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Tatar-Bashkir Report: August 30, 2005

30 August 2005
Tatar President Calls For More Powers For Russian Entities
Speaking at a meeting of the Russian State Council on 26 August in Kazan devoted to the millennium celebrations, President Shaimiev appealed to the country's leadership to transfer more powers to the regions, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. "There should be more trust in regions, as many issues can be resolved only by them." Shaimiev said Russia is a multinational state but not all federation subjects can finance the development of the cultures of the nationalities living in them. Shaimiev cited the example of the Tatar-Bashkir holiday Saban tue, which was held in recent years across Russia with the participation of the country's various peoples. Shaimiev also charged that school textbooks say the most incredible things about Tatars. History is taught as a "Russian" one, despite the fact that other peoples, though not to the same extent, made their contribution to the formation of the state, the Tatar president said.

Bilateral Treaty Won't Be Signed During Millennium Celebrations
In an interview with on 25 August, Tatar State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin said a new bilateral treaty on power sharing between Russia and Tatarstan won't be signed during President Vladimir Putin's visit to Kazan for the millennium celebrations on 26-27 August. "We wouldn't like to mix two different events -- Kazan's millennium and signing the treaty," Mukhametshin said. He noted that the new treaty contains a reference to the 1994 treaty.

Tatarstan isn't insisting on any economic preferences and only raises the issue on differentiation of the tax on extraction of natural resources. The draft treaty also sets equal status for Tatarstan's two state languages, Russian and Tatar. No mention of the sovereign right on land and natural resources is made in the treaty, Mukhametshin said.

The deadline for developing a new bilateral treaty expired in late July.

Putin Speaks Tatar At Kazan Anniversary Celebration...
At a ceremony devoted to the Kazan millennium on 26 August in Kazan, President Vladimir Putin delivered a speech in Tatar in which he said "important historical stages of Russia's history were embodied in Kazan's 1,000-year fate." "In Kazan," Putin added, "one can see all the advantages of Russia's statehood -- its ancient history and multiethnic and multifaith nature. Kazan has played a unique role in the formation of the united people of Russia."

Putin translated the major points of his speech, which drew an enthusiastic reaction, into Russian, "for those who have only begun studying Tatar and didn't understand everything." Putin stressed Tatarstan's positive role in the formation of relations between federal authorities and Russia's entities and thanked President Mintimer Shaimiev for his political wisdom. In attendance were the presidents of the CIS countries, Russian governors, and members of the Russian State Council.

According to Tatar Deputy Prime Minister Zile Welieva, Tatar Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov told Tatar cabinet members at a government meeting on 28 August that "since even President Putin speaks Tatar, you all must study and speak Tatar."

...Opens Kazan Subway
President Putin, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev, and Tatar President Shaimiev on 27 August formally opened the Kazan subway and took a ride on it, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. Some 5,000 Kazan residents rode on the subway later that day after the opening ceremony, reported on 28 August, citing Kazan Mayor Kamil Iskhaqov.

Russia's largest international horse-racing complex opened in Kazan on 27 August as well The Russian President's Prize, worth 5 million rubles ($165,000), was won by Lanborn, a horse belonging to President Shaimiev.

On 26 August, 55,000 people took part in the celebrations of Kazan's millennium. At least 50,000 spectators attended the "Constellation in Kazan" concert and multimedia laser show in that evening.

Hermitage Opens Branch In Kazan Kremlin
The first branch of St. Petersburg's State Hermitage Museum was opened on 23 August in a reconstructed building of a former military school in the Kazan Kremlin, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. An exhibition devoted to the history and culture of the Golden Horde and containing over 800 exhibits is on display. Exhibits were provided by museums in Astrakhan, Voronezh, Ufa, and other cities, in addition to the State Hermitage.

Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev and visiting St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matvienko attended the opening ceremony. The project of establishing the Kazan Hermitage, a gift from St. Petersburg for the Kazan millennium, was supported by Shaimiev. State Hermitage Director Mikhail Piotrovskii said, "An exhibition representing the Golden Horde's material culture in such a large scale has never been held. Such exhibitions occur once in a millennium." He said there are no plans for opening similar Hermitage branches in Russia as "there are few places in Russia where, as in Kazan, such an event may take place. We have no candidates," Piotrovskii said. There are branches of the State Hermitage Museum in Amsterdam, London, and Las Vegas.

Gumilev Monument Opened On St. Petersburg Street
The inauguration of St. Petersburg Street -- which became a present to the city for the 1,000th anniversary of the founding of Kazan -- marked the opening of millennium celebrations in the Tatar capital on 24 August, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. On the street, a monument to historian Lev Gumilev was erected in place of the initially planned Peter the Great monument, which was replaced after protests from Tatar civic groups. Kazan authorities gave up on the Peter the Great monument after the Tatar Public Center and Tatarstan's Muslim Women Union held demonstrations in mid-July repeating slogans such as "Peter the Great is a Father of the Spiritual Genocide of Tatars" and "No to the Erection in Tatarstan of a Monument to a Russian Colonizer."

During the opening, in which several thousand residents took part, Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev quoted Gumilev, saying, "I, a Russian man, defend Tatars from slander all my life." St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matvienko attended the ceremony and presented the city with a snow leopard to symbolize Tatarstan's state emblem. She said that St. Petersburg presents Kazan a "live, gentle, and soft embodiment of the dexterity and strength of the Tatar people."

St. Petersburg spent 164.5 million rubles on the reconstruction of the 560-meter-long pedestrian street that represents an architectural style from St. Petersburg and includes fountains, gratings, and bridges.

Horses Arrive In Kazan For International Race Horses from Great Britain arrived in Kazan on 22 August to take part in races for the Kazan millennium events which will be held on 27 August at the International Horseracing Complex, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day.

Russia's first international hippodrome will be officially opened by President Vladimir Putin. A total of some 150 horses from Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Nizhnii Novgorod, Ulyanovsk, Pyatigorsk, Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Bashkortostan have already arrived in the Tatar capital.

According to Britain's "Daily Mail," which published the article "A New Revolution in Russia," devoted to the new track, the Kazan hippodrome is analogous to New York's Belmont Park, though Kazan's track is much bigger. It has stables for 500 horses and premises for housing personnel. The horse Fine Silver, the Newbury Spring Cup winner, is considered one of the favorites in the races.

UNESCO Head Sends Congratulations On Kazan Millennium
United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) General Director Koitiro Matsuura has sent his greetings to Tatarstan's leaders and residents on Kazan's jubilee, Tatarinform reported on 25 August. Matsuura said the jubilee is an occasion for international recognition of the important historical role of Kazan, which during its thousand-year history made great contributions to world civilization as a great center of culture, science, trade, and industry. "Kazan with its delightful Kremlin, temples, and museums was included in the list of World Heritage and awarded several prizes and the UNESCO medal for a significant contribution to preservation of historical and cultural traditions," Matsuura added.

Asteroid Named After Soembike
Kazan astronomers gave the name of Tatar Queen Soembike to an asteroid in honor of Kazan's millennium, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 25 August. The name of the 16th-century queen has been assigned by the International Astronomic Union to the asteroid, which was discovered in 1994 by Kazan State University student Timur Kryachko. A certificate to that effect has been delivered to Kazan from the St. Petersburg Institute of Applied Astronomy. The idea of naming the celestial body after Soembike belongs to an academician, Tatarstan's Academy of Sciences' Physics, Power Engineering and Earth Sciences Department Secretary Nail Sekhibullin. The name "Kazan" had already been given to a small planet.

TAIF Makes Progress In Taking Over NNPZ
Nizhnekamskneftekhim (NKNKh) on 23 August sold its stake in the Tuben Kama Oil Refinery (NNPZ) to the Tatar-American Investment and Finance (TAIF) group for $139 million, "Kommersant-Volga-Ural" reported on 24 August. Negotiations between TAIF and Tatneft on selling the latter's stake in NNPZ are also almost finished. TAIF General Director Albert Shihabetdinov told the daily that his company plans to finish the process of taking over NNPZ by TAIF's affiliate, TAIF-NK, within two or three months.

Conflicts between TAIF and Tatneft over NNPZ arose in late 2002 (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 1 October 2003). The issue was settled by President Shaimiev during a Tatar Security Council meeting in June. Shaimiev charged Tatneft with constructing a new oil refinery in the republic capable of processing 7 million tons of oil a year and selling its stake in NNPZ to TAIF. TAIF is controlled by President Shaimiev's son Radik.

"Kommersant-Volga-Ural" cited a source in Tatneft confirming that the oil company is negotiating with TAIF about selling its stake in NNPZ, but adding that there are many controversial issues that "are unlikely to be resolved quickly."

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Human Rights Defender Sues Russian President
Human rights activist Reis Dewletkujin has appealed to the Moscow Basmannyi Court against Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russian Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov, and Russian Interior Minister Rashit Nurgaliev, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 24 August.

Dewletkujin charged that he had repeatedly appealed to the above mentioned Russian officials about harsh violations by Bashkir Interior Minister Rafail Divaev but has received no reply thus far. In his statement, Dewletkujin listed a number of contracted murders that still remain unsolved, including murders he claimed were committed by interior employees in Bashkortostan. Among them, the shooting on 5 September 2003 of A. Melnikov by Interior Ministry Captain R. Lotfullin in his office, and the killing on 24 February 2004 of M. Gimranov by Interior Ministry Major M. Sherefetdinov in Ishimbai, among others. Dewletkujin called on the court to recognize the "criminal inaction" by Putin and Nurgaliev who have done nothing to eliminate conditions enabling the violation of human rights in Bashkortostan.

Eight Policemen To Go On Trial Over Blagoveshchensk Raids
Criminal hearings were set for a Blagoveshchensk city court on 15 September in a number cases against police officers who took part in the Blagoveshchensk security raids on 10-14 December, during which hundreds of incidents of suspected abuse took place, Regnum reported on 22 August, quoting a police source. Eight people will go on trial, including Blagoveshchensk Interior Directorate head Lieutenant Colonel Ildar Ramazanov, Major Oleg Mirzin, Major Oleg Sokolov, Major Oleg Shapeev, Lieutenant Aidar Gilwanov, Captain Vil Khemetdinov, Sergei Fomin, and Foreman Yurii Golovin. All are reportedly accused of exceeding authority or abuse of power, and all have proclaimed their innocence. Some are also accused of using or threatening to use violence under special circumstances. They could face three to 10-year terms in prison if convicted. More than 300 people reportedly had their rights violated during the raids, including nearly 200 subjected to violent treatment at the hands of authorities.

Seemingly Bogus Reports Emerge In Connection With Weapons Stash
The Ingush Interior Ministry informed the Bashkir Interior Ministry that an arms cache was discovered in the republic along with a note in which the purported owner is asked to hurry with "actions" devoted to the Kazan millennium and pledges payment, "Moskovskii komsomolets v Ufe" reported on 22 August. The paper reported that Bashkir opposition leader Ramil Bignov's name is mentioned in the note, although the name that appears in the note is in fact "Ramil Biganov," not "Bignov." The daily quoted Ingush Interior Ministry spokesman Murat Zurabov as saying that the weapons -- a Kalashnikov machine gun and cartridges, along with three grenades -- and the note were actually found near the village of Maiskii in North Ossetia. "In the note, payment for some actions was guaranteed but the Kazan millennium wasn't mentioned," Zurabov added. The Bashkir Interior Ministry declined to comment on the report, saying the information "shouldn't be disclosed."

Communist Party Protests Ban Of Its Conference In Bashkortostan...
The presidium of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) released a statement on 23 August on the situation in Bashkortostan in reaction to a ban of the party conference that was due to be held on 20 August, reported the same day.

The document was signed by national party leader Gennadii Zyuganov. The party said it considers its plans to prepare for a referendum in Bashkortostan and on nominating candidates for State Assembly by-elections -- both of which were on the agenda -- as the reasons for the ban. A question on the confidence in Bashkortostan's president, Murtaza Rakhimov, was slated to be one of the questions on the referendum.

The statement charged that the ban was issued "hastily" and for a "doubtful" reason. The KPRF Presidium appealed to the Prosecutor-General's Office, the Justice Ministry, the Central Election Commission, the Russian Supreme Court, and the Russian ombudsman. The KPRF leaders stated in the note that the referendum will be held despite the attempts by the authorities to stifle it.

...As Tatar Autonomy Indignant At 'Provocative' Publication
The Ufa Tatar National Cultural Autonomy (MNKAT) appealed on 23 August to Russian Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov and Bashkortostan's prosecutor, Aleksandr Konovalov, to protest an article in "Moskovskii komsomolets v Ufe" claiming that an arms cache found in Ingushetia is linked to the MNKAT leader and head of Bashkortostan's united opposition Ramil Bignov (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 23 August 2005), and called on officials to immediately investigate the statements in the published article, reported on 23 August.

The statement signed by MNKAT Deputy President Mejit Khujin called the publication "provocative" and aimed at preventing the autonomous delegation from going to Kazan and taking part in the city's millennium celebrations. Khujin predicted that this so-called provocation by the republican authorities will be used to check out and search the delegation on its way to Kazan, perhaps even placing weapons and drugs on its members. Khujin added that the permanent shadowing of Bignov's car in the past few days was not coincidental. Khujin recalled that in April, the flight of the plane carrying representatives of Bashkortostan's opposition was detained for five hours and he called on the prosecutors to personally supervise the departure of the MNKAT delegation to Kazan.

International Narcotics Syndicate Uncovered In Bashkortostan
An international criminal group involved in trafficking narcotics from Tajikistan to Russia has been discovered in Bashkortostan, RosBalt reported on 24 August.

Over 190 kilograms of narcotics, including 127 kilograms of heroin and 67 kilograms of opium from Afghanistan were seized in a large-scale operation held by the Federal Security Service's Central, Volga, and Ural districts' territorial subdivisions. The street value of the drugs is estimated at 160 million rubles. The dealers had large excavators to transport the drugs. Several Tajik citizens and local members of the group were detained during the operation. The traffickers were linked to people detained in June in Sterletamaq and Aurgazy Raion, from which 52 kilos of heroin were seized. The Federal Security Service in Bashkortostan has filed criminal charges in the case.

UN, Bashkortostan Joint Efforts In Fighting Drug Addiction
Bashkir Prime Minister Rafael Baidavletov and the visiting head of the UN's regional representation of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime for Russia and Belarus, Flavio Mirella, signed in Ufa on 25 August an agreement on cooperation in preventing drug addiction, fighting illegal drug trafficking, and exchanging information and experience, RosBalt reported the same day. Baidavletov said during the ceremony that due to cooperation with UN, the republic has a chance to take advantage not only of domestic but also international experience in fighting drug addiction. Mirella said the UN representation is ready to provide assistance to Bashkortostan's law enforcement bodies, educational and health-care institutions, and civic groups in exchanging international experience.

Experts Claim 100,000 Drug Addicts In Bashkortostan
At an interregional scientific working conference on the drug situation in federation subjects held in Ufa on 25 August, it was reported that the rate of drug addiction in Bashkortostan is 127 per 100,000 population, compared to the Volga Federal District average of 302 per 100,000, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. A total of 5,576 patients have been registered in the republic. The true number of addicts, however, is likely to be between 70,000 and 100,000 people, according to experts.

Speaking at the conference, Bashkir prosecutor Aleksandr Konovalov said drug addiction is becoming widespread among youth. He sharply criticized attempts to legalize "light" drugs, saying such proposals lead to a dead end, not to the solution of the issue.

Bashkir Health Care Minister Fenil Semigullov told the forum that according to a survey of teenagers between 13 and 17 years old, 73 percent of them drink beer and 12 percent have tried narcotics, while only 6 percent abstain.

Verdict On BAL Bankruptcy Annulled
The Ural Federal District Arbitration Court on 24 August overruled the 24 June verdict by the Bashkir Arbitration Court on the introduction of bankruptcy procedures at the state-run company Bashkir Airlines (BAL), RosBalt reported on 24 August.

BAL lawyer Lyudmila Terenteva told the news agency that the Ural District Arbitration Court approved the BAL appeal and ordered a stop to the bankruptcy proceedings. On 24 June, the Bashkir Arbitration Court agreed with a suit by the Ufa International Airport against BAL, which owed the airport 72 million rubles as of August. "Kommersant-Volga-Ural" cited a source in the Bashkir government commenting that the verdict will lessen the "chances of BAL leaving a big debt."

British Airline Begins Flights To Ufa
Ufa International Airport held negotiations on 26 August with representatives of British Mediterranean Airways, RosBalt reported the same day, citing the airport press service. The sides reached basic agreement, under which the airport will accept and maintain aircraft of the British airline. British Mediterranean Airways becomes the third foreign airline implementing regular flights to Bashkortostan's capital, after Lufthansa and Uzbek Airlines. Cooperation with Czech Airlines is under negotiation.

State-Sector Employees' Salaries Growing
The salaries of teachers, doctors, and employees of cultural and other state budget institutions will rise by 11 percent as of 1 September, RosBalt reported on 26 August, citing the Bashkir presidential press service. A corresponding order was signed by Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Fedorov Reappointed Chavash President
The Chavash State Council on 29 August approved the reappointment of incumbent President Nikolai Fedorov, Interfax-Povolzhe reported the same day. Sixty-seven deputies of the 69 present voted in favor. Fedorov took the oath of office the same day. Fedorov has been heading the republic since 1993. His current term would have expired in December.

New Senator To Represent Chelyabinsk Oblast Legislature To Federation Council
Andrei Komarov, a member of the board of directors at the Chelyabinsk Pipe-Rolling Plant and the Pervouralsk Pipe Plant, was elected on 25 August to represent the Chelyabinsk Oblast Legislative Assembly on the Federation Council, Interfax-Ural reported the same day. Komarov's candidacy was backed by 32 of 33 deputies of the oblast legislature. In 2003-04, Komarov chaired the board of directors of the Chelyabinsk Pipe-Rolling Plant. Since 2002, he has been a co-chairman of the Fund for the Development of Pipe Industry, and since 2005 the chairman of the Public Council on Engineering Regulation under the Russian Industry Ministry.

Marii National Organization Leader Assaulted
The Marii opposition organization Marii ushem has released a statement expressing "indignation" at the assault on Youth Association of Finno-Ugric Peoples Chairman Vasilii Petrov, Regnum reported on 30 August. Petrov was hospitalized with head injuries and broken arms and ribs after being attacked by three men in his native village of Ismentsy in Marii El's Zvenigov Raion. Marii ushem described the attack as "a political act," saying Petrov had been repeatedly warned that he would face serious trouble if he didn't show loyalty toward republican authorities. "We don't trust Marii El's law-enforcement bodies, which have not investigated similar cases," specifically, the assault on All-Marii Council Chairman Vladimir Kozlov earlier this year, the statement said.

According to an official press release by the Marii El Interior Ministry cited by Regnum, it was Petrov who initiated the fight with a 35-year-old man he was previously acquainted with and two others. All participants of the incident have been identified and an investigation is under way, according to the report. Zvenigov Raion hospital doctor Vyacheslav Yarkov told the news agency that Petrov has a light cranio-cerebral trauma and bruises, and no fractures.

Penza Tatars Against Dismantling Tenishev's House
Penza Oblast United Muslim Spiritual Directorate Deputy Chairman Abdurrauf Zabirov told that dismantling the Tenishev country estate, the only Tatar cultural monument in the oblast, is opposed by Muslims and the heads of Islamic and Tatar cultural organizations. Demolishing the house was also not agreed with the directorate or with the Tatar culture community Compatriots, Zabirov said. Academician Edhem Tenishev himself left an oral will for Penza's Muslims to preserve the building. A flower garden and fountain are planned for the site.

Mosque Vandalized In Penza
Penza Oblast United Muslim Spiritual Directorate Chairman Abbas Bibarsov appealed to oblast prosecutor Vladimir Kashlevskii to find and persecute those who defiled the Penza mosque on 22 August, reported on 23 August. On the night of 22 August, vandals broke a window of the mosque and painted nationalist slogans on its walls. Bibarsov believes the act was committed "in an organized manner by an extremist community that was specially established and is aimed at destabilizing interethnic and interfaith relations in Penza Oblast and insulting believers' feelings." He said Muslims consider "such deeds to be in line with other crimes that were committed in Penza before, specifically, defiling the synagogue and an attempt to set fire to it."

New Accusations Brought Against Perm Mayor
The Perm Oblast prosecutor's office presented a new accusation against Perm Mayor Arkadii Kamenev, Novyi region (Perm) reported on 26 August. Kamenev is accused of unlawfully transferring city property, specifically, carriage rolling stock of Passazhiravtotrans, to private companies for free use. Kamenev declared his innocence, saying Passazhiravtotrans was awaiting bankruptcy and had debts of 80 million rubles ($2.8 million). This is the second charge against the mayor after he was accused of granting free premises to the Tatishchev restaurant.

Rossel Won't Request Reappointment
Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel isn't planning to appeal to the Russian president to reappoint him, Regnum reported on 22 August. Rossel made the announcement at a ceremony awarding him honorary citizenship of Yekaterinburg the same day. Rossel said his term expires in September 2007 and "it is too early to talk about it."

Ural Airlines Purchases Boeings
Yekaterinburg-based Ural Airlines will purchase six Boeing jets for $30 million, Regnum reported on 23 August. Airline General Director Sergei Skuratov commented on recent accidents involving Boeing aircraft, saying that it was "not the type of liner but specific jets that had problems." The company plans to buy used aircraft that still have long service ahead of them.

Antimonopoly Body Files Criminal Charges Against Udmurtia's Government
The Udmurt directorate of the Federal Antimonopoly Service filed a criminal case on 25 August against Udmurtia's government, Regnum reported on 26 August, citing the directorate's press service. The state-run Motor Depot of the President and Government of Udmurt Republic is charged with violating the federal law on competitiveness and restrictions of monopolist activities. According to the Udmurt directorate, the motor depot bought eight Toyota Camrys from SP Biznes Kar with money allocated from Udmurtia's budget without a bidding process.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova