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Tatar-Bashkir Report: August 8, 2005

8 August 2005
Federal Finance Ministry Says Moscow Winding Up Investment Program In Tatarstan
Russian Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin said after an inspection of Kazan's public transport, industrial infrastructure, concert and sports venues, the environment, and housing on 6 August that problems targeted by federal and republican investment ahead of the millennial celebrations in Tatarstan's capital have been resolved. The investments came within the republic's 2001-06 socioeconomic-development and millennial-celebration plans. After the celebrations, Kudrin said, Kazan and Tatarstan will share the cost of finishing projects to build social facilities. The federal government will also transfer 6.5 billion rubles ($224 million) to complete the federal program for Tatarstan's development. In the future, Tatarstan will reportedly be allowed to seek further federal investment through a special government investment fund, on equal terms with other regions in the Russian Federation.

Kazan, St. Petersburg Discuss Monumental Mixup; Resolution Later Emerges
Visiting St. Petersburg's deputy governor, Aleksandr Vakhmistrov, told reporters on 4 August that Kazan's authorities will make their own decision over whether to decorate the newly opened St. Petersburg Street with a monument to Peter the Great, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the next day. Prior to that statement, Kazan Mayor Kamil Iskhakov publicly shared his concern over local residents' responses -- some of whom view Peter as a symbol of oppression suffered by Muslims in Russia, he noted, while others view him as an organizer of the first admiralty in Kazan, which helped to usher in economic prosperity from trade routes. Vakhmistrov said his administration "will not interfere" in the monument affair, he vowed. Two days later, on 6 August, Kazan Deputy Mayor Elfie Tutaeva told a news conference that St. Petersburg Street will house a monument to St. Petersburg native Lev Gumilev, a renowned researcher of Turkic history.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Rakhimov Meets With Federal Officials
During his visit to Moscow on 1-2 August, Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov discussed socioeconomic development and republican politics with Russian presidential administration head Dmitrii Medvedev during a visit to Moscow on 1-2 August, RosBalt reported on 4 August, citing the Bashkir presidential press service. The officials exchanged opinions regarding candidacies for the posts of chairman of the Bashkir Arbitration Court and the Russian Justice Ministry's republican board. A source within the Bashkir presidential administration reportedly told the news agency that "Medvedev was interested in how opponents of the current regional authorities behave and what might be expected from them." Rakhimov also met with Russian presidential aide Viktor Ivanov and Russian Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin to discuss preparations for celebrations commemorating the 450th anniversary of Bashkortostan's incorporation into Russia.

Nine Sentenced Over Participation In Radical Islamic Group...
Bashkortostan's Supreme Court has convicted nine people of membership of the banned Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir, Interfax-Povolzhe reported on 3 August. Eight received prison sentences of between 3 1/2 years and 8 1/2 years. The other defendant was given a 4 1/2-year suspended sentence. All of the defendants had acknowledged their membership of Hizb ut-Tahrir but denied they were guilty of any crimes, including the establishment of a criminal group for the purpose of committing serious crimes, involvement in or promotion of terrorist crimes, or the illegal purchase and possession of arms or explosive substances.

...As Rights Activists Report More Fabricated Cases Against Muslims
The chairwoman of the Civic Support Committee, Svetlana Gannushkina, alleged on 2 August that criminal cases against Islamic extremists have been fabricated to allow the appearance that such extremism is on the rise in Russia, reported on 4 August. NGO Memorial representative Vitalii Ponomarev said at the same forum that human rights activists are following 23 cases in 20 federal regions involving 80 defendants. Ponomarev added that there is a threat that the number of such cases will increase, citing a recent statement by the head of the Federal Security Service's (FSB) antiterrorism board, who said extremist religious activities have been uncovered in 50 entities of the Russian Federation. Human rights activists have claimed that Muslims are often accused of "possessing banned literature," while they said that not a single book has been banned in Russia and no expertise of seized literature has been sought. Conference participants also claimed that special services often try to provoke Muslims or fabricate weapons or narcotics offenses.

80 Percent Of Population Is 'Low Income'
A survey by the Center for Social and Political Studies at Bashkortostan's Academy of Sciences suggests that the average salary among Bashkortostan residents was 5,495 rubles ($193) in 2004, "Moskovskii komsomolets v Ufe" reported on 5 August. More than 3 percent of salaries are at or below the minimum wage of 720 rubles, while the salaries of government officials were 22 times those of nongovernment workers. Some 2 percent of the republic's population is high-income, 18 percent is middle-income, and 80 percent is low-income, according to the study. Bashkortostan's residents spent a combined 76 percent of their income on food and 19 percent on services.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova