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Tatar-Bashkir Report: September 13, 2005

13 September 2005
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.

Moscow Contests Tatarstan's Effort To Privatize Postal Service
Representatives of the Federal Agency on Communications (Rossvyaz) announced on 5 September that the agency will appeal the court decision on the privatization of Tatarstan pochtasy, the republican state-run postal service, "Kommersant-Daily" and "Izvestiya" reported on 6 September. According to the privatization plan passed by the republican Land and Property Relations Ministry on 28 June, the assets of the state-run company will be transferred to a joint-stock company of the same name. Opponents say the move contradicts a 2003 concept on restructuring federal postal services whereby all Russian postal companies should become branches of the state-run Russian Post. Rossvyaz head Andrei Beskorovainii said on 5 September that the privatization of Tatarstan's postal operator would disrupt the unity of the national postal territory. The head of the Russian IT and Communications Ministry's legal department, Mikhail Yakushev, said the project violates the federal laws on postal service and on communications. Tatar IT and Communications Minister Ferit Fazyljanov called statements by Yakushev and Beskorovainii "unfounded."

Ex-Guantanamo Prisoner Appeals His Arrest
Tatarstan resident Airat Wakhitov, who was held prisoner at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, released, and then arrested in Tatarstan, has appealed to the Tatar Supreme Court a recent decision by a Chally court on his arrest, Regnum-VolgaInform reported on 6 September, citing the Tatar Supreme Court. On 27 September, Wakhitov and another former Guantanamo prisoner, Rostem Ekhmerov, were detained in Moscow for allegedly being involved in terrorist acts in Tatarstan and were sent to their home republic. The 29 August verdict by the Chally court led to the two being arrested. Both were freed on 2 September after an investigation failed to provide evidence of the charges against them.

Kazan May Host EBRD Annual Meeting
Acting European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) Secretary-General Nigel Carter said on 7 September in Kazan that a 2007 annual meeting of shareholders and the EBRD's board of governors will most likely be held in Kazan, and that a final decision will come shortly, and AK&M reported the same day.

Carter's comments came during his meeting with Tatarstan's Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation Minister Khefiz Salikhov. Carter noted that the last time an EBRD meeting was held in Russia was in 1994 in St. Petersburg.

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov made the proposal to hold the EBRD meeting in Kazan.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Alkhanov Admits Possibility Of Reducing Federal Forces In Chechnya
On 3 September, the last day of his visit to Bashkortostan, Chechen President Alu Alkhanov told reporters that the number of federal forces in his republic "in principle, could be reduced" and he is waiting for concrete results of the current search for "terrorist" groups, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. However, Alkhanov failed to specify when he expects the terrorist forces to be totally eliminated.

Court Freezes Communists In Bashkortostan
An unnamed Bashkortostan's court ruled to freeze the activities of the Communist Party in the republic, something the Communists attribute to local authorities' desire to monopolize the coming parliamentary elections, Ekho Moskvy reported on 5 September. Russian human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin strongly opposed the ruling and demanded that it be reversed before the elections begin. He said the ruling will certainly be overturned by a higher court but will effectively block the party from the elections. Lukin also noted that this situation represents "proof of that judicial reform has not achieved its aim and is not preventing political intrigues."

Bashkir Government Establishes Joint Airline With VIM-Avia
Bashkortostan's government and the owner of the Moscow-based VIM-Avia airline, Rashid Mursekaev, established a joint Bashkortostan air company in which the republic will own a blocking stake, "Kommersant-Daily" wrote on 7 September. Mursekaev will reportedly contribute eight of 12 aircraft that will make up the new company's fleet.

Meanwhile, Bashkir Airlines is reportedly entering negotiations with KrasAir to establish an alliance to rival the new venture.

LDPR Maintains High Presence In Municipal Elections
The conference of Bashkir branch of the ultranationalist Russian Liberal-Democratic Party (LDPR) nominated some 30 candidates for the republic's municipal elections to be held on 30 October. In a previous round of municipal elections in June, just two of some 40 LDPR candidates won.

Federal Arbitrage Court Upholds Privatization Of Bashkir Petrochemical Firms
The Ural Federal District Arbitrage Court on 7 September upheld the ruling of Bashkortostan's Arbitrage Court regarding the privatization of four Ufa oil refineries and Bashkirnefteprodukt, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. However, the Bashkir prosecutor's office is reportedly planning to take the case to the Arbitrage Court's appeal chamber to overturn the privatization and return the shares to the state. Meanwhile, buyer of the state stakes, Bashkirskii Kapital, which is controlled by President Murtaza Rakhimov's son Ural, has sold most of the shares to the AFK Sistema group. The appeal chamber will take up the case on 12 September.

Rakhimov Meets Federal Officials
President Murtaza Rakhimov met on 8 September in Moscow with deputy Russian presidential-administration head Vladislav Surkov and presidential aide Aleksandr Abramov to discuss Bashkortostan's socioeconomic development and the political situation in the republic, Bashinform reported on 9 September, citing the Bashkir presidential press service. During Rakhimov's meeting with Russian Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref, plans for the celebration of the 450th anniversary of Bashkortostan's joining of Russia were discussed. Gref agreed with Rakhimov when he insisted on the need for financial support from the federal government for the celebrations. Rakhimov also met with Federal Road Agency head Oleg Belozerov to discuss the agency's participation in the reconstruction of roads in Bashkortostan. According to the press service, all officials "expressed absolute understanding and support for the position of the Bashkir president."

Ufa Promotes New Power-Sharing Treaty
Bashkortostan's State Assembly on 9 September sent an appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin calling for the renewal of treaty-based relations between Russia and Bashkortostan, Bashinform reported the same day.

In the document, the parliament noted that further improvement in treaty-based relations between Russia and its entities is an important strategic development for Russia as a federative state.

The deputies asked Putin to initiate a process of renewing the bilateral power-sharing treaty between the two sides and to set up a commission to develop a draft.

The first power-sharing treaty between Russia and Bashkortostan signed in August 1994 fixed Bashkortostan's status as a state within Russia and proclaimed that land and natural resources are the "exclusive property of the multiethnic people" of Bashkortostan. The signing of new power-sharing treaties was halted after the reform on the strengthening of vertical power was launched by Putin after the Beslan hostage taking incident last year.

Parliament Speaker Reminds All That Republics Are States
Commenting on the Bashkir State Assembly's initiative, parliament speaker Konstantin Tolkachev referred to Article 11 of the Russian Constitution permitting the signing of power-sharing treaties between federal authorities and territorial entities, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 12 September.

Tolkachev said republics are states, adding that Russia isn't currently a true federation. "In terms of the distribution of powers, we lag behind classic federative states. The status of a federation subject isn't determined by the Russian Constitution," Tolkachev said. Tolkachev said he thinks it is necessary "to define the contemporary shape of optimum relations" between the federal authorities and Bashkortostan, and a new power-sharing treaty should play a decisive role in doing this. Tolkachev said unitary power is a dead end for the country. It is "republics that play a special consolidating role within the federation," the speaker said, adding that "the constitution of the Russian Federation defines republics as states.

Communists Removed From Parliamentary By-Elections
The leader of Bashkortostan's branch of the Communist Party (KPRF), Rinat Galiev, said the KPRF has been deprived of putting forth its candidates for by-elections to the Bashkir State Assembly slated for 30 October, "Kommersant-Volga-Ural" reported on 10 September.

Galiev commented on the verdict of the Bashkir Supreme Court that ruled on 8 September on a ban by the Ufa Kirov Raion Court of a KPRF party conference in Bashkortostan. The deadline for presenting documents to district election commissions expired on 4 September. The Kirov Raion Court on 18 August agreed to an appeal by KPRF member Tatyana Sklyarova -- who claimed that she wasn't informed about the conference -- and prohibited the 20 August conference from being held. Galiev said that Sklyarova was defending the interests of Bashkir authorities who "try to prevent their major opponents from taking part in the elections." Russian Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin had commented on the ruling that banned the conference by saying that it is "harsh and illegal interference by the judicial authorities into the activities of political parties."

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Son Of Mari Religious Leader Alleged Of Rape
Dmitrii Tanakov, son of the chief pagan priest of the Yoshkar Ola Mari traditional religious community Vitalii Tanakov was arrested on 2 September on allegation of organizing a rape committed by a group which resulted in victim�s suicide, Regnum reported on 9 September. Vitalii Tanakov appealed on 6 September to human rights organizations, independent mass media and international publicity to help prevent arbitrariness against his son who was prohibited from meeting his lawyer and relatives. The appeal cites suspect�s lawyer saying investigation stuff he studied contains not a single evidence of Dmitrii Tanakov�s direct or indirect involvement into the crime and not a single witness mentioned his name. The priest claimed the arrest of his son is an attempt by local authorities to humiliate and intimidate Mari national intelligentsia.

Vitalii Tanakov had repeatedly criticized activities of the administration of Marii El President Leonid Markelov. On 14 August, Tanakov was one of organizers of the opposition meeting in Yoshkar-Ola that was banned by authorities. Dmitrii Tanakov, 22, is a secretary of Mari opposition leader, All-Mari Council Chairman Vladimir Kozlov.

Estonian Minister Under Criticism Over Her Assessment Of Marii El
Estonia�s Union of Citizens Subjected to Repression Memento, the Union of Fighters for Estonia�s Freedom, the Union of Former Political Prisoners as well as a number of organizations of servicemen who combated on the German side during WWII issued an appeal calling for the dismissal of Estonian Education and Science Minister Mailis Reps, Regnum reported on 9 September. Authors of the appeal which came in the wake of Reps� visit to Marii El in August claimed that the behavior of Reps during the visit was "hostile and treacherous as regards the Estonian Republic. We, being victims of alien power and fighters for freedom, have moral right to demand that Reps leaves the post she occupies."

In her interview with Regnum on 16 August, Reps expressed her positive appraisal of the development of the Mari language in Marii El�s schools and said Estonian mass media outlets misinform about the real situation in Marii El. After the interview caused irritated reaction in Estonia, Reps said she was victim of Russian propaganda as her words were pulled out of the context. Regnum rejected accusation of distorting Reps� opinion and informed that the agency possesses the record of the interview with her.

Environmental Party In Marii El Leader Arrested For Accepting Bribe
Russian Federal Security Service�s Board in Marii El moved accusation of accepting a bribe against head of the territorial body of the Federal Service on Supervision in the Sphere of Defense of Consumers� Rights and Health, head of the regional department of the Russian environmental party Greens Gennadii Grigorev, "Kommersant-Volga-Ural" reported on 9 September. Grigorev was caught red-handed as he was accepting over 100,000 rubles ($3,500) from the party�s central staff deputy head Sergei Zverkov for issuing 151 sanitary and epidemic certificates on goods for some Moscow-based companies. According to investigators, the two were intending to arrange a line supply of similar certificates and to set up a mediating company in Moscow for this. A criminal case has been filed as well against Zverkov for giving a bribe. Grigorev, in case recognized guilty, can be sentenced to 12 years� imprisonment.

Nizhnii Mayor Runs For Reelection
Nizhnii Novgorod Mayor Vadim Bulavinov notified on 8 September the Nizhnii Novgorod city election commission that he will run for reelection to the post, Interfax-Povolzhe reported on 9 September. Bulavinov�s candidacy was proposed to the post by Unified Russia�s regional branch. The elections were slated for 16 October.

Bulavinov was elected mayor in October 2002.
Among Bulavinov�s competitors who have been registered by the election commission as candidates for the post, there are KPRF Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast Committee Secretary Nikolai Ryabov, State Duma Deputy representing Nizhnii Novgorod branch of LDPR, Aleksandr Kurdyumov, and Moscow lawyer Nikolai Klyuiko.

Samaraneftegaz Manager Accuses Yukos Leadership
Manager of Yukos� affiliate Samaraneftegaz, Pavel Anisimov, has appealed to Prosecutor-General�s Office to announce that his company used a scheme of skipping from payment of taxes in 1999-2000, "Kommersand-Daily" reported on 12 September. Anisimov said he implemented the order by the Yukos leadership. The status of Anisimov who is currently accused of participating in the crime can be changed into that of an executor who was mislead by the management of the controlling company. The daily cited the Samara Lawyers Board representatives commenting punishment for Anisimov can be thus reduced to a conditional term or a fine. Under the criminal case filed in November 2003, Samaraneftegaz is accused of underpaying 6 billion rubles ($211 million) in taxes.

Uralmash Leader Released From Custody
Businessman Sergei Vorobev, a leader of the public political group Uralmash that law enforcers suspect of being a cover of the same-named organized crime group, has been released from pretrial detention after the ten-day term of his arrest expired, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 12 September. Vorobev was arrested on 30 August on allegation of a theft (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 6 September 2005) but suspicions didn�t prove to be true.

Hizb Ut-Tahrir Leader Sentenced In Nizhnevartovsk
The Nizhnevartovsk city court has sentenced Eduard Khusaimov, a leader of the local branch of the Islamic party Hizb ut-Tahrir, to four years of conditional imprisonment, reported on 8 September. Khusaimov was convicted of organizing activity of an extremist organization and involvement or promoting terrorist crimes. Literature issued by the party had been found in a search in Khusaimov�s apartment. Hizb ut-Tahrir was banned in Russia by country�s Supreme Court.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova