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Tatar-Bashkir Report: October 26, 2004

26 October 2004
Kazan Residents Mark 1552 Defense Of City, Chide Moscow
Participants in a demonstration on 15 October to mark the defense of Kazan from the forces of Ivan the Terrible in 1552 urged a "restoration of the Tatar Constitution in the form it was adopted in 1992" and "equal rights in relations with Russia within the framework of a potential Eurasian confederation," RFE/RL's Kazan bureau and Tatar media reported. An estimated 300 people took part in the rally, which was organized by the Tatar Public Center on Kazan's Freedom Square. Participants also demanded that steps be taken immediately to commemorate the memory of the city's 16th-century defenders by erecting a monument near the Kazan Kremlin. Some speakers criticized Kazan Mayor Kamil Iskhaqov over his efforts to return the Kazan Mother of God icon to Tatarstan's capital, saying they were linked to "colonial enslavement and humiliation of the Tatar people." Placards handed out at the demonstration called for "Kazan's Millennium Without Kamil Iskhaqov."

The resolution that emerged from the gathering also included calls for a halt to "predatory payments to Moscow," an elimination of "colonial taxes," and the introduction of single-channel interbudgetary relations with Moscow. Speakers accused Moscow of trying to deprive Tatar people of statehood, script, and economic independence, calling the administrative reforms recently urged by Putin a "direct path to a dictatorship." Participants appealed to the republican leadership to "defend the interests of the Tatar people."

Participants eventually marched to the Kazan Kremlin, where they held a prayer in memory of the city's defenders who died in 1552.

Opposition Journalist: Republics Have Failed To Preserve Federalism
The book "When Republics Were Great" by Lev Ovrutskii, a journalist who has been highly critical of Tatarstan's authorities, was presented to the public in Kazan on 14 October, RFE/RL's Kazan bureau reported on 14 and 15 October. In an interview with RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service on 15 October, Ovrutskii said that "the materials in the book answer the question of what Kazan federalists could have done and what they have not done for ideas of federalism to take root in Russia. I think a historical mission fell on the republics to win over the federation from the empire." Ovrutskii asserted: "Now one can see that the republics did not cope with this task. Policy was not structured in a proper way; there was no foresight in the policy; tactical tricks took place. [The republics] have not demonstrated to all of Russia that federal relations are most agreeable and useful. Loyalty and federal discipline has not been demonstrated to the federation." He said it was necessary to show "a Bryansk peasant...that everybody, including himself, gains from Tatarstan's sovereignty and federative relations. We, the current generation of Kazan federalists, have not coped with this task." Ovrutskii also said that President Vladimir Putin's recent initiatives on political reform "frighten" him. "I expect people to appear who will organize public resistance," he said. "It is impossible to imagine the development of federalism [under conditions] when Tatars will be unable to elect their president. This means a crossroads on the development of federalism," he added.

Ryzhkov: Appointment Of Tatar President Violates Russian Constitution
In an interview published in "Novaya gazeta" on 18 October, State Duma Deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov (independent) said the idea of appointing the president of Tatarstan greatly "exceeds the bounds of the constitution and a federative system." Ryzhkov argued that "our republics have sovereignty, though it is restricted. And sovereignty is incompatible with the appointment of a head of a republic being, as a matter of fact, a state, something that is established in the Russian Constitution." Ryzhkov added that "the head of one state cannot appoint the head of another state from above. But exactly this is virtually suggested by [Russian President Vladimir] Putin."

Authorities File Criminal Complaint Over Alleged Youth Beatings
The republican Prosecutor-General's Office announced on 20 October that criminal charges have been filed in connection with the alleged beatings by four police officers of three illegally detained minors, Regnum reported. Investigators believe that four employees of the Elmet Interior Board improperly detained and then beat the three youths. Parents unsuccessfully appealed to Elmet prosecutors to pursue charges against the policemen. The Kazan Human Rights Center conducted its own probe into the matter and provided a lawyer to the youths' families. Elmet's first deputy prosecutor has on eight occasions dismissed calls for the launch of a criminal case. Human rights groups successfully battled those decisions, however, with raion prosecutors and a court, the Tatar Prosecutor-General's Office, and federal prosecutors.

Shaimiev Adviser Believes Tatarstan Will Remain National Republic
Tatar presidential political adviser Rafael Khekimov told "Zvezda povolzhya" on 21 October that he is sure Tatarstan will not be abolished as a national republic in the near future. "There are, of course, forces that would like to put an end to democracy and federalism. But they do not have enough resources after all. The negative consequences of liquidating federalism are too great," Khekimov said. Commenting on President Vladimir Putin's proposal on appointing governors, he said it has "rational reasons" as well as "emotional" ones. The move of criminal forces into government is one of the rational reasons, Khekimov said. Khekimov also said he is sure that Putin will appoint Mintimer Shaimiev as Tatarstan's president. Khekimov added that negotiations are being held on extending the power-sharing treaty between Kazan and Moscow so "a procedure of appointment in Tatarstan is a special issue."

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Rakhimov Discusses Cooperation Projects With Kazakh Leadership...
An official delegation from Bashkortostan led by President Murtaza Rakhimov attended the opening of the republic's Kazakh representation in Astana on 15 October, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reported the same day. The office is the republic's 10th mission, following eight in Russia's regions and one in Austria. The republic is preparing to open similar missions in Turkey and Uzbekistan. During his visit, Rakhimov met with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev and Prime Minister Daniyal Akhmetov. A cooperation agreement between Bashkortostan and the Astana administration was signed by Rakhimov and Astana administration head Umirzak Shukeev. Rakhimov also held talks with Russia's legal adviser in Kazakhstan, Sergei Kopeiko, on prospects of cooperation between Kazakhstan and Russia and Bashkortostan. The visiting heads of over 30 Bashkir companies, including Bashneftekhim, Bashneft, Bashkirenergo, and Salavatnefteogrsintez, took part in a business forum of Bashkir and Kazakh business circles.

...And With Business Leaders
Heineken-Russia group President Rolan Pirmez said during his meeting with Bashkir President Rakhimov on 16 October that the company plans to invest 50 million euros ($62.5 million) in modernizing Bashkortostan's Shikhan brewery, which it recently purchased, Bashinform reported the same day. Vim-Bil-Dann Chairman David Yakobashvili, who also took part in the meeting, presented his company's plans to purchase an agricultural farm in Bashkortostan and to reconstruct it using modern technology. Rakhimov said he is ready to support this initiative, adding that "all doors are open in our republic for investors."

Motor Rally To Protest Police Corruption And Persecution
A Ufa-Nizhnii Novgorod-Moscow motor rally began on 18 October in Ufa, Regnum reported the same day. The rally has been organized to protest police corruption and persecution and is being supported by the National Anticorruption Committee, the nationwide For Human Rights movement, the Moscow Helsinki Group, and the People's Will Party. The rally participants will stop in Nizhnii Novgorod on 20 October, where they plan to stage a picket near the office of presidential Volga Federal District envoy Sergei Kirienko. On 21 and 22 October, a protest will be held in Moscow near the building of the Russian Interior Ministry. Bashkir residents who have left the republic because of alleged persecution will also take part in the protests.

Protest Action To Dismiss Bashkir Interior Ministry In Nizhnii
Protesters alleged tyranny and corruption by Bashkortostan's Interior Ministry at a demonstration in Nizhnii Novgorod's Minin Square on 20 October, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent and NTA reported the same day. Protesters demanded the dismissals of the head of the federal Interior Ministry's Volga Federal District directorate, Vladimir Shcherbakov, and of Bashkir Interior Minister Rafail Divaev. The protest emerged as part of an Ufa-Nizhnii Novgorod-Moscow rally that began in Ufa on 18 October (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 18 October 2004). The event was initiated with the support of the Yabloko and People's Will parties, the For Human Rights movement, the Moscow Helsinki Group, and the National Anticorruption Committee. Some 30 residents of Bashkortostan, including human rights activists and members of families of alleged police victims, took part in the meeting. Members of the Nizhnii Novgorod branch of the People's Will party also joined the event.

The action followed July and September meetings in Moscow and Nizhnii Novgorod with similar demands that resulted in a probe of Bashkir Interior Ministry practices by a federal Interior Ministry commission. "Kommersant-Volga-Urals" on 21 September quoted commission head Colonel Dmitrii Artemov as saying that the result of that inspection "has been reported to the minister." The daily also quoted unnamed employees of the ministry as not excluding that "practical conclusions might follow as a result" of the probe.

A similar demonstration was planned in front of the Russian Interior Ministry building in Moscow for 21 October.

Ethnologist Accuses Bashkortostan Of Distorting Census Figures
In an article published in "Zvezda povolzhya" on 21 October, ethnology professor Damir Iskhaqov commented on the recently reported results of neighboring Bashkortostan's 2002 census (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Report," 13 October 2004). The data put the number of ethnic Bashkirs in that republic at 1.2 million, or 29.8 percent of the population, and the number of Tatars at 990,702, or 24.1 percent. Iskhaqov said that between the censuses of 1989 and 2002, the number of Bashkirs in that republic increased by 357,500, while the numbers of Tatars and of Russians fell by 130,000 and 57,600, respectively. As a result, the share of Bashkirs in the republic's population grew by 7.9 percentage points, while those of Tatars and Russians fell by 4.3 and 3 percentage points. In the meantime, the number of Bashkirs outside Bashkortostan between the censuses of 1989 and 2002 declined from 481,500 to 452,700. Demographic forecasts suggested that the number of ethnic Bashkirs in Bashkortostan could increase naturally and through migration by no more than 85,700, Iskhaqov said. He claimed that the Bashkir "splash" was the only such increase among people in the Volga-Ural region according to the 2002 census. Iskhaqov argued that the number of ethnic Tatars was reduced by roughly 270,000, with that figure transferred to the ethnic Bashkir group. Iskhaqov questioned why federal President Vladimir Putin has shown no interest in the fact that some 300,000 ethnic Tatars have disappeared from Bashkortostan in recent years. He also suggested that Bashkortostan's ethnic Tatar groups should challenge the census figures in court.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Chelyabinsk Oblast's Sumin Joins Unified Russia...
Chelyabinsk Oblast Governor Petr Sumin has joined the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party, reported on 22 October. A corresponding decision was passed by the party's General Council the previous day. First Deputy Governor Andrei Kosilov avoided answering a question on 22 October on whether Sumin will be elected head of Unified Russia's Chelyabinsk Oblast branch, saying, "this is not an issue of principle."

...As Conflict Involving Party's Chelyabinsk Body Continues
Meanwhile, the former head of the Chelyabinsk city branch of Unified Russia, Salavat Kurmanov, is suing the "Chelyabinskii rabochii" newspaper for publishing two letters by the former chairman of the Unified Russia in Chelyabinsk control and supervision commission, Aleksandr Chudinov, Novyi region (Chelyabinsk) reported on 22 October. In the first open letter addressed to Governor Sumin, Chudinov claimed the law was broken in the Chelyabinsk city branch of Unified Russia and Kurmanov's dismissal as its leader was illegal (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 17 August 2004). In the second letter, Chudinov claims the opposite. Chudinov told the news agency that he in fact did not sign the second letter and will prove in court that it is counterfeit.

Policemen Detained For Selling Heroin
Federal Antinarcotics Service's Chelyabinsk branch has confirmed that a group of five people, four of whom are employees of the Chelyabinsk Sovetskii Raion Interior Ministry's Traffic Safety Inspectorate, were detained on 13 October as they were selling heroin, Regnum reported on 19 October. Some 250 grams of the narcotic was seized. Heroin was misappropriated by the employees on 30 September during the detention of a vehicle belonging to a crime suspect.

Kurgan Deputy Mayor Assaulted
Kurgan first deputy administration head Viktor Serkov was assaulted on 22 October, reported the same day. Several unknown people attacked him in the street as he left his apartment building and was walking to work. Serkov was knocked unconscious by a heavy blow to the head. After he recovered consciousness, Serkov called police and an ambulance and was hospitalized. Kurgan Mayor Aleksandr Yelchaninov told a briefing the same day that he believes the attack is linked to the election campaign in Kurgan.

Penza Residents Initiate Hunger Strike After Conflict With Realty Company
Six women in Penza Oblast have begun a hunger strike to protest a court ruling against Sergei Matyushkin, the head of the Yukon realty company that failed to buy housing for 10 families and didn't return their money, Regnum reported on 21 October. The Penza Zheleznodorozhnyi Raion court sentenced Matyushkin to 1 1/2 years in prison and ruled that the stolen money cannot be recovered from him since he is destitute.

In June, four women went on a hunger strike that ended after oblast prosecutor Valerii Kashlevskii promised them that required measures will be taken on the case.

Perm Oblast Companies Accused Of Dumping In U.S.
The U.S. Commerce Department has issued a preliminary decision in an antidumping investigation involving two Russian magnesium producers, Avisma of Perm Oblast and Solikamsk Magnesium Plant, Novyi region (Perm) reported on 20 October. Dumping duties totaled 10.62 percent for Avisma and 21.49 percent for Solikamsk Magnesium Plant. This is the first antidumping investigation against Russia since the United States recognized Russia a market economy. The Commerce Department will issue a final decision on 16 February.

Tyumen Prosecutor: Arrested Extremists Were Planning Hostage Taking
Tyumen Oblast prosecutor Ernest Valeev told a press conference on 22 October that members of the Hizb ut-Tahrir Tobol cell had been collecting weapons and preparing to take hostages, reported the same day. The oblast prosecutor's office has evidence of these plans and will produce them in court, Valeev said. A total of eight people are under investigation in the case, five of whom have been arrested. The prosecutor's office detained 10 Hizb ut-Tahrir members in June and seized religious literature and arms. Five of the detainees have been accused of starting an extremist organization and involving people in terrorism. The Federal Security Service revealed the Hizb ut-Tahrir cell in the oblast in 2003.

Kirienko Says State Workers Right To Protest
Presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District Sergei Kirienko told reporters on 20 October that state-sector employees are justified in demanding salary increases, Regnum reported the same day. Commenting on the nationwide demonstration the same day, Kirienko said that "many of those who take part in the strike have the right to do so, since salaries of state-sector employees are completely demeaning." Kirienko, however, added that it is impossible to resolve the issue by holding strikes.

A total of 250,000 people in 11 regions in the Volga Federal District took part in the strike, while workers in Tatarstan, Chavashia, and Mordovia abstained.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova