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Tatar-Bashkir Report: November 29, 2002

29 November 2002
Senator Admits Calm Reaction To The Cyrillic-Only Bill In Tatarstan
Refget Altynbaev, who represents Tatarstan in the Russian Federation Council and chairs the Committee on Local Self-Government, told RosBalt on 28 November that during the 27 November vote on the bill obliging the use of Cyrillic script by ethnic republics (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 28 November 2002) he came out "not as an ardent opponent on this amendment, but as a representative of the federal entity, protecting its interests within the framework of the constitution currently in force." He suggested that Moscow should look into the experiment with the transition to Latin Tatar script in Tatarstan.

Altynbaev claimed that Tatarstan "plans no struggle for Latin Tatar script, we just should act within the Russian constitutional norms, currently in force. This discussion has unveiled one more gap in Russian legislation and confirmed the necessity of a more competent preparation of documents adopted by the Federal Assembly."

Parliamentary Reform Said To Be Under Way
Tatarstan's State Council voted to dismiss the law on parliamentary elections from its agenda on 28 November, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. This decision was advised by Vasilii Loginov, chairman of the Committee on State-Building, Local Self-Government, and Foreign Affairs, who suggested that it would be premature to put the draft to vote before the State Duma finishes entering the amendments to the federal law on organizing legislative and executive state bodies in the federation's entities.

The same day, Intertat cited unnamed sources within the State Council that saying the council is preparing a new draft law on elections, which would possibly stipulate the council's division into two chambers, something that could later require alterations to the Tatar Constitution.

Moscow Refuses To Assist New Project Of Kazan Aircraft Plant
Kazan Gorbunov aviation plant (KAPO) General Director Nail Khairullin told a press conference on 26 November that his plant has "practically frozen the project of creating the Tu-324 52-seat short-distance airliner," RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the next day. He said that although the Russian government approved the $300 million project in 1996, Tatarstan was the only investor, having already spent $70 million of its budget funds on the project. Khairullin emphasized that his subordinates have already elaborated 80 percent of the documentation essential for launching the assembly, but the federal government recommended KAPO look for investments from nonbudget sources. "Meanwhile the market niche for 50-seat aircraft remains unoccupied in Russia," he concluded.

Government, Banking Association To Cooperate In Promoting Small Businesses
Tatarstan's Cabinet of Ministers signed an agreement on cooperation for creating a favorable climate for small-business investments with the republic's Banking Association on 27 November, Intertat reported. The agreement is expected to contribute to the state program on small-business development in 2001-04 by ensuring state guarantees for long-term loans taken by the owners of such businesses in Tatarstan.

Shaimiev Says New Media Project To Link All Settlements In Tatarstan
President Mintimer Shaimiev told the 28 November plenary session of Tatarstan's State Council that by the end of 2004 all settlements in the republic would be connected by means of optic-fiber cables, according to a ambitious project currently being discussed at the Ministry of Communications. He pledged his assistance to the program to connect rural areas in Tatarstan and give them access to the Internet and cable television.

Tatneft Continues Concentrating Assets In Oil Industry
The board of directors of the Tatneft oil company decided to withdraw its assets from 21 commercial-agricultural ventures in Tatarstan, reported on 28 November. The company reportedly possesses a 20 percent share in each of the ventures, and is likely to establish a special board for managing the sell-off. So far this year, Tatneft has announced its intention to sell its mobile-phone company Tatincom-T and the Elmet Pipe Plant in a move to divest itself of non-oil-industry-related ventures.

Authorities Report Annual Drug-Harvest Figures
Tatarstan's Interior Ministry seized some 400 kilograms of drugs during this year's operation Poppy-2002, Intertat reported on 26 November. Together with confiscating ready-to-use narcotic substances, police also destroyed 207 private crops of drug-containing plants. More than 560 people were imprisoned for carrying or storing drugs, while 540 received only administrative punishments.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Politician Says Bashkir Constitutional Draft In Line With Federal Law
Amendments to the draft Bashkir Constitution, according to which a president of the republic heads its executive branch, is in full conformity with federal legislation, one of the authors of the Russian Constitution, Sergei Shakhrai, told on 28 November. Shakhrai said the provision meets the federal law on general principles of the formation of legislative and executive bodies of state power in federation subjects. The Kremlin has demanded that a single person hold the powers of a governor or a government head and that the model of management is promoted by the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office, Shakhrai said. Bashkortostan, however, maintains the post of a prime minister who is appointed by the president and approved by parliament. Shakhrai said the latter position contradicts requirements by the aforementioned federal law but remakes the federal model of state power, according to which the Russian president is the head of the state, but not of the executive power branch.

Weekly Claims Moscow Will Support Russian Candidate For Bashkortostan's Presidency
The weekly "Zvezda Povolzhya" on 28 November cited an unidentified source as saying that the Bashkir leadership rejected the idea of establishing a parliamentary republic under strong pressure from the Kremlin. The paper said Moscow reportedly decided to support an ethnic Russian candidate in the next presidential elections in Bashkortostan, and that this candidate is supposed to initiate Bashkortostan's step down from being a republic. The weekly pointed out that Bashkirs make up only one-quarter of the population. The weekly also reported that representatives of Rakhimov had contact with leaders of the World Tatar Congress and are suggesting that a joint Bashkir-Tatar "front" be established to counteract the pressure of federal authorities against national republics.

Daily Criticizes Projects On Merger Of Federation Entities
"Qyzyl tang" published an analytical article on 22 November in which it suggested that the idea for the administrative-territorial reform in Russia, which was likely initiated by the Kremlin, violates the Russian Constitution. The reform discussed at the State Duma during the 14 November parliamentary hearings aims for a merger of the current 89 territorial entities into 20 or 28. According to the project, Bashkortostan is to be merged with Orenburg Oblast and Tatarstan is to be merged with Ulyanovsk Oblast. Merged entities would no longer be republics. The daily mentioned Article 67 of the constitution which says that the borders of federation subjects can only be changed with their consent. The paper commented that such a reform would also change the republics' status, which can only be done through bilateral agreements between the Russian Federation and a federation subject. The constitutions of Bashkortostan, Tatarstan, and other republics also include similar provisions. The paper noted that national republics within Russia were established on territories where ethnic peoples had historically lived, therefore Russia's federalism is, to a large extent, ethnic federalism that allows ethnic minorities to provide for their own national and cultural needs. The merger of a national republic with Russian oblasts would destroy ethnic federalism and harm interethnic concord in the country, the daily said.

Bashkir Public Leader Criticizes Merger of Federation Entities
In an article published in "Qyzyl tang" on 22 November, history professor and deputy chairman of the World Bashkir Congress's Executive Committee, Marat Qolsheripov, sharply criticized the idea of introducing provinces in place of the currently existing republics and other territorial entities. Qolsheripov said that in such conditions the presidency in Bashkortostan should be not only preserved but even strengthened.

"Chauvinists of all kinds should remember that the Bashkir people at one time conquered its motherland with arms in hand and it will never agree on losing its statehood," Qolsheripov said. Politicians thinking "imperially" and chauvinists should not get any ideas because of the example of Chechnya, he continued: "attempts to annul national republics will create new breeding grounds of interethnic tensions." He added: "In conditions of the harsh and open restriction of the rights of non-Russian peoples, we will call for uniting all forces that oppose those plans," Qolsheripov said. He called on non-Russian peoples to establish a joint "peoples' front" to defend their rights.

Tatar Milli Mejlis Backs Disgraced Court Chairman
Bashkortostan's Tatar Milli Mejlis Chairman Marat Ramazanov told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 27 November that the Milli Mejlis passed a resolution to back Bashkir Supreme Court Chairman Marat Wekilov, in which it called on Bashkortostan's authorities to stop persecuting him. The resolution said the republican leadership is seeking revenge against Wekilov for the Supreme Court verdict in which it satisfied the protest by the Russian deputy prosecutor-general against a bulk of articles of the Bashkir Constitution (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 20 March and 15, 19 April 2002). Ramazanov said the 21 November protest against Wekilov was held in violation of the law, according to which organizers had to appeal to the raion administration 10 days before the action in order to obtain permission (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 22 November 2002).

UGMK Seeks To Purchase Stake In Uchaly Ore Mining, Processing Plant
The Ural Mining and Smelting Company (UGMK) plans to purchase 38 percent of Bashkortostan's Uchaly Ore Mining and Processing Enterprise (UGOK), UGMK holding General Director Andrei Kozitsyn told Interfax on 20 November, "Izvestiya" reported the next day. UGOK delivers its production to Karabashmed, the Kyshtymskii Copper Electrolyte Plant, and the Chelyabinsk Zinc Plant, which are all members of the UGMK holding. The Bashkir State Property Committee owns 38 percent of UGOK shares.

Bashkirenergo To Take Stricter Measures To Force Debtors To Pay
The debt of wholesale energy buyers to Bashkirenergo grew by 18.5 million rubles ($581,400) to 490 million rubles ($15.4 million) in the first six months of the year, while the total sum owed by all consumers to Bashkirenergo was reduced by 571.8 million rubles ($18 million), RosBalt reported on 23 November, citing the energy company press service. Bashkirenergo Deputy General Director Radmir Khadyev said 1.14 billion rubles ($35.8 million) worth of energy was sold to wholesale buyers, some 10 percent of the total volume of energy sold. The company plans to appeal to the Bashkir Supreme Arbitration Court to force debtors to pay for their current consumption of energy and to meet their schedules of debt repayment.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Federal Media Ministry Warns Opposition TV Company In Chelyabinsk Oblast
The Russian Media Ministry warned the Chelyabinsk Information-Analytical Center Panorama broadcasting on the Yugra television channel that it violated the federal law on mass media and demanded that it adhere to the law, Ural-Press-Inform reported on 25 November. A press release issued by the Chelyabinsk Oblast governor's press service said several privately owned media controlled by State Duma Deputy Mikhail Yurevich (People's Deputy) are waging an information war against the oblast leadership using "direct lies, misrepresentations of facts, misinformation, and spreading false rumors." False information broadcast by those media harms the investment attractiveness of Chelyabinsk Oblast, the business climate, and the prospects for social and economic development of the southern Urals, the press release said.

City Deputy Killed In Marii El
Marii El's Volzhsk City Duma Deputy Grigorii Verevochkin, 41, was found dead in his car in a Volzhsk schoolyard on 21 November, Privolzhe news agency reported on 25 November. A pistol with a silencer was left at the scene. Verevochkin was an opponent of Volzhsk Mayor Nikolai Svistunov and the initiator of its dismissal. Verevochkin also headed a parliamentary commission on the investigation of the city administration's real-estate deals. He also initiated several criminal cases, including one against a local firm that is allegedly linked to the Kazan organized criminal group Boriskovo. Verevochkin repeatedly received threats by telephone, the agency said.

Mordovia To Elect Republic Head On 16 February
The Mordovian State Assembly set elections for the republic's chief executive for16 February, RosBalt reported on 26 November. Under the republic's elections law passed on 14 November, the republican Central Electoral Commission will introduce stricter controls over candidates' electoral fund raising and their spending. The electoral fund of a candidate should not exceed 3.5 million rubles ($110,000).

Construction Of Nizhnii Nuclear Station Won't Be Restarted
The construction of the Nizhnii Novgorod nuclear-heating station, which was stalled for more than a decade, won't be revived, Russian Atomic Energy Minister Aleksandr Rumyantsev said during his visit to Nizhnii Novgorod on 23 November, Nizhnii Novgorod News Service reported the next day. Rumyantsev said negotiations on the sale of equipment from the Nizhnii Novgorod nuclear facility to nuclear stations in either Tomsk-7 or Severodvinsk of Arkhangelsk Oblast are under way.

Terrorist Act Averted On Saratov Volga Bridge
The Russian Interior Ministry in Saratov prevented a terrorist act on the Volga bridge, reported on 22 November. Police found a parcel with 1,800 grams of trotyl and a fuse under the bridge. An investigation has been launched.

Saratov Culture Minister Caught Red-Handed
Saratov Oblast Culture Minister Yurii Grishchenko has been arrested for bribe taking, RosBalt reported on 22 November citing the oblast prosecutors' office. Grishchenko allegedly accepted $1,000 and 20,000 rubles ($628) from a concert organization for helping it to rent the Saratov Opera and Ballet Theater Hall. Saratov Oblast Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov commented on 22 November that the oblast Security Council, the oblast prosecutors' office, and the local Federal Security Service (FSB) branch took part in the operation. Ayatskov said: "The arrest is not the last one and several more will follow soon. All light-fingered officials will soon be in jail. All who try to accept bribes will be severely punished."

'Cleaning' Operation Held In Yekaterinburg Mosque
The FSB in Sverdlovsk Oblast was checking identity documents in a mosque of the Yekaterinburg Rakhman Muslim community after a Friday prayer on 22 November, reported on 25 November. FSB employees took the names of all the people present, searched the mosque, and seized several books. They explained that the action as "checking the passport regime."

Speaking to some young people, FSB employees expressed dissatisfaction with their "propagation of the Muslim religion," the agency said. The site quoted representatives of the Rakhman community as saying that "many elderly people were very much frightened and said they won't come to the mosque anymore."

Court Rules Belkamneft To Be Permitted To Transport Oil Through Transneft Pipelines
On 28 November, Transneft resumed transporting Belkamneft oil through its pipelines, reported the same day. The decision came after the Udmurtian Arbitration Court on 21 November ruled in favor of the Udmurtia-based company against the Russian Natural Resources Ministry and prohibited the ministry and the Transneft oil-transportation company from hindering Belkamneft to transport its oil, Kupol-Media reported on 23 November. Belkamneft appealed twice to the court seeking to obtain access to the Transneft pipelines but then called the appeal back after reaching an agreement with the ministry and the Udmurtian government. The agreement, however, was not implemented, and Belkamneft was still unable to transport its oil through Transneft pipelines.

Transneft stopped accepting oil produced by Belkamneft on 10 November after the Natural Resources Ministry issued a resolution saying Belkamneft obtained its licenses for oil extraction illegally.

Referendum On Environmentally Controversial Facility To Be Held In Udmurtia
Udmurtia's Votkinsk authorities will hold a referendum on the issue of constructing a plant utilizing rocket fuel near the city, which sparked massive protests by environmentalists and local residents (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 18 and 24 August, 7 September, 26 October, and 23 November 2001, 8 March and 6 September 2002), Privolzhe reported on 27 November. The republican authorities officially stated in February that they had halted plans to continue construction, which began in fall 2001 and was then frozen.

Libya Seeks To Develop Relations With Ulyanovsk Oblast Companies
Ulyanovsk Oblast Governor Vladimir Shamanov met with a visiting Libyan delegation including chief commander of antiaircraft defense General Al-Rifi Sharif and the general director of the Libyan Cargo air company, Mahmud Gseya, reported on 26 November. Shamanov told a press conference following the meeting that the visitors are interested in establishing mutually favorable relations with UAZ, Volzhskie Motory, Dimitrovgradkhimmash, and other companies, Shamanov said. The delegation met with the Aviastar-SP management to discuss maintenance and repairs of two AN-124-100 Ruslan liners they bought from Ukraine. Libya plans to buy two more Ulyanovsk-produced liners.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova