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Tatar-Bashkir Report: December 2, 2003

2 December 2003
Public Figures Protest Construction Of Catholic Church
A group of public figures appealed to Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev to protest against plans by the city of Kazan to build a large Catholic church in the center of Kazan near an Old Belief church, "Zvezda povolzhya" reported on 27 November. In an open letter published in the weekly, the authors say the intention to build a Catholic church in Kazan, which has only several dozen Catholics, many of them foreigners, demonstrates the Vatican's missionary activity in Tatarstan, where Islam and Orthodoxy are the main beliefs. The Russian Orthodox Church has condemned such expansionist plans by the Vatican, they added. Society for Russian Culture Chairman Aleksandr Salagaev, People's Will party regional branch head Sergei Gavrilov, and Democratic Party of Russian in Tatarstan deputy head Sergei Nikitin are among the signatories.

The church is designed to be 64 meters high, higher than the Geliesker Kamal Tatar National Theater located nearby, the paper reported. According to the weekly, the church is intended to be the place where Pope John Paul II will return the Holy Mother of God of Kazan icon stolen from Kazan a century ago and currently in the Vatican's possession. This would free the pope of the necessity to hand over the icon to the Russian Orthodox Church. John Paul II has repeatedly expressed his intention to return the icon to Kazan, though the Russian Orthodox Church has protested against his visit to Russia until disagreements between the Vatican and the Moscow Patriarchy are resolved (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 15, 21, and 23 April and 31 October 2003).

Tatar Council Speaker Says Position Regarding Tatar Language Key One To Back Candidate For Bashkir President
Interviewed on Bashkir State Radio and Television during a visit to Ufa on 26 November, Tatarstan's State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin said, "any choice made by the multinational people of Bashkortostan" in the 7 December presidential elections will be respected by Tatarstan, "which always promotes maintaining good-neighborly relations with Bashkortostan." Mukhametshin added that he believes Bashkortostan's Tatar population will vote for a candidate who shows a clear perspective for preservation and development of the Tatar language and customs.

In an interview with RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 27 November, political analyst Mekhmut Ekhmetjanov said Mukhametshin's Ufa visit on the eve of the Bashkir presidential elections and his attendance with President Murtaza Rakhimov of the opening ceremony of a hall in the Ufa Nur Tatar Theater is a clear sign of support for Rakhimov, who is responsible for the poor state of the Tatar language and violations of Tatars' rights of national cultural development in Bashkortostan.

Duma Candidate Reports Violations By Rival
State Duma candidate Ivan Grachev appealed to the Volga Federal District election commission to accuse another candidate in the same single-mandate district, Krasnyi Vostok brewery Chairman Airat Kheirullin of Unified Russia, of violating election law, "Zvezda povolzhya" reported on 27 November. Grachev claimed that Krasnyi Vostok workers are involved in removing and damaging campaign materials of other candidates, first of all Grachev's. He also said company employees are forced to join Unified Russia under threat of firing and financial penalties. Salespeople of the Edelveis stores co-owned by Kheirullin were charged with distributing his campaign materials to customers, Grachev said. He asked the commission to stop Kheirullin's illegal activity and to appeal to law enforcement bodies to hold him responsible.

2004 Budget Deficit At 2.9 Billion Rubles
Tatarstan's State Council increased allocations for the educational sector by 100 million rubles ($3.4 million) while passing the republic's 2004 budget on 20 November in the third and final reading, RosBalt reported the next day. Amendments passed during the third reading resulted in an increase of projected revenue from 40.8 billion rubles to 41.1 billion rubles and of spending from 43.4 billion rubles to 44 billion rubles, increasing the deficit from 2.6 billion rubles to 2.9 billion rubles. The export price of oil is estimated at $20 per barrel, while the exchange rate is projected at 31.3 rubles to the dollar.

According to the draft, prices are expected to rise in Tatarstan next year by 10.4 percent, gas tariffs by 22 percent, and energy tariffs by 20 percent. The gross regional product is expected to increase by 4.1 percent to 282 billion rubles, while industrial production volume is expected to grow by 4.1 percent to 246 billion rubles. Some 1 billion rubles will be spent next year on law enforcement and security activities; 6.3 billion on the industrial, energy, and construction sectors; 1.9 billion rubles on the housing and municipal-services sector; 5.1 billion on health care; 2.2 billion rubles on social policy; and 325 million rubles on agriculture.

New Program On Language Development Passed In First Reading
Draft amendments to Tatarstan's law on languages and the proposed state program on the preservation, study, and development of the languages of peoples of Tatarstan scheduled for 2004-2013 were passed in the first reading at the State Council's 20 November session, and other Tatar and Russian news agencies reported. The draft law calls for a permanent system of Tatar-language courses be organized and the responsibility of heads of state offices for violating language legislation be introduced. The proposed program specifies that office work, visual and audio information, consumer goods, information technology, and education are obligated to use both of the republic's state languages, Tatar and Russian. It also provides measures to develop languages of all peoples living in Tatarstan and to preserve and develop the Tatar language outside the republic. The program is to be allocated 140.8 million rubles.

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).

Constitutional Court Tackles Tatar Latin Script Issue
The Tatar Constitutional Court considered on 24 November an appeal by the Tatar State Council's Science, Education, Culture, and National Issues Commission concerning whether the Tatar Constitution provides legal ground for Tatarstan to introduce the Tatar Latin script, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. Experts Mirfatyikh Zekiev and Fehime Khisamova, who took part in the hearing, said that continuing to use a Cyrillic script will have a detrimental effect on the pronunciation of the Tatar language. Representatives from the cabinet and the Tatar presidential administration at the court session stated their support for the commission's appeal. Tatar Ombudsman Reshid Wegyizov said the Tatar people should be permitted to determine the fate of their own language, adding that Russian human rights activists also defend such a position.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Tambov Court Annuls The Handover Of Leading Industries' Shares
The Kotovsk city court in Tambov Oblast on 20 November upheld a complaint made by Petr Komarov, the minor shareholder of key Bashkir petrochemical and energy industries (Bashneft, the Ufa oil processing plant, the Novoufimskii oil processing plant, Ufaneftekhim, Ufaorgsintez, and Bashnefteprodukt), which protested the handover of his shares to the newly established Bashkirskii Kapital company, "Kommersant" wrote on 25 November. The court ruled that Viktor Gantsev, working as a general director of the Bashneftekhim concern, "organized a series of transactions for alienating the controlling shares packages," which transformed the plaintiff "from a shareholder of the companies with the state-owned controlling share and transparent scheme of monetary flows into a shareholder of companies owned by unidentified proprietors." The aforementioned companies were forced to return the interest to their initial owners, the Bashkir fuel company and Bashneftekhim.

According to an unnamed expert on corporate conflicts cited by "Kommersant," the legal suit could be a result of the interests of Basic Element Holding, which owns a 10 percent share in Bashneft and wants to secure the price of the company's shares. The expert also said that the suit could be influenced by Mezhprombank's former top manager and current Bashkir presidential candidate, Sergei Veremeenko, who does not want the controlling interests of the leading domestic companies moved outside the republic. Veremeenko could reportedly be coordinating his actions with the Basic Element Holding, headed by Oleg Deripaska. Earlier this year, the Russian Audit Chamber announced that the state-owned Bashkir petrochemical giants, Bashneftekhim and Bashkir Fuel Company, with the consent of President Rakhimov, handed the controlling interests in major petrochemical companies to private companies, which later transferred them to the Bashkirskii Kapital company.

Tatar Parliamentary Speaker Visits Bashkortostan
Tatarstan�s State Council chairman Farid Mukhametshin visited Ufa on 26 November for joining the opening ceremony of a new hall at the Tatar �Nur� drama theater and signed a protocol on establishing a working group for implementing the cooperation agreement between the Tatar and Bashkir parliaments signed in 1997, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. Mukhametshin�s counterpart Konstantin Tolkachev signed the protocol on the behalf of Bashkortostan.

During his visit Mukhametshin told the reporters that peoples of Tatarstan and Bashkortostan maintained �close brotherly relations� and the their parliaments had �vast opportunities for jointly securing the interests of their regions before the federal center.�

Speaking live on Bashkir Satellite Television (BST) later the same day Mukhametshin avoided mentioning which candidate he favored the most in the coming presidential elections. However he condemned �dirty promotion techniques, which remain a part of Russian political reality� and advised the electorate to �disbelieve the promises of instant prosperity practiced by some of the candidates� and �rely on those who are gradually moving the republic forward.�

Mukhametshin also stated his respect to Bashkortostan�s industrial development, its vast territory and rich natural resources.

Bashkortostan�s Tatar Movement Fails To Come Up With A Single Presidential Candidate
The congress of Tatar ethnic rights organizations in Bashkortostan on 26 November adopted a resolution on supporting those presidential candidates, who pledge protection to of the Tatar people�s interests in the republic, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. Although the draft resolution initially stated support to former Mezhprombank�s top manager currently running for Bashkir president Sergei Veremeenko. The latter joined the meeting and promised to grant an official status to Tatar language in the republic if he is elected, the participants were split over expressing support to him or another opposition candidate, Altai�s senator in Russian Federation Council, ethnic Tatar Relif Safin. Even the representatives of Tatar national movement from Tatarstan expressed opposite views. The leadership of the Kazan-based World Tatar Congress reportedly instructed Tatar Public Center (TIU) chairman Reshit Yegeferov to back Relif Safin�s candidacy, while the ideologist and of Tatar national movement Damir Iskhaqov who was in the same delegation, lauded Sergei Veremeenko. In Iskhaqov�s words, the Soviet-era history of Tatarstan and Bashkortostan showed that ethnic Russians appointed regional leaders there proved positive in the aspect of ethnic policies.

Although the meeting was reportedly held in secret from the Bashkir authorities, Bashkir police reportedly seized the buses prepared for its participants, so that the delegates had to use public transport to reach one of the Ufa�s caf�s, which hosted the event. For an unknown reason the caf� experienced a power cutoff during the meeting.

Veremeenko Finally Gets His Candidate�s Certificate
Naile Altynova, Bashkortostan�s Central Election Commission (USK) secretary handed a presidential candidate�s certificate to the trustees of Sergei Veremeenko, who is the only candidate to be approved for registration not by the USK but by the Russian Central Election Commission (TsIK), an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day (see �RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report,� 26 November 2003). Although Veremeenko�s registration was finally confirmed by the Russian and Bashkir supreme courts on 24 November, the USK so far has not added his name to the blank voting ballots to be used during the 7 December vote.

According to, TsIK chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov told the reporters in Moscow on 26 November that �suspecting the actions of Bashkir USK and other republican officials in involving attempts to infringe on the citizens� election rights, which may lead to compromising the elections, we appealed to Russia�s Prosecutor-General asking to clear out the situation and punish those guilty.�

Bombing Suspect Remains In Custody
Ufa's Kirov Raion court on 27 November ruled to keep Vyacheslav Senin in custody, Interfax and RosBalt reported the same day. Senin is suspected of plotting the assassination of Aleksandr Veremeenko, the former head of Mezhprombank's Ufa office and brother of Bashkir presidential candidate Sergei Veremeenko (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 10 June 2003). According to Senin's lawyer, Petr Femichev, Senin is currently charged with illegal possession of firearms and false reporting of an act of terrorism. After being arrested on 24 November, Senin confessed to setting a booby trap of five hand grenades at the gate of Veremeenko's house "with hooligan intentions," but now is denying his confession, insisting that he was pressured into confessing.

Although the investigators had previously claimed that Senin is also connected to the 5 November bombing in Ufa, according to the lawyer, these charges "were not even discussed during the court session" (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 7 November 2003). The suspect reportedly worked for the private Intertekhbezopasnost security company and his job was to guard Veremeenko's residence.

Swiss Air Traffic Control Service Agrees On Compensation Sum
Relatives of the 12 crew members of a Bashkir Airline's Tu-154 that collided in July 2002 with a DHL Boeing-757 cargo jet over southern Germany (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 2 July 2002) will be paid between $100,000 and $300,000 each in compensation, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 November. An agreement was signed the previous day in Zurich by lawyers of the Swiss Skyguide air traffic control service that controlled the jets during the collision and those representing the crew members' relatives. The compensation payments are determined according to the crew member's income and family status. For their part, the relatives of the victims agreed that they will not bring new financial claims against Skyguide. Yulia Fedotova, who is coordinating the defense of the passengers' families, told RosBalt on 28 November that no agreement has yet been reached. Fedotova said the Swiss and German governments have suggested that the relatives be paid "trifling" sums in compensation for psychological damage, while they do not intend to compensate for material damage at all.

Ballot Papers To Be Reprinted In Bashkortostan
Russian Central Election Commission (TsIK) Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov told a press conference on 28 November that the Bashkir Central Election Commission must reprint the entire print run of electoral ballots for both the Bashkir presidential and State Duma elections on 7 December, RosBalt and other news agencies reported the same day. Veshnyakov said TsIK members concluded that the color and quality of the paper are not good enough. Veshnyakov said, "the entire 3 million print run may have to be reprinted." He added that persons guilty of negligence would be punished. Citing another reason for the reprint, the ballots were printed before presidential candidate Sergei Veremeenko, a board member of Mezhprombank, was registered as a candidate.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Explosive Device Found Under Car Of Kalinin State Duma Candidate
An explosive device was found on 29 November under the car of State Duma candidate and former Chelyabinsk prosecutor Sergei Davydov, Uralinformbyuro reported on 1 December, citing the press service of the oblast prosecutor's office. An unknown person warned police that the explosive device was there. Davydov told reporters on 1 December that the attempt on his life is linked to his electoral campaign in the Kalinin single-mandate district.

Kurgan Oblast Court Cancels Registration Of Businessmen Under Investigation
The Kurgan Oblast Court on 1 December upheld an appeal by a district electoral commission to annul the registration as a State Duma candidate of Ural industrialist Pavel Fedulev who ran in the single-mandate election district No. 96, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 2 December. State Duma Deputy Nikolai Bezborodov and Fedulev were considered favorites in the district where eight candidates balloted. The local electoral commission annulled Fedulev's registration, alleging that he bribed voters. Fedulev was arrested before, for the first time in January 1999 on suspicion of securities fraud at the Kachkanar Ore Mining and Processing Enterprise Vanadii. He was arrested again in January 2002 and was released in spring 2003 after paying a 5 million rubles ($168,000) bond. Fedulev is the owner of the Novyie rubezhi holding in Kurgan Oblast.

Complete Lenin Works Stolen From Kurgan Library
Forty-four volumes of the complete works of Vladimir Lenin were stolen from the Sholokhov Library in Kurgan, reported on 25 November. The crime was allegedly committed by several teenagers. Library employees said that the increase in the value of communist-era books may be behind the theft. Meanwhile, informed about the theft, a Kurgan resident presented Lenin's complete works to the library, saying that the books were just gathering dust in the garage.

Saratov Oblast Governor Promotes Confederation Of Ex-Soviet States
Speaking to Saratov Oblast students on 29 November, oblast Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov called for the establishment of a confederation of the former countries of the Soviet Union, reported on 1 December. Ayatskov said he is against the revival of the USSR but supports an alternative powerful confederation united by common borders, common customs rules, and a single currency. The confederation would be managed by an elected president and a common parliament, he said. According to Ayatskov, the proposed model could help resolve numerous problems including internal and external conflicts.

Yekaterinburg TV Forced To Provide Airtime For Opposition Mayoral Candidates
The Yekaterinburg television channel Studia-41, which is controlled by the city administration, was charged to begin on 27 November broadcasting ads of Yekaterinburg mayoral candidate Yurii Osintsev, Novyi region reported the same day. The city electoral commission on 27 November ruled that Studia-41 does not have grounds to refuse him to show his campaign ads. The city television company has so far shown only ads of the incumbent Yekaterinburg Mayor Arkadii Chernetskii.

Independent Printing House Closed In Tyumen
The operation of Poligrafservis, an independent Tyumen-based printing house, has been halted, reported on 25 November. The opposition newspapers "Volnyi Gorod" (Noyabrsk), "Sibirskii listok," and "Gorod" were printed at the printing house. The news agency cited employees of the newspapers as reporting that the printing house had its electricity cut off on 20 November, while the following morning police and fire-prevention officers conducted an extraordinary inspection of the premises. Printing house director Konstantin Gerasimov was invited to the Interior Ministry's department for combating economic crimes. Police officers and fire personnel reportedly said that the action had been sanctioned from above. Journalists speculated that the 13 November issue of "Gorod," in which the oblast authorities, Unified Russia, and Tyumen State Duma Deputy and People's Party leader Gennadii Raikov are criticized, is the reason for the clampdown. The heads of the opposition papers are now considering printing their editions outside Tyumen Oblast.

Putin Supporters Gather In Yamal-Nenets Okrug
A forum of over 300 supporters of Russian President Vladimir Putin, calling themselves "Together With The President," was held in Novyi Urengoi, Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, reported on 28 November. The okrug governor, members of the okrug administration and local municipal bodies, heads of enterprises, representatives of civic, political, and religious associations attended the event. Governor Yurii Neelov said, "a common task of supporting the president unites us. Being a true citizen of Russia, I am ready to help him." The forum appealed to Putin to run for Russian president in March 2004.

Secondary School Teacher Introducing Campaign Materials Into The Classroom
A social science teacher in a Tyumen secondary school gave students the task of solving a crossword puzzle devoted to Tyumen city State Duma candidate Aleksandr Zakharov, reported on 27 November. Schoolchildren answered questions about Zakharov's favorite film, the name of Zakharov's father, and the people Zakharov takes care of. The teacher also supplied students with the candidate's campaign materials. The teacher suggested that pupils study Zakharov's biography and, using it as an example, write their own.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova