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Tatar-Bashkir Report: February 2, 2005

2 February 2005
Speaker Proposes Means Of Electing Municipal Heads
Tatar State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin told Interfax on 1 February that Tatarstan's leadership has suggested that the heads of municipalities be elected by local legislatures taking into account the opinion of regional heads. Mukhametshin said this arrangement was proposed for the transition period of two years, according to the law. Under the current law, there are two possible ways to elect heads of municipalities: direct elections or by local legislatures. Mukhametshin said that the Tatar proposal has been accepted by all 26 Russian regions where the institution of municipalities still has not been formed in full. In Tatarstan, municipalities exist only at the level of village and settlement councils but do not exist at the level of cities.

Mukhametshin added that regional parliaments should be permitted to establish the way municipal legislatures are formed and heads of municipalities elected for a transition period. "In two years set by the law, an order of the formation [of municipalities' executive bodies] will be fixed in their charters taking into account public opinion," Mukhametshin said. Mukhametshin said the initiative has found approval from State Duma Chairman Boris Gryzlov and Volga Federal District presidential envoy Sergei Kirienko.

Opposition Civic Groups Unite
Tatarstan's civic movement New Policy held the first meeting of its political council on 31 January, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 1 February. The new movement formed in Kazan on 29 January united republic's 27 political parties and movements of all orientations -- leftist, centrist, and rightist. The political council of the new association includes one representative from each party and movement. The movement's declaration on 29 January assessed the current state of the republic, saying, "a merger between Tatarstan's authorities and businesses has taken place and practically all big and valuable medium-size businesses belong to officials and people linked to them," while "extra incomes received from selling oil are spent by authorities without any supervision and are used inefficiently."

Tax Collection Increases By 38 Percent
Acting head of Russian Tax Ministry in Tatarstan Rinat Khairov told a cabinet briefing on 1 February that tax collection in the republic rose by 38 percent in 2004 to over 94 billion rubles ($3.36 billion) compared to the previous year, Tatarinform reported the same day. Of the total, 48 billion rubles, or 51 percent, was transferred to the federal budget, 30 billion rubles (30 percent) to the republican budget, and 13 billion rubles (14 percent) to local budgets.

Former Interior Officer Convicted Of Beating Teenager
Kazan's Sovet Raion Court has convicted former Interior Ministry officer Ilyas Borhanov of beating 18-year-old Kazan resident Denis Petrov and sentenced him to three years of conditional imprisonment and two years of probation, and Regnum reported on 31 January. Petrov was detained on 26 February 2003, beaten heavily in the detention, and forced to plead guilty to a theft he did not in fact commit. Medical examination of Petrov revealed a concussion, fractured ribs, and other injuries. The Kazan Human Rights Center managed to have the criminal case against Petrov stopped and filed a criminal investigation against Borhanov. The court also ordered Borhanov to pay 10,000 rubles to Petrov in compensation.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

New Street Actions In Ufa...
Two protests were staged in Ufa on 1 February against benefit reforms and growing tariffs on housing and municipal services, Interfax-Povolzhe reported. The actions involved roughly 600 people.

Participants in one of the protests, organized by the Motherland faction in Bashkortostan and held in Soviet Square, demanded that a moratorium on the monetization law be introduced; that Health and Social Development Minister Mikhail Zurabov, Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin be dismissed; that a quarterly indexation of pensions, subsidies and wages for state budget employees be introduced; and that the raising of tariffs on housing and municipal services without indexation of pensions and subsidies be abolished.

The second protest, organized by the regional department of the Communist Party in front of the Ufa City Council building, called for the dismissal of Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov for a number of "violations," including "sabotage of the law on local self-government." Participants also demanded that the Bashkir Central Election Commission (USK) hold referendums on direct elections of heads of city, town and raion administrations. "We are warning the USK and the republic's executive authority bodies about criminal responsibility for illegal actions while holding referendums and counting votes," a statement from the protesters said. It noted that if demands are not met within a month, a permanent republic-wide protest meeting will be launched on 26 February. Similar demands were put forward at a meeting in Ufa on 22 January that attracted 5,000 people.

...As Prosecutor Says Meeting Organizers Persecuted For Political Demands
Bashkortostan's acting Prosecutor Mikhail Zelepukin told Interfax-Povolzhe on 1 February that the Prosecutor's Office has evidence that some protest organizers had not notified authorities ahead of time, an administrative violation. Zelepukin said cases have been initiated against three protest organizers, including one KPRF member in Sterletamaq and two people in Ufa's Kirov Raion.

Parliament Deputy In Court to Promote Gay Marriages
Bashkir State Assembly Deputy Edvard Murzin has appealed to the Moscow Ostankino Court against a refusal by the Moscow Butyrskii Registry Office on 18 January to register his marriage with Edvard Mishin, the editor in chief of the gay magazine "Kvir" (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 19 and 21 January 2005), reported on 31 January, citing "Ekho Moskvy." Murzin also said the Appeals Board of the Russian Supreme Court will hear on 15 February his complaint against "the refusal by the Supreme Court to consider his appeal against the Russian State Duma, which rejected his amendments to the Family Code aimed at permitting same-sex marriages." Murzin had said that if his appeals are rejected, he will further appeal to the Russian Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights. Murzin has called the move a civic action aimed at drawing attention to the social status of sexual minorities in Russia. He has a common-law wife but said he is defending the interests of about 5 percent of the population.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova