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Tatar-Bashkir Report: November 9, 2004

9 November 2004
Monument To Victims Of Political Repressions Unveiled In Kazan
In commemoration of the day of victims of political repression, Tatarstan's government on 30 October unveiled a monument to those who were persecuted by the totalitarian regime, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported. The monument consists of four stone slabs with the word "Forgive" in Tatar, Russian, Arabic, and English. The ceremony was attended by survivors of Soviet prison camps and relatives of those who did not survive.

30 October was chosen as the official date for remembering victims of political persecutions because, on that day in 1974, a series of protest actions were organized by political prisoners at a number of Siberian camps. According to official figures, at least 8 million people were repressed during the Soviet period, more than 40,000 of them in Tatarstan.

Tatarstan To Open Industrial District In Tuben Kama
The Tatar government will establish an industrial district at the site of the Tuben Kama Petrochemical Company (Nizhnekamskneftekhim) to stimulate small- and medium-sized businesses operating in the petrochemical sector, "Kommersant" reported on 2 November. According to the daily, Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev announced the move when visiting Tuben Kama along with a Russian presidential delegation in November 2003. During that visit, Shaimiev agreed with representatives from the Italian Emilia-Romania province about sharing experience in the operation of industrial districts. Tatar Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov told his cabinet on 1 November in Tuben Kama that a nonprofit organization will be established to oversee the development of the district.

Government Dominates Discussion Over Republican Budget
Tatar Finance Minister Radik Giyzatullin said during the 2 November meeting of the State Council's budget commission that the republican cabinet sponsored the adoption of 162 out of a total of 300 amendments to Tatarstan's 2005 budget, while only six amendments suggested by the deputies were approved, Intertat reported the same day. The Tatar parliament will discuss the draft budget at its plenary session on 11 November.

Government Discusses Chally's Drug-Fighting Methods
The Tatarstan Security Council's antidrug commission devoted its 3 November session to discussing ways of stemming drug use in Chally, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the next day. Half of the population of the republic's second city is under the age of 30.

More than 6,800 drug addicts are officially registered in Chally, four times the number registered in 2000. In 2004 alone 477 cases of drug trafficking were detected in Tatarstan's industrial center, indicating a 44 percent decrease of such crimes compared to previous years. Tajikistan was listed as the primary source of drugs brought into Chally.

The commission reportedly favored demanding medical certificates from students of local universities to confirm they are not drug users and agreed to use this method at other universities in Tatarstan.

Chief Prosecutor Kafil Amirov asked the officials responsible for antidrug policies to attribute greater attention to cooperating with religious representatives.

Government Discusses Privatization Of The Housing Sector...
Marat Khosnullin, minister of construction, architecture and housing, told a 4 November meeting of Tatarstan's cabinet that the current privatization process of the republic's housing sector is stumbling because only three of 44 regional and municipal administrations have submitted applications to transform state-owned housing companies into joint-stock ventures with a 25 percent plus one share owned by the government and a 75 percent stake privately owned, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day.

The minister also mentioned that the official procedures for reforming 108 of the 144 housing service companies have already been decided upon, but he considers it important that local administrations take a more active role in the transition process.

President Mintimer Shaimiev said at the same meeting that the republican government should work to draw the interest of potential investors to the housing-service companies and openly reject Khosnullin's skepticism regarding the attractiveness of such companies for investment.

...While Residents Prepare For A Major Hike Of Rates
Yevgenii Volkov, the deputy head of the Kazan city administration's construction and housing department, told reporters on 4 November that in 2005 the residents of the Tatar capital will -- like other urban residents in Tatarstan -- start paying for the 100 percent cost of housing services. This year they have paid 90 percent of those costs, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the next day.

In addition, the new year will bring a 25 percent hike in electricity rates and a twofold increase in heating costs. Water rates will increase by 68 percent and sewage bills will be 19 percent more expensive. On the whole, in 2005 Kazan residents are expected to pay 50 percent more for housing services and utility costs than they do in 2004.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Rakhimov Welcomes Abolishing Election Of Governors
Meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on 30 October, Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov said that he personally supported Putin's proposal to abolish the direct election of governors, NTV reported the same day. Rakhimov said: "This is the most topical issue, you know my attitude to this, and that is why this system is working in our republic. We appoint the heads of municipal and regional administrations and this is out of the question. I think we will further resume this work."

Putin asked Rakhimov whether he preferred that the Russian president would propose candidates for approval by local parliaments. Rakhimov answered: "We support it. There are some questions still to be discussed. Some have a negative attitude to this, but my attitude is positive."

Putin's proposal has received reserved criticism from Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev and Chavash President Nikolai Fedorov. According to an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent on 29 October, Bashkir parliamentary speaker Konstantin Tolkachev described Putin's initiative as "necessary," but objecting to the proposal to grant the Russian president the power o dissolve regional parliaments if they reject gubernatorial candidates more than twice.

Bashkortostan's LDPR Criticized For Lack Of Organization
During the 30 October meeting of the ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) branch in Bashkortostan, local party activists complained that the party leadership in Moscow ignores them, while the party leadership criticized them for lack of organization, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 1 November. Oleg Aleshin, the head of the LDPR Duma faction, said at the same meeting that his party supported Russian President Vladimir Putin's 13 September proposed political reforms. Currently, 11 local LDPR offices in Bashkortostan have an estimated 585 active members and five deputies in regional and municipal councils. During the 2003 Duma vote, Bashkortostan submitted the third highest share of votes cast for LDPR across Russia with 10.54 percent, outnumbered only by Moscow and the Moscow Oblast.

FSB In Bashkortostan Urges Media To Be More Reserved When Covering Terrorist Acts
Aleksandr Klyuev of the Federal Security Service (FSB) in Bashkortostan said at a special seminar held for the predominantly state-owned media community of the republic on 3 November that the Russian State Duma is preparing new media regulations for preventing the manipulation of public opinion by terrorists, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the next day.

The seminar, entitled "Public security and activities of the media," was organized by the FSB and Bashkortostan's government and focused on ways of limiting the media's access to information about future terrorist acts in order to safeguard public order and prevent public empathy with terrorists. However, Klyuev admitted that the Internet remained a significant source of uncontrolled information about the operations of the secret services and often was used for advocating the views of terrorists.

Famous Singer's Suicide Said Due To Political Persecution
Vener Mustafin, a singer at Bashkortostan's State Philharmonic Concert Hall, was found hanged on 3 November, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. Before the alleged suicide, Mustafin made numerous complaints about the pressure put on him by Bashkir officials, including from the philharmonic, after his participation in the 2003 election campaign of Relif Safin, who ran against incumbent Murtaza Rakhimov for the Bashkir presidency. No official statements have been made regarding the incident, while Mustafin's friends told RFE/RL that he had serious problems with receiving enough work after the presidential vote.

Mystery Still Surrounds Death Of Famous Singer
On 5 November, the "Kommersant" daily reported that Vener Mustafin, a singer at Bashkortostan's State Philharmonic Concert Hall, who was found hanged on 3 November (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 4 November 2004), committed suicide. However, according to the Ufa Lenin District prosecutor Aleksei Goryabin, investigators have "a number of versions, which do not exclude suicide." "Kommersant" quoted Mustafin's family members as saying that after his participation in the presidential campaign of Relif Safin, who challenged incumbent President Murtaza Rakhimov, Vener was deprived of any opportunities to earn money and restricted from participating in any concerts in Bashkortostan.

Organization To Present Report On Bashkir Police To Human Rights Commissioner
The Russia-wide For Human Rights organization will present a report on violations committed by Bashkortostan's police officers to Russia's human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin, Rosbalt reported on 4 November. The organization has already submitted this report to Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliev, but, according to NGO leader Vladimir Ponomarev, it has had little effect and has only resulted in increasing pressure on human rights activists from law enforcement bodies. Despite these difficulties, the organization pledged to continue informing the public about existing problems in the Bashkir police.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

European Court Accepts Appeal By Nizhnii Novgorod Resident
The European Court of Human Rights decided to accept a complaint by former Nizhnii Novgorod Interior Ministry employee Aleksei Mikheev of torture by law enforcement officers, NTA reported on 2 November, citing the Nizhnii Novgorod branch of the Committee Against Torture. The court will hear the case in several months. In September 1998, Mikheev threw himself out of a third-floor window of Nizhnii Novgorod's Lenin Raion Interior Ministry, where he claims he was beaten and shocked, and fractured his spine, leaving him disabled. Mikheev said he was forced to confess to rape and murder.

Perm Oblast To Publish Audits On Web
Acting Perm Oblast Governor Oleg Chirkunov said on 3 November that he will soon sign an order to publish all reports by auditing bodies on the oblast administration's website, Novyi region (Perm) reported the same day. He said all audit documents must be made public, irrespective of who has been audited. He added that even the governor's reserve fund and business-managing budget will be put on the Internet. This fall, the results of the audit of the Perm city administration were made public, which sparked intense reactions among both supporters and opponents of the administration.

Muslims Face Obstacles In Construction Of Mosque In Tolyatti
The foundations of a mosque under construction for several years in Tolyatti by the Islamic Religious Center Bait Allah may be destroyed, reported on 3 November. The Tolyatti city administration demanded in 2001 that the site it leased to the center in 1998 and on which the mosque foundation had already been constructed be returned to it. There are currently two contradictory court rulings on the issue. One of them, by the Samara Oblast Arbitration Court, demands that the plot be returned to the administration and has already come into force, while another, by the Ulyanovsk Oblast Arbitration Court, still has not.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Arbitration Court has refused to consider an appeal by the center on the case, saying it does not have public significance. Kamilzhan Kalandarov, a member of the Russian president's Human Rights Commission and chairman of the Supreme Council of the national organization Al-Haq (Justice), commented that in the past five years, similar incidents have occurred in numerous regions, including Petrozavodsk, Vologda, Yaroslavl, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii, Naro-Fominsk, Sergiev Posad, and Kolomna, where Muslims had to stop construction of mosques because of interference from local authorities. He called on Tolyatti authorities to follow the Russian Constitution and international legal norms, adding that if the law and Muslims' rights continue to be violated, "we are ready to take the case to the Supreme Court and, if necessary, to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Samara Nuclear Alert Spreads Panic In Volga Region
Panic spread in Saratov, Samara, Penza, and Nizhnii Novgorod oblasts, and Mordovia on 5 November following rumors of an accident at the Balakovo nuclear power plant in Saratov Oblast, "Kommersant-Daily," Regnum, and other media reported on 6 November. On the night of 4 November, an emergency safeguard switched on at station's second power unit because a water pipe broke and the unit was stopped.

Confused by the lack of explanation from the station management and the Saratov Oblast Emergency Situations Ministry, local people fled the area. Dozens of businesses were closed. Iodine-containing items disappeared from local drug stores. In several nurseries, children were given potassium iodine tablets. In at least 10 villages in Balakovo Raion, people refused to let cattle out to pastures. At least three iodine-poisoning cases were registered in Balakovo and another seven in Samara.

Only on the afternoon of 5 November did nuclear station officials confirm that the incident took place, saying that there had been no radiation pollution. The station's chief engineer, Viktor Ignatov, told an emergency press conference that the repair of the power unit had been completed. He said that on 3 November, exercises involving the evacuation of personnel were held at the station by the Emergency Situations Ministry, which initiated the panic.

Radiation levels were reported by both Balakovo environmentalists and the power station's website as between 8 and 13 microroentgens per hour in Balakovo and 11 in Saratov, with excessive levels beginning at 20 microroentgens. Presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District Sergei Kirienko visited Saratov Oblast on 5 November and said he was convinced of the station's safety and that doesn't think the case was an accident. Kirienko said those who spread rumors must be punished. The Balakovo prosecutor's office has filed a criminal case. The station's second unit was reconnected on 6 November.

Sverdlovsk Oblast Speaker: Governor May Serve Two More Terms
Sverdlovsk Oblast Duma Chairman Nikolai Voronin said oblast Governor Eduard Rossel may stay in office for two more terms after the adoption of the new rules of electing governors proposed by President Vladimir Putin, reported on 5 November. Voronin said that under the draft of the new law, a candidate can serve two terms, suggesting that the counting terms will begin with the coming into force of the new rules. Rossel is currently in his third term as governor.

Officer Convicted Of Death Of Student In Training
The Surgut Garrison Military Court in the town of Sovetskii in Khanty-Mansii Autonomous Okrug has convicted Lieutenant Colonel Vladimir Zavadskii of exceeding his authority, as a result of which secondary-school student Aleksandr Bochanov died during military training, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 6 November. Zavadskii was sentenced to four years of probation and deprived for two years of the right to train children for the draft. In March, the court issued a verdict of not guilty in the case that was then annulled and sent for new consideration to the Volga-Ural District Military Court. On 5 September 2003, Bochanov died while he was running 10 kilometers in a gas mask. Zavadskii's lawyer told the daily following the trial that the verdict will be appealed.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova