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Tatar-Bashkir Report: February 14, 2005

14 February 2005
Tatarstan's Communists Hold Antireform Demonstration
Some 300 demonstrators, most of them elderly people, gathered in front of the Geliesker Qamal Tatar Drama Theater on 13 February to protest the current social-benefits reform, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the next day. The meeting, organized by Tatarstan's Communist Party lasted one hour, perhaps because of temperatures below -10 degrees Celsius and high winds. Protesters held signs accusing the federal government of burying the socially unprotected population and denounced Russian President Vladimir Putin and Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev as "enemies of the people."

TAIF Expands Stake In Major Petrochemical Plant
Tatarstan's TAIF group, which is controlled by President Shaimiev's son Radik, acquired an additional 2.84 percent stake in Tuben Kama Petrochemical Plant (NKNKh), taking its share to 25.6 percent, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 12 February. The daily described the company as the biggest petrochemical plant in Eastern Europe and quoted BrokerKreditServis investment company analyst Maksim Shein as saying that the deal will not bring any significant changes for NKNKh because Tatarstan already had control of it, though he added that for TAIF the deal will simplify control over NKNKh.

Kazan Aircraft Plant Signs Major Contract
The Gorbunov Kazan Aircraft Plant (KAPO) and Russia's Financial Leading Company (FLK) on 12 February signed a contract on building 10 Tu-214 jets for Transaero airlines in 2005-07, Intertat reported the same day. Transaero will lease the aircraft for 15 years, which, according to the company's General Director Olga Pleshakova, creates the "maximum favorable" mechanism of the $600 million deal. The contract stipulates that the first aircraft be delivered in late 2005.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Bashkir Interior Ministry Files Defamation Suits Against Press...
Bashkir Interior Ministry (MVD) press service head Ruslan Sherefetdinov told "Kommersant-Volga-Urals" on 11 February that the ministry has filed several suits against "Novaya gazeta" and is preparing to file suits against "Otechestvo" and "Zerkalo" for articles published about the December 2004 police raid in Blagoveshchensk (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 29 and 30 December 2004, 3, 6, 7, 10-14, 17-21, and 24 January 2005). The ministry has accused those newspapers of "defaming the business reputation of the Bashkir MVD." "Otechestvo" Editor in Chief Sergei Kuznetsov commented that "the Bashkir MVD has no business reputation so nothing can be defamed. The police have defamed themselves by their attitude to residents so newspapers had only to ascertain facts." "Zerkalo" Executive Secretary Veronika Shakhova told the daily that her employees "are absolutely sure that the facts [they] reported are true and are not afraid of a trial." "Novaya gazeta."

...Induced By Republic's Leaders
At a Bashkir State Council session on 10 February devoted to the Blagoveshchensk events, Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov blamed journalists and media for spreading false information and trying to defame law-enforcement bodies. Rakhimov said that the Bashkir MVD should sue them and that someone is behind such publications. "The so-called human rights defenders, they don't work anywhere, what money do they live on?" Rakhimov asked. "It is necessary to clarify whom do they receive money from, including for publishing newspapers." Bashkortostan's acting prosecutor Mikhail Zelepukin also criticized the media for misinformation about the Blagoveshchensk events, saying "freedom of speech turned into irresponsibility...and often the deliberate deception of readers," for instance when outlets reported "mass rape of Bashkir girls, bucketfuls of used condoms, and piles of knocked-out teeth." "I state with full responsibility that no similar facts took place," Zelepukin added.

Hundreds Protest In Ufa
Between 500 and 1,000 residents gathered on 12 February for several public meetings in Ufa's Soviet Square, RosBalt and Bashinform reported the same day. Groups led by the Communist Party (KPRF), Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, and students of Ufa higher educational institutions staged protests. KPRF followers called for the dismissal of the Russian president, annulment of the law abolishing in-kind social benefits, arrest of oligarchs, and depriving foreigners of the right to work in Russia. A resolution passed at the KPRF meeting demanded that the Russian government be dismissed, the State Duma be dissolved, pre-term Duma elections be held, and a nationwide referendum on key social issues be held.

LDPR supporters have backed the monetization of benefits but demanded that bigger cash subsidies be paid.

Many of the students were protesting against the abolition of benefits and carrying slogans against "the orange revolution." An RFE/RL Kazan correspondent reported on 14 February that activists from the Bashkir Youth Union, who also took part in the meeting on Soviet Square, held slogans supporting Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov and handed out Unified Russia leaflets. The police created a barrier between those protesting against the social-benefits reform and representatives of the Bashkir Youth Union.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova