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Tatar-Bashkir Report: September 14, 2004

14 September 2004
Tatar NGOs Warn Against Blaming Peoples, Confessions For Attacks
The council of the Federal National Cultural Autonomy of Tatars of Russia released on 6 September a statement expressing its outrage with the killing of children and adults during the Beslan hostage taking, reported. The statement noted that terrorism has no nationality and has nothing to do with religion, and expressed the hope that nobody will unjustly make sweeping accusations against peoples or confessions for the attack.

Tatarstan's Association of National Cultural Organizations in a 4 September statement expressed its hope that "despite the pain of losses and outrage over the actions of criminals who last their humanity, nobody will make groundless accusations against peoples or confessions."

Tatarstan Mourns With North Ossetia...
A counterterrorism demonstration organized by the Union of Youth Public Organizations of Tatarstan, trade unions, and the city of Kazan attracted attracted between 500 and 1,000 participants despite the cold, rainy, and windy weather on 7 September, according to "Kommersant-Volga" on 8 September and on 7 September. The area in front of the Mullanur Wakhiov monument where people gathered was fenced in and police checked everyone entering. A placard near the site and leaflets distributed among participants listed a bank account to which people may contribute to help victims of the Beslan tragedy. Participants brought flowers and held lights and placards saying "We Mourn Together With You, Beslan," "Pedagogues Against Terror," "We Need Peace," and "Kazan Mourns."

A counterterrorism demonstration was held at Kazan State University the same day.

Prayers to commemorate victims of the Beslan school attack were held in Tatarstan's mosques and churches. Tatarstan's Muslim Religious Board Deputy Chairman Weliulla Yaqupov said the republic's Muslims prayed for the souls of those who died and for rapid recoveries for those injured in the tragedy. On 5 September, Archbishop Anastasii of Kazan and Tatarstan held a service for the dead in Kazan's St. Peter and Paul Cathedral.

...And Collect Funds To Help Beslan's Victims
State Council deputies will contribute one day's pay to help the victims of the hostage taking crisis in Beslan, North Ossetia, the State Council's presidium announced at its 7 September meeting, reported. The Kazan local administration will transfer one day's wages for a fund to support victims of the Beslan tragedy, the administration's press service reported on 7 September. A similar decision was passed by the Chally local administration.

In Chally's Kamskii State Institute of Physical Culture, a meeting was held on 7 September to honor the victims of the Beslan tragedy during which lecturers and staff announced that they will donate one day's pay to help the victims.

Chally schoolchildren also collected toys and stationery for the children of Beslan. Students of a Chally school will hold an exhibition of pictures titled "We Against Terror."

Russian Air Forces Purchase Tatarstan's Ansat Helicopers
The Kazan Helicopter Plant (KVZ) will deliver the first Ansat training helicopter to the Russian air force in late November, "Kommersant-Volga" reported on 8 September, quoting an unidentified source in the plant's leadership. The aircraft is part of a contract the plant signed with the Russian Defense Ministry in September 2001 after KVZ won a ministry tender to deliver 100 helicopters. The ministry has ordered just two aircraft in place of 100, however, the daily reported. Each helicopter costs $1.4 million. Plant executives consider a contract even on two Ansats important to the aircraft's commercial prospects. KVZ General Director Aleksandr Lavrentev told the daily that the delivery of the Ansat to the Russian air force will be the best recommendation for foreign customers. He said the plant already has orders for Ansat but refused to specify to which customers.

Russia's leading manufacturer of universal Mi-8 and Mi-17 helicopters, KVZ put out 6.5 billion rubles' ($222 million) worth of production in 2003 and posted a 1.1 billion-ruble profit. Some 80 percent of its production was exported. The Tatar government holds a roughly 30 percent stake in the company, while another 30 percent stake belongs to KVZ affiliate Trade and Finance Company. KVZ has spent some $80 million to design and promote its new models of light helicopters, the Ansat and the Aqtai.

Oil, Gas Industrialists Critical Of Taxation OF Oil Exports
Participants at the fifth congress of oil and gas industrialists that opened in Kazan on 8 September sharply criticized the progressive scale of taxation of oil exports that came into force on 7 June, "Kommersant-Volga" reported on 9 September. Under the scale, when the price of oil is between $25 and $35, companies have to pay 65 percent of their income in taxes. In his opening speech, Russian Oil and Gas Industrialists Union President Gennadii Shmal expressed his regret that the industry is "not considered as a source of economic growth but as the milk cow of the stabilization fund." Shmal said that under the current tax system, the higher the world's oil prices, the lower the profit of oil companies. Head of the economic group under the Russian presidential administration Anton Danilov-Danilyan criticized Shmal's speech, telling the daily, "Some things have been expressed in it that, to say the least, have nothing to do with reality."

Addressing the forum, Tatar Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov said proposals on tax differentiation on use of natural resources still are not taken into account, thus driving Tatneft, Rosneft, and Bashneft to work on exhausted deposits in unequal conditions with Sibneft and LUKoil. Minnikhanov also criticized amendments to the federal law on natural resources that deprive federation entities of the right to issue licenses on usage of natural resources, which under the Russian Constitution is the joint power of the federation and its entities.

Court Deprives TIU's Chally Branch Of Legal Status
A Chally court issued a ruling on 8 September abolishing the Chally branch of the Tatar Public Center (TIU) and removing it from the register of legal persons, RFE/RL's Chally correspondent reported the same day. The ruling came as a result of a suit filed by the Russian Justice Ministry's Chief Directorate in Tatarstan that argued that the branch did not reregister and did not provide reports about its activities and its head. TIU Chally Deputy Chairman Abderakhman Jeleletdinov said at the trial that the organization will appeal the verdict in the Tatar Supreme Court, as it believes reregistration and providing necessary documentation is the obligation of the main organization, not of a branch.

Tatarstan's President Cautions Of Instability In Caucasus...
Speaking live on Ekho Moskvy on 9 September, Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev said this month's terrorist attack in Beslan cannot merely be considered an episode of terror and that recent acts of terrorism are reminiscent of a state of war. A spot appeared in Russia that has grown to the scale of international terrorism, he said, adding, "We should draw far-reaching conclusions." Tatarstan is not going to introduce restrictions on entry to the republic, Shaimiev said. "If we restrict rights, this will mean those who planned the terror reach their aims," said the president. The tragic events in Beslan should not be allowed to destabilize the situation in the Caucasus or elsewhere in the country, Shaimiev warned. "We should come out of this [incident] wiser and not aggravate the situation," he said, adding that the tragedy should not be allowed to " negatively affect international relations among the Caucasian peoples." Shaimiev also wished North Ossetian President Aleksandr Dzasokhov "tenacity and patience."

...Calls For Return Of Holy Icon To Kazan...
Answering a question during the 9 September interview on whether Tatarstan needs the Mother of God of Kazan icon -- a symbol of the Christianization of Tatars -- Shaimiev said the return of the icon to the republic would be accepted with gratitude by not only the Orthodox community but all people in the republic. "If we would like to live in peace and concord, we should be more tolerant toward each other," he said, adding, "We would like very much the return of the icon."

...And Examines Controversial Building Issue
President Shaimiev met with Kazan's Nurulla mosque community and representatives of the Milli Mejlis and the Union of Muslim Women, who were staging a picket near the parliament building in which the plenary session of the State Council was being held on 9 September, Tatar-inform reported the same day. Picketers were protesting the razing of a controversial building near the Nurulla mosque, where an Islamic library and children's center are reportedly planned. The building was hit by a fire on 8 September, and Milli Meijlis leader and Nurulla imam Gebdulla Geliullin was reportedly assaulted by unknown attackers, according to the Milil Mejlis press service.

Shaimiev asked the protesters to prepare the related documents and promised to look into the issue. At the session where opposition Deputy Aleksandr Shtanin called Geliullin's beating "terror aimed at religious leaders," Shaimiev charged the Kazan Wakhitov Raion administration, the Tatar Arbitration Court, the Land and Property Relations Ministry, and the Prosecutor-General's Office to investigate the issue within two days. The same day, the Arbitration Court ordered a halt to any demolition until the issue is sorted out, something that Milli Mejlis representatives have been advocating for some time.

Regional FSB Head Says No Tatar Among Beslan Terrorists
Dinar Khemitov, the deputy head of the Federal Security Service's (FSB) Tatarstan branch, on 10 September refuted Russian Deputy Prosecutor-General Sergei Fridinskii's claims that Tatars were among those who carried out the hostage taking at a school in Beslan, North Ossetia, on 1-3 September, reported. Khemitov made his comments at a session of Tatarstan's Security Council led by President Mintimer Shaimiev that discussed antiterrorism security in Tatarstan and preparations for the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Allied victory in World War II.

However, in his address to the gathering, First Deputy Interior Minister Renat Timerjanov said that "nobody should be under the delusion that a stable situation exists in Tatarstan," saying the republic long ago attracted the attention of extremist organizations, including those espousing Wahhabism.

President Shaimiev noted that antiterrorism efforts will not affect citizens' human rights, adding that "some people would like us to give up on democratic achievements but we will never do this."

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Rakhimov Urges More Vigilance Against Possible New Terrorist Acts
In a statement published on 6 September, Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov said that Bashkortostan "will provide all kinds of assistance to those who suffered" from the 1-3 September hostage taking in Beslan, North Ossetia, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. Rakhimov said that besides raising donations for the victims, his republic is ready to receive them in its spas and natural resorts, "where they can try to forget what has happened to them."

Rakhimov said that "to reduce the risk of having such massacres repeated in the future, the efforts of the country's president, army, and special services are not enough. War was declared on all of us, every citizen of Russia. I urge the residents of our republic to be vigilant and cautious."

He warned that the multiethnic people of Bashkortostan should, however, maintain their ethnic tolerance, which has been in the republic for ages, "one cannot accuse a part of Russia's people in all of the troubles, because bandits and their patrons have no nationality. Only together can we defeat terrorism."

Also on 6 September, Bashkortostan's cabinet issued a resolution on donating 1 million rubles ($34,000) to the Beslan victims' fund.

Bashkir Communist Leader Offers Support, Criticism Of Draft Election Reform
Valentin Nikitin, first secretary of the Communist Party committee in Bashkortostan, said in an interview cited by an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent on 7 September that his party favored the new proportional election system for Russia's State Duma proposed by the Central Election Commission. He said that electing deputies according to party lists is justified, because it would contribute to the formation of Russia's party system. Nikitin, who served as Bashkortostan's representative in the first two State Dumas and ran for republican president in 1998, said that most of Russia's political parties can be regarded as such only in a formal sense, "because only the Communist Party has a real system of regional offices, as the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia is more of a bureaucratic structure than a political organization and other parties are active only in downtown Moscow."

Nikitin opposed the 30 percent quota for female deputies promoted by the Central Election Commission, because it is too formal an approach, while a deputy's professionalism is more important than his or her gender.

Presidential Spokesperson Boasts Of Diversity Of Independent Media
Bashkir presidential press secretary Rostislav Morzagulov told "Ufimskie vedomosti" in an interview published on 7 August that in his opinion the republic is witnessing "a spontaneous and absolutely free development of the media market." To support this statement, he referred to the fact that two major Russian independent dailies, "Kommersant" and "Vedomosti," are opening offices in Ufa.

Morzagulov added that Bashkortostan also has a vast number of new independent media, including print publications and Internet sites.

While he mentioned that the number of TV viewers is growing in Bashkortostan, Morzagulov failed to comment on the recent shutdowns of the local TV-6 and TNT channels. "It is the duty of government bodies to provide all the necessary information to the chief editors of the media, while the chief editors should themselves choose what to do with this information, while setting the necessary emphasis," he said.

Local Administrations Said To Oppose Tatar Public Movement In Bashkortostan
The deputy chairman of the Congress of Tatar Public Organizations in Bashkortostan, Mejit Khujin, told representatives on 8 September that the current move toward establishing national-cultural autonomies in the republic's regions is strongly opposed by local administrations, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. The meeting's attendants reportedly agreed to address a special query to Bashkortostan's chief prosecutor, Mikhail Zelepukin. In response to a recent reduction in Tatar language and literature classes among schools in the republic, the group backed an appeal to Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov questioning the correctness of replacing Tatar classes in ethnic Tatar schools with lessons in Bashkir.

Bashinform Questions Funding Levels Of Russian Army
The recent school tragedy in Beslan, North Ossetia, revealed precisely and objectively our weakness, the state-controlled Bashinform news agency wrote in an editorial on 8 September. The piece reported that video footage of the 1-3 September hostage crisis included pictures of Russian army recruits "whose oversized clothes and absence of sufficient ammunition raised pity in anyone who saw them." The agency concluded that those who organized and committed the Beslan atrocity had better funding than the Russian Army.

Bashkortostan Collects Aid For Beslan Victims
The Political Council and the executive board of Bashkortostan on 9 September launched a fund-raising campaign for victims of the hostage crisis in Beslan, North Ossetia, by donating 30,000 rubles ($1,034) to the fund, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 9 August. The same day, youth in Tuimazy staged a rally against terrorism and in remembrance of those who were killed in the siege.

Earlier this month, Bashkortostan's Women's Union opened a bank account to collect funds for victims of the tragedy. The union's chairwoman, parliamentarian Reshide Soltanova, said her organization hopes to raise at least 1 million rubles ($35,000).

Bashkortostan Issues Loan
The Bashkir Finance Ministry announced on 10 September that Bashkortostan will issue a republican loan of 500 million rubles ($17.1 million) with fixed-coupon income, "Kommersant-Volga-Urals" reported on 11 September. The move, originally scheduled for the summer, was postponed until the fall because of the Russian banking crisis. The loan will not exceed Bashkortostan's planned state debt for 2004, which is to total not more than 3.26 billion rubles by January 2005. Currently, Bashkortostan's state debt is 1.6 billion rubles. Akkord-Invest Ufa branch Director Ildar Ganiev commented that issuing the loan will positively affect Bashkortostan's economy, but added that the timing was bad since Russia is still experiencing consequences of the summer banking crisis.

Rakhimov Meets With Gazprom Official
Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov has met with senior Gazprom official Aleksandr Ryazanov, during which they discussed how the 2003 cooperation agreement between Bashkortostan and Gazprom is to be implemented, Regnum reported on 12 September. On the agenda were the establishment of a unified holding and how that company could be supplied with raw materials.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Five Parties Joins Marii El's Parliamentary Race
Unified Russia, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, the Russian Party of Pensioners, and the Agrarian Party of Russia will take part in elections for the Marii El State Assembly that will be held on 10 October, Regnum reported on 9 September. A reported 100 candidates will compete for 52 seats. Unified Russia has a candidate running in each of the republic's 26 districts.

Politician Criticizes Russia's National Policy
Speaking at the Congress of Peoples of Russia on 8 September in Nizhnii Novgorod, assembly Chairman Ramazan Abdulatipov called for a strengthening of the legal basis of Russia's nationalities' policy in order to smoothen interethnic relations, Regnum reported the same day. Abdulatipov said authorities pay attention to nationality issues "only after tragedies." At the same time, the number of official positions involved in nationality issues is occurring while national cultural organizations are looked at with suspicion. Commenting on the role of mass media outlets in interethnic conflicts, Abdulatipov said they do not contribute to a national consolidation and even inspire interethnic discord due to the style of reporting.

Titov Resigns As Social Democratic Party Leader
Samara Oblast Governor Konstantin Titov left the post of Social Democratic Party of Russia (SDPR) chairman but remained a member of the party's central board and political council, Regnum reported on 7 September. The resignation was made official at the SDPR's congress in Moscow on 4 September. At the previous meeting of the party's political council, Mikhail Gorbachev also resigned as its leader but remained a political council member. Titov explained his move by saying he had to concentrate on the upcoming gubernatorial elections in Samara Oblast. The congress elected a new political council of 27 members from 38 proposed candidates and a new central board. The number of members of the latter increased from 134 to 153, including the heads of all regional branches.

Attacks On Armenian, Azerbaijani Cafes In Yekaterinburg
One person died and four were severely injured in assaults on four cafes owned by Armenians and Azerbaijanis on 9 September in Yekaterinburg and the nearby Verkhnyaya Pyshma, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 10 and 11 September. One of the cafes was smashed while three others were set on fire, one of which burnt to the ground. The deceased person was the 25-year-old relative of one of the cafes' owners.

Yekaterinburg Interior Board Deputy Director Mikhail Shreer said on 10 September that the assaults were a criminal act and have nothing to do with ethnic problems. But members of the Armenian and Azerbaijani diasporas in Yekaterinburg consider the attacks to be ethnically based. The head of the Sverdlovsk organization, ethnic Azerbaijani Asad Kuloev, said people from the Caucasus are constantly oppressed in Sverdlovsk Oblast. He said all Azerbaijanis were forced out of Revda with the assistance of local authorities and police. Only three Azerbaijanis whose wives are ethnic Russian remained but their wives were persuaded to divorce their husbands.

American Consulate In Yekaterinburg Closed In Wake Of Conflict With Building Host...
The U.S. Consulate General in Yekaterinburg announced on 13 September that it has halted its activities for an unspecified period of time, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 14 September. The decision was made after representatives of Uralmetprom, the owner of the building in which the diplomatic mission is located, blocked the entrance on 10 September, after which employees had to leave through the building's windows. The American side sent a protest letter to the Sverdlovsk Oblast government demanding that security at the consulate be increased.

Uralmetprom issued a press release offering apologies for the incident and saying that the "blocking of the doors was not an intended action." Meanwhile, the daily cited law enforcement bodies as reporting that a conflict occurred between the building owner and the consulate, which had stretched a power cable along a wall without the approval of Uralmetprom's leadership, which demanded that the cable be removed. Consulate spokesperson Lada Tikhonova, however, denied that version of the conflict.

...As German, Chinese Consulates To Open In Yekaterinburg
Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov signed a resolution on the opening of a German consulate in Yekaterinburg, reported on 9 September. The consular district will include Bashkortostan, Kurgan, Orenburg, Perm, Sverdlovsk, Tyumen, and the Chelyabinsk oblasts, and Khanty-Mansii, Yamal-Nenets, and the Komi-Permyak autonomous okrugs.

Sverdlovsk Oblast Governor Eduard Rossel said a Chinese consulate will also open soon in Yekaterinburg, according to a Russian governmental resolution, Uralinformbyuro reported on 7 September. Currently diplomatic missions for the U.S., Great Britain, the Czech Republic, Kyrgyzstan, and Bulgaria work in the city and preparations for the establishment of French and Italian consulates are ongoing.

Aides Of Russian Presidential Candidates In Udmurtia Sentenced For Falsifying Signatures
The Izhevsk Oktyabrsk Raion Court has convicted aides of Russian presidential candidates Sergei Glazev and Ivan Rybkin of organizing the falsification of signatures, Kupol-Media reported on 9 September. Vladimir Zhernakov was sentenced to two years of conditional imprisonment with a two-year probation while Andrei Turov was given one year of conditional imprisonment. The third person, whose name is not available, also received one year of conditional imprisonment. The three consider the verdicts unjust, saying that evidence was falsified and that they will appeal the decisions. They said they were put under pressure during interrogations. The court ruled that some 27,000 fake signatures were collected, and that those convicted paid between 3 and 10 rubles to pensioners, teachers, students, and others for their signatures.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova