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Russia Report: June 10, 2002


10 June 2002, Volume 2, Number 19
PAN-REGIONAL ISSUES
RUSSIAN ISLAMIC LEADER ASKS PUTIN TO CLEANSE COUNTRY OF WAHHABISM...
Speaking at a roundtable in Moscow on the theme of "Islam Against Terrorism" on 29 May, the Ufa-based chairman of Russia's Central Muslim Religious Board, Talgat Tadzhuddin, and about 20 other Islamic leaders from a number of regions across Russia adopted an appeal to President Vladimir Putin asking him to step up the struggle against international terrorism, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported. According to RFE/RL's Moscow bureau, Tadzhuddin said that supporters of Wahhabism -- which he called "pseudo-Islamic provocateurs" -- "represent a threat to any type of government," since they do not recognize any other response but violence toward nonbelievers. According to Interfax, Tadzhuddin implied that it was Wahhabites who helped finance the terrorist attack on the Daghestan city of Kaspiisk on 9 May that left 43 dead. JAC

...AS POSSIBILITY RAISED THAT 'WAHHABISM' CAN BE CHARGE USED TO SMEAR POLITICAL ENEMIES.
In an interview the previous day with "Gazeta," Tadzhuddin claimed that Wahhabism is "being spread in an almost open manner in Tatarstan." For example, according to Tadzhuddin, the Bolgar mosque in Kazan was stormed in October 2001 by dozens of extremists shouting "Allah akbar." According to RFE/RL's Kazan bureau, one of Tadzhuddin's close supporters, Ferit Salman, the former head of the Bolgar mosque, was removed from his position by Tatarstan's Muslim Religious Board in 2000 for opposing the board and urging it to submit to Tadzhuddin's centrally based Muslim board. In interviews with the Russian press, Salman has accused the Tatarstan board of having ties with foreign, extremist Muslim organizations. JAC

POLLS LOOK AT INTERTWINING OF ETHNIC AND RELIGIOUS IDENTITIES.
A recent poll conducted by a local university among ethnic Tatars and Russians living in St. Petersburg found that a larger proportion of the Tatar respondents than Russian believe that religion is an integral part of their identity, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 24 May, citing "Vostochyi ekspress" weekly from 17 May. The poll found that 32.2 percent of the Tatar respondents believe that being Tatar means being Muslim, while among the Russian respondents, only 10.9 percent believe that being Russian means being Orthodox Christian. The poll also found that national traditions are important for 51.7 percent of the Tatars and only 20.6 percent of Russians. On the same day, the bureau also reported that the majority of Muslims attending Friday prayers at the Muslim Cultural Center in the city of Kurgan are ethnic Russians. Adam Abdullah, editor of the local "Musulmane zauralya" told the website islam.ru that there is not a single mosque in Kurgan, so prayers are held at the center, the bureau reported. JAC

UPPER LEGISLATIVE CHAMBER SHOWS SPARK OF INDEPENDENCE.
After a stormy discussion, the Federation Council approved on 29 May a new election bill, ITAR-TASS reported. The vote was 96 with in favor, 36 against, and 14 abstentions. Under the bill, local legislatures are required to elect half of their members according to party lists, but many representatives during the debate again called for the regions to be allowed to establish the proportion elected by party lists themselves, "Izvestiya" reported. According to the daily, Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov reminded the senators that the bill will not fully come into force until three to four years from now, while Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov advised them "not to throw away their votes. It's all the same. Everything has already been determined." The daily also noted that almost one-third of the representatives present did not yield -- marking the first such instance since the body was formed under its new rules. JAC

ANOTHER MUSCOVITE HEADS TO FEDERATION COUNCIL.
Legislators in Penza Oblast have selected Andrei Vavilov, former first deputy finance minister, as their representative to the Federation Council, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 May. Vavilov was most recently director of the Moscow-based Institute for Financial Research. According to "Kommersant-Daily" on 29 May, Vavilov had no previous relationship with Penza Oblast, and one unidentified local politician said that Governor Vasilii Bochkarev's recent successful re-election effort was very expensive and alleged that the post of senator was put up for "tender." "And Vavilov won," the source said. Vavilov's name has frequently come up in recent years in connection with criminal corruption investigations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January and 22 May 2002 and 11 December 2001). JAC

ALTAI
REAL-ESTATE STING VICTIMS BLOCK CITY THOROUGHFARE...
An unspecified number of people blocked a main street in Barnaul in Altai Krai on 21 May to demand that city authorities take steps to supply them with apartments or restore money they lost as the result of a fraud organized by local construction firm Barnaulstroi, Interfax-Eurasia reported. The company's director fled the region with the firm's money and local police authorities have been unable to find him. According to RFE/RL's Barnaul correspondent, last November it was revealed that the firm had sold the same apartments in a building it was constructing to several different people. Since news of the fraud was revealed, city authorities announced that no one will be able to move into the disputed building until the investigation is completed. However, some of the would-be residents decided to occupy their homes anyway, even though there is no electricity or water. According to the correspondent, they must now defend themselves not only from the police but from other claimants for their apartments. JAC

...AS LOCAL TEACHERS ASK PUTIN WHAT HAS CHANGED.
Around 12,000 teachers in Altai Krai have signed an open letter to President Putin complaining that in the more than two years since he has taken office, the situation in the education sector has not changed, Interfax-Eurasia reported on 28 May. According to the teachers, reform measures suggested by the government have had virtually no effect on the increasingly difficult situation. The krai's education workers' union plans to continue collecting signatures for the open letter until 1 June. JAC

ARKHANGELSK
NEW FACILITY PLANNED FOR NOVAYA ZEMLYA.
Arkhangelsk Oblast Governor Anatolii Yefremov announced on 23 May that the Atomic Energy Ministry suggested building a new underground storage facility for radioactive waste at Novaya Zemlya at a ministry session the previous day, Interfax reported. According to Yefremov, the Mironova Gora burial site, which is located near Severodvinsk, will be cleaned up and closed down, and the waste now stored there will be transferred to the new site. Yefremov added that the "transfer of radioactive waste to Novaya Zemlya from outside the region, let alone outside the country, is simply out of the question." Meanwhile, on the same day, an unidentified "high-ranking" ministry official told Interfax that the ministry will continue importing spent nuclear fuel from Hungary despite a recent Supreme Court ruling that overturned a decree allowing the waste to be stored in Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 May 2002). "If this deal is scrapped, then Russia will lose its reputation as a reliable partner," the source said. JAC

KRASNODAR
PRESSURE ON IMMIGRANTS IN KUBAN LINKED WITH PENDING SALE OF AGRICULTURAL LAND...
Law enforcement officials in Krasnodar Krai conducted special operations in the krai's Anapskii Raion last week as the result of which some 38 Meskhetian Turks were detained and deprived of their passports, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 27 May. Sarvar Tidorov, head of the Meskhetian Turk community in the krai said that the Meskhetians were harvesting a field at the time and were told by police to leave the region. According to the bureau, several analysts believe that it is not accidental that the punitive measures taken against the Meskhetians have coincided with the State Duma's consideration of legislation that would regulate the buying and selling of agricultural land (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 22 May 2002). They believe that the Meskhetians would be a serious obstacle to a quick seizure of agricultural lands, since the Meskhetian community survives mainly through agricultural work. JAC

...AS THREAT TO KRAI ARMENIANS SEEMINGLY AVERTED...
Addressing a session of the Armenian Academy of Sciences in Yerevan on 26 May, Ara Abrahamian, the wealthy businessman who heads the Union of Armenians of Russia, said he reached an agreement with the administration of Russia's Krasnodar Krai, which earlier this year launched a drive to expel illegal immigrants, including many Armenians, from the region, Noyan Tapan reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 April and 17 May 2002). Under that agreement, Abrahamian will sponsor a 10-year program of investment in the krai, while krai Governor Sergei Tkachev will allow Krasnodar's Armenian population to remain there. Abrahamian told the same 26 May meeting that his organization plans to invest $1 million in restoring the area of northern Armenia still suffering from the aftermath of the 1988 earthquake, $500,000 in Nagorno-Karabakh, and a further $100,000 to strengthen the Karabakh armed forces, Noyan Tapan reported. LF

...AS GOVERNOR BACKS AWAY FROM RESETTLEMENT PLANS.
At a press conference in Moscow on 19 May, Tkachev denied that he supports plans publicly revealed earlier by his deputy governor, Leonid Baklitskii, to "reemigrate" Armenians back to Armenia. JAC

COSSACKS DECLARE INTENT TO OPPOSE CONSTRUCTION OF NEW MOSQUES.
Atamans of Cossack troops in the Don region decided on 28 May to resist the construction of more mosques in southern Russia, RFE/RL's Rostov-na-Donu correspondent reported on 29 May. Deputy Ataman Vladimir Voronin compared the situation to events in Kosova, suggesting that the construction of mosques would be used to justify the seizure of land. Dzafar Bekmaev, head of the spiritual directorate for Muslims in Rostov Oblast, said that the Cossacks' declaration violates Russian law. "What would happen if the Muslims in neighboring regions, Daghestan and Kabardino-Balkaria, rise up and start to demand a ban on Russian Orthodox churches?" he asked. According to Bekmaev, there is only one mosque in Rostov Oblast, a one-story building that can barely accommodate the more than 200 people of 20 different nationalities who attend each week. JAC

KRASNOYARSK
REFERENDUM ON MERGER CANCELED FOLLOWING LEBED'S DEATH.
Krasnoyarsk Krai's election commission rejected on 24 May an initiative to hold a referendum on merging the administrations of the Taimyr and Evenk autonomous okrugs with that of the krai, Radio Mayak reported. The commission deemed the holding of such a referendum "untimely" and "pointless" at present. The recently deceased governor of the krai, Aleksandr Lebed, had been a strong proponent of the merger. Meanwhile, the Honor and Motherland Party, which Lebed headed, suggested on 24 May that Lebed's younger brother, Aleksei, run for governor of the krai in the 8 September elections, Interfax-Eurasia reported. Aleksei Lebed is currently president of neighboring Khakasia. JAC

MORDOVIA
LOCAL BUREAUCRATS WORK HARDER?
The average wage of local bureaucrats in the Republic of Mordovia is on average more than double that of federal officials, according to the chief federal inspector for Mordovia, Aleksandr Pykov, ITAR-TASS reported on 29 May. In 2001, state workers' monthly pay in Mordovia averaged 7,458 rubles ($238) compared with 3,430 rubles for federal workers. However, the average wage for all categories of workers in the republic is among the country's lowest -- 1,592 rubles. According to ITAR-TASS, this kind of wage gap is common in the Volga Federal District: The average monthly wage for federal workers in the district is 3,937 rubles compared with 6,016 rubles for workers in the local or regional apparatuses. Previously, it was reported that Pykov's boss, presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District Sergei Kirienko, and the six other presidential envoys, are among the highest-paid federal workers in any category (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 22 January 2001). JAC

POLITICAL CALENDAR
10-11 June: The European Foundation for the Sustainable Development of Regions (FEDRE) of the Council of Europe will host an international forum on energy and sustainable development in Omsk

13 June: Government will consider the basic parameters of the 2003 federal budget, according to Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Kudrin on 23 May

14 June: START-II treaty expires, according to Interfax on 14 May

14 June: State Duma will consider the presidential bill on preventing extremist activities in its first reading and the law on alternative military service in its second, according to First Deputy Speaker Lyubov Sliska on 20 May

17 June: Trial of former Aeroflot executives on charges of embezzlement to resume, according to ITAR-TASS on 25 April

17 June: Informal session of the working group on Russian entry to the World Trade Organization will be held in Geneva

17-21 June: The Chamber for Industry and Trade will hold the second stage of its fourth congress

20 June: Deadline by which the Russian government will decide how much oil exports will increase, according to Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko on 27 May

23 June: Presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for Buryatia

26-28 June: Group of Seven summit to be held in Canada

30 June: State Duma will hold its last plenary meeting of fall session

1 July: Russia will complete its withdrawal from the military base at Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam

1 July: New Criminal Procedure Code comes into effect

13 July: The presidium of the political council of Gennadii Seleznev's Rossiya movement will meet to consider its future strategy

1 August: Russia's first full-scale facility for the destruction of chemical weapons will be launched in Gorny in Saratov Oblast, according to presidential envoy Sergei Kirienko

12 August: Second anniversary of the sinking of the "Kursk" submarine.

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