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Tatar-Bashkir Report: January 21, 2005

21 January 2005
Russian President Greets Muslims On Qorban Beirem Holiday
President Vladimir Putin on 20 January sent greetings to Russia's Muslims on the occasion of Qorban Beirem (Eid Al-Adha), RIA-Novosti reported the same day. Putin noted that the "development of interfaith dialogue, and the careful and respectful treatment of centuries-old traditions of...all faiths will further promote the consolidation of Russian society."

Some 16,500 believers attended holiday prayers in Kazan's 40 mosques on Qorban Beirem, Tatar-inform reported on 20 January, citing the Interior Ministry's Kazan Board. Some 900 Interior Ministry employees monitored the events.

Shaimiev, Civic Groups Criticize Protest Organizers
During a 19 January press conference, President Mintimer Shaimiev accused some political parties of trying to take advantage of the backlash stemming from the recent implementation benefits reforms, reported.

He said that "leaders" and "public organizations" that failed to meet registration requirements tried to gain from the situation, adding that "we will not let them play on people's sentiments."

Meanwhile, the heads of several Tatar NGOs signed a statement in which they said the organizers of protests against the reforms are morally and politically irresponsible, Tatar-inform reported on 20 January. They called on citizens not to "yield to the provocations and not to participate in the political actions."

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Blagoveshchensk 'Victims' Hint At False Pretense For Raids...
Human rights activists held a news conference in Moscow on 20 January devoted to a public investigation of the 10-14 December security raids in Blagoveshchensk that purportedly came in response to an assault on interior employees (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 29 and 30 December 2004 and 3, 6, 7, 10-14 and 17-20 January 2005), Regnum reported on 20 January. At the event, Blagoveshchensk security-forces Sergeant Yevgenii Chistyakov -- who is among the three officers reportedly hospitalized after an angry mob assaulted them -- repeated his claim that no assault on interior employees in fact took place on 8 December in Blagoveshchensk and no policemen suffered any serious injury in the incident (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 20 January 2005). Chistyakov added that a superior urged him to check himself into a hospital and simulate injuries.

Human rights activists also presented a copy of an appeal by Blagoveshchensk Interior Board member Pavel Goltyaev to Russian Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov and Russian Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliev dated 12 January. In it, Goltyaev said that following the 8 December incident, he was twice ordered by his superior to go to a hospital to increase the number of reported victims.

Meanwhile, the physician from the Blagoveshchensk Central Raion Hospital who was in charge of the medical treatment of Chistyakov and two other officers hospitalized after the 8 December incident, Adik Kudashev, said the men did not require hospitalization, Regnum reported on 20 January, quoting the Civil Verdict Fund. Kudashev added that when he asked why the patients were hospitalized, he was told the move was taken on the personal instructions of the hospital's director.

...As Bashkir Authorities Warn Against Perjury
Republican prosecutors investigating the alleged assault on interior employees in Blagoveshchensk are determined to bring criminal charges against anyone -- including interior employees -- who is found to have given false testimony in the case, Regnum and Bashinform reported on 20 January.

A corresponding statement was made by Bashkortostan's deputy prosecutor, Ramil Iskuzhin, in reaction to the doubts cast by Sergeant Chistyakov on the official version of the 8 December incident.

The same day, the Bashkir Interior Ministry press service issued a statement alleging that Chistyakov had been bribed by businessman Oleg Kataev, who is suspected of involvement in the alleged assault on interior employees.

Ministry spokesman Ruslan Sherefetdinov reportedly charged that Kataev suggested that Chistyakov and other purported victims of the assault be paid 150,000 rubles ($5,329) to change their testimony. Sherefetdinov accused some of seeking to " use events in Blagoveshchensk as a political card."

Meanwhile, Russian Interior Ministry spokesman Valerii Gribakin told the above-mentioned press conference in Moscow on 20 January that "no persecution will be undertaken against Chistyakov since this [statement] was his civic position, all the more so now that he is a former interior employee."

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova