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Tatar-Bashkir Report: January 14, 2005

14 January 2005
Elmet Pensioners Continue Protests
The Elmet city administration held a meeting on 13 January in reaction to protests by pensioners against the reform replacing in-kind social benefits with cash payments held earlier this week (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 11 and 12 January 2005), "Kommersant-Volga-Urals" reported on 14 January. The meeting decided to establish a special fund and appealed to companies and businessmen to donate money to the fund to help supply the most needy pensioners and veterans with public-transport vouchers in Elmet Raion. In the meantime, a group from among the 280 pensioners who gathered in the downtown Elmet again blocked traffic in violation of their promise to Tatar First Deputy Prime Minister Rawil Moratov on 11 January. After Elmet deputy administration head Nikolai Glaznov and city prosecutor Refqet Kupkenov failed to persuade the protesters to cease blocking traffic, 30 policemen forced them off the road. The Interior Ministry's local press service told the daily that policemen "did not resort to violence but just held negotiations with them and pensioners who saw a lot of Interior personnel left the road themselves."

Latin Front Calls On UNESCO To Defend Tatars' Linguistic Rights
Members of the Latin Front coordination council told a press conference in Kazan on 13 January that they appealed to UNESCO Director-General Koichiro Matsuura "to take extraordinary measures to defend the linguistic rights of the Tatar people" and to recognize "the violation of the Tatar people's linguistic rights as a humanitarian issue," RFE/RL's Kazan bureau and Tatarinform reported the same day. Group leader and former State Duma Deputy Fendes Safiullin said the front was formed after no other legal possibilities remained for Tatars to defend their linguistic rights. Safiullin expressed his disagreement with the Tatar legislature's silence regarding the Russian Constitutional Court's November ruling that Russian regions cannot make decisions on scripts of their state languages on their own. The ruling invalidated Tatarstan's 1999 law on restoration of the Tatar alphabet based on the Latin script. The Latin Front, uniting 63 Tatar organizations, was established in reaction to the Constitutional Court verdict to promote the introduction of the Latin Tatar alphabet.

Computer Programmer Accused Of Large-Scale Fraud
A computer programmer has been detained in Kazan and accused of taking out bank loans of some 2 million rubles using fake documents, Tatar Interior Ministry spokesman Yurii Zakharov told RIA-Novosti on 13 January. The programmer allegedly presented counterfeit documents to banks between December 2002 and December 2003.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Pensioners To Pay 300 Rubles A Year For Use Of Public Transport
The city council in Bashkortostan's second city Sterletamaq at an extraordinary meeting on 13 January passed a measure to maintain reduced rates on city transport for pensioners, RosBalt and "Kommersant-Volga-Urals" reported. The move came in response to three days of protests against the Russia-wide reform from in-kind social benefits to cash payments. The vouchers to be used in the scheme will cost 300 rubles ($10.70) and be good for one year. The Sterletamaq council also urged Bashkir Prime Minister Rafael Baidavletov to allocate an additional 28 million rubles to compensate for abolished in-kind benefits.

Speaking on the local BST television channel on 13 January, Bashkir Deputy Prime Minister and Labor and Social Affairs Minister Fidus Yamaltdinov said similar decisions on the distribution of vouchers for public transport for pensioners were made in Ufa and Salawat as well. Yamaltdinov said President Murtaza Rakhmonov has agreed to double monetary compensation for labor veterans and home-front workers to 200 rubles. The measure will require allocation of additional 485 million rubles.

Human Rights Activists Cite Evidence Of Security Abuses In Blagoveshchensk
Moscow Helsinki Group Chairwoman Lyudmila Alekseeva and For Human Rights movement leader Lev Ponomarev told a news conference in Ufa on 13 January that they have collected evidence of mass beatings of Blagoveshchensk residents by interior employees during security raids on 10-14 December, RosBalt reported the same day. "We regard events in Blagoveshchensk as extraordinary," Alekseeva said. "There has not been such a mass violation of human rights anywhere in Russia outside Chechnya." Ponomarev said the republican Prosecutor-General's Office recognizes that it will be difficult to find those personally guilty of illegality, since interior employees involved in the raid wore masks. He added that someone must take responsibility for the actions, however, and "this should be the leadership of the Bashkir Interior Ministry."

Bashkortostan Gets New Representative In St. Petersburg
Bashkir President Rakhmomov appointed Salawat Gomerov on 12 January to be Bashkortostan's representative to the city of St. Petersburg, Bashinform reported on 13 January. Gomerov, 43, served in the Leningrad Oblast's Audit Chamber and, as of 2004, was deputy director of the Baltvodkhoz water supply company, which is run by the Russian Natural Resources Ministry. Gomerov replaces Stanislav Selichev, who retired the same day.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova