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Tatar-Bashkir Report: November 5, 2004

5 November 2004
Government Discusses Privatization Of The Housing Sector...
Marat Khosnullin, minister of construction, architecture and housing, told a 4 November meeting of Tatarstan's cabinet that the current privatization process of the republic's housing sector is stumbling because only three of 44 regional and municipal administrations have submitted applications to transform state-owned housing companies into joint-stock ventures with a 25 percent plus one share owned by the government and a 75 percent stake privately owned, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day.

The minister also mentioned that the official procedures for reforming 108 of the 144 housing service companies have already been decided upon, but he considers it important that local administrations take a more active role in the transition process.

President Mintimer Shaimiev said at the same meeting that the republican government should work to draw the interest of potential investors to the housing-service companies and openly reject Khosnullin's skepticism regarding the attractiveness of such companies for investment.

...While Residents Prepare For A Major Hike Of Rates
Yevgenii Volkov, the deputy head of the Kazan city administration's construction and housing department, told reporters on 4 November that in 2005 the residents of the Tatar capital will -- like other urban residents in Tatarstan -- start paying for the 100 percent cost of housing services. This year they have paid 90 percent of those costs, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the next day.

In addition, the new year will bring a 25 percent hike in electricity rates and a twofold increase in heating costs. Water rates will increase by 68 percent and sewage bills will be 19 percent more expensive. On the whole, in 2005 Kazan residents are expected to pay 50 percent more for housing services and utility costs than they do in 2004.

Notorious Gang In Court
Tatarstan's Supreme Court on 4 November began hearing the case of the notorious "Qol Gali" criminal gang, which is accused of a series of murders and robberies in Kazan, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. The group was allegedly established in 2002, and soon managed to gain control of the underworld in the area around Qol Gali Street in the Privoljskii District of the Tatar capital. Seven members of the eight-member group are in court, as one of its members committed suicide in his prison cell in September. State Prosecutor Gulnara Shemsieva told reporters after the first day of the trial that some of the witnesses did not testify on 4 November and are likely to attend court the next day.

Kazan Mayor Receives Orthodox Christian Award
Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Aleksii II handed on 4 November his official charter "In blessing the hard work in the Glory of the Russian Orthodox Church" to Kazan Mayor Kamil Iskhakov to celebrate the latter's efforts in securing the return of the copy of the holy Kazan Mother of God icon from the Vatican, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. Aleksii reportedly stated his intent to visit Kazan during its millennium anniversary celebrations in 2005.

Meanwhile, Iskhakov's efforts are assessed differently by the Tatar public and Muslim organizations in his republic, who remember that the icon was a symbol of Tatarstan's colonization by Russian troops in the mid-16th century. This understanding is shared by the moderate nationalist movement, who note that Tsarist authorities spread the legend of the icon's miraculous discovery in the ashes of the conquered Kazan Kremlin in order to convince the native Tatar population of the Kazan khanate that the land was destined by God to be under Moscow rule. On 4 November, the Russian Orthodox Church celebrates the day of Kazan's Mother of God icon, which is considered to be responsible for Russia's victory over Polish forces in the 17th century. Also on 4 November, a roundtable of Kazan public organizations discussed plans to open a pilgrimage site at the location where the original icon was reportedly found. The resolution announcing these plans, however, was reportedly rejected by Tatarstan's Muslim Regious Board the same day.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Organization To Present Report On Bashkir Police To Human Rights Commissioner
The Russia-wide For Human Rights organization will present a report on violations committed by Bashkortostan's police officers to Russia's human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin, Rosbalt reported on 4 November. The organization has already submitted this report to Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliev, but, according to NGO leader Vladimir Ponomarev, it has had little effect and has only resulted in increasing pressure on human rights activists from law enforcement bodies. Despite these difficulties, the organization pledged to continue informing the public about existing problems in the Bashkir police.

Mystery Still Surrounds Death Of Famous Singer
On 5 November, the "Kommersant" daily reported that Vener Mustafin, a singer at Bashkortostan's State Philharmonic Concert Hall, who was found hanged on 3 November (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 4 November 2004), committed suicide. However, according to the Ufa Lenin District prosecutor Aleksei Goryabin, investigators have "a number of versions, which do not exclude suicide." "Kommersant" quoted Mustafin's family members as saying that after his participation in the presidential campaign of Relif Safin, who challenged incumbent President Murtaza Rakhimov, Vener was deprived of any opportunities to earn money and restricted from participating in any concerts in Bashkortostan.

Zyuganov's Opponents Win Sufficient Support In Bashkortostan
More than 1,000 people have submitted applications to the All-Russian Communist Party Of The Future (VKPB), established by opponents of Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, Bashinform reported on 4 November. The new party is reported to have established local offices in half of the republic's cities and regions, which is enough to open a regional branch of the VKPB.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi