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Tatar-Bashkir Report: July 16, 2004

16 July 2004
Mother Of God Of Kazan To Be Returned To Tatarstan's Capital...
Mother of God of Kazan (Our Lady of Kazan) icon will be returned to Kazan in August, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on 15 July in Rome, ITAR-TASS and other news agencies reported. Lavrov said the measure "is very important on the threshold of Kazan's 1,000th anniversary." Lavrov said "the further development of relations between Russia and the Vatican, which have been developing for 15 years, will be promoted by eliminating remaining problems between the Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches." Asked about possibility of a papal visit to Russia, Lavrov said "nobody has raised the issue at the negotiations." Lavrov held talks in Rome with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Anjelo Sodano.

John Paul II had previously announced his intention to return the Mother of God of Kazan icon to the Russian Orthodox Church and hoped to do it on a personal visit to Russia (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 12 July 2004), though the Russian Orthodox Church has not approved such a visit. The Vatican on 10 July announced that it will return the sacred wooden icon -- a copy of an icon that was discovered among the ruins of Kazan in 1579 -- during a 28 August ceremony. The copy was taken from the Soviet Union following the Bolshevik Revolution and resurfaced in the 1970s when it was purchased by a Roman Catholic group.

...As Kazan Leadership Plans To Restore Monastery Where It Was Kept
Speaking on 15 July in Tatarstan's capital, Kazan Mayor Kamil Iskhaqov said the icon will likely initially be placed in the Eparchy Board's church or in St. Peter and Paul's Cathedral. He said the Kazan Virgin's nunnery will be restored as the permanent home of the icon. The restoration of the nunnery, which is included in a federal program restoring Kazan's historical center, will cost $5-8 million.

In 2000, Iskhaqov had a meeting with Pope John Paul II in Rome during which the two sides agreed that the icon will be returned to Kazan before 2005 (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 1 November 2000).

Ethnic Tatars From Outside Tatarstan Applying In Greater Numbers To Republican Universities
World Tatar Congress (BTK) Executive Committee Deputy Chairman Ilsur Khadiullin told RFE/RL's Kazan bureau on 15 July that over 230 Tatars from outside Tatarstan have applied this year to enter the republic's institutions of higher education. Some 160 of them are from other Russian regions and 70 are from abroad. A large number of the applications were from students in Bashkortostan. The previous year, 66 of 166 Tatar applicants were accepted in the republic's universities. This year's quota for "foreign" Tatars accepted into republican universities is 86. Getting ethnic Tatars from outside Tatarstan to study in the republic's universities is promoted by the Tatar government and the BTK. BTK keeps Tatar civic groups in Russia's regions and abroad informed about opportunities for students to study in Tatarstan.

Cars Withdrawn From Violators Of Automobile Insurance Law
The Tatar State Traffic Security Inspection began on 1 July towing uninsured cars to "penalty" parking lots, "Kommersant-Povolzhe" reported on 16 July. Thus far 15 automobiles have been towed, said Maksim Belugin, spokesman for the department making the inspections, told the daily. The law introducing the towing of vehicles was effective on 1 January, though there was a moratorium on the towings until 1 June.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Bashkir Interior Minister Called To Moscow After Demonstration
Human rights activists demonstrated on 15 July near the Interior Ministry in Moscow to protest " arbitrary police rule" in Bashkortostan and the activities of Bashkir Interior Minister Rafail Divaev, Russian news agencies reported the same day. For Human Rights movement head Lev Ponomarev, Committee For Civil Rights Chairman Andrei Babushkin, Bashkir human rights activist Ildar Isengulov, former Bashkir anti-organized-crime head Reis Dewletqujin, as well as members of the Moscow Helsinki Group, Civic Resistance movement, and Yabloko were among some 30 protesters. The picket was intended to last four days and be followed by a hunger strike of mothers whose children were allegedly killed by Bashkir Interior Ministry officers.

The Russian Interior Ministry main inspectorate's deputy head, General Nikolai Mamontov, told a briefing the same day that Minister Rashid Nurgaliev has ordered Divaev to Moscow to report on his ministry's activities. Mamontov held a two-hour meeting with protesters following the picket, during which he was informed about alleged killings of Bashkortostan residents by Bashkir Interior Ministry personnel. Mamontov said the federal Interior Ministry "will hold investigations on each incident and will pass judicial decisions." Mamontov recalled that after an inspection last year, the Bashkir interior minister's performance was criticized. At the same time, answering demands for Divaev's dismissal, he said the situation shouldn't be dramatized.

Member of the Presidential Commission on Human Rights Valerii Borshchev said at the briefing that human rights activists will continue to watch the situation in Bashkortostan, as the republic is "a territory where the situation of human rights is unsatisfactory and disturbing."

Speaking at the demonstration, Ponomarev said, "If in other regions people are tortured and beaten, in Bashkortostan they are killed." "Divaev covers up killers among police officers by awarding them degrees and encouragement during investigation and trial against them," Isengulov said.

Bashinformsvyaz To Enter Foreign Stock Markets
The Bashinformsvyaz communications company has established the Bashtelekominvest firm to place its shares on the Russian and foreign stock markets, Bashinformsvyaz spokesman Rushan Kireev told Interfax-Povolzhe on 15 July. Bashinformsvyaz plans to issue GDR on its shares. Bashtelekominvest's capital of 80.3 million rubles ($2.7 million) was formed by the only participant, Bashinformsvyaz, which has capital of 985 million rubles. Bashinformsvyaz is Bashkortostan's biggest provider of land-line telephone communications.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova