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Opposition Urges Change In Bashkortostan's Status

Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov (right) with Russian President Vladimir Putin (file photo) (ITAR-TASS) UFA, July 31, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- The opposition in Russia's republic of Bashkortostan is appealing to President Vladimir Putin to turn the republic into a territory or a region, saying its authorities have continually violated human rights.

They also say that the republic's economic policies are designed to benefit President Murtaza Rakhimov.

The appeal was included in a resolution passed at a meeting of some 20 opposition parties and groups in Ufa on July 29. The meeting had to be held in the open after authorities refused to allow it to take place in a city hall.

Ramil Bignov, the leader of the united Bashkir opposition, told RFE/RL on July 31 that Bashkortostan's status as a sovereign federal republic hinders, instead of helps, solve problems.

The Bashkir opposition and Russian human rights groups have repeatedly accused Rakhimov of human rights violations. Last week, several prominent Russian rights activists appealed to the United States and European Union to ban Rakhimov from their territories.

Rakhimov has ruled the resources-rich republic since 1993.

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