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Tatar-Bashkir Report: June 29, 2004

29 June 2004
Tatar Supreme Court Rejects Case Against Kashapov
Tatarstan's Supreme Court rejected on 22 June a lawsuit by the Chally city prosecutor against the leader of the local Tatar Public Center (TIU) branch, Rafis Kashapov, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported the same day. Prosecutor Ildus Nefyiqov had issued a warrant to arrest Kashapov, charging him with inciting interethnic hatred. This was based on TIU leaflets found by investigators during a search of Kashapov's apartment. Kashapov was facing up to five years in prison.

During his career as a nationalist movement leader, Kashapov became known for numerous statements accusing Russian government of a policy of genocide against ethnic minorities and the breakaway republic of Chechnya. In the late 1990ies he even had declared his organization a recruiting center for those who wish to support Chechen militant groups, but no evidence of his actual ties with militant groups had been found.

Tatar Parliament Concerned With Lack Of Tatar In Universities
Despite a 10-year-old program giving equal official status to Tatar and Russian in Tatarstan and stable interest in studying the sciences in Tatar at republican universities, only 4 percent of students actually study the subjects in their native language, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 23 June, citing a 22 June conference of Tatarstan's State Council. The program introducing Tatar as an official language in the republic was said to lack mechanisms for ensuring its implementation, as many higher educational institutions are still unaware of the existing Tatar-language programs on basic sciences.

Shaimiev Admits Uncertainty About Latin Tatar-Script Reform
Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev told "Feldpochta" weekly in an issue published on 23 June that he "is still uncertain whether it is necessary and if Tatarstan is ready" to introduce the Latin Tatar script, a law on which was adopted in 1997. He noted that there were some 2 million Tatars living in Tatarstan and another 5 million outside the republic. "We cannot force them to comply with this law," Shaimiev said. "It is impossible, why should we separate ourselves from them where the revival and development of Tatar language, culture, and literature are concerned." He added that "there are also some other serious objections" regarding this matter.

Nevertheless, Shaimiev described as "illegal" the State Duma's amendment of Russia's language law banning the use of non-Cyrillic scripts in the ethnic republics. He argued that Tatarstan's residents have the right to use any script they choose, according to international law. "We would think a hundred times before beginning the transition [to a Latin script], but the problem is that it was unacceptable to prohibit it, such a direct ban is a violation of the nationalities' rights to self-development, something that creates tension and brings quite the opposite results."

Kazan Police Block Prostitution Agencies' Phones
Kazan police are taking a roundabout way to fight prostitution, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 24 June. For several years, the streets of Kazan have been littered with increasing numbers of leaflets and even graffiti with telephone numbers of "adult entertainment" agencies. In order to eliminate the telephone agencies, police began blocking the most frequently used numbers. According to the head of the Kazan police's antidrug department, Radik Feizullin, who led this operation, local prostitution agencies are already suffering significant material losses because of their inability to contact clients.

Shashurin's Cases Handed To Investigators Outside Tatarstan
The Prosecutor-General's Office ordered the investigation of Sergei Shashurin to be handed over to the Chavash Republic's Interior Ministry and the Volga Federal District investigation directorate, "Vechernyaya Kazan" reported on 23 June. Sergei Shashurin, a former State Duma deputy elected in Tatarstan, was detained by the republic's Interior Ministry in December 2003 and charged with defamation of top ministry officials as well as illegal commercial practices. According to the daily, the prosecutor-general decided to hand the case over to other investigators in order to ensure the maximum possible objectivity. Russian Deputy Prosecutor-General in charge of the Volga Federal District Sergei Gerasimov will reportedly supervise the investigation of the felony case against Shashurin, while the chief prosecutor of neighboring Chavash Republic, Sergei Zaitsev, will supervise the investigation of defamation charges against Shashurin. Until 2000, Zaitsev worked as Tatarstan's deputy chief prosecutor.

Tatar Air-Traffic Controllers Not Planning Any Mergers With Colleagues In Neighboring Regions
Yurii Kuzmin, the director of the air-trafficking company Tataeronavigatsiya, told the daily "Vechernyaya Kazan" of 25 June that despite recent reports in the Russian press saying that Tatarstan's and Bashkortostan's air-trafficking services will be subjugated to the Samara air navigation board, his organization had no plans of uniting its network with that of Samara. He claimed that the air-traffic-control system Tatarstan recently installed is better than the one used in Samara and has the capability of controlling Tatar airspace as well as that of neighboring Chavash and Marii El republics. Kuzmin noted that under Russia's current air-traffic-control reform, all of the country's air-traffic controllers will be united under a federal body.

Criminal Case Against Former Guantanamo Prisoners Closed
Seven former prisoners of the Guantanamo Bay military base in Cuba, who have since been in pre-trial detention in Pyatigorsk, were released on 22 June, "Kommersant" and "Izvestia" reported on 25 and 26 June, respectively. Among them are Tatarstan residents, Rawil Minkhajev and Airat Wakhitov, and Bashkortostan residents, Rawil Gomerov and Shamil Hajiev. The men were accused of cooperation with the Taliban against U.S. troops in the U.S.-led military operation in Afghanistan in 2001. "Izvestia" quoted the head of the Prosecutor-General's Office's North Caucasus Board Nikolai Khazikov as saying the charges had been dropped because of a lack of evidence. Among the allegations against the men, were participation in criminal groups and illegally crossing state borders.

Contractor Of Businessman Murder Seeks Political Asylum In Spain
The alleged contractor of the murder of Eibet Eibetov, the former general director of the Krasnyi Vostok brewery, has appealed for political asylum in Spain, RIA-Novosti reported on 26 June, citing the Tatar prosecutor's office. Eibetov was shot dead in February 1996 near his apartment in Kazan. The killer was arrested in late 2003. The asylum seeker, whose name has not been reported, was detained by Interpol on 12 February in Spain and is being held in custody. The suspect appealed to the Spanish authorities seeking political asylum while the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office has demanded that he be extradited to Russia.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Tatar Public Organizations Begin Preparations For Referendum On Tatar Language
A congress of 18 of Bashkortostan's Tatar organizations established an initiative group for preparing a republic-wide referendum on obtaining official status to Tatar language in that republic, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 21 June, citing the Tatar public organizations union chairman, Ramil Bignov.

Under republican law, the group, consisting of 78 people, will seek registration at Bashkortostan's Central Election Commission and appeal to the republican State Assembly. To hold the referendum, the organizers will have to gather some 60,000 signatures or 2 percent of the republic's electorate.

Tatars are the second-largest ethnic group in Bashkortostan after Russians, while the republic's constitution and the Bashkir law declares only Russian and Bashkir as official languages in the republic.

Bashkir Police Win Defamation Suits Against Russian Press
In the last six months, Bashkortostan's Interior Ministry has won 12 defamation suits against the national media outlets that published compromising materials about Minister Rafail Divaev and his former deputy, Nikolai Patrikeev, RosBalt reported on 21 June. The Bashkir police have filed as many as 30 such lawsuits and 15 of them have already been tried. Numerous articles alleging corruption in the republic's law-enforcement system appeared in the Russian press about a year ago, when the recording of a telephone conversation between Patrikeev and an Ufa crime boss was published on the Internet.

Ufa Children Get Military Training At Summer Camp
Ufa's city committee on youth policies will hold special programs involving numerous training exercises in sports and primary military training for children who attend the city's summer camps, Bashinform reported on 21 June. Traditionally, such programs include special courses and military games inherited from the Soviet era.

In recent years, Bashkortostan has had the highest percentage of recruit-age young men drafted into the army in Russia. Meanwhile, neighboring Tatarstan, which has much less patriotic and military education programs, reportedly has one of the lowest recruiting ratios nationwide.

Federal Interior Ministry Official Praises Bashkir Police...
The head of the Russian Interior Ministry's board in the Volga Federal District, Vladimir Shcherbakov, told a news conference in Ufa on 23 June that the number of legal violations committed by police officers in Bashkortostan this year has fallen by nearly 10 percent versus the same period in 2003, RosBalt reported the same day. In the first five months of 2004, Bashkir police registered 23,600 crimes, most of which were cases of theft or robbery. Investigations have been completed in 64 percent of the cases, one of the highest investigation rates in the Volga Federal District.

...And Says Confidence In Police Is Up
Shcherbakov told the same news conference that recent opinion polls in Bashkortostan suggest that 63 percent of local residents see improvements in the work of the police, more than double the figure registered last year, RosBalt reported the same day. Shcherbakov claimed that the general level of confidence in republican law enforcement was reported at 72 percent, which is higher than the Russia-wide average. Shcherbakov suggested that biased coverage by the media of police activities during the republic's 2003 presidential campaign led to any lack of confidence in the local police.

Muslim Body Condemns U.S. Middle East Policies
Following the recent summit of G-7 countries and Russia, the presidium of the Ufa-based Central Muslim Religious Board issued a public statement saying that the board "is concerned [about] the penetration of an American understanding of democracy into the Islamic world and attempts to build a uni-polar world while neglecting the opinions of the international community and the norms of international law." The board, led by Telget Tajetdin, criticized the U.S. doctrine of a "Greater Middle East" and attempting to "modify the Muslim countries using American principles of understanding the world, democracy, and God -- which in no way matched the desires of people in Arab countries." The statement noted that "even if the Arab and Islamic world need to democratize their political systems, it is still an internal affair of the Arabic and Islamic world and its peoples."

Bashkir Election Commission Head Re-Elected
Bashkortostan's new Central Election Commission (USK) at its first session on 25 June re-elected Baryi Kinjegulov chairman by a vote of 10 for and two against, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent and Russian and Bashkir media reported. Kinjegulov was re-elected despite opposition from the Russian Central Election Commission (TsIK), which accused Kinjegulov of numerous violations of election legislation.

Before the vote, visiting TsIK member Yevgenii Kolyushin relayed a message from TsIK Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov that the TsIK unanimously opposes Kinjegulov's re-election. Among the reasons for the TsIK's position, Veshnyakov listed the USK's refusals to register opposition candidates in the Bashkir presidential elections that were then overruled by the TsIK and the courts; printing some 3 million ballots for the 2003 State Duma elections on improper paper that could have invalidated the election results; and the big difference in the March 2004 Russian presidential election results in the republic reported initially by local election commissions by telephone and those then listed in election protocols. Kinjegulov, after the vote, said he "respects the criticism" and will definitely "make conclusions" from "signals" listed by the TsIK.

Kolyushin commented on Kinjegulov's election that "there are no reasons to annul the USK decision" and that the TsIK can do nothing more, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 26 June. He added that the TsIK is "strongly concerned" about the investigation of the incident where illegal ballots were discovered during the December Bashkir presidential elections in a printing house controlled by the presidential administration (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 4 and 5 December 2003).

Issue Of Compensations For Midair-Collision Victims Settled
Yuliya Fedotova, coordinator of the committee of the July 2002 midair collision victims' relatives, told Interfax-Povolzhe on 24 June that an agreement on payment of compensations for the collision victims was reached on 17 June in Potsdam, Germany, and that money will be paid within two or three weeks (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 26 February 2004). Fedotova said that the money will be paid from a special compensation fund and that all clients of German lawyers Michael Vitti, Wolfgang Felou, and Gerrit Wilmans, who represent relatives of children lost in the collision, agreed on payment from the fund. Sums for each family will be determined separately. Fedotova said that although European legislation provides for $20,000 in compensation for a child lost in an air crash, in this case, Switzerland, Germany, and the Swiss air-traffic-control service Skyguide agreed to increase the sum eightfold. She said, "The result we reached exceeds all payments ever made on accidents that killed children." The Swiss and German governments and Skyguide will contribute to the fund, Fedotova added.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Accusations Against Marii El Presidential Bodyguard Dropped
The Marii El prosecutor's office has closed a criminal case against Marii El presidential bodyguard Oleg Vershkov, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 26 June. Accusations of assault on residents of the Studenka village (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 23 March 2004) were dropped for lack of evidence. The lawsuit was filed by Studenka resident Grigorii Chernov, who accused a group of presidential bodyguards headed by Vershkov of having beaten him. Chernov also said that Vershkov threatened him with a pistol and fired shots from it. The daily quoted witnesses who were questioned by prosecutor's office investigator Irina Chernysheva as saying that she urged them to "mitigate their testimony." The daily also reported that bullets were removed from a house where the bodyguards shot without witnesses. Then an expert concluded that it is impossible to determine the bullets' origin.

Samara Oblast Governor May Lose One Year Of His Term
Samara Oblast Duma Deputy Speaker Natalya Bobrova has asked a court to annul the 2000 decision by the oblast duma increasing the governor's term from four to five years, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 23 June. Her argument is that the decision to extend the governor's term was passed after the date of the 2000 elections was set. If the court agrees with Bobrova, the next gubernatorial elections in the oblast will be moved from next summer to this year. Experts consider such a variant the most advantageous for incumbent Governor Konstantin Titov. Titov who resigned in 2000 following an unsuccessful attempt for Russian president and then was re-elected governor in July 2000 for a second term expiring in 2005. The daily listed Samara Mayor Georgii Limanskii, State Duma Deputy (Unified Russia) and former Samara Deputy Governor Viktor Kazakov, and Samara Oblast Duma Deputy Vikor Tarkhov as Titov's possible rivals in the race. Bobrova also told "Kommersant-Daily" that she plans to run for governor.

Sverdlovsk Oblast Authorities Seek To Educate Journalists In Military Way
Sverdlovsk Oblast authorities have made a list of opposition journalists and political analysts in order to call them up for military service or periodical training, Politsovet reported on 22 June. The agency cited an unspecified source in oblast law enforcement as saying the move is intended to help influence opposition media in the wake of their sharp criticism of the decision to hold oblast cabinet meetings behind closed doors. Several opposition journalists have already been called for periodical training both in Sverdlovsk Oblast and elsewhere, the agency reported.

Referendum On Khanty-Mansii Status Not Allowed
The Khanty-Mansii Election Commission refused on 23 June to register an initiative group on holding a referendum in the okrug on secession from Tyumen Oblast and becoming a federation subject directly subordinate to the Russian Federation, "Kommersant-Daily" and other media reported. Okrug election commission Chairman Vladimir Zmanovskii said in an interview with Interfax on 23 June that changing the constitutional and legal status of Khanty-Mansii Autonomous Okrug would result in changing the territory of Tyumen Oblast, something that requires consent by the oblast under its charter. He added that in contradiction to the law, the question proposed for the referendum -- Do you support Khanty-Mansii Okrug's joining the Russian Federation? -- is unclear and may be interpreted in different ways while the referendum's possible result could have indefinite legal consequences.

Islamic Extremists Arrested In Tyumen Oblast
Members of the international Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir were arrested in Tobolsk and Tyumen on accusations of terrorism, reported on 22 June. The group, which promotes the establishment of a unified Islamic caliphate in Central Asia, was banned by the Russian Supreme Court in February 2003. Tyumen Oblast prosecutor Ernest Valeev told the news agency that the detainees were involved in spreading and studying extremist literature, attempted to acquire arms, and planned to take hostages. More than 10 suspects were arrested including people from Tajikistan. Valeev said group members are not being prosecuted for their faith but for specific crimes, including inciting national, racial, and religious hatred and terrorism. Tyumen Islamic Cultural Center leaders Marat Saibatalov and imam Dmitrii Petrichenko are among the detainees. Saibatalov was formerly deputy chairman of the regional department of the Rossiya movement. Petrichenko, a Slav who adopted Islam, studied in madrasahs in Bashkortostan and Tehran, and in the Saratov Academy of Law.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova