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Tatar-Bashkir Report: March 29, 2005

29 March 2005
CIS Summit To Gather In Kazan
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on 18 March that a summit of heads of the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) will be held in Kazan in August, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reported. Following a meeting of the CIS' Council of Foreign Ministers in Minsk, Lavrov said the meeting approved proposals on major directions of reforming the CIS that will be discussed in Kazan.

Tatneft Purchases Deposits In Samara Oblast
Tatneft affiliate Tatneft-Samara on 18 March won a tender in Samara for the Aksenovskii and Vozdvizhenskii oilfields, "Kommersant-Volga-Urals" reported on 19 March. Tatneft-Samara paid 1.026 billion rubles ($37.1 million) and 2.49 billion rubles, respectively, for them, while the starting prices were 90 million rubles and 150 million rubles. Samara-Nafta shareholder Semen Kukes was Tatneft major rival in the tender. Estimated stocks of oil on the plots are 1.6 million tons and 2.864 million tons, respectively, while experts say real stocks are much bigger. An unidentified Tatneft source told the daily that the company paid slightly more than it planned for the deposits.

KamAZ Refuses Small Car Production
KamAZ has passed a 74.25 percent share of the Minicar Plant (ZMA), which produces Oka cars, to the balance of its affiliate, KamAZ-Finans, "Kommersant-Volga-Urals" and Tatarinform reported on 18 and 19 March, respectively. News agencies cited rumors that KamAZ-Finans will likely sell the stake to Severstal-Avto, which is looking for a facility to assemble the off-road Rexton vehicle under a license from Korea's SsangYong. ZMA was established in 1996, and 74.4 percent belonged to KamAZ and 25.6 percent was owned by the Tatar Property Ministry. The plant's capitalization is estimated at 750 million rubles ($25 million).

Tatneft To Extract Oil In Syria
Tatneft has signed a contract on exploration and development of a new oil-and-gas deposit in Syria, RIA-Novosti reported on 21 March. Syrian Oil Minister Ibrahim Haddad said at the ceremony that "this is the first Russian company in the past two years that signed a contract to take part in oil production in Syria." Tatneft Deputy General Director Khemit Qawiev said the contract is the first one signed by a Russian company in the wake of the January visit to Moscow of Syrian President Bashar Asad. Under the document, Tatneft and the Syrian State Oil Company obtain exclusive right to prospect and extract oil and gas from a field of 1,900 square kilometers in the Deir-ez-Zor Province. Tatneft will invest more than $26 million in prospecting works and $1 million in social and educational programs in Syria over the next seven years.

Tatar Taught In Istanbul University
A department specializing in training teachers of Turkish languages, literature, and philology at Marmara University in Istanbul has begun offering courses on Tatar, Tatar-Inform reported on 21 March. Turkish languages specialist Erdal Shahin, who is the author of research on Tatar songs, is delivering lectures on the Tatar language.

Shaimiev Named Trustee Of Russia-Wide Muslim Organization
A constituent conference of a new national nongovernmental organization called Russian Islamic Heritage, which was held on 22 March in Moscow, elected businessman Khusein Dzhabrailov as its chairman,, "Gazeta," and "Vremya novostei" reported. Tatar President Shaimiev was elected a trustee of the new movement, while his political adviser, Rafail Khekimov, Russian Islamic Committee Head Geidar Dzhemal and religious leader Yakub Deniev, were chosen as Executive Committee members.

Iranian Delegation Promotes Educational Cooperation With Tatarstan
A visiting delegation of the World Center for Islamic Sciences of Iran met on 22 March with republican presidential adviser Timur Akulov, who heads the presidential foreign relations department, to discuss the prospects of educational, scientific, and cultural cooperation between Tatarstan and Iran, reported. At a meeting with officials of the Russian Islamic University (RIU) the previous day, the sides discussed mutual exchanges of students and teachers. It was agreed that teaching Farsi will start at RIU and that the Iranian center will help supply the university with textbooks and other literature.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Parliament Speaker Calls Blagoveschensk Incident A Violation Of Civil Rights
Konstantin Tolkachev, chairman of Bashkortostan's State Assembly, told reporters on 21 March that he considers the participation of an OMON special police task force in the December 2004 police raid in Blagoveshchensk as improper, while the entire operation represented a violation of civil rights, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. Tolkachev also said Blagoveshchensk was known as a location where the Soviet Union used to house criminals, and that locals "often feared to go outside their homes." He added that after the appeal of locals, who asked him to bring order to the streets, "police came and showed their low level of professionalism."

Rakhimov Sacks Ministers Of Property Relations, Economic Development
President Murtaza Rakhimov signed a decree on 21 March that dismissed the minister of property relations, Zofer Ebdrekhimov, and the minister of economic development and industry, Valentin Vlasov, for "failing to ensure the proper fulfillment of their duties," Bashinform reported the same day.

Bashkortostan Cited Among Major Protesters Against Monetization Reform
According to the Russian Center for Political Culture Research (TsIPKR), Bashkortostan was one of the top 10 regions in the Russian Federation to demonstrate most actively against the recent monetization reform, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 21 March. The list also includes Moscow and St. Petersburg, Voronezh, Volgograd, Moscow, Nizhnii Novgorod, and Samara oblasts, Stavropol Krai, and the Udmurtia Republic. The center also reported that 1.3 million citizens participated in protest actions in 77 regions across Russia from 9 January to 20 March 2005.

Bashkir Youth Union, Eurasian Movement Pledge To Hunt Down "Orange" Opposition...
The pro-government Bashkir Youth Union (SBM) will join forces with the newly formed Bashkortostan branch of the Eurasian movement, chaired by Pavel Zarifullin, Regnum reported on 22 March. At the movement's presentation the same day, SBM leader Feuzil Malikov told reporters that groups will work at suppressing "orange" public movements in Bashkortostan by holding mass actions against demonstrations staged by liberal groups. According to Regnum, the Eurasian movement opposes globalization and "infusions of cultures" from different peoples. Just as protestors did in Ukraine in late 2004, demonstrators at the Bashkir opposition groups' protests are reportedly wearing orange clothing as a sign of their liberalism and devotion to democracy. According to previous reports in the Bashkir and Russian media, the Bashkir Youth Union allegedly maintains a militant wing of youths trained by retired officers of the Soviet and Russian special forces.

...As Former Bashkir Youth Union Leader Insists That Blagoveshchensk Case Was "Cooked Up"
The fact that businessman Oleg Kataev's case is being considered in a closed court indicates that the investigation into alleged police brutality in Blagoveshchensk in December was conducted illegally, former Bashkir Youth Union leader, singer, and businessman Rinat Baimov said on 22 March. Kataev is one of three people suspected of instigating the conflict that led to violent police raids in the city, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported. The court ruled that Kataev can continue to be held, Baimov said, adding that Kataev has proclaimed his innocence. Baimov accused the republican prosecutors' office of inflaming the situation, claiming that at least half of the complaints against police were "cooked up" and that the numerous reports of human rights groups "were paid for by political forces that want to remove the existing republican government."

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Demonstration Against Housing, Municipal-Services Reform In Nizhnii Novgorod...
Some 6,000 people demonstrated in Nizhnii Novgorod on 23 March to protest the share of housing and municipal services paid by residents being raised to 100 percent as of 1 April, Interfax-Povolzhe reported the same day, citing Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast Interior Ministry directorate spokesman Aleksandr Gorbatov. Some 100 policemen watched the meeting. Participants appealed to the Russian government to postpone the introduction of full payment for housing and municipal services till 2008, when the minimum wage will be a living wage. Local branches of the Communist Party and Motherland were among the action's organizers.

About 100 Communist Party supporters demonstrated against the housing and municipal-services reform in Yekaterinburg on 26 March, Interfax-Urals reported on 28 March. Protesters demanded that the rise of municipal-service prices be stopped.

...And Against Arbitrary Law Enforcement
Some 20 residents of Tabory village, Sverdlovsk Oblast, held a picket in front of the Ural Federal District administration building in Yekaterinburg on 22 March to protest the police's arbitrariness in the village, Interfax-Urals reported the same day. Protesters said the leadership of the village Interior Ministry department collects money from local businessmen for protecting their businesses. Picketers said in response to their numerous appeals to higher interior bodies, they received only formal replies.

British Consulate Contributes To AIDS-Related Project
The British Consulate General allocated $10,000 for a project titled "AIDS Is Not Dangerous For Friendship" that will be implemented in Sverdlovsk and Chelyabinsk oblasts, Interfax-Urals reported on 24 March, citing the consulate's press service. The aim of the project is to explain to people that AIDS is not dangerous for communication. The project scheduled for four months will be launched on 25 March. Over two months, 14 billboards will be installed along the highway between Yekaterinburg and Chelyabinsk, 4,000 postcards and stickers and 30,000 brochures and booklets will be printed, and video and audio clips will be released. They will be distributed in youth cafes, drugstores, and medical and educational institutions.

Since 1999, some 40,000 HIV carriers have been registered in Sverdlovsk and Chelyabinsk oblasts.

Penza Workers Demonstrate Against Plant Takeover By Criminals
Roughly 2,000 workers of the Penza state-run Electronic Computer Plant staged an unauthorized demonstration and blocked traffic in Penza on 24 March, to protest what they called the takeover of the plant by Moscow-based groups linked to criminals, Regnum reported. People held signs reading "We Want to Work For the Country, Not for Bandits," "Putin, Clean Your Environment From Corrupt Officials," and "Down With Moscow Mafia." Plant employees expressed their concern that heads of the Federal Industry Agency and the Federal Guard Service are going to transfer the plant to people linked to the St. Petersburg-based criminal group headed by Vagif Mamishev and to dismiss plant General Director Vladimir Revunov.

Samara Deputy Mayor Assaulted
The Samara city prosecutor's office filed a criminal case on 23 March after an attack on Samara First Deputy Mayor Anatolii Mashchelkin, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 24 March. Samara administration officials believe the attack was another demonstration of the strength of criminals dissatisfied with the city administration. Mashchelkin was injured in an explosion near his home as he was returning from work on 22 March. The blast was caused by an RGD-5 grenade attached to a tree. Mashchelkin was hospitalized and is currently in stable condition. Mashchelkin, 50, is in charge of financial and economic issues in the city administration.

Yekaterinburg Interior Officers Under Criminal Investigation For Beating Orthodox Priest
The head of Yekaterinburg's Chkalovskii Raion Interior Ministry board (RUVD) was dismissed and several officials were given administrative punishment in the wake of an incident between Interior Ministry officers and Yekaterinburg Eparchy priests on 23 March, Interfax-Urals reported on 25 March, citing the Ural Federal District press service. The press service reported that a criminal case has been filed on unjustified detention and violent treatment of representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church.

On 23 March, RUVD officers broke into a lecture on totalitarian sects organized in a Yekaterinburg secondary school by the Yekaterinburg Eparchy. Policemen rushed into a room during the lecture and beat lecturers. Three of them -- professor Aleksandr Dvorkin, who is an expert in sects; the head of the Yekaterinburg Eparchy Missionary Department, Father Vladimir Zaitsev; and the eparchy's television operator, Viktor Grigorev -- were detained and taken to the Chkalovskii RUVD where they were kept for several hours. According to Zaitsev, some 15 RUVD officers took part in the operation. The RUVD representatives said they sent officers to the school after they received a complaint about an unsanctioned meeting there.

On 24 March, acting head of the Sverdlovsk Oblast Interior Ministry directorate Vladimir Filippov offered his apologies to the eparchy and Zaitsev personally for the incident.

Human Rights Council Formed In Ulyanovsk Oblast
Ulyanovsk Oblast administration head Sergei Morozov ordered an oblast council to be established to promote the development of institutes of civil society and human rights, Regnum-VolgaInform reported on 22 March, citing the administration's press service. The body will help the governor in defending rights and freedoms of residents and developing institutes of civil society and provide corresponding information for him. Administration assistant head Tatyana Sergeyeva was appointed council chairwoman.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova