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Tatar-Bashkir Report: March 16, 2004

16 March 2004
Chally City Administration Finds New Place For Controversial Church
The Chally city administration has relocated the future construction site of the Orthodox St. Tatiana�s Church to a field near a former cinema, Kama-press reported on 5 March. The KamAZ automotive concern will reportedly finance the project, which was initially planned for the city's Victory Park. The local Muslim community strongly opposed the idea, arguing that the park was devoted not only to the memory of Orthodox World War II veterans (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 3, 4, 7, 10, 14, and 31 October, 4 and 25 November, and 30 December 2002). Meanwhile, the Chally city administration is still undecided on the future location of a new mosque, although the mayor, Ildar Khalikov, has already approved the building's design. The mosque's construction expenses are to be shared by the city hall and Tatenergo.

Tatar Civic Leaders Expect New Russian Cabinet To Neglect Ethnic Issues
Fendes Safiullin, a former Russian State Duma deputy from Tatarstan and a leader of the Tatar Public Center (TIU), told RFE/RL's Kazan bureau on 10 March that the fact that the former minister without portfolio for nationalities policies is absent from the new cabinet "raises serious suspicion that Russia will resume its way on the path of federalist development." Safiullin also noted that such fears are compounded by the fact that Dmitrii Kozak, the former deputy chief of presidential staff known for a strict approach to bringing regional legislation in conformity with federal laws, was appointed head of the government staff.

Tatar Public Center Slams Moscow's Ethnic Policies
Also on 10 March, TIU activists running for Tatarstan's parliament with Russian Communist Workers Party- Russian Party of Communists ticket issued a grim public assessment of Moscow's policies on the eve of the 14 March presidential elections and the balloting for the Tatarstan State Council. The party's branch leader in Tatarstan, Rif Zarifullin, said that by failing to ensure the presence of many indigenous nationalities within the federal legislative assembly or establish a chamber of nationalities affairs, abolishing the cabinet-level nationalities-affairs post, freezing state funding related to ethnic policies, cutting the airtime of minority radio and television broadcasts on state-owned media, and imposing restrictions on Tatar Latin script, Russia is violating its own constitutional principles and regressing from previous achievements. The TIU urged President Putin to shed the individuals who are advising him to pursue such dangerous policies.

Tatar Minister, Zorlu Representatives Say Tupras Deal Moving Forward
A contract for the purchase by Tatneft affiliate Efremov Kautchuk and Turkey's Zorlu of the Turkish state's 66 percent stake in petrochemical holding Tupras will be completed by late April, Intertat reported on 11 March, citing statements at a news conference in Istanbul attended by Zorlu Chairman Akhmet Nazif Zorlu and Tatar government officials led by Trade and Foreign Economic Cooperation Minister Khefiz Salikhov.

Minority shareholders in Tatneft, Russia's sixth-largest oil company, have already appealed to Turkey's prime minister to block the group's $1.3 billion deal, the "Financial Times" reported on 12 February. Those parties have alleged procedural violations during the tender (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 10 and 12 February and 1 March 2004).

Tatarstan's Voters Overwhelmingly Back Putin, Unified Russia
Some 82.6 percent of Tatarstan's voters backed incumbent Russian President Vladimir Putin in the 14 March presidential election, reported on 15 March, citing preliminary results announced by the republic's central election commission based on returns tallied by 10 a.m. Among republican voters, Nikolai Kharitonov placed second with 6.6 percent of the vote, Irina Khakamada collected 3 percent, Sergei Glazev received 2.4 percent, and 2.1 percent of Tatarstan's voters cast their ballots against all candidates.

According to the preliminary results of the Tatar State Council elections received by 10 a.m. on 15 March, 70.5 percent of the republic's voters supported Unified Russia's party list. The second-place Communist Party received 6.2 percent of the vote, and 4.3 percent cast a ballot against all parties, followed by: the Russian Regions party -- 3.4 percent; the Party of Life -- 3 percent; Liberal Democratic Party of Russia -- 2.7 percent; the Union of Rightist Forces -- 2.3 percent; and the Motherland bloc -- 2.2 percent. Voter turnout was 79 percent in Tatarstan.

Former Tatarstan Official Appointed To Represent Ingushetia In Federation Council
The Ingush People's Assembly has appointed Vasilii Likhachev -- a former vice president and State Council chairman in Tatarstan and, until May 2003, Russia's representative to the European Communities -- its representative to the Federation Council, "Kommersant" and other media reported on 12 March. In the latter position, Likhachev was replaced by Mikhail Fradkov, who has since become Russia's prime minister. Ingush President Murat Zyazikov commented on 11 March that Likhachev is "known in Russia and Europe." He added, "I think his appointment will contribute to the further establishment of peace and stability in the North Caucasus and deciding on issues of the republic's socioeconomic revival and strengthening federative relations in Russia." "Kommersant" speculated that the Ingush leadership hopes Likhachev will help overcome the consequences of Ingushetia's conflict with North Ossetia more than a decade ago. Since then, tens of thousands of Ingush refugees have been unable to return to their homes in North Ossetia's Prigorodnii Raion. Likhachev is considered a strong lobbyist for the republic on the federal level.

Pharmaceutical Company Pays Compensation For Child's Death
The state-run Tattekhmedfarm pharmaceutical company has paid 500,000 rubles ($17,500) in compensation to a family that whose newborn baby died at Kazan First Children's Hospital, "Vostochnyi ekspress" reported on 12 March. The child was one of three infants who died at the hospital three years ago, after they were treated with a tainted solution that was supplied by Tattekhmedfarm.

After pharmacists were sentenced to seven years of conditional imprisonment, the parents of one of the newborn victims appealed to a Moscow Raion court for 5 million rubles in psychological damages; the baby's mother, Dinara Galieva, told "Vostochnyi ekspress" that she is partly satisfied with the verdict. Moscow Raion Judge Sergei Yakunin said the size of the compensation is unprecedented, as, even in Moscow, similar sums do not exceed 100,000 rubles.

Tattekhmedfarm General Director Yakov Margulis continued to insist that improper conditions under which the solutions were kept at the hospital were responsible for the children's deaths.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Bashkir Scholar Says Tens Of Thousands Of Tatars Registered As Bashkirs
Speaking at a seminar titled "Russian Tatars: the 2002 Census Results," Ildus Ileshev, the director of Bashkortostan's Language and Literature Institute, said that tens of thousands of Bashkortostan's Tatars might have been registered as Bashkirs during the 2002 census, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reported on 6 March. The seminar was organized by the Moscow-based Watan Tatar society. At the forum, Tatar ethnologist Damir Iskhaqov said that, according to his estimations, the number of Bashkirs grew in Bashkortostan in the census by some 150,000-200,000 at the expense of Tatars. In response, Ileshev said that Tatar-Bashkir ethnic identity was increasingly interchangeable and that the high rate of Tatar-Bashkir marriages can explain the shift.

Swiss Diplomat Says Relatives Of Collision Victims Agree On Compensation Sum
Swiss Ambassador to Russia Erwin H. Hofer told Ekho Moskvy radio that some of the relatives of victims of the 2002 midair collision over southern Germany had agreed on compensation, RIA-Novosti reported on 4 March. Hofer said the interests of the relatives are represented by a specially formed group of lawyers who decide what sum of compensation is to be determined in each case. The ambassador said the payment fund was set up at the initiative of the Swiss government. He added that "all companies involved in the case received an invitation to join the fund" and that the Swiss government has already made its contribution. This is the reason why its size cannot be estimated, Hofer said. He asserted that those responsible for the collision can only be named following the publication of a report investigating the accident. He said Germany has been entrusted with investigating the collision and is to issue a report on its results.

Four Turkish Businessmen Deported From Ufa
The Bashkir Interior Ministry's Migration Affairs Directorate annulled the visas of four Turkish businessmen on suspicion of involvement in the international extremist sect Nurjular, Interfax, RIA-Novosti, and other media reported on 5 March citing the ministry's press service. Ashgen Hairetdin, Ibrahim Denia, Aktepe Yusuf, and Uilashkan Shahin were managers of the Style leather-clothing company that moved to Ufa from Rostov-na-Donu after a branch of Nurjular was uncovered there in 2003. Half of the company's income has reportedly been directed to the sect's needs. In August 2003, banned literature, including works by the sect's founder, Said Nursi, was found in the company's Ufa shop. The people themselves, however, deny their involvement in the sect. The previous year, the Bashkir Education Minister annulled a contract with the Turkish company Serhat after it had established four Bashkir-Turkish lyceums in the republic that promoted the Nurjular ideology. Nurjular was founded in Turkey with the aim of overthrowing the secular government and spreading Shari'a law. In the past two years, over 20 Turkish citizens who are Nurjular followers have been deported from Russia.

Bashkortostan's Tatar NGOs Support Putin In Election
The Association of Bashkortostan's Tatar civic groups, Ittifaq, appealed on 6 March to Bashkortostan's Tatars to vote for Vladimir Putin in the 14 March presidential election, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 6 March. The Tatar leaders said in their appeal that the meeting by Putin with delegates of the third World Tatar Congress in August 2002 in Kazan was a sign of his respect for Tatars. Support for the idea of giving state-language status to Tatar in Bashkortostan, which was shown by Sergei Kirienko, the Volga District's presidential envoy, leads Tatars to believe that the same position is held by Putin, the authors of the appeal said.

Participants at the meeting criticized the article on the issue of the status of the Tatar language in Bashkortostan published in "Novye izvestiya" on 27 February and reprinted by virtually all official outlets in Bashkortostan the previous week. In the publication, efforts by Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev to defend the national-cultural rights of Tatars living outside Tatarstan, including in Bashkortostan, and his promotion of a better status for Tatar in Bashkortostan were labeled as interference in Bashkortostan's affairs. The gathering decided to thank Shaimiev for his efforts defending the rights of Bashkortostan's Tatars.

At the meeting, the association head and Tatarstan's trade and economic representative in Bashkortostan, Ramil Bignov, informed people about his talks with Russia's presidential administration on the issue of Bashkortostan's Tatars.

Court Bans Scientology Center
A 9 March verdict in the Bashkir Supreme Court has banned the Dianetics Center, which is connected with the Scientology movement, RosBalt reported the same day. The Bashkir prosecutor's office filed a suit against the center, arguing that it doesn't have a license for educational or medical activities. The prosecutor's office said that the center was a threat to people's health and was in violation of the Russian Constitution and federal health-care legislation. The Ufa Psycho-neurological Clinic also presented negative conclusions about the methods employed by the center. The center, which has been operating in Bashkortostan since 1994 and has trained over 2,000 people, is appealing the verdict in the Russian Supreme Court.

Staff Members Of Rakhimov's Rivals Persecuted
Sharan Raion newspaper Deputy Editor in Chief Fail Ekhmetshin, who was connected to Bashkir presidential candidate Relif Safin, was dismissed on 9 March, Ekhmetshin told RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 10 March. Ekhmetshin said raion administration head Valerii Seyetov said during the campaign that he will punish people who are campaigning for opposition candidates. Then secondary-school director Zebir Selekhov, who was one, was forced to resign. Ekhmetshin said that the position he occupied was abolished on 6 January, and two months later, he was fired. He appealed against the decision to the raion-level and republican prosecutor's office and the Bashkir presidential administration, but without success. Ekhmetshin listed violations that took place during his dismissal, including the fact that it was not agreed with trade unions and he has not been offered another job. He said he will appeal to a court. Following the December presidential elections, President Murtaza Rakhimov said that people campaigned for opposition candidates will not be persecuted.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Regional Authorities Resourceful In Raising Voter Turnout
Regional authorities across Russia invented new ways of attracting voters to the ballot box for the 14 March presidential vote, Russian media reported. Specifically, in Kyshtym, Chelyabinsk Oblast, and Noyabrsk, Yamal-Nenets Oblast, raffles were to be held among voters for prizes including home appliances, pots and pans, and other items. In Noyabrsk, four automobiles were raffled off. Noyabrsk residents will also be able to have their blood pressure measured at polling stations. The Kirov Oblast Election Commission announced that if necessary, ballot boxes could be brought to delivery rooms in maternity wards. In Kurgan, dairy products, bread, and cereals were to be sold on the day of the elections at a 5 percent discount, while in Bashkortostan, up to 40 percent discounts on some food items and goods were proposed. In Nizhnii Novgorod, election commissions were going to present souvenirs -- t-shirts, baseball caps, and pens with the inscription "I have elected a president" -- to people who will have voted for the first time and also to every 500th voter. All voters also could take the pen they used for filling in the ballots.

Veterans Hold Demonstration In Chelyabinsk
Some one hundred retired servicemen and participants in cleaning up the Chornobyl nuclear-power station held a meeting on 10 March in front of the building of the Chelyabinsk Oblast enlistment office, reported the same day. The demonstrators called for promised benefits to be provided, including payments for housing and communal services and vouchers to heath resorts. Oblast Military Commissioner Petr Aginov met with the protesters to discuss the issues.

Protests in Marii El Over Rise In Communal-Services Tariff
Between 400 and 1,000 people, according to different estimates, held a demonstration in front of the city administration building in the Marii El capital Yoshkar-Ola on 11 March to protest the second increase in communal-services tariffs in a year, Regnum-MariNews reported. The protesters called for the dismissal of Yoshkar-Ola Mayor Vladimir Tarkov and expressed their distrust of city assembly deputies. No representative of the administration appeared before the picketers. The association of the republic's trade unions initiated the demonstration. Association Deputy Chairman Leonid Kraev told the news agency that the unions had complained about the increase to the city prosecutor's office and the latter had protested the mayor's resolution.

Presidential Candidate Denied Meeting With Nizhnii Students
All of Nizhnii Novgorod's higher-education institutions denied presidential candidate Irina Khakamada the opportunity to hold meetings with their students during her visit to the city, Regnum-NTA reported on 12 March. Khakamada said that, in particular, the refusal by Nizhnii Novgorod State University was due to the fact that Rector Roman Strongin is a trusted representative of incumbent Vladimir Putin. Strongin told the news agency that a candidate who wants to meet with the students of any institution has to send a written request to the state or municipal authorities but Khakamada had not. Strongin suggested that Khakamada was looking for a chance to provoke a scandal or sensation.

Perm Oblast's Trutnev Names Successor
Yurii Trutnev, a former Perm Oblast governor recently appointed Russian natural resources minister, has named Federation Council representative Oleg Chirkunov as his successor, Novyi region (Perm) reported on 12 March. Chirkunov was appointed deputy governor and acting governor. Trutnev said Chirkunov promised to continue economic and personnel policy in the oblast.

Trutnev opposed the possibility of holding new gubernatorial elections in the next 18 months, after which elections for the new post of Permskii Krai governor are due to take place. Following the December referendum, Perm Oblast is being merged with Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug.

Opposition TV Station Harassed Again
Transmitting equipment of the Nizhnii Tagil opposition TV station Telekon was removed on 10 March by unknown people from the company's office in the city administration building, Novyi region reported on 11 March. Following the removal, the Telekon general director and executive director were prevented from entering the company's office. Several thousand dollars' worth of equipment was reportedly transferred to the building's superintendent without explanation or notifying the company management. Telekon has appealed to Nizhnii Tagil's Lenin Raion Interior Ministry department to start a criminal investigation into the case and is preparing appeals to prosecutor's offices and the arbitration court. In mid-January, Telekon transmitting cables were damaged and the station has been using a reserve cable since (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 10 February and 9 March 2004). The latest incident also has not forced the station to stop transmission. Telekon is in opposition to Nizhnii Tagil Mayor Nikolai Didenko and campaigned against him in the December mayoral elections.

Udmurt President Re-Elected
Udmurtia's incumbent President Aleksandr Volkov was re-elected on 14 March for his second term in office with 54 percent of the vote, RosBalt and other Russian news agencies reported on 15 March, citing preliminary results of the elections. Volkov's closest rival, doctor Yevgenii Odiyankov, received 19 percent. Voter turnout was 67 percent in the republic and 61.8 percent in the capital Izhevsk. Volkov told a government meeting on 15 March that he will suggest that the State Council confirm maintaining current Prime Minister Yurii Pitkevich in his position. At the same time, Volkov said he will move to reform the government structure, not following the example of the federal government but rather the experience of neighboring Tatarstan and Bashkortostan.

Libyan Nuclear Waste To Be Processed In Ulyanovsk Oblast
A portion of spent nuclear fuel containing enriched uranium will be delivered from Libya to Dimitrovgrad, Ulyanovsk Oblast, for processing, reported on 9 March, citing the Russian Atomic Energy Ministry press service. Ministry spokesman Nikolai Shingarev said: "The importation of the nuclear fuel from Libya was done in accordance with the U.S.-Russian program under the aegis of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Under the program, Russia imports nuclear fuel from research reactors it has constructed."

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova