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Tatar-Bashkir Report: August 21, 2003

21 August 2003
Drug Agency Expects Upsurge Of Traffic Through Tatarstan
Valerii Krasilnikov, head of the Tatar Interior Ministry's narcotics agency, told reporters on 20 August that his subordinates have seized more than 150 kilograms of drugs so far in 2003, reported the same day. The catch reportedly included 7 kilograms of heroin. According to Krasilnikov, agency officials are expecting an increase in heroin trafficking through Tatarstan later this year. He explained this by the increase of drug production in Afghanistan.

Unified Russia Branch Elects New Chally Mayor As Member Of Political Council
An emergency session of the Chally branch of the Unified Russia party elected the newly appointed mayor Ildar Khalikov as a member of its political council on 20 August, RFE/RL's Chally correspondent reported the same day. The Chally branch is reportedly the largest Unified Russia representation in Tatarstan with 7200 members. After being unanimously elected, Khalikov said that he did not doubt that "Unified Russia candidates will win the majority of votes in Chally" during the December State Duma elections.

Moscow School Starts Tatar Classes
Moscow school Number 189 has introduced Tatar and Arabic language lessons for first and second graders, reported on 20 August. Children of Moscow Tatar communities have been attending a Tatar kindergarten or have received lessons in local mosques. A number of elementary schools in Pushkino, Korolev, Podolsk, and Elektrostal in the Moscow Oblast have reportedly also offered Tatar language classes.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Head Of Journalists Union Slams Bashkortostan's Media Policies
Russian Journalists Union Secretary-General Igor Yakovenko told a press conference titled "Freedom of speech Bashkir-style" that "after analyzing the situation in all 89 Russian regions in 1999-2000 we came to the conclusion that Bashkortostan has the least favorable regime, which very strongly contradicts the Russian Constitution and prevents the development of free speech," reported the same day. He added that the "central television channels and central press are being blocked from time to time in Bashkortostan." Yakovenko claimed that "a group of Moscow journalists have done some research and found out that many of the articles of the central newspapers are being cut, reduced, and replaced with local information, or the newspapers just don't reach the readers." Such censorship was reportedly practiced against the "Komsomolskaya pravda," "Gazeta," "Kommersant," and "Izvestiya" dailies and the "Versiya" and "Argumenty i fakty" weeklies, as well as other Russian newspapers. Yakovenko called it a "typical Soviet media regime," in an area where people on average read 4 1/2 times more newspapers than in Moscow.

However, he said, "The regime is psychologically and intellectually behind the modern communication technologies and is unable to ensure an adequate retaliation to websites" which offer views other than the official ones on developments in Bashkortostan.

At the same press conference, Eduard Khusnutdinov, editor in chief of Bashkortostan's "Vechernii Neftekamsk" daily, appealed for help for journalists in the republic "who are afraid for their lives, our newspapers. If it wasn't easy for us to live before, now it will get especially hard."

Ufa Proposes Introduction Of Internet Day
The Ufa city administration has proposed celebrating 30 September as Internet Day, RosBalt reported on 20 August. The holiday would unite Ufa's web community and promote Internet technologies among other residents of the Bashkir capital. The same date has been marked as the unofficial Day of Russian Internet since 1998, when the InfoArt publishing house conducted a census of web users in Russia that found 1 million existed.

Ufa Schools To Get $5 million In 2003 For Repairs
Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov told a conference of Bashkortostan's teachers on 20 August that this year the schools of the Bashkir capital would get 150 million rubles ($5 million) for repair work from the republic and the city, RosBalt reported the same day.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi