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Tatar-Bashkir Report: July 27, 2004

27 July 2004
Shaimiev Outlines Possible Drawbacks Of Social Reform Plan...
Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev told Interfax on 22 July that he considers it essential to amend the federal law on veterans by establishing minimal social subsidies that are to apply for the period of transition from the current system of social discounts to monetary compensation. He said he is certain that the federal government will manage to ensure the stable payment of compensations to World War II veterans, disabled people, and other categories of the socially needy. However, he admitted that not all regions will manage to provide compensation to the larger groups like labor veterans and poor children. Shaimiev added that under these circumstances, social reform may cause serious social imbalance. Nevertheless, he emphasized that the Tatar government supports the reform in general and was preparing draft laws on introducing it in the republic.

...And Meets The Classic Of Tatar And Bashkir Poetry
President Mintimer Shaimiev met with Mustay Kerim, a poet and prominent public figure from Bashkortostan, in Kazan on 21 July, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. After the closed-door meeting, Kerim told reporters that the two discussed ways to establish closer relations between Tatarstan and Bashkortostan. One-third of Bashkortostan's population are Tatars, while only the Russian and Bashkir languages have official status. Tatar activists also accuse the Bashkir authorities of interfering in the 2002 national census by exaggerating the numbers of ethnic Bashkirs and misrepresenting the actual number of Tatars. Kerim avoided answering questions about his own ethnicity, noting that "only in the 1990s did there come a division into Tatars and Bashkirs." Of ethnic Tatar origin, the poet has never been in opposition to Bashkortostan's Murtaza Rakhimov and is currently working on his memoirs and writing poems in Bashkir. During Rakhimov's 2003 reelection campaign, Kerim made numerous statements in his support and criticized the Tatar rights movement for misrepresenting the Tatars' situation in Bashkortostan.

Tatarstan To Develop 'Innovative' Education...
Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev told a meeting of Tatarstan's Security Council on 16 July that the existing quality of higher education in the republic and Russia is characterized by a lack of innovation and "slows down the development of the country's and the republic's economy," RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. Shaimiev said that the issue was topical for industrial regions like Tatarstan and it was vital to introduce innovative studies to all levels of education in the republic. Deputy Prime Minister Zile Welieva said at the same meeting that the government is working on the concept of innovative education. The new educational concept will reportedly rely on close interaction between the state and the private sector.

...And Seeks To Privatize Housing Sector
Also on 16 July, the Security Council discussed housing-sector reform in Tatarstan, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. In Tatarstan, 65 percent of apartment blocks are serviced by private companies. Nevertheless, state-owned companies still control 75 percent of the housing services market, which is worth 15.1 billion rubles ($520 million). President Shaimiev hinted in his address to the council that it was essential to privatize the state-owned housing-sector companies in order to attract new investments. Construction, Architecture, and Housing Minister Marat Khosnullin said that 34 of the 236 state housing companies are currently facing bankruptcy proceedings and the state is unable to provide the necessary investments for modernizing the energy, water supply, and sewage systems.

Old Believers Head Meets With Tatar President
Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev met with the head of the Russian Old Believers, Andrian, on 19 July in Kazan, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. Andrian, who has previously served in the Kazan and Vyatka area, had previously asked to meet with the president to discuss the controversial construction of a Catholic church close to an Old Believers church in downtown Kazan and preparations for the Kazan millennium anniversary in 2005. The construction of the Catholic church has been approved by Pope John Paul II and the Kazan authorities.

Growing Crime Rates Are Explained By Increasing Vigilance Of Police
Speaking at a 20 July ministerial meeting, Interior Minister Esget Seferov said there has been a general 20 percent increase in crime rates across the republic this year, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported today. Seferov commented on the growing crime statistics by saying that the numbers indicate extra police vigilance and the fact that police are no longer concealing or misreporting crimes. However, the republic's police were praised for managing to detect and prevent an unprecedented amount of financial crimes, which could have cost the republican budget some $16 million. More than 30 percent of that amount has already been paid back to the state. As for the campaign against organized crime in Tatarstan, within the first six months of 2004 police investigated some 5,000 felonies committed by mafia groups and jailed 300 mafia leaders.

Kazan Orthodox Church Begins Preparations For Return Of Icon
Following the recent announcement that the Vatican will return the Mother of God of Kazan icon to Russia during a 28 August ceremony, the Kazan eparchy of the Russian Orthodox Church held a religious procession on the streets of the Tatar capital on 21 July, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported today. The icon is 425 years old this year.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Daily Makes Forecasts For The Future Presidential Elections In Bashkortostan
Recently dismissed head of the general staff of Russia's Armed Forces Anatolii Kvashnin is weighting up his chances of running for Bashkortostan's president in 2008, the republican edition of the nation-wide "Argumenti i fakty" daily wrote on 21 July. Besides Kvashnin, head of the Belorussia's presidential administration Ural Latypov is reportedly also mentioned among the possible contestants for the Bashkir presidency. Both mentioned to-be candidates were born in Ufa, but later continued their career in Moscow.

Bashkortostan's Military Commissioner Supports The Idea Of Professional Army For Russia
Bashkortostan's Military Commissioner Timofei Azarov told the press conference on 21 July that in 2003 his office recommended 201 recruits from his republic as candidates for joining the professional Russian Army and serving in the Central Russia, Chechen Republic, Tajikistan and the Russian Navy, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. He noted that gradually all of the Russia?s Armed Forces will be transited to the contract-based service, which in his opinion is more effective that the current system of obligatory army service. Bashkortostan Republic traditionally remains one of the leaders in recruitment for army service, ensuring the highest percentage of draft-age young men sent to army. Azarov also said that the republic will resume its material assistance to families of Bashkortostan?s soldiers killed in action. Each of these families reportedly gets 20,000 rubles ($690) in monthly compensations from the republican government.

BAL Management Sets Up Group Opposed To Strikers
Following the 8 July strike of Bashkir Airlines' (BAL) employees, the company's management has set up "an initiative group" of those employees who did not support the strike, an unidentified BAL source told an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent on 18 July. The newly formed group made a public statement condemning the strikers who halted BAL flights from Moscow, Ufa, Istanbul, Norilsk, Sochi, and other cities in the Commonwealth of Independent States, and demanded that they should be fired. Earlier this month, BAL pilots decided to strike after the management refused to sign an agreement proposed by the trade union. The agreement has been under discussion for seven months. BAL is currently being prepared for privatization.

Tatar Civic Groups Unenthusiastic About Presidential Meetings
At a 15 July congress, Tatar civil rights organizations in Bashkortostan spoke unenthusiastically about past meetings with the heads of Bashkortostan's and Tatarstan's presidential staff earlier this year, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the next day. According to the Tatar rights activists, such meetings are used to downplay the current situation concerning the status of the Tatar language in Bashkortostan. A working group of Tatar activists is currently preparing a republic-wide referendum on granting official status for the Tatar language, which is spoken by about 1 million Tatars living there.

A Majority Of Graduates Won't Find Spot At One Of Bashkir's Universities
Eight thousand secondary-school graduates in Bashkortostan will be accepted at state-funded university faculties this year, with another 8,000 expected to find places within tuition-based institutions of higher learning, an RFE/RL correspondent in Ufa reported on 20 July. Meanwhile, as many as 40,000 graduates have applied to universities so far, many of them aspiring to Ufa State Oil University, Ufa State Aviation and Technical University, or Bashkir State University.

Salavat Yulaev Days To Become Annual Event
President Murtaza Rakhimov signed a decree making the commemoration of Bashkir national hero Salavat Yulaev an annual June event, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 21 July. Rakhimov obliged the cabinet to prepare a list of annual activities in connection with the event. Bashkortostan made much of this year's celebration of the 250th anniversary of the 18th-century peasant war leader's birth. Yulaev was caught by tsarist authorities in November 1774 and was exiled until his death in 1800.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Chelyabinsk Institute For Disabled Children Sinks Into Scandal
Prosecutors in Chelyabinsk Oblast have uncovered suspected violations of the rights of disabled children, Uralinformbyuro reported on 19 July, citing information from the press office of the oblast Prosecutor-General's Office. Residents of a Chelyabinsk facility for mentally retarded children were fed food beyond its expiration date and without the required certificates. Some food at the school carried an expiration date of 2001. Following an inspection, Oblast First Deputy Governor Andrei Kosilov pushed for the allocation of 1.7 million rubles ($58,500) from the oblast budget for major repairs at the institution.

The oblast Prosecutor-General�s Office on 19 July produced embezzlement allegations against the institution's director, Olga Motrich.

Perm Environmental NGO Files Defamation Suit...
A group of Perm activists have announced their intention to file a defamation suit against Perm Technical University Professor Yakov Vaisman, Novyi region (Perm) reported on 22 July. Speaking at a news conference on 19 July, Vaisman claimed that Perm �pseudo-ecologists� are �puppets� working against the country�s interests with financing from the U.S. State Department and the Gorbachev Fund. The environmentalists plan to appeal to the Gorbachev Fund for a clear statement on whether it is financing the NGO. The activists said donations from Perm residents constitute a major source of financing for their activities.

...And Sued For Violating Law During Protest Action
A Kirov Raion court began on 19 July hearing the case against 15 suspected participants in connection with the Rockets-2004 protest camp against the liquidation in Perm of hard-fuel rockets, reported on 21 July. The judge returned documents on the case to Kirov Raion officials, saying they were drawn up improperly. In addition, policemen improperly took the passports of protesters.

On 16 July, some 200 people joined a picket organized by the camp near the Ekran cinema in Perm. Some attendees reportedly were rendered unconscious after symbols were burned at a demonstration. Individuals also appeared on the stage after the main presentation and provoked the crowd. Police detained and delivered to Kirov Raion authorities 15 environmentalists who were released that evening. Police also seized activists� passports, which were returned to them on 19 July.

Russian Court Suspends Samara Gubernatorial Elections
The Russian Supreme Court on 20 July suspended implementation of a Samara Oblast Court decision that fixed the oblast gubernatorial elections for 19 September until the case is considered by the Supreme Court, Regnum reported on 23 July. The Supreme Court was hearing an appeal by the Russian Central Election Commission (TsIK) against the Samara Oblast's court decision. Originally scheduled for summer 2005, the Samara Oblast gubernatorial elections were slated by the Samara Oblast Court for the fall of the current year after Samara Gubernia Duma Deputy Speaker Natalya Bobrova appealed to the court, saying the governor's current term expires in July (see �RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review,� 29 June and 6 July 2004). �Kommersant-Daily� on 22 July quoted unidentified observers commenting that Bobrova�s appeal was made soon after the governor�s opponents announced their intention to form an opposition coalition. TsIK Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov has criticized the Samara Oblast court decision as fixing a date for elections that is too early and would not allow possible rivals of the incumbent to prepare for the campaign, thus violating the law. Veshnyakov, however, did not contest the very idea of moving the gubernatorial elections forward to this year. The outlet commented that the postponement of the elections for several months would hardly create troubles for the incumbent's reelection campaign, as the opposition will be unable to mobilize within that term. Oblast�s incumbent Governor Konstantin Titov was elected for his second four-year term in July 2000, winning 53.25 percent of the vote after stepping down early in the spring of 2000.

Militia To Pay For Information About Acts Of Terrorism
District militia officers will be able to offer financial compensation to residents for information about acts of terrorism, the Russian Interior Ministry's head of chief directorate to secure public order, Nikolai Pershutkin, told reporters, Novyi region reported on 20 July. Sverdlovsk Oblast Interior Directorate spokesman Valerii Gorelykh said the introduction of such a practice, especially for preventing acts of terrorism, is expedient. "We are ready to allocate money for purchasing important for us information from residents, Gorelykh said.

Meanwhile, the Samara Oblast's interior directorate appealed to witnesses of the 4 June explosion at the Samara Kirov market for information and promised to pay 1.5 million rubles for data that helps uncover the perpetrators.

Lithuanian Nuclear Waste To Be Imported To Ulyanovsk Oblast
The Russian government on 9 July authorized imports to the country of spent nuclear fuel from Lithuania, reported on 19 July, citing Mozaika. Four heat-extracting units will be delivered to the Dimitrovgrad Scientific Research Institute of Atomic Reactors by train from the Iganlin nuclear power station. The institute will use the fuel for research and then return the waste to Lithuania.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova