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Tatar-Bashkir Report: March 14, 2003

14 March 2003
Verdicts Awaited In TIU Assault Trial
Proceedings in the trial of five individuals accused of carrying out an attack on the Tatar Public Center (TIU) in Chally and of assaulting several of its members last May (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 30 and 31 May 2002) came to an end on 13 March, reported the same day. The Chally City Court will issue its verdict in the case on 27 March. Prosecutor Ferid Fazlyev has asked for a sentence of 11 1/2 years in prison for Oleg Ponomarev, while he is seeking sentences of seven years in prison for the remaining defendants: Lenar Bekhtierov, Georgii Gorbachev, Stanislav Yanaikin, and Andrei Kuliev. Defense lawyers, however, claimed that insufficient evidence was provided to convict their clients and that they should be found not guilty.

Mufti Denies 'Blacklist' Allegations
The head of the Russian Council of Muftis, Rawil Gainetdin, denied on 12 March reports that had been circulating in the media claiming that Russia's Muslims have been compiling so-called blacklists of Islam's enemies, reported the next day. Gainetdin said, "Muftis have never composed such lists." The head mufti also said he was opposed to any attempts to destabilize relations between two of Russia's traditional religions: Orthodox Christianity and Islam.

Communists Plan Nonstop Protest Against War In Iraq
The secretary of the Communist Party in Tatarstan, Robert Sadyiqov, said on 13 March that if any military action will be taken in Iraq, the republic's Communists will stage a nonstop demonstration on Kazan's Freedom Square calling for an end to such action, "Kommersant" reported on 14 March. Sadyiqov said the party has asked Kazan authorities for permission for such a protest.

Minister Laments Situation In Agriculture Industry
Agriculture Minister Marat Ekhmetov said at a ministry meeting in Baltach Raion on 11 March that the economic state of the agriculture sector is worsening in the republic despite large investments from the government, reported the same day. Ekhmetov added that revenues in the sector are decreasing, though the republic had record grain harvests the past two years. Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev and Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov, who were also at the meeting, said that only profitable farms will be given loans this year to purchase fertilizer.

Tatar Group Begins Printing Newspaper In St. Petersburg
Aq Qalfaq-Neva, the union of Tatar women in St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Oblast, has begun publishing a newspaper of the same name, reported on 12 March, citing The paper's first issue had a print run of 500 copies and ran stories about St. Petersburg's Muslim community and the Aq Qalfaq-Neva union.

New Website Features Tatar Writers
Works by Tatar poets and authors are being featured on a new website at, reported on 13 March. Works are available in the Tatar Latin script, while English and Russian translations of some works are also available.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Unified Russia Branch Calls For Decentralization Of Party Structure
The Bashkir branch of the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party held a conference on 7 March at which it adopted a resolution "against the strict centralization of the party's structure and in favor of expanding the powers of its regional offices," RosBalt reported the same day. The conference also elected three delegates -- Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov; State Assembly speaker Konstantin Tolkachev; and the head of the party's Bashkir branch, Ismagil Gabitov -- to attend the second party congress to be held in Moscow on 29 March.

Bashkir Airlines Union Planning To Protest In Front Of Government Building
The union of Bashkir Airlines employees is hoping to hold a demonstration in front of the building that houses the Bashkir Cabinet of Ministers on 22 March to protest planned layoffs at the company and to criticize what the union claims is inefficient management, RosBalt reported on 11 March. Demonstration organizers have submitted a request to Ufa Mayor Reuf Nogmanov for permission to hold the demonstration, but so far the city administration has not responded. The union said that it is hoping to gather 300 employees for the action.

State Assembly Candidate Wins Lawsuit Against Election Commission
Ayrat Ginietullin, the head of the Tatar Public Center (TIU) in Bashkortostan, who is a candidate in the 16 March parliamentary election in the republic, won his lawsuit against the Tuymazi Election Commission, which tried to revoke his candidacy, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 12 March. The commission had accused Ginietullin of fomenting interethnic discord in the republic by promoting the abolition of the official terms "titular" and "nontitular" nationalities in Bashkortostan (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 11 March 2003).

Commission Official Claims Inability To Ensure Fair Elections
A member of the territorial Election Commission in Sterlitamaq, Nikolai Ustimenko (Yabloko), told the 10 March issue of the opposition weekly "Otechestvo" that he is unable to guarantee the fair conduct of elections in his region. Ustimenko told the paper that the commission's main officials were appointed by the city administration, "which has a biased attitude toward candidates not representing Unified Russia."

Russian Rocker From Bashkortostan Cancels U.S. Tour
Russian rock star Zemfira, who hails from Bashkortostan, has cancelled her scheduled concert tour of the United States to protest U.S. plans to wage war with Iraq, "Zhizn" weekly reported on 13 March. Zemfira said she "respects those U.S. citizens who do not support Washington's aggressive policy, and she apologized to her fans who had already purchased tickets, saying that "we will come [to the United States] but only in peacetime."

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi