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Tatar-Bashkir Report: January 13, 2005

13 January 2005
Prosecutors To Take Measures Against Protest Organizers
Russian Deputy Prosecutor-General Sergei Gerasimov on 12 January ordered prosecutors in the Volga Federal District to examine whether the law on replacing in-kind social benefits with cash payments is being followed in the regions and hold responsible organizers of unsanctioned demonstrations by pensioners that took place this week in several Russian regions, including Tatarstan and Bashkortostan (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 11 and 12 January 2005), "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 13 January. Regional prosecutors were urged to investigate whether federal laws on demonstrations were broken during the protests. An assistant to Tatar Prosecutor Ildar Mokhemetjanov told the daily that "the instruction will be implemented in full." The newspaper also quoted Elmet Interior Ministry criminal investigation department head Lieutenant Colonel Robert Galiev as saying, "work on discovering the organizers [of the protests] is ongoing."

Transport Prices Reduced For Pensioners In Elmet
In the wake of protests in Elmet on 10-11 January of up to 8,000 pensioners, the Elmet city administration has reduced prices for city public transport for pensioners and the disabled from 7 rubles ($0.25) to 3 rubles, "Trud" reported on 13 January. The price will be valid in January until people are paid monetary compensations for canceled benefits. Meanwhile, the Tuben Kama administration provided several free tram and bus routes for those who receive benefits that they can use to get to hospitals.

Japanese Companies To Construct Polycarbonate Plant At Kazanorgsintez
Kazanorgsintez signed a $200 million contract with the Japanese consortium of Toyo Engineering, Idemitsu Kosan, and Asahi Chemicals to construct a polycarbonate plant, reported on 12 January. The plant's capacity is planned at 65,000 tons of polycarbonate and 70,000 tons of bisphenol-A a year. Under the contract, the facility is to be constructed by 2007 on the basis of Kazanorgsintez's existing infrastructure in Kazan. Currently, Kazanorgsintez produces polycarbonate using its own acetone, phenol, and other chemicals.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Human Rights Leaders In Bashkortostan To Investigate Blagoveshchensk Incidents
The leader of the Russia-wide For Human Rights movement, Lev Ponomarev, and Moscow Helsinki Group head Lyudmila Alekseeva arrived on 12 January to Bashkortostan to conduct their own investigation into the December security raids in Blagoveshchensk, during which some 1,000 residents were detained and many were reportedly beaten following assaults on several interior employees (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 29 and 30 December 2004 and 3, 6, 7, 8, 11, and 12 January 2005), RosBalt reported the same day. The rights groups are also hoping to establish contact with republican law-enforcement agencies. Ponomarev and Alekseeva met the same day with Bashkir Interior Minister Rafail Divaev and acting republican prosecutor Mikhail Zelepukin. Commenting on the meeting, Ponomarev said there is a "mutual interest on the part of the Interior Ministry and the prosecutor's office in an objective investigation of the Blagoveshchensk events." Ponomarev added that a group of human rights experts will operate for a month in Blagoveshchensk to conduct an independent probe, after which another meeting with Divaev and Zelepukin will be held. Human rights leaders informed Bashkortostan's officials about purported attempts by interior employees to pressure victims of the Blagoveshchensk raid.

Ponomarev and Alekseeva traveled on to Blagoveshchensk on 12 January to meet with local witnesses and alleged victims of the December events. Ponomarev told Regnum the same day that local authorities delivered groups of employees of state budget agencies to the building in which the meeting was to take place.

Independent Journalist Alleges Serious Violations By Security Forces
In an interview with RFE/RL's Russian Service on 12 January, Bashkir journalist and human rights activist Marat Kheirullin said his own investigation of events in Blagoveshchensk suggests that security forces committed mass torture and rape during the 10-14 December raids. Kheirullin cited his own transcript in "Novaya gazeta" on 13 January of an interview with a 19-year-old Blagoveshchensk girl who claims to have been raped. Kheirullin authored an article in "Novaya gazeta" on 10 January over which republican Interior Minister Divaev vowed to sue.

Authorities Break Up Protest In Sterletamaq
Police dispersed a protest against recently implemented reforms to replace in-kind social benefits with cash payments, RosBalt reported on 12 January. When some 150 residents gathered on the square in front of the city administration building, a similar number of interior employees appeared to demand that the demonstrators leave the site. Passport data was collected from many of participants. On 10 January, more than 7,000 people demonstrated in Sterletamaq, while the previous day, a similar protest was held in Ufa (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 10 and 11 January 2005).

Bashkir Theaters Tour Abroad
The Bashkir State Opera and Ballet Theater departed for Egypt, where the troupes will perform in Cairo and Alexandria, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 12 January. Meanwhile, the republic's Feizi Gaskerov State Academic National Dance Theater is on tour in England for the New Russian Winter Festival in London.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova