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Tatar-Bashkir Report: January 20, 2005

20 January 2005
Tatar Authorities Propose Solution To Benefits Issue
President Mintimer Shaimiev told a press conference on 19 January that residents of Tatarstan who were eligible for free public transport prior to recently imposed benefit reforms will soon be able to purchase low-cost transport passes that will be valid in municipalities throughout the republic, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported.

The passes will be available as of 1 February and will cost 200 rubles ($7) per month. Passes for schoolchildren and students will cost 120 rubles and 150 rubles, respectively.

In January, free city transport will be maintained for pensioners and law enforcement employees. Shaimiev said some 600 million rubles will be allocated from the republican budget to cover the costs of the program. Shaimiev also said the State Council plenary session on 26 January will discuss amendments to the republican law on social care to reflect the new measures.

Meanwhile, some 400 Kazan residents on 19 January continued protests against the new benefits reforms (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 17-19 January 2005).

Tatar, Russian Leaders Send Qorban Beirem Greetings
In a message on the occasion of Qorban Beirem (Eid Al-Adha), President Mintimer Shaimiev said on 19 January that "Tatarstan's Muslim community, which follows traditional Islam, makes considerable contributions to the establishment in society of humanistic spiritual and moral values and takes an active position in the preservation of civil peace and concord." Qorban Beirem, which falls on 20 January this year in Tatarstan, was named a republican holiday.

On 18 January, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov sent personal greeting to Tatarstan's Muslims on the occasion of Qorban Beirem in a message to Tatarstan's Muslim Religious Board Chairman Gosman Iskhaqov. Fradkov also expressed his wish that Russia's pilgrims participating in the pilgrimage to Mecca "to overcome all adversity and return safely to the motherland."

Government Pledges Support For Muslims
At a meeting with Tatarstan's Muslim leaders on 18 January, Deputy Prime Minister Zile Welieva promised to help resolve issues involving Tatarstan's Muslims, Tatar-inform reported the same day. Tatarstan's Muslim Religious Board Deputy Chairman Weliulla Yaqupov stressed the need to construct a mosque in Kazan that would have a capacity of 15,000-20,000 people.

Yaqupov said that on major holidays, celebrations are to be held in a single place, and that none of the republic's existing mosques, including the Qol Sherif mosque due to open in July in the Kazan Kremlin, are large enough.

Muslim leaders also appealed for funding for the private secondary Mulsim school Gosmanie, which has lost its financial support from the state following the adoption of amendments to the law on education prohibiting state funding for private educational institutions.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Interior Employee Says No Assault On Policemen Took Place In Blagoveshchensk...
In an interview with Ekho Moskvy on 19 January, Blagoveshchensk patrol-sentry duty Senior Sergeant Yevgenii Chistyakov denied earlier reports that businessmen assaulted interior employees on 8 December in Blagoveshchensk. According to Blagoveshchensk authorities, this assault was the reason behind a raid held in the town by OMON officers on 10-14 December, during which hundreds of residents were allegedly detained and beaten (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 29 and 30 December 2004 and 3, 6, 7, 10-14, and 17-19 January 2005).

"Nobody assaulted policemen -- businessmen simply resisted employees on patrol-sentry duty and refused to fulfill their requests while other citizens just helped those against whom policemen had a grievance," Chistyakov said. "There was no fight and not one policemen suffered."

...As Journalist, Human Rights Activist Believe Blagoveshchensk Raid Was Revenge For Election
"Novaya gazeta" correspondent Marat Khairullin told Ekho Moskvy on 19 January that the OMON raid in Blagoveshchensk came in the wake of a political conflict that stemmed from the results of the 2003 Bashkir presidential election, during which the vast majority of Blagoveshchensk residents voted against Murtaza Rakhimov. Khairullin said he is convinced the raid was "revenge for political elections." Interviewed by the radio station the same day, For Human Rights Bashkir branch head Ildar Isengulov agreed with this version.

Bashkir Parliamentary Deputy Refused Registration Of Same-Sex Marriage
Bashkir State Assembly Deputy Edvard Murzin told reporters on 19 January that he will defend in court the rights of people of non-conventional sexual orientation to register same-sex marriages, Interfax-Povolzhe reported the same day. Murzin said he considers it necessary to pass corresponding amendments to the Russian Family Code. Murzin said he and "Kvir" gay magazine editor in Chief Edvard Mishin's marriage registration in Moscow was refused, and that he will appeal the decision (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 19 January 2005).

Murzin said that the registration office's said in its decision on 19 January that the registration was refused because it "contradicts the basic principle of regulating family relations established by...the Russian Family Code -- a voluntary nature of marital union between a man and a woman."

Opposition Calls For 'Orange' Protests
At a meeting of Bashkortostan's opposition parties and movements, Bashkir civic-groups union head Ramil Bignov called for mass protest actions in which participants would wear the color orange, Bashinform reported on 19 January. Orange leaflets signed by the unknown organization Foundation for Development of Local Self-Government were distributed in Ufa this week.

In its commentary, the Bashkir state-run agency claimed that the "'orange plague' has been imposed on us," and asked if "political pilgrims and rascals" have chosen Bashkortostan as the site of an "orange experiment."

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova