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Tatar-Bashkir Report: February 17, 2005

17 February 2005
Shaimiev Wants Regions To Have Power To Distribute Medication
Speaking with Interfax-Povolzhie on 16 February, Mintimer Shaimiev said that he believes that regional authorities should be responsible for distributing medicine to those who qualify under federal social benefits.

He said that the handover of these powers from Moscow to the regions will inevitably take place, and that it is important to ensure that it is a quick transition in order to alleviate difficulties that those who depend on the medicine might encounter.

Shaimiev reportedly opposed the new, strongly centralized, distribution scheme that was established by Russia's Health Ministry, saying it created new complications and risks creating a new crisis.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Bashkortostan's Tatars Picket In Ufa...
Activists from Bashkortostan's Tatar civic groups staged a picket in front of the republic's government building in Ufa on 16 February, RosBalt reported the same day. Some 50 people, headed by Bashkortostan's Tatar National Cultural Autonomy Deputy Chairman Mejit Khujin, carried placards protesting Bashkortostan's "nationalistic" policies and the forcible spread of the Bashkir language among Tatars.

Picketers demanded the Tatar language be given state status in the republic, that 30 percent of television and radio broadcasts on local channels be in Tatar, and that direct elections of heads of raions, towns, and city administrations be held. They also called for the establishment of a Tatar youth theater and puppet theater and premises for Bashkortostan's Tatar National Cultural Autonomy.

The police prevented protesters from approaching the government building, despite the fact they had been given official permission to picket. Activists of Tatar organizations from Durtoile, Agydel, and Sterletamaq also took part in the action.

...As Blagoveshchensk Raid Victims Continue Protest Action In Moscow
About 30 people who say they were victims of a controversial 10-14 December 2004 operation by the Bashkir Interior Ministry in Blagoveshchensk picketed the building of the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office in Moscow on 16 February, RFE/RL's Russian Service reported the same day. Protesters demanded that an objective investigation be conducted into the alleged abuse of power by Interior Ministry employees during the raid.

The group picketed the Russian Interior Ministry in Moscow the previous day (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 16 February 2005).

Speaking on Ekho Moskvy radio on 16 February, protest organizer and "Novaya gazeta" correspondent Marat Khairullin denied a report released by the Russian Interior Ministry's press service the previous day that visiting Blagoveshchensk residents had agreed to halt their protest action after meeting with the Russian deputy interior minister. "This is lies and misinformation," Khairullin said.

Orthodox Church Criticizes Gay Marriage Activist
Russian Orthodox Church representatives called an attempt to register a same-sex marriage between Bashkir State Assembly Deputy Edvard Murzin and Eduard Mishin, the editor in chief of the gay magazine "Kvir," a "shameful provocation," RosBalt reported on 16 February. Ufa Eparchy Board Missionary Department head Maksim Stepanenko told the news agency that the initiative by the Bashkir deputy causes "bewilderment" in Orthodox priests.

Stepanenko said Murzin has demonstrated through his actions that he is "politically defective" and deserves to be recalled from parliament by those residents of Neftekamsk who elected him State Assembly deputy.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova