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Tatar-Bashkir Report: February 27, 2003


27 February 2003
DAILY REVIEW FROM TATARSTAN
Trial Of Alleged TIU Attackers Gets Under Way
The trial of five residents of Minzele accused of taking part in an attack on members of the Tatar Public Center (TIU) in Chally on 29 May 2002 (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 30 and 31 May 2002) got under way in a Chally city court on 26 February, intertat.ru reported the same day. All of the accused -- Georgii Gorbachev, Lenar Bekhtierov, Stanislav Yanaikan, Oleg Ponomarev, and Andrei Kuliev -- pleaded not guilty to charges of hooliganism and aggravated assault. Only one of the six victims of the assault, Zyia Khafizov, attended the opening of the trial. The head of the TIU in Chally, Reshit Kashapov, who has decided to boycott the trial, said in a statement that "only those who carried out the assault are on trial, while the organizers and contractors are still at large, and the authorities remain silent concerning them." The next session in the trial is set for 3 March.

Vympelkom Asks Antimonopoly Ministry To Intervene In Dispute
Vympelkom, the operator of the BeeLine cellular-communications network, asked the Antimonopoly Ministry on 25 February to intervene in its conflict with rival TAIF-Telkom, the leading cellular-communications operator in Tatarstan, "Vremya novostei" reported the next day. According to the complaint by Vympelkom, TAIF-Telkom unilaterally blocked calls between BeeLine subscribers and those of TAIF-Telkom. The director of Vympelkom's public-relations department, Mikhail Umarov, said that subscribers to two other networks in Tatarstan, Megafon and SMARTS, had experienced the same problem. The Tatar Communications Ministry has refused to take any steps to resolve the conflict, saying that relations between telecommunications companies are regulated by bilateral agreements.

Six Tatars To Take Part In Nationwide Protest
Six representatives of Tatarstan's health-care and education sectors plan to take part in the nationwide protest of state-sector employees in Moscow on 27 February, tatnews.ru reported on 26 February, citing the press service of the Tatar Republican Committee of Trade Unions. The protesters are demanding a 50-100 percent increase in wages. At present, the average salary of state workers in the education, health-care, and culture sectors is 3,000 rubles ($95) a month.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

DAILY REVIEW FROM BASHKORTOSTAN
Expert Says Ethnic Factor To Dominate This Year's Elections In Bashkortostan
Independent ethnic-policy expert Ildar Gabdrefikov told an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent on 26 February that the ethnic factor will play a significant role in the forthcoming 16 March elections for Bashkortostan's State Assembly. Gabdrefikov said the Bashkir nationality is the only one with official status in the republic, and this is reflected by the local staff policies. He cited official statistics as saying that although ethnic Bashkirs constitute only 22 percent of Bashkortostan's population, they occupy more than 60 percent of seats in the local administration and the same percentage in the republic's parliament.

In Gabdrefikov's opinion, given the ethnic policies of the Bashkir government, the distribution of deputies' seats between different ethnic groups is likely to remain the same after the March elections. He predicted that ethnicity would play the same role in this year's presidential elections in the republic, referring to the 1998 presidential campaign where Bashkortostan's ethnic Russian, Tatar, and Bashkir communities each pushed their own candidates.

Commenting on the December 2003 vote for the Russian State Duma, Gabdrefikov suggested that the urban population is likely to support ethnic Tatar and Russian candidates, while the rural areas are likely to support ethnic Bashkir candidates. Gabdrefikov claimed this is due to the stronger influence of "administrative levers" used against rural residents areas than in the cities.

Rakhimov Meets British Press In Ufa
Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov met with correspondents from Britain's "The Daily Telegraph" in Ufa on 26 February to inform them about the economic and political developments in his republic, the presidential press service reported the same day. In discussing the current state of relations with the federal government, Rakhimov pointed to the "full mutual understanding and constructive relations" between Moscow and Ufa. Also on 26 February, the journalists met with Prime Minister Rafael Baydavletov, State Assembly speaker Konstantin Tolkachev, and other Bashkir officials.

Firearms Collection In Bashkortostan
In 2002, 1,634 units of illegally owned firearms were voluntarily surrendered in Bashkortostan, RosBalt reported on 26 February, citing the republic's Interior Ministry. Under current legislation, such voluntary surrenders are not prosecuted and receive a monetary reward according to the weapon. However, these voluntary surrenders made up only 20 percent of the 6,894 weapons collected by Interior Ministry officials during the year. In 2002 the rate of crimes committed with firearms fell by 30 percent. According to official statistics, 67,000 people in Bashkortostan legally own 74,741 firearms, most of them hunting rifles and 19,500 of them gas pistols.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi
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