|The greatest of faults, I should say, is to be conscious of none. - Thomas Carlyle 1975-1881|
No. 243, 02 January 1991
BALTIC STATES BALTIC LITHUANIA VOTES FOR UNCONDITIONAL NEGOTIATIONS WITH USSR. On December 28 the Lithuanian Supreme Council decided to withdraw its demand that the USSR and Lithuania sign a special protocol outlining the goals and conditions for future negotiations on Lithuanian independence. President Vytautas Landsbergis told the parliament: "Until now, the Soviet side did not want negotiations, but now at least it will become clear whether the USSR is willing to negotiate with Lithuania." The Soviet authorities have not yet responded or announced who will replace Prime Minister Nikolai Ryzhkov as head of the Soviet negotiating team. (Saulius Girnius) ENDING OF MILITARY PATROLS IN KLAIPEDA. On December 26 TASS quoted Klaipeda garrison commander Ivan Chernykh as saying that the armed patrols in the city, begun the previous week, had been called off that day after the garrison worked out an agreement with city militia officials on protecting servicemen. (Saulius Girnius) USSR CONGRESS ON BALTICS. The USSR Congress of People's Deputies last week decided to dispatch a fact-finding mission to Latvia to investigate complaints of ill treatment by Soviet army personnel. As the London Times noted (December 29), the Congress' decision was remarkably meek, given the criticism of Latvian behavior heard from some members of the corps of deputies. (Saulius Girnius) BALTIC FOREIGN MINISTERS CALL FOR TALKS ON SOVIET TROOPS. In a joint statement issued on December 29, foreign ministers Lennart Meri of Estonia, Janis Jurkans of Latvia, and Algirdas Saudargas of Lithuania called again for negotiations with the USSR to resolve the issue of the stationing of Soviet troops in the Baltic states. The ministers also asked the Soviet authorities to declare that no "further military force be used" against the Baltic states. (Dzintra Bungs) SOVIET MILITARY CONGRESS IN RIGA. Some 500 representatives of Soviet armed forces stationed in the Baltic military district held an extraordinary congress in the Latvian capital December 21-25. According to TASS, they appealed to the USSR Congress of People's Deputies to introduce "presidential rule" in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, and said that if that proved ineffective a state of emergency should be introduced throughout the USSR. They complained of discrimination and political destabilization, and called for the protection of "soldiers' rights and human dignity." (Dzintra Bungs) MORE EXPLOSIONS IN LATVIA. Over a dozen monuments and public buildings were damaged in December. No injuries have been reported by Radio Riga. The spate of explosions started on December 5 when monuments and gravesites of Latvian soldiers who fought for an independent Latvia during World War II were damaged in four communities. Most of the subsequent explosions were aimed at Soviet institutions and monuments. Government officials, who have started a special investigation, say they believe the incidents are provocations aimed at destabilizing the situation in Latvia and providing grounds for the establishment of "presidential rule" there. (Dzintra Bungs) USSR USSR--ALL-UNION AFFAIRS GORBACHEV SAYS 1991 WILL BE CRITICAL. In a New Year message broadcast to the Soviet population December 31, Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev said there is "no cause more sacred" than the preservation and renewal of the Soviet Union. Gorbachev said 1991 would be a critical year since it would resolve the issue of "the fate of our multi-ethnic state." The Soviet population is to vote in a referendum later this year on the future of the USSR. (NCA) US, SOVIET PRESIDENTS EXCHANGE GREETINGS. Presidents George Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev have exchanged New Year's messages to the peoples of the USSR and USA. In his message to the American people, Gorbachev predicted that next month's Moscow summit would further improve Soviet-American relations which, he said, are still hampered by some "old obstancles." Economic, scientific and technological cooperation, Gorbachev said, "still do not respond to the spirit of the time." Bush's message to the USSR was shown on the main Soviet news program, "Vremya," on January 1, and was followed by the announcement that Bush had telephoned Gorbachev earlier in the day. For its part, "Vremya" marked the New Year with a low-key commentary hoping that the coming year would be "no worse" than the last. (NCA/Elizabeth Teague) PEOPLE'S DEPUTIES APPROVE DRAFT UNION TREATY. The New Year holiday followed a 10-day session of the USSR Congress of Deputies that ended December 27. On December 24, the Congress voted overwhelmingly (by 1,491 votes to 88) to back Gorbachev's proposed guidelines for a new Union treaty. It voted by an even larger margin (1,657 to 20) to preserve the USSR as "a federation of sovereign and equal republics." Deputies also voted to retain the name of the country--the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics--though there was heated debate over this issue, triggered by the omission of the word "socialist" from the original draft. Retention of the present name was approved by 1,365 votes to 189, even though some republics have already dropped the word socialist from their own names. (NCA) GORBACHEV WON... On December 25, the Congress of People's Deputies gave Gorbachev most of the new executive powers he had asked for, voting to create a new Cabinet of Ministers that will be smaller than the previous Council of Ministers and directly subordinate to Gorbachev as President. It also agreed to create the post of Vice-President. The Vice-President, who would replace the President in the event of death or disability, will also answer directly to the President. Finally, the Congress abolished the Presidential Council and transformed the Federation Council from an advisory into a policy-making body comprising the leaders of all the USSR's Union and autonomous republics. Gorbachev will head both the Council of the Federation and a new, smaller Security Council. (NCA) ...AND LOST. Gorbachev won new powers even though deputies expressed alarm at the institutionalization of such immense prerogatives in the hands of a single man. Yeltsin opposed the move, arguing that Gorbachev already had "enough power" and that the latest changes gave him, on paper, more power even than Stalin. Deputies Anatolii Sobchak and Konstantin Lubenchenko favored granting powers to Gorbachev personally, for a limited period only, but were overruled. However, the Congress balked at Gorbachev's request for the creation of a so-called Higher Government Inspectorate, headed by the Vice-President and apparently (details were sparse, which is one reason why the deputies refused consent) modelled on France's prefectorial system, to enforce the president's orders in the republics. (NCA/Elizabeth Teague) GORBACHEV ALONE. During the Congress, Gorbachev lost the two surviving members of his first government team of 1985. Foreign minster Shevardnadze tendered his resignation; prime minister Nikolai Ryzhkov was hospitalized following a heart attack. Observers fretted about Gorbachev's increasing isolation and shrinking power base, but also worried that no amount of formal powers could help him confront the separatist challenge of the republics. Shortly before his heart attack, Ryzhkov raised this very question. "Is the government short of powers now?" he asked the Congress. "No, the problem is that the republics are ignoring its decisions. If that situation does not change, no presidential power will save us." (Elizabeth Teague) RUSSIAN FEDERATION FACES GORBACHEV WITH BUDGET CRISIS. The RSFSR has presented Gorbachev with perhaps his most serious challenge yet. Under the leadership of Boris Yeltsin, the RSFSR Supreme Soviet voted on December 26 to slash its contribution to the all-Union budget by more than 80% (from 119 billion rubles in 1990 to 29 billion rubles in 1991). The New York Times likened the move to the Boston Tea Party. Gorbachev called it a "catastrophe" and said it could lead to "the breakup not only of the economy but of the country itself." He said the resulting cuts would harm everything from education to defense. The USSR Congress of People's Deputies directed Gorbachev to negotiate a solution to the crisis by January 10. (NCA) SUBSIDY BILL TO DOUBLE. The level of state subsidies projected for 1991 is expected to reach 240 billion rubles, or more than twice as much as the figure planned for 1990. The 1991 total was revealed by Viktor Kucherenko, chairman of the Council of the Union Planning, Finance, and Budget Commission on Moscow TV on December 30. The all-Union subsidy total of 115 billion rubles planned for 1990 was given in Pravda on May 18, 1990. The recent IMF study was already critical of the 1990 level of subsidies that exceeded 10% of the GDP. (Keith Bush) LAW ON REFERENDUMS ADOPTED. Izvestia (December 29) published the USSR law on referendums adopted last month by the USSR Congress of People's Deputies. The new law contains some gaps; for example, it says nothing about the composition or accountability of the "Central Commission for USSR Referendums" on which it confers broad powers to organize referendums. (Elizabeth Teague) REFERENDUMS APPROVED. However, it should soon be possible to observe the law in action. On December 24 the USSR Congress of People's Deputies ordered each republic to hold a referendum on the question of preserving the Soviet Union under a new Union treaty, and ordered a nationwide referendum on private land ownership. The Congress instructed the USSR Supreme Soviet to draft both referendums and to set dates for them. Since the new law states that a referendum must be held "not earlier than 2 months and and not later than 6 months" after the Congress of People's Deputies gives its approval, the referendums are likely to be held sometime between the end of February and the end of June this year. (Elizabeth Teague) YANAEV SPEAKS HIS MIND. It took Gorbachev two rounds of voting and a display of temper before the USSR Congress of People's Deputies agreed to elect his nominee, Gennadii Yanaev, to the new post of USSR Vice-President. Western comment has portrayed Yanaev--a longtime Party bureaucrat--as a Gorbachev loyalist. Last year, however, when he briefly held the post of head of the USSR's official trade unions, Yanaev raised the spectre of mass unemployment, bankruptcies and price increases to rally worker opposition to Gorbachev's economic reforms. Interviewed by TASS after his election December 26, Yanaev was asked whether Gorbachev should step down from his Party post; he coolly replied that Gorbachev's popularity rating in the country is so low that, "without the backing of the country's largest party, Gorbachev would run into major difficulties." Yanaev went on to express wholehearted support for the conservative "Soyuz" group of deputies. (Elizabeth Teague) RADICALS ALLEGE FRAUD. Members of the liberal Interregional Group of Deputies claimed December 28 that Yanaev's election might have been a fraud. A spokesman for the group, Arkadii Murashev, told reporters the election was not properly controlled and that there had been discrepancies in the counting of the ballots. Murashev said the Interregional Group would call on the USSR's Committee for Constitutional Oversight to investigate the matter. In a statement issued the same day, the Interregional Group warned that the USSR was in danger of becoming a dictatorship in which violence would be the main way of resolving internal political issues. (NCA) CONGRESS ELECTS NEW SUPREME SOVIET MEMBERS. On December 27, the USSR Congress of People's Deputies elected 193 new members to the Supreme Soviet, the USSR's standing parliament. The constitution requires the Supreme Soviet to replace one-fifth of its membership each year, but so many deputies asked to be allowed to resign from the Supreme Soviet that an exception was made in this case. There were 197 vacant seats, but 4 still remain unfilled. This is because one candidate from Ukraine and another from Armenia did not win the majority of votes required for election, while Estonia and Lithuania, which were supposed to nominate one candidate each, did not do so. The results of the voting confirmed the impression of a general swing toward conservatism. None of the radicals who stood won election. (NCA/Elizabeth Teague) STRIKE MORATORIUM REJECTED. On December 25, the USSR Congress of People's Deputies rejected a proposal, put to it by Supreme Soviet chairman Anatolii Lukyanov, to declare a moratorium on all strikes in the USSR in 1991. Several deputies pointed out that such a ban would violate labor laws recently enacted by the USSR Supreme Soviet. Others said dissatisfied workers might strike even if there were a moratorium. (NCA) "SOYUZ" GROUP HAS QUARTER OF CONGRESS DEPUTIES. On December 25, the members of the USSR Congress of People's Deputies officially registered in 18 factions. Deputies were allowed to register with more than one group. Results showed the largest group in the Congress is the Communists, with 730 registered supporters, or just under a third of the Congress' total membership of 2,250. (It looks as if many Communists did not register; when the Congress was elected in 1989, 87% were Party members. The CPSU has been losing members but not, if the official figures are any guide, at such a rate as that.) Next came the conservative "Soyuz" group, with 561 supporters, or about a quarter. Other groups included farmers (431); a newly formed workers group (400); ecologists (220); women (216); centrists (153); young deputies (125); and Afghan vets (52). The Interregional Group registered 229--a sharp drop from the 400 members it was claiming 18 months ago. (NCA/Elizabeth Teague) KRYUCHKOV SAYS HE WAS "MISUNDERSTOOD." KGB chairman Vladimir Kryuchkov told reporters December 25 that earlier remarks he made about foreign involvement in Soviet affairs had been "misunderstood" and did not signal a return to the Cold War. Addressing the Congress of People's Deputies on December 22, Kryuchkov said the USSR was facing internal and external subversion and that foreign powers were exploiting ethnic tensions by supporting nationalist groups in the USSR. Kryuchkov went on to accuse foreign trading partners of engaging in economic sabotage by selling the USSR defective goods. On December 24, the USA said the comments were "unfounded and inaccurate." In his remarks of December 25, Kryuchkov said he had not meant to accuse the majority of foreign enterprises and that, contrary to the impression created by his earlier remarks, he welcomed international aid. (NCA) WILL SHEVARDNADZE STAY? Despite the assurances of Shevardnadze's aides that his resignation is final, rumors are still circulating that the foreign minister will stay. TASS correspondent Alexander Kanishchev said on December 27 it would be premature to predict if Shevardnadze would really step down; indeed, Kanishchev said, "I believe he may remain in office indefinitely." In a December 30 interview with Japan's Asahi Shimbun, Gorbachev said he also favors Shevardnadze's "continuing [as foreign minister] and taking a further active part in the policy of perestroika." (Suzanne Crow) RESIGNATION FINAL, BUT... In response to rumors that Shevarndadze might reconsider his resignation, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Vitalii Churkin is sticking by his contention that the decision is final. Churkin indicated on December 29, however, that Shevardnadze might participate in next month's US-Soviet summit. Churkin said Shevardnadze and Gorbachev will meet to discuss whether Shevardnadze will participate, TASS reported December 29. (Suzanne Crow) NEW DEPUTY DEFENSE MINISTER. Colonel-General Vladislav Achalov, commander of Soviet Airborne Forces, has been appointed Deputy Defense Minister, TASS reported December 24. The report said Achalov would fill a newly created post with still undefined duties. Achalov's public statements to date mark him as a conservative. He served as Chief of Staff of the Leningrad Military District until 1989, when he was named to head the elite Airborne Forces. In the latter capacity he gained notoriety for his high profile role during the Soviet blockade of Lithuania last spring. Achalov's aide, Major General Pavel Grachev, an Afghan War veteran, has been appointed to replace him. (Stephen Foye) SNETKOV SACKED FOR DESERTIONS. The Commander-in-Chief of Soviet Forces in former East Germany was fired last month following the desertion of two senior officers under his command, Western news agencies reported December 31. Military investigator Colonel Anatolii Korotkov reportedly told Izvestia that Army General Boris Snetkov was fired following the discovery on November 29 that two of his senior officers had deserted, taking anti-tank missiles and anti-aircraft weapons with them. He said that several other officers also lost their posts or were punished as a result of the case. Snetkov was replaced by Colonel General Matvei Burlakov. (NCA/Stephen Foye) SOVIET TV CHIEF LETS THE CAT OUT OF THE BAG... Soviet radio and television chairman Leonid Kravchenko has denied he banned last Friday's edition of the popular TV show "Vzglyad." He was responding to allegations that the show was cancelled because its presenters planned to comment on the resignation of foreign minister Eduard Shevardnadze. Interviewed by Soviet TV December 30, Kravchenko denied he had ordered the show off the air but did admit he had advised that an interview with Shevardnadze would not be "appropriate." Kravchenko explained: "The president [Gorbachev] had asked people not to get drawn into...such a debate. There was a great deal that still needed to be weighed up and assessed." In other words, the Kremlin was in confusion and the official line on Shevardnadze's resignation had not been determined. (Elizabeth Teague) ...CIRCUSES, IF NOT BREAD. Kravchenko, who was appointed to head Gosteleradio only two months ago, went on to make another revealing announcement. Under his direction, he said, Soviet TV will avoid "excessive politicization" and there will "a sharp increase in non-factual programming, with more films and plays, musical and entertainment programs, and television quizes." Television, he said, should not "play politics"; instead, it should aim "to help people lose themselves." (Elizabeth Teague) GORBACHEV INTRODUCES NEW SALES TAX... Beginning January 1, Gorbachev is imposing a nationwide 5% sales tax on consumer goods and services. The tax will not apply to food. Announcing the new tax December 30, TASS said the purpose of the tax is to finance spending on social security and some public sector salaries. It should also provide a source of income to offset the state budget deficit. 70% of the revenue raised by the new tax will go the republics, while the other 30% will go to the central government. (NCA) ...AND A FUND TO PROTECT LAME-DUCK ENTERPRISES. Gorbachev has also announced the creation of a stabilization fund designed to help industries hurt in the process of transfer to the market. Finance minister Valentin Pavlov told Soviet television December 29 the fund would alleviate unemployment and provide support in "conditions of price hikes." It will be drawn from taxes on profits that exceed guidelines set by USSR Supreme Soviet and on proceeds from the privatization of state properties. (NCA) HYPERINFLATION ON THE BLACK MARKET. Perhaps in an effort to reconcile its readers to the widespread and substantial increases in state retail prices effective January 1, today's Pravda cites Goskomstat data on recent black market prices. Just before the New Year, a Zhiguli VAZ-2109 export model was selling in Moscow for 100,000 rubles, i.e., about 11 times its official retail price and equivalent to about 30 years average wages for an industrial worker. A bottle of Stolichnaya vodka went for 50 rubles, or five times the official list price. (Keith Bush) GLASNOST' GUARANTEES AGAINST DICTATORSHIP, AIDE SAYS. Presidential aide Georgii Shakhnazarov says public debate and glasnost' will ensure Mikhail Gorbachev does not abuse his new powers. Interviewed by Rabochaya tribuna on December 29, Shakhnazarov said: "The President's every move and word are discussed by the people and the press in an ever more open manner, so we have the main remedy against dictatorship." (Vera Tolz) PATRIARCH ALEKSII'S CHRISTMAS APPEAL. On December 21, TASS published a Christmas appeal to believers by Patriarch Aleksii. Deploring the "conflict" between Orthodox and Catholics of the Eastern Rite in Western Ukraine, the "destruction of Church unity by Autocephalists in Ukraine," and the actions of the "so-called" Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, the Patriarch appealed for the reestablishment of peace and unity among Christians. (Oxana Antic) OPINION POLL REVEALS INTEREST IN CHRIST. Moscow News (No. 49, 199O) publishes the results of an opinion poll conducted in November by Yurii Levada for the Soviet Center for Public Opinion and Market Research. 1,363 persons were polled in 21 localities. Asked which of 5 personalities will be "of great importance" in the USSR om the year 2000, 58 percent chose Jesus Christ. (Oxana Antic)P0 USSR--REPUBLICS "NO FAMINE IN THE RSFSR." The chairman of a major Western relief organization says there is no famine in the Soviet Union--at least not in the Russian Federation--and that appeals for food aid are "outright manipulation." Jacques Lebas, chairman of the French group Medecins du Monde told AFP ib December 28 that people's generosity has been manipulated by unecessary appeals that have diverted attention from true starvation in Africa. Lebas was speaking on his return from a visit to the RSFSR. He said Western food shipments are backed up at ports and railheads. But he said, the USSR does need medical supplies. (NCA) MOSCOW'S "TENT CITY" RAZED. Shortly before dawn on December 30, police moved in with bulldozers to clear away the Red Square's "tent city." The tents--occupied by desperate people from all over the USSR who had come to Moscow to seek redress for their grievances--appeared six months ago, at the time of the 28th CPSU Congress. According to Reuters, 47 people have been taken into custody; some are to be sent back to their original places of residence; others will receive psychiatric attention. The closure of the encampment will be seen as a further step in Gorbachev's current "law and order" campaign. (NCA/Elizabeth Teague) GORBACHEV THREATENS TO RESTORE ORDER IN MOLDAVIA. Another step in Gorbachev's bid to restore order came with the publication, on December 22, of a presidential decree in which he threatened to take unspecified "necessary measures" unless the Moldavian leadership and minority groups acted within 10 days to end interethnic conflicts in the republic. The decree ordered the dissolution of the would-be independent republics proclaimed by the Gagauz minority and by non-indigenous residents of the Dniester region, the implementation of Union laws on republican territory, the disbanding of all voluntary detachments and self-defense units, and the reconsideration of republican legislation viewed as discriminatory by the minorities. (Michael Shafir) MOLDAVIAN PARLIAMENT ACCEPTS GORBACHEV'S TERMS. On December 30 TASS reported that Moldavia's Supreme Soviet had adopted a decision agreeing to Gorbachev's terms. TASS did not make it clear whether the Moldavian parliament had agreed to all Gorbachev's demands, saying only that the decision was adopted "after it had been analyzed by a commission charged with drafting a decision on the decree and amendments proposed by deputies." The Moldavian parliament did however note that many points in the presidential decree had already been implemented, including "the dissolution of volunteer detachments and the annulling of unconstitutional decisions concerning the setting up of the so-called Gagauz and Dniestr republics." (Michael Shafir) GAGAUZ LEADER CLAIMS ACCEPTANCE OF GORBACHEV'S DECREE. The chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the would-be Gagauz republic, Stefan Topal, claimed December 28 that Moldavia's Gagauz minority was ready to meet the terms of Gorbachev's decree. But, in a statement carried by TASS, Topal said he was not sure the Moldavian authorities were ready to observe all parts of the decree. He did not specify which parts he had in mind. (Michael Shafir) SNEGUR LOOKS ON THE BRIGHT SIDE. In the first official reaction to Gorbachev's decree, Moldavian president Mircea Snegur told Moldavian radio December 25 that the decree was not a "dictate from the center, as it may seem at first sight." He said the purpose of the decree was to achieve reconciliation and stabilize the situation in the republic. Snegur stressed that Gorbachev's decree annuled "the anticonstitutional republics." (Michael Shafir) CLASHES IN KISHINEV. TASS reported that clashes occurred at a rally in Kishinev December 23. The rally, called in support Gorbachev's decree by the Moldavian Communist Party, "turned into a melee as hotheads on both sides started a brawl," and police intervened. Opponents of Gorbachev's demands later marched to the Moldavian Communist Party Central Committee building chanting "anticommunist slogans." (Michael Shafir) MOSCOW-LOYALISTS RALLY IN TIRASPOL. A meeting of Communists loyal to Moscow was held in the capital of the Dniester region, Tiraspol, December 22. TASS said participants called for the resignation of the Moldavian government and supported a new Union treaty. They also called on Gorbachev "not to adopt decrees and other decisions that may lead to the beginning of civil war in Moldavia." (Michael Shafir) MOLDAVIAN DEPUTIES SUPPORT DECREE. Moldova Pres reported December 25 that 36 of the 42 Moldavian deputies to the USSR Congress of People's Deputies had issued a statement in support of Gorbachev's decree. The deputies said the decree created "favorable premises for solving several problems that are tearing the republic to pieces." The deputies appealed to the Moldavian population to show "moderation [and] tolerance" and to embark on mutual "collaboration." (Michael Shafir) AKHROMEEV DENIES RUMORS OF MARTIAL LAW. Marshal Sergei Akhromeev, a military adviser to President Gorbachev who represents the Moldavian constituency of Balti (Beltsy) in the USSR Supreme Soviet, denied that Gorbachev might declare martial law in Moldavia. In an interview carried by TASS on December 29, Akhromeev said such rumors were "just as unfounded as rumors about a military dictatorship seeking power [in Moscow]." The marshal added that "until a new Union treaty is signed, the USSR constitution and the laws of the Union parliament should prevail in Moldavia." (Michael Shafir) ROMANIAN PRESIDENT NON-COMMITTAL ON MOLDAVIAN QUESTION. Addressing the Romanian parliament December 21, Romanian president Ion Iliescu reiterated his position on Romania's ties with Moldavia. In a speech carried by Radio Bucharest, Iliescu said these ties had a "double character." On one hand, a "spiritual community" united Romania and Moldavia and called for "expanding ties...at all levels and in all fields." On the other hand, Romania had to "take into consideration political realities and raison d'etat, [as well as] the body of international regultations applying to Europe as a whole." (Michael Shafir) ROMANIAN RALLY SUPPORTS MOLDAVIA. A rally in support of the Moldavians' struggle "for self-determination and independence" was organized by the parliamentary and extraparliamentary opposition in the capital of Romanian Moldavia, Iasi, December 23. Radio Bucharest broadcast the appeal adopted by the participants. While saluting Gorbachev's decision to dismantle the two would-be republics, the appeal voiced concern that Gorbachev might use special powers in Moldavia. (Michael Shafir) OFFICIAL ROMANIAN STATEMENT ON MOLDAVIAN SITUATION. Commenting on December 27 on Gorbachev's decree, a spokesman for the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Romania "firmly observes the principles" of the Helsinki final act but that, within these limits, the Romanian government follows events in Moldavia "with special attention, but also with concern." He described such sentiments as normal in view of historic, ethnic and language links, and added that Romania "fully agreed" with the ruling of the USSR Congress of People's Deputies dated December 24, 1989, that the secret protocols of the Ribbentrop-Molotov had no legal foundation. (Michael Shafir) ROMAN ON RELATIONS WITH MOLDAVIA. Romanian Prime Minister Petre Roman said in an interview with the Romanian television on December 28 that during his talks with Moldavian premier Mircea Druc the possibility of building an "economic bridge" between the two states had been discussed. Roman said that Moldavia had "some urgent requirements, which we are trying to meet with as much priority as we can." Roman singled out the spheres of housing and education. (Michael Shafir) REVOLUTION ANNIVERSARY A HOLIDAY NO LONGER. November 7, the anniversary of the 1917 Bolshevik revolution, is no longer to be a public holiday in Moldavia. TASS reported December 25 that the Moldavian Supreme Soviet had approved a list of official holidays including Christmas and "Language Day" (August 31) but not November 7. (Michael Shafir) AZERIS RALLY ALONG SOVIET-IRANIAN BORDER. Reuters reports that about 10,000 people held a peaceful rally at four points just inside the Soviet border with Iran December 31, marking the first anniversary of riots aimed at uniting ethnic Azeris in the two countries. Reuters quoted the independent Turan news agency from the regional capital, Nakhichevan, as saying that speakers at the rally called for peaceful struggle to win unification with their Iranian counterparts. (NCA) UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SAYS PRICE MEASURES PLANNED. Ukrainian president Leonid Kravchuk says his republic will take steps during the coming month to introduce order into the pricing system. Radio Kiev quoted him December 31 as saying that, under the current system, the prices the republic is paying to enterprises amount to "banditism." Kravchuk said that in the near future Ukraine will adopt measures to seetle the issue. The radio said this would be done not through administrative measures, but through the financial system; it gave no details. (CMD) NEW COMMANDER FOR KIEV MILITARY DISTRICT. Lieutenant General Viktor Chechevatov has been appointed Commander of the Kiev Military District, replacing Colonel General Boris Gromov, TASS reported on December 25. Chechevatov is young at 45 years of age, and previously served as Staff Chief of the Central Asian Military District and First Deputy Commander of the Carpathian Military District. TASS reports that he told Krasnaya zvezda he favored a shift to a professional army, but cautioned that under current conditions such a transition was impossible. (Stephen Foye) CHURCH APPEALS TO YELTSIN. Central televison reported December 27 that the Russian Orthodox Church has appealed to Boris Yeltsin to declare January 7 (the Orthodox Christmas) and Good Friday state holidays. (Oxana Antic) RSFSR PERMITS FOREIGN OWNERSHIP. On December 24, the RSFSR Supreme Soviet adopted a landmark law allowing foreign companies to own factories and other enterprises, along with buildings and other property in the RSFSR. The law, which was to take effect on January 1, also allows companies in the Russian Republic to engage in foreign trade and to use foreign credits. In addition, it includes a section on private land ownership that is to take effect on January 15. (In October, Gorbachev adopted a decree allowing foreign investors to own enterprises in the USSR and to control their profits. But, unlike the new RSFSR law, Gorbachev's decree said nothing about foreign ownership of land.) (NCA) YELTSIN HAS PROBLEMS OF HIS OWN. Boris Yeltsin, who last week faced Gorbachev with a budgetary crisis of enormous proportions, returned to Moscow yesterday from a trip to Yakutia to problems in his own government. On December 27 it was announced that RSFSR finance minister Boris Fedorov had resigned, complaining the Russian Republic was making no progress toward a market economy. The 32-year-old Fedorov told Rossiiskaya gazeta that proposed reforms were bogged down "in the depths of the apparatus." Fedorov also criticized for Yeltsin, accusing him of pursuing a senseless vendetta with Gorbachev and saying Yeltsin's preference for "populist measures" instead of real market reforms could bankrupt the whole USSR. (NCA) VOLUNTARY SERVICE IN THE CAUCASUS? A Defense Ministry spokesman told TASS yesterday that soldiers will now serve in the Southern Caucasus region only on a volunteer basis, AFP reported. Soldiers and officers willing to serve in the region would be given special privileges, the report said. It added that conscripts from the Caucasus will also be allowed to serve at home in construction battalions. The TASS account contradicts a December 30 report on Radio Moscow, however, which stated that--according to Komsomolskaya pravda--the Finance Ministry had refused to provide the extra funding necessary for the policy and had turned the first step toward military professionalization into a "fiasco." (Stephen Foye) ARMENIAN CP FIRST SECRETARY EXPELLED FROM NAGORNO-KARABAKH? The Armenian and Azerbaijani media have given conflicting reports of Armenian CP first secretary Stepan Pogosyan's recent visit to Stepanakert. Radio Baku maintains that Pogosyan was intercepted on his arrival at Stepanakert airport on December 22 and ordered by the region's military commendant to return immediately to Erevan. Armenpress claims that Pogosyan visited Stepanakert railway station and confirmed that central media reports that there is no disruption of food supplies are untrue, and that he managed to meet with local Armenian leaders and people's deputies. (Liz Fuller) NEW SETTLEMENT ON NAGORNO-KARABAKH IMMINENT? The chairman of the Council of Nationalities of the USSR Supreme Soviet, Rafik Nishanov, told the Armenian news agency Armenpress on December 21 that the Soviet leadership is aware of the need for a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh impasse. He stated that the Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders have met to discuss the issue, and that "a whole package of proposals" has been drawn up that might break the deadlock. Nishanov said that main objective is to restore the organs of Soviet power in the disputed oblast. (Liz Fuller) REFUGEES, HOSTAGES COMPLICATE SOUTH OSSETIAN CRISIS ... On December 26, USSR MVD Lieutenant-General Smyslov characterized the situation in South Ossetia as "explosive and complicated," stating that interethnic tensions and crime are increasing. Other reports claimed that Ossetian refugees were fleeing from South Ossetia to the North Ossetian ASSR, and that armed civilians were manning road blocks to prevent food and other supplies from reaching the area. On December 27, some 2,000 people stormed a police station in the oblast capital of Tskhinvali and held a group of Georgian policemen hostage until a local man who had been arrested earlier was released. (Liz Fuller) GAMSAKHURDIA REJECTS NORTH OSSETIAN CRITICISM... In a related development, Georgian Supreme Soviet chairman Zviad Gamsakhurdia argued in a letter printed in Zarya Vostoka (December 27) that the North Ossetian parliament's December 14 protest that Georgia's abolition of South Ossetian autonomy was "unlawful" and a violation of the rights of a small ethnic group constitutes "crude interference" in Georgia's internal affairs. Gamsakhurdia reiterated that the Georgian parliament's decision was morally and politically legitimate. (Liz Fuller) ...WHILE GORBACHEV'S INTERMEDIARY CALLS FOR DIALOGUE. Speaking in Tbilisi on December 28, Gorbachev's personal envoy to Georgia, Leonid Gorshkov, called upon both Georgians and Ossetians to "abandon their unconstitutional actions" and embark on a dialogue aimed at solving the South Ossetian crisis, TASS reports. Gorshkov further stated that food shortages in South Ossetia were caused by inefficient management, and denied reports of a Georgian blockade of the oblast. (Liz Fuller) NEW GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT CONDEMNED AS "TOTALITARIAN." Dzhaba Ioseliani, a literature professor and leader of the informal military group Mkhedrioni, has told TASS (December 25) that the new Georgian parliament "continues the totalitarian policy of the previous regime," suppresses dissent and democracy, and uses lies and disinformation to discredit political rivals. Ioseliani expressed concern that the ruling Round Table coalition might launch a campaign of repression against its political opponents. (Liz Fuller) KARAKALPAKISTAN DECLARES SOVEREIGNTY. The December 19 issue of Izvestia reported that the Supreme Soviet of the Karakalpak ASSR had adopted a declaration of sovereignty and changed the name of the republic to Soviet Republic of Karakalpakistan. The republic will remain part of Uzbekistan, which will represent Karakalpakistan's interests within the USSR and abroad. (Bess Brown) NUCLEAR TESTING AT SEMIPALATINSK. President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbaev told Novosti on December 24 that continued nuclear weapons testing at the Semipalatinsk site could lead to a political and social explosion in the southern republic. Nazarbaev was responding to a statement by Defense Minister Dmitrii Yazov on December 20 (see Daily Report, December 21) that nuclear testing would be resumed at Semipalatinsk despite a republican declaration terminating testing. Nazarbaev charged that Yazov's statement was part of Moscow's effort to reassert imperial power in the republic. (Stephen Foye)
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