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Tatar-Bashkir Report: October 28, 2002

28 October 2002
Duma Deputies On Moscow Hostage Crisis
Interviewed by on 26 October, State Duma deputies from Tatarstan commented on the Moscow hostage situation as Chechen militants took some 800 people hostage in a Moscow theater.

Fendes Safiullin (Russia's Regions) said a war being held on the territory of their country inevitably knocks every house. Safiullin said, "We can concentrate all our anger on criminals who keep innocent people hostage, but it is more necessary to analyze objectively all circumstances that brought this great misfortune and to look as soon as possible for real ways to establish peace and concord between Russia and Chechnya."

Farida Gainullina (Fatherland-All Russia) said the Chechen "knot" can be only undone with the help of political solutions since violence always provoke violence. "We cannot be sure that following that incident, extremist youth groups, which have actively propagated recently the slogan 'Russia -- for Russians, Moscow -- for Muscovites,' will not become more active," Gainullina said.

Aleksandr Salii (Communist) said taking hostages in Moscow is a result of the inconsistent state policy in Chechnya held since 1994, when then-government head Yegor Gaidar made a "fine gesture" by passing armaments and military technique to "one small Caucasus republic." Then Boris Berezovskii developed that trend through his agreements on ransom of Chechen captives. No reasonable arguments exist for Chechen widows who are ready for death, Salii said.

Muslim Religious Board Thanks Russian People For Tolerance Toward Islam
The Tatar Muslim Religious Board issued a statement on 26 October to express its condolences to relatives of hostages who died when special units stormed the theater in Moscow in which Chechen militants had been holding hundreds of hostages, reported the same day. The board said Islam should not be equated to terrorism and was pleased that no defaming words were published in the mass media regarding Islam during the three days of the hostage conflict. Muslim leaders said this appears to be a reaction to the timely words by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who said Islam as a religion was not involved in that heinous crime. The board praised the professionalism of the commanding staff and special units that minimized victims of the terrorist act. The board called on the country's residents not to sow interethnic discord and not to attach religious color to political conflicts.

Head of the Tatar Muslim Religious Board Gosman Iskhaqov said he believes "everyone will conclude that we cannot have confessional or ethnic controversies. That shocking case should draw us closer," reported on 26 October.

Speaker Criticizes Interbudget Relations
Tatar State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin took part on 25 October in a meeting of the Council of Legislators of Russia devoted to improving legal regulation of interbudget relations, reported the next day. Mukhametshin told the website that the concentration of means in the federal budget is continuing, something that resulted in the reduction of the number of donor regions from 18 to 10 since federation subjects have lost any interest in increasing their income. Ten of Russia's federation subjects provide 60 percent of the total revenues to the federal budget, while 79 federation subjects receive subsidies from it, an abnormal state that won't have good consequences for the country, he said.

Mukhametshin said the concentration of money in the 2003 budget may be explained to some extent by a large state debt, with payments due of $17.3 billion next year. If the budget policy and interbudget relations are not revised, however, beginning from 2004 the federal budget will face difficulties, Mukhametshin added.

World Islamic League Head Visits Kazan
World Islamic League Secretary-General Abdullah bin Abdul-Muhsin at-Turki arrived in Kazan for a two-day visit on 26 October, reported. The deputy chairman of the Tatar Muslim Religious Board, Weliulla Yaqubov, told the site that the visitor shows interest in the issue of how the Muslim community in Tatarstan could preserve its unity and integrity, unlike in some of Russia's other regions. A delegation headed by at-Turki plans to join on 27 October a plenum of the Tatar Muslim Religious Board and to meet with the rectors of the Islamic educational institutions.

Official Says Census Figure Higher Than Expected
Tatar State Statistics Committee Chairman Valerii Kandilov told "Respublika Tatarstan" on 25 October that the republic's population has been completely covered by the census and the total figure exceeded the one that was set during the preliminary round. "That shows the success of the census and denies 'forecasts' about the extinction of the population," Kandilov said. He also said the issue of national identity, including that of Christian Tatars, was pushed by the media. He said no more than 15 residents appealed to the census staff's direct line on the issue of Christian Tatars, adding that in the majority of cases, parents representing different ethnic groups could not agree on how to register their children.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Bashkir President Suggests Negotiation Scheme For Chechen Conflict
Speaking at a ceremony devoted to agricultural workers in Ufa on 25 October, Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov suggested that the opposing sides in the Chechen conflict turn to a scheme of trilateral negotiations similar to that used for settling the conflict in Tajikistan, Interfax-Eurasia reported the same day. "In this case," he said, "representatives of Chechen rebels led by Aslan Maskhadov and representatives of [Chechen administration head] Akhmad Kadyrov will have to sit at the same table and hold talks with Russian presidential representatives monitoring. This is the most realistic variant of solving the Chechen problem." He added, "There's still a possibility of trying to do this on the basis of the Russian Federal Constitution and preserving the country's territorial integrity." Rakhimov said it would be impossible to negotiate solely with Maskhadov, "having Kadyrov brushed aside" because such an approach "would ignite a civil war."

Referring to the Moscow hostage crisis that ended in tragedy on 26 October, Rakhimov said, "These terrorists don't care about the Chechen people's interests, since they have already done colossal damage to the [Chechen] republic by their actions." He urged law enforcement agents to "to act cautiously and in compliance with the federal law on fighting terrorism."

Ufa-Based Muslim Leader Condemns Hostage Takers
Telget Tajetdin, chairman of the Central Muslim Religious Board of Russia and the European countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States, told ITAR-TASS on 25 October on behalf of the board that the Moscow hostage takers "made hostages of the entire Chechen people, peoples of the North Caucasus, and over 15 million Muslims in Russia." He added, "There can be no justification to this mean act of terror -- by religious, conscientious, or legal principles." Tajetdin said his board "attempted to contact the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Moscow and the head of World Islamic League, Abdulla Turki, who was in Moscow" to contact and influence the terrorists, "but this brought no results."

Official Says Five Bashkortostan Residents Survived Moscow Hostage Ordeal...
The deputy head of Bashkortostan's representation in Moscow, Abbas Gallyamov, was cited by Bashinform on 26 October as saying five republican residents who were among the hostages in the Moscow theater were rescued alive. Four of the five Bashkortostan residents -- two spectators and three performers in the "Nord-Ost" musical -- reportedly needed urgent medical assistance, he said. Only Marat Abdrakhimov, an actor from Ufa, was allowed to leave the hospital soon after being freed in the predawn raid on 26 October.

...As Freed Hostage Gives Account Of Theater Rescue
Abdrakhimov told reporters on 26 October that he had "no emotions, no anger, no fear, and no joy" after being rescued. He said that practically all of the hostages were sleeping before Russian police forces launched their predawn raid. "We didn't even understand that it was actually a storming, because it happened so quickly. We were so tired that we didn't perceive the developments for real. I only believed that I was rescued when I was taken outside," he said. According to TVS television on 27 October, hostages who were asleep when the rescue operation began were least harmed by the still-mysterious gas used by the special forces, since sleep reduces air consumption.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi