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Tatar-Bashkir Report: March 15, 2005

15 March 2005
Shaimiev Appeals To Putin To Reappoint Him For Another Term
Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev told a press conference on 11 March in Kazan that he has appealed to President Vladimir Putin to nominate him under the new system of electing governors that eliminated direct elections of heads of regions, Interfax-Povolzhe and Tatarinform reported the same day. Shaimiev said: "I have repeatedly stated that I won't run for another term. But given that the situation with elections changed and the price of stability in such a republic like Tatarstan is too high, the president expressed his wish I stayed for another term" during their meeting on 9 March. "We discussed the details and I...immediately wrote the appeal." If appointed for five more years, Shaimiev will serve his fourth term in office. Presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District Sergei Kirienko had previously said that he will do everything to persuade Shaimiev to serve another term. Shaimiev was reelected to his third term in March 2001 with 79 percent of the vote.

Power-Sharing Treaty Between Moscow, Kazan To Be Federal Law
Presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District Sergei Kirienko told reporters on 10 March in Kazan that the draft power-sharing treaty between Russia and Tatarstan is practically ready, Tatarinform reported the same day. Kirienko said the draft is to be considered by lawyers from both sides and by Tatarstan's State Council. He added that the document for the first time will be passed by the State Duma and will have the status of a federal law. The draft will be considered by all legislative bodies of the Russian Federation subjects, Kirienko said. The working group on developing the draft treaty was set up in October 2004 under the chairmanship of Tatar State Council speaker Farid Mukhametshin and Kirienko.

Tatarstan To Fight Gray Labor Market...
Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev told Interfax on 6 March that he signed a decree to establish a commission to legalize the "gray" labor market. Shaimiev said the gray labor market is a serious problem for Tatarstan since the republican budget loses at least 3 billion rubles in income tax each year to unofficial sales. Shaimiev added that only 1.2 million of Tatarstan's 1.8 million workers have officially registered jobs. The commission that includes representatives from the Economy Ministry, tax bodies, and statistical organizations is to develop measures to legalize the gray market and the people employed in it. Those people will not be paid pensions in the future so they should be allowed to earn money legally, Shaimiev said.

...Deport Illegal Migrants
Fifty-two foreigners were expelled from Tatarstan in January and February according to court decisions for violating residence regulations in Russia. This was a decrease from the 160 people deported in November 2003-December 2004, Tatar-inform reported on 7 March. In January and February, the Kazan Center for the Social and Legal Defense of Foreign Citizens helped 825 immigrants gain registration. In the same period, 64 employers requested to hire 264 foreigners, predominantly from Caucasian, Central Asian countries, and Turkey.

Tatneft Admits Bookkeeping Mistakes
Tatneft issued an official statement saying that mistakes have been found in its published audited consolidated financial reporting under the U.S. standards of bookkeeping (US GAAP) for 2001-2002, and "Kommersant-Volga-Urals" reported on 7 and 9 March, respectively. The mistakes resulted in overestimating net profit under the US GAA requirements, as well as company expenses by 2.3 billion rubles ($83.1 million) in 2002, by 0.2 billion rubles in 2001 and by some 0.7 billion rubles before 2001. In the first six months of 2003, net profit under US GAAP was underestimated by 2 billion rubles. The company said it will correct reports for 2001 and 2002 as well as that for 2003 which still has not been confirmed by the U.S. Securities Commission. "Kommersant-Volga-Urals" cited experts as saying that the situation could lead to Tatneft's exclusion from listing on the New York Stock Exchange.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Ufa Court Rejects Claim Against Senior OMON Officer
An Ufa court has rejected a request of the Bashkir prosecutor's office to detain Oleg Sokolov, head of the special task police force (OMON), which raided Blagoveshchensk in December 2004, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 7 March (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 21 January, 3 March 2005). The court reportedly issued its ruling based on positive reports from Sokolov's previous places of work. Meanwhile, on 4 March, Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov said that, as a result of attempts to stir up the public with regard to the investigation of the Balgoveshchensk raid, police officers "are trusted less." According to an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent, Blagoveshchensk police officers under investigation have formed a union in order to protect themselves against what they term an "anti-police campaign."

Bashkortostan's Opposition Hopes To Oust Rakhimov
Bashkortostan's opposition has begun collecting signatures calling for the dismissal of President Rakhimov, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 7 March. According to ethnic policies researcher Ildar Gebdrefiqov, who was interviewed by RFE/RL the same day, the opposition believes that the petition, accompanied by protests, "may in fact bring Moscow to replace Rakhimov." According to Gebdrefiqov, the current situation in Bashkortostan can be described as a "political crisis."

Bashkortostan's Tatars Urge TIU Leadership To Unite
Ramil Bignov, chairman of the Tatar public organizations' union in Bashkortostan, addressed the Kazan-based Tatar Public Center (TIU), expressing deep regret that the center's leadership is being divided into two groups and is planning two separate congresses on 12 March and 2 April, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 7 March. On behalf of the Tatar civic-rights movement in Bashkortostan, Bignov urged the TIU leadership to suggest a single date for holding a congress, which could unite the TIU leadership and its branches across Russia.

Activists Say Police Encountered No Violence In Blagoveschensk
Human rights activists are rejecting the official version of the police's role in the Blagoveshchensk incident. Vladislav Sadyiqov, regional coordinator of the public organization "Committee against torture" in Nizhnii Novgorod, told Regnum on 7 March (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 21 January 2005) that it is far from true that police came to the scene in response to an attack on local policemen. According to the Committee activists, who conducted a public investigation into the affair, local policemen were not beaten on 8 December 2004, as was reported. The activists cited an appeal by local residents Svetlana Kataeva and Olga Geroeva, who complained of beatings by the police. Street patrol officers Pavel Goltyaev and Yevgenii Chistyakov have testified that senior officers pressured them to report that locals had beaten them.

Gazprom Confirms Intention To Take Over Polief
At the launch of a new production line at Salavatnefteorgsintez petrochemical plant, President Murtaza Rakhimov and Gazprom Deputy Chairman Aleksandr Ryazanov said Gazprom intends to take over Polief when it is put up for privatization on 18 April, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 9 March. Bashkortostan-owned Polief is currently being managed by Gazprom. The Federal Property Fund will reportedly require an initial bid of $168.5 million for the plant, which is considered one of the most modern chemical factories in Russia.

Activists Beaten In Ufa Capital
Robert Zagreev, editor in chief of the "Za mestnoe samoupravlenie" (For Local Self-Government) weekly and leader of the movement of the same name, was beaten in front of his own residence on 5 March, Bashnews reported the same day. Zagreev reportedly received serious head injures from unidentified attackers who allegedly demanded he drop his lawsuit against Bashkortostan's Central Election Commission in the Bashkir Supreme Court.

On 3 March, Zagreev filed a suit challenging the legality of the election commission's resolution introducing the procedure of electing Ufa's mayor from the members of the city council. His organization promotes open mayoral elections, demanding that candidates from outside the city council be eligible.

Plot Participants Dismissed From Posts
Three deputies from the Bashkir State Assembly: Bashkirenergo General Director Nikolai Kurapov, Institute for Regional Economy and Law head Viktor Gantsev, and Bashkir Economic Development Minister Valentin Vlasov, were expelled on 10 March from the board of directors of the Bashkir Fuel Company (BTK), "Kommersant-Daily" and RosBalt reported on 11 March. RosBalt cited an unidentified source in the republic's leadership saying the three had headed a recent plot in the republican parliament aimed at appointing Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov's son, Ural, as parliament speaker (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 25 February 2005). BTK President Ildar Iskhaqov was also dismissed at the company's board meeting. In January, Iskhaqov was dismissed from the post of Bashneft general director. Ilshat Tajetdinov, the 35-year-old head of the Bashkir presidential administration's socioeconomic development board, was appointed as chairman of the BTK board.

The meeting considered the issue of reevaluating shares of Bashneft and Bashkirenergo that were sold to Bashkirskii Kapital in 2003 for 8 billion rubles. The daily cited an unidentified board member saying the cost of the shares was underestimated. Upon hearing of the charges, President Rakhimov ordered that 63.72 percent of Bashneft and 36.7 percent of Bashkirenergo that had been sold to Bashkirskii Kapital be returned to BTK.

Muslims Protest Alleged Persecution
Some 40 people demonstrated for an hour and a half in the central October Square in Tuimazy on 13 March to protest alleged repression against Muslims and violations of their constitutional rights, Regnum reported the same day. Currently, three Tuimazy Raion residents -- Marsel Gayanov, Salawat Gayanov, and Bulat Gayanov -- are under investigation for alleged involvement in the Islamist organization Hizb ut-Tahrir, which was banned by the Russian Supreme Court in 2003. A similar picket of some 30 Muslims was dispersed by police the same day in Ufa. On 14 November, when the Muslim holiday Uraza beirem (Eid al Fitr) was marked, some 16 people were detained in Ufa, Oktyabrskii, Sibai, and Tuimazy for handing out Hizb ut-Tahrir leaflets.

In a statement released during the pickets, protesters said "the legislative, executive, and judicial systems of not protect the rights of Muslims...criminal cases are fabricated against them." Protesters said Gayanov was beaten in pretrial detention in Ufa on 2 January and suffered numerous injuries. The head of the Bashkortostan's Main Punishment Board, Viktor Pestov, however, denied those allegations and said an investigation did not prove those charges.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Minority Rights In Marii-El Generate Concern In Finland
The Helsinki University Student's Union addressed an open letter to authorities of the Republic of Marii-El and Russia protesting political terror against the Mari minority taking place in Marii-El, Regnum reported on 10 March. The authors expressed their concern about recent assault in Yoshkar-Ola on the editor in chief of the Finno-Ugric newspaper "Kudo+Kodu," Vladimir Kozlov, (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 8 February 2005) that might be revenge for his public and political activity. They called on authorities of Marii-El and Russia to stop political terror in the Republic of Marii-El and investigate crimes and violations of human rights.

The alleged oppression of the Mari people has been widely covered by Finnish media, Regnum reported on 10 March. The Finnish "Helsingin Sanomat" wrote on 1 March that "a wave of political persecutions aimed against the republic's indigenous people spreads in Marii-El." As a result, numerous officials of Mari ethnicity were dismissed and opposition journalists were beaten. The newspaper quoted Mari lawyer Yevgenii Yefremov as saying that "the number of those dismissed will soon reach 1,000, something that could cause a serious blow at our culture." "Satakunnan Kansa" wrote on 5 March that discrimination against the Mari people increased after President Leonid Markelov, a supporter of Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovskii and a Kremlin protege, was reelected to his second term. Especially strong persecution began in raions that least supported Markelov, the newspaper wrote.

Synagogue Defiled In Samara
Russia's Chief Rabbi Adolf Shaevich issued a statement on 9 March in reaction to the defiling of a synagogue in Samara, Regnum reported the same day. On 8 March, unknown people wrote anti-Semitic slogans and fascist symbols on the walls of the synagogue. Shaevich said the increase in acts of vandalism against synagogues, mosques, and cemeteries is coming to a dangerous extreme and the impunity of hooligans is one of the reasons. Shaevich also called for educational institutions to teach tolerance and a liberal attitude toward religions.

Former Officer Charged With Trafficking In Women
The Saratov Oblast prosecutor's office has sent to a court a criminal case against former army officer Vladimir Savitskii for recruiting women for sexual exploitation in a foreign country, Regnum reported on 12 March. Savitskii was allegedly involved in delivering women from Saratov to Germany to be prostitutes and helped them in obtaining foreign passports and visas. Up to 100 people a year were sent abroad through the illegal channel of migration, in operation since 1999. Savitskii was accused of human trafficking and producing counterfeit documents.

Hunger Strike Worsens In Samara...
Sixty women who began a hunger strike on 5 March in Samara began refusing water on 9 March, Interfax-Povolzhe reported, citing the Samara Oblast government. The strikers demand to be moved from a hostel that is in disastrous condition. Oblast Health Care Ministry representatives visited the women on 7 March and persuaded them not to let children to take part in the strike. The hunger strike was begun after a concrete grinder fell on the upper floor. The building houses some 500 people, including 200 children, and belongs to the Volzhskii Raion collective farm where the women work.

...And Ends In Sverdlovsk Oblast
Former employees of the Tavda Microbiology Plant (TMBK) in Sverdlovsk Oblast on 14 March stopped the hunger strike they began on 8 March after authorities promised to meet their demands, Interfax-Urals reported on 15 March, citing TMBK trade-union Chairwoman Lyudmila Soloveva. Fifty-seven workers began the third hunger strike in the past three month to demand payment of back wages and severance pay. Previous strikers were paid the money owed them. The plant owes its employees roughly 8 million rubles ($291,000). Eighteen strikers had stopped their strike because of high blood pressure, Interfax-Urals reported on 12 March. Soloveva told the news agency that eight of strikers have been hospitalized. On 14 March, Tavda Mayor Aleksandr Solovev met with the strikers to promise that the debts will be paid by selling part of the plant's property.

Governor Reappointed In Yamal-Nenets Okrug
The Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug Duma unanimously confirmed on 11 March the nomination of Yurii Neelov to the post of governor, Interfax-Urals reported the same day. Neelov's nomination was submitted by the Russian president on 9 March and introduced to the deputies by presidential envoy to the Urals Federal District Petr Latyshev. Neelov's inauguration will likely be held on 16 March. Neelov won gubernatorial elections in the okrug in 1996 and 2000.

Broadcast Of Local Television Channel Stopped In Yugra
About 400 residents of Nizhnevartovsk, Khanty-Mansii Autonomous Okrug (Yugra), staged a demonstration on 10 March to support the Nizhnevartovsk New Channel (NNK), which was taken off the air on 24 February, Uralinformbyuro reported on 11 March. Appeals to presidential envoy to the Urals Federal District Latyshev, Tyumen Oblast Governor Sergei Sobyanin, Yugra Governor Aleksandr Filipenko, and Russian ombudsman Vladimir Lukin were made at the meeting. NNK broadcasting was stopped by the cable network operator Komintel, which owns the frequency on which NNK broadcast. NNK staff have appealed to the Nizhnevartovsk prosecutor's office against Komintel and plan to begin a hunger strike.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova