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Tatar-Bashkir Report: January 31, 2005

31 January 2005
Russian Finance Minister Says Social-Benefit Reform Must Be Continued...
At a meeting of Volga Federal District regional leaders on social-benefit reforms on 29 January in Kazan, Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin said the reforms' success now "depends on executive bodies, both federal and regional," and Tatarinform reported. He said no retreat in implementation of the reform can be permitted since "it might be better to lose a bit more in the beginning so that the innovation is more successful in the future."

He said 16 federation subjects are maintaining in-kind social benefits in full, most of the rest have preserved part of them, while four regions including Tatarstan have replaced all in-kind benefits with cash payments and have even spread reforms to the housing and municipal-services sector as well.

Russian Transport Minister Igor Levitin said the previous day in Kazan that the federal budget has allocated 8.5 billion rubles ($302.7 million) to cover partly expenses of transportation companies for providing services to people who previously used transport freely. Eighty-five regions that signed agreements with the Russian government on introducing social passes will be paid 50 rubles per head.

...As Protesters Against Reforms Rally Again
An authorized meeting to protest the benefit reforms was held in Kazan on 30 January, ITAR-TASS and RIA-Novosti reported the same day. About 1,000 people, according to ITAR-TASS, took part in the demonstration in front of the Tatar State Drama Theater initiated by the Communist Party's (KPRF) faction in the Tatar State Council. Red flags and placards such as "Russia's Revival Is Main Aim Of KPRF," "Russia, Labor, People's Power, Communism," and "It's Enough To Rob People" were displayed. Protesters called for the annulment of the reform and dismissal of the Russian government. They also demanded that housing and municipal-services tariffs be reduced, pensions be increased to 4,000 rubles per month, and salaries be raised to 8,000 rubles.

Commission On Kazan Millennium Celebration Meets In Kazan
A meeting of the state commission on preparations for Kazan's 1000th anniversary was held in Kazan on 29 January by the commission's deputy chairman, Russian Finance Minister Kudrin, and Tatarinform reported the same day.

Speaking at the meeting, Kazan Mayor Kamil Iskhaqov said an additional 6 billion rubles ($214 million) is necessary to finish construction of the first line of the Kazan subway by the millennium celebration. Iskhaqov suggested that 3 billion rubles be allotted by the federal government, 2 billion rubles from the republican government, and 1 billion rubles be found by the city of Kazan. Opening the first line of a new bridge over the Kazanka River also requires 1 billion rubles, he said. Iskhaqov also requested 3 billion rubles for restoration of 4 square kilometers of streets by the jubilee. Iskhaqov said the most important events due to be held in Kazan as part of the millennium celebrations are a session of the CIS Council of Heads of State and a session of the Russian State Council. Both are slated for August.

The same day, Kudrin inspected construction of the Kazan subway and the Kazanka River bridge. Speaking at a press conference on 29 January, Kudrin said "we are on the last lap [of preparations for the jubilee] and it will be difficult now to increase spending. We have to implement what we have already planned." Commenting on the construction of the subway, Kudrin said he was convinced that it is being built as quickly as required, adding that "the pace of the construction is unique since there has never been anything like it in Russia before."

World Bandy Championships Start In Kazan
The 25th World Bandy Championships opened in Kazan on 30 January, Tatarinform reported the same day. Teams from Belarus, Canada, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the United States, and Russia are taking part in the competition. President Mintimer Shaimiev said at the opening ceremony that Tatarstan has never before hosted any world championship and holding it in Kazan is an illustration of the significant successes of the republic in the socioeconomic sphere. The championship is the first among a sequence of events devoted to the Kazan millennium.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Rakhimov Says Oil Refineries Will Pay Debts
President Murtaza Rakhimov told a press conference on 27 January in Ufa that Bashkortostan's oil refineries must abide by a recent ruling by the Supreme Arbitration Court Presidium that they must pay back taxes related to their operations in Baikonur (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 27 January 2004), "Kommersant-Volga-Urals" reported on 29 January.

Rakhimov expressed his hope that "if everything is done in accordance with law," then roughly half of 12 billion rubles in debts will be transferred to Bashkortostan's budget. Rakhimov added that "for the republic's authorities, the court verdict was not unexpected," adding that they will weather the storm and the "plants will repay their debts."

The daily reported that an additional criminal case has been opened to determine if the Russian Tax Ministry's Bashkortostan Board illegally allowed refineries to restructure 1.5 billion rubles in debt when the board was headed by Reshit Sattarov.

Russian Ombudsman Calls For Criminal Persecution Against People Responsible For Blagoveshchensk Raid...
Russian Human Rights representative Vladimir Lukin has received a response from the Blagoveshchensk administration and the Bashkir Interior Ministry regarding his request for an investigation into possible human rights violations that took place during raids conducted by ministry personnel in Blagoveshchensk in December, Regnum reported on 28 January (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 29 and 30 December 2004, 3, 6, 7, 10-14, 17-21, and 24 January 2005).

Bashkir officials said the decision by the Bashkir Interior Ministry to hold special preventive measures in Blagoveshchensk was made in contradiction to legislation. Other violations included mass detentions of residents, and the taking of photos and fingerprints. Those violations are to be qualified as exceeding power, according to the authors of the report.

...As Prosecutors Identify 50 Victims Of Raid
Over 50 people have been officially classified by the prosecutor's office as victims stemming from the December interior raid in Blagoveshchensk, Igor Kalyapin, chairman of Nizhnii Novgorod's Committee Against Torture, told Regnum on 28 January. Kalyapin said his organization provided lawyers to five victims who appealed against violations allegedly perpetrated by interior employees. Since all victims are similar claims, those five could decide the entire case, Kalyapin said.

Protests Against Social-Benefits Reform Continue in Agidel, Kumertau
A protest action against recently implemented social-benefits reform was held in Agidel on 28 January on the initiative of Communist Party of the Russian Federation, Bashinform reported the same day. After participants bearing red flags marched through downtown to the city's administration building, administration head Valerii Fedorov appeared before protestors.

The protesters demands centered on reestablishing transportation benefits and unemployment benefits.

On 30 January, participants in a protest in Kumertau demanded that authorities present a report on how budgetary funds have been spent over the past five years.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova