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Tatar-Bashkir Report: May 31, 2002

31 May 2002
State Council Amends Budget In Wake Of Moscow Cuts
The Tatarstan State Council passed an amendment to the republican budget for 2002 on 29 May, reducing the amount of federal subsidies by 60 million rubles ($1.9 million), RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported yesterday. Such an amendment was necessary because the Tatarstan budget, which was passed before the federal budget, called for an additional 60 million rubles in subsidies that were not included in the federal budget.

The difference was the result of Moscow's cutting its expenditures on certain social-security programs in Tatarstan. Ilsur Safiullin, chairman of State Council Budget Committee said that, "The republic will have to find its own funds to fill [budgetary] holes."

Paper Says Ethnicity Played Role In Appointment Of Prosecutor
Russian Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov appointed former deputy prosecutor of Kazan Oleg Drozdov, who is an ethnic Russian, as chief prosecutor in the Kirov Raion of the Tatarstan capital on 28 May, "Vechernaya Kazan" daily reported the next day.

The paper reported that the Tatarstan government had previously suggested the prosecutor of the Pitrech region, ethnic Tatar Minakdas Sharapov, as a candidate for the Kirov Raion, but Ustinov rejected his candidacy. The daily cited undisclosed sources at the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office as saying that, "About 80 percent of Tatarstan's prosecutors are already Tatars, while the proportion of ethnic Tatar and ethnic Russian prosecutors in the republic should be equal."

Before Drozdov's appointment, ethnic Tatar Rifkat Aliullov was prosecutor in the Kirov Raion but he was recently appointed chief prosecutor of Tatarstan.

Tatarstan Muslim Leader Boycotts Moscow Conference
Tatarstan Muslim Religious Board Chairman Gusman Iskhakov went to Moscow to take part in the "Islam Against Terrorism" conference yesterday, board officials told RFE/RL the same day. Upon arrival, however, the Council of Russian Muftis decided not to participate in the conference and Iskhakov decided to join them, the Tatarstan board's press center reported. The council claimed that the conference format did not meet their expectations.

The organization of the conference began in the fall of last year during meetings between Russian President Vladimir Putin and the leaders of Russia's Muslim organizations.

Yukos Head Expects Oil-Quality Bank This Year
Mikhail Khodorkovskii, general director of Russia's oil giant Yukos, told "Vremya i dengi" daily on 29 May that the Russian government will approve the creation of an oil-quality bank sometime this year. The bank, if created, would distribute the money received by the country's oil producers from exports according to the purity of the oil they supplied. If the bank is created, producers of the lower-quality, sulfur-rich oil, such as Tatarstan and Bashkortostan, will receive a smaller share of export revenues than they do now, because their product reduces the overall quality of Russia's exports when combined with higher-quality oil processed by other Russian companies. Khodorkovskii said that Russia loses $2.5 billion annually as a result of the low quality of its oil exports.

The Tatarstan government and the republic's oil producers have countered with the argument that the oil-quality bank will not take into account the higher costs of producing sulfur-rich oil, thus resulting in unfavorable conditions for the republic (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report, 22 May 2002).

To resolve this situation, Khodorkovskii suggested that Tatarstan's and Bashkortostan's oil producers purchase licenses for prospecting oil outside their regions, such as in Siberia.

Spring Enlistment Campaign Begins In Tatarstan
This year's armed-forces enlistment campaign began in Tatarstan on 13 May, "Vostochnyi ekspress" weekly reported today. The republic's Military Commissioner's Office has registered 25,891 young men for medical examinations to be conducted over the next four months. Only 3,500 men are expected to meet the health requirements for joining the military, however, while the rest are expected to have some sort of illness or injury preventing them from performing military service.

It has been reported that about 2,000 Tatarstan residents between the ages of 18 and 27 evaded the draft this year.

Tatar Paper Discusses Language Difficulties
"Medeni Jomga" Tatar-language weekly published an article today about the difficulties that Tatarstan residents face in using Tatar in everyday life, as well as the indifference of many Tatar students toward Tatar-language lessons. The article said that Tatars frequently confuse Tatar and Russian words in ordinary conversation, while young people don't see the need to study Tatar since, unlike English, German, or French, it is not required for university entrance.

Ministry Predicts 4 Percent Industrial Growth In Republic
Officials at the Russian Ministry of Trade and Economic Development said on 28 May that the output of Tatarstan's industrial enterprises for 2002 is expected to reach last year's output by the end of the second quarter and to exceed last year's total output by 4 percent by the end of the year, AK&M news agency reported.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Has Presidential Race In Bashkortostan Begun?
Several news agencies reported that LUKoil First Vice President Ralif Safin was dismissed by company head Vagit Alekperov for hard drinking and embezzlement, "Kommersant" wrote on 30 May and cited an unidentified source in the oil company as denying those reports. Meanwhile, the agencies commented that the dismissed Safin will likely run for president of Bashkortostan. The Agency of Political News reported on 11 April that the Kremlin, which is going to "finally resolve the issue of [Bashkir President Murzat] Rakhimov" in Bashkortostan's next presidential elections, considers Safin, 48, a candidate for the post. According to APN, Russian Tax Minister Gennadii Bukaev, 54, who previously worked in Bashkortostan, might become an alternative to Safin in the presidential race.

"Zvezda Povolzhya" weekly on 30 May commented that reports about Safin's dismissal mark the beginning of the electoral campaign in Bashkortostan and present efforts by Rakhimov's team to "psychologically annihilate possible competitor at the next elections." According to the weekly, Safin has much less money and administrative resources than Rakhimov but Russian President Vladimir Putin's support could compensate for this. The paper quoted "Forbes" magazine as reporting that Safin's wealth totals $400 million and cited unidentified experts as evaluating Rakhimov's wealth at $6 billion.

Tadzhuddin Appeals To Putin To Fight Wahhabism...
The Ufa-based chairman of Russia's Central Muslim Religious Board (TsDUM), Talgat Tadzhuddin, and some 20 more Russia's Islamic leaders called on President Putin to clean the territory of Russia from "pseudo-Islamic provocateurs," "Vremya i dengi" daily reported on 30 May. Participants in the roundtable "Islam Against Terrorism" in Moscow on 29 March passed a statement saying, "Inevitable punishment must overtake all fighters and terrorists who do not wish to stop violence under a false slogan of a true Islam." They said acts of terrorism and extremism that have become more widespread in Russia "are committed by Russia's enemies who dislike centuries-old traditions of friendly coexistence of different peoples, cultures, and faiths on its territory." Heads of Muslim boards from across Russia and representatives of the presidential administration took part in the forum initiated during a meeting between Russia's Muslim leaders and President Putin last fall.

It was planned that Russia's three Muslim centers � TsDUM, the Council of Muftis of Russia (SMR), and the Coordinating Center of Muslims of the North Caucasus (KTsMSK) � will take part in the roundtable. However, SMR and KTsMSK did not join the forum as a protest against an interview by TsDUM head Tadzhuddin with "Gazeta" on 28 May, reported on 29 May.

In that interview, Tadzhuddin spoke against the idea of a merger between TsDUM, KTsMSK, and SMR, arguing that organizations united by SMR are "promoters of Wahhabism" and such a merger would meet their interests. He claimed that those organizations hold dozens of summer camps throughout Russia to select children and send them to foreign training centers, adding, "We cannot unite with these Wahhabis until they repent of blood and tears in the North Caucasus." Tadzhuddin said "parallel Islamic structures" -- which work at Russia's disintegration -- are responsible for the capture of mosques in the Ulyanovsk and Penza oblasts and of a Moscow mosque in Pyatnitskaya Street. The situation in Siberia and Yekaterinburg is also restless, being the result of intentional efforts by Muslim organizations belonging to SMR.

...Joins Eurasia Party
Mufti Tadzhuddin took part in the congress of the Eurasia public political movement at which it was transformed into a party, and joined the new party as an individual member, reported on 30 May. The website commented that Tadzhuddin's move "causes bewilderment among some Muslim leaders in Russia since the Eurasia party has close relations with Avigdor Eskin, the leader of the radical Zionist movement Bead Arceinu, which opposes the peace process in the Middle East."

In his interview with "Gazeta" on 28 May, Tadzhuddin said, "We completely share the Eurasian idea of the movement headed by Aleksandr Dugin" with its support by traditional confessions, patriotism, and the great-power principle.

Official Says Bashkortostan Draftees Not To Be Sent To Chechnya
Bashkortostan Military Commissioner Timofei Azarov said on 28 May that the Russian government has satisfied the request of the Bashkortostan Enlistment Office not to send the republic's draftees to Chechnya during their military service, the press service of the presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District reported on 30 May. Azarov was speaking at a meeting of the security board held by Bashkortostan's Chief Federal Inspector Rustam Khamitov.

Bashkir Youth Pass Training In Sport Camps
The Bashkir opposition monthly newspaper "Otechestvo" on 27 May cited a recent broadcast on the Moskovia television channel that reported about youth sport-training camps in Bashkortostan in which young people of call-up age were trained in ways that are "very similar to those used for diversion-terrorist acts." The camps, formed for youth of predominantly only Bashkir nationality, were held for several years, and leaders of the Union of Bashkir Youth serve as instructors in them, the paper said. Participants, who wear camouflage uniforms, pass training in shooting, knife throwing, and hand-to-hand combat. After completion of the training course, the youths take an oath of loyalty to Bashkortostan.

Meanwhile, "Kommersant" reported on 31 May that the Union of Bashkir Youth recently called the conduct of President Rakhimov toward Moscow too gentle. The union demanded that a new, more radical constitution be adopted, in which the republic's rights as a sovereign state, including that of self-determination even up to secession from Russia, be fully established.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Atomic Energy Ministry Still Hopes To Import Spent Nuclear Fuel
The Russian Atomic Energy Ministry is not going to give up on the import to Russia of spent nuclear fuel from Hungary's Paksh Nuclear Power Plant for processing and storage in Chelyabinsk Oblast, an unidentified senior official from the ministry told Ural-Press-Inform on 24 May. The official was commenting after a ruling by the Russian Supreme Court's board of appeals annulled a Russian government resolution permitting storage in Russia of processed nuclear waste from Hungary. The ministry representative said new Russian legislation allows the import and storage of spent nuclear fuel from the Hungarian nuclear station, adding, "if the Hungarian side agrees, we will continue." He said Russia is to import 400 tons of spent nuclear fuel from Hungary according to a intergovernmental agreement, of which it imported only 20 tons in 1998.

Nizhnii Governor Leaves Communist Party
Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast Governor Gennadii Khodyrev said he is leaving the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) to protest exclusion from the party of State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev and heads of Duma committees Svetlana Goryacheva and Nikolai Gubenko, reported on 28 May. Khodyrev made his statement at a meeting of the political council of the Rossiya movement headed by Seleznev. Khodyrev stressed that the situation in which the speaker and committees leaders were excluded is "completely artificial and it has been created by [KPRF leader Gennadii] Zyuganov himself in order to get rid of opponents within the Central Committee and potential competitors for party leadership." Khodyrev told a press conference on 29 March in Nizhnii Novgorod that Zyuganov has deadlocked the party by refusing to conduct a dialogue with authorities and by promoting pseudo-revolutionary slogans. Khodyrev said he cannot understand why members who successfully work in official bodies are being excluded from the party.

Duma Deputy Opposes Merger Of Komi-Permyak Okrug With Perm Oblast
Valerii Markov, the State Duma deputy from the Komi Republic, told Komiinform on 29 May that he opposes the idea of a merger of Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug with Perm Oblast. Markov said structure rearrangements should not be done in Russia at this time since such mergers could be successful only in times when stable economic conditions prevail. He added that the maintenance and development of national languages and cultures is more successful within national entities -- okrugs and republics. Thus, the merger of Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug with the neighboring oblast would have a poor effect on the development of Komi national culture and language. He said the merger of the okrug with the Komi Republic would, however, be more reasonable from a historical point of view. Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug is now a federation subject within Perm Oblast. The okrug has a trilateral power-sharing treaty with the Russian Federation and Perm Oblast.

Former Federal Official To Represent Penza Oblast In Federation Council
The Penza Oblast Legislative Assembly on 28 May elected Andrei Vavilov, 41, the president and co-owner of the Severnaya Neft oil company and former Russian first deputy finance minister, to represent it in the Federation Council, Russian agencies reported. Vavilov replaces Aleksandr Pashkov, who was appointed Penza Oblast deputy governor. Finmarket cited Pashkov on 29 May as saying that he believes that Vavilov will help the oblast improve relations with the Finance Ministry. "Vedomosti" commented on 29 May that Vavilov's election will let him get rid of the "attention of law enforcement bodies." According to "Izvestiya" on 29 May, right before the Penza legislature elected him, Vavilov was presented a summons as a witness in a case of the intentional bankruptcy of Ust-Ilim Timber Industry Holding. Several more criminal cases are connected with his name, the daily said.

Muftis Take Different Positions On Death Penalty
The head of the Volga Muslim Religious Board, Mukaddas Bibarsov, told on 24 May that he backs an appeal by the Daghestani parliament to abolish the moratorium on the death penalty in Russia. Bibarsov said Sharia law allows for the death penalty. At the same time, he expressed his anxiety with the fact that not a single terrorist has yet been detained and it is still not known who is responsible for the deadly blasts in Moscow, Volgodonsk, and Kaspiisk that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of civilians.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Karelian Muslim Religious Board, Mufti Visam Bardvil, expressed his support for maintaining the moratorium on the death penalty, reported on 27 May. He stressed that the only reason to deprive a person of life is when that person commits a murder, and the death penalty can be practiced only in states that practice Sharia law. Bardvil said those who call for the death penalty believe it will help reduce crime in society, but crime is not being reduced in countries where the death penalty exists, while in Islamic countries governed by Sharia law, crime is extremely low, and the death penalty is one main reason why that is the case.

Prisoners Sue Mass Media In Ulyanovsk
Prisoners at the Novoulyanovsk prison, who escaped from the institution in January but were later caught, filed suites against several Ulyanovsk Oblast mass media outlets for purportedly defaming their honor and dignity. They are seeking compensation for moral damage, "Mozaika" reported on 24 May. The prisoners protested media reports about them being infected with HIV. One of them, who was sentenced to nine years in prison for robbery, sought 50,000 rubles ($1,500) in compensation, saying that a publication revealed a medical secret and resulted in tragic loss within his private life as his relatives and a woman he corresponded with left him, while at the same time his father became ill. One of the suits -- against the Volga television station -- has been rejected by a court.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova