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Tatar-Bashkir Report: November 25, 2003

25 November 2003
New Century Party Confirms Support For Unified Russia
The congress of Tatarstan's pro-governmental New Century party, led by State Council chairman Farid Mukhametshin, voted to support the Unified Russia party during the upcoming State Duma elections in December, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 17 November. According to the resolution adopted at the congress, party activists will campaign on behalf of Unified Russia. Most of New Century's key figures are already members of Unified Russia: Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev is on Unified Russia's list of candidates for the State Duma. Mukhametshin told reporters during the congress that by joining forces with Unified Russia, New Century will have more opportunity for representation in the Russian parliament defending Tatarstan's interests more efficiently.

Tatar Representative Cites Human Rights Violations In Moscow, Russia
Speaking at a scientific conference sponsored by the Russian Human Rights Commission, Timur Soleimanov, spokesman for the Tatar national and cultural autonomy in Moscow, has said the number of cases of extremism and interethnic and interconfessional discord are growing, especially in the Russian capital, Intertat reported on 17 November. Soleimenov said that about 30 percent of non-Russian nationals have been beaten by skinheads in Moscow. Soleimenov also referred to the legislative work of the Russian State Duma, which, according to him, has adopted laws violating the provisions of international human rights treaties ratified by Russia in the late 1990s.

Government Offers Support To Domestic Petrochemical Industries
Deputy Prime Minister Rawyl Moratov told a meeting devoted to the development of small and medium-sized businesses in Tatarstan's petrochemical industry on 18 November that the republican government will refine all domestic oil at their facilities, which adds more than 30 percent value to the final product, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the next day. The republic has 10 major and mid-size, as well as 200 small petrochemical companies, with annual production of more than $1.3 billion, which is 10 percent of Russia's overall petrochemical output. The number of small petrochemical and oil-extraction companies has increased in the last five years by some 30 percent. Rafinad Yarullin, general director of the republic's Tatneftekhiminvestholding company, said during the same meeting that the output of small petrochemical firms in Tatarstan is expected to triple in the near future, "since small businesses have not yet discovered all the opportunities available in the sphere of deep oil processing." However, Igor Privalov, general director of Tatarstan's agency for entrepreneurial development, cited a lack of dialogue between the small and large petrochemical companies, due to the unwillingness of major producers to share access to oil reserves.

Wages Arrears Fall By More Than Half This Year
Tatar Labor Minister Boris Zakharov told the meeting of the republican Coordinating Committee on wage arrears payment on 19 November that the current amount owed in back wages by local companies to their employees is 317.3 million rubles ($10.5 million), which is 23.5 percent less than the month before. In 2003, these companies have managed to reduce wages arrears by more than half, as the number of companies owing back wages also fell from 1220 in January to 508 in November.

Case Of Alleged Explosives Purchase Sent To Court
The Federal Security Service's (FSB) office in Tatarstan completed its investigation into an alleged attempt by German citizen Uwe Krueger to purchase some 20 kilograms of explosives in Tuben Kama earlier this year, Intertat reported on 19 November. Krueger reportedly also intended to hire a Russian demolition expert to bomb his own three-story apartment building in Berlin for the insurance. A Tatar court will hear the case on 3 December.

Shaimiev Comments On Russia's Federalism Issues
In an interview with "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 21 November, Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev said centralization of power in Russia was carried to extremes during the campaign on strengthening vertical power. Shaimiev added that some federal laws contradict the Russian Constitution and Russia's international obligations, specifically the law on languages of the peoples of Russia, which prohibited Tatars from introducing the Latin Tatar script. The law violates Article 68 of the Russian Constitution, which guarantees for all peoples the right to develop their native language, and the European Convention on National Minorities, which obliges all countries to promote the development of national languages and cultures, Shaimiev said.

Asked about attempts to merge Russia's entities, including calls to reduce their number to 25, 12 to 15, or seven, Shaimiev said they can be accepted if public in these regions agree on them. Shaimiev spoke against revising the Russian Constitution, saying it "can remain in force for many years."

New Location For Controversial Chally Church Found
Construction of the Orthodox St. Tatyana Church in Chally will begin soon in a new location, "Izvestiya" reported on 21 November. This agreement was reached at a meeting between Chally Mayor Ildar Khalikov and Archbishop Anastasii of Kazan and Tatarstan. Khalikov said the Chally administration will allocate money from the budget for the construction. Anastasii said he considers the decision to remove the construction from the controversial site correct.

Local Muslims have opposed for several years the construction of the church near Victory Park, which commemorates victims of World War II, saying that not only Orthodox believers fought in the war. In October 2002, three elderly Muslim women were charged with vandalizing the church's foundation (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 3, 4, 7, 10, 14, and 31 October, 4 and 25 November, and 30 December 2002). Then a Chally court annulled a city administration resolution allotting a plot of land near Victory Park for the construction of the church, arguing that it was passed in violation of the city construction plan (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 6 December 2002).

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Envoy Says No Conflicts Exist Between Ufa, Federal Authorities
Presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District Sergei Kirienko visited Ufa on 19 November to supervise preparations for the winter season, Bashkir and Russian agencies reported. Speaking on his arrival at the Ufa airport, Kirienko praised the republic for being "a calm stable region that always was among the district's three leaders in terms of main socioeconomic parameters." He said, "It is impermissible to force the situation [in the republic] on the eve of elections," adding, "no conflict exists between Bashkortostan and federal authorities."

Following his closed-door meeting with Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov, Kirienko said payment of increased salaries to state employees was on the agenda. He commented that "there are no problems concerning this issue in Bashkortostan and all salaries are being paid in full." Meeting with government officials, Kirienko ordered them "not to let the electoral situation deteriorate." He said the Bashkir Interior Ministry must ensure the safety of people during the election campaign and complete the investigation of the 5 November bombing in Ufa (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 7 November 2003.

Kirienko also said all election disputes should be resolved in election commissions and courts, adding that he, "as a federal official, would not like to and will not interfere" in them. Kirienko added that he will next visit Bashkortostan to attend the president's inauguration.

Statement Says Interior Ministry Tapped Phones Of Opposition Leaders
A group of Bashkir Interior Ministry employees issued a statement saying they were ordered to tap telephone conversations of the Bashkir opposition, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 20 November. The statement's authors also published on the Internet transcripts of telephone conversations of several opposition leaders, including Rus movement leader and State Assembly deputy Anatolii Dubovskii, Bashkir presidential candidate Aleksandr Arinin, Bashkir parliament deputy and State Duma candidate Gennadii Shabaev, former Bashkirenergo director German Galkin, and Nikkolo-M agency head Igor Mintusov. "We have been ordered to intercept telephone conversations and hold outward observation of not only opposition politicians but also of members of their families as well as all persons who had if only occasional contacts with them," the statement read.

Writing in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 20 November, Dubovskii said the published telephone conversations involving him did in fact take place. He said he appealed to the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office to punish the officials responsible for the phone tapping. Commenting on the publication of the statement, Arinin said he was not surprised by the fact of his phones being tapped and is not going to sue anybody, "Gazeta" reported on 19 November.

TsIK Registers Veremeenko As Bashkir Presidential Candidate
The Russian Central Election Commission (TsIK) on 17 November unanimously approved Mezhprombank board member Sergei Veremeenko as a candidate for the Bashkir presidential election and urged the Bashkir Central Election Commission (USK) to issue Veremeenko a candidate certificate within three days, RosBalt reported the same day. The USK has twice refused to register Veremeenko as a presidential candidate, accusing him of distributing material in the mass media without paying for them from his electoral fund (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 28 October and 12 November 2003). The TsIK on 3 November annulled the decision by the Bashkir USK and urged it to reconsider Veremeenko's registration. At its 17 November session, the TsIK noted that the USK did not take measures to halt the alleged illegal campaigning and to find the persons involved in it and laid responsibility for issuing and spreading printed material on Veremeenko without real proof. The TsIK also appealed to the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office to investigate the alleged violations of the election law in the presidential race.

Unified Russia Leader Expresses Support For Rakhimov
Visiting Ufa on 20 November, Unified Russia leader Gryzlov stated his support for incumbent President Murtaza Rakhimov in the 7 December Bashkir presidential elections, RosBalt reported the same day. Gryzlov said he believes that the candidate from "the party of power" will win the elections and that "the next years in Bashkortostan will pass under his guidance." Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel, who also came to Ufa to attend a conference on the role of Unified Russia in strengthening Russian statehood, said, "we, Urals residents, will support [Murtaza Rakhimov]." Meanwhile, speaking at a press conference following the Unified Russia forum, Rakhimov said, "I do not have any doubt that I will win." Commenting on the electoral situation in the republic, Rakhimov said that the campaign has been civilized so far.

Another Independent Radio Station Attacked In Ufa
A group of unidentified persons accompanied by policemen tried on 17 November to destroy the transmitting antenna of the Retro radio station in Ufa, Retro-Ufa Director Oskar Fazlyev told Ekho Moskvy on 18 November. Retro-Ufa employees and guards prevented the antenna from being dismantled. The same day, the station had its electricity cut off.

Retro-Ufa was already targeted in May, when authorities destroyed the station's tower, reported on 18 November. In the past two weeks, Retro-Ufa is the third independent radio station to be harassed. On 10 November, unidentified persons accompanied by people in police uniforms dismantled an antenna of Bulgar radio, while the Hit-FM radio station was ordered to immediately vacate its rented premises (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 11 and 13 November 2003). In addition, a fake plaster bomb was found in the Hit-FM office, according to the website.

Bashkir Central Election Commission Fails To Give Veremeenko Election Certificate.
The Bashkir Central Election Commission (USK) refused on 20 November to approve the candidacy for the Bashkir president of former Mezhprombank head Sergei Veremeenko, "Kommersant-Daily," "Izvestia," and "Vremya novostei" reported on 21 November. Veremeenko was registered as a candidate by the Russian Central Election Commission (TsIK) on 17 November (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 18 November 2003). Veremeenko said he will appeal the court ruling in the Bashkir Supreme Court.

TsIK member Nina Kulyasova, who is visiting Bashkortostan to supervise preparations for the elections, said postponing the issuance of the candidate's certificate does not annul the TsIK's resolution on his registration. She also said the USK could not avoid implementation of the TsIK's verdict. Speaking at a press conference in Ufa on 20 November, Unified Russia leader Boris Gryzlov said the USK has the right to appeal the TsIK resolution on registration of Veremeenko as presidential candidate, RIA-Novosti reported the same day. The USK has previously argued that the TsIK does not have the power to register candidates in regional elections and that decisions by the Bashkir USK can only be annulled in court.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Felon Businessman Dropped From State Duma Campaign In Nizhnii
A Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast court struck down on 17 November the decision by the Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast Election Commission (OIK) to register convicted felon and businessman Andrei Klimentiev as a candidate for the State Duma, NTA Privolzhe reported on 18 November. The court invalidated 3,964 signatures submitted by Klimentiev to the OIK, while the required minimum is 4,930. The OIK recognized 5,828 signatures as valid. The court rejected signatories who did not write that they live in Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast but only mentioned Nizhnii Novgorod as their place of residence. Klimentiev himself missed the court hearing, having presented a document confirming his being ill that the court considered invalid.

Klimentiev was elected mayor of Nizhnii Novgorod in 1998, but the election results were declared invalid and he was sentenced to six years in prison for loan fraud. Having served his term in prison, Klimentiev took part in the 2001 gubernatorial elections in which he finished fifth with 10 percent. Klimentiev also ran for Nizhnii Novgorod mayor in 2002 but a court annulled his registration as a candidate.

Manager Wins Defamation Suit Against Tolyatti Newspaper
A Tolyatti court on 19 November ordered the "Tolyattinskoe obozrenie" newspaper to pay 50,000 rubles ($1,680) to Srednevolzhskaya Interregional Managing Energy Company head Vladimir Avetisyan in compensation for moral damages (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 18 November 2003), NTA Privolzhe reported on 20 November. The newspaper had published an article in which the authors claimed that the killing of the paper's Editor in Chief Aleksei Sidorov (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 14 October 2003) might be linked to negotiations about the paper being sold to the Media-Samara holding controlled by Avetisyan. Avetisyan said he will give the money to the Glasnost Defense Fund to go toward the investigation of Sidorov's killing.

Presumed Bombing Attempt On Deputy Prosecutor-General Prevented In Yekaterinburg
A car containing components of a radio-controlled explosive device, including 500 grams of explosive, was found in Yekaterinburg on 21 November, "Kommersant-Daily" and Russian news agencies reported. The suspicious car attracted the attention of a woman living nearby who called police. A photo and a note with the home address of Russian Deputy Prosecutor-General in charge of the Ural Federal District Yurii Zolotov was found in the car, which was located near his home, so investigators believe he was the target. Following the incident, the local Interior Ministry directorate provided bodyguards for Zolotov.

According to "Kommersant-Daily," an attempt on the life of Zolotov's personal driver took place a year ago. Zolotov himself has not previously received any threats related to his professional activities. Zolotov was appointed Russian deputy prosecutor-general in 2000. He began his work in Yekaterinburg with sharp criticism of local interior bodies, specifically, with accusations of concealing crimes and misrepresentation of crime statistics.

Sverdlovsk Oblast TsIK Accuses Yekaterinburg Administration Of Election Violations
The Sverdlovsk Oblast Central Election Commission (TsIK) issued on 20 November a resolution saying that Yekaterinburg mayoral candidates are being deprived of equal opportunities for campaigning since officials from the Yekaterinburg administration and city law enforcement support the re-election of the incumbent mayor, Novyi region reported on 21 November. The TsIK said that employees of the city Interior Ministry directorate detained in the past two weeks more than 1,000 supporters of the main rivals of the incumbent mayor. Some subdivisions of the administration prevent other candidates from placing their campaign materials and renting spaces to meet with the public, the TsIK noted. It also said that the Yekaterinburg Interior Ministry directorate and raion prosecutor's offices have not responded in timely fashion to any of the 14 appeals by the TsIK. The commission decided to appeal to presidential envoy to the Ural Federal District Petr Latyshev and Russian Deputy Prosecutor-General Yurii Zolotov on the alleged violations.

Uralvagonzavod Arranges Tank Assembly In India
The assembly of T-90C tanks produced at the Nizhnii Tagil's Uralvagonzavod has been launched in the India state of Tamilnad, Novyi region reported on 20 November, citing the plant's press service. A total of 186 tanks will be assembled in India. Several groups of Indian specialists have been trained at Uralvagonzavod as part of the contract. The press service added that the plant is unlikely to receive a state order for tank production in 2004 and is re-equipping its facilities to produce road-building vehicles, tank cars, carriages, and other rail cars.

Hunger Strike Ends In Sverdlovsk Oblast...
Nine workers of the Artemovskii Ferro-Concrete Items Plant in Sverdlovsk Oblast, who have been holding a hunger strike since 17 November, ended the strike on 21 November after the plant administration threatened to fire them if they continue it, Novyi region reported on 21 November. Five of the hunger strikers decided to return to work but were unable to do so because of their poor state of health, while the other four resigned and demanded to be paid their back wages in full. No employees of the plant have been paid since July, while the amount of the debt is being concealed by the plant's management.

...And Begins In Khanty-Mansii Okrug
Twenty employees of Nizhnevartovsk Drilling Company in Khanty-Mansii Autonomous Okrug have begun a hunger strike, reported on 21 November. The workers have not been paid for a year and are each owed between 50,000 and 70,000 rubles ($1,680-$2,350). The company owes some 10 million rubles ($336,000) in back wages.

Stepashin Says Oligarchs Outdated Concept
Speaking at a conference on the role and place of auditor agencies in the economic development of Russia's regions in Tyumen on 18 November, Audit Chamber Chairman Sergei Stepashin said relations between the state and big business should not leave space for the "oligarch" concept, reported the same day. Stepashin said so-called oligarchs often use their extreme wealth for unseemly purposes. He also said the Audit Chamber has repeatedly criticized loopholes in Russian law that let businesses legally evade taxes. He cited the results of an audit of the Sibneft oil company, which skipped paying 10 billion rubles ($336 million) in taxes in 2001 alone. Many other Russian oil companies use the same schemes, which threatens Russia's economic security, he added.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova