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Tatar-Bashkir Report: May 3, 2005

3 May 2005
Tatar Speaker Opposes Ideological Platforms Within Unified Russia
Tatar State Council Chairman and Unified Russia's Tatarstan branch secretary Farid Mukhametshin told reporters on 23 April that he called on party members not to divide into "wings" or other structures based on different ideological platforms, since this would result in a split that will be harmful for the party, Tatarinform reported. Mukhametshin took part in a meeting of Unified Russia's General Council in Moscow the same day. Speaking at the gathering, Mukhametshin along with the majority of other speakers stressed the necessity of taking into account opinions of party's regional organizations, specifically regarding legislation on natural resources. It is necessary to discuss the party's position before passing legislation affecting most of the population, Mukhametshin said.

Communists Demonstrate Against Social Reforms
Between 40 and 50 people took part in a demonstration in Kazan on 24 April organized by the Communist Party's Kazan branch and Tatar State Council Communist deputies Robert Sadyiqov and Nesime Stolyarova to protest social reforms, Interfax and RIA-Novosti reported the same day. Protesters demanded that the law changing in-kind social benefits to cash payments be annulled and benefits be restored, and for the reform of housing and municipal services to be abolished. Communists also spoke against nominating heads of federation entities by the Russian president. Organizers called on pensioners to take part in a meeting scheduled for 1 May.

Tatarstan's Politicians Differ In Evaluating Putin's Annual Address
Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev described Russian President Vladimir Putin's message from his annual address to the Russian Federal Assembly on 25 April as "right-centrist," "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 26 April. "But when Unified Russia's policy platform was passed, I said we are a right-centrist people by spirit. Today this has been welcomed and has been brilliantly corroborated," Shaimiev said. Meanwhile, State Duma Deputy Speaker (Unified Russia) Oleg Morozov, who represents Tatarstan in the Russian parliament's lower chamber, told on 25 April that in his address Putin did not give any hint of a right-liberal deviation that some say is taking place in Russia.

Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner On Human Rights In Tatarstan
In a report devoted to the state of human rights in Russia presented on 20 April in Strasbourg, Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Alvaro Gil-Robles listed freedom of speech, violence by police, and the status of ethnic minorities among the human rights problems in Tatarstan, "Vechernyaya Kazan" reported on 26 April. Gil-Robles also cited a lack of informational diversity and the strong dependence of the media on local authorities.

Gil-Robles criticized the status of the Vietnamese community in Kazan, some of whom work but have no identity documents. "Though police know that those people work illegally, nobody worries about this," he said. At the same time, Gil-Robles shared his "strong impression from initiatives by Tatarstan aimed at promoting harmony between ethnic groups. I think Tatarstan can fairly be titled a laboratory for cooperation between different nationalities."

Gil-Robles said he has received numerous complaints of violent treatment by Tatarstan's law-enforcement authorities from people kept in pretrial detention, while the Tatar interior minister reported just 141 such complaints. "This means many residents are simply afraid to complain of violent treatment" by police.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Thanks Tatar Counterpart For Help In Overcoming Fuel Crisis...
Ukrainian Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko during a press conference last week thanked Tatarstan's acting Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov, who, she said along with the Kremenchug Oil Refinery "took the honest position and dispatched oil products to 500 filling stations at fixed prices," "Vechernyaya Kazan" reported on 26 April.

Minnikhanov and Tymoshenko had held negotiations during which they agreed on set prices for gasoline and diesel fuel. The daily commented that Tatarstan's position during the gasoline crisis in Ukraine was decisive and forced other leading companies in the Ukrainian market, LUKoil and TNK, to reduce their prices.

...As Ukrainian Officials Call For Return Of Kremenchug Refinery To State Ownership
Ukraine's State Property Fund Chairwoman Valentina Semenyuk said Ukraine plans to take away 18 percent of Ukrtatnafta shares belonging to Tatneft affiliates AmRuz and Sea Group, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 27 April.

Nationalization of the stake will deprive Tatneft of control over Ukraine's largest refinery, Kremenchug Oil Refinery. Semenyuk told the daily that "otherwise the state will be unable to control this plant and use it as an instrument of influencing the market." The daily cited an unidentified source close to the head of the Ukrtatnafta Observation Council, Tatarstan's acting First Deputy Prime Minister Rawil Moratov, calling the statement "a call to reprivatize in an aggressive manner that has nothing to do with the activities of the Ukrainian government."

Ukraine currently owns 43 percent of Ukrtatnafta, of which Tatneft possesses 8.6 percent and Tatarstan's Property Ministry, 28 percent.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Russian Human Rights Official Calls For Punishing Minister For Blagoveshchensk Raid
Ella Pamfilova, head of the Russian presidential Human Rights Council, said on 24 April that Bashkortostan's leadership should bear responsibility for violations of human rights in Blagoveshchensk in December, RFE/RL reported the next day. Pamfilova told ORT's "Vremena" program that she was bewildered that non-management employees of the Interior Ministry, not Minister Rafail Divaev, will be punished for the Blagoveshchensk raid conducted by Interior Ministry personnel.

Bashkir Peoples' Assembly Appeals To Shaimiev
The council of the Assembly of Bashkortostans' Peoples appealed to Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev to express their "indignation" over the activities of Tatarstan's trade and economic representative to Bashkortostan, Ramil Bignov, claiming he "openly calls for violent overthrow of the legal power and reallotment of republican territory," an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 22 April. Assembly leaders claimed that Bignov "is impudent enough to speak on the behalf of the Tatar people and introduces himself chairman of a union of Tatar organizations known by nobody." They expressed their belief that "everything is being done" in the republic for Tatars "to feel themselves comfortably." Authors of the appeal called on Shaimiev "not to let adventurers persecuting their mercenary interests speak on behalf of the brotherly Tatar people, Tatarstan and its leader."

In an interview with RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 22 April, Bignov said his activities as Bashkortostan's opposition leader have nothing to do with his responsibilities as Tatarstan's trade and economic representative to Bashkortostan. He said he promotes the rights of Bashkortostan's Tatars not as Tatarstan's envoy, but as a person who was born and lives in Bashkortostan.

Prosecutor Dissatisfied With Delay Of Trial On Fake Ballots Case
Bashkortostan prosecutor Aleksandr Konovalov told reporters on 22 April that the trial of the case involving the printing of fake ballots during the December 2003 Bashkir presidential elections is being delayed for no reason, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 25 April. Konovalov said the prosecutor's office has repeatedly complained about the illegal delay of the trial by Ufa's Kirov court. "We have already appealed to the Bashkir Judges Qualification Board and the regional Justice Ministry to secure a hearing of the case," he said. The criminal case was filed after a print run of between 100,000 and 800,000 fake ballots was found on 4 December 2003 in the Ufa printing house controlled by the Bashkir presidential administration. Printing house director Marat Weliev was accused of printing fake ballots. In the wake of the incident, then deputy republican prosecutor Aleksandr Korostelev said the print run was ordered by Bashkir presidential-administration head Radii Khebirov. Materials on the case were sent to the Kirov court more than a year ago. Human Rights Activists Call For Nonviolence In Bashkortostan A group of human rights leaders including Yelena Bonner, Lidiya Grafova, Lev Ponomarev, and Yurii Samodurov on 26 April called for violence to be avoided in Bashkortostan, Regnum reported the same day. The activists expressed their concern about possible clashes on 1 May during demonstrations by the opposition on one side and the ultranationalist Gray Wolves organization, Eurasian Youth Union, and special police troops on the other. The leaders called on the opposition to avoid violent forms of protest and asked Bashkortostan's authorities to reject using violence against peaceful demonstrators. The human rights leaders also called on federal authorities to interfere and keep the situation in Bashkortostan from turning violent.

Opposition Withdraws Demand For Rakhimov's Ouster
Leaders of Bashkortostan's united opposition decided to temporarily withdraw their demand for President Murtaza Rakhimov's ouster, RosBalt reported on 26 April. A decision was made at a meeting in Ufa of the heads of the republic's leading political parties and civic and religious groups as well as presidential-administration head Radii Khebirov and other officials. Opposition leaders agreed to sign an agreement not to call for the dismissals of federal and republican leaders and officials. The opposition leaders also backed down from plans to hold a march on Oktyabr Avenue to Soviet Square and to picket the government building.

Opposition leader Ramil Bignov told reporters that the opposition not only supported the agreement but initiated its signing in its final form in order to "ease public tensions on 1 May and on the eve of Victory Day [9 May]." "We agree to hold a normal action if the authorities and our ideological opponents will also observe the law," Bignov said. He added that the opposition front will soon discuss the necessity of holding more demonstrations demanding Rakhimov's dismissal.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Chelyabinsk Residents Detained In Hungary For Environmental Action
Chelyabinsk Oblast's Gosman Kebirov and Ramzis Feizullin, along with Ecological Defense co-Chairman Vladimir Slivnyak, were detained in Budapest on 26 April for allegedly attempting to transport radioactive water and soil, Ekho Moskvy and Regnum reported the same day. The three were seeking a meeting with the Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany to demand that Hungary break its 1998 agreement with Russia on deliveries of nuclear waste. Hungary has since sent some 269 tons of spent nuclear fuel from its Paksh Nuclear Station to Russia for processing. The activists reportedly tried to bring radioactive samples to illustrate the harm to the environment caused by those activities. In 2002, the Russian Supreme Court annulled that agreement with Hungary, but Rosatom has made no effort to return the imported nuclear waste. Kebirov and Feizullin reportedly suffer from illness caused by the activities of Chelyabinsk Oblast's Mayak plant, which processes spent nuclear fuel. There were no reports on when the activists might be released.

Chelyabinsk Oblast's Parliament Recalls Senator In Federation Council
The deputies in the Chelyabinsk Oblast Legislative Assembly voted unanimously on 28 April to recall the oblast's representative to the Federation Council, Vladislav Zhiganov, Interfax-Urals reported the same day. The decision was passed in the wake of an investigation by oblast prosecutors of Zhiganov's assumption of the Red Star award. At the parliamentary session, oblast deputy prosecutor Aleksandr Vaganov said the awarding of the Red Star was halted in 1991, while Zhiganov claimed he received the honor for participation in military action in Afghanistan.

Europarliament Deputies Promote Finno-Ugric Minority Rights
Members of the European Parliament representing Hungary, Finland, and Estonia proposed a plan for parliamentary activities concerning Russia's Finno-Ugric minorities, Regnum reported on 28 April. Parliamentarians called on the EU Council and European Commission to appeal to the Russian government to improve the conditions of Finno-Ugric minorities and to extend minority cultural and language rights. The authors called for a resolution on problems faced recently by the Marii minority and the allocation of funds for cultural and youth exchanges with Finno-Ugric minorities.

Policemen Sentenced For Beating Young Man To Death
The Yoshkar-Ola city court convicted three Interior employees in Yoshkar-Ola Zarechnyi of beating to death city resident and student Yevgenii Likhachev, Regnum reported on 29 April, citing the Public Verdict fund. Senior Lieutenant Nikolai Zhuravlev was sentenced to 11 1/2 years in prison, Captain Vladimir Popov to 12 1/2 years in prison, and Senior Lieutenant Dmitrii Konev to a three-year suspended sentence. On 18 May 2004, the policemen detained Yevgenii Abrosimov and minor Mikhail Tulovchikov, whom they severely beat with a baseball bat. Likhachev, detained in the same raid, died of his injuries. Relatives of the victims appealed for help to the local human rights organization Man and Law, which publicly investigated the case and defended victims' interests. Organization co-Chairman Sergei Poduzov told the news agency that he considers the verdict fair and legal.

Kasparov-Led Party Branch To Be Set Up In Marii El
A forum of Civil Congress of Marii El was held on 24 April in Yoshkar-Ola with participation of famous chess-player Garri Kasparov, "Kommersant-Volga-Urals" reported on 26 April. The forum passed a decision to establish in Marii El Russia's third regional department of the party being established by Kasparov. On the eve of the event, forum organizers had their planned rental of the premises canceled. The congress's organizing committee head Rustem Abdullin told the daily that the "authorities once more showed their weakness and cowardice."

Perm Hosts Russia's Biggest May Day Demonstration
Some 90,000 residents joined 1 May marches and meetings in Perm, Ekho Moskvy reported the same day. In Perm Oblast's Solikamsk, the 1 May demonstration saw 25,000 participants, while Yekaterinburg and Sverdlovsk Oblast's Lysva each saw 20,000.

Samara Oblast's Titov Opposes Abolition Of Direct Mayoral Election
The Samara Oblast Duma returned to the Samara city Duma for revision a new draft city charter under which the Samara mayor would be elected not by popular vote but by the city Duma from among its members, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 28 April. The Samara Duma, which has generally opposed Mayor Georgii Limanskii, appears to have initiated the abolition of direct elections in an effort to prevent his reelection. Direct mayoral elections, however, were supported by Samara Oblast Governor Konstantin Titov, who himself was reappointed to his post on 26 April. The daily quoted experts commenting that Titov thus thanked his former political opponent, Samara Mayor Georgii Limanskii, for his active promotion of Titov's reappointment. Titov told the outlet, "What is proposed now is not quite democratic. I am in favor of direct elections of the mayor."

Udmurtia's Legislature Rebuffs Referendums
The Udmurtian State Council voted on 26 April against holding referendums on the possible abolition of the post of republican president and on preserving direct elections of the regional head, Interfax-Povolzhe reported the same day. The parliament ruled that both initiatives contradict federal law. The parliament argued that the abolition of the post of president would have unclear legal consequences concerning the powers of republican state bodies in violation of the federal law on major guarantees of election rights. The second initiative reportedly contradicts the paragraph of the same law under which regional heads are proposed by the Russian president. Appeals by two groups of republican residents to hold referendums on the issues were sent to the Udmurtian parliament by the republican Central Election Commission.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova