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Tatar-Bashkir Report: August 16, 2005

16 August 2005
Federal Finance Ministry Says Moscow Winding Up Investment Program In Tatarstan
Russian Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin said after an inspection of Kazan's public transport, industrial infrastructure, concert and sports venues, the environment, and housing on 6 August that problems targeted by federal and republican investment ahead of the millennial celebrations in Tatarstan's capital have been resolved. The investments came within the republic's 2001-06 socioeconomic-development and millennial-celebration plans. After the celebrations, Kudrin said, Kazan and Tatarstan will share the cost of finishing projects to build social facilities. The federal government will also transfer 6.5 billion rubles ($224 million) to complete the federal program for Tatarstan's development. In the future, Tatarstan will reportedly be allowed to seek further federal investment through a special government investment fund, on equal terms with other regions in the Russian Federation.

Kazan, St. Petersburg Discuss Monumental Mixup; Resolution Later Emerges
Visiting St. Petersburg's deputy governor, Aleksandr Vakhmistrov, told reporters on 4 August that Kazan's authorities will make their own decision over whether to decorate the newly opened St. Petersburg Street with a monument to Peter the Great, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the next day. Prior to that statement, Kazan Mayor Kamil Iskhakov publicly shared his concern over local residents' responses -- some of whom view Peter as a symbol of oppression suffered by Muslims in Russia, he noted, while others view him as an organizer of the first admiralty in Kazan, which helped to usher in economic prosperity from trade routes. Vakhmistrov said his administration "will not interfere" in the monument affair, he vowed. Two days later, on 6 August, Kazan Deputy Mayor Elfie Tutaeva told a news conference that St. Petersburg Street will house a monument to St. Petersburg native Lev Gumilev, a renowned researcher of Turkic history.

Tatar Public Figures Advocate Detained Turkish Religious Group
Following the Federal Security Service's (FSB) arrest in Kazan and Chally of activists from the Islamic religious group Nurcilar on charges of religious extremism, prominent Tatar historian and ethnologist Damir Iskhakov said in an interview by RFE/RL's Kazan bureau on 8 August that he considers the group to be "one of the most peaceful and tolerant."

Iskhakov also mentioned the origins of the group, which emerged during a time in Turkey of strong regulations against Islam when the party struggled for a more secular role for Islam. Iskhakov's opinion is reportedly shared by the imam of newly opened Qol Serif Mosque, Ramil khezret Yunis, and Damir Shegeliev, a theology expert on the religious affairs board of Tatarstan's cabinet, who reportedly claim there are no expressions of extremism in Nurcilar's literature.

Russian Trade And Economic Development Minister Visits Tatarstan
Russian Trade and Economic Development Minister German Gref arrived in Tatarstan on 9 August for meetings with President Mintimer Shaimiev, top government officials, and republican industrial leaders, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. Presenting a report on Tatarstan's major economic priorities, Shaimiev told Gref that republican investment since 2005 have been predominantly oriented toward oil processing rather than extraction. As a result, the republic reportedly contributes 10 percent of the national petrochemical production and 15-20 percent of total investments in that sector nationwide.

Also on 9 August, Gref visited the Chally facilities of automaker KamAZ to discuss the possible sale of a state-owned stake in that venture in 2006. Gref told reporters that the shares will attract foreign investment for the concern's development program. He said the short-term goal for KamAZ management is to take the company public on Russian and London stock exchanges to secure investment for further modernization.

Head Of Old Believers Church Dies
Andrian, the Metropolitan of the Russian Orthodox Old Believers Church, died on 11 August and will be buried on 14 August in the Pokrov Cathedral in Moscow, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 11 August. Before becoming the overall head of the church in Russia, Adrian had served as the head of the Old Believers Church in Kazan and his time in office was characterized by the start of a dialogue between the Old Believers and the Russian Orthodox Church. Prior to that the two churches did not maintain a relationship due to the history of the Old Believers being persecuted in Russia since the time of Peter the Great. According to some Russian media, Andrian's death may lead to greater self-isolation of the Old Believers, which has traditionally been a closed community.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Nine Sentenced Over Participation In Radical Islamic Group...
Bashkortostan's Supreme Court has convicted nine people of membership of the banned Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir, Interfax-Povolzhe reported on 3 August. Eight received prison sentences of between 3 1/2 years and 8 1/2 years. The other defendant was given a 4 1/2-year suspended sentence. All of the defendants had acknowledged their membership of Hizb ut-Tahrir but denied they were guilty of any crimes, including the establishment of a criminal group for the purpose of committing serious crimes, involvement in or promotion of terrorist crimes, or the illegal purchase and possession of arms or explosive substances.

...As Rights Activists Report More Fabricated Cases Against Muslims
The chairwoman of the Civic Support Committee, Svetlana Gannushkina, alleged on 2 August that criminal cases against Islamic extremists have been fabricated to allow the appearance that such extremism is on the rise in Russia, reported on 4 August. NGO Memorial representative Vitalii Ponomarev said at the same forum that human rights activists are following 23 cases in 20 federal regions involving 80 defendants. Ponomarev added that there is a threat that the number of such cases will increase, citing a recent statement by the head of the Federal Security Service's (FSB) antiterrorism board, who said extremist religious activities have been uncovered in 50 entities of the Russian Federation. Human rights activists have claimed that Muslims are often accused of "possessing banned literature," while they said that not a single book has been banned in Russia and no expertise of seized literature has been sought. Conference participants also claimed that special services often try to provoke Muslims or fabricate weapons or narcotics offenses.

Interior Ministry Concerned About Discipline Among Employees
Bashkir Interior Minister Rafail Divaev told Interfax-Povolzhe on 8 August that the ministry has taken measures to secure discipline and to prevent and uncover any criminal behavior by law enforcement officials. Divaev said the issue is on the agenda of an extraordinary meeting in the ministry on 6 August where "strict" measures will be developed to strengthen discipline. According to an order by the minister, all interior employees have been informed that they will be sacked in case of driving while intoxicated. Divaev added that he ordered the firing of Reval Ekhmetshin, an employee in Miyaki Raion, who struck and killed a girl on 25 July while driving drunk. The leadership of the Interior Ministry appealed to the Prosecutor's Office to arrest Ekhmetshin, Divaev said. Divaev also said 21 Interior Ministry employees have been dismissed for other violations so far in the current year.

Rakhimov Pledges Republican Funds For Tatar High School's New Wing
Bashkortostan's President Murtaza Rakhimov has ordered that construction of a new wing of a Tatar high school in Ufa be completed by the end of next school year, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 9 August. Rakhimov made his comments during an inspection of the site. He pledged that the government would allocate 15 million rubles ($527,500) required to finish the project. Rakhimov said every child should speak his or her mother tongue.

Meanwhile, speaking at a meeting devoted to developing a state program for preserving and developing the languages of peoples in Bashkortostan, Deputy Prime Minister and Culture and Nationalities Policies Minister Ildus Ileshev stressed the necessity of a new approach to the issue of preservation and developing such languages. Meeting participants generally agreed to finish the draft program by November.

Tatar civic groups in Bashkortostan have so far been unsuccessful in appealing to officials for measures to preserve and develop the Tatar language.

U.S. Purchases Bashkir Honey
The director of the Scientific Research Institute on Beekeeping and Apitherapy, Emir Ishemgulov, told RosBalt on 11 August that Bashkortostan will deliver a test consignment of 20.5 tons of honey to the United States in late August. Ishemgulov said this is the first delivery of honey to North America although the institute has taken part in several exhibits in the U.S. where Bashkir honey received good reviews. The GM Natural Products Inc. is the American provider of the contract.

Tatar Civic Group Against Mandatory Teaching Of Bashkir In Secondary Schools
Bashkortostan's Tatar Public Center (TIU) stated its opposition to plans to introduce the mandatory teaching of Bashkir in all of the republic's secondary schools, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 10 August. The issue was on the agenda of a TIU board meeting on 9 August. Tatar organization activists spoke against amendments to the republican education law being discussed by the republic parliament under which Tatar schoolchildren will be obliged to study Bashkir.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Marii El Official Wants Evidence Of Opposition's Claims
Marii El Deputy Prime Minister and Culture, Press and Nationalities Affairs Minister Mikhail Vasyutin has demanded that the Mari opposition provide evidence of their claims about the critical state of the indigenous people in the republic and violations of their rights and freedoms, Regnum reported on 11 August, citing the government press service.

Vasyutin signed a corresponding request addressed to Vladimir Kozlov, the head of the all-Mari council Mer Kanash, and Nadezhda Maksimova, the chairwoman of the interregional civic organization Marii Ushem. Vasyutin informed the leaders that "not a single appeal against the violation of the ethnic rights of residents of the Mari nationality has been registered by the Prosecutor's Office or security bodies."

Opposition Meeting Banned In Yoshkar-Ola
The Yoshkar-Ola administration refused permission for Marii Ushem to hold an opposition meeting on 14 August in Yoshkar-Ola, Regnum reported on 11 August.

The opposition group, however, still planned to hold an unauthorized meeting against what it calls the worsening socioeconomic conditions and violations of human rights and democracy in the republic. The action was to be held on Nikonov Square in front of the Russian theater. The opposition group also plans to appeal the administration's decision to ban the meeting.

NGO Leader Accused Of Extremist Calls In Nizhnii
Stanislav Dmitrievskii, the executive director of the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society (ORChD) and editor in chief of the "Pravo-zashchita" newspaper, was summoned to the Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast Prosecutor's Office on 11 August on suspicion of calling for extremist action in the mass media, Regnum reported on 9 August, citing the ORChD press service.

The criminal case was filed on 11 January following publication by "Pravo-zashchita" of appeals by late Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov to the European Parliament and by Maskhadov's special representative abroad, Akhmed Zakaev, to the Russian people. On 20 January, Dmitrievskii was interrogated by the Federal Security Service as a witness. Documents containing information about the newspaper's reporters living in Chechnya and their addresses have been withdrawn from the newspaper office.

ORChD activities are financed by the U.S.-based National Endowment for Democracy with money allocated by the U.S. State Department.

Perm Mayor Accused Of Corruption...
The Perm Oblast Prosecutor's Office on 9 August presented accusations that Perm Mayor Arkadii Kamenev had abused his powers, Interfax-Povolzhe reported the same day, citing the Prosecutor's Office press service.

An office spokesperson told the news agency that Kamenev exchanged free commercial office space in exchange for the setting up of a restaurant. His actions reportedly caused the city to lose some 3 million rubles, according to the Prosecutor's Office.

The Perm administration released a statement on 10 August in which Kamenev denied the accusations.

...As Former Saratov Oblast Minister Arrested
The Saratov Oblast Volga Raion Court approved on 10 August an appeal by the oblast Prosecutor's Office on the arrest of former oblast Transport and Road Construction Minister Gevorg Dzhlavyan, Regnum-VolgaInform reported on 11 August, citing the Prosecutor's Office press service. Dzhlavyan is under investigation for nonpayment of taxes. Prosecutors charge that he tried to pressure witnesses during the investigation.

Kidnappers Convicted In Saratov
Saratov's Frunze Raion court issued a verdict in the case of the kidnapping of a schoolgirl who was taken to Chechnya and tortured there, Interfax-Povolzhe reported on 9 August, citing the Saratov Oblast Prosecutor's Office.

Vladimir Kuznetsov and Sergei Khalilov, who were found guilty of kidnapping the daughter of a local businessman in 1999, were each sentenced to eight years in prison. Khalilov, who worked for the interior ministry at the time of the crime, was also deprived of the title of senior sergeant and the state bravery medal reward that he had been previously given. The two demanded $2 million in ransom and sent their request to the girl's father along with one of the girl's fingers. The girl was freed in December 1999 during a special police operation near Shali village in Chechnya.

Uralsvyazinform Disconnects 19,000 Telephone Subscribers
The Yekaterinburg branch of Uralsvyazinform disconnected home telephones on 11 August to some 19,000 of its subscribers because of unpaid debts, Interfax-Ural reported the same day, citing the Uralsvyazinform press service.

The total debt of the disconnected subscribers is 5.2 million rubles. Another 7,500 subscribers repaid their 2.2 million ruble debt on the eve of the cutoff, which was conducted under the federal law on communications. As of 1 July, the Yekaterinburg branch had 950,000 subscribers.

Udmurt President Called To Court As Witness
Aleksandr Volkov has been summoned to court as a witness in a criminal case on the violation of a federal law on natural monopolies, Regnum reported on 11 August, citing Yekaterina Iutina, the spokesperson of the Federal Antimonopoly service board in Udmurtia (UFAS).

The case was filed by UFAS on 9 August against the state-run company Votkinsk Urban Electricity Networks, which rented out its property to the joint-stock Udmurt Managing Company without agreeing on the issue with the antimonopoly body. Iutina commented that such serious issues couldn't be resolved "without keeping the republican head informed." The hearing on the case was set for 25 August.

Udmurtia's Energy System Unprepared For Accidents...
Inspection of Udmurtia's energy system conducted after the May energy crisis in Moscow revealed that the republic isn't read for an emergency situation like the one that occurred in Moscow, Regnum reported on 10 August, citing TVS.

Specifically, a major part of the republic would be left without telephone communication since not all telephone stations have reserve power-supply sources. According to Udmurt Deputy Health Care Minister Vladimir Gavrilov, only 50 percent of the republic's central raion hospitals and 30 percent of republican city and town health-care institutions are equipped with independent power-supply sources. Izhvodokanal Director Anatolii Zadoyannyi said all water purification and septic facilities would not function in case the energy supply is broken.

...As Udmurtenergo Leaders Disagree
Management at Udmurtenergo has officially denied the report about the company being unprepared for an emergency situation, Regnum reported on 10 August.

The document, signed by Udmurtenergo General Director Mikhail Dralin, said that the republic has several sources from which to receive energy and to reserve power. The company leadership confirmed, however, that many large parts of important social centers in the republic don't have reserve power sources, adding that it is the heads of those institutions that are responsible for providing them.

Meanwhile, the head of the Russian Construction Committee of the Ural Federal District, Aleksandr Loshchenko, said on 10 August that big energy failures are possible in the district as the amortization of equipment has reached 50 percent and should be replaced, Regnum reported the following day.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova