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Tatar-Bashkir Report: November 4, 2002

4 November 2002
Lawmaker Arrested For Murder Of Local Administration Chief
Rustam Zakirov, a deputy in Tatarstan's State Council, has been arrested and charged with organizing the murder of the head of Tatarstan's Egerje Raion, Refis Seyetov, who was killed outside his home in Nizhnee Kuchukovo early on the morning of 31 August (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 2 September 2002), reported on 1 November, citing an unidentified source in the republic's Prosecutor's Office. According to the source, two members of an organized criminal group in Izhevsk, the capital of Udmurtia, had previously been arrested under suspicion that they carried out the killing. Investigators are focusing on Seyetov's professional activities to find a motive for the crime, suggesting the possibility that a criminal group from Izhevsk was trying to exercise its influence over the Egerje Raion as well, of which Zakirov is a former head.

Vandalism Suspects Begin Hunger Strike
Two women charged with participating in the destruction of part of the chapel of St. Tatyana's Russian Orthodox Church in Chally on 2 October, Marzyia Shakirova and Elfie Zinnurova (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 2, 30, and 31 October 2002), have begun a hunger strike, and reported on 1 November, citing the Chally Prosecutor's Office. The two women, along with Nionella Fazlyeva, have been charged with malicious destruction or of property; inciting interethnic, racial, or religious discord; and vandalism. Shakirova and Zinnurova pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The women did not, however, deny attacking the church. Instead, they claimed their actions were not aimed at Orthodox believers but were intended to support Chally city-planning regulations according to which a puppet theater was supposed to be built on the site where the church is being constructed. The theater, however, was built in another location, while the Chally mayor allotted the controversial location for the church in 1994. The women said they believe that no religious buildings should be built near Victory Park, which commemorates people of all faiths.

"Vostochnyi ekspress" weekly commented on 1 November that numerous reports in federal media outlets about the 2 October attack said this is an indication of increasing religious tension in the republic, but not a single publication mentioned that Fazlyeva, the alleged organizer of the attack, is a Christian Tatar.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Chechen Community Head Promotes Maskhadov Role In Talks
The head of Bashkortostan's Chechen community, Lomali Israilov, told RosBalt on 2 November that he "and many of the Chechen people consider exiled Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov a man with an untainted reputation. We remember the way he [as Chechen president] was reviving normal life in Chechnya after the first war there, despite the absence of help from the federal center." Israilov recalled that during the first war in Chechnya, which began in 1994, he personally met with Maskhadov, who helped to return 12 Russian Army servicemen captured by Chechen rebels.

In the same interview he also denounced the 24 October hostage taking in Moscow "just like any other act of terrorism," and urging that the "terrorist acts and bandit attacks should not affect the attitude of Russia's residents to the Chechens." Israilov added that the goal of his Chechen Public and Cultural Center in Bashkortostan was the "creation of a positive image of the Chechen people and introducing the republic's residents to the Chechen culture and customs."

He said "many Chechens, living in Bashkortostan, have problems with passports and getting new jobs, but they don't feel oppressed, remembering how the Bashkir government provided the Chechen Republic with humanitarian aid in the 1990s."

Bashkir Deputy Says New Constitution To Bring More Democracy
In his official comment regarding the new Bashkir constitutional draft submitted for public discussion on 29 October (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 30 October 2002), Zoefer Yenikeev, a legal expert and deputy of the Legislative Committee in the Bashkir State Assembly, wrote that the future state reform introducing a parliamentary republic in Bashkortostan "will contribute to the democratization of our society and letting the citizens rule the state through their representatives -- parliamentary deputies."

Congress Re-Elects Bashkortostan's Muslim Leader To Third Term
Bashkortostan's Muslims gathered for their fifth congress on 2 November, re-electing Bashkir Muslim Religious Board Chairman Nurmokhemmet Nigmetullin to another five-year term, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. During the open vote, Nigmetullin faced only one rival -- Ismegyil Mokhemetyanov, Muslim leader in the Beloretsk, Uchali, and Burzyan regions of Bashkortostan, who reportedly won only a few ballots from the total of 193.

Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov, State Assembly speaker Konstantin Tolkachev, and Bashkortostan's Orthodox Christian leader Archbishop Nikon addressed written greetings to the congress.

Orthodox Leader Praises Interconfessional Accord In Bashkortostan
Archbishop Nikon of Ufa and Sterlitamaq said in speech at the Bashkir Muslim Congress on 4 November that he "was satisfied with the level of cooperation and interaction of his eparchy and the Muslim Religious Board", an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported. He praised the current relations between the Orthodox Christians and Muslims in the republic as "remaining kind and mutually respectful" in the last 400 years, since the lands of modern Bashkortostan joined the Russian state.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi