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Tatar-Bashkir Report: April 6, 2005

6 April 2005
Shaimiev Praises Pontiff's Efforts To Return Holy Icon To Russia
In an interview with Interfax-Povolzhe on 4 April, Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev called for remembering that it was Pope John Paul II who decided to return to Russia a sacred 18th-century copy of the Mother of God of Kazan (Our Lady of Kazan) icon. Shaimiev said the pontiff, despite being extremely busy, found time to receive a delegation from Tatarstan to discuss preparations for the return of the icon to Russia.

During that meeting, the pope said he would like to return the Orthodox relic to Russian Christians while he was alive. Shaimiev added he does not doubt the pope's sincerity and denied media speculation that the pontiff was going to use the icon issue to settle controversies between the Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches. "I am convinced that John Paul II had personal return with his own hand the relic to Russia without any conditions," Shaimiev said. The icon was handed over to Patriarch Aleksii II on 28 August 2004.

Kazan Mayor Kamil Iskhaqov expressed his regret on 5 April that John Paul II did not manage to visit Kazan, "the ancient city where [the] Our Lady of Kazan [icon] he honored so much appeared."

Few Changes Expected In Government
Tatar acting Prime Minister Rawil Moratov told an Internet conference on 5 April that the staff and structure of the Tatar government that resigned following the reappointment of Mintimer Shaimiev as Tatarstan's president will not undergo substantial changes, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. The prime minister will most likely remain the same and the number of his deputies is unlikely to change, Moratov said. Moratov did not exclude, however, the possibility of changing some ministers.

UN Deputy Secretary-General To Attend Kazan Jubilee Celebrations
Kazan Mayor Iskhaqov reached agreement on participation by UN-Habitat Executive Director and UN Undersecretary-General Anna Tibaijuka in celebrations devoted to Kazan's millennium on 22-25 June, reported on 5 April. Mayoral assistant on international relations Rasikh Segitov told the news agency that the agreement was reached during Iskhaqov's visit to Nairobi, where he took part in the meeting of the UN-Habitat's Managing Council. Iskhaqov, who is the vice president of the World Organization of United Cities and a member of the UN's Consultative Council on local self government, was a member of the Russian delegation at the meeting. Tibaijuka is scheduled to take part in a summit of local authorities, a general assembly of local authorities of Eurasia, a meeting of the council of the Organization of Cities of World Heritage, a meeting of the Council of Historical Cities, an opening ceremony of the Qol Sherif Mosque, and the Tatar national holiday Saban tuye. Bilateral agreements between UN-Habitat and the Commonwealth of Independent States are planned to be signed during the visit.

Audit Chamber Finds Violations In Rural Schools
Tatarstan's Audit Chamber released on 4 April the results of an audit held in the republic's rural schools to inspect how they use satellite equipment installed under a five-year federal program, "Kommersant-Volga-Urals" reported on 5 April. The audit revealed that 43 of 89 sets of satellite equipment are not in use. Chamber Chairman Aleksei Demidov said the materials will be sent to the Russian Audit Chamber to take corresponding measures. The equipment was distributed to provide rural schools access to the Russian Education and Science Ministry's information and educational resources. Tatarstan's Education and Science Ministry said the low efficiency in the use of the equipment was due to a lack of satellite connection and impossibility of linking to the information network.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Joint Press Conference Reveals Cracks In Opposition Program...
The aim of Bashkortostan's opposition is the removal of President Murtaza Rakhimov and preserving the current status of the republic, Ramil Bignov, Ayrat Dilmokhemmetov, and Anatolii Dubovskii, representing respectively the ethnic Tatar, Bashkir, and Russian wings of the umbrella opposition group, told reporters on 5 April in Moscow, an RFE/RL Moscow correspondent reported the same day (see "RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Report," 5 April 2005). In statements regarding their planned protest on 7 April, the opposition leaders reportedly expressed optimism regarding Russian President Vladimir Putin's reaction to their activities.

Speaking of possible candidates to replace Rakhimov, Bignov said that his organization would eagerly discuss candidates proposed by Putin. Meanwhile, Dilmokhemmetov expressed a different view, saying that his followers will disagree with any candidacies offered by Moscow. The three also expressed their readiness to oppose any attempts of sabotaging their activities by the Bashkir authorities.

...As Political Analyst Suggests Moscow Using Opposition To Tame Rakhimov
In an interview aired by Ekho Moskvy's "Kod dostupa" program on 4 April, political analyst Yuliya Latynina said that in her opinion, recent opposition activity in Bashkortostan "had nothing in common with democratic revolutions as in Ukraine or Kyrgyzstan." She claimed that the leaders of the Bashkir opposition enjoyed the support of members of President Putin's staff, "because it is a quite frequently used move of the Kremlin -- to use the help of the opposition to remind the president of this or that republic that he is behaving not so correctly or showing enough respect."

Latynina added that besides the political agenda, Moscow had material issues to be resolved with Bashkortostan. She noted that the Kremlin wanted to reclaim the stakes of Bashkir petrochemical industries that had been withdrawn to offshore zones before the 2003 Bashkir presidential elections.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi