|The person who knows how to laugh at himself will never cease to be amused. - Shirley MacLaine|
No. 33, 15 February 1991
BALTIC STATES USSR RECALLS AMBASSADOR FROM ICELAND. Soviet Foreign Ministry spokesman Vitalii Churkin read to reporters from a letter sent to Iceland's ambassador in Moscow, Olafur Egilsson, informing him that the USSR was recalling its ambassador to Iceland for "consultations," AP reported on February 14. The recall would last until Moscow received a satisfactory explanation from Iceland as to why its parliament voted to recognize Lithuania on February 11. Churkin said: "Lithuania remains one of the Union republics of the USSR. Ignoring this fundamental fact is an attempt to interfere in the Soviet Union's internal affairs." He added that Iceland's abuse of diplomatic channels and other international contacts "may entail very grave circumstances." (Saulius Girnius) "SHIELD" INVESTIGATORS FREED. On February 14 Soviet reserve officers Lieutenant Colonel Ivan Bichkov and Captains Aleksandr Evstigneev and Gennadii Melkov, who had been arrested at the Vilnius railroad station on February 12, were released, Radio Riga and Diena reported that day. The three members of the pro-reform military organization "Shield" were placed on a train to Moscow. (Saulius Girnius) US CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION IN TALLINN. On February 14 the US Congressional delegation travelled to Tallinn from Riga by a bus that broke down, the VOA Lithuanian service reported that day. The delegates met with Estonian President Arnold Ruutel, other Estonian political party officials, representatives of the Russian community, and journalists. Ruutel said the talks with the congressmen were constructive and very important. He informed them of the Estonian protocol for negotiations with the USSR that he had given to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev last year. The protocol stated that the negotiations should be between two equal partners, protected by international law, and that the USSR should publicly inform the UN that it recognized Estonia as an independent country. (Saulius Girnius) LANDSBERGIS RECEIVES CZECHOSLOVAK DELEGATION. President Vytautas Landsbergis received a delegation of six Czechoslovak deputies on February 13, CTK in English reported on February 14. Deputy Michael Kocab briefed Landsbergis on the meeting between Czechoslovak President Vaclav Havel and Lithuanian parliamentarian Czeslaw Okinczyc. Deputy Ivan Rynda discussed possibilities for Czechoslovak-Lithuanian economic contacts, university exchanges, and scientific collaboration. The deputies invited Lithuanian representatives to attend forthcoming public and interparliamentary conferences on the environment in Europe to be held in Czechoslovakia. Landsbergis expressed the hope that a Lithuanian bureau would soon be opened in Prague, and pledged to work personally for opening a similar Czechoslovak bureau in Vilnius. (Saulius Girnius) POLISH TV CENSORED IN LITHUANIA. Marian Terlecki, Chairman of the Polish Radio and TV Committee, told Warsaw Radio on February 15 that he had received a telex from his Lithuanian counterpart Skirmantas Valiulis. Valiulis said that Lithuanian TV, since it was occupied by Soviet soldiers, has interrupted the Polish TV program whenever it airs material about Lithuania. Moscow's Second TV Program has been used to fill the resultant gaps. Normally, Polish TV broadcasts can be viewed in Lithuania. (Roman Stefanowski) SOVIET CULTURE PLANS NOT ENDORSED BY BALTS. Radio Riga reported on February 15 that representatives of the Estonian and Latvian culture ministries attended a meeting in Moscow on February 14 that dealt with culture and transition to a market economy in the USSR. Nobody from Lithuania took part. According to Nellija Janaus, Latvia's Deputy Minister of Culture, the Balts did not endorse Moscow's plans but decided to continue to develop "horizontal ties" with the Soviet republics. She said that a Latvian-RSFSR cultural accord is in the works. (Dzintra Bungs) PARTY CLAIMS TO PRESS BUILDING NOT ENDORSED. The USSR State Arbitrator examined the Latvian CP's claims to the Press Building in Latvia and found that they were not legally justified, Radio Riga reported on February 14. While this could be considered a moral victory for the Latvian government and the Press Building association, a joint stock company that owns the building, the Arbitrator's assessment is not a court decision. It cannot force the LCP and the Black Berets to vacate the building that they took over on January 2. Thus, a protracted court battle lies ahead. In the meanwhile, Latvians will have to continue to do without most of their newspapers and journals. (Dzintra Bungs) CRITICAL ATTITUDES TOWARD LATVIAN INDEPENDENCE POLL. While the poll on an independent and democratic Latvia, scheduled for March 3, appears to be supported by many people (about 70%, according to a recent Supreme Council poll) in Latvia, it is opposed by the Committee of Latvia leadership and by Supreme Council deputies belonging to the pro-Moscow Ravnopravie faction, Radio Riga reported on February 14. The Committee of Latvia staunchly advocates the restoration of the Republic of Latvia, but, on legal grounds, argues against a poll or a referendum at this time. Ravnopravie leader Sergei Dimanis said that his faction would urge people to vote "no" in the poll because people should actually vote on whether Latvia should remain or should not remain in the USSR. (Dzintra Bungs) LATVIAN CP HEADQUARTERS GUARD IN SATISFACTORY CONDITION. According to Diena of February 14, the condition of the hospitalized militia Sergeant Major A. Prokopenko is "satisfactory." Prokopenko was injured when a blast was set off near the Latvian Communist Party Central Committee Building in Riga on February 12. He had been guarding the building. Radio Riga said on February 14 that the blast was probably the work of "professionals" who had access to the same chemicals used in other blasts in Latvia in January and December. (Dzintra Bungs) "POSTFAKTUM" CONDUCTS POLL ON NEVZOROV. The independent news agency, "Postfaktum," carried a poll of Leningrad residents' opinions on reports from the Baltics prepared by Aleksandr Nevzorov, Radio Moscow-2 reported February 14. (In the reports Nevzorov blamed the Baltic crisis on the republican leadership, and supported the actions of the army and the republican Communist Parties.) According to the poll, 44% of the respondents rejected Nevzorov's version of the events, but as many as 43% found it convincing. Yet many of those who trust Nevzorov spoke against using armed forces in solving civilian conflicts. In addition, 87% of those polled said that the Baltic republics should be allowed to gain independence. (Vera Tolz) USSR - ALL-UNION TOPICS DETAILS OF RETAIL PRICE RISES EMERGE. Izvestia on February 13 announced that most retail prices in the USSR will double or triple under an impending price reform program, expected by many within the next four to six weeks. The plan calls for a tripling of bread and meat prices, and increases of 130% for milk and fish, 135% for sugar, 240% for salt and 100% for tea (Reuter, February 14; Washington Post, February 15). Last spring, public outrage forced the Ryzhkov government to abandon a similar attempt to cut subsidies and raise prices. (John Tedstrom) BUDGET IMBALANCE NECESSITATES PRICE INCREASES. The fiscal imbalance of the Soviet all-Union and republican budgets has worsened since last spring, and there is more pressure on the government to raise prices as a result. On January 1, wholesale price increases went into effect while retail prices remained unchanged. This means that retailers require more subsidies than before to balance their books. Moreover, responsibility for these subsidies was largely shifted to the republican budgets in 1991, and this is why the Council of the Federation apparently approved the retail price hikes. Income compensation, especially for low and fixed income groups, is likely. Still, no real freeing of prices is foreseeable, just a revision of relative price levels. (John Tedstrom) POOR OUTLOOK FOR SPRING HARVEST. Western and Soviet reports indicate that the outlook for the spring harvest is gloomy, following a very disappointing harvest last fall. Deputy chief of the State Food Committee Nikolai Krasnoshchekov was quoted in Pravda on February 14 as saying that half of Soviet farmers would have to cope with sharply reduced numbers of virtually all types of farm equipment, due to poor maintenance and lack of spare parts. Compounding the problem, Krasnoshchekov alleged, is the refusal on the part of Ukraine and Kazakhstan to meet inter-republican grain seed exports. Additionally, some 4 million hectares of winter wheat were not sown for this season. State procurement of meat for January was 12% off last year's level, and milk was down by 13% (John Tedstrom) SUPREME SOVIET SESSION RESUMES MONDAY. TASS reported on February 13 that the USSR Supreme Soviet will resume work on February 18 after a winter break. According to TASS, the Supreme Soviet will be asked to approve new government members proposed by Gorbachev. This will continue the process of forming a new government that began with confirmation of Prime Minister Valentin Pavlov and his deputies. TASS also said the legislature would debate a package of unspecified economic reform measures dealing with the introduction of a market economy in the USSR. (Sallie Wise) OLD-STYLE PARTY IDEOLOGISTS NAMED AIDES OF GORBACHEV. Three old-style Party apparatchiks have taken posts as aides to President Mikhail Gorbachev after the resignation of reformers. According to TASS on February 15, Vladimir Yegorov and Oleg Ozherel'ev have become aides to the president. Yegorov was speechwriter for the General Secretary; Ozherel'ev--deputy chief of the Humanitarian Department of the Central Committee. TASS said the changes were necessitated by the departure of Gorbachev's former aides, such as the reform-oriented economist Nikolai Petrakov. TASS also reported the appointment of the former head of the Party's Press Center, Georgii Pryakhin, as the new speechwriter to the president. Yegorov, Ozherel'ev and Pryakhin had all worked in the Ideological Department of the Central Committee. Finally, TASS announced the nomination of former Komsomol and Trade Union leader Viktor Mishin as the Central Committee's new first deputy Administrator of Affairs. (Alexander Rahr) IGNATENKO DAMPENS GULF HOPES. Gorbachev's spokesman Vitalii Ignatenko said an Italian government spokesman's claims that Gorbachev stated Iraq was "apparently willing to discuss the terms of a withdrawal," were false. Speaking at a briefing February 15, Ignatenko said, "unfortunately the correspondents have been running ahead of themselves a little...I think hope is the last thing to die and we must hope events will turn out as we want," Reuter quoted Ignatenko as saying. Ignatenko's statements could indicate either that Primakov overestimated the results of his talks with Hussein, or that the Soviet side is shielding delicate agreements with Baghdad from public view until positions are more firm. (Suzanne Crow) PRAVDA COMMENTARY ON GULF. A Pravda commentary on the Gulf war February 15 (summarized by DPA) said it is time to sound an alarm against the "barbaric" bombing in Iraq. "This alarm should not be understood as an accusation, as much as serious concern, and, if you will, as a warning." (Suzanne Crow) IZVESTIA ON GULF. Stanislav Kondrashov commented in Izvestia February 14 that this "is not a desert storm...but a desert slaughter," a New York Times report said February 15. Kondrashov, who is known both for his bluntness as well as his proximity to official Kremlin thinking, also drew a parallel between US tactics in Iraq and the bombing of Hiroshima. (Suzanne Crow) BESSMERTNYKH INFORMS BAKER ON GULF DIPLOMACY. US Secretary of State James Baker received a detailed report from his Soviet counterpart Bessmertnykh concerning special envoy Evgenii Primakov's talks in Baghdad. State Department Spokesperson Margaret Tutweiler said February 14 Baker received the report late that night. (NCA/Suzanne Crow) UZBEK SUPREME SOVIET ON GULF WAR. AFP, quoting Interfax, reported on February 14 that Uzbekistan's Supreme Soviet adopted a resolution appealing to Gorbachev to use all available means to stop the Gulf conflict. The resolution said that the war was causing deaths of innocent victims and destruction of historic and cultural centers, including monuments of Muslim civilization. (Bess Brown) AZERBAIJANI SUPSOV PASSES RESOLUTION ON GULF WAR. AFP also reported February 14 that the Supreme Soviet in Azerbaijan said that the Gulf war was going beyond the mandate set by the UN Security Council, and alleged that the liberation of Kuwait was a pretext to protect US oil interests in the region. The Supreme Soviet expressed concern over the proximity of the conflict to Azerbaijan, and over the threat posed by the possible use of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. (Sallie Wise) SOVIET AMBASSADOR ON REMOVAL OF SADDAM HUSSEIN... The Soviet Union's ambassador to Turkey, Albert Chernyshev, said in an interview with Portuguese Radio (January 28) that the continuation of Saddam Hussein in power is Iraq's internal affair and his future is a matter for the Iraqi people alone to decide. Chernyshev said the USSR will not allow any of the powers involved in the conflict to attempt to put a puppet in Saddam Hussein's place. BBC's Summary of World Broadcasts reported on the broadcast January 29, 1991. (Suzanne Crow) AND TURKEY'S STATUS. On Turkey's role in the post-war Middle East, Chernyshev said Ankara must choose between acting like a gendarme at the service of the USA or playing a positive role based on neighborly relations and regional economic leadership. Chernyshev said he pointed out to Turkish President Turgut Ozal a week earlier that while the countries of the multi-national force will leave the region, Turkey will stay there with the same neighbors it has today. (Suzanne Crow) EC MINISTERS TO MOSCOW. EC foreign ministers from Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands (the past, present and future EC Presidents) will meet in Moscow on February 16 with Soviet Foreign Minister Aleksandr Bessmertnykh, TASS said February 14. Frans Andriessen, European Commissioner for External Trade Relations, will also participate. According to Luxembourg's Jacques Poos, "all current problems will be considered," Reuter reported February 15. The EC blocked plans for technical assistance to the USSR after January's crackdown in the Baltic states. The Soviet Union has termed the EC reaction interference in Soviet internal affairs. (Suzanne Crow) YANAEV, MATLOCK HOLD TALKS. Soviet Vice President Gennadii Yanaev told US Ambassador Jack Matlock February 14 about the "development of restructuring in the Baltic republics," and Matlock "expressed the striving of the US administration to develop relations with the Soviet Union on a constructive basis," TASS reported. The discussion, which took place in a "friendly atmosphere," also touched on the Gulf crisis. (Suzanne Crow) MILITARY PLANS MOSCOW RALLY. Moscow Radio, quoting Moskovskii komsomolets, said on February 14 that the Soviet armed forces are planning a big rally in Moscow on February 23 to support the authority of the army, the Communist Party, and the unity of the Soviet Union. Various bodies, including the Ministry of Defense and the General Staff, will reportedly send some 6,700 men. Units stationed in the Moscow Military District will also send representatives. The military leadership will reportedly hold the rally whether it is approved by the Moscow City Council or not, and will provide policing for it. The rally will be televised. (NCA/Stephen Foye) NO JOINT PATROLS IN LENINGRAD. Leningrad's Military Commandant told Radio Moscow on February 14 that because the city's police are "fully in control of public order," there is no need at present for joint army and police patrols. Major General Gennadii Volkov said that everything is ready for joint patrols if the need arises, however. The program of joint patrols, ostensibly to fight crime, began on February 1 and is currently in effect in about 450 cities. (NCA/Stephen Foye) CRIME UP IN THE ARMED FORCES. A meeting of the collegium of the Military Prosecutor's office met in Moscow on February 14 and announced that the crime rate was up by 33.9% in the armed forces. TASS reports that speakers cited the rising crime rate in Soviet society as a primary cause. The USSR Chief Prosecutor, Nikolai Trubin was present at the meeting, as were First Deputy Defense Minister Army General Konstantin Kochetov and representatives of the KGB and MVD. (Stephen Foye) RELIGION IN THE ARMY. TASS on February 14 reported statements by Lieutenant General Leonid Ivashov of the USSR Ministry of Defense on a new law granting servicemen the right to declare a religion. The general said that the bill will be considered at the Parliament session opening on February 18. He added that under that bill, servicemen will be allowed to belong to any political party or organization which is legal and constitutional. (Oxana Antic) USSR - IN THE REPUBLICS YELTSIN PROTESTS PRICE RISES. RSFSR Supreme Soviet deputies got a look at the central government's price adjustments, and promptly rejected the plan after Supreme Soviet chairman Yeltsin, among others, sharply criticized it and President Gorbachev. Gorbachev did not consult with the people on this issue as he promised, according to Yeltsin (Reuter, February 14, Washington Post, February 15). (John Tedstrom) AGREEMENT REACHED ON YELTSIN TV SPEECH. Yeltsin told the RSFSR Supreme Soviet on February 14 that he will speak for forty minutes in a live broadcast on the Soviet first channel next Monday or Tuesday, TASS reported February 14. His speech will be broadcast before the Vremya newscast. (Sallie Wise) UKRAINE TO HOLD OWN REFERENDUM. The Ukrainian Supreme Soviet voted on February 13 to hold a separate referendum on the continued unity of the USSR, according to a report in The Independent of February 14. However, it also voted to participate in the all-Union referendum on March 17; the Ukrainian referendum will be conducted the same day with a separate ballot paper. The report cited Oles Shevchenko, of the parliamentary opposition Narodna Rada, as saying the Ukrainian poll would likely contradict the all-Union one by asking Ukrainians whether they favored a "union of Soviet sovereign nation states in which every nationality can decide its own fate." The actual wording of the question for the poll in Ukraine will be decided next week. (Sallie Wise) METROPOLITAN BECOMES PEOPLE'S DEPUTY. TASS reported on February 14 that Metropolitan Filaret of Minsk and Grodno was given a mandate as a USSR People's Deputy. TASS added that the Metropolitan was one of the first church hierarchs to become a deputy of the Belorussian Parliament. (Oxana Antic) KARIMOV SAYS UZBEKISTAN WON'T SIGN UNION TREATY. Republican People's Deputy Muhammad Salih, chairman of the opposition Erk Democratic Party, told RFE/RL on February 14 that Uzbek president Islam Karimov had just informed Uzbekistan's Supreme Soviet that the official draft of the Union Treaty is unacceptable and the republic will not sign it in that form. Previously Karimov has said that Uzbekistan will remain part of the USSR, but that a renewed union should proceed from the republics constituting it, rather than being dictated by Moscow. Salih said that Karimov had told the Supreme Soviet that the republic has still not decided what powers it wants to delegate to the central government, and which it wants to retain for itself. (NCA/Uzbek BD/Bess Brown) UZBEKISTAN TO RETAIN MORE OF COTTON CROP? According to a Financial Times article of February 14, there are widespread reports that the Uzbek Supreme Soviet will vote to withhold 60% of the republic's cotton crop for the republic's own use, rather than selling it to the central government. Last June the Uzbek Supreme Soviet voted to retain 30% of the cotton crop for the republic to export itself or to use in direct trade arrangements with other republics. (Bess Brown) TURKMENISTAN WANTS TO OPEN ITS OWN CONSULATES. A Turkmen journalist has told RFE/RL that Turkmen president Saparmurad Niyazov's has announced the republic's intention to open consulates in Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan. Niyazov reportedly made the statement at the congress of the republican Komsomol. In recent months, Turkmenistan has been exploring contacts with Iran, particularly with the Iranian provinces bordering the republic. (NCA/Turkmen BD/Bess Brown) KIRGIZ PRESIDENT WANTS UNION TREATY SIGNED SOON. Kirgiz president Askar Akaev has said in an interview published in Krasnaya zvezda that Kyrgyzstan would like for the Union Treaty to be signed as soon as possible, but proposes that the signing be a two-stage process. The economic section should be signed before the political section. The powers of the union and of the republics should be defined more exactly, and all parties to the treaty should agree to recognize the inviolability of borders. The treaty also needs legal mechanisms to ensure that it is observed. Akaev denied that the removal of "Soviet Socialist" from the republic's name indicated a change of attitude to the Union. (Bess Brown) MOLDAVIAN PRESIDENT IN ROMANIA. Moldavian President Mircea Snegur continued his official visit to Romania with a tour of western Moldavia (which belongs to Romania, while eastern Moldavia forms the Soviet republic). Alluding to the isolation imposed until recently between the two parts of historic Moldavia, Snegur declared that he had travelled to many countries of the world but this was his first visit to this part of Moldavia, Rompres reported February 14. Snegur visited religious establishments and cultural sites, and met with university students and faculty in the historic Moldavian capital Iasi. Echoing recent statements by Moldavia's Prime Minister Mircea Druc, Snegur called for "100 joint ventures" to be set up by Romania and Soviet Moldavia. (Vladimir Socor) [as of 1230 CET] Compiled by Doug Clarke and Sallie Wise
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