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Tatar-Bashkir Report: March 1, 2005

1 March 2005
Russian Newspaper Predicts Shaimiev's Reappointment
"Rossiiskaya gazeta" wrote on 16 February that Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev, unlike many political veterans, has every chance of being reappointed to head the republican administration.

However, the newspaper also cited a "leak" suggesting that Shaimiev might be replaced by Russian Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliev.

Meanwhile, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 16 February quoted Institute of Regional Issues Director Maksim Dianov commenting that "Tatarstan needs a more astute leader who can act within the stream of oriental policy."

Observers questioned by "Rossiiskaya gazeta" said they considered the selection of Nurgaliev unlikely due to the public reception it would receive. Some of the same people suggested that a Nurgaliev administration would embark on a sizable redistribution of assets despite opposition from the "Shaimiev clan." Makarkin said Nurgaliev's ability to "curb regional opposition" and his manageability make him an attractive candidate to the Kremlin.

Premier Considers Monetization Poorly Implemented
Prime Minister Minnikhanov said on 18 February that the "monetization [of social benefits] is necessary and became imminent but is being implemented in the country incorrectly," "Kommersant-Volga-Urals" reported on 19 February. He said that "both federal [and republican] spend much more money" as a result of the social-benefits reform, but added that the measures are justified by the fact that "we are building a normal market-oriented system." Minnikhanov suggested that the authorities "did not expect the issue to be so complex, especially with the formation of a database [of benefits recipients] that already contains a lot of incorrect data, distortions, and mistakes." He added that the allocation of huge sums of money has not prevented "chaos in supply with medicines." "The situation in the housing and municipal-services sector is even more complex," Minnikhanov said.

Kazan To Launch Production Of Tu-334 In 2006
The first Tu-334 jets will be produced in Kazan in 2006, Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev told a Russian State Council Presidium session in Zhukovskii on 22 February, Prime-TASS reported the same day. Shaimiev said he hopes the Russian prime minister will sign a corresponding resolution within days.

"Beginning in 2007, we will be able to produce 20 aircraft a year," Shaimiev said.

At the meeting, it was decided to establish the United Aircraft Company. Shaimiev said that since the early 1990s, Tatarstan has allocated some $500 million from the republican budget into the construction of Mi-38 and Ansat helicopters and Tu-214 jets. Another $200 million was allocated toward the development of Tu-324 aircraft.

Military Pensioners Demand Restoration Of In-Kind Benefits
A protest by military pensioners against socioeconomic reforms was held on 23 February near the Tatar Kamal State Drama Theater in Kazan, RIA-Novosti and "Kommersant-Volga-Urals" reported on 23 and 24 February, respectively. Roughly 500 demonstrators, organized by the Tatarstan branch of the Movement for the Support of the Army (DPA) and the Communist Party, organized an appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin demanding that in-kind social benefits be restored for all servicemen and military employees, as well as pensioners of law enforcement bodies. Placards called for "public supervision over housing and municipal-services tariffs" and curbs on housing and municipal services costs at 10 percent of family budgets.

Kremlin Official Meets With Muslim Leaders
Russian deputy presidential-administration head Vladislav Surkov met on 22 February with a group of Russia's Muslim leaders, Tatarinform reported on 24 February. Council of Muftis of Russia Chairman Ravil Gainutdin, Tatarstan's Muslim Religious Board Chairman Gosman Iskhaqov, and Nizhnii Novgorod and Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast Muslim Religious Board Chairman Umar Idrisov took part in the meeting, during which the participation of Muslim organizations in the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II was discussed. Another issue on the agenda concerned religious education, including publishing textbooks for Muslim educational institutions and training imams. Participants criticized the media for spreading negative images regarding Islam as a religion disseminating evil. Ways for religious organizations to cooperate in spreading objective information about Islam, Muslims, and Muslim organizations were also considered.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

FSB Brings Espionage Charges Against Ufa Researcher
The Bashkir branch of the Federal Security Service (FSB) charged Oskar Kaibyshev, head of the Ufa Institute of Metal Super-plasticity, with selling top-secret technologies to South Korea, RFE/RL�s Ufa correspondent reported on 21 February. According to the investigators, Kaibyshev shared technologies that could be used for both civilian and military purposes. The alleged deal reportedly caused Russia some $100,000 in damages. Kaibyshev told RFE/RL on 21 February that the FSB has thoroughly monitored his institute�s work for the last two years and that the technology cited in the case was already patented in the United States, thus undermining the claims of its high secrecy. If convicted for sharing a state secret to third parties, the researcher would face 10 years in prison.

Russian Court Confirms Claim Against Bashkir Refineries
Russia�s Constitutional Court has rejected an appeal by the Bashkir government against a Tax Service demand that the republic�s petrochemical industry pay Moscow some $500 in back taxes, RFE/RL�s Ufa correspondent reported on 21 February. Previously, the republican authorities sought to evade federal taxes by registering Bashkir oil refining facilities in the Baikonur offshore zone in Kazakhstan. Soon after his re-election in late 2003, President Murtaza Rakhimov pledged that his government would acknowledge and repay the refineries� debt.

Bashkir Leader Discusses Blagoveschensk Incident With Russian Deputy Interior Minister
President Murtaza Rakhimov met with Russian Deputy Interior Minister Sergei Shchadrin on 22 February in Ufa to discuss the appointment of a new Bashkir deputy interior minister in charge of public security and improving the work of policemen in cities and rural areas, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported the same day, citing the presidential press service. Referring to the December 2004 developments in Blagoveshchensk, Shchadrin told the Bashkir officials about his recent meetings with residents of that city. According to the guest, "We cannot allow some definite forces to present police actions aimed at preserving public order as illegal. In this situation a great role is played by the policemen themselves, because their work has to be active, confident and easy to notice and at the same time easy to comprehend for population."

...As Yavlinskii Says Raid Highlights Spread Of Russian Police Violence
Yabloko party leader Grigorii Yavlinskii issued a public statement on 22 February in the wake of the December 2004 incident in Blagoveshchensk, Bashkortostan, saying that "currently Russia has an authoritarian regime that is characterized by an absence of control over law-enforcement bodies, which commit mass violations of constitutional rights and freedoms of the citizens," RosBalt reported the same day. He said that the Blagoveshchensk raid represented a "logical transition" of the practice of security sweeps beyond the borders of Chechnya and that they now threaten to spread across Russia.

Relatives Of Air-Collision Victims File New Lawsuit
Relatives of the victims of the mid-air collision over Germany filed a new lawsuit against the Swiss Skyguide air-traffic-control company, the Volga-Urals edition of "Kommersant" wrote on 22 February (see "RFE/RL's Tatar Bashkir Report," 2 July 2002). The suit reportedly represents the claims of relatives who hadn't previously appealed against Skyguide and who are also suing the producer of the anticollision computers used by both jets. The new suits refer to a May 2004 statement by the German agency that investigates air accidents, which cited a number of malfunctions permitted by Skyguide and the absence of a single international protocol in the use of air-navigation equipment.

Bashinform Interviews Former Hunger Striker
On 23 February the state information agency Bashinform published an interview with one of the young men who recently began a hunger strike in Moscow to protest the conduct of the Blagoveshchensk incident investigation (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 24 January, 16 February 2005). Marat Sabirov, a 22-year-old Ukrainian national, told the agency that he was from Blagoveshchensk and expected the organizers of the protest to help him with Russian citizenship. In his words, the organizers of the protest, including some of Bashkortostan�s journalists and activists of the local branch of "Za prava cheloveka" ("For human rights") movement fed the hunger strikers each evening and paid them money.

Police Official In Charge Of Public Service Retires
Following the December events in Blagoveshchensk, the head of Bashkortostan�s traffic police department, Artur Ekhmetkhanov, was appointed to replace Viner Gaziev, as Bashkir deputy interior minister in charge of public security, RFE/RL's Ufa correspondent reported on 23 February. The official announcement distributed by the ministry says that Gaziev asked to retire due to poor health. Rawil Baiburin, former deputy head of the traffic police department, will succeed Ekhmetkhanov.

Rakhimov Denounces Attempt To Remove Bashkir Parliamentary Speaker
President Murtaza Rakhimov told a closed-doors meeting of the Bashkir State Assembly on 24 February that "a group of parliamentary deputies representing the fuel and energy industry" in Bashkortostan had attempted to remove Bashkir State Assembly Chairman Konstantin Tolkachev, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. The group of deputies was Ural Rakhimov, the president's son and chairman of Bashkirenergo's board of directors; Nikolai Kurapov, Bashkirenergo's general director; Rostem Ishalin, the general director of the Bashkirnefteprodukt oil-refining company; and Viktor Gantsev, head of the Institute of Regional Economy and Law, which manages the assets of Ufa's oil refineries.

The deputies reportedly managed to collect some 40 votes, instead of the 60 necessary for removing Tolkachev. During the parliamentary session, Deputy Nadezhda Krylova appealed to Tolkachev and asked for forgiveness for being among the group seeking his removal. She said that she had joined the group because "threats of dismissal" were made against her relatives.

According to representatives of the Bashkir opposition, interviewed by RFE/RL on 24 February and who wished to remain anonymous, the current developments are attempts by Rakhimov to show himself as a defender of state interests and dissociate himself from his son, who has taken control over most of Bashkortostan's petrochemical industries.

Bashkortostan Appoints New Chief Prosecutor
Aleksandr Konovalov was confirmed by an overwhelming parliamentary majority on 24 February as Bashkortostan's new chief prosecutor, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. President Rakhimov had earlier proposed Konovalov for the role. Konovalov previously worked as a deputy chief prosecutor in St. Petersburg. Mikhail Zelepukin, who has served as acting chief prosecutor for past year, will become the deputy chief prosecutor.

Opposition Calls For Rakhimov's Resignation...
Bashkortostan's opposition held a rally on Ufa's Lenin Square on 26 February to demand that a December raid conducted by the republic's Interior Ministry in Blagoveshchensk be investigated and that Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov be dismissed, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service, Interfax-Povolzhe, RIA-Novosti and other Russian news agencies reported the same day.

An RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported that roughly 7,000 people participated in the protest action; the Interior Ministry estimated that 2,000 attended.

The protest was organized by the Coordinating Council of eight parties and 26 opposition movements, including Yabloko, the Communist Party, People's Will, Russian Party of Pensioners, the Bashkir People's Congress, Bashkortostan's Tatar civic groups union, the Rus civic association, and the Fund for Development of Local Self-Government.

Meanwhile, Bashkir Interior Ministry spokesperson Ruslan Sherefetdinov said on 26 February that some 100 people took part in a meeting in Ufa the same day to support Bashkortostan's interior bodies, reported. Participants held placards demanding that persecution against the republic's Interior Ministry be stopped.

...As He Blames Opponents
Bashkir presidential press secretary Rostislav Morzagulov told Interfax-Povolzhe on 26 February that President Murtaza Rakhimov characterized calls for his dismissal voiced during protest meetings in Ufa the same day as attempts by some to take advantage of the problems of ordinary people for their own personal political gain. "Those attempts are made by people having no political weight in society, but who have huge ambitions to obtain power. This is another example of businessmen, owners of numerous profitable companies, attempting to obtain power."

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Chelyabinsk Nationalists Target Liberal Media Outlets
Activists of the Chelyabinsk nationalist organization Russian Urals demonstrated on 21 February near the Chelyabinsk Printing House demanding an end to "Russophobia" on television and in newspapers, and that liberal media outlets be closed, reported on 21 February. Protesters listed the local newspapers "Chelyabinskii rabochii" and "Vechernii Chelyabinsk" as harmful.

International Community Concerned About Rights Of Mari People
Some 20 political and cultural leaders from Finland, Estonia, the United States, Great Britain, and Sweden signed an appeal "For Defense of the Marii People" published in "Helsingin Sanomat" and "Eesti Paevaleht," Regnum reported on 25 February. Former Estonian President Lennart Meri and former Finnish parliament speaker Riitta Uosukainen are among signatories who called for stopping infringement on political and cultural rights of the Mari people in the Republic of Marii-El. The appeal condemned assaults on representatives of Mari democratic opposition in the republic and demanded that the attackers of the editor in chief of the international Finno-Ugric newspaper "Kudo+Kodu," Vladimir Kozlov, (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 8 February 2005) be punished. By 25 February, over 2,500 people from across the world had signed the online appeal.

Prosecutors Interrogate Samara Oblast Governor...
The Samara prosecutor's office questioned Governor Konstantin Titov on 24 February as part of a criminal case on the illegal allocation in 2001-03 of 300 million rubles ($10.8 million) in budget credits, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 25 February. Titov was questioned as a witness, though he had previously been described as a suspect. The criminal case was filed on 28 December against Titov and two unidentified other oblast officials on allegations of abusing and exceeding their authority. The daily cited some observers as saying that filing the case against Titov was meant to reduce his chances of being included on the list of candidates for oblast governor.

...While Samara Mayor May Be Dismissed
An initiative group to recall Samara Mayor Georgii Limanskii began collecting signatures in Samara on 25 February, Regnum-VolgaInform reported the same day. According to local law, the signatures of 5 percent of the city electorate must be collected within 20 days.

Saratov Oblast Governor To Be Replaced
President Vladimir Putin nominated Balakovo Nuclear Power Station Director Pavel Ipatov to the Saratov Oblast Duma on 25 February as a candidate for governor, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 26 February. On 24 February, presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District Sergei Kirienko presented a list of candidates including Ipatov and head of the Central Bank in Saratov Oblast Yurii Zelenskii. Zelenskii on 25 February told a press conference that he won't seek the post of the governor.

Incumbent Governor Dmitrii Ayatskov will be offered a post at the federal level, Kirienko told reporters on 24 February, "Kommersant-Daily" reported the next day.

Hunger Strikes Sweep Sverdlovsk Oblast
Seventeen people who were part of the Chornobyl disaster cleanup began a hunger strike on 24 February in Nizhnyaya Tura and Lesnoi, Sverdlovsk Oblast, Regnum reported on 25 February. One of the strikers was hospitalized on 27 February with high blood pressure, Interfax-Urals reported on 28 February. The chairman of the Nizhnyaya Tura organization of the disabled Chornobyl workers of Russia, Yevgenii Zvolev, said the protesters demand that they be paid health compensation awarded them by a court verdict. The strikers are owed between 27,000 rubles and 600,000 rubles each. On 28 February, 10 Chornobyl veterans began a hunger strike in Kachkanar demanding that the allowances they are paid be increased, Interfax-Urals reported on 1 March. Currently, most of them receive minimum allowances of 2,500 rubles.

Sixty-nine former employees of the Tavda Hydrolize Plant have been paid back wages and severance pay after 38 of them held a three-day hunger strike, reported on 25 February. The strikers were paid 730,000 rubles while the plant's total debt to its former workers is 8 million rubles. After the plant closed on 25 November, a group of its employees held a five-day hunger strike in December and were paid their back wages. In February, all the plant's employees were dismissed without severance pay. In late 2004, criminal cases were filed against the plant's former director, Sergei Bagreev, and competitive manager Grigorii Pervukhin on accusations of nonpayment of wages and embezzlement.

Thirty-nine employees of Uralsk Automotor Plant in Novouralsk suspended on 25 February the hunger strike they began on 13 February after they reached an agreement with the acting head of Novouralsk on payment of back wages, Interfax-Urals reported on 28 February. One woman who participated in the strike was hospitalized, the same day. Strikers were demanding severance pay. Each of them is owed between 10,000 and 15,000 rubles. Five strikers had stopped for health reasons. Over 500 former employees dismissed more than a year ago from the bankrupt plant are owed a total of 7 million rubles.

People Accused Of Hizb Ut-Tahrir Links Appeal To European Court
People charged with having links to the Islamist organization Hizb ut-Tahrir in Tyumen Oblast have appealed to the European Court of Human Rights, reported on 25 February. Tyumen Islamic Cultural Center leader Marat Saibatalov, Imam Dmitrii Petrichenko, and a dozen other Muslims from Tyumen, Tobolsk, and Nizhnevartovsk are accused of intent to violently establish an Islamic caliphate in Russia. If convicted, they could face three to eight years in prison.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova