|There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in. - Graham Greene|
No. 27, 07 February 1991
BALTIC STATES PRESS BRIEFING BY BRAZAUSKAS. At a press briefing at the Lithuanian parliament on February 6, broadcast live over Radio Kaunas, Chairman of the Lithuanian Democratic Labor Party Algirdas Brazauskas answered questions on his meeting with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev the previous day. According to Brazauskas, Gorbachev did not seem to have changed and apparently was still in charge. Gorbachev repeatedly stressed that there cannot be any negotiations with Lithuania as an (independent) state, but only as a Soviet republic. Gorbachev did not mention that he intended to declare the scheduled poll in Lithuania on February 9 illegal a few hours later. (Saulius Girnius) CHANGES IN LITHUANIAN DELEGATION FOR NEGOTIATIONS WITH THE USSR. TASS reported on February 6 that the Lithuanian Supreme Soviet had decided to change the membership of the Lithuanian delegation for negotiations with the USSR on independence. Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius replaced his predecessor Kazimiera Prunskiene. Two additional members were added to the delegation: Director-General of the Lithuanian National Defense Department Audrius Butkevicius and economist Kestutis Glaveckas. (Saulius Girnius) ESTONIA FIRM ON PLEBISCITE. Estonia's Foreign Minister Lennart Meri told Reuter on February 6 that Estonia will hold its March 3 plebiscite despite Moscow's pressure to participate in the March 17 referendum. Meri said: "We are absolutely sure our peoples have reached a decision to restore full independence." Meri said that the March 17 all-Union referendum would achieve no result even if the Baltic peoples voted 100% to leave the USSR. "That's why the Baltic parliaments were obliged to organize some sort of a preventive referendum," he added. (Riina Kionka) SODRUZHESTVO AIRS ANTI-INDEPENDENCE MESSAGE IN LATVIA. Late in the fall of 1990, Sodruzhestvo, a new radio station started to operate in Latvia. At that time little was known about it, other than its political orientation: Latvia must remain a part of the USSR. Radio Riga interviewed on February 6 its chief Vadim Smetanikov, former editor of Sovetskaya Latviya, who said that the station was sponsored by the United Council of Work Collectives and that it was broadcasting programs 4 times a week. Smetanikov did not say where the broadcasts originated, nor who his coworkers were, though he claimed that Sodruzhestvo was operating legally. Ziedonis Banka, formerly of Cina, prepared the Latvian-language programs. (Dzintra Bungs) TASS CRITICIZES EC REACTION TO SOVIET ACTIONS IN THE BALTICS. On February 6 TASS commentator Albert Balebanov accused the European Community's foreign ministers of "unambiguous intervention in the Soviet Union's internal affairs" and exerting "pressure on Moscow in tackling the problems of its relations with the Baltic Soviet republics." Balebanov was reacting to the EC foreign ministers' decision of February 4 to hold back aid to the USSR after the Soviet crackdown in the Baltics and to their decision to send observers to Lithuania and Estonia, which are going to hold polls on independence. (Dzintra Bungs) USSR - ALL-UNION TOPICS GORBACHEV ADDRESSES NATION ON REFERENDUM. Hard on the heels of his decree pronouncing the February 9 poll in Lithuania legally without foundation, Gorbachev delivered a 15-minute address on "Vremya" on February 6 urging participation in the March 17 referendum on the future of the Soviet Union. He rehearsed all the familiar arguments for preserving the Union, throwing in for good measure a reference to the "voluntary" unification of many peoples with Russia and a tribute to the Russian people. Gorbachev chided Estonia as well as Lithuania for ignoring the March 17 referendum and holding their own polls. (Ann Sheehy) CPSU CENTRAL COMMITTEE SECRETARY GIRENKO ON REFERENDUM. CPSU Central Committee secretary and chairman of the Party's nationalities policy commission Andrei Girenko held a press conference February 6 on the March 17 referendum, TASS reported February 6. Girenko claimed that a recent poll indicated that about 80% of the population would take part in the referendum and up to three quarters would vote yes. He said that where republican authorities refused to hold the referendum, local authorities should take the initiative. It was up to the Central Referendum Commission to decide how the votes of conscripts should be counted. (Ann Sheehy) SOBCHAK ON FUTURE OF USSR, GORBACHEV. Leningrad city soviet chairman Anatolii Sobchak told Le Monde of February 6 that the question in the March 17 referendum is "badly posed." He said that while he favors "a 'union' among republics," he will vote "no" to avoid reinforcing Gorbachev's concept of a centralized union. In his view, a "yes" vote would encourage Gorbachev to take a hard line, which would only stiffen opposition in the republics and make eventual conflict all the more grave. If, however, the referendum results are negative, Sobchak predicted that Gorbachev will be obliged to resign. Sobchak said that he is optimistic that the USSR can avoid anarchy and civil war. He thinks it possible that the republics could reach agreement among themselves and establish a new system of power which would "completely modify Gorbachev's role." (Sallie Wise) SOBCHAK FIRST TO DECLARE AGAINST REFERENDUM. In announcing that he would vote against the preservation of the USSR in the March 17 referendum (see above), Sobchak was the first high-level democrat to declare publicly that he would vote "no." (Alexander Rahr) CPSU TO APPLY FOR OFFICIAL REGISTRATION. At the plenum of its Central Committee held January 31, the CPSU decided to amend its Rules to provide for the possibility of abolishing itself. Nobody imagines that the CPSU has any such intention but, under new legislation, the CPSU must, along with other political parties, officially register itself with the USSR ministry of justice. The law requires that any party wishing to register must present a statute which includes procedures for the possible winding up of the activities of the party in question. The CC plenum decided that the Party Rules will be amended accordingly at the next Party Congress of conference. In the meantime, the Party is to apply for registration. (NCA/Elizabeth Teague) JOURNALISTS' UNION TO DISCUSS KRAVCHENKO'S MEMBERSHIP. Delegates at the seventh congress of Soviet journalists suggested that Gosteleradio chief Kravchenko's membership in the Journalists' Union was incompatible with the censorship he has introduced on Soviet TV. Novosti reported February 6 that the possible expulsion of Kravchenko from the Union is to be discussed in the Moscow branch of the Journalists' Union. RL's Russian Service was told, however, that the question of Kravchenko's membership will be discussed by the Congress of Journalists on February 7. (Vera Tolz) CRACKDOWN SNARES MILLIONAIRE. Among the first to attract attention in the crackdown on corruption is "the USSR's first legal millionaire," Artem Tarasov. Tarasov's foreign trade company, "Istok," was raided by police on January 28 and its accounts were confiscated. "Vremya" announced on February 5 that the interior ministry is to file criminal charges against Tarasov and his company. This will be the third time a business run by Tarasov has been closed down by the police. Tarasov, who is also a deputy to the RSFSR Supreme Soviet and the Moscow city soviet, has attracted jealousy from Soviet citizens; Gorbachev himself is said to have been outraged when Tarasov made his first million rubles and offered to pay his Communist Party dues out of them. (Elizabeth Teague) TARASOV TO FACE SLANDER CHARGE. In a related incident, the USSR Procurator-General has asked the RSFSR parliament to lift Tarasov's parliamentary immunity so that charges can be levelled against him for actions "touching on the honor and dignity of the head of state." Gorbachev has threatened to sue Tarasov for alleging that the Soviet president reached a secret deal with Japan to return the disputed Kurile Islands in return for Japanese investment in the Soviet economy. TASS said February 7 that the charges had been denied by Japan as well as by the USSR. Tarasov has offered to apologize to Gorbachev, but the presidential press service said he was guilt of "an act of glaring political provocation." (NCA) BELONOGOV ON TEHERAN TALKS. Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Belonogov said February 6 the USSR is concerned that fighting in the Gulf war may spread, and praised Iran's efforts to end the conflict peacefully, AFP reported. Belonogov delivered a letter from Soviet Foreign Minister Aleksandr Bessmertnykh to his Iranian counterpart Ali Akbar Velayati. According to an Islamic Republic News Agency report cited by AP February 7, the letter invited Velayati to visit the Soviet Union and said "at a time when tragic events are taking place near the boundaries of the Soviet Union and the Islamic Republic, the need for further contacts is felt." (Suzanne Crow) FILATOV COMMENTS ON GULF WAR, SHEVARDNADZE. Major-General Viktor Filatov accused the United States of overkill in the Gulf war on February 6 while addressing a forum organized by Palestinian diplomats in the Soviet Union. Filatov said, "[The United States] planned to conduct one military operation that would destroy Iraq completely. But they have already used three times the number of bombs necessary for one operation." Filatov was also quoted in this February 6 Reuter report as saying, "I think that during the history of Russia and the Soviet Union, we have never had such an incompetent foreign ministry as we had under Shevardnadze." (Suzanne Crow) USSR BLASTS CANADA FOR CREDIT HALT. The Soviet Union's mission in Canada blasted that country's decision in late January to suspend a $150 million (Canadian) line of credit to the USSR because of the crackdown in the Baltics. Soviet ambassador Richard Ovinnikov said in Ottawa February 6 "we regret the action undertaken by the Canadian side. We think hasty actions are not always the wisest actions... We expect the Canadian side to be more responsible," Reuter reported Febuary 6. (Suzanne Crow) USSR ADDRESSES "NORTHERN TERRITORIES" ISSUE. Soviet Foreign Ministry Spokesman Vitalii Churkin said February 6, in response to Japan's celebration of "Northern Territories Day," that the USSR is aware of the feelings the Japanese people have about the return of the islands. Churkin said "we respect the feelings of the Japanese people, but likewise we expect a corresponding understanding of the feelings and emotions which the Soviet people have concerning the islands," TASS reported February 6. (Suzanne Crow) LIGACHEV CALLS FOR CHANGE IN SOVIET FOREIGN POLICY. Egor Ligachev has called for a complete review of Soviet foreign policy and a return to the priority of class interests over all-human values. He told Sovetskaya Rossiya on February 6 that democrats are wrongly accusing President Gorbachev of dictatorship. In reality, Gorbachev must be criticized for his liberalism, Ligachev added. He urged Gorbachev to rely more on the Party. He said only the Party and "renewed" soviets could lead the country out of crisis. Ligachev stated that the loss of Eastern Europe is a heavy blow against the world Socialist movement. (Alexander Rahr) REVIEW OF CONSTITUTIONALITY OF JOINT PATROLS BEGINS. The Soviet Committee for Constitutional Oversight has begun its review of the recent order to deploy joint military-police patrols. Sergei Alekseev, the committee's chairman, told TASS on February 6 that a final ruling could probably be made within a month. Due to the issue's urgency, however, Alekseev said that the committee will make a preliminary statement next week. (NCA/Sallie Wise) CO-FOUNDER OF REPUBLICAN PARTY SPEAKS AT RFE-RL. Igor' Chubais, one of the leaders of the Republican Party (the former Democratic Platform) said that his 20,000-member organization still relies on the structure of the CPSU throughout the country and therefore has an advantage over other democratic forces. Chubais spoke at a RFE-RL Research Institute seminar on February 5. Only in the Kirov region do the republicans lack Party cells, Chubais said. He also stated that the Democratic Russia movement -- the umbrella organization of all Russian democrats -- has decided to establish its own cells in workers' collectives to challenge the CPSU. (Alexander Rahr) PRICE OF LONG-DISTANCE TELEPHONE CALLS DOUBLES IN USSR. Radio Riga announced that as of today (February 7), the price of telephone calls from the USSR to Europe and North America has doubled. Thus, a one-minute call from Riga to Munich now costs 6 rubles, rather than 3 rubles, and from Riga to New York costs 12 rubles, compared with 6 rubles. The decision to raise prices was made in Moscow on January 7. (Dzintra Bungs) MORE BIBLES FOR THE SOVIET UNION. Central Television reported on February 7 that four million Bibles published in Chicago were brought to Moscow by US representatives of the International Bible Society. The Bibles are supposed to be distributed free of charge to believers in Russia, Ukraine, and the Baltic States. (Oxana Antic) USSR - IN THE REPUBLICS YELTSIN SPEECH SAGA CONTINUES. RSFSR Supreme Soviet chairman Boris Yeltsin says he has abandoned plans to make a televised address to the population of the RSFSR. He was quoted by Reuter on February 6 as saying the USSR TV and radio committee, Gosteleradio, proposed an inappropriate time for the telecast and imposed other unacceptable conditions. (NCA) RSFSR SUPSOV STARTS THE DAY WITH GOSTELERADIO DISPUTES. The February 7 session of the RSFSR Supreme Soviet has postponed all other problems to discuss the relations of the republican government with Gosteleradio, TSN reported in its morning newscast today (February 7). The immediate subject of the controversy, the TSN moderator said, is broadcasting Yeltsin's address to the republic. It was originally scheduled for February 5 but was postponed. Yeltsin wanted one hour of live broadcast time on the first channel; the management of Gosteleradio was willing to give him thirty minutes on the second channel, taped. (Julia Wishnevsky) BANNING OF RSFSR RADIO WILL COST THE CENTER DEARLY. The whims of Leonid Kravchenko, the head of Gosteleradio, may deprive the USSR budget of yet another four billion rubles, TSN moderator Yurii Rostov observed on February 6. Since Kravchenko ordered the transfer of Radio Rossiya from frequencies that reach the entire Soviet Union to those that could be heard only in 60% of the RSFSR, the RSFSR government has decided to establish its own radio structure, withdrawing the necessary amount of money to finance the project from the RSFSR's contribution to the all-Union budget. (Julia Wishnevsky) YELTSIN INTRODUCES HIS BRAIN TRUST. Yeltsin held a press conference in Moscow on February 6 to introduce members of his advisory council. The council brings together some 20 experts in various fields and has been in operation since December. For a list of members, see Nezavisimaya gazeta, No. 2, December 28, 1990. Yeltsin said he made a deliberate effort to represent several schools of thought, because for decades the USSR had built its economic policy on the ideas of one person and that this had led to many errors. But, unlike Gorbachev's now defunct Presidential Council, which included members of totally opposing viewpoints, most if not all Yeltsin's advisers are liberals. A number of them are people who originally advised Gorbachev; before that, a couple were even advisers to Yurii Andropov. Strangely enough, the list seems to contain the name of only one non-Russian. (Elizabeth Teague) GENERAL CRITICIZES RSFSR DEFENSE COMMITTEE. Lieutenant General Boris Tarasov, an RSFSR People's Deputy, told TASS on February 6 that the new Russian State Committee for Defense and Security is an instrument for weakening, and perhaps even eliminating, the Soviet armed forces. Tarasov thinks the RSFSR should instead establish a national security committee to deal with oil pipeline safety, natural disasters, and other matters not related to activities of the armed forces. (NCA/Sallie Wise) PROTESTS AS AZERBAIJAN SUPREME SOVIET MEETS. Non-communist deputies who form a minority in the new Azerbaijan Supreme Soviet reportedly staged a walkout on February 5 to protest police action against protesters demonstrating outside the parliament building and their failure to force a debate on the March 17 referendum on the future of the USSR. The deputies are also said to have called for the lifting of the state of emergency in Baku, live television coverage of the parliament session, and a discussion of the Soviet Army's intervention in Baku in January, 1990. Workers in 40 Baku companies staged a warning strike on February 6 in support of the deputies' demands, AFP reports. (Azerbaijani BD/Liz Fuller) GAMSAKHURDIA ACCUSES MOSCOW OF ABETTING OSSETIANS. Georgian Supreme Soviet chairman Zviad Gamsakhurdia told AP in an interview on February 6 that Moscow is encouraging the separatist movement in South Ossetia in order to have a pretext for imposing presidential rule in Georgia, and that Ossetians serving in the Soviet military are supplying the separatists with arms and weapons. New clashes were reported in Tskhinvali in the night of February 5, and up to 10,000 Ossetians (of a total Ossetian population of 68,000) are said to have fled the oblast. Food supplies in the Ossetian-held sector of Tskhinvali ran out on February 5. (Liz Fuller) GAMSAKHURDIA THREATENS TO EXPEL JOURNALISTS. At a press conference in Tbilisi on February 2 Georgian Supreme Soviet chairman Zviad Gamsakhurdia expressed concern at what he termed "a lack of objectivity" on the part of both Soviet and foreign journalists reporting on developments in Georgia, and suggested that journalists may be declared personae non grata, Moscow World Service reported on February 5. (Liz Fuller) KYRGYZSTAN RENAMES ITS CAPITAL. TASS reported on February 6 that the Supreme Soviet of Kyrgyzstan has voted to change the name of the republic's capital from Frunze to Bishkek. Heated discussions over the renaming of Frunze have gone on for several years; Kirgiz intellectuals have argued that the Civil War leader Mikhail Frunze was not a positive figure in Central Asian history and it was inappropriate for the capital of the republic to carry his name. The TASS report explains that the original Kirgiz name of the town was Bishkek. It was called Pishpek, the name by which the town was known prior to Frunze's death, after the region was conquered by the Kokand khanate. (Bess Brown) IRANIAN-TURKMEN RELATIONS. The vice-governor of Iran's Khorasan Province has told Novosti that relations between his province and Turkmenistan are developing well, and a large Turkmen delegation is to participate in a festival to be held in the city of Quchan this month, the news agency reported on February 6. The festival is to celebrate the twelfth anniversary of the Iranian revolution, and is to include sports and cultural events, meetings between Iranian and Turkmen clergymen, and an exhibition of Iranian goods for export to Turkmenistan. (Bess Brown) MOLODAYA GVARDIYA ATTACKED IN KAZAKHSTAN. An article in the January 17 issue of Kazakhstanskaya pravda accuses the conservative Moscow journal Molodaya gvardiya of deliberately seeking to arouse antipathy between Kazakhs and Russians in Kazakhstan. The author maintains that articles and letters which have appeared in recent issues of the journal have portrayed Russians in Kazakhstan as suffering from "imperial ambitions" and "elder brother syndrome", while describing Kazakhs in offensively patronizing ways which demonstrate the writers' colossal ignorance. The author of the Kazakhstanskaya pravda article asks if this journal is being used for "patriotic upbringing" in military units stationed in Kazakhstan. (Bess Brown) KRAVCHUK REITERATES UKRAINE'S WISH TO BE CSCE MEMBER. Speaking February 6 at the 47th session of the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, Ukrainian SupSov chairman Leonid Kravchuk said that his republic is committed to the task of creating a truly democratic society which will conform to international human rights standards. Common human values will prevail over class interests, he asserted. Kravchuk reminded his audience that Ukraine has declared its intention to become a full-fledged member of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. Last week, in implied criticism of the Baltic situation, Ukraine's chief envoy to the conference said the USSR should "reject the use of violent methods." (Kathy Mihalisko) UKRAINIAN SUPREME SOVIET ADOPTS LAW ON EMPLOYMENT. According to TASS of February 6, the Ukrainian Supreme Soviet has adopted a law on employment of the population. The bill was prepared in accordance with International Labor Organization guidelines. Among other things, it defines the legal status of the unemployed, whose numbers are expected to reach 1.5 million people in the industrial sector of the Ukrainian economy alone. (Valentyn Moroz) UKRAINIAN SUPSOV CHAIRMAN CALLS FOR MORE FOREIGN INVESTMENT. Radio Kiev (February 6) reported that during his speech at the economic forum in Geneva a few days ago, Leonid Kravchuk, Ukrainian Supsov chairman, called for more foreign investment in the Ukrainian SSR. The 176 joint ventures that now exist in Ukraine are not nearly enough to reflect the industrial potential of the republic, said Kravchuk. He promised that foreign investors will be treated on an equal footing with local entrepreneurs and will be able to repatriate part of their earnings while enjoying favorable tax treatment. (Valentyn Moroz) MOLDAVIA FAILS TO OBTAIN POSTPONEMENT OF REFERENDUM. Moldavian President Mircea Snegur has failed to obtain consent to his request, submitted during the session of the USSR Presidential Council February 1, for postponing in Moldavia the referendum on preserving the USSR, Novosti reported February 5. The Moldavian parliament is consequently considering either calling for a boycott of the referendum or introducing additional questions on the ballot. On the other hand, TASS and Novosti reported on February 5 that the authorities of the self-proclaimed Dniester and Gagauz republics are actively preparing the holding of the referendum in the areas of Moldavia under their control. (Vladimir Socor). MOLDAVIA HAS NEW CHIEF RABBI. For the first time since the Soviet annexation, Moldavia's Jewish community has been able to elect a Chief Rabbi. He is Zalman Leiba, an Israeli citizen and representative of the Lubavicher community. Moldavian Prime Minister Mircea Druc and other Moldavian officials attended the inaugural ceremony, Moldovapres reported February 6. (Vladimir Socor). Compiled by Patrick Moore and Sallie Wise
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