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Tatar-Bashkir Report: December 30, 2003

30 December 2003
Tatar Constitutional Court Backs Introduction Of Tatar Latin Alphabet
The Tatar Constitutional Court issued a ruling according to which determining a script used in the Tatar alphabet is Tatarstan�s power, Tatar-inform reported on 24 December. The court was considering an appeal by the State Council Commission on Science, Education, Culture, and National Issues to explain whether introduction of the Latin Tatar alphabet corresponds to the republican constitution. This right is a part of a constitutional right of Russia�s republics to determine their state languages and is one of elements of Tatarstan�s state legal status, according to the court. It can be abolished only as result of agreement between Tatarstan and Russia. In September 1999, the Tatar parliament adopted a law on restoration of the Latin Tatar script, while a year ago, the State Duma passed a law under which using a Cyrillic script is mandatory for all state languages in Russia (see �RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report,� 18 November and 12 December 2002). According to the Russian Constitution, republics are empowered to establish their state languages used in state authority and local self-government bodies, in mass media outlets, and in the cultural sphere alongside the state language of Russia. The Tatar Constitutional Court�s ruling is final, cannot be appealed and comes into effect immediately. Following the hearing, Commission on Science, Education, Culture, and National Issues Chairman Razil Weliev told reporters that the commission will initiate discussing the issue at the next State Council session, then appeal to the Russian Constitutional Court and, if necessary, to the International Human Rights Court in Strasbourg. He said the Cyrillic-only amendment to the federal law on languages of the peoples of Russia contradicts not only numerous articles of the Russian Constitution but numerous international pacts and Russia�s international treaties.

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.

Parliamentary Election Schedule Adopted
The Tatar Central Election Commission confirmed a plan for the State Council electoral campaign, reported on 19 December. The republic's parliamentary elections will be held in tandem with the Russian presidential elections on 14 March 2004. According to the document, district election commissions will be formed by 29 December, the registration procedure will be carried out from 29 December to 28 January, and the media campaign will take place from 12 February to 13 March. Under the amended law on elections, 50 deputies will be elected in single-mandate electoral districts and another 50 deputies on party lists. Parties who gather at least 7 percent of the vote will be represented in parliament. Twenty deputies out of 100, including the speaker and deputy speakers, the secretary, and heads of parliamentary committees will work in the legislature permanently.

Morozov Says Unified Russia Deputies May Occupy Key Positions In Government
Head of the Russian Regions faction in the former State Duma Oleg Morozov, who was re-elected to parliament on 7 December, told reporters in Chally on 22 December that the victory of Kremlin-backed Unified Russia in parliamentary elections lets it form a constitutional majority in the State Duma, reported. Morozov said Unified Russia's faction comprising more than 300 members will be registered by 29 December, the day of the new Duma's first session. He also said the new government will be formed in the wake of two elections, parliamentary and presidential. He expressed his confidence that the formation of the new cabinet as well as its head will be agreed with the parliamentary majority. He added that he is sure that numerous members of the parliamentary majority will occupy senior posts in the government. Morozov also expressed regret that the new State Duma lacks deputies from Yabloko and the Union of Rightist Forces, but he said that this is their own fault since they poorly campaigned and failed to come to agreement with each other.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Visits Kazan
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Boris Aleshin arrived in Kazan on the evening of 22 December, reported the same day. Meeting Aleshin at the Kazan airport, President Mintimer Shaimiev said that "close attention to defense potential is justified since Russia cannot be a weak country." Aleshin will meet aircraft and helicopter producers and representatives of defense-industry contractors. Meanwhile, the Russian government has earmarked money for the Finance Leasing Company (FLK) to finance production of Tu-214 jets at the Kazan Gorbunov Aircraft Plant, "Vedomosti" reported on 23 December, citing the government information department. According to a resolution signed by Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, FLK -- which, in 2001, won a competition for state subsidies to produce aircraft -- will issue an additional 385 million rubles ($13.2 million) worth of shares, which will become federal property. Currently, 58 percent of FLK is owned by the Russian Property Ministry, 11 percent is owned by the Tatar state, and the remaining shares are controlled by companies close to the Tatar government.

LG To Take Part In Construction Of Oil Refinery, Petrochemical Productions In Tatarstan
Companies LG International Corp. and LG Engineering and Construction signed on 20 December a protocol on intentions with the Tatar government and Tatneftekhiminvest holding, Tatneft, and Nizhnekamskneftekhim, Tatneftekhiminvest holding General Director Rafinat Yarullin told a briefing in the cabinet of ministers on 23 December. The protocol is aimed at agreeing terms of joint developing technical and economic substantiation of the construction of a refining and petrochemical complex in Tatarstan. The facility will include an oil refinery capable to process 7 million tons of oil a year on the ground of the base complex of the Tuben Kama oil refinery, an ethylene plant capable to produce 600,000 tons a year, and plants on production of polymers and polymer-made goods. Ethylene production will be a key one in the complex, Yarullin said. A special joint-stock company uniting the Tatar government, Tatneft, Nizhnekamskneftekhim, and LG will be established to work on the project, in which Tatneft will be a major shareholder, while LG will control at least 10 percent. �Vedomosti� quoted on 24 December an unidentified manager of Nizhnekamskneftekhim as saying that company�s capital will total $220 million. Company�s constituent meeting is slated for 31 December. The beginning of the construction is scheduled for 1 October. The first stage including the construction of facilities and preparation of raw materials is to be fulfilled within six years and will cost $1.3 billion, while the entire project will cost $2.5 billion. In February, LG and Nizhnekamskneftekhim plan to sign first contracts on construction of a foamed polystyrene plant capable to produce 40,000 tons a year. The project will cost $40-50 million. In November, the companies signed a cooperation protocol. �Vedomosti� on 24 December quoted analyst with the Zenit bank Sergei Suverov as commenting that the announced project has no analogues in post-soviet Russia as no one company constructed oil refinery of such capacity and arranged so large-scale petrochemical productions. Analyst with the Russian Chemical Consulting chemical portal Amin Seidov commented that after a project on production of 600,000 tons of ethylene a year is launched, Nizhnekamskneftekhim will control some half of Russian ethylene market.

Tatneft, Russia�s sixth-largest oil company, made 6.3 billion rubles profit in 2002. Nizhnekamskneftekhim, one of largest petrochemical facilities in the Eastern Europe, had 2.1 billion rubles profit the previous year. LG International, an LG Group subdivision with the $80 billion turnover involved in exports of equipment, imports of raw materials, is one of leading manufacturers of lubricants and petrochemicals in Asia. Its profit totaled $78.7 million the previous year.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

USK Chairman Announces Final Results Of Presidential Vote
On 22 December, Bashkortostan's Central Election Commission chairman Baryi Kinjegulov announced the final results of the Bashkir presidential election, confirming that the incumbent Murtaza Rakhimov had won 78.01 percent of the vote, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. His rival, former Mezhprombank head Sergei Veremeenko received 15.84 percent of votes. The turnout for the second round was 69.9 percent of the vote. The Bashkir Supreme Court will consider the case of the former LUKoil Vice President Relif Safin, who has questioned the legality of the first-round results on 23 December where he came in third. The previous day, however, Safin told an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent that he had withdrawn his legal claim because the election was already over.

Bashkir Raion Official Highlights Violations During Vote Count
An unnamed official within Bashkortostan's Yangawil Raion administration, who was involved in organizing the 21 December presidential elections, told an RFE/RL Kazan correspondent via telephone on 22 December that the vote count in his region came up with equal number of ballots cast in favor of both Rakhimov and Veremeenko. Nevertheless, the official said, the raion's election commission reported to its superior body in Ufa that the incumbent president had won some 70 percent of the vote and his rival less than 20 percent. The official also said that the local authorities had warned the heads of major industrial enterprises that they would lose their jobs in case they failed to ensure active support for Rakhimov from their employees.

Political Researcher Claims Rakhimov�s Victory Demonstrated Moscow�s Weakness
Stanislav Belkovskii, general director of the non-governmental Council for national strategy-making, Moscow told RosBalt on 23 December that in his opinion, Murtaza Rakhimov�s victory in recent presidential elections is explained by that Moscow �was afraid of destabilization� in Bashkortostan, �where currently [Rakhimov�s] family has total control over all regions.� Belkovskii added that Kremlin�s blessing to Rakhimov�s third presidential term demonstrated �inconstistency of its policies.� The political researcher emphasized that �if fair elections were provided for, Rakhimov would not succeed in becoming the republic�s president.�

Rakhimov Backs Off From His Pre-electoral Pledges To People Of Bashkortostan�
President Murtaza Rakhimov told reporters in Ufa on 23 December that in his opinion, it would be premature to grant an official status to Tatar language in Bashkortostan, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported today. Rakhimov said that the Tatar language issue was �uneasy, because later the same issue will be raise by Chuvash, Mari and Udmurt peoples [residing in the republic].� He noted that the �situation with Bashkir language has been considered for 7 years. Besides, in Rakhimov�s opinion, granting of an official status to Tatar language �would not change anything, since our main language is Russian.�

During his recent presidential campaign Rakhimov had admitted that he would consider the possibility of altering the status of Tatar language in his republic (see �RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report,� 12 December 2003). Despite the fact that Tatar is spoken by some 1 million people in Bashkortostan, only Russian and Bashkir are currently recognized as state languages.

Speaking of his third inauguration ceremony to be held on 27 December, Rakhimov mentioned that there will be a limited number of official guests, including but not limited to Sverdlovsk oblast governor Eduard Rossel, deputy head of Russian presidential staff Vladislav Surkov and Russian presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District Sergei Kirienko.

City Prosecutor Assassinated In Sibai
Sibay city prosecutor Khenif Qarachurin was shot dead in his own apartment on 23 December, republican media reported the same day. According to the investigators, the murder is considered to be committed by a professional hitman, possibly hired by local criminal groups, irritated by Karachurin�s professional activities. No detainees have so far been reported.

Bashkortostan To Combine Municipal, Regional Elections With Russian Presidential Vote
State Assembly announced on 25 December that deputies of Bashkortostan�s city mayors, as well as members of municipal and regional councils will be elected on 14 March 2004, along with the vote for Russian president, RosBalt reported the same day. Under the Bashkir Elections Code, a candidate deputy should be over 21, while the maximum election fund is limited at some $33,000.

Daily Speculates On Prosecutor's Killing
The Bashkir police published in republican newspapers a picture of the suspected killer of Sibai Prosecutor Khenif Qarachurin (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 24 December 2003), RIA-Novosti reported on 25 December. The Bashkir Interior Ministry revealed during the investigation headed by minister Rafael Divaev that Qarachurin received repeated threats in the past two years and his house under construction and garage had been set fire to. Qarachurin, 55, has been heading Sibai prosecutor's office for 10 years and was respected by residents and colleagues for his honor, adherence to principles, and strict observance of the law, "Kommersant-Daily" wrote on 24 December.

Qarachurin had had strong conflicts with a local law-enforcement head whom Qarachurin accused of bribe taking, according to the daily. The police official was arrested but then was released. "Kommersant-Daily" quoted an unidentified source in the Bashkir Interior Ministry as saying Qarachurin had reported some two weeks ago that the investigation into the fire at his house was almost finished and evidence would soon be given to the court.

The daily also quoted Aleksandr Slyusarenko, presidential candidate Relif Safin's campaign chief in Zaurale, as saying that the killing might be linked to the strong support Qarachurin provided to opposition presidential candidates' campaigners and independent observers in the 7 December presidential elections. Slyusarenko said that following appeals to the Sibai prosecutor's office, results of the first round were immediately annulled in Sibai's two polling districts and voting results in another four districts were appealed in the Bashkir Supreme Court.

BTK Leader Opposes Official Status For Tatar
In an interview with RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 26 December, Bashkortostan Tatar Congress (BTK) Executive Committee Deputy Chairman and philology professor Radik Sibegetov said the republic's Tatar civic organizations should promote state status for the Tatar language. "President Murtaza Rakhimov said he would like to raise this issue following the presidential elections, so we should work together with the president in this direction," Sibegetov said. He said two positions exist on this issue -- state status or official status for Tatar. Sibegetov spoke in favor of state status, saying there cannot be two different statuses among the republic's three top languages -- Russian, Bashkir, and Tatar. Russian and Bashkir are state languages in Bashkortostan.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Marii El President To Run For Re-Election
Marii El Republic President Leonid Markelov told a press conference on 25 December that he will run for re-election in 2005, Regnum-MariNews reported the same day. Markelov said refusing to seek re-election would be a betrayal of the interests of people investing in the republic's economy and of the team that currently works in the government.

Traffic Jam Shuts Down GAZ
The GAZ automobile plant stopped work on 25 December as a result of an enormous traffic jam that continued for three days beginning on 24 December on the federal Kazan-Nizhnii Novgorod road, Russian news agencies reported. Thousands of vehicles, including buses, were unable to move because of sudden icy conditions on the road. A hundred Nizhnii Novgorod State Road Traffic Inspection officers, with help from the Emergency Situations Ministry and the military cleared up the 70 kilometer-long jam. On 26 December, GAZ resumed production, while traffic returned to normal on 27 December.

More Than 1,000 Nizhnii Novgorod Christians Refuse Receiving New Passport
Over 1,000 people in Nizhnii Novgorod refused to accept new Russian Federation passports for religious reasons, NTA Privolzhe reported on 23 December. The acting head of the oblast Interior Ministry's Passport-Visa Service, Lyudmila Zobova, said that 1,253 people said replacing their name with a digital code in the passport violates their Christian beliefs. More than 3.1 million oblast residents received new passports in the recently completed passport reform in the oblast.

Perm Oblast Deputies Can Eat Each Other
The Permskaya confectionery factory produced a set of chocolates featuring local politicians, Novyi region (Perm) reported on 23 December. The chocolates' wrappers feature pictures of Perm Oblast Legislative Assembly deputies. All parliamentarians were granted similar sets at the legislature's last session. The news agency quoted experts as saying that the candies are helpful for politicians' psychological relaxation as they can easily chew up their chocolate opponents.

Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Refuses To Contact Yekaterinburg Mayor...
Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel told a press conference on 25 December that he will not have any contact with re-elected Yekaterinburg Mayor Arkadii Chernetskii, Novyi region reported the same day. Rossel said that despite this he respects the decision of Yekaterinburg voters to elect Chernetskii, he will not change his personal position towards him. "I shall not work with people who lie, do not work in the period between election campaigns, and begin activity only on the eve of elections. I will not work with people who promote construction of expensive housing, increase of tariffs, and destroy health care. Keeping the previous administration will mean the continuation of all existing problems," Rossel said. Rossel added that oblast authorities will follow the projects the city administration plans to promote and "if nothing constructive occurs, will take the money and do it themselves."

...As Election Commission Head Denies That Fake Ballots Used
Sverdlovsk Oblast Election Commission Chairman Vladimir Mostovshchikov denied on 23 December reports that the Yekaterinburg mayoral election's second-round results might have been falsified, Novyi region reported the same day. Mostovshchikov was commenting on a statement by Unified Russia's Sverdlovsk Oblast head Oleg Bakin, who claimed that some 20 percent of the ballots were fake. Mostovshchikov added, however, that the second round was not democratic, as the candidates' rights were violated and laws broken. He said Yekaterinburg City Duma Chairman Yakov Silin campaigned on TV in favor of Chernetskii on the day before the vote, in violation of election law. He added that violations of election law will be considered by the city election commission and in court.

Nizhnii Tagil Opposition TV Station Forced To Vacate Premises
The Nizhnii Tagil city administration refused to extend the lease of the opposition television station Telekon and ordered it to vacate its premises by 1 January, Novyi region reported on 24 December. Telekon reporters claimed that the move is revenge by newly re-elected Nizhnii Tagil Mayor Nikolai Didenko, whom the station criticized during his campaign. Novyi region also quoted unidentified experts as speculating that conflicts between Didenko and Yekaterinburg Mayor Chernetskii, who owns a controlling interest in Telekon, might be behind the event.

Yekaterinburg's 'Uralskii Rabochii' Editor Attacked
"Uralskii rabochii" newspaper Editor in Chief Vladislav Ivanov was attacked on the night of 24 December, Uralinformbyuro reported on 25 December. Ivanov was hospitalized in a coma, then came out of it, but still experienced amnesia, according to the report. A portfolio with documents, money, and valuables was stolen from Ivanov. Investigators have not indicated whether they consider the assault to be linked to Ivanov's professional activity or not.

Second Mosque Constructed In Russian Prison
A mosque was opened in Udmurtia's penitentiary No. 4 on 25 December, Den reported on 26 December. The mosque, built by 20 Muslims imprisoned in the penitentiary, is the second in Russia's penal institutions, while the first one was built in Ulyanovsk. Until recently, there were only Orthodox churches in penal institutions.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova