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Tatar-Bashkir Report: February 18, 2005

18 February 2005
Tatar Education Minister Meets Muslim Leader To Discuss Ways Of Improving Education
Reis Sheykhelislamov met with the chairman of Tatarstan's Muslim Religious Board, Gosman khezret Iskhaq, on 16 February to discuss youth morality issues and ways of improving the teaching of the Tatar language in schools, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. During the meeting, the minister also suggested that students at religious schools should more actively participate in the ministry's scientific contests with students of secular schools.

Kazan Resident Charged In 'Coup' Attempt By Bolsheviks
Moscow Prosecutor's Office charged Kazan resident and National Bolshevik Party member Lira Guskova with an attempted forcible takeover of power, "Vechernyaya Kazan" wrote on 18 February.

Guskova, who along with other party activists broke into the reception office of the Russian presidential administration in Moscow on 14 December, is currently being held in that city's Pechatniki prison. She is 22 years old. During the incident Bolsheviks hung a placard demanding the retirement of Russian President Vladimir Putin from the building's windows and shouted antigovernment and antimonarchic statements. After some 40 minutes the federal guard service detained the protesters and handed them over to police.

If convicted of the charges the Bolshevik members face up to 20 years in prison. They are likely to be charged with more lenient crimes such as mass violations of public order, stipulating a penalty of three to eight years in prison.

The Kazan daily also reported that due to being harshly treated by the police, Guskova was hospitalized for two weeks after the arrest.

Presidential Adviser Concerned With A Slump In Oil Prospecting
Renat Muslimov, Tatar presidential adviser on the use of natural resources, oil, and gas, told a meeting of the republican Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources that Tatarstan is currently facing a "crisis situation" in regards to prospecting for new oil deposits, the Volga-Ural edition of "Kommersant" wrote on 18 February. Most of the new oil reserves are reportedly obtained by reassessing already used ones, while only 14 percent of them are newly discovered reserves. Muslimov also noted that the current techniques used to extract oil were developed in the 1970s and are proving ineffective in the central and western areas of the republic. He promoted the handover of 15 low output oil fields in the central and western areas to minor private oil companies in an effort to boost the efficiency of oil output.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Blagoveshchensk Raid Victims Stage Hunger Strike In Moscow...
Five victims of a 10-14 December interior special troops operation in Blagoveshchensk declared a hunger strike on 17 December, Ekho Moskvy, Regnum, and RosBalt reported the same day. They demanded that the investigation of the Blagoveshchensk raid be conducted by the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office and that Bashkir Interior Minister Rafail Divaev and the republic's acting prosecutor Mikhail Zelepukin be dismissed. They also demanded that people who have been recognized as raid victims by the investigation be provided official documents testifying to this and prosecutions of reporters and human rights defenders who reported about the Blagoveshchensk events be stopped.

For Human Rights Bashkortostan branch head Ildar Isengulov told Regnum that strike participants informed the Moscow Central Administrative District Prefecture that they will hold pickets on 21-25 February on Pushkin Square. "Novaya gazeta" on 17 February reported that the Bashkir prosecutor's office investigators refuse to give Blagoveshchensk victims documents confirming that they were officially identified as victims and the people cannot appeal either to court or for medical examination without such a document.

...As Human Rights Leader Says Russian President Calls For Punishing Officials Responsible
Presidential Council on Human Rights head Ella Pamfilova told "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 18 February that Russian President Vladimir Putin called for a thorough investigation of the Blagoveshchensk operation and punishment of all officials guilty, irrespective of their posts. Pamfilova said the issue was on the agenda of her recent meeting with Putin. Pamfilova added that "all insinuations in this respect are groundless and the Kremlin is not going to protect anyone." Pamfilova also said human rights representatives' investigation into the incident determined that the order to send in special forces was unfounded and inexpedient and the Bashkir interior minister and his deputies bear primary responsibility. The Blagoveshchensk incident is not an isolated event, but a display of existing practice by the Bashkir law enforcement, Pamfilova said, adding that "If federal bodies do not interfere and high-ranking officials of Bashkortostan's law-enforcement bodies are not punished, there will be no guarantee a new wave of arbitrariness will not take place" in the republic.

Bashkir Oil Refineries Begin Paying Tax Debts
The head of the Tax Service's Bashkortostan branch, Nikolai Lukichev, told a press conference on 17 February in Ufa that three Bashkir oil refineries -- Ufa Oil Refinery, Novo-Ufimskii Oil Refinery, and Ufaneftekhim -- have begun paying over 12 billion rubles ($428.6 million) in excises, fines, and penalties they avoided paying in 2000-01 through the illegal use of tax breaks in Kazakhstan's Baikonur offshore zone (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 3 February, 13 and 20 March, 26 May, 6 June, 17, 18 and 23 July, 24 October 2003 and 9 April and 20 October 2004, "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 7 March 2003), RosBalt and "Kommersant-Volga-Urals" reported on 17 and 18 February, respectively. Meanwhile, Tax Service deputy head Igor Kobelev told "Kommersant-Volga-Urals" on 18 February that an audit of the refineries for 2002-04 began a week ago.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova