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Tatar-Bashkir Report: April 19, 2005

19 April 2005
National-Bolsheviks Detained During Protest Meeting In Kazan
Several National Bolshevik Party members were detained on 9 April in Kazan during a meeting organized by local Communists to protest the government's substitution of monetary payments for social benefits, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reported the same day. Some 100 pensioners who joined the meeting demanded that compensations for groups of pensioners currently paid from federal and regional budgets be equalized. They also called for public transport tariffs to be maintained and for housing and municipal services tariffs to be reduced. The participants equally called on the Russian government to check if the Kazan metro project is meeting safety requirements and if the allocated budget for it is being used properly. They also called for not rushing work on the metro in order to fulfill plans to inaugurate it in time for the Kazan millennium celebrations on 30 August.

Tatar, Ukrainian Leaders Discuss Ukrtatnafta Venture
Tatarstan's acting Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov and Ukrainian Prime Minister Yuliya Timoshenko met in Kyiv on 9 April to discuss the prospects for Ukrtatnafta development and other issues of bilateral cooperation, Tatarinform reported on 11 April. At a news conference following the meeting, Timoshenko positively evaluated the experience in the Ukrainian-Tatar Ukrtatnafta project. (Ukrtatnafta is a joint venture between a Ukrainian refinery and several Russian entities, including Tatneft producer, Tatnefteprom, and others.) "We support all projects aimed at uniting our oil refineries with suppliers of resources to Ukraine," said Tymoshenko, who initially rose to prominence in the power industry. "If we do not unite resources and processing, it will be difficult to supply the plant with oil, since Ukraine does not have such resources. So I back the unification." Minnikhanov also met in Kyiv with Ukrainian First Deputy Fuel and Energy Minister Oleksiy Ivchenko and visited Tatarstan's trade and economic representation. Agreements were reached on increasing mutual deliveries, delegation visits, and trade development. Tatarstan institutions control a majority in Ukrtatnafta, a joint venture established in 1994.

Opening Dates Set for Qol Sherif Mosque, Blagoveshchenskii Cathedral
Tatarstan's President Mintimer Shaimiev has issued a decree scheduling the opening in the Kazan Kremlin of the Qol Sherif mosque for 24 June and of the Blagoveshchenskii cathedral for 21 July, Tatar media reported on 11 and 12 April. Reconstruction of the two buildings was funded mainly by donation from residents. Qol Sherif, the leading mosque of the Kazan Khanate, was destroyed in 1552 after Kazan's capture by Ivan the Terrible. The same year, the cathedral was constructed on its place. Construction of the new Qol Sherif mosque was launched in 1996, while restoration works in the cathedral were begun in the 1970s.

Speaker Calls For Unified Russia Party To Be More Democratic
Tatar State Council Speaker Farid Mukhametshin said Unified Russia should rearrange its inner-party life to make it more democratic, Interfax reported on 13 April. Mukhametshin, who is the leader of the Unified Russia's Tatarstan's branch, asked, "What kind of party is this if it cannot resolve a problem around a round-table but only recklessly votes for all the draft laws proposed by the government?" Mukhametshin said Tatarstan's regional branch of Unified Russia will propose at its next congress several amendments to the party charter. At a congress in Kazan on 12 April of the political council of the regional public movement Tatarstan - New Century, Mukhametshin said participating in the forthcoming municipal elections is a priority for the movement, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. Commenting on the issue of substituting money payments for some social benefits, Mukhametshin said the corresponding federal law was passed without due preparation and without clear understanding of how it is to be implemented.

Tatar President Signs Anticorruption Plan
President Mintimer Shaimiev issued a decree confirming the republic's anticorruption policy, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 14 April. The policy document was crafted by a commission under the leadership of First Deputy Prime Minister Rawil Moratov and INDEM foundation President Georgii Satarov. It calls for the establishment of a permanently functioning body to implement the anticorruption policy. Tatar Security Council Secretary Vener Selimov was tasked with presenting draft regulations for the body and proposals concerning its membership by 1 May. Moratov has said the anticorruption body should bring together representatives of law-enforcement agencies.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

First Seven Interior Ministry Employees Go To Court For Blagoveshchensk Violations
Bashkortostan's prosecutor-general, Aleksandr Konovalov, told a press conference on 8 April in Ufa that the investigation of the criminal case against seven Interior Ministry employees involved in December's controversial police raid in Blagoveshchensk has ended, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reported on 9 April. Seven employees, including Blagoveshchensk Interior Board Lieutenant Colonel Ildar Ramazanov, Blagoveshchensk Criminal Investigation Department deputy head Oleg Shapeev, former commander of the Ufa Interior Ministry's special troops (OMON) detachment Oleg Sokolov, Blagoveshchensk Interior Board's Public Safety Department deputy head Oleg Mirzin, Lieutenant Aidar Gilwanov, and ensigns Yurii Golovin and Sergei Fomin, were accused of exceeding their power. Two others, lieutenants Albert Soltanov and Vasilii Zhukov, were accused of forgery and abuse of power. Konovalov also said a criminal case against OMON detachment members who wore masks during the operation will not be closed despite the fact that "it has been so far impossible to clarify persons involved in those violations."

Bashneft Workers Prepare For Permanent Protests
The deputy chairman of the Bashkortostan's Committee for Oil and Gas Industry Trade Unions, Aleksandr Grishin, told Interfax-Povolzhe on 11 April that Bashneft workers are ready to begin a strike in the case that the company's board of directors does not annul its 10 February decision to abolish its nine directorates and set up three affiliates in their place. Grishin said Bashneft employees stated their position at meetings that were held on 9 April in Neftekamsk, Oktyabrskii, and Belebei. He also said oil workers expressed their support for efforts by the Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov and government to return Bashneft shares to republican ownership. The Tuimazaneft trade union appealed to the Bashkir Arbitration Court on 31 March against the board decision, arguing that abolishing boards "threatens a social explosion because of mass layoffs." The court on 4 April froze the Bashneft board resolution and the slated hearing on the appeal scheduled for 12 May.

Bashkir Official News Agency Finds Originator Of Anti-Rakhimov Protests
In its comments about protests in Bashkortostan against President Rakhimov published on 11 April, the republic's official news agency, Bashinform, blamed the Tatar-Bashkir Service of RFE/RL along with others who are taking part in what they called a "huge anti-Russian front." Labeling RFE/RL a "CIA-controlled" station, Bashinform claimed that the radio's "hosts dream of permanent destructive turmoil occurring everywhere in Russia." According to Bashinform, forces encouraging the opposition want to let Russian President Vladimir Putin know that: "We can destabilize the situation in any state of the CIS, to the disliking of Moscow. Moreover, we can do the same even in one of the prosperous republics of Russia. And doing the same thing in depressed oblasts is also very easy."

Russian Human Rights Official Dissatisfied With Results Of Investigation Into Blagoveshchensk Case
Russian Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin called for a thorough investigation into the Interior Ministry's raid in December in Blagoveshchensk until all those guilty are prosecuted, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reported on 12 April. In an article published in "Izvestia� on 12 April, Lukin said senior officials -- not "switchmen" -- of the Bashkir Interior Ministry who initiated and supervised the Blagoveshchensk raid should be brought to justice. Lukin also criticized appointment of the former Bashkir Deputy Interior Minister as the republic's ombudsman. Lukin said this is "a large mistake by the republic's authorities and a brewing scandal regarding persistent unwillingness to provide guarantees of constitutional rights and freedoms."

Motherland Sends Members To Negotiate With Bashkir Opposition
Motherland leader Dmitrii Rogozin said on 12 April that the party sent its representatives, including State Duma deputies, to Ufa on the same day to hold negotiations with Bashkortostan's united opposition, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reported. Rogozin said the visit aims at clarifying the party's position in the conflict and its attitude toward President Murtaza Rakhimov.

Bashneft Leaves Yumaguzy Reservoir Board
Bashkir Prime Minister Rafael Baidavletov told a government meeting on 11 April that Bashneft is leaving the board-of-investors of the Yumaguzy water reservoir, "Kommersant-Volga-Urals" reported on 12 April. Bashneft, which possesses 7.8 percent of the reservoir's capital, also seeks to recover over 500 million rubles ($18 million) it has invested in the reservoir's construction. Baidavletov titled the move "sabotage" but added that "Bashneft's demarche will not change the terms for finishing construction."

Baidavletov called the decision "political," noting that it is a continuation of a conflict between President Rakhimov and his son Ural, who controls the republic's leading fuel-and-energy companies. "Almost every day heads of the republic's fuel-and-energy sector try to sabotage projects they previously took part in. Those guys are probably completely under the heel of Ural Rakhimov, neither the president nor the government of Bashkortostan exist for them," Baidavletov said.

Construction of the Yumaguzy reservoir started in 1998. According to plans, the 35 square-kilometer facility is to hold 800 million cubic-meters of water. Two of its three 15-megawatt capacity hydraulic units have already been launched. In total, over 5 billion rubles ($180 million) have been spent on the project, 28.6 percent of them from the republican budget and 71.4 percent from the republic's leading companies, including Bashkirenergo, Bashneft, Bashneftekhim, and Salavatnefteorgsintez.

Prosecutor�s Office Announces Completion Of Blagoveshchensk Case
The press service of the Volga Federal District Board of the Russian Prosecutor-General�s Office said on 13 April that it has completed its investigation into allegations that Interior Department employees exceeded their powers by in carrying out a raid in December in Blagoveshchensk, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported. The cases are to be referred to a court after victims and the accused have been acquainted with them. Over 300 residents were recognized victims of the December operation involving an interior special troops� detachment.

EBRD Allocates $32.5 Million In Credit To Construct Glass-Container Plant In Ufa
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) announced on 12 April its plan to organize a credit of $32.5 million for the Turkish Anadolu Cam Sanayii A.S. to construct a glass-container plant in Ufa, "Kommersant-Volga-Urals" reported on 13 April. Total investments of the Turkish company into the plant, which is due to become the biggest in Russia, will be $65 million. A protocol of intentions between the Bashkir government and Sisecam?s branch Anadolu Cam Sanayii A.S., a division of Turkey's leading glass concern, Sisecam, on construction of the plant was signed in summer 2004.

German Company To Modernize Salavatsteklo
The Salavatsteklo press service said on 12 April that the company has signed an agreement with the German Hom Glasanlagen GmbH on modernization of the Bashkir company, "Kommersant-Volga-Urals" reported on 13 April. According to the 27.2 million euros' contract, a German-produced assembly line for manufacturing sheet glass will be installed at Salavatsteklo by the end of the year.

Deputy Says New Draft Legislation On Protests Contradicts Federal Law
State Assembly Deputy Gennadii Shabaev told "Kommersant-Daily" on 15 April that the draft law requiring official notification of a public event that is scheduled to be passed by the republic's legislature on 19 April contradicts federal law. The draft increases the number of documents that need to be presented in notifying officials about the holding of a public meeting. Groups will have to present statutory documents certified by a notary and copies of passports of people taking part. In case more than 500 people take part in an action, notification must be given to the republican government. Shabaev commented that the draft "restricts the democratic rights of Bashkortostan's residents."

Bashkir Opposition Calls Off Protest Rally, Files Suit Against Pro-Rakhimov Meeting Organizers
Bashkortostan's opposition coordinating council says it will appeal to the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office to sue supporters of Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov. The coordinating council charges the Rakhimov supporters with staging an illegal rally at the same site on 16 April where the opposition had scheduled an authorized rally, thus forcing the opposition to call off its event, RFE/RL reported on 17 April.

Opposition leader Ramil Bignov told reporters that the meeting of Rakhimov's supporters was illegal since they did not notify the Ufa administration about it. Bignov added that the opposition appealed directly to the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office because it "does not trust the Bashkortostan Prosecutor's Office." He said the opposition called off its rally to demand Rakhimov's ouster in order to avoid clashes with the supporters of the president.

The organizers of the aborted opposition rally on 16 April, Bignov and Anatolii Dubovskii, were summoned the same day to the Russian Federal Security Service's (FSB) Bashkortostan board, where they were held for five hours. One more opposition leader, Airat Dilmokhemmetov, was detained during the aborted rally and delivered to the FSB, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reported the same day.

Opposition leaders charge that Dilmokhemmetov and several others were beaten by pro-Rakhimov activists while at the aborted rally. Bignov said videotapes of such "provocations" will be passed to the Prosecutor-General's Office. He added that "despite unprecedented illegal pressure, the opposition will continue pursuing its aims and will hold its authorized meeting on 1 May."

Rakhimov Says Bashkortostan's People Against Revolution
President Rakhimov told reporters on 16 April that "Bashkortostan's people do not seek any revolution" and "ordinary residents need only prosperity and calm," RosBalt,, and other news agencies reported the same day. Rakhimov labeled opposition leaders "adventurers," saying a major part of them are businessmen and unsuccessful officials dismissed for fraud. "All of them are united by one thing, a passion for gain," Rakhimov said, adding that authorities "will not let them take away the republic's companies that constitute the basis of its economy." Rakhimov said that "those leaders directly or indirectly act in favor of the forces seeking the disintegration of Russia. Those forces have already held revolutions in several countries and do not conceal their willingness to alter Russia their own way."

Some 7,000 people took part in the pro-Rakhimov meeting on 16 April in Ufa organized by the World Bashkir Congress, the Assembly of People's of Russia's local branch, and the Union of Bashkir Youth under slogans of "Hands off Rakhimov!" and "No to the orange plague!" and "Death to orange baboons!" Rakhimov's supporters were delivered by some 400 buses from across the republic, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 16 April.

FSB Seeks Abolishment Of Bashkortostan's Opposition Organizations
The head of the FSB's Bashkortostan board, Igor Chernokov, said on 15 April that the board will appeal to the Russian Justice Ministry's Bashkortostan bureau to halt activities of organizations participating in the coordinating council of Bashkortostan's opposition, RosBalt and Interfax reported on 15 and 16 April, respectively.

Chernokov told reporters on 16 April that no opposition leaders have been formally charged with making public calls for extremist actions during the opposition meetings in Ufa on 26 March and 7 April and that opposition leaders were only summoned to the FSB afterward as witnesses, reported on 16 April. But he said that if examination reveals that the public calls broke the law, then charges will be pressed.

Chernokov added that some 30 representatives of the National Bolshevik Party and radical Tatar nationalists were ready to come to Bashkortostan on 16 April to "break the situation of social stability and decency." But they gave up such plans after learning that authorities strictly control the situation, he said. Chernokov also said no money is delivered from outside the republic to finance Bashkortostan's opposition.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Chelyabinsk Oblast Governor Reappointed
The legislature of Chelyabinsk Oblast unanimously backed the nomination of incumbent Governor Petr Sumin on 18 April, Interfax and Regnum reported the same day. Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed Sumin for reappointment. Sumin, whose term was set to expire in December, appealed in late March to President Putin to resign ahead of schedule so that he can be inaugurated for a new term on 22 April.

Union Of Rightist Forces Promotes Referendum In Chelyabinsk Oblast
The electoral commission in Chelyabinsk Oblast on 15 April registered a petition drive for holding a referendum to restore general elections for the post of oblast governor, Regnum reported on 18 April. The petitioners' group was established by the local branch of the Union of Rightist Forces, which has initiated such referendums in 42 regions of Russia. In 10 entities, local authorities have argued that the proposed referendum question -- "Do you support elections of the governor by the oblast populace?" -- contradicts federal and regional law. The Chelyabinsk Oblast parliament will debate the issue on 28 April.

Prosecutors File Criminal Case Over Radiation Levels Near Mayak
Russian Deputy Prosecutor-General for the Ural Federal District Yurii Zolotov filed a lawsuit connected with radioactive pollution that is believed to have come from the Chelyabinsk Oblast's Mayak plant, Regnum reported the same day, citing the press service of the Volga Federal District Prosecutor's Office. Inspections of Mayak ordered by Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov revealed that radiation levels in the Techa River have increased over the past four years and now far exceed standards. Mayak is suspected of illegally releasing more than 60 million cubic meters of waste into the Techa River, causing 30 million rubles' ($1 million) worth of damage to the environment. Zolotov said the investigation will identify official responsibility.

Mayak spokesman Yevgenii Ryzhkov told Regnum on 14 April that the company has not released waste into the Techa River since the 1950s and that radiation levels have remained stable since.

Plant Workers Continue Protests In Kirovo-Chepetsk
Roughly 8,000 Kirovo-Chepetsk residents joined a protest on 12 April against a halt by Gazprom affiliate Mezhregiongaz of gas deliveries to the Kirovo-Chepetsk Chemical Plant (KChKhK), Regnum reported the same day, citing the plant's public-relations department. Apparently as a result of the measure, production at the KChKhK's Mineral Fertilizers Plant was frozen and 5,000 workers were sent on unpaid leave. The news agency cited an unidentified source within the company saying that Mezhregiongaz's move is an attempt to force KChKhK to sign a deal with Gazprom, which is negotiating the purchase of a minority stake in KChKhK.

Russian Deputy Agriculture Minister Ready To Become Nizhnii Novgorod Governor
Visiting Nizhnii Novgorod on 16 April, Russian Deputy Agriculture Minister Sergei Mitin said he would be prepared to serve as governor of Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast if he were asked, Regnum-NTA reported the same day. Mitin added that the final decision on appointing governors belongs to the Russian president.

Students, Pensioners Protest In Nizhnii
About 300 people protested in Nizhnii Novgorod within the framework of a student protest held across 60 Russian cities and towns against the reform of Russia's education sector and the privatization of Russian institutions of higher learning, Regnum-NTA reported the same day. The students' action was supported by Motherland, the Communist Party, the Party of Pensioners, and the Party of Environmentalists.

Some 100 people staged a protest in Nizhnii Novgorod on 16 April calling for the dismissal of the Russian president and health-care minister and the restoration of in-kind social benefits, Regnum reported the same day. The action was organized by local branch of the Communist Party.

Kyrgyzstan's Ex-Prime Minister To Represent Penza Oblast Governor
Kyrgyzstan's former prime minister, Nikolai Tanaev, was appointed special representative for the Penza Oblast governor in charge of international and foreign economic activities, Interfax-Povolzhe reported on 13 April, citing the oblast government's office. A corresponding decree was signed by Governor Vasilii Bochkarev. Tanaev, who is a native of Penza Oblast, arrived in Penza at Bochkarev's invitation on 6 April. Tanaev was appointed Kyrgyz prime minister in May 2002 but lost his post in the 24 March ouster of President Askar Akaev's administration.

Unemployed Candidate Defeats Incumbent Mayor In Sverdlovsk Oblast Town
An unemployed man, Yurii Yakovlev, was elected to be the new mayor of the town of Verkhnyaya Pyshma in Sverdlovsk Oblast on 17 April, Interfax-Urals reported on 18 April. In the second round of voting, Yakovlev collected 45.6 percent of the vote against 42.9 percent for his rival, the incumbent mayor and Unified Russia member Vladimir Leshkov. Leshkov received 33 percent of the vote in the first round of voting on 10 April to Yakovlev's 24 percent.

Flooding Continues In Volga-Ural Region
The number of flooded residences in the Volga-Ural region had grown to more than 1,000 by 19 April, nearly double the figure of 24 hours earlier, according to Interfax. Some 3,460 people live in 12 square kilometers of flooded land. Three hundred residents have been evacuated. Seven hundred of the flooded homes are in Orenburg Oblast.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova