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Tatar-Bashkir Report: December 23, 2003

23 December 2003
Parliament Hears Final Report On Duma Elections
During the 15 December session of the Tatar State Council, Tatar Central Election Commission (USK) chairman Anatolii Fomin presented a report about the 7 December elections for the Russian State Duma, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. Despite a number of complaints filed by some of the 70 candidates who sought election to five State Duma seats, Fomin said that the vote proceeded in a "calm atmosphere" and with "lawful support of the state bodies," which is explained by the high level of "political culture" of Tatarstan's people. According to the USK chairman, 2.8 million Tatar residents, representing 77.13 percent of voters turned out to vote. The Kremlin-backed Unified Russia party won 59.53 percent of the vote, the Communist Party won 8.91 percent, the right-wing Liberal Democratic Party of Russia won 6.1 percent, while 4.4 percent of people voted "against all."

State Council Approves Bill On Promoting Use Of Tatar Language
In the second reading, the Tatar State Council on 15 December approved draft amendments to the law on the republic's state and secondary languages and to the state program on the preservation and development of these languages in 2004-2013, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. According to the approved amendments, those state officials who use both state languages of Tatarstan -- Tatar and Russian -- in their jobs will be offered a 15 percent bonus to their monthly salary. The bill reportedly won unanimous support among deputies and is to be proposed for a final reading in January 2004.

Fitch Upgrades Tatneft Rating
The Fitch international rating agency upgraded Tatneft oil company's short-term commitment rating from B- to B with a stable forecast, reported on 15 December. The rating hike is explained by "Russia's and Tatarstan's improving economic and financial situation of the last two years and changes in the company's management toward a vertically integrated structure," reported.

Kazan Aircraft Plant Reports Booming Sales
In addition to the recent contract for building four Tu-214 airliners for the Bulgarian Air Sofia and BH Air companies, the Gorbunov aircraft plant in Kazan received an order for constructing two airliners for the Russian Defense Ministry, the "Vremya i dengi" daily reported on 16 December. Earlier this summer, the Gorbunov plant signed contracts on assembling eight such airliners for Russia's air companies in the next four years. As a result the Kazan plant will be forced to boost its output up to 10 airliners per year, at least until 2007. That could be a stretch for the plant, which used to produce the Soviet-era supersonic bombers Tu-160 and the strength the Financial Leasing Company, established by the federal government for financing KAPO's operation.

Tatar Government Ready To Launch New Housing Program
A new state mortgage program is ready to launch in Tatarstan to help families buy their own apartments, first deputy Prime Minister Rawil Moratov told a government meeting on 17 December, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. Families will pay mortgage payments of 1,400 rubles ($48) for a single-room apartment each month for the next 10-15 years. The program replaces a previous program, which reconstructed run-down housing. By its completion in 2004, the old program will have distributed free apartments to 60,000 Tatar families. During the 17 December meeting Moratov confirmed that from 2004 "there will be no free housing" in the republic. The new mortgage program will offer favorable loan conditions for young families where one member is under 30. State employees will also get substantial breaks, as their organizations will have to cover 20 percent of the repayments. In Tatarstan, some 161,000 families are said to have no or insufficient permanent residence.

Tatneft To Compete For Share In Major Turkish Petrochemical Concern
Turkey's State Privatization Committee announced on 17 December that Efremov Kautschuk GMBH from Germany and the Turkish-based Anadolu Ortak Girisim Grubu will compete in the tender for a 65.7 percent stake in the Turkish-based TUPRAS petrochemical concern, which costs some $1.3 billion, reported the same day (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 17 December 2003). The first contesting company is reportedly controlled by Tatarstan's Tatneft oil company, while the other company was established by the Turkish Cukurova Holding and Park Holding specifically for this tender.

Tatarstan Receives Extra Gas From Gazprom
The Russian concern Gazprom provided Tatarstan with an extra 400 million cubic meters of gas in the forth quarter of the year, Tattransgaz General Director Refqet Kantyukov said on 19 December. Tattransgaz received the bonus after it had saved 57 million cubic meters of gas as a result of energy-saving measures. The extra gas will be sold to Tatarstan at prices fixed by the Federal Energy Commission. In 2003, the republic received 4 billion cubic meters of gas.

Meanwhile, Tatar Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov said the Tatar government will not provide gas at fixed prices to the republic's companies that plan to construct and use heating facilities independent from Tatenergo, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 19 December, citing Interfax. The measure was explained by the necessity to support Tatenergo. Some of the republic's large energy consumers have promoted the construction of their own energy facilities instead of receiving energy from Tatenergo, as they consider the prices to be too high. Run by the Tatar government, Tatenergo is independent from the Russian Unified Energy Systems.

Investigation Into Murder Of Former Ingush Interior Minister Complete
The Tatar prosecutor's office has completed its investigation into the murder of former Ingush Interior Minister Daut Korigov (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 24 February 2003), "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 18 December. Korigov, then the deputy head of the Tatar Interior Ministry's Environmental Directorate, was shot on 21 February by a former employee from Tatarstan's Leninogorsk Raion for $5,000. The murder was allegedly contracted by Korigov's relatives who feared that he would contest their rights to a liquor plant in Nazran.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Rakhimov Wins Third Term In Office
President Murtaza Rakhimov won the second round of presidential elections on 21 December with over 78.1 percent of the vote, RosBalt reported the next day. His opponent, Sergei Veremeenko, received some 15.8 percent, while 4.07 percent voted against all candidates. Turnout was about 70 percent for the second round, slightly down from that reported for the first round, 76 percent-78 percent. According to the republic's Central Election Commission (USK), about 10 violations were reported during the 21 December vote, while on 7 December some 400 such violations were reported. About 20 Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) observers and 20,000 nongovernmental monitors observed the first round, while only a few came for the second round.

USK Chairman Baryi Kinjegulov told reporters on 22 December that he had already greeted the incumbent Murtaza Rakhimov with his victory via telephone, and the latter "pledged to preserve his government's policies in future, as well as the positive achievement of previous years." Rakhimov, 69, a former Ufa oil-processing plant director, began his political career by being elected chairman of Bashkortostan's Supreme Council in 1990 and has been Bashkortostan's president for two full terms from 1993.

USK Chairman Praises General Conduct Of 21 December Vote
USK Chairman Kinjegulov said after the official close of polls in the presidential vote on 21 December that the elections were monitored by fewer observers than the 7 December vote, Bashinform reported the same day.

He said that on 21 December the representatives of presidential candidates and special envoys from the Communist Party "were present, but not in all election districts." He also mentioned that in his opinion, it was "not normal, when on 7 December there were three times more observers present than the members of territorial election commissions." Kinjegulov admitted that there were some reports of election law violations during the 21 December vote, "but of a minor nature." He emphasized that "with every time the voting system becomes more and more transparent, which proves the ongoing establishment of democratic principles in electoral procedures."

Police Detain Bashkir Journalist In Moscow
Bashkir Interior Ministry investigators arrested Esker Fazliev, director of Ufa's Radio Retro. as he was leaving the Russian Media Ministry building in Moscow, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported on 18 December. Eduard Khosnetdinov, editor in chief of Bashkortostan's "Vechernii Neftekamsk" opposition daily, told RFE/RL that according to his information, Fazliev was detained "on fabricated charges, alleging that he owes someone 42,000 rubles ($1,500)." Radio Retro FM was known for its independent coverage of this year's presidential elections in Bashkortostan.

On 19 December Bashkir Interior Ministry spokesman Ruslan Sherefetdinov in an interview with RosBalt denied reports of the arrest, but confirmed that Bashkir police "tried to detain Fazliev, but only to try to convince him to testify in Ufa." According to the ministry, Fazliev, the former director of TV-6 Ufa, is suspected in the embezzling of some 700,000 rubles in company property.

Russia's NTV Bewildered By Veremeenko's Decision To Abandon Campaigning...
Commenting on the Veremeenko's decision to stop campaigning before the second round of Bashkortostan's presidential election, the weekly "Namedni" program on Russia's NTV said on 21 December that "he told the people who voted for him in the first round not to do so anymore, something that has never happened in the history of elections." The program hosted by NTV anchorman Leonid Parfenov also reported that Veremeenko was not even in Ufa on election day and both opposition candidates, Veremeenko and Safin, had to deal with excessive administrative pressure during their campaigns, while President Rakhimov in his interviews repeatedly emphasized his being supported by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Meanwhile, the transcript of the Bashkir election story is the only one missing from the "Namedni" transcripts section on NTV's official website, something that could be explained by the company's fears of legal action, as the program appeared on election day, or by the fact that NTV is owned by Gazprom, which officially declared its support for Rakhimov prior to the vote (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 December 2003).

...As Bashkir State TV Resumes Political Advertising On Election Day
On 21 December, state-owned Bashkir Satellite Television (BST) aired numerous interviews with people exiting voting booths and saying that they voted for "preserving Bashkortostan's integrity and interethnic accord in the republic," which implied a vote for the incumbent, who has run the republic for the last 12 years. According to Russia's and Bashkortostan's election legislation, political campaigning 24 hours before and on the day of elections is illegal.

BST also broadcast reports of its correspondents demonstratively knocking on the closed doors of Veremeenko's campaign headquarters, abandoned by the staff. The commentary on the footage said that "by leaving Ufa, Veremeenko did not just deceive his supporters, but cynically betrayed them."

Urban Areas Show Less Interest In Second Round
By 4 p.m. Moscow time, three hours before the polls closed, some 60 percent of Bashkortostan's voters had turned out for the second round of the presidential election on 21 December, RosBalt reported the same day. By that hour some of the rural areas, such as Burzyan, Khaibulla, Boray, Kugerchen, and Zilair raions, had already come up with turnout figures of some 80 percent-90 percent, while in Ufa only 45.5 percent took part in the vote.

Traditionally, rural areas of the republic are known for their support of President Rakhimov, while in the first round on 7 December, urban areas were dominated by the opposition. As much as 78 percent of Bashkortostan's voters took part in the 7 December elections. According to the Bashkir Election Code, unlike the first round, in the second round the winner has to get a simple majority of votes, if it exceeds the amount of votes cast against all candidates on 7 December. That day 2.4 percent voted against all the candidates.

Veremeenko Stops Campaigning
Mezhprombank board member Sergei Veremeenko said on 18 December that he is halting his election campaign for Bashkir president, an RFE/RL correspondent reported the same day. In his statement broadcast by the Bashkortostan and All Ufa television stations, Veremeenko said he "has no possibility to work in the republic." "Active consultations about my work are being held, something that does not let me work in the republic. That is why I decided to stop my campaign so as not to lead voters astray." Veremeenko added, however, that he is not withdrawing his candidacy from the 21 December vote. According to "Vremya novostei" on 19 December, Veremeenko's statement comes in the wake of his meeting with deputy presidential administration head Vladislav Surkov. Surkov reportedly also met with Ralif Safin, who came in third in the first round of the election.

Human Rights Group Protests Bashkir Prosecutors' Dismissal
The national For Human Rights group appealed to Russian Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov to take measures to reinstate Bashkir Prosecutor Florid Baikov and his first deputy, Vladimir Korostelev, regnum reported on 18 December. The group also demanded that Russian Deputy Prosecutor-General in charge of the Volga Federal District Sergei Gerasimov, who reportedly pushed for their firing, be dismissed. The group believes that the officials were fired for doing their duty when they filed a criminal case over fake electoral ballots found in an Ufa printing house. The group also demanded that a criminal case be launched against Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov for numerous violations of election law during the presidential campaign. They cited the violations registered in the republic by observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

The group said that because of these alleged infractions, Rakhimov should drop out of the second round. It also criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin's support for Rakhimov, saying, "If the guarantor of the Russian Constitution is unable to secure its observance in a separate region like Bashkortostan, then his ability to guarantee implementation of the Russian Constitution and citizens' rights and freedoms in the entire country is questioned."

Analyst Believes Tatar Issue Behind Kremlin's Support For Rakhimov
Volga-Ural Analytic Center analyst D. Kamili wrote in "Zvezda povolzhya" on 18 December that the Kremlin's active campaigning for Rakhimov on the eve of the 21 December second round is due to its fear of the Russian-Tatar alliance that began forming around Rakhimov's rival Sergei Veremeenko. Veremeenko, considered by some federal media as a protegee of "nationalists" in the Russian government, including the presidential administration, at the same time attempted to mobilize the Tatar electorate by his promise of state-language status for Tatar. Rakhimov responded by accusing Veremeenko of "playing the ethnic card" but it did bring recognition of the language issue's existence by presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District Sergei Kirienko. Kamili commented that this "bright success" by the Tatars might result in a strengthening of their position in the Volga-Ural region, something that might not suit the Kremlin. By supporting Rakhimov's re-election, the Kremlin is trying to maintain the Tatar-Bashkir standoff in Bashkortostan, he added.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Kirov Oblast Gets New Governor
Former State Duma Deputy Nikolai Shaklein was elected governor of Kirov Oblast on 21 December, Russian news agencies reported. According to preliminary results of the second round of voting, Shaklein received some 62.68 percent of the vote, with his opponent, businessman Oleg Valenchuk, receiving 26.11 percent. Turnout was 42 percent. On the eve of the election, Unified Russia leaders denounced Valenchuk's claims of the party's support, while the presidential administration opposed Valenchuk's attempts to use Vladimir Putin's portraits in his campaign. Former oblast Governor Vladimir Sergeenkov was prohibited from running for another term by local law.

FSB Reports Successes In Fighting Terrorists...
On the eve of the professional holiday of the security services on 20 December, the Federal Security Service (FSB) said that its Samara Oblast directorate prevented an act of terrorism planned by Chechen terrorists, RIA-Novosti-Privolzhe reported on 20 December. Directorate head Igor Volkov said four residents of Chechnya who were preparing subversive activity at a Samara industrial company were detained. During the operation, 10 kilograms of explosive substance, firearms, and ammunition were seized.

...Commercial Espionage...
The FSB directorate in Sverdlovsk Oblast reported on 19 December that it filed a criminal case on suspicion of commercial espionage at Uralmash, Novyi region reported the same day. Two employees of the plant allegedly copied technical documentation for two companies controlled by Uralmash. The accused could be sentenced to a fine or up to five years in prison. Uralmash is a part of the Unified Heavy Machinery corporation headed by Kakha Bendukidze.

...Radical Islamists...
In Ulyanovsk, some 10 members of the radical Islamist organization Dzhamat were arrested, RIA-Novosti-Privolzhe reported on 20 December, citing the FSB Ulyanovsk Oblast directorate press service. Weapons, ammunition, and Wahhabi literature were seized from the group members, who are accused of robberies. Two of them are also accused of participating in organizing an act of terrorism in Kaspiisk in 2002. The group was allegedly linked to international terrorism and intended to set up a secret organization, recruit fighters, and commit acts of terrorism in Russia. Similar extremist groups were also uncovered in 12 other regions of Russia.

FSB Tyumen Oblast directorate head Aleksandr Vyatkin said the international Islamist organization Hizb ut-Tahrir had been suppressed in the oblast, reported on 18 December. Hizb ut-Tahrir has been outlawed by the Russian Supreme Court. Vyatkin said extremist literature and videocassettes were seized during searches in several municipalities.

...And Drug Traffickers
In Chelyabinsk Oblast, the local FSB directorate working with Dutch police rounded up an international drug gang, reported on 18 December. The group of 17 people are accused of organizing the production, smuggling to Russia, and sale of synthetic narcotics. According to a Dutch police official who visited Chelyabinsk to investigate the group's activity, it was linked to one of the world's largest criminal communities involved in synthetic-drug production and trafficking. The oblast FSB directorate so far this year has seized 259 kilograms of drugs, including substances not previously known in the region, like cocaine and heroin.

Rossel Urges Merger Of Sverdlovsk, Chelyabinsk, And Kurgan Oblasts...
Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel told reporters on 16 December that the process of merging Russia's regions could begin in 2004, Novyi region reported the same day. Rossel said the merger of Perm Oblast and Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug was a trial balloon and following the successful referendum there, the merger of federation subjects will be speeded up. The full-speed process will likely begin after Putin's re-election, Rossel suggested. He believes that the merger of regions is "unavoidable" in Russia where 140 million people live in 89 regions, while in India with its population of 1.7 billion, there are only 20 entities.

In the Urals, a merger of Sverdlovsk, Chelyabinsk, and Kurgan oblasts is economically reasonable, Rossel said. A strong federation entity with 10 million people could emerge, he said. "We with Chelyabinsk Oblast would extract Kirov Oblast, which is a subsidy recipient, from crisis," Rossel added.

...Rousing Irritation Of Colleagues
Commenting on Rossel's proposal, Chelyabinsk Oblast Governor Petr Sumin said on 18 December that he "agrees as a whole with the idea of merging Russian Federation subjects," regnum reported the same day. "There should not be 89. Really [there should be] 50. But they should be self-providing stably developing regions." As for the merger of Chelyabinsk, Sverdlovsk, and Kurgan oblasts, Sumin called this proposal "absurd." He said that Chelyabinsk Oblast and especially Chelyabinsk would only lose in such a merger. He said if the idea is pushed any further, he will oppose it.

Kurgan Oblast Governor Oleg Bogomolov said the idea of merging regions rouses irritation in all entities and is therefore destabilizing. Bogomolov said the idea of merging everything is not new, and has ruined thousands of small villages across the country and caused a decline in agricultural production and damaged fertile lands. He said Rossel's proposal is artificial and unreal. "The more unreal and ruinous is the proposal to divide Kurgan Oblast between neighboring territories," Bogomolov added.

Yekaterinburg Mayor Re-Elected
Yekaterinburg Mayor Arkadii Chernetskii was re-elected in the second round on 21 December, Russian news agencies reported. Chernetskii won with 54.05 percent of the vote, while his opponent, Sverdlovsk Oblast Foreign Economic Relations Minister Yurii Osintsev, received 38.89 percent. Chernetskii's re-election was strongly opposed by Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel, the local branch of Unified Russia, and party leader Boris Gryzlov.

Despite reports of numerous violations on election day, oblast election commission Chairman Vladimir Mostovshchikov said there is no reason to declare the election invalid, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 23 December. The daily also reported that Unified Russia plans to expel Chernetskii from its ranks. On the day before the vote, the local branch of Unified Russia appealed to the prosecutor's office to charge Chernetskii with slander. Chernetskii had claimed that everybody who backs Osintsev is linked to criminals.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova