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Tatar-Bashkir Report: December 20, 2002

20 December 2002
Controversial Article Brings Up Serious Allegations About Bashkir Leadership
The "Sovershenno Sekretno" weekly published an article labeling Bashkortostan as "a secluded autocratic regime created with the assistance of federal authorities" on 9 December. The paper characterized living conditions in the republic as "poor" because "prices in local shops were just like in Moscow, while the average salaries were 2-2 1/2 times lower," accompanied by the poor health of residents due to bad environmental conditions, which is the result of heavy chemical industries.

The article's author, Iosif Galperin, emphasized that only the opposition let him "cite their statements, while both present and former local officials agreed only to anonymous conversations. The Tax Police were only ready to discuss old cases. Federal officials avoided direct assessments" of what is going on in the republic.

The local branch of Federal Security Service (FSB) even reportedly refused to comment on the videotape of military training at the youth camp near Talqas Lake in Bashkortostan. The tape showed some 50 young men being instructed by martial arts instructors, who wore a strange uniform combining the symbols of Russian special forces under the GRU military intelligence service and of the Bozkurt (Grey Wolves) militant organization from Turkey. The tape also showed that the young men were giving an oath of Bashkir Youth Union, declaring themselves "Bashkir rangers" and shouting out "Allah akbar" (Allah is great) at the ceremony joined by of Bashkortostan's State Committee on Youth Affairs Chairwoman Kamile Dewletova. Galperin referred to some unnamed sources the Talqas Lake camp has been training the militant brigades of Bashkir nationalists during the last decade, enjoying strong financial support from Bashkirenergo company.

The article, which has so far inspired no reaction in the republic, cited some "ties" between the Bashkir government and rebel Chechen leaders, also accusing President Murtaza Rakhimov and his son Ural Rakhimov of taking virtually all local industries under their personal control.

Government Concerned About Drop In Subscriptions To State Press
During a special press conference devoted to the subscription level of Bashkortostan's press on 19 December, Deputy Prime Minister Khalyaf Ishmoratov said that state-owned newspapers and magazines managed to gain only 312,000 subscribers for the first half of 2003, which is more than 30 percent less than the 758,000 subscribers of the first six months of 2002, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported.

He strongly criticized the officials of the Ufa municipal, and Arkhangelsk, Blagovar, Ishimbai, and Sibai regional administrations and local post office officials for gaining the lowest subscription figures in the republic and demanded they improve the situation, although there were only seven days left in the subscription campaign.

Bashkir Media Minister Zoefer Timerbolatov told the same conference, "it is vital to get as many subscribers as possible in light of next year's elections to resist the information wars of Moscow media."

Ishmoratov concluded the meeting with an address to the editors of state newspapers and magazines: "During the elections there will emerge a lot of dubious publications. You have to help the voters to make their choice, because the [local] commercial press is not interested in doing that."

Counter-HIV Commission Urges More Control Over Drugs Trafficking
According to Shamil Gabbasov, head of Bashkortostan's anti-AIDS center, speaking at the 18 December meeting of a special governmental commission against HIV, said 4,106 HIV-positives are currently registered in the republic, 2,918 (71.06 percent) of them men, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. Gabbasov also referred to the experience of Russian researchers, who suggest multiplying the official HIV figures by four to get a real picture of the virus's spread.

More than 80 percent of the HIV-carriers were infected by syringes. Gabbasov, who is also the chairman of the counter-HIV commission, urged republican law enforcement bodies to step up the struggle with drug traffickers to avert the further growth of infection statistics.

Bashkir Senator Says Moscow Is To Blame For Legal Contradictions
Igor Izmestiev, Bashkortostan's senator in the Russian Federation Council, told a meeting of the Bashkir parliament on 17 December that federal legislators "often adopt laws that contradict the previously adopted legal norms used by the regions for adjusting their legal acts." "Therefore," he added, "legal disputes between Moscow and the regions are not created by Russia's entities, quite frequently they are given birth by the federal parliament, which operates without proper analysis of existing legal basis. This means regional laws are constantly and artificially brought into contradiction with federal legislation because of the formalist approach" of the federal center.

Monitoring Body Investigates Large-Scale Violations At Bashkir Airlines, Ufa Airport
Petr Bobilev, chairman of the State Monitoring Committee, told the Bashkir State Assembly on 18 December that his subordinates have revealed numerous violations by the top management of state Bashkir Airlines Company (BAL) and the Ufa international airport, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. The inspection discovered that although BAL had reported 39 million rubles ($1.2 million) of profits earned in 2000, its losses in the following years exceeded this amount, reaching some 77 million rubles ($2.4 million). Only 21 of the 60 aircraft owned by BAL are currently used, while 22 will be written off and 17 are awaiting repair. Under these devastating conditions, the company's managers reportedly tried to conceal the losses and spent some 4.5 million rubles ($141,200) on paying themselves bonuses and non-interest loans in 2001-02.

The company reportedly also "forgot" to transfer 80 percent of the 13 million rubles ($408,000) earned from leasing its aircraft to the republican budget and committed violations when holding tenders among fuel suppliers.

Apartment Of Marii El People's Party Leader Fired On
Unknown persons fired at the apartment windows of Marii El State Assembly deputy, Yoshkar-Ola City Assembly deputy speaker, and People's Party head Stanislav Demkovich, reported on 18 December. Demkovich, who was a close associate of incumbent Marii El President Leonid Markelov in his opposition to former President Vyacheslav Kislitsyn but now leads opposition to Markelov in the republic. Demkovich said he knows who contracted the action but cannot name him as "he will immediately sue me, since he is suing the entire republic." He continued that he is a disagreeable person for the republic's leadership as a State Assembly deputy since he opposes the redistribution of property and bankruptcies in the republic. Demkovich said he was offered a $10,000 bribe to leave his post as regional head in the People's Party's, adding that President Markelov personally appealed to party leader Gennadii Raikov to fire Demkovich from his post. Demkovich said the party's Moscow leaders told him about Markelov's request and that they won't dismiss him.

Perm Oblast Authorities Fight Corruption In Local Mass Media
Perm Oblast authorities approved a decision according to which local city and raion media will receive 60 percent of their subsidies from the oblast budget and only 40 percent from municipal budgets, RosBalt reported on 18 December citing the governor's press service. The measure was initiated to fight the growing trend of the media's dependence on the administrations of cities and raions, which fully subsidized them in the past, and to make local media less corrupt and more objective, the press service said.

Communists In Samara Protest Energy-System Reform
Several dozen residents on 18 December staged a demonstration organized by the Communist Party near the Samara Oblast administration to protest the reform of the country's energy sector, reported the same day citing the local television and radio company SKAT. The protesters slammed Unified Energy Systems head Anatolii Chubais, the Russian president and government, and oblast energy-sector officials and appealed to the State Duma to stop considering laws on reforming the energy sector. They passed a petition to oblast Governor Konstantin Titov, but no official from the oblast administration met with them, the agency said.

Ekho Moskvy To Broadcast In Samara
Ekho Moskvy has won a competition for broadcasting in Samara on the 99.1 MHz frequency in which some 10 radio companies took part, reported on 19 December. Ekho Moskvy broadcast in Samara before Russkoe radio-2 took over the frequency two months ago when the regional owner of the frequency changed. Ekho Moskvy Deputy General Director Erika Arstanova told the website the same day that the company will launch broadcasting in Samara in two or three months.

Saratov Kindergartens To Be Decorated With Putin Portraits
Soviet-era "Red Corners" -- rooms providing propaganda and educational facilities that existed in all institutions -- have been revived in Saratov kindergartens, Saratovbusinessconsulting reported on 15 December. Kindergarten employees demanded that children's parents provide portraits of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saratov Oblast Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov, among other things, to decorate the Red Corners. An order on setting up such rooms reportedly came from sanitary-epidemiological stations, which announced that they will check, in addition to sanitary conditions, if there are Red Corners in kindergartens.

Miners Go On Strike In Sverdlovsk Oblast
Some 300 miners went on strike on 16 December in Degtyarsk, Sverdlovsk Oblast, demanding that they be paid back wages, "Novyi region" reported on 17 December. The strikers have not been paid since September and also did not receive wages for February and March.

Tyumen Communists Burn Russian Constitution
Participants in a protest staged on 12 December by the Communist Party in Tyumen held a symbolic burning of the Russian Constitution, reported on 15 December. Tyument Oblast Committee Secretary and Duma Deputy Aleksandr Cherepanov said the constitution provides no guarantees of the rights to education or housing. The Interior Ministry's directorate is investigating the incident.

Izhevsk Automotive Plant Stops Production...
The Izhevsk Automotive Plant stopped its assembly line on 19 December, Region-Inform reported the same day. Udmurtian Industry Minister Andrei Armyaninov said the measure was caused by a stoppage in deliveries of spare parts from the mother company AutoVAZ after the latter also ceased production. AutoVAZ stopped its production from 26 October until 9 November because of low market demand.

...As Does GAZ
The Gorkii Automotive Plant (GAZ) plans to stop on 23 December until February the assembly of Volga cars, Nizhnii Novgorod Telegraph Agency and Region-Inform reported on 16 December. In 2002, GAZ stopped its Volga assembly in May, July, and November for a total of some 40 days.

GAZ plans as well to stop production of trucks to re-equip the line for the assembly of Gazel and Sobol light trucks. GAZ increased production in 2002 by 6 percent to 183,000 -- 63,000 cars and 119,000 trucks. The company also plans to lay off some 1,800 employees at the truck plant alone, with similar layoffs to take place in other departments, RosBalt reported on 17 December.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova