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Tatar-Bashkir Report: August 22, 2005

22 August 2005
Shaimiev: Kazan Millennium Has Worldwide Significance
In a live interview with Radio Mayak on 20 August, Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev said the significance of the Kazan millennium for Russia and the entire world is explained by the Eurasian factor, which is becoming more and more important. Shaimiev said a total of 50 billion rubles ($1.75 billion) were spent on preparations for the celebration.

Shaimiev said all the leaders of the CIS countries have confirmed their participation in the CIS summit to be held in Kazan this week. The agenda includes the issue of the structural reform of the CIS, Shaimiev said, adding that a meeting could also take place between the leaders of "the four" to discuss the establishment and further development of an offshore-zone mechanism. Bilateral meetings on conflicts in the CIS will be held as well. Asked about a possible split between CIS members, Shaimiev said, "We don't need a split, and it should not take place."

New Civic Movement Considered Kazan Mayor's Electoral Project
A new civic movement titled "The City, We Are With You" was introduced in Kazan on 19 August, "Kommersant-Volga-Ural" reported the next day. The movement's initiators, who include well-known Kazan businessmen, officials, actors, and public and religious leaders, announced at a press conference that their aim is creative activity and uniting all Kazan residents in their love for the city. They also assume that if any members of the movement run in city elections, they will be supported by it.

The daily cited experts as commenting that the organization is in fact a pre-election initiative by Kazan Mayor Kamil Iskhaqov and it will promote his reelection.

The movement was formed in the wake of Iskhaqov's statement the week before that if he runs for reelection, he will do so as an independent candidate, after he was left off the electoral list of Unified Russia. According to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 22 August, the party of power will likely promote Tuben Kama administration head Ilsur Metshin for the post of the Kazan mayor.

Unified Russia Dominates List Of Candidates For Municipal Bodies
Tatarstan's Central Election Commission head Anatolii Fomin told a news conference on 18 August in Kazan that 6,000 candidates will contend for 8,000 seats in local municipal bodies in the 16 October elections, "Kommersant-Volga-Ural" reported on 19 August. A majority of them represent Unified Russia, while the Communists have 200, the Russian Party of Life has 68, and the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia has 30, while there are almost 1,000 independent candidates. Unified Russia's Tatarstan branch submitted a total of 4,943 candidates. Fomin said 200 civic groups and 40 political parties registered in the republic can propose candidates. The submission of candidates will end and registration will start on 5 September.

Muslim Women Call For Establishment Of Muslim TV
In an interview with Islam-Info on 18 August, Tatarstan's Muslim Women Union Chairwoman Elmira Edietullina expressed her "bewilderment" with the establishment of the Orthodox TV channel Spas. "The Russian Federation is a multiconfessional state. All faiths' believers should be given equal opportunities here. The Orthodox channel, though a public one, cannot exist without support from the state," Edietullina said. She suggested that "the government should back the idea of opening a Muslim channel as well, or a united channel for representatives of all faiths." Otherwise, "Spas, alongside its positive influence on the moral and spiritual state of society, may contribute to the assimilation of young generations."

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Ufa Court Puts Communist Party Conference On Hold
Ufa's Kirov Raion Court on 18 August banned a conference of the Communist Party's Bashkir branch that was scheduled for 20 August, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 19 August. The conference was planned to propose candidates for the Bashkir State Assembly and local municipal bodies.

On the morning of 20 August, bailiffs blocked the entrance of Ufa's Zheleznodorozhnik Culture Palace where the forum was to be held. The controversy was caused by an appeal by Communist Party member Tatyana Sklyarova, a conference delegate, who asked the court to declare the conference illegal as she wasn't informed about the date and place of holding the forum. The court prohibited the conference being held until all legal requirements are met.

The Bashkir branch of the Communist Party appealed on 19 August to the Bashkir Supreme Court against the Kirov Raion Court verdict. Branch head Rinat Galiev told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service the same day that the Bashkir presidential administration, which seeks to prevent the Communist Party from nominating candidates for the upcoming elections, is behind the court ruling.

The conference agenda also included the election of delegates for the Communists' national congress and approval of questions proposed for the national referendum initiated by the Communist Party. On the eve of the conference, Bashkortostan's opposition appealed to the Communists to include in the referendum a questions on confidence in President Murtaza Rakhimov, on the introduction of mandatory teaching of Bashkir in secondary schools, and on the direct elections of heads of local administration.

In the end, the conference was postponed and a plenum was held instead, which was attended by roughly 75 of the total of 220 conference delegates, Regnum reported on 21 August. The question on confidence in President Rakhimov was included in the referendum, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 22 August.

Passport-Visa Body Officials On Trial
Ufa's Kirov Raion Court has begun hearing a criminal case against two senior officials of the Bashkir Interior Ministry, Passport-Visa Directorate head Ferit Ebdrakhmanov and his deputy, Rafiq Kagarmanov, "Kommersant-Volga-Ural" reported on 19 August. The case was filed in December, while in March the suspects were accused of abuse of office. Ebdrakhmanov was relieved of his duties for the period of the investigation and trial, while Kagarmanov resigned.

According to investigators, the men's activities resulted in 724 citizens of Afghanistan receiving illegal temporary registration in Russia. Some of them immigrated to Russia during the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Ten of the legalized Afghans were convicted in Russia, including Mohammad Shah Vazir Gul, a member of an illegal military unit in Afghanistan who was convicted of drug trafficking in Moscow. Registration was issued through the Ufa-based Afghans Union to Afghans who didn't have Russian entrance visas and migration cards. People were provided multiple-entry visas permitting them to travel across Russia.

Ufa International Airport Refuses Compromise With Bashkir Airlines
The Ufa International Airport (MAU) management told a news conference on 18 August in Ufa that it won't sign an agreement with Bashkir Airlines (BAL) on the airlines' debts to the airport, "Kommersant-Volga-Ural" reported on 19 August. MAU Assistant General Director Tahir Mokhemetshin said if urgent measures aren't taken to repay the debt, the airport may have to close. BAL representatives told the daily that the signing of an accord-and-satisfaction agreement is being discussed "at all levels."

In July, the Bashkir Arbitration Court appointed a temporary manager for BAL, which brought protests from BAL trade unions that the measure was an attempt at "forced bankruptcy." Then acting Rosaviatsia head Aleksandr Yurchik said the federal government won't let the airline to go bankrupt and if MAU's management refuses to sign an agreement, "we as an owner have legal grounds to replace it."

By August, BAL owed MAU 72 million rubles ($2.5 million). BAL also owed another 22 million rubles in back taxes.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova