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Tatar-Bashkir Report: January 18, 2005

18 January 2005
Demands Of Demonstrating Pensioners Growing
Police say some 700 pensioners again blocked traffic on the Tatarstan and Kirov streets in downtown Kazan on 17 January, "Vechernyaya Kazan" reported on 18 January. Participants held signs calling for authorities to step down because "Life has become unbearable"; Others said: "An end to Putin's reforms robbing the people," "100 Percent payment for housing and city services means death for pensioners." One of the placards asked "Shaimiev, why do you not appear before the people?" Some 20 police patrolled the gathering.

Deputy Prime Minister Zile Welieva, Social Services Minister Klavdia Novikova, and Kazan Mayor Kamil Iskhaqov met with protestors headed by the leader of the Republican Committee for People's Supervision, Gennadii Zakharov. In an appeal given by the protesters to President Mintimer Shaimiev, they called for the holding of an extraordinary session of Tatarstan's State Council with the participation of representatives of the public to consider the issue of social-benefits reform. The activists demanded that all in-kind benefits be restored, including free use of public transport by pensioners, the disabled, students, security service workers, firemen, and emergency-situations service employees. They also called for raising pensions to the "living wage," introducing public supervision over the housing and municipal-services sectors, nationalizing the oil and gas industries, and establishing a "people's government" on the basis of labor collectives. Participants in the meeting also demanded that an office be provided to collect requests from residents and that 15 minutes of broadcast time be allocated to them on a state television channel. Iskhaqov promised to resolve the office issue.

In Chally on 17 January, some 400 pensioners also blocked traffic for about 90 minutes. Mayor Ildar Khalikov appealed to the protestors to inform others that the city is studying the possibilities for opening free bus routes for pensioners.

On 15 January, protests were held both in Kazan and Chally.

Shaimiev Wants Equal Transport Benefits For Veterans
Speaking at a Russian government meeting in Moscow on 17 January devoted to social benefits reform, President Shaimiev called for the benefits to veterans for public transport to be paid equally by the federal and republican budgets. He suggested that one voucher be issued for both groups in place of money that is currently allocated for this purpose from both local and federal budgets. He also said that the indexing pensions for all categories of pensioners must be accelerated. Shaimiev added that World War II veterans regard the free use of public transport as a reward for their victory in the war and "we have to let them live out their days with those benefits."

Analyst: Administrative Reform Aims For The Abolishment Of The National Republics...
In an article published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 17 January, Olga Kryshtanovskaya, the head of the Center for the Study of Elite at the Russian Academy of Sciences Sociology Institute, wrote that there is a direct connection between the administrative reform abolishing the elections of governors by voters and fighting terrorism since separatism is a source of terrorism. Kryshtanovskaya said the reform targets national republics because moves toward self-determination arise in autonomous republics, and because territorial-ethnic entities have always threatened Russia's leaders. Federal authorities are doing everything so that territorial-ethnic entities do not exist, she said. "The major problem for [Russian authorities] is the removal of such autocracies like in Tatarstan and Bashkortostan," she said. Kryshtanovskaya forecast that Russian Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliev, who is an ethnic Tatar, may be proposed to be the head of Tatarstan. As a result, she predicted, the gubernatorial share of "siloviki," or the number of people who previously served in federal law-enforcement agencies, may grow from 9 percent to 18 percent. The final goal is the restoration of a state system based on monocentrism and a merger of power and property that existed in Russia for centuries, she said. However, she added that the reforms initiated by the Kremlin over past five years have caused new conflicts and President Vladimir Putin has pushed the limit.

...As Duma Official Says Tatarstan's Elite Will Propose Single Candidate For President
"Kommersant-Vlast" on 17 January quoted State Duma Deputy Speaker Oleg Morozov, who represents Tatarstan in the Russian Duma, as saying that all potential candidates for Tatar president are well-known and members of the local elite who will definitely be able to agree on a single nominee for the post. Morozov also added that since the Russian president will be personally responsible for the activities of the appointed governor, it will be impossible "to purchase the post [of the head of a region]."

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Newspaper: Bashkir Authorities Sealing Off Blagoveshchensk...
In the third article in a series devoted to the police raids in Blagoveshchensk (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 29 and 30 December 2004 and 3, 6, 7, 10-14, and 17 January 2005) published on 17 January, "Novaya gazeta" reported that in the wake of previous reports, authorities in Bashkortostan have taken measures to isolate Blagoveshchensk from the outside world. As part of the plan, police meet all planes and trains arriving in Ufa from Moscow to prevent parcels being delivered by train conductors and aircraft crew members. The newspaper quoted Sterletamaq authorities as saying the transportation of packages by conductors was prohibited as of 1 January by order by President Murtaza Rakhimov as an antiterrorism measure. In Blagoveshchensk, residents have had problems making long-distance calls, while mobile-phone calls are listened in on, as indicated on phone screens by an opened lock icon.

...As Activist Calls For Charges Against Security Officials
"Novaya gazeta" also quoted For Human Rights group leader Lev Ponomarev, who visited Blagoveshchensk on 12-14 January to conduct an independent investigation, as saying the Bashkir officials who ordered the raids must be brought to criminal responsibility. Among them, Ponomarev listed Bashkir Deputy Interior Minister Anatolii Smirnov, who led the special police unit (OMON) in Blagoveshchensk; Blagoveshchensk Raion administration head Anfas Nuretdinov, who initiated the OMON operation; and Interior Minister Rafael Divaev, who signed the order for the use of OMON forces. Ponomarev said there is serious evidence that the number of OMON troops was not 15 as the Bashkir authorities claim but at least 40. He added that there is testimony about young girls being raped in the Blagoveshchensk police department.

Hizb Ut-Tahrir Activists Accused Of Terrorism
Bashkortostan's Prosecutor's Office has accused Hizb ut-Tahrir members arrested in Bashkortostan in December of involvement or promotion of crimes of a terrorist nature, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 January. Investigator Eslem Khalikov told the news agency that the accused, if found guilty, could face between four and eight years' imprisonment. Of the 18 activists detained in Bashkortostan on 16 December, nine were arrested while the others agreed not to leave the republic. Over 500 leaflets and dozens of books and brochures of extremist content were seized from the detainees. In searches of their apartments and workplaces, two grenades, four explosive devices, and over 40 machine-gun and pistol cartridges were found.

Hizb ut-Tahrir has been declared an extremist organization by a Russian court.

New Bashneft General Director Appointed
The Bashneft board of directors dismissed General Director Ildar Iskhaqov on 14 January and replaced him with Gyimran Gebitov, previously the company's executive director, Interfax reported on 17 January, citing a company source. Iskhaqov will not remain in Bashneft. In 2000-04, Gebitov headed the BashNIPIneft engineering company.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova