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Tatar-Bashkir Report: January 19, 2005

19 January 2005
Kazan Pensioners Continue Protests
Some 200 pensioners on 18 January continued the protest against benefit reforms, Interfax-Povolzhe, RIA-Novosti, Tatar-inform, and other news agencies reported the same day.

The pensioners, who have been protesting since 15 January, blocked traffic under the watchful eye of some 30 police officers. Protestors also met with State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin to discuss the issue, and demanded that an extraordinary session of the State Council be held to address the reforms.

Kazan administration Social Care Board head Tatyana Larionova met later with protestors to inform them that a meeting headed by President Mintimer Shaimiev and involving Tatar and Kazan senior officials considered ways of waiving fees for housing and municipal services in January and maintaining free transportation for pensioners until the issue is resolved. Larionova added that the contentious issue is being considered by the Tatar president. She said 10 million rubles ($356,000) will be allocated from the Kazan budget to provide benefits to needy residents. Approximately 68,000 people in Kazan were affected by the reforms, under which in-kind benefits were replaced with cash stipends.

The same day, visiting Russian Deputy Prosecutor-General Sergei Gerasimov met with Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov and stressed the need to ensure citizens' quality of life in the wake of the reforms, Tatar-inform reported on 18 January.

Patriarch Opposes Portrayal Of Kulikovo Battle As Victory Of Russians Over Tatars
Speaking at a recent meeting of the Moscow Eparchial Council, Patriarch Aleksii II said that "we should not stress the confrontation between Russian and Tatars when discussing the battle of Kulikovo.... There were a lot of Tatars in the army of Prince Dmitrii Donskoi and, unfortunately, there were Russians on [Khan] Mamai's side," ITAR-TASS reported on 17 January.

On 8 September 1380, a Russian army led by Moscow Prince Dmitrii Donskoi defeated a Golden Horde force led by Khon Mamai that included Tatar units.

President Vladimir Putin made a similar comment concerning the battle during a 23 December press conference. The council established a committee at the Moscow Patriarchy to organize the celebration of the battle's 625th anniversary.

Tatar Courts Hear Cases Against Former State Duma Deputy
A preliminary hearing of the criminal case against former State Duma Deputy and businessman Sergei Shashurin began in Kazan's Wakhitov Raion Court on 17 January, Interfax-Povolzhe reported. Shashurin is accused of fraud and the embezzlement of money and property worth 37 million rubles. According to the results of the investigation, in 1996-97 Shashurin received 20 million rubles' worth of goods and money to write off debts owed by Kazan's Tatarkhleboprodukt bread factory.

The Kazan Moscow Raion Court on 18 January began hearing another criminal case accusing Shashurin of defamation, "Kommersant-Daily" and "Izvestiya" reported on 19 January. In November 2003, Shashurin claimed that Tatarstan's interior minister and his two deputies were involved in the kidnapping and killing of KamAZ Metallurgy Plant General Director Viktor Faber, the theft of alcohol production and gold, and cooperation with criminal leaders. Shashurin was detained in Moscow on 12 March by the Tatarstan Interior Ministry's Chief Investigation Board.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Interior Ministry Completes Investigation Of Blagoveshchensk Raids
The Bashkir Interior Ministry has completed its probe into the mid-December Blagoveshchensk raids that resulted in mass detentions, arrests, and reports of violence against local residents and brought disciplinary action against several security-force employees, RosBalt reported on 17 January (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 29 and 30 December 2004 and 3, 6, 7, 10-14, 17, and 18 January 2005). Specifically, the deputy head of the Blagoveshchensk Interior Board and the commander of a special-forces detachment in the Interior Ministry (OMON) were demoted. The head of the Blagoveshchensk Interior Board, Ildar Ramazanov, was reprimanded. Investigators concluded that the heads of the republican Interior Ministry's public-safety service don't meet their job requirements. Blagoveshchensk district forces involved in mass detentions will reportedly face discipline for suspected abuse of office. Bashkir Interior Ministry spokesman Ruslan Sherefetdinov said the inspection revealed a "low level of preparation and organization of preventive measures" and an "absence of proper supervision over the activities of subordinates." At the same time, he added, the measures taken in Blagoveshchensk -- as a town with a record of high criminal activity -- have been deemed "legal" and "necessary."

During the December raid involving Bashkortostan's OMON detachment, about 1,000 residents of Blagoveshchensk were detained and hundreds received medical aid.

Deputy Interior Minister Proposed For Ombudsman Post
Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov proposed that the republican deputy interior minister for human resources, Fethlislam Toqombetov, be appointed human rights representative, Bashinform reported on 18 January, quoting State Assembly Chairman Konstantin Tolkachev. Tolkachev commented that "deputies consider...the new candidate is prepared enough for implementing responsibilities of that official." The republican parliament's legislative committee has supported the nominee, Tolkachev added. Former Ombudsman Chingiz Gazizov resigned after having served two terms in the position.

Bashkir Parliamentary Deputy Applies For Same-Sex Marriage
Bashkir State Assembly Deputy Edvard Murzin and the editor in chief of the Moscow-based "Kvir" gay magazine, Edvard Mishin, applied on 18 January for marriage registration by Moscow's central registry (ZAGS), Regnum reported the same day. Murzin called the move a civic action aimed at drawing attention to the social status of sexual minorities in Russia. Murzin repeatedly stated that he initiated the action to lead to an appeal to the Constitutional Court once the request is rejected, as he expects it will be. Murzin has advocated amending the Family Code to permit same-sex marriages. Murzin has a common-law wife and, by the summer, said he plans to register a marriage with her.

Moscow ZAGS board head Irina Muraveva told Interfax-Moscow on 18 January that the same-sex marriage will not be registered, citing the Russian Family Code, under which marriage may only be between a man and a woman.

Meanwhile, according to interactive questioning involving 4,845 listeners of Ekho Moskvy on 18 January, 70 percent of respondents said same-sex marriages should be prohibited, while 30 percent supported allowing the institution.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova