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Tatar-Bashkir Report: September 6, 2005

6 September 2005
Tatar Congress Criticizes Moscow Policy
Speaking at a World Tatar Congress (BTK) session in Kazan on 29 August, BTK Executive Committee Chairman Renat Zakirov said that Moscow is neglecting the interests of national minorities as it strengthens the so-called power vertical in the country. "It seems that federal authorities that concentrated all the financial resources didn't think about the preservation and development of nationalities," Zakirov said. "It turns out that Tatarstan alone is to look after it." Zakirov said Moscow's passive position on the nationalities issue is most clearly visible with respect to the situation of ethnic Tatars in Bashkortostan. "Their willingness to preserve their language is nearly considered extremism by Bashkir authorities, while federal authorities could pressure Bashkir authorities." Zakirov added, "The Tatar language is disappearing in Russia's regions in a catastrophic manner, as it is practically impossible to open national schools in big cities."

The Council of Muftis of Russia Chairman Rawil Gainetdin warned that 80 percent of people attending mosques are refugees who do not speak Tatar and ask for sermons to be delivered in Russian. People are treated to vodka and pork during the Tatar Saban Tue holidays, Gainetdin said.

Radical nationalist and former Ittifaq party leader Feuzie Beiremova called the celebration "a holiday in a cage" and urged Tatars to restore their statehood.

Orange-Colored Concert Of Scorpions In Kazan
The German rock group The Scorpions performed its "Moment of Glory" show in Kazan on 29 August, during the millennial jubilee, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. The performance was attended by 12,000 spectators, including President Shaimiev and Kazan Mayor Kamil Iskhaqov.

A newly constructed ice arena that is a copy of the Hamburg hockey facility was also inaugurated. Federal Sports Agency head Vyacheslav Fetisov said at the opening ceremony that the new Kazan ice arena is the largest in Russia. Thousands of young people dressed in orange T-shirts and performed sport exercises and dances to fill the stadium.

Kazan Wraps Up Millennium Celebrations...
Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev on 30 August sent Tatarstan's people his greetings on the 15th anniversary of the adoption of the declaration of Tatarstan's state sovereignty and on Kazan's millennium, in which he said "we can say with confidence that Kazan has become a Eurasian capital," RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. "We have already become a good model for the entire Russian Federation in many respects but our potential is far from exhausted," Shaimiev said.

Shaimiev held meetings during the day with numerous visiting guests, including the federal director for the use of natural resources, Anatolii Ledovskikh, LUKoil President Vagit Alekperov, Russian Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu, and Russian Supreme Court Chairman Vyacheslav Lebedev. Shoigu told reporters following the meeting that he cannot find the words to express his feelings, adding that "Kazan has given the whole country an example of how to live and celebrate."

The final day's program of celebrations included a historical show called "Golden Horseshoe," races at the new international horseracing complex, the air show "Millennium in the Sky" performed by elite flying groups using five MIG-29s and six Su-27 fighters, the "Kazan Forever" performance at the central stadium with baritone Dmitrii Khvorostovskii, a pop music concert near the Kazan Kremlin attended by some 120,000 spectators, a multimedia show, and a firework display with about 1,000 volleys.

...And Attended By Russia's Duma Speaker
Russian State Duma Chairman Boris Gryzlov met on 30 August in Kazan with the heads of the parliaments of the regions within the Volga Federal District who took part in the Kazan millennium celebrations, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. Gryzlov toured Kazan to observe the projects built for the jubilee, including the Millennium Bridge, the Qol Sherif Mosque, and the reconstructed Lady Day Cathedral.

Gryzlov told a news conference the same day that the bilateral treaty on power sharing between Tatarstan and Russia "will be passed as soon as it is introduced to the State Duma," as it now has the status of a federal law. Gryzlov added, however, that he "doesn't know when this will happen." Tatar State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin said "there is still one item of one article in the draft that Moscow doesn't like," adding that it doesn't concern any financial preferences of Tatarstan but promotes a lowering of the rate of the tax on the extraction of natural resources. "Our oil wells are aging and it becomes more and more difficult to produce oil, so we believe a differentiated approach in taxation should exist that is to be fixed in the treaty," Mukhametshin said.

At the news conference, Gryzlov spoke against making amendments to the Russian Constitution regarding an extension of the Russian presidential term. Gryzlov said a qualified majority in the State Duma "intends to preserve the constitution and prevent attempts aimed at changing it."

Greetings From UN Secretary-General On Kazan Millennium
Kofi Annan has sent President Shaimiev his congratulations on Kazan's jubilee in which he said that "Kazan during its rich history was a crossroads of civilizations and a place where peoples representing different cultures and traditions were engaged in trade and the exchange of ideas," reported on 29 August. Annan said "this knowledge and experience of global diversity is an important advantage in a world that is becoming more and more interdependent." He called on the Kazan people "to maintain this openness by maintaining the distinctiveness of their city in the future."

Former Guantanamo Prisoners Face Terrorism Prosecution In Tatarstan
Tatarstan Prosecutor Ildar Mokhemetjanov said on 31 August that former Guantanamo prisoners Airat Wakhitov and Rostem Ekhmerov have been detained by authorities are being held in Tatarstan on suspicion of having prepared and committed acts of terrorism in Tatarstan and several neighboring regions, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reported the same day. He added that republican prosecutors are investigating and should soon present formal charges against them.

Tatarstan resident Wakhitov and Chelyabinsk Oblast resident Ekhmerov were detained in Moscow on 27 August. After they were taken into the custody of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, they were kept at the Guantanamo Bay military base before being extradited to Russia in March 2004. Wakhitov filed a lawsuit in June alleging torture by his U.S. authorities. Mokhemetjanov said the current detentions are not linked to Guantanamo.

Shaimiev Praises Putin's Tatar Pronunciation
In an interview with RTR's "Vesti Podrobnosti" program on 28 August, Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev said the fact that President Vladimir Putin delivered part of his speech in Tatar during Kazan's millennium celebrations "displays the deepest respect...for our people, [and] our language" and is "a signal that the Russian president treats with respect all languages and peoples' traditions." Shaimiev said Putin "displayed quite good and very clear pronunciation." Shaimiev also said Tatarstan and Bashkortostan have always claimed special status, before and after the 1917 revolution. "Those are big republics with strong and well-trained intelligentsia," Shaimiev said, adding that it is no coincidence that in Soviet days the heads of Tatarstan's and Bashkortostan's legislative bodies were members of the USSR's Supreme Soviet Presidium, alongside leaders of the union republics. "But we understand our role and our responsibility toward the formation of the democratic federative state" and "make our constructive contribution" to it, Shaimiev said.

Kazan Streets Given Tatar Names
The Kazan administration announced on 1 September that several streets in Kazan will be named after Tatar public figures and the historical Tatar names of other streets will be restored, Tatarinform reported the same day. Specifically, the list includes the names of publicist, theologist, and political figure Musa Bigiev; historian Khadi Atlasi; public and political figure Serder Weisov; and religious and public leader and Mokhemmedie madrasah founder Galimjan Barudi. Novo-Kremlevskaya and Klara Tsetkin streets will be renamed to Tashayaq and Bishbalta streets, respectively. Yarmarochnaya Square will receive the name Millennium Square.

Three Detained On Allegations Of Terrorism...
Three people alleged of involvement in several explosions in Tatarstan have been detained in the republic, Interfax reported on 2 September. The men, aged between 23 and 44 years old, are accused of blowing up a high-voltage power line in Yugary Oslan Raion's Bolshie Biryuli village in January; carrying out a similar blast near Teleche Raion's Bolshie Nyrsy village in early June; and an incident on an oil pipeline near Layesh Raion's Peschanye Kovali village. A Makarov pistol with a silencer, 16 cartridges, a five-liter canister with a mixture of aluminum powder and ammonium nitrate, and extremist literature were found on the detainees. Police say they are still searching for another two men in connection with the incidents.

...As Former Guantanamo Detainees Freed
Airat Wakhitov and Rostem Ekhmerov, former prisoners at the U.S. Guantanamo Bay military base, were released on 2 September from pretrial detention in Chally, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. Wakhitov and Ekhmerov were detained in Moscow on 27 August and transferred to Chally. Ildar Mokhemetjanov, an assistant to Tatarstan's prosecutor, said on 2 September that the Chally City Court on 29 August issued an order to arrest the two men for 30 days on terrorist allegations. The investigation, however, failed to provide any evidence of this and the detainees were freed, Mokhemetjanov said, adding that employees of the prosecutor's office have apologized to the men. In an interview with "Kommersant" on 3 September, Wakhitov confirmed that the men received apologies, and said he "would think over" whether or not to sue the prosecutor's office. "If I am at last left alone and not bothered, I will keep quiet," he said.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

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.

Bashkortostan President Satisfied With Redistribution Of Powers Between Moscow, Regions
Republican President Murtaza Rakhimov told reporters on 29 August after his return from Kazan to Ufa that he considers the Russian State Council "capable of resolving Russia's essential socioeconomic issues," "Moskovskii komsomolets v Ufe" reported the same day, citing the Bashkir presidential press service. Commenting on the State Council session held in the capital of Tatarstan on 26 August, Rakhimov said Russian President Vladimir Putin tasked the Russian government with developing draft legislation to increase the powers and independence of regions. Rakhimov said he believes the firm position taken by Putin on this issue will help avoid senseless duplication of the functions of federal and regional authorities.

Communists In Bashkortostan Launch 'Referendum'
The republican branch of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) is planning to launch what it is touting as a referendum on 1 September, Bashinform reported on 29 August. The party's self-described "People's Referendum" is a response to the rejection by the Russian Central Election Commission and the Russian Supreme Court of a Russia-wide referendum initiated by the party. The Communists will solicit residents' opinions on issues of land ownership, minimum wage, the cost of housing and municipal services, the monetization of in-kind social benefits, differentiated income-tax levels, and on the responsibility of authorities regarding residents' standard of living. The KPRF's republican branch has included a question on voter confidence in Bashkir President Rakhimov.

Opposition Deputy Describes Opposition's Difficulties
In an interview with published on 29 August, Bashkir State Assembly opposition deputy Edvard Murzin said that the recent conflict between President Murtaza Rakhimov and his son Ural is more accurately described as "collusion." He said demonstrations planned by Bashkortostan's opposition for the fall will have no effect since a "larger scale is needed."

Murzin said he doesn't support opposition leader Ramil Bignov's "exaggerating the Tatar issue," as it is impossible to unite Mariis, Bashkirs, Udmurts, and Russians living in Bashkortostan on this issue. Murzin added that using Bashkir nationalist youth organization against people during opposition meetings wasn't Rakhimov's idea, as he "isn't bloodthirsty," but that of his chief of staff, Radii Khebirov, because of his "youth and lack of experience." Murzin also said Rakhimov's team will likely hold power till 2008.

He also criticized the law introducing mandatory study of Bashkir in secondary schools. Murzin said hundreds of Tatar residents have appealed to him to complain that their children face problems, since they are forced to study Bashkir in place of Tatar in school.

Bashkir Interior Minister Keeps Post
Bashkir Interior Minister Rafail Divaev was reprimanded but will keep his position after a 31 August hearing in the Russian Interior Ministry, Regnum reported on 1 September, citing a source in Bashkortostan's Interior Ministry. The hearing was held after Russian Deputy Prosecutor-General in the Volga Federal District Sergei Gerasimov appealed to Russian Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliev to discipline Divaev for failing to perform his duties, which supposedly resulted in mass violations of the law and the constitutional rights and freedoms of citizens. On 14 September, hearings will begin in the Blagoveshchensk city court in the case against eight Interior Ministry employees who took part in the December Blagoveshchensk operation in which hundreds of residents were illegally detained and beaten.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

300,000 Commemorate Beslan Tragedy In Ural District
Presidential Ural Federal District Envoy Petr Latyshev expressed his gratitude to 300,000 district residents who participated in activities to demonstrate solidarity with and grieve for victims of the Beslan school hostage tragedy one year ago, Uralinformbyuro reported on 5 September. Participation was reportedly highest in Sverdlovsk and Chelyabinsk oblasts.

LDPR In Marii El Calls For Abolition Of Marii Ushem, Mer Kanash Groups...
Marii El State Assembly Deputy and republican coordinator for the Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR) Anatolii Bogomolov has appealed to Marii El prosecutor Gennadii Mikhoparkin to seek the annulment of the state registration of the Marii Ushem and Mer Kanash civic groups over allegations that they repeatedly distributed slanderous information and fostered national discord, Regnum reported on 2 September. In the appeal, Bogomolov reportedly charged that those organizations "initiate public activities to pass out documents and deliver speeches making open calls for the overthrow of the legal authority in the republic." The author claimed that Marii Ushem Chairwoman Maksimova and Mer Kanash's Vladimir Kozlov addressed documents to international organizations that allegedly defame the heads of state bodies and provoke interethnic tension in the republic.

...As Mari Youth Leader Denies Assault Against Him Was Politically Motivated
The chairman of the Finno-Ugric Peoples' Youth Association, Vasilii Petrov, has issued a public statement to say the assault against him on 28 August that put him in hospital "has nothing to do with interethnic issues and isn't linked to [my] public activities," Regnum reported on 30 August. Petrov said the incident was domestic in nature, adding that he has received all the medical help that he requires.

Hizb Ut-Tahrir Members Charged In Nizhnii
The Federal Security Service's (FSB) Nizhnii Novgorod directorate has filed criminal charges against three alleged members of a local cell of the banned Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir, Interfax-Povolzhe reported on 31 August. The directorate's Nikolai Sintsov told a news conference the same day that the men -- one Palestinian and two residents of Daghestan -- are accused of involvement in or promotion of terrorism. Authorities reportedly seized audio, video and electronic materials containing extremist messages. Sintsov charged that the suspects recruited more than 20 people to the organization in Nizhnii Nogorod Oblast.

Russian Interior Ministry's Volga Federal District spokesman Vasilii Kucherak told the same news conference that cells of Hizb ut-Tahrir were uncovered in five regions in the district. In 2004-05, 25 crimes that were deemed extremist were registered in the district, including 14 in Tatarstan, Kucherak said.

Perm Oblast's Chirkunov Among Candidates To Head Perm Krai
Presidential Volga Federal District Envoy Sergei Kirienko sent President Vladimir Putin a list of candidates for Perm Krai governor on 1 September on which acting Perm Oblast Governor Oleg Chirkunov is "number one," "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 2 September, quoting the envoy's press secretary, Sergei Novikov. Novikov declined to name any others on the list. Chirkunov was named to head Perm Oblast in March 2004 after his predecessor, Yurii Trutnev, was appointed the Russian natural resources minister. A candidate will be introduced in two parliaments -- that of Perm Oblast and that of Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug -- which will have to hold a joint meeting to discuss the issue.

Perm Oblast and Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug will cease to exist as federation subjects on 1 December. In accordance with the federal law on the formation of the new Perm Krai, the head of the new subject is to be elected before the first Sunday of December, while a candidate should be named at least 35 days before that date.

Known Businessman Arrested In Sverdlovsk Oblast
The Yekaterinburg Verkh-Isetskii Raion Court arrested businessman Sergei Vorobev, who is reputedly a leader of the so-called Uralmash crime group, on on 1 September suspicion of theft, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 2 September. Vorobev, 43, co-owner of the companies Dezha and Euro-Asian Company, as well as of the Central and Eurasia hotels, was detained on 30 August in Yekaterinburg by the Russian Interior Ministry's Volga Federal District Directorate.

Lawyer Valerii Klyukin told the daily that Vorobev and two other businessmen are suspected of stealing property from the Aramilskii flour plant in October 2004. Euro-Asian Company spokesman Dmitrii Karasyuk told "Kommersant-Daily" that the arrest of Vorobev recalls the case of Aleksandr Khabarov, a Yekaterinburg city official and the purported leader of the Uralmash group. Khabarov was arrested in December and found hung up in a Yekaterinburg pretrial detention on 27 January.

U.S. Ambassador Thanks Tyumen Muslim Leader
Former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Alexander Vershbow sent an official message to Tyumen Oblast Muslim Religious Board leader Fatykh Garifullin to thank him for public statements condemning terrorism, Regnum reported on 31 August. "This is a position taken by other respected Islamic leaders of the world, and I ask you to continue your calls for religious tolerance, openness, and peaceful dialogue between people and against terror and violence, especially against use of suicide-terrorists."

Aviastar To Produce Tu-204 Aircraft For Cuba
The company Ilyushin-Finans has signed a contract with the Cuba's Cubana airline on the delivery of three Tu-204 jets produced by the Ulyanovsk-based Aviastar-SP, Regnum-Volgainform reported on 31 August, quoting the Ulyanovsk Oblast administration press service. The contract is for two passenger and one cargo aircraft.

Aviastar-SP Executive Director Valerii Savotchenko announced the plan in Kazan on 28 August. Savotchenko also said the plant signed a trilateral agreement on the production and delivery of 10 An-124 Ruslan jets to Volga-Dnepr and Polet airlines by 2013 at the recent MAKS-2005 air show.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova