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Tatar-Bashkir Report: November 22, 2002

22 November 2002
Tatar President Says Transferring Money To Moscow Necessary To Fight Terrorism
Mintimer Shaimiev said on 19 November that transferring a large part of republican budgetary revenues to the federal budget is justified, since the money is needed to finance Russia's defense capabilities and to fight terrorism and ordinary crime, reported the same day. Shaimiev said the trend will likely continue for several years. "Since we are dissatisfied with the state of law and order in society, we will have to spend money [on improving the state of law and order]," Shaimiev said. He said that transfers to the federal budget will be reduced by about 20 percent following the adoption of a federal law on local self-government, but he added that this will occur no earlier than 2004 or 2005.

Tatar Government, Vneshtorgbank Sign Cooperation Accord
Tatar Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov and the president and chairman of the board of directors of Vneshtorgbank, Andrei Kostin, signed a cooperation agreement on 15 November, and Tatar-inform reported the same day. In accordance with the agreement, Vneshtorgbank will provide a range of banking services to the Tatar government, including servicing export and import operations; will take part in investment programs; will issue and distribute the republic's securities; and will finance Tatarstan's most important companies. Kostin said the bank will provide credits for small businesses and will participate more actively in the development of the KamAZ automotive concern.

The same day, Kostin and Kazan Mayor Kamil Iskhakov signed a cooperation agreement on the participation of Vneshtorgbank in projects within the framework of preparations for Kazan's millennium celebrations.

Vneshtorgbank is Russia's leading commercial bank with capital of 42.1 billion rubles ($1.3 billion).

Government Announces 2003 Budget Figures
Tatarstan's main budget indicators for 2003 were presented at an 18 November meeting chaired by Prime Minister Minnikhanov and attended by officials from the presidential administration and parliament, reported on 19 November. In accordance with figures announced at the meeting, gross regional product is expected to grow by 3.2 percent to 300 billion rubles in 2003, while industrial production is expected to increase by 3.1 percent to 233 billion rubles. External investments are expected to total 76.1 billion rubles, while the average monthly salary is expected to grow from 3,900 rubles to 4,650 rubles, while real monetary income will increase by 6.7 percent. The average price of exported oil is expected to be $20 per barrel, while the exchange rate is expected to be 34 rubles to one U.S. dollar.

Ak Bars, Zenit Banks To Consider Merger
The issue of a possible merger between Ak Bars and Zenit banks will be on the agenda at board meetings of both banks expected to be held in the coming days, Tatneft General Director Shefeget Takhawetdinov told reporters on 20 November, according to Tatar-inform. Takhawetdinov said that if the merger takes place, the new bank may called Ak Bars-Zenit and its head office would likely be located in Moscow. Nonetheless, Takhawetdinov said the merger will be a "long process." Tatneft owns controlling interest in Zenit and 30 percent of Ak Bars. Former Tatar Finance Minister Robert Musin was elected chairman of the supervisory councils of both banks in June.

Tatneft To Sell Controlling Interest In Tatinkom
Takhawetdinov said on 19 November that Tatneft plans to sell its 83 percent stake in the Kazan-based telecommunications company Tatinkom-T for $37 million-$42 million, "Vedomosti" reported on 20 November. Takhawetdinov said that several companies have shown interest in Tatinkom, but the price they are ready to pay is not enough. The daily said that the cellular operator, which has 110,000 subscribers and uses the DAMPS standard, which is becoming outdated, is attractive mainly because it has a license to operate GSM-1800 networks.

Tuben Kama Oil Refinery Begins Diesel Production
The Tuben Kama oil refinery processed on 20 November its first output of diesel fuel that meets European-quality standards, Tatar-inform reported the next day.

Weekly Offended By RTR Program
"Zvezda povolzhya" weekly commented on 21 November on RTR television's "Vesti nedeli" program of 17 November, which featured a number of negative incidents that have taken place in Tatarstan during the last decade, including mass protests by nationalists near the State Council building, the explosion of a gas pipeline near the republic's border, the suspected participation of a former Chally resident in apartment-building bombings in Moscow and Volgodonsk, and the 24 October program aired by the Tatar branch of the RTR for which the station's general director, Irek Mortazin, was accused of sympathizing with terrorists. The paper commented that the program's audience outside the republic could conclude that all the republic's residents are potential terrorists and that Mortazin is more dangerous than Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev, adding that the program is causing interethnic discord.

Scholar Says Cyrillic-Only Amendment To Be 'Turning Point' In Russian History
In an article published in "Zvezda povolzhya" on 21 November, ethnology professor Damir Iskhakov said that if the recently passed amendment to the law on languages of the peoples of the Russian Federation (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 18 November) becomes law, it will be a turning point in Russia's history, as the ethnic majority will openly dictate to ethnic minorities how they should develop culturally. Iskhakov said the bill returns Russia to a state worse than that which existed in the Soviet Union, where Georgians, Armenians, and other peoples were able to use their own scripts.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Tatar Rights Organizations State Their Views Regarding Constitutional, Power Reforms
Bashkortostan's Tatar Public Center and other Tatar rights groups held a conference on 19 November to discuss a new draft Bashkir Constitution, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the next day. The conference issued a resolution demanding the inclusion of Tatar language, spoken by the republic's second-largest ethnic group, on the list of Bashkortostan's state languages -- which now include Russian and Bashkir. It also requested a republican referendum on the draft constitution, which needs approval from both chambers of the Bashkortostan parliament and then the signature of President Murtaza Rakhimov. The local Tatar organizations reportedly maintained their support for the idea of introducing a parliamentary republic instead of presidential rule in Bashkortostan (see also "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 19 November 2002).

Parliamentary Speaker: Deputies To Hold Final Vote On New Constitution In Early December
Bashkortostan State Assembly speaker Konstantin Tolkachev said lawmakers "will have to adopt the new constitutional draft and the republican budget for 2003 in early December," Rosbalt reported on 20 November. The State Assembly will also have to debate amendments to Bashkortostan's election law and set the precise date for next year's parliamentary, local-administration, and local self-government elections slated for March. The parliament will hold initial debate devoted to the constitutional draft on 28 November. Tolkachev also noted that his office "is still receiving a flow of numerous letters from political parties, public organizations, and individuals, most of whom are seeking to preserve the institution of the presidency in Bashkortostan." The Bashkir State Assembly postponed deliberations on the new constitutional draft on 13 and 19 November (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 20 November 2002). The initial draft stated that Bashkortostan is to become a parliamentary republic, abolishing the post of president and introducing elections for the prime minister's post.

Government Reports Slight Industrial Growth In 2002
Bashkortostan's State Statistics Committee on 20 November reported that the republic's industrial output in the first 10 months of 2002 exceeded figures for the same period the previous year by just 2.3 percent. One hundred thirty-two billion rubles ($4.15 billion) in goods was manufactured by republican industry from January to November. Bashkortostan's inflation rate based on the cost of consumer goods and services during the same period was registered at 10.5 percent, while the Russian average was reported at 11.5 percent. Meanwhile, this year's increase in global oil and oil-product prices prompted Bashkir industries to report a 17.8 percent rise in the cost of goods for production during the 10 months of 2002.

State News Agency Questions Daily's Use Of Economic Indicators
Bashinform news agency in its 19 November report commented on a list of Russian regions facing high unemployment and wage arrears published by "Rossiiskaya gazeta" daily on 11 November, which reported that Bashkortostan is worst-off within the Volga Federal District. The agency reported that the unemployment rates cited for Bashkortostan in the list were calculated using the system of the International Labor Organization, which "counts all of the people applying for jobs as unemployed, including students, the disabled, the elderly, and homemakers." "This," Bashinform argued, "brought an exaggeration of unemployment figures, which actually are several times lower. The amount of back wages was also incorrect, presenting back wages to all workers and not to state employees."

HIV Figures Continue Rise
Forty-four more individuals were registered as HIV-positive in Bashkortostan in the last seven days, Bashinform reported on 21 November, citing republican health-care professionals. As many as 3,638 HIV carriers currently live in the republic, experts say, most of them young people from 18 to 30 years old who were infected through intravenous drug use.

Interior Ministry Official Says Bashkir Businessman's Murder Not Related To His Work
Khamza Shamratov, chief of the Criminal Investigation Department at Bashkortostan's Interior Ministry, told a press conference on 19 November that the recent murder of well-known Bashkir businessman Kamil Mangushev (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 13 November 2002 ) was committed during a drunken fight with his colleague, Azat Basirov, after a late-night party. The incident was not a contract killing, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent cited Shamratov as saying the same day.

Bashkortostan Mayors To Share European Experience On Urban Administration
A group of 15 heads of urban administration in Bashkortostan arrived in Austria on 18 November to be informed about that country's system of municipal self-government and ways of solving legal issues in the housing sector, AROMI reported the same day. The mayors also are to hear about Austrian experience in environmental preservation.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Prisoners Sentenced For Attempted HIV Infection
The Chavash Supreme Court sentenced to six and seven years in prison two prisoners who attempted to infect employees of the penal institution in which they were imprisoned with HIV, VolgaInform reported on 21 November. The prisoners, who were HIV carriers, resisted guards who found them drunk by cutting their arms and trying to splash blood in the guards' faces and eyes. Nobody was infected. The republic court for the first time tried persons for an attempt to intentionally infect people with HIV, the agency said.

Roman-Catholic Church Vandalized In Nizhnii
Vandals defiled a Roman-Catholic church in Nizhnii Novgorod's Nizhegorodskii Raion on 16 November, Nizhnii Novgorod Telegraph Agency reported on 18, citing an unidentified source in the church. The church representative said Nazi symbols and obscene words were written on the doors of the church that were then removed by priests. Church officials have not complained to the police, the source said, adding this was the first case of vandalism against a Roman-Catholic church in Nizhnii Novgorod.

Penza Prosecutor Says Corruption Flourishing In Oblast
Penza Oblast Prosecutor Vladimir Koshlevskii told a meeting of the oblast law enforcement leaders that their agencies are unable to counteract the spread of corruption and economic criminality, the Privolzhe news agency reported on 21 November. Koshlevskii said numerous raion administration heads in the oblast are active in commercial companies and extort money. He said large amounts of money and property have been transferred to local businessmen under the guise of bankruptcy initiated for bribes.

Samara Raion Administration Comes Under Fire
The office of the deputy administration head of Samara Oblast's Kirovskii Raion, Viktor Stasenok, was fired on by a grenade launcher on 20 November, reported on 21 November, citing the Samara Oblast Information Board. Stasenok was injured by flying glass after someone in the street fired at the office window. The Kirovskii Raion prosecutors' office is investigating the case as attempted murder.

AvtoVAZ Plans Second Production Halt
AvtoVAZ plans to stop its main assembly line from 15 December till 15 January to fight an overproduction crisis, "Kommersant" reported on 21 November. The company already stopped production from 26 October till 10 November for the same reason, but is retail outlets still have 85,000 to 90,000 unsold vehicles. The daily cited LadaLand dealer representatives as saying that " market conditions are currently worse than in 1998 when VAZ experienced the last serious market crisis." AvtoVAZ General Director Vitalii Vilchik said, however, that the company won't reduce prices. The paper cited the VAZ financial service as reporting that under a revised variant of the 2003-04 plan, production volume will be reduced by 100,000 cars to 630,000-650,000.

Russia's First Plant For Destroying Chemical Weapons Built In Saratov Oblast
The first facility in Russia for destroying poison gases was completed in the village of Gornyi in Saratov Oblast's Krasnopartizanskii Raion, "Izvestiya" daily reported on 21 November, citing oblast Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov. Some 400 tons of poison gases, or 1 percent of the total in Russia, will be destroyed at the plant from 15 December till May. All of the chemical weapons kept in the oblast will be destroyed in the next five years. Ayatskov said Germany allocated 50 million euros in equipment for the facility, while the "total price of the issue is $6 billion."

Sverdlovsk Oblast Schools Won't Introduce Obligatory Religious Teaching
Sverdlovsk Oblast Education Ministry press secretary Larisa Ambaeva told "Novyi region" on 19 November that the Bible won't become a textbook in the Ural schools. Ambaeva was commenting on the recent resolution by the federal Education Ministry promoting the teaching of "Orthodox culture" in all secondary schools (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 19 November 2002). Ambaeva said teaching religion in oblast schools is permitted only outside the curriculum and by parental request and consent of the children. Muslims total some 30 percent of the population in the Urals, the agency said.

Counterfeit Bills With Putin Portrait Appear In Tyumen Oblast
Police in Tyumen Oblast detained a woman swindling pensioners by exchanging valid ruble notes for new bills decorated with a portrait of President Vladimir Putin, reported on 21 November citing Ekho Moskvy. Police employees said the bills were of high quality.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova