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Tatar-Bashkir Report: March 24, 2005

24 March 2005
Ak Bars Bank's Ratings Up
The international rating agency Fitch Ratings has raised its ratings of Tatarstan's Ak Bars Bank, Tatarinform reported on 23 March, citing the bank's press service. The bank's individual rating was increased from D/E to D and the national long-term rating from BB(rus) to BB+(rus). The agency also confirmed the bank's other ratings, including long-term at B-, short-term at B, and support rating at 5. The prognosis on the long-term rating is "stable." The ratings were changed in the wake of an increase in the bank's capitalization of 6 billion rubles ($217.7 million) in contributions by shareholders in the fourth quarter of the previous year.

Former Severstal-Avto Manager To Head KamAZ's ZMA
Former Severstal-avto Director in charge of development Aleksandr Korneichuk became the new general director of KamAZ's Minicar Plant (ZMA), "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 24 March, citing AK&M. Previous head of ZMA Wasil Qayumov remained as KamAZ deputy general director in charge of cars. Korneichuk left Severstal-avto more than a month ago. The previous week, KamAZ transferred 74 percent of ZMA to its KamAZ-Finans affiliate, which sources close to KamAZ said was preparation for selling ZMA to Severstal-group.

Muslims Protest Anti-Islamic Campaign
Muslims of Tatarstan and Bashkortostan released a letter protesting numerous arrests of Muslims across the country and calling for fair investigations, reported on 23 March. The authors said that the enflamed hatred of Muslims imposed on the Russian public is a policy of certain political forces. "Today, law enforcement officers can rush into any mosque, stop a Muslim woman in the street, or appear suddenly in Muslims' homes. Contempt of representatives of law enforcement and authority bodies toward us is enflamed by mass media that publish intentionally false information about us."

According to the appeal's authors, their complaints to the courts, prosecutors, media, administrations, human rights organizations, and embassies to stop the campaign against Muslims were unsuccessful. Muslim demonstrations in various cities were dispersed by police, they said. In particular, one such protest was dispersed in Ufa and its participants were pursued across the city. In Kazan, 25 demonstrators were arrested, including two women, one of whom was pregnant. The Muslims were kept in custody for about 24 hours and several of them were beaten, the MiK information agency reported on 23 March.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Soldier From Bashkortostan Freed From Slavery In North Ossetia
The parents of Oleg Terekhin, a 19-year-old from Blagoveshchensk who joined the army in December 2003, freed their son from slavery in the village of Sputnik near Vladikavkaz, North Ossetia, and returned him home, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 24 March. According to the soldier, the commander of his military detachment "rented" him to a resident of North Ossetia, who forced Terekhin to work at his farm. His attempts to escape failed as local police in each case returned Terekhin to his platoon commander. As a result, Oleg's father Yevgenii Terekhin decided to visit North Ossetia and use the negotiations on Oleg's ransom for planning his escape.

Pavel Koryakov, acting chairman of Bashkortostan's Committee on Military Servicemen Security, reportedly appealed to the military prosecutor's office in the republic seeking to confirm his official status, as formally Oleg Terekhin could face trial for desertion.

Daily Looks Into Material Benefits Of Being Professional Legislator
According to the Bashkortostan edition of "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 24 March, the average salary of 25 deputies of the Bashkir parliament involved in legislative work is 20,000 rubles ($714) per month, while the amount of extra monthly payments varies between $178 and $357. Based on these figures, the daily concluded that 25 professional deputies out of 120 members of parliament have the same status as republican ministers. Besides offices in the State Assembly building, deputies are reportedly allowed to maintain reception offices, free apartments in Ufa if they are from outside the Bashkir capital, and free medication at the republic's expense.

Investigation Of Blagoveshchensk Incident Nearing End
Three hundred forty-two residents of Blagoveshchensk were officially recognized as victims of police brutality during a December 2004 raid, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 24 March, citing the office of Bashkortostan's prosecutor investigating the case.

According to the investigators, 197 of the victims were injured, while the other 145 were forcibly brought to police stations, photographed, and had their fingerprints taken. Nine officers of the Blagoveshchensk city police were charged with abuse of authority. Meanwhile, three locals are facing charges of physically opposing police officers, which later led to the escalation of police activity in the town.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi