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Tatar-Bashkir Report: April 27, 2005

27 April 2005
Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner On Human Rights In Tatarstan
In a report devoted to the state of human rights in Russia presented on 20 April in Strasbourg, Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Alvaro Gil-Robles listed freedom of speech, violence by police, and the status of ethnic minorities among the human rights problems in Tatarstan, "Vechernyaya Kazan" reported on 26 April. Gil-Robles also cited a lack of informational diversity and the strong dependence of the media on local authorities.

Gil-Robles criticized the status of the Vietnamese community in Kazan, some of whom work but have no identity documents. "Though police know that those people work illegally, nobody worries about this," he said. At the same time, Gil-Robles shared his "strong impression from initiatives by Tatarstan aimed at promoting harmony between ethnic groups. I think Tatarstan can fairly be titled a laboratory for cooperation between different nationalities."

Gil-Robles said he has received numerous complaints of violent treatment by Tatarstan's law-enforcement authorities from people kept in pretrial detention, while the Tatar interior minister reported just 141 such complaints. "This means many residents are simply afraid to complain of violent treatment" by police.

3,000 Protest In Elmet
Some 3,000 people held an authorized demonstration in Elmet on 24 April, "Vechernyaya Kazan" reported on 26 April. The action, organized by the Communist Party, was held under the slogans "Down with the monetization law," "Down with Putin," "Down with Shaimiev," and "Down with [Elmet] head Ebubekerov." Demonstrators protested delays in payment of subsidies and compensations introduced in place of in-kind social benefits and opposed the privatization of housing and the municipal-services sector. They also demanded that a referendum on 17 questions initiated by the Communist Party and prohibited by the Russian Central Election Commission be held and an additional question on dismissing Shaimiev be included in it. The daily reported that employees of Elmet companies, most of which are Tatneft subsidiaries, were advised by their bosses not to participate in the demonstration and to prevent their relatives from doing so.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Human Rights Activists Call For Nonviolence In Bashkortostan
A group of human rights leaders including Yelena Bonner, Lidiya Grafova, Lev Ponomarev, and Yurii Samodurov on 26 April called for violence to be avoided in Bashkortostan, Regnum reported the same day. The activists expressed their concern about possible clashes on 1 May during demonstrations by the opposition on one side and the ultranationalist Gray Wolves organization, Eurasian Youth Union, and special police troops on the other. The leaders called on the opposition to avoid violent forms of protest and asked Bashkortostan's authorities to reject using violence against peaceful demonstrators. The human rights leaders also called on federal authorities to interfere and keep the situation in Bashkortostan from turning violent.

Opposition Withdraws Demand For Rakhimov's Ouster
Leaders of Bashkortostan's united opposition decided to temporarily withdraw their demand for President Murtaza Rakhimov's ouster, RosBalt reported on 26 April. A decision was made at a meeting in Ufa of the heads of the republic's leading political parties and civic and religious groups as well as presidential-administration head Radii Khebirov and other officials. Opposition leaders agreed to sign an agreement not to call for the dismissals of federal and republican leaders and officials. The opposition leaders also backed down from plans to hold a march on Oktyabr Avenue to Soviet Square and to picket the government building.

Opposition leader Ramil Bignov told reporters that the opposition not only supported the agreement but initiated its signing in its final form in order to "ease public tensions on 1 May and on the eve of Victory Day [9 May]." "We agree to hold a normal action if the authorities and our ideological opponents will also observe the law," Bignov said. He added that the opposition front will soon discuss the necessity of holding more demonstrations demanding Rakhimov's dismissal.

President's Son Maintains Control Over Top Bashkir Companies
Ural Rakhimov, son of Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov, managed to keep his control over major companies of the republic's fuel-and-energy sector, including Bashneft, Bashkirenergo, Bashkirnefteprodukt, the Ufa and Novo-Ufa oil refineries, Ufaneftekhim, and Ufaorgsintez, following those companies' annual shareholders meetings on 26 April, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 27 April. Republican authorities and their subordinates in Bashneftekhim and the Bashkir Fuel Company did not take part in the meetings, so the boards of directors were formed mainly from representatives of Bashkirskii Kapital, which is controlled by Ural Rakhimov. Rakhimov himself was elected to the Bashkirenergo board. Bashkir presidential spokesman Rostislav Morzagulov told the daily that the results of shareholders meetings "will not hinder the process of returning their shares to state control."

President Rakhimov is currently trying to return to the republic's ownership controlling interests in the fuel-and-energy companies that were passed by his own decree to Ural Rakhimov's Bashkirskii Kapital. On 26 April, the Bashkir Arbitration Court began hearing lawsuits filed by the Bashkir Property Ministry to annul the deals by which Bashkirskii Kapital took over Bashkirenergo and Bashneft. The next hearings are scheduled for 10 and 11 May.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova