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Tatar-Bashkir Report: June 29, 2005


29 June 2005
DAILY REVIEW FROM TATARSTAN
U.S. Ambassador Comments On Changes In Tatarstan
In an interview with RFE/RL's Kazan bureau on 28 June, visiting U.S. Ambassador Alexander Vershbow said Tatarstan plays an important role in strengthening federalism in Russia. The republic has a unique constitution and unique relations with Moscow.

Vershbow predicted that Tatarstan's authorities would try to maintain the republic's unique relations with federal authorities. Vershbow expressed interest in the results of the current talks on power-sharing between Kazan and Moscow. Vershbow suggested that the republic has seen strong economic growth since his first visit. He added that increasing tolerance between representatives of different ethnic groups can be an example for Russia's many federal entities. Vershbow noted that there are some obstacles to the development of civil society in the republic but that progress has taken place in this sector as well.

Vershbow took part in opening an English-language camp for pupils from needy families in Kazan and met with students of Kazan State University on 28 June.

Former Guantanamo Prisoner From Tatarstan Sues U.S. Government...
Tatarstan resident Airat Wakhitov, who spent some 18 months at the U.S. military's Guantanamo Bay military facility, told a news conference held in the Moscow offices of RIA-Novosti on 28 June that he has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government and that his case will be heard by a U.S. civil court. Wakhitov said he is not seeking any compensation but demands public recognition of his innocence. Wakhitov charged that Guantanamo prisoners were subjected to torture, adding that "torture in the American concentration camp at Guantanamo have a harsher nature than in Russian prisons -- in Russia, major emphasis is placed on physically affecting a victim, while in American camps [it is] psychological pressure." Wakhitov said prisoners were kept in 2-square-meter cells and were allowed a shower and a 15-minute walk twice a week. Wakhitov alleged that the Koran was thrown into a toilet in front of prisoners' eyes to provoke their protests (Editor's note: It was unclear from the report whether Wakhitov claimed to have seen such incidents himself, or whether he was relating things that he had heard from others.) Wakhitov said mass revolts and disturbances took place, saying that some 300 prisoners went on a hunger strike in the summer of 2003. Wakhitov alleged sleep deprivation in which a person was moved every 15 minutes from one cell to another over the course of three or four months.

Vakhitov claimed that he served as an imam at a mosque in Naberezhnye Chelny but was suspected by militants from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan of collaborating with Russian secret services. He said he was kidnapped and taken to Afghanistan in 2000. In 2001, the new government of Afghanistan handed him over to the U.S. military.

Wakhitov was released to Russia in February 2004.

...As His Allegations Spark Different Comments
U.S. Ambassador Vershbow told reporters on 28 June in Kazan that he "doubts the correctness of the allegations" by Wakhitov, intertat.ru reported the same day. Vershbow said Wakhitov has the right to file legal action but that he considers conditions at Guantanamo humane. "We respect the right of access to religious materials," Vershbow said. He conceded that "minor mistakes by some soldiers might have taken place," adding, "Our policy in general is based on respect for religious feelings."

Russian Islamic Committee Chairman Geidar Dzhemal, who took part in Wakhitov's news conference, alleged that mockery of religious feelings and the Koran is practiced by the law-enforcement agencies of Russia and the United States, adding that "alongside pure sadism [it] has also an experimental nature and is aimed at composing a psychological portrait of a Muslim."

Another participant in the news conference, Our Choice party leader Irina Khakamada, charged: "Democratic states that participate in the antiterrorism coalition decided that this is a fight without rules. As a result, the rights of ordinary people are violated while terrorism remains as it was before. Nobody is in fact interested in fighting terrorism, but all are interested exactly in its remaining to allow authorities to spread a regime of arbitrariness and repression. This is true especially regarding Russia. Authorities just pit people against one another."

The head of the Center for Strategic Research of Religion and Policy of the Contemporary World, Maksim Shevchenko, charged that "the U.S.A. and other states of the antiterrorism coalition specially provide Russian security agencies with compromising materials so that Russian authorities [can arrange] terror against their own people." Those countries want the situation to spin out of control to suggest themselves as the 'lesser evil,'" Shevchenko argued.

Tatarstan President Meets With Federal Officials
Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev met in Moscow on 28 June with Russian Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref and informed the minister about the implementation of the five-year federal program for republican socioeconomic development due to end in 2006, Tatarinform reported the same day. Shaimiev reportedly said that all of the program's qualitative parameters were exceeded, and that efficiencies allowed for increased payments to the federal budget and bolstered local budgets.

Shaimiev met with State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov (Unified Russia) to discuss consideration by Duma committees of republican-proposed draft laws on taxation of gasoline production. Shaimiev took part the same day in a meeting of Unified Russia's supreme-council bureau.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

DAILY REVIEW FROM BASHKORTOSTAN
Ufa Municipal Elections Declared Valid...
The Ufa City Election Commission (ShSK) on 28 June announced the validity of the 26 June elections for municipal bodies being formed under the new federal law on local self-government, "Kommersant-Volga-Ural" reported on 29 June. Commission member Aleksandr Sidyakin said balloting was valid in all the 35 electoral districts of the capital. Sidyakin said the elections were close to failure, as turnout totaled between 22-25 percent; minimum acceptable turnout is 20 percent. Sidyakin said all complaints received by the commission during the voting were "far-fetched and unfounded." Preliminary results showed that none of the 56 candidates from the fuel and energy sector was elected. At least 20 percent of mandates were won by the candidates whom rivals accused of being city-administration favorites. Fourteen members of the current Ufa city council were reelected. Vote counts have not yet been finished in three districts where the margins of victory appear to have been fewer than 10 ballots.

...As Independent Observers Report Violations
Members of the Golos association for the defense of voter rights in Bashkortostan told a news conference on 28 June that low turnout at the election was caused by "wild examples of competitive fight." A member of the Volga Federal District coordinating council on human rights, Konstantin Potnin, charged that the rights of voters and candidates were systematically violated during the elections. "Independent observers and mass media representatives were not provided access to some electoral districts. That is why holding elections in Bashkortostan in the next two years is senseless," Potnin said. "It is necessary to change personnel and break the system." He added, however, that Golos won't appeal to prosecutors to contest the election results.

Defense-Industry Company Gets New CEO
The Federal Industry Agency on 28 June selected Aleksandr Gerasin from among eight competitors to become the new general director of the Ufa Instrument-Making Plant (UPPO), "Kommersant-Volga-Ural" reported the next day. Gerasin, 48, served previously as deputy general director of RSK MIG. The previous general director of UPPO who had been heading the company for 10 years, Yurii Baklanov, resigned in April after dissatisfied trade unions appealed to various bodies and held a protest action.

The head of UPPO's trade union, Andrei Kolybanov, alleged to "Kommersant-Volga-Ural" of 28 June that an audit of the company suggested that Baklanov and two of his deputies, Vyacheslav Budzin and Vladimir Dumler, cofounded commercial structures in violation of the law.

Interior Minister Rafail Divaev said at a recent briefing that the activities of former managers of UPPO are still under investigation by Bashkir law-enforcement bodies.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova
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