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Tatar-Bashkir Report: October 21, 2003

21 October 2003
Republic's Law On Freedom Of Conscience Harmonized With Federal Law
The Tatar Supreme Court on 16 October ruled in favor of Tatarstan's acting Prosecutor Vladimir Metelin's complaint against some provisions of the republic's law on freedom of conscience and religious associations as contradicting federal legislation, reported the same day. Specifically, the complaint protests the use in the law of the phrase "citizens of Tatarstan," arguing that this restricts the rights of residents who are not citizens of Tatarstan. The republic's law also allowed the restriction of spreading new faiths and activities of religious groups new to Tatarstan in order to promote public consent and security. The federal law says activities of religious groups may be halted or banned only if they harshly violate constitutional norms. The requirement in the republic's law that data about the history of the appearance and spread of a faith and religious group in Tatarstan be provided was also declared illegal.

Tatar Trade Unions Join Nationwide Protest
Some 2,000 teachers, doctors, cultural-sector workers, and students joined a nationwide trade union protest on 15 October near Gorkii Park in Kazan, reported the same day. The protesters backed the main demand of the protest organizers on the increase of salaries of public-sector employees by 50 percent as of January. Republican Education Workers Trade Union Chairman Yurii Prokhorov said at the demonstration that the average wage in industry is 5,800 rubles, twice that of public-sector employees. Tatar Trade Union Federation Chairwoman Tatyana Vodopyanova said a 33 percent increase in salaries in the public sector to start on 1 October will only cover inflation over the past two years.

Chally Prosecutor Said To Have No Links To Alleged Criminal Boss
Tatar Prosecutor Kafil Emirov told "Izvestia" on 15 October that a photograph featuring Chally Prosecutor Ildus Nefiqov in a bath house with alleged crime boss Eduard Tahirjanov is real, but was taken in 1995 or 1996. The photo appeared in the Chally-based "Chelny LTD" newspaper on 24 September. Nefiqov, then a prosecutor in the city of Tuben Kama, was invited to the bath house by a friend and Tahirjanov was introduced to him as a Moscow businessman, Emirov told the daily. He added that Nefiqov had no contacts with Tahirjanov after that time. Emirov said that there had been an attempt to bribe the prosecutor in connection with the investigation into the recent spate of kidnappings and murders, but when the attempt failed the picture was handed over to the newspaper.

Three members of an organized crime group, allegedly headed by Tahirjanov, have been arrested in Chally in connection with the 2001 kidnapping and murder of Moscow-based executive Oleg Kulikov. Prosecutors are investigating other murders they believe the gang may have been involved in. The bodies of KamAZ Deputy General Manager and Metallurgy Plant General Director Viktor Faber and Metallurgy Plant Economic Department Head Natalya Starodubtseva, who were kidnapped in May, as well as the general director of the Chally Avtomaster company, Yevgenii Kornev, who was kidnapped more than a year ago, were found on 28 September in Tatarstan.

Tatar Parliament To Appeal To Constitutional Courts On Latin-Script Issue
Speaking at a meeting of the State Council Presidium on 13 October, State Council Chairman Farid Mukhametshin said the Tatar parliament plans to appeal to the Tatar and Russian Constitutional Courts on the issue of the use of Latin script for the Tatar language, reported the same day. The presidium discussed the agenda of parliament's next plenary session slated for 17 October.

The legislature will consider the draft 2004 budget in the first reading, amendments to the laws on the 2003 budget and on property tax for companies and organizations. The draft law on representations of Tatarstan will be considered in the third reading and amendments to the law on privatization of housing in the first reading. The parliament will also determine its position on three complaints by prosecutors against republican laws and on 20 legislative initiatives by Russian Federal Assembly members and parliaments of Russian regions.

Duma Elections Cost 51 Million Rubles In Tatarstan
The preparations for and holding of the State Duma elections in Tatarstan will cost 50.9 million rubles ($1.7 million), RosBalt reported on 10 October, citing the Central Election Commission's press center. The December campaign will be more expensive than the one in 1999. Each of 2,900 district election commissions will be allocated 10,800 rubles, 63 territorial election commissions will get 41,000 rubles, and five okrug election commissions will receive 146,500 rubles. In the republic's five election districts, some 70 people have stated their intention to run for office. Unified Russia and the Communist Party have five candidates each, the Democratic Party and the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia have four apiece, the Union of Rightist Forces, the Eurasian Union, and the Party of Russia's Revival/Russian Party of Life bloc, the People's Party, and the Rus party, among others, have three candidates; the Party of the Development of Entrepreneurship have two members running, and the Unity party, People's-Patriotic Union, Yabloko, the Party of Peace and Unity, the Party of Pensioners, and the Russian Communist Party�Party of Communists one candidate each. Twenty-eight people are running as independents. There are 2.7 million eligible voters in Tatarstan.

Compiled by Iskender Nurmi

Safin Banned From Campaigning In Ufa
Relif Safin, Bashkir presidential candidate and a member of the Russian Federation Council representing Altai Republic, visited Ufa on the 13th anniversary of the adoption of Bashkortostan's sovereignty declaration on 11 October but was banned by the city administration from campaigning, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported on 13 October. After being refused a square in the city for staging a show with famous Russian performers and actors, Safin's team visited a number of city parks where he signed autographs and held informal meetings with people.

The Altai senator, who is the former vice president of LUKoil, said on 11 October that he "supports President Murtaza Rakhimov's decision" to run for a third term and denied rumors of his own possible cooperation with fellow candidate Sergei Veremeenko. Safin emphasized that "Veremeenko and I support other as fair rivals."

New Public Organization Proposed As Alternative To World Bashkir Congress
Airat Dilmokhemmetov, leader of the Bashkir Youth Union, told a press conference on 14 October that a new public organization, the Bashkir People's Congress, will be established in Bashkortostan to defend the Bashkir people's interests, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. According to Dilmokhemmetov, the congress will seek to revive the ethnic self-identity of the Bashkir people and "represents an alternative to the government-run World Bashkir Congress." He said that the World Bashkir Congress "did not meet the interests of the Bashkir people, because it put the Bashkirs in opposition with other ethnic groups and progress in general." He added, "within the framework of 'Bashkirization' other nationalities are being ousted from government positions, while the new appointees are indifferent to the fate of their people." Referring to the December presidential election in Bashkortostan, Dilmokhemmetov noted that "the future of the Bashkir nation is not associated with the name of President [Murtaza] Rakhimov." At the same press conference, Dilmokhemmetov notified the Bashkir Central Election Commission of his intention to run for the presidency.

Rakhimov Joins Putin's Delegation On Asia Trip
The fact that Russian President Vladimir Putin has included Bashkir President Murtaza Rakhimov in his delegation at the Organization of the Islamic Conference meeting in Malaysia, "may be interpreted as a sign demonstrating Moscow's sympathies," "Nezavisimaya gazeta" wrote on 14 October. A source within the Russian presidential staff told an RFE/RL Kazan correspondent on 15 October that under the trip's protocol, Rakhimov would not be allowed on the same airplane as Putin and is unlikely to get an opportunity to meet with the Russian president.

Human Rights Weekly Opposes Construction Of Yumaguzin Reservoir
The "Vashe pravo. Gazeta o pravakh cheloveka" human rights weekly wrote on 15 October that after the construction of the Yumaguzin reservoir in the Bashkiriya national park, a number of rare species of plants and animals will be destroyed by floods. A recent Russian Ecology Ministry inspection decided that no environmental laws had been violated. In the future, the dam will be used for the Yumaguzin hydroelectric power plant. The weekly accused the inspections of deliberately ignoring the violations.

Unified Russia Supports Rakhimov's Reelection Bid
The General Council of the Unified Russia party on 15 October declared its support for the candidacy of incumbent President Murtaza Rakhimov in Bashkortostan's December presidential elections, the party's official website reported the next day. The council has ordered the party's branch in Bashkortostan to ensure "comprehensive support" for Rakhimov including "all the necessary organizational and political activities."

Veremeenko Establishes Fund For Regional Development
Another presidential candidate Sergei Veremeenko, a former executive at St. Petersburg-based Mezhprombank, on 16 October established a new assistance fund for regional development in Russia, an RFE/RL Ufa correspondent reported the same day. The fund will reportedly provide help to regions in attracting investments and will support a wide range of development programs. Sergei Mironov, chairman of the Russian Federation Council, praised the idea and pledged his support. The new fund has been co-founded by the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Center for Strategic Research in the Volga Federal District, and the Moscow State Institute of International Relations.

Bashkir Airlines Caught In Tax Evasion Again
Bashkortostan's branch of the Tax Ministry ordered Bashkir Airlines to pay 82 million rubles ($2.7 million) in delayed taxes, RosBalt reported on 17 October. The company was being inspected for the second time since the September, when the ministry discovered nonpayment of 76 million rubles in taxes ($2.5 million).

Gazprom Expresses Interest In Acquiring Another Bashkir Firm
The Gazprom monopoly intends to take over the Kauchuk synthetic-rubber company in Sterletamaq in addition to the Salavatnefteorgsintez chemical plant it already acquired, "Vedomosti" reported on 17 October. The daily noted that under an agreement between Gazprom and Bashkir government signed in late 2002, the Bashkir government will help Gazprom obtain state-owned stakes in Bashkir chemical companies. Kauchuk produces 33 percent of Russia's isoprene synthetic rubbers and 40 percent of polymeric synthetic rubbers.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova

Chelyabinsk Court Confirms Guilty Verdict Against Journalist...
Chelyabinsk's Kalinin Raion Court last week confirmed "Vechernii Chelyabinsk" Deputy Editor in Chief German Galkin's sentence of one year in prison for slander (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 26 August and 2 September 2003), reported on 20 October. The news agency also cited as reporting several other criminal cases against journalists. Specifically, "Kompyuterra" magazine reporter Dmitrii Korovin is being sued for accusing the Russobit CD producer of computer piracy, Krasnoyarsk-based "Segodnyashnyaya gazeta" Deputy Editor in Chief Maksim Glazunov is under investigation on allegations of slander against a senior official, while Ryazan-based "Novaya gazeta" Deputy Editor in Chief Mikhail Komarov is being prosecuted for calling a local businessmen "an oligarch."

...As His Paper Accused Of 'Anti-Yabloko' Campaigning
The Chelyabinsk Oblast Central Election Commission on 13 October filed a complaint with Chelyabinsk's Central Raion Court against an administrative violation committed by the "Vechernii Chelyabinsk" newspaper, "Kommersant" reported on 14 October. Election Commission Deputy Chairman Aleksandr Raevskii said the complaint was based on several articles in September and October about Yabloko, which the commission claimed were illegal "agitation" against party.

Interior Minister Says Murder Of Tolyatti Newspaper Editor Solved...
Russian Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov said on 18 October that the murder of "Tolyattinskoe obozrenie" Editor in Chief Aleksei Sidorov (see "RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir Weekly Review," 14 October 2003) has been solved and that the reasons behind it were not related to his work, Interfax reported the same day. Also on 18 October, Samara Oblast Deputy Prosecutor Yevgenii Novozhilov told a press conference that an AvtoVAZagregat metalworker had been accused of the killing. He said the suspect was brought to the scene of the crime and showed how the event occurred and confirmed his testimony before the media.

On 16 October, a similar statement was made by Russian Deputy Prosecutor-General Vladimir Kolesnikov in an interview with GTRK Samara. He said two persons, a metalworker and a jobless man, have been arrested. Kolesnikov echoed a version announced on 15 October by the head of the Interior Ministry's Volga Federal District Chief Directorate, General Vladimir Shcherbakov, who said that the crime had been solved and the suspect had been detained. Shcherbakov said Sidorov was asked for vodka by two men as he was drinking in the street. After he refused to give them vodka, they stabbed him. Shcherbakov's statement, however, was immediately refuted by investigators, who told "Kommersant" on 15 October that "no persons have been detained in the case and the murder has not been solved."

...As Journalists' Public Organizations Doubt Interior's Version
Glasnost Defense Foundation Chairman Aleksei Simonov said, "95 percent of what I know and think about [the killing of Aleksei Sidorov]" goes against the authorities' version, reported on 18 October. Simonov said that on one hand, "Tolyattinskoe obozrenie" is constantly reporting about corruption involving AvtoVAZ, but on the other hand, the paper itself "has been repeatedly accused of criminal ties and being a means blackmail." Simonov called on law enforcement bodies to "look at what this newspaper does." He also said that the foundation together with the Reporters Without Borders organization is conducting its own investigation of the crime.

Speaking at a press conference in Tolyatti on 16 October, Glasnost Defense Foundation representative Ruslan Gorevoi said, "The leadership of law enforcement bodies not only misinforms us but lies cynically." He said he believes that Sidorov's killing, the sixth of a Tolyatti journalist, was contracted, adding that the foundation has collected some evidence and will give it to Russian Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov.

Two Former Interior Employees Sentenced For Death Of People Under Investigation
A Sverdlovsk Oblast court on 16 October sentenced two former Serov Interior Ministry employees, Andrei Lysov and Andrei Sereda, to two and three years in prison, respectively, for exceeding their authority, Novyi Region reported the same day. The case against the two and one other Interior Ministry employee, Aleksandr Pershin, who is currently being sought, was launched several months ago after suspect Eduard Smolyaninov died during interrogation by the policemen. Smolyaninov's parents filed a lawsuit when they discovered severe injuries and fractures on their son's body. Smolyaninov was found to have died from an overdose of morphine he received from the officers in exchange for testimony. Lysov and Sereda were dismissed during the investigation of their case.

Orthodox Theology To Be Taught In Asbest Secondary School
A course on "God's Law" has been included in the curriculum of a secondary school in Asbest, Sverdlovsk Oblast, reported on 13 October, citing the Yekaterinburg Eparchy's information agency. The course was approved after local priest Oleg Staritsyn met with parents to inform them about the content of the planned course. The parents then told the school director that they do not mind if theology is included in the school curriculum. Under Russian law, church is separated from the state.

Ulyanovsk Diabetics Left Without Insulin
The city of Ulyanovsk has run out of insulin it distributes free to diabetics after it received no deliveries over the past month, Region73 reported on 15 October. Now patients can only buy insulin in private drugstores, for which they need some 2,000 rubles ($66) a month. About 2,000 people are currently supplied with free insulin, mostly elderly and disabled. The companies that deliver insulin to Ulyanovsk have refused to resume delivery until they are paid the 9 million rubles owed by the city.

Compiled by Gulnara Khasanova