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Tatar-Bashkir Report: February 28, 2005

28 February 2005
Tatar Parliament Agrees To Abolish Presidential Election
Tatarstan's State Council endorsed the package of constitutional amendments canceling the election of the republic's president in the first reading on 25 February, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. Despite the evident desire of some deputies to oppose the draft, State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin told the parliament that "by refusing to accept the amendments to our constitution before 31 March, we will thus express a political ultimatum and will be punished for disobeying the federal laws."

Parliamentary deputy Tufan Minnulin said in a speech at the session that the decision to abolish elections of the regional head was due to Moscow's lack of trust in voters. He argued that by agreeing to abolish direct elections, Tatarstan would acknowledge the loss of its statehood, mentioned in the Russian and Tatar constitutions.

An ideologist of the Tatar national movement and former leader of the World Tatar Congress, historian Indus Tahirov told the assembly that he welcomed the fact that parliaments will have to approve the governor's candidacy, which he said could open the way to parliamentary rule in Russia. Meanwhile, given that Putin was not elected according to this system, Tatarstan should protest having to confirm Putin's nomination for regional leader, he added.

Putin Notes Tatneft's Interest In Acquiring Yukos's Slovak Holdings
In Bratislava for his summit with U.S. President George W. Bush, President Putin told a news conference on 25 February that the Tatneft oil company has expressed interest in taking over a 49 percent stake in the Slovak transport companies currently owned by Yukos, Russian media reported the same day. He also assured reporters that current processes under way with Yukos will not affect Russian supplies of oil and gas to Europe and Slovakia as agreed.

World Bank Confirms Plans To Lend Kazan $125 Million
World Bank issued a $125 million loan for Kazan's municipal development project, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 28 February, citing the Kazan city government. The loan, to be transferred via Russia's Finance Ministry, will be used for developing the city's infrastructure and spurring its economic development by attracting more investment to the city. Kazan has been negotiating the loan since 2003. The loan is expected to support the city's preparations for the celebrations of its millennium anniversary in August.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Opposition Calls For Rakhimov's Resignation...
Bashkortostan's opposition held a rally on Ufa's Lenin Square on 26 February to demand that a December raid conducted by the republic's Interior Ministry in Blagoveshchensk be investigated and that Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov be dismissed, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service, Interfax-Povolzhe, RIA-Novosti and other Russian news agencies reported the same day.

An RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported that roughly 7,000 people participated in the protest action; the Interior Ministry estimated that 2,000 attended.

The protest was organized by the Coordinating Council of eight parties and 26 opposition movements, including Yabloko, the Communist Party, People's Will, Russian Party of Pensioners, the Bashkir People's Congress, Bashkortostan's Tatar civic groups union, the Rus civic association, and the Fund for Development of Local Self-Government.

Meanwhile, Bashkir Interior Ministry spokesperson Ruslan Sherefetdinov said on 26 February that some 100 people took part in a meeting in Ufa the same day to support Bashkortostan's interior bodies, reported. Participants held placards demanding that persecution against the republic's Interior Ministry be stopped.

...As He Blames Opponents
Bashkir presidential press secretary Rostislav Morzagulov told Interfax-Povolzhe on 26 February that President Murtaza Rakhimov characterized calls for his dismissal voiced during protest meetings in Ufa the same day as attempts by some to take advantage of the problems of ordinary people for their own personal political gain. "Those attempts are made by people having no political weight in society, but who have huge ambitions to obtain power. This is another example of businessmen, owners of numerous profitable companies, attempting to obtain power."

Blagoveshchensk Raid Victims Stop Hunger Strike In Moscow
Five residents of Blagoveshchensk, Bashkortostan, on 25 February stopped the hunger strike they had been holding for eight days in Moscow, Ekho Moskvy and "Novye Izvestiya" reported. A member of the public commission investigating the December raid in Blagoveshchensk, Marat Khairullin, said a representative of Doctors Without Borders recommended that the strikers to stop their action.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova