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Tatar-Bashkir Report: May 10, 2005


10 May 2005
WEEKLY REVIEW FROM TATARSTAN
Trade Unions, Unified Russia March On May Day...
Celebrating the May Day holiday on 1 May, Tatarstan's Federation of Trade Unions and the republican chapter of the Unified Russia party organized a march through central Kazan and gathered on 1 May Square in front of the Kazan Kremlin, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. An estimated 3,000 people participated on behalf of trade unions for budget-sector employees. Tatyana Vodopyanova, chairwoman of Federation of Trade Unions, urged supporters to resume the fight for a "decent quality of life," adding that the "welfare of Russia's people should correspond to the country's economic growth." Vodopyanova claimed the minimum wage introduced by the federal government is much lower than the official monthly basket of food and other staples. As a result, she said, some 700,000 Tatarstan residents -- including state health-care, education, and culture sectors -- live in poverty.

...While Communists Gather Smaller May Day Meeting
Some 250 people, most of them pensioners, attended a May Day demonstration and protest organized by the Tatarstan branch of the Communist Party, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. Some 50 activists of the Tatarstan branch of the Party of Life took part in the Communist meeting but declined to join the Communist ranks and departed without an announcement. After marching to Freedom Square, the Communist-led group concluded its May Day activities by protesting what it described as the "anti-popular" social and economic policies of Russian government.

Youth Movement Uses Orange Ribbons To Protest Planned Army Reform
Russia's "Pora!" youth movement on 3 May distributed orange ribbons to students from Kazan State University, Kazan State Technological University and the Tatar-American Regional Institute to promote their protest again proposed army service reforms, REGNUM reported the same day. "Pora!" says it is protesting a potential move by the Russian government to boost army conscription by canceling the standard exemption from service for university and people with children under 3 years of age.

Kazan Police Break Up Picket Against Military-Service Reform
Police detained six activists from the Russia-wide Pora youth movement who were trying to gather signatures of Kazan State University students for a petition drive opposing federal plans to abolish the existing exemption from army service for university students and people with children under 3 years of age (see RFE/RL's "Tatar-Bashkir Report," 3 May 2005). According to an official statement, the detentions stemmed from the organizers' failure to obtain a permit from city authorities to hold the picket.

The head of the Kazan Human Rights Fund, lawyer Ramil Nuriev, told RFE/RL's Kazan bureau the same day that he thinks the youth group did not have any illegal political agenda and the police had no right to disperse the picket. He said the federal law on public gatherings requires prior official approval only for protests and demonstrations.

Tatarstan's Hockey "Dream Team" Officially Dissolved
Following the failure of Tatarstan's Aq Bars hockey team to reach the finals of the Russian national championship, 15 of its players -- including U.S. National Hockey League (NHL) stars Nikolai Khabibullin, Aleksei Kovalev, Ilya Kovalchuk and Vincent Kovalier -- left the team, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 3 May. This represented an official end to what Russian sports media called a hockey "dream team." Earlier this year, Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev instructed Shefeget Takhautdinov, the general director of the Tatneft oil company, to help the Tatarstan team win the national championship this year -- the year that marks the 1,000-year anniversary of the Tatar capital Kazan. Tatneft help Aq Bars hire a number of NHL stars. But the team, coached by Zinatulla Billaletdinov, failed to win any trophies.

Tatarstan's Oil Output To Reduce From 2015
According to Tatarstan's social and economic development program cited by Tatar-inform on 3 May, the republic in 2015 will begin downgrading its annual oil output, which currently amounts to some 30 million tons. The same program also confirms that the government plans to maintain current output levels until 2010.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

WEEKLY REVIEW FROM BASHKORTOSTAN
Ufa City Council Deputies Confront Mayor
Deputies from the Ufa City Council appealed to Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov on 29 April asking him to settle the current confrontation between the council's chairman, Makhmut Kasimov, and Ufa Mayor Pavel Kachkaev, the Volga-Urals edition of "Kommersant" reported the next day. Kachkaev has reportedly been accused of creating bureaucratic obstacles to hinder the registration of some of the candidates for the city legislative assembly, which is due to be elected 26 June 2005. The daily reports that Kasimov and half the members of the city council are all top managers at local petrochemical ventures united under Bashkirskii Kapital holding, which is controlled by Ural Rakhimov, the president's son. The president is attempting to return controlling interests in the fuel-and-energy companies to the republic's ownership.

Pro-Governmental Political Group Sabotages Opposition's May Day Event
Bashkir opposition groups failed to hold their scheduled May Day protest meeting on Ufa's Lenin Squre after some 4,000 activists from the Bashkir Youth Union overran the square and staged their own rally in support of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov, an RFE/RL correspondent in Ufa reported. The opposition had originally planned to use the holiday to promote human rights and the rights of workers in state-owned enterprises, rather than protesting the local government. But their speeches were interrupted by the noise created by the youth activists, who were brought to the square by special buses.

Terrorist Act Averted In Ufa
A handmade explosive device placed under a high-voltage power line in Ufa was deactivated seven minutes before its timer was set to go off on 30 April, REGNUM reported. The device, which was disarmed by an OMON special police task force, reportedly might have cut of the electricity supply to the entire south section of the Bashkir capital. According to the Bashkir Interior Ministry's press service on 2 May, vigilance measures had been stepped up after police were warned about the possibility of terrorist acts timed to coincide with this year's May holidays.

Presidential Spokesperson Says Opposition Ran Out Of Funds For Resuming Its Public Activities
Rostislav Morzagulov, a spokesperson for Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov, told reporters on 3 May that he believes a two-month break announced by the Bashkortostan opposition stems from a lack of funding, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. Opposition groups claimed they had decided against staging any street protests in the days before the 60th anniversary of Victory Day out of respect for World War II veterans. Morzagulov, however, dismissed the explanation. Bashkortostan's official press has speculated that the government of Tatarstan may be supporting the Bashkir opposition in order to weaken Rakhimov's stature, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported.

Justice Ministry Seeks To Dissolve Bashkortostan Branch Of Tatar Public Center
Ufa's Kirov District court held preliminary hearings in the Justice Ministry's case in Bashkortostan against the local office of the Tatar Public Center (TIU) on 4 May, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. The Justice Ministry is accusing the TIU of failing to provide proper reports on its activities since 2002, and insists that it should be dissolved for violating this requirement. TIU is active on the rights of Tatars, the second biggest ethnic group in Bashkortostan. TIU presidium Chairman Mejit Khujin admitted to failing to provide the necessary legal documentation, noting, however, that it was an insufficient reason to close down the TIU.

TIU head Ayrat Giniyatullin told RFE/RL the same day that the suit against an organization in opposition to the Bashkir government had political aims and was based on formalities. Also on 4 May, Bashkir presidential spokesman Rostislav Murzagulov told "Kommersant-Volga-Urals" that in his opinion, "it is foolish to state that Bashkortostan's authorities are persecuting one of a hundred small public organizations active in the republic."

President's Son Keeps Control Over Bashkirenergo
Ural Rakhimov, son of Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov, was reelected as chairman of Bashkirenergo on 5 May, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. Bashkirenergo is currently run by a company called the Regional Institute of Economy and Law, of which Ural Rakhimov is general director. The institute reportedly manages stakes in Bashkortostan's fuel and energy industry companies. As a result, Bashkirenergo is now under the strong influence of Bashkir companies while Russia's Unified Energy Systems and private individuals remain minor shareholders.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

WEEKLY REVIEW FROM IDEL-URAL REGION
Federation Council Rejects Early Recall Of Chelyabinsk Oblast Legislature's Representative...
The first deputy chairman of the Federation Council's Regulations and Organization of Parliamentary Activity Committee, Oleg Panteleev, said the Federation Council will not discuss the issue of the early dismissal of Chelyabinsk Oblast representative Vladislav Zhiganov, uralpolit.ru reported on 3 May. Panteleev said there is insufficient grounds to recall Zhiganov before the end of his term in the appeal by Chelyabinsk Oblast's Legislative Assembly. He added that the Regulations Committee will only consider the issue if it is introduced by the Prosecutor-General's Office. On 28 April, the Chelyabinsk Oblast legislature voted to recall Zhiganov because he accepted the Red Star award illegally.

...As Federation Council's Chelyabinsk Oblast Administration Representative Reappointed
Chelyabinsk Oblast Governor Petr Sumin reappointed Yevgenii Yeliseev on 4 May to the Federation Council to represent the oblast administration, Interfax-Urals reported the same day, citing the governor's press service. Sumin, who was nominated for reappointment by President Vladimir Putin and then confirmed by the oblast legislature, was inaugurated on 22 April. The terms of officials appointed by the governor therefore expired.

Prosecutor: Nobody Charged Yet In Mayak Case...
Deputy Prosecutor-General for the Ural Federal District Yurii Zolotov told Regnum on 4 May that an examination of Chelyabinsk Oblast's Mayak chemical plant has confirmed that it polluted the Techa River and tributaries with radioactive waste. The examination was a part of an investigation into a criminal case filed against Mayak (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 19 April 2005). Zolotov said over 100 people, including the plant managers, have been interrogated but nobody has so far been charged.

...As Mayak Official Denies Fuel Deliveries Coming From Bulgaria, Ukraine
Mayak spokesman Yevgenii Ryzhkov denied reports that spent nuclear fuel from Bulgarian and Ukrainian nuclear power plants is being delivered to the plant, Regnum reported on 4 May. Ryzhkov said that "according to Russian legislation, Mayak has the right to import and process spent nuclear fuel from nuclear power stations equipped with VVR-400 reactors. Such reactors are in use at the Kozlodui Nuclear Power Station in Bulgaria and at the Rovno Nuclear Power Station in Ukraine." But he added that Mayak doesn't currently have a contract on working with these plants.

Chelyabinsk National Bolsheviks Complain Of Police Assault
The Executive Committee of the Chelyabinsk regional branch of the National Bolshevik Party issued an open letter to presidential envoy for the Ural Federal District Petr Latyshev, Chelyabinsk Oblast Governor Petr Sumin, Chelyabinsk Mayor Mikhail Yurevich, and Chelyabinsk Oblast prosecutor Aleksandr Voitovich to protest the illegal actions of law-enforcement agencies and violations of citizens' political and civil rights and freedoms, Regnum reported on 6 May. According to the letter, a group of 15 National Bolsheviks were assaulted on 1 May by policemen, who also beat other passersby, including minors, pensioners, and veterans. After the 15 were detained and taken to the police station, they were subjected to psychological and physical pressure. The detainees were held at gunpoint, and some of them were threatened with dismissal from university. The committee demands that the prosecutor's office investigate the incident.

Court Closes Case Involving Samara Oblast Governor...
The Samara Oblast Court rejected an appeal on 4 May by the city prosecutor's office against Samara's Lenin Raion Court ruling dismissing the case filed against oblast administration officials (see "RFE/ RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 4 January 2005), "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 6 May. Samara Oblast Governor Konstantin Titov was named in the case. The daily commented that the criminal case was dropped as soon as Titov was reappointed governor on 26 April.

...Postpones Recall Vote For Samara Mayor
Samara's Lenin Raion court issued a ruling on 28 April invalidating the provision on referendums by Samara residents until its legality is confirmed by a court, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 4 May. The provision being currently contested by the prosecutor's office includes the procedure on recall of elected officials. The court decision therefore puts a halt to the recall initiative against Samara Mayor Georgii Limanskii (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 12 April 2005). The Samara city duma scheduled the vote on Limanskii's recall for 19 June. The daily quoted Samara city duma lawyer Andrei Borisov as saying that the ruling will result in the automatic postponement of the vote until the fall, while some analysts believe none will take place at all.

16 Chornobyl Veterans On Hunger Strike In Sverdlovsk Oblast
Sixteen veterans of the Chornobyl nuclear accident cleanup began a hunger strike in Sverdlovsk Oblast on 5 May to protest the compensation they owed from the last several years, Regnum reported on 7 May, citing Ekho Moskvy. Meeting with the protesters on 6 May, oblast Social Care Minister Vladimir Turinskii said a solution has not been found yet and only the federal authorities can resolve it. The Chornobyl veterans are owed a total of 3.5 million rubles ($126,000).

Heineken Purchases Brewery In Yekaterinburg
The Netherlands' Heineken brewery has signed an agreement to take over the Yekaterinburg brewery Patra, Regnum reported on 6 May, citing Heineken's press service. The value of the deal is not available, though the news agency cited analysts as estimating it at $50 million-$60 million. The plant was sold by the Alfa Eko branch of Alfa Group, which bought it in 2003 from its managers and Indian-Belgian SUN Interbrew. As a result, Heineken, the third-largest company on the Russian beer market, increased its share to 8.3 percent with sales of over 7 million gallons a year. Patra's capacity of 1 million gallons a year may be tripled in the future. The plant currently holds 0.8 percent of the Russian beer market.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

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