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Tatar-Bashkir Report: April 8, 2005

8 April 2005
Speaker Chairs Meeting Of Council Of Europe Committee
Tatar State Council Speaker Farid Mukhametshin chaired a meeting of the Committee on Culture and Education of the Chamber of Regions of the Council of Europe's Congress of Local and Regional Authorities on 7 April in Strasbourg, the Tatar State Council press service reported the same day. The agenda included discussion of policy issues and modes of cooperation regarding mass media. At the committee's plenary session on 8 April, issues on youth policy, cultural identity, intercultural and interfaith dialogue are scheduled to be discussed.

Civic Groups Claim Kazan's Historical Center Destroyed
A picket protest against damage to the historical center of Kazan was staged on 6 April by the Housing Owners' Society, the Society for Protection of Monuments, the Society for Russian Culture, and Tatarstan's Public Chamber in front of the building where a session of the UNESCO Committee of World Heritage was being held, "Vremya i dengi" reported on 7 April. Tatarstan's Public Chamber passed an appeal to experts of the UNESCO committee saying preparations for Kazan's millennium violate the principles of UNESCO and the Organization of World Heritage Cities. The petitioneers said the historical center of Kazan has been destroyed because new construction is being conducted chaotically and without public discussion of the city plan. They also said reconstruction of the Kazan Kremlin violates the city plan. Owners of apartments located in downtown Kazan said they are subject to administrative pressure by city authorities to move, puportedly as part of a program to eliminate ramshackle housing.

Kazan Mayor Confident Of Return Of Holy Icon
Kazan Mayor Kamil Iskhaqov told a briefing in Kazan on 7 April that he no longer doubts that the sacred copy of the Mother of God of Kazan (Our Lady of Kazan) icon passed by Pope John Paul II to the Russian Orthodox Church in August 2004 will be returned to Kazan, "Kommersant-Volga-Urals" reported on 8 April. Iskhaqov said Patriarch Aleksii II, who initially reacted "aggressively" to the idea of returning the icon to Kazan, has finally agreed that it should be kept in the place it was found and promised to return it. Iskhaqov said that the buildings at the Bogoroditskii Monastery where the icon was kept before the 1917 revolution and the Krestovozdvizhenskii Cathedral, which is also linked to the icon, are under reconstruction but will be finished by the holiday for the Kazan icon on 22 July. "We will definitely invite Aleksii II to that holiday," Iskhaqov said, adding that he "sincerely trusts" the promise made by the patriarch.

POZIS Uses Colors Of Ukrainian Revolution In Marketing The Yeshel Uzen Sergo Plant
POZIS issued a consignment of refrigerators painted orange for Ukrainian consumers, Tatar-inform and reported on 7 April, citing the POZIS press service. The consignment of orange refirgerators has been delivered to western Ukraine and has already been sold. Meanwhile, it is reported that blue refrigerators are popular in eastern Ukraine.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Bashkir Opposition Demonstrates In Moscow
Some 200 activists belonging to the Tatar rights movement, the Bashkortostan People's Front, the Rus public and political movement, Russia's Communist Party, the Pensioners Party, and the Liberal Democratic Party from Bashkortostan picketed Lubyanka Square in central Moscow on 7 April, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reported the same day. The picketers held placards urging the immediate dismissal of Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov. They accused him of violating human rights, of obstructing free elections, and imposing private control over local petrochemical industries. After the picket, Bashkir opposition leaders reportedly handed a 107,000-signature petition to members of the Russian presidential staff.

According to an RFE/RL correspondent, the special Ufa-to-Moscow flight that carried the opposition members to the capital was delayed five hours. The press service of Ufa airport said the delay was because "one of the passengers requested his flight be cancelled after the airliner had already moved to the runway."

Jewish Leader Criticizes Orange Protests In Ufa And Moscow...
Sholom Katz, chairman of Bashkortostan's Jewish cultural center, on 7 April faulted Bashkir presidential staff head Radii Khebirov for not adequately criticizing opposition protests in Ufa and Moscow, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported. Shatz said that Khebirov "made only indirect statements regarding what is going on in Bashkorotstan" when the official spoke live on Bashkir state television the preceding day. The Jewish leader said that he expected the official "to be more direct and name distinct individuals who are craving for another redistribution of property" and whom he said were responsible for the upsurge of political protests against government.

In his TV interview, Khebirov said that some of the protesters in Ufa included workers of the Bashkir petrochemical industries and that they were obliged to demonstrate by their employers. Khebirov described the protest planned by the Bashkir opposition forces in central Moscow on 7 April as "baboon dances."

...As Other Pro-Government Ethnic Community Leaders Denounce Opposition's Efforts
Niyaz Mejitov, chairman of the pro-government Bashkortostan's Peoples' Assembly, told a press conference in Ufa on 7 April that the opposition protests in Ufa and Moscow represent "attempts to destabilize the political situation in Bashkortostan by a handful of people who are unhappy about the existing regime. They are being organized with little-known personalities who do not represent any ethnic group but defend the interests of some unnamed oligarchs," an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported.

The chairman of Bashkortostan's ethnic Russian Assembly, Vladimir Samorodov, told the same press conference that more than 100 "specially trained provocateurs from St. Petersburg" joined the anti-government protest in front of the Ufa city administration and the republican government buildings on 26 March. He charged that some politicians are "trying to abuse the current situation with monetary reform for their own benefit." Samorodov also claimed that "several men on the street is not an opposition" movement.

National-Bolsheviks Join Anti-Rakhimov Campaign
The Bashkortostan branch of the National-Bolshevik party on 7April distributed a public statement demanding the retirement of President Murtaza Rakhimov, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. The written statement said that "Rakhimov's regime is a disgrace to Russia as violence against its citizens, physical oppression of opposition, and blatant corruption become the norm in Bashkiria. World media compare Rakhimov's rule with the dictatorial regimes of Niyazov in Turkmenistan and Karimov in Uzbekistan." Referring to the December 2004 violence in Blagoveshchensk, the National-Bolsheviks also accused Moscow of being unable to react properly to the "wild and barbaric methods of government" practiced in Bashkortostan.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi