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Tatar-Bashkir Report: January 11, 2005

11 January 2005
Elmet Pensioners Protest Monetarization Of Benefits
Some 5,000 people demonstrated on 10 January in Elmet to protest the abolition of free use of city transport for pensioners, Ekho Moskvy and Ytro reported the same day. According to the local Interior Ministry, the number of participants was over 700, "Kommersant-Volga-Urals" reported on 11 January. The spontaneous and unsanctioned demonstration was supported by the city's Communist Party organization. Signs calling for restoring the benefits and reviving the Soviet Union were distributed at the meeting. Protesters also demanded that housing and municipal-services tariffs, which stopped being subsidized on 1 January, be reduced. Protesters who had been blocking traffic in the central square for some three hours broke up after negotiations with Elmet Raion administration head Rishat Abubekerov. Protesters said they will continue their demonstration on 11 January and will intentionally block traffic. Some 60 policemen watched the demonstration. Similar protests were held the same day in Khimki in Moscow Oblast and Samara.

State Holding Redistributes Presence In Oil, Petrochemical Companies
Tatarstan's state-owned Svyazinvestneftekhim (SINKh) holding signed an agreement with the TAIF group to exchange an 11.36 percent stake in Nizhnekamskneftekhim (NKNKh) for a 3.36 percent stake in Tatneft owned by TAIF, "Kommersant-Volga-Urals" reported on 11 January, citing SINKh's press service. As a result, SINKh increased its stake in Tatneft to 35.86 percent and reduced its holding in NKNKh to 36.6 percent. For its part, TAIF now controls 22.76 percent of NKNKh and 2.66 percent of Tatneft. The SINKh statement commented that the contract was signed to "strengthen state influence in the petrochemical sector." TAIF representatives said that its priorities are petrochemicals and oil refining. In August, Tatneft General Director Shefeget Takhawetdinov also expressed Tatneft's intention to purchase the state's stake in NKNKh.

Tatneft To Compete For Tupras With Three Companies
Turkey's privatization commission has decided that the Tupras oil refinery will be privatized in early 2005 in an open auction, Tatarinform reported on 10 January, citing According to, four companies plan to take part in the auction, including Tatneft, as well as some Turkish energy holdings that plan to form consortiums with other companies. Tatneft representatives, however, commented on 10 January that the final decision on participation in the Tupras privatization will be made when Tatneft is informed about the terms of the competition.

On 29 December, Tatar Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov said that Tatneft needs oil-refining facilities abroad and did not reject the possibility of its participation in the Tupras privatization. On 30 December, Turkish Zorlu holding head Ahmet Nazif Zorlu spoke of the group's plans to take part in Tupras's privatization in alliance with Tatneft. Results of the sale of a 65.76 percent stake in Tupras for $1.3 billion to the Tatneft-Zorlu alliance was annulled by the Turkish Supreme Court.

Last Group Of Pilgrims Leaves For Mecca
The last group of 287 pilgrims left Tatarstan for Mecca on 10 December on a Krasnoyarsk Airlines flight, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau and Tatarinform reported the same day. The first two groups -- 66 people who traveled to Saudi Arabia by bus and 147 who traveled by plane and bus -- have already arrived to Mecca. Residents of Rostov-na-Donu, Krasnoyarsk, Novosibirsk, Ufa, Tyumen, Samara, and other Russian cities are among over 500 pilgrims traveling this year from Kazan, though some 85 percent are from Tatarstan. The bus trip cost 37,000 rubles ($1,334), the combined trip 40,000 rubles, and the plane trip 48,000 rubles. In 2004, some 200 Muslims went for hajj from Tatarstan.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Activist Says Victims Of Blagoveshchensk Raid Shunned By Moscow Probe...
Members of a commission from the Russian Interior Ministry who arrived in Bashkortostan to investigate the 10-14 December security raid in Blagoveshchensk met on 8 January with local residents, according to Regnum, but rights activists insist efforts have been made to discourage and discredit victims of the incident.

The commission -- which is headed by the senior inspector of the Russian Interior Ministry's Organizing and Inspections Department, Major General Gennadii Blinov -- is probing events surrounding the incident, which resulted in hundreds of detentions and medical treatment for many others (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 29 and 30 December 2004 and 3, 6, 7, and 10 December 2005).

The coordinator in Bashkortostan for the Russia-wide civic group For Human Rights, Vyacheslav Bikbulatov, told Regnum that authorities arranged for the meeting to be attended by state employees. However, he added that human rights activists managed to secure the participation of several victims of the December security raid. Bikbulatov alleged that efforts were being made [editor's note -- the report does not mention by whom] to pressure victims and cover up facts that point at possible abuses by security forces. Aleksei Raschesov, who was injured by a security troop in front of a number of witnesses (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 6 January 2005), was reportedly accused by Blagoveshchensk security officials of having been bribed by human rights representatives to slander them.

Bikbulatov added that members of the Moscow commission have not contacted human rights representatives. For Human Rights Executive Director Lev Ponomarev told Regnum on 10 January that he will leave for Bashkortostan on 11 January together with the Moscow Helsinki Group's Lyudmila Alekseeva.

...And Public Council Deputy Head Comments On Cases
Edvard Murzin, a Bashkir State Assembly deputy and the deputy chairman of a public council established under the Bashkir Interior Ministry (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 10 January 2005), told Regnum on 10 January that 100 or so residents have appealed to Bashkortostan's law-enforcement bodies complaining of violations by security forces during the Blagoveshchensk raids. Murzin added that he believes not all purported victims have come forward. He praised the creation of the public council to monitor the observance of human rights by security forces, saying it is "an important step by Bashkir Interior Minister Rafail Divaev." Murzin opposed making the head of that body a cabinet-level official, however, arguing that the ministry can control its own activities.

In an interview with "Kommersant-Volga-Urals" on 11 January, Murzin said that not all the Blagoveshchensk victims were adequately informed of the 8 January meeting with the Russian Interior Ministry commission, so many of the people who attended the gathering were employees of state budgetary agencies. He said only "some five victims and several members of their families took part in the meeting," adding that "about 1,000 people in total were detained by interior employees" during the operation. Bashkir Interior Ministry spokesman Ruslan Sherefetdinov said, however, that all those who wished to take part in the meeting as announcements about it were distributed two days before its date.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova