|In the effort to give good and comforting answers to the young questioners whom we love, we very often arrive at good and comforting answers for ourselves. - Ruth Goode|
No. 38, 22 February 1991
BALTIC STATES BESSMERTNYKH DEFENDS MOSCOW'S BALTIC POLICY. On February 21 Soviet Foreign Minister Alexander Bessmertnykh told a foreign ministerial meeting of the 25-nation Council of Europe in Madrid that Western "suspicions and accusations" against Moscow's recent behavior in the Baltic States "could jeopardize the basic tenets of a new European order," a RFE/RL correspondent in Strasbourg reported that day. Bessmertnykh pointed to what he called the "classical legal rule" that the "question of secession from a state is in no way related to the circumstances of incorporation into that state." He also declared that Moscow's "constitutional approach" to the Baltic independence question "has no alternative." (Saulius Girnius) ICELAND OFFERS TO MEDIATE. Iceland's Prime Minister Steingrimur Hermannsson told reporters in Reykjavik on February 21 that Iceland has offered to mediate between the Soviet government and the Baltic States, Reuter reported that day. When asked how realistic the offer was, Estonian Foreign Minister Meri said that the USSR would reject the idea at first, but that the process would continue for some time. The move seems likely to irritate Moscow, which recalled its ambassador from Reykjavik this month following a vote in the Icelandic parliament to establish diplomatic relations with Lithuania. (Riina Kionka) ESTONIA NOMINATES RFE/RL FOR NOBEL PRIZE. Estonian Foreign Minister Lennart Meri has nominated Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty for the Nobel Peace Prize, AP and Reuter reported on February 21. In his official nomination letter to the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Meri said that RFE and RL "have made and continue to make a unique contribution to the rebirth of democracy in our region of the world." He added that he believes the leaders of Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Poland and Hungary share his attitude toward RFE/RL. Meri made the announcement at a press conference in Reykjavik on February 21, where he and Estonia's Prime Minister Edgar Savisaar held talks with their Icelandic counterparts. (Riina Kionka) BOMB EXPLODES AT TALLINN CLINIC. A bomb exploded at the Pelgulinna gynecological clinic in Tallinn on February 21, ETA reported that day. The blast and subsequent fire destroyed the clinic's entrance and blew out some 40 windows, but no one was injured in the explosion. Police are seeking two suspects, one of whom allegedly set off the explosion to avenge his girlfriend's having had an abortion at the clinic. (Riina Kionka) LATVIAN SUPREME COUNCIL CALLS FOR INVESTIGATION OF COUP ATTEMPT. On February 20 Latvia's Supreme Council addressed an appeal to the USSR Supreme Soviet to form a special commission to investigate the attempted coup in Latvia in January and the tragic events associated with it. According to Radio Riga of February 21, a Latvian commission for these tasks has already been appointed. (Dzintra Bungs) LATVIAN DELEGATION FOR TALKS WITH USSR. Radio Riga reported on February 20 that Deputy Prime Minister Ilmars Bisers has been appointed to head the Latvian delegation for talks with the USSR delegation announced by Gorbachev on February 1. Other members of the Latvian delegation are: deputies Janis Dinevics and Sergei Dimanis, leaders of the People's Front and Ravonopravie parliamentary factions, respectively; Janis Baskers, Director of the Public Security Department; State Arbiter Gido Narkevics; and first deputy ministers of Foreign Affairs, Internal Affairs, and Economics. (Dzintra Bungs) BALTIC MILITARY DISTRICT COMMANDER MAY BE TRANSFERRED. On February 19 Major General Anatolii Vodopyanov, Deputy Commander of USSR Baltic Military District, told Radio Riga that he expects the leadership of the district to change since the present commander, Colonel General Fedor Kuz'min "deserves a promotion." Vodopyanov also considered that a third world war is possible and said that the threat may come form either the East or the West. He argued, therefore, for continued Soviet military presence in the Baltics. (Dzintra Bungs) BALTIC MILITARY DISTRICT INCREASES REDUCTION OF PLANES. Radio Riga reported on February 9 that the Soviet air force was reducing by 20 the number of military planes in the Baltic Military District and attributed the information to Major General Valentin Frolov, Chief of the District's Political Department. On February 7, Diena reported that the District had cut its number of military planes by only two in response to last year's Paris accords on the reduction of armed forces in Europe. (Dzintra Bungs) POLISH INTER-PARLIAMENTARY TEAM FOR COOPERATING WITH BALTICS. A joint Sejm-Senate committee was formed on February 21 in Warsaw, under the chairmanship of Senator Tadeusz Klopotowski, to facilitate closer cooperation with Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Its main aim is to collect information on the Baltic states and to coordinate all parliamentary activities related to them. According to PAP of February 21, Sejm Deputies and Senators are to submit written reports after visits to the Baltic states, to facilitate the working out of the best forms of future contacts. (Roman Stefanowski) USSR - ALL-UNION TOPICS SOVIET PEACE PLAN ACCEPTED. After two hours and twenty minutes of consultations in Moscow between Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev last night (February 21), Iraq announced its acceptance of an eight-point Soviet peace plan. Work to determine the formulations and concrete details is continuing. The final result of this work will be communicated today, February 22, to members of the UN Security Council and the UN Secretary General. Reuter carried the text of the Soviet Foreign Ministry's English translation of the plan February 22. (Suzanne Crow) MORE SOVIET-IRAQI CONSULTATIONS. Soviet-Iraqi talks continue between Soviet Foreign Minister Aleksandr Bessmertnykh and Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz. The two ministers are trying to work out a possible timetable for an Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait, TASS (February 22) quoted Soviet Foreign Ministry Spokesman Vitalii Churkin as saying. (Suzanne Crow) BESSMERTNYKH'S MEETINGS IN SPAIN. TASS reported February 21 Bessmertnykh's meetings with European leaders during his brief trip to Madrid February 20-21. Bessmertnykh and West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher reportedly said German-Soviet relations have an effect on stability in Europe and the world. Bessmertnykh also spoke with his Yugoslav counterpart Budimir Loncar about the development of new relations with the countries in Eastern Europe and expressed support for Yugoslavia's leadership in the non-aligned movement. Bessmertnykh spoke with his Italian counterpart, Gianni de Michelis about the Gulf conflict. (Suzanne Crow) GENSCHER URGES WEST TO TRUST GORBACHEV. Genscher praised Gorbachev's peace plan for the Gulf in the Bundestag today (February 22), as reported by the German first TV channel. He appealed to the Western community to trust Gorbachev's foreign policy. Die Welt on February 21 quoted him as saying that the unification of Germany is proof of Gorbachev's sincerity in foreign policy. The USSR ambassador to Germany, Vladislav Terekhov, said that Bonn's humanitarian help has been most appreciated in the Kremlin, although the care packages, sent from Germany, covered only half the daily consumption of a city like Moscow. (Alexander Rahr) SOVIET OFFICIAL ON KURILES. An unnamed Soviet diplomat in Japan told AP February 21, "I think it is extremely irresponsible to let people expect that a visit by the President would automatically solve the problem [of the Kurile Islands dispute]." Speaking of Japan's expectation that Gorbachev will announce a breakthrough to the islands dispute during his trip to Japan in April, the official said, "I think Japan's attitude has been quite strange." (Suzanne Crow) TALKS ON UNION TREATY RESUMED. After a week's interval, the talks of the plenipotentiary representatives of the republics on the Union treaty resumed February 21, TASS reported. Azerbaijan joined the other eight republics which have been participating in the negotiations. Parts 1 and 3 of the draft were discussed, agreement having largely been reached on part 2. Rafik Nishanov, chairman of the USSR Council of Nationalities, said he counted on the other republics in due course taking part in work on the document. The present round of talks is expected to last ten days, and it is planned that the complete, agreed draft will be published before March 17, the day of the referendum on the future of the Union. (Ann Sheehy) DISAGREEMENT ON STATUS OF AUTONOMOUS TERRITORIES. At the talks on the Union treaty on February 21, an Uzbek spokesman came out strongly against the participation in the Union treaty of the autonomous territories as long as they remain part of the RSFSR, TASS reported. He said that the representation of eighteen (sic) autonomous republics in all-Union organs of power would automatically mean the diktat of the RSFSR since it would be assured of an absolute majority of the votes. He declared the autonomous territories would have to choose either full sovereignty and secession from the RSFSR or no sovereignty. (Ann Sheehy) KRAVCHENKO MEETS WITH CHIEFS OF REPUBLICAN TV COMPANIES. President of the All-Union TV and Radio Broadcasting Company Leonid Kravchenko met with heads of republican TV companies to discuss the functioning of the newly created Council for TV and Radio Broadcasting, Radio Moscow reported February 21. Representatives of republican TV and radio companies and of the all-Union one are to cooperate within this council. Commenting on the meeting, the head of the RSFSR TV and Radio broadcasting, Anatolii Lysenko, said that the council would prove to be a positive innovation only if all its members had equal rights. Kravchenko promised this at a press conference on February 11, reporting the creation of the council. Since then, however, Kravchenko has continued to interfere arbitrarily with the work of republican TV companies. (Vera Tolz) ARMY SUPPORT FOR KRAVCHENKO. Demonstrating the army's increasing role in the Soviet political scene, Ogonek (No. 7) published a directive reportedly penned by Army General Valentin Varennikov that orders army units to conduct a telegram campaign in support of the conservative head of what was Gostelradio, Leonid Kravchenko. The directive--which praised Kravchenko's policies vis-a-vis the armed forces--was sent to Ogonek by an unidentified major. He complains that the order constitutes unwarranted interference by the army in civilian politics, and says that many officers do not share the views of Varennikov, who is the Commander-in-Chief of Soviet Ground Forces. (Stephen Foye) NEW HEAD OF SOVIET WOMEN'S COMMITTEE. TASS reported on February 20 that the Committee of Soviet Women, the largest women's association in the USSR, has elected a new chairwoman, Alevtina Fedulova, a 52-year-old teacher from Moscow. She replaced Zoya Pukhova, who, TASS said, resigned to concentrate on her work in the USSR Supreme Soviet. (NCA/Sallie Wise) USSR - IN THE REPUBLICS YELTSIN'S OPPONENTS LOSE TWO CRUCIAL VOTES. Opponents of Yeltsin in the RSFSR Supreme Soviet managed on February 21 to interrupt the work of the parliament, but they failed to win two votes, at least for the moment. Only 42% of the deputies voted to open the next session of the RSFSR Congress of People's Deputies before the March 17 referendum; the idea was rejected. The parliament also did not call off the republican referendum on the integrity of the Russian Federation and on the post of RSFSR president. (To judge from what was said in the RSFSR parliament, the RSFSR referendum, scheduled for the same day as the USSR one, was exactly what Yeltsin's conservative opposition wanted to prevent.) (Julia Wishnevsky) "COMMUNISTS OF RUSSIA" ACCUSED OF FORGERY? In the RSFSR Supreme Soviet February 21, at least three people's deputies denied signing an appeal calling for an extraordinary session of the RSFSR Congress of People's Deputies, presumably to replace Boris Yeltsin. At least 20% of 1,060 deputies are entitled by the Constitution of the Russian Federation to call such a session The list of those who signed the appeal (said to be published in Sovetskaya Rossiya) consists of 272 signatories. Some deputies demanded an investigation into the authenticity of all signatures, but they were ignored. (Julia Wishnevsky) CENTRAL TV VERSUS YELTSIN. Two of three editions of the TSN news on February 21 were replaced with Yeltsin's deputy Svetlana Goryacheva reading a statement condemning her chief. Along with the Vremya newscast, the first channel of Central TV aired Goryacheva three times; her address was also broadcast on the radio. Some deputies at that day's session of the RSFSR Supreme Soviet condemned the leadership of radio and TV, noting that it took two weeks for Yeltsin to fight for a 40-minutes live interview on TV, and that the RSFSR Supreme Soviet has been fighting for several months to get its own republican radio and television. The deputies demanded that the SupSov session be broadcast on the second TV channel immediately after Vremya. (Julia Wishnevsky) SOBCHAK SETBACK. Anatolii Sobchak has suffered a political defeat in the Leningrad city soviet. According to Radio Moscow on February 21, Sobchak asked chairman of the city's executive committee Aleksandr Shchelkanov to resign, but members of the city soviet resisted. They argued that in the present unstable situation, structural and personnel changes were undesirable. Sobchak had accused Shchelkanov of lack of cooperation with the council's presidium, the city's managers and trade unions. (Alexander Rahr) NEWS ON MURDERS OF ORTHODOX PRIESTS. Radio Moscow quoted on February 21 Komsomol'skaya pravda which published an article on the murder of three Orthodox priests in Moscow and Nikitinskii, advanced the theory that all the priests were killed by the same group, or the same person. Radio Moscow added that readers will learn about this theory in the second column of the newspaper. (Oxana Antic) MOLDAVIAN PRESIDENT RESIGNS. Addressing the Moldavian parliament February 21, Mircea Snegur stunned the republic by announcing his resignation as President of Moldavia. Snegur accused the Moldavian Communist Party and Moldavian radio and TV of unfairly criticizing him. Snegur also announced his resignation from the CP with retroactive effect to last August 4 when he had suspended his Party membership. He particularly complained of personal frictions with Prime Minister Mircea Druc, "with whom it is very difficult to work". Snegur's malentendus with Druc, which had occurred publicly of late, are seen in Kishinev as stemming from personal and temperamental factors, not from differences over policy. (Vladimir Socor) MOLDAVIAN PRESIDENT TO STAY ON UNTIL ELECTION. Snegur also called in his speech for strengthening the institution of the presidency and electing the president by popular vote instead of by the parliament. He offered to continue to serve until a new president is popularly elected. The Moldavian parliament voted overwhelmingly on the same day to ask Snegur to stay on and acceeded to his wish to set up a commission to reform executive power. Although Snegur gave no hint that he might run in the coming presidential election, the presumption is that he will. His popularity stands at an all-time high in the wake of his visit to Romania and of his contribution to Moldavia's rejection of the proposed treaty of Union and refusal to conduct the referendum on preserving the Union. (Vladimir Socor) MOLDAVIAN CONSCRIPTS' DEATH TOLL UP. The Soviet military authorities in Moldavia acknowledged February 19 the deaths of another 3 conscripts from Moldavia, raising the official death toll to 10 since January 1st. Moldavian youth and womens' groups have announced protest actions for the coming days. (Vladimir Socor) UKRAINIAN-KAZAKH TREATY. The Ukrainian and Kazakh republics yesterday signed a ten-year treaty in Alma-Ata, Radio Kiev reported on February 21. The treaty, which recognizes the sovereignty of the two republics, covers political, economic, cultural, and other aspects of relations between Ukraine and Kazakhstan. Head of the Ukrainian Supreme Soviet Leonid Kravchuk noted that earlier the two republics had initialed an economic agreement. The treaty, he underlined, is primarily political in nature. (Roman Solchanyk) MORE DETAILS ON UKRAINIAN GOLD. "Pravda Ukrainy" on February 13 carried an interview with director general of the Uzhukrgeologia concern (South Ukrainian Geology) E. Maliarov, who revealed more details on Ukrainian natural gold deposits. Another site was mentioned, located in Zhitomir oblast (previous reports mentioned Zakarpatia and Dnepropetrovsk). Maliarov said that gold deposits in Dnepropetrovsk oblast were ignored in the past due to larger and already developed deposits in Siberia. In view of Ukrainian attempts to gain economic sovereignty, however, republican gold deposits have been reconsidered. Whether the Dnepropetrovsk location is economically feasible is not yet clear, said Maliarov, although its characteristics are similar to those in South Africa and Australia and the metal is of the highest quality. Deposits are located 40 to 80 meters deep; geologists have received sufficient funding for further work. (Valentyn Moroz) DONETSK MINERS SEND LIST OF DEMANDS TO UKRAINIAN SUPSOV. Radio Kiev reported on February 21 that representatives of Donetsk strike committees have sent a list of 13 demands to the Ukrainian parliament. The list includes demands to stop construction of chemical plants, toxic waste dumps, and dumping of untreated industrial waste liquids into rivers or any other reservoirs. They also want to declare the Donbass an ecological disaster area. (Valentyn Moroz) RUSSIAN-SPEAKING MINI-REPUBLICS IN UKRAINE? The February 7 issue of Literaturna Ukraina discusses alleged attempts to bring about a Moldavian-style scenario in Ukraine's Russian-speaking areas, notably, Odessa and Dnepropetrovsk. It notes that the "Novorosiya" Committee--a group that is promoting the formation of an autonomous republic composed of the southern oblasts, with Odessa as capital--now has its own newspaper, Novorosiiskii telegraf, although local authorities deny any knowledge of its activities. According to Literaturna Ukraina, the "Novorosy" have been inspired by the success of Russian-dominated Crimea in reclaiming its previous autonomous republic status. (Kathy Mihalisko) BELORUSSIAN OFFICER FACES DISCHARGE FOR CRITICISM OF PARTY. Major Hrinevich of the Minsk Higher Military Radio-Technical School told an RFE-RL correspondent this week that he has been relieved of his duties and may be discharged from the army for political reasons. One week before the tragedy in Vilnius, Belorussian CP ideological secretary Valerii Tikhinya gave a speech at the school designed to boost the fighting spirit of the officers as they "regroup in the struggle against the enemies of socialist values." Hrinevich asked Tikhinya whether his appearance did not contradict the new USSR law on public organizations. The major has been harassed for "subversive acts against the Soviet Army" ever since. (Belorussian BD/Kathy Mihalisko) UZBEKISTAN ADDS QUESTION TO MARCH 17 REFERENDUM. Uzbekistan's Supreme Soviet presidium has approved the text of an additional question for Uzbek voters to answer in the March 17 referendum on the future of the Soviet Union, TASS reported February 21 citing Izvestia. The question is: Do you agree that Uzbekistan should remain part of a renewed Union (federation) as a sovereign equal republic? The additional question was said to be necessary for the citizens of the republic to have a fuller understanding of the meaning of the referendum. (Ann Sheehy) CIRCUMCISIONS TO BE PERFORMED IN HOSPITALS IN KAZAKHSTAN. Kazakhstan's ministry of health has given an order allowing circumcisions to be performed in hospitals in the republic, according to a brief item in the February 15 issue of Izvestia. The operation, an important Muslim rite, was formerly severely condemned by the Soviet authorities, and although it was nearly universal among traditionally Muslim peoples, it often had to be performed in unsanitary conditions. More than a year ago, hospitals in Tajikistan were allowed to perform circumcisions as a health-protection measure. (Bess Brown)
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