property Affairs
Bashkortostan's Prosecutors' Office issued an official protest against the ruling of the republican Ministry of Property Affairs ordering federal tax offices across Bashkortostan to pay rent on their premises, RosBalt reported on 16 September. In July, Bashkir authorities requested local offices of the federal Tax Ministry to sign rental contracts with the republican government at a total annual price of some 100 million rubles ($3.2 million). According to the press service of the federal Tax Ministry branch in Bashkortostan, the republican Property Ministry acted on the orders of the Bashkir State Assembly and Cabinet of Ministers, as it pushed for the quick inclusion of all premises used by the tax service into the register of republic-owned real estate.

Bashkir Parliament Schedules Presidential Vote For 7 December
Bashkortostan's State Assembly on 17 September voted to move the date of presidential election in Bashkortostan (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 15 and 16 September 2003) to that of the Russian State Duma elections on 7 December, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. In March, the Bashkir parliament extended Rakhimov's term in office by postponing the June election, which raised speculation about the possibility of having the presidential election either together with the Duma vote or with the March 2004 federal presidential elections.

Bashkir Communist Leader Opposes Move Of Local Council Elections To December
The Bashkir State Assembly on 17 September voted to set the date for elections to Bashkortostan's local self-government councils together with the federal presidential elections in March 2004, and "Kommersant-Daily" reported the next day. Russian State Duma Deputy representing Bashkortostan and head of the Communist Party in the republic Valentin Nikitin told the website and the daily that this decision represented "a direct violation of Bashkortostan's Constitution adopted in 2002, which says that elections for local councils are to be held together with the elections for the Bashkir State Assembly."

Bashkortostan already elected its State Assembly in March, but in December 2002 the Bashkir parliament adopted a law on extending the term of local self-government councils, so that the elections of city and regional councils were moved to December 2003, despite the republican constitution, Nikitin said.

Daily Weights Up Potential Of Rakhimov's Rivals In Presidential Race
Relif Safin, former LUKoil vice president and current Altai Republic representative in the Federation Council, is currently getting very high poll rating in Bashkortostan, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" wrote on 18 September. According to the paper, Safin, an ethnic Tatar born in Bashkortostan, promotes President Murtaza Rakhimov's voluntary retirement, though acknowledging that one can't seriously expect such hopes to come true.

The daily also notes that another serious candidate "could be the co-owner of Mezhprombank and adviser to the chairman of Unified Russia's executive board Sergei Veremeenko," although he has not revealed his final decision on whether to seek the Bashkir presidency.

Moscow's Center for Political Technologies Director Boris Makarenko told the paper that Safin and Veremeenko could join forces against Rakhimov, "as for Relif Safin the elections are his personal political project," while Veremeenko's actions are motivated by the interests of major Russian businesses.

Bashkortostan's Tatars Call On Shaimiev Not To Support Rakhimov
Visiting Kazan the previous week, Elfir Saqaev, head of the newly established Tatar civic group Unity, met with Tatar officials to deliver an appeal to Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev from a group of officials and public leaders from Bashkortostan, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 21 September. The appeal read that during the rule of Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov, there has been oppression against Tatars and enforced "Bashkirization." Brotherly relations, the appeal continued, between Tatarstan and Bashkortostan have been destroyed. The authors called on the Tatar president not to back the candidacy of Rakhimov in the Bashkir presidential election.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Pensioners Party Wins Defamation Suit Against Zyuganov
The Chelyabinsk Kalinin Raion court on 18 September upheld a defamation suit filed by the Pensioners Party leader Sergei Atroshenko against Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, reported the same day. The court ruled that Zyuganov apologize to the party. The lawsuit came in the wake of Zyuganov's June visit to Chelyabinsk, during which he claimed that the Pensioners Party "was devised" by Kremlin officials who "gathered a team and trained it in the United States for three weeks, after which it was let out to deceive pensioners." The court ruled that Zyuganov must visit Chelyabinsk within a month and renounce his statements at a press conference.

Mayak Heads Say No Nuclear Fuel Imported From Hungary
The management of the Chelyabinsk Oblast's Mayak plant has denied reports that it is importing spent nuclear fuel from the Paksh nuclear power station in Hungary, UralBiznesKonsalting reported on 19 September. Mayak General Director Vitalii Sadovnikov told the news agency that the plant has neither imported nor plans to import any nuclear fuel from Hungary in 2003. This year, Mayak has imported spent nuclear fuel only from the Ukraininan Rovno and Bulgarian Kozloduy nuclear power stations, Sadovnikov said.

Lawmaker Urges More Money For Chemical Weapons Destruction
The draft 2004 budget does not provide conditions for Russia to fulfill its obligations on the annihilation of 20 percent of its chemical weapons by 2007, Major General Nikolai Bezborodov, deputy chief of the parliamentary defense affairs committee, said on 19 September, reported the same day. The draft allocates 5.3 billion rubles ($174 million) for the program on the destruction of chemical weapons in 2004, or 46 percent of the 11.6 billion rubles needed for that year, Bezborodov said. Thus Russia will lose financial aid for the program from foreign countries since to continue receiving it, Russia must increase donations to the program from year to year. Specifically, the United States is ready to unfreeze $200 million earmarked for the construction of a plant to destroy chemical weapons in Shchuche, Kurgan Oblast, providing Russia and other donor countries provide at least $50 million for the facility, Bezborodov said. He called for the sum allocated for the program to be increased by at least 2.1 billion rubles ($69 million).

Referendum On Perm Oblast, Komi-Permyak Okrug Merger Slated For December
The Perm Oblast Legislative Assembly confirmed on 18 September the date of the referendum on the proposed merger of Perm Oblast and Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug into Perm Krai, Novyi Region (Perm) reported the same day. The vote will be held on 7 December, together with the nationwide State Duma elections.

Human Rights Representatives To Be Appointed In Perm Oblast Secondary Schools
Ombudsmen defending the rights of students and teachers will work in 20 secondary schools in the Perm Oblast, Novyi Region (Perm) reported on 18 September. The ombudsmen will work under a program run by the oblast's education department and the oblast's ombudsman Sergei Matveev. The ombudsmen will help resolve conflicts between students, teachers, and parents and supervise the observance of human rights in all stages of children's education.

Sverdlovsk Oblast Incumbent Re-elected In Second Round
Incumbent Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel was re-elected by 55.67 percent of votes in the run-off on 21 September, according to preliminary results reported by Russian agencies on 22 September. Rossel's rival, oblast parliamentary deputy Anton Bakov, gathered 29.81 percent, while 13.09 percent of voters were "against all." Turnout totaled 31.98 percent.

TV Journalists Assaulted In Sverdlovsk Oblast
Sverdlovsk Oblast Television (OTV) host Martin Adams, who is African, was beaten on 17 September by around 15 soccer fans, Novyi Region reported the same day. The assault was accompanied by cries of "Russia for Russians," "Blacks, leave the Urals." Adams was hospitalized and underwent surgery. The OTV management issued on 18 September a statement saying that policemen failed to intervene in the incident, despite the fact that their headquarters was only 10 meters away from the incident. Police officials refused to give any comments on the case. The news agency reported that on 18 September law enforcement bodies opened a criminal case into the assault. Three years ago, Adams was beaten in a Yekaterinburg nightclub by bouncers.

Meanwhile, Kseniya Kartseva, the host of the "Izvestiya" program on the Sverdlovsk Oblast's ATN television channel, was severely beaten, Novyi Region reported on 19 September. Kartseva received a concussion of the brain after unknown assailants beat her in the head and face, according to the report. Editor in chief of the ATN news department Veronika Dubrovkina said this is the third assault on employees of ATN.

Muslim Women Still Face Obstacles In Wearing Headscarves
Muslim women living in Krasnoufimsk in the Sverdlovsk Oblast have appealed to the Yekaterinburg civic group Sutyazhnik to complain that the local passport office still does not accept photographs of them wearing headscarves, reported on 19 September. After Muslim women won their lawsuit in the Russian Supreme Court (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 16 May and 3 June 2003), Russian Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov annulled in early June the ministry ruling prohibiting women from wearing headscarves in their passport photographs.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova