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Tatar-Bashkir Report: February 24, 2005

24 February 2005
Military Pensioners Demand Restoration Of In-Kind Benefits
A protest by military pensioners against socioeconomic reforms was held on 23 February near the Tatar Kamal State Drama Theater in Kazan, RIA-Novosti and "Kommersant-Volga-Urals" reported on 23 and 24 February, respectively. Roughly 500 demonstrators, organized by the Tatarstan branch of the Movement for the Support of the Army (DPA) and the Communist Party, organized an appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin demanding that in-kind social benefits be restored for all servicemen and military employees, as well as pensioners of law enforcement bodies. Placards called for "public supervision over housing and municipal-services tariffs" and curbs on housing and municipal services costs at 10 percent of family budgets.

Parliamentary Committee Passes Constitutional Amendments
The State Council Committee on Formation of State Bodies and Local Self-Government on 22 February approved draft amendments to the Tatar Constitution to bring it into line with federal legislation, Tatarinform and reported the same day. The amendments replace procedures for the direct election of the republican president with the allocation of powers by the republic parliament to a candidate proposed by the Russian president. Articles of the Tatar Constitution concerning the elections of the Tatar president will be cut. The draft was included in the agenda of parliament's next plenary session.

Tax Authorities Find Violations In Alcohol Turnover
Republican tax authorities in 2004 revealed legal violations at one in five companies involved in production or sale of alcohol, Regnum reported on 23 February, quoting the Russian Tax Ministry Tatar Board press service. As a result, an additional 40 million rubles ($1.4 million) has been charged to budgets of all levels, and 11 million-ruble fines have been imposed. Eleven people have been subject to criminal prosecution for violations.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Bashinform Interviews Former Hunger Striker
On 23 February the state information agency Bashinform published an interview with one of the young men who recently began a hunger strike in Moscow to protest the conduct of the Blagoveschensk incident investigation (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 24 January, 16 February 2005). Marat Sabirov, a 22-year-old Ukrainian national, told the agency that he was from Blagoveschensk and expected the organizers of the protest to help him with Russian citizenship. In his words, the organizers of the protest, including some of Bashkortostan�s journalists and activists of the local branch of "Za prava cheloveka" ("For human rights") movement fed the hunger strikers each evening and paid them money.

Police Official In Charge Of Public Service Retires
Following the December events in Blagoveschensk, the head of Bashkortostan�s traffic police department, Artur Akhmetkhanov, was appointed to replace Viner Gazeev, as Bashkir deputy interior minister in charge of public security, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 23 February. The official announcement distributed by the ministry says that Gazeev asked to retire due to poor health. Ravil Bayburin, former deputy head of the traffic police department, will succeed Akhmetkhanov.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi