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Tatar-Bashkir Report: June 17, 2005

17 June 2005
International Ombudsmen Conference Opens In Kazan
Speaking at an international conference on 16 June in Kazan on tolerance as a factor for the development of modern civilization, Russian Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin said that the formation of the institute of ombudsmen in Russia has been a complicated project, Tatar and Russian news agencies reported the same day. Lukin said obtaining information about human rights violations from Russian regions is complicated by the fact that not all federation subjects have ombudsmen. He called on federal and regional authorities to promote adoption of the law on a human rights representative. Lukin criticized displays of chauvinism in Russia and the policy restricting the inflow of migrants to the country. Lukin also said that in "regard [to] complaints of human rights violations, Tatarstan is no different from other regions of the country."

In an interview with RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 16 June, Moscow Helsinki Group Chairwoman Lyudmila Alekseeva criticized the abolishment of the direct election of the heads of Russian regions, saying that such a reform violates human rights as regional parliaments may be dissolved in the case that they refuse to vote for the candidates proposed by the Russian president. Alekseeva told RFE/RL's Kazan bureau the same day that Tatarstan "isn't the best and isn't the worst among Russian regions as regards human rights." She added that there are strong human rights organizations in Tatarstan.

Tatarstan's ombudsman, Reshit Wegyizov, told the conference that he receives about 1,000 appeals from people regarding human rights violations and between 7 and 11 percent of them are resolved. Wegyizov added that only a few of them concern religious and interethnic issues.

Police Seize Arsenal Of Organized Criminal Group
Tatarstan's Interior Ministry reported on 15 June about the seizure on 14 June of a big arsenal of arms belonging to Kvartala, one of Kazan's biggest organized crime groups, Tatar news agencies reported.

The weapon store contained, among other things: two Kalashnikov machine guns; Makarov, Walter, and TT pistols; two revolvers; two self-made pistols; two remote-control explosive devices; 40 grenades; 37 detonators; 10 electrical detonators; safety fuses, and 500 cartridges.

Twenty-six members of the group have been arrested and have been charged with organizing a criminal community, murder, racketeering, and robbery. Investigators charged the group with involvement in some 17 murders. During the investigation the remains of seven missing people were found.

The Kvartala group is involved in "roofing" (providing "cover" for) stores, cafes, and markets in Kazan's Lenin Raion and supervises some businesses in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and other cities.

Controversial Beer House Near Qol Sherif Mosque To Be Removed
Kazan Mayor Kamil Iskhaqov said on 16 June that the beer house Crayfishes, located under the Kremlin wall, will be removed in the near future, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day.

Iskhaqov made his comment as he accompanied Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov on a tour around objects under construction and due to be completed by the August Kazan millennium celebrations. Minnikhanov backed the decision to remove the pub from the site.

Tatarstan's Muslim Women's Union has repeatedly appealed to authorities to remove the facility, which is located near the newly constructed Qol Sherif Mosque, which is scheduled to open on 24 June (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 2 June 2005).

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Bashneft Trade Unions Reach Accord With Company Management
Bashkortostan's oil sector trade unions dropped their lawsuit against Bashneft management, "Kommersant-Volga-Ural" reported on 17 June. The lawsuit sought to overturn a Bashneft order to reorganize. Under that order, 18 percent of the company's employees would be laid-off.

Bashkortostan's Oil and Gas Industry Trade Union deputy chairman, Aleksandr Grishin, told the news agency that the move came in the wake of a deal reached between the trade unions and company management.

Grishin said an agreement between management and the trade unions "on the defense of rights of employees" will be signed by 15 September.

The reorganization plan called for eliminating nine existing oil-and-gas producing boards and establishing three subdivisions in their place.

Fuel-And-Energy Companies' Managers Return To Parliament
The top managers of Bashkortostan's fuel and energy sector, headed by Ural Rakhimov, returned to parliamentary sessions on 16 June, RosBalt reported the same day.

Ural, the son of Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov, is the general director of the Institute for Regional Economy and Law Ural. The executive director of the same institute, Viktor Gantsev, and Bashkirenergo General Director Nikolai Kurapov have missed parliamentary sessions since they tried to dismiss speaker Konstantin Tolkachev and replace him with Ural Rakhimov.

Interior Ministry Warns About 'Blagoveshchensk Syndrome'
Attacks on Interior Ministry employees in the republic are on the rise as a result of the December 2004 Blagoveshchensk incident, Baskortostan's Interior Ministry spokesman Ruslan Sherefetdinov said on 16 June.

In three similar incidents this week, Interior Ministry employees were injured and state property was damaged.

Four drunk men attacked a police station on 13 June. The next day, a drunk man injured an Interior Ministry employee in Neftekamsk. That employee suffered a concussion. On 15 June, an employee was hospitalized following an attack in Aqyar village.

Ten Interior Ministry employees were sued following an assault on Blagoveshchensk, in which it was found that 340 residents were victims of human-rights abuses.

President Rakhimov on 16 June expressed concern over the trend. "After Blagoveshchensk, any actions by interior bodies are considered as something illegal," he said. "This is a dangerous trend."

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova