|Experience is in the fingers and head. The heart is inexperienced. - Henry David Thoreau|
No. 39, 25 February 1991
BALTIC STATES ESTONIANS CELEBRATE INDEPENDENCE DAY. For the third year in a row, Estonians celebrated the Republic of Estonia's 73rd anniversary on February 24, agencies report. Rallies and church concerts were held throughout Estonia, and the Estonian tricolor was raised on the "Long Hermann" tower, Soviet TV reported February 24. (Riina Kionka) BOMBING SUSPECT ARRESTED. Tallinn police have arrested a suspect in last week's bombing of the Pelgulinna maternity hospital, Rahva Haal reported February 24. The 37-year-old man is ethnic Russian, lives and works in Tallinn, and has no prior convictions. He told police that he had set the bomb by himself after learning that his girlfriend had had an abortion at the clinic. The suspect was reportedly drunk at the time. (Riina Kionka) LITHUANIA TO ALLOW SOVIET CITIZENS TO VOTE IN REFERENDUM. In a telephone interview with the RFE Lithuanian Service February 22, Deputy Chairman of the Lithuanian Supreme Council Kazimieras Motieka said that, if central or republican authorities requested that their citizens be allowed to vote in the March 17 all-Union referendum, Lithuania would agree to make it possible. Motieka noted that Lithuania had allowed Poles to vote in the Polish presidential elections last year and thought it proper to extend a similar courtesy to citizens of other foreign countries. Lithuania, however, will not sponsor the all-Union referendum in Lithuania. (Saulius Girnius) SOVIET ARMED FORCES DAY IN RIGA. On February 23, only several thousand people gathered in Riga to mark Soviet Army and Navy Day. A significant portion of participants were active and retired servicemen and their families. Black Berets were also present, Radio Riga reported February 23. The rally was organized by war veterans and the coordinating center of servicemen, with the support of Interfront and other groups opposing Latvia's independence, according to Sovetskaya Latviya February 13. TASS reported February 22 that similar meetings also were held in Tallinn and Vilnius. (Dzintra Bungs) LATVIA OPENS POLLING STATIONS FOR INDEPENDENCE. About 1400 polling stations were opened Saturday in Latvia for people to take part in the poll on Latvia's independence, TASS reported February 24. The polling centers were opened early to facilitate the participation of as many permanent residents (Soviet soldiers stationed in Latvia are not considered in this category) of Latvia as possible in the poll that is scheduled for March 3, especially since absentee "ballots" will not be accepted. People are to answer "yes" or "no" to the following question: are you for a democratic and independent Republic of Latvia? (Dzintra Bungs) USSR BALTIC MILITARY DISTRICT COMMANDER COMPLAINS. Colonel General Fedor Kuzmin, commander of the USSR Baltic Military District, told Riga TV February 20 that business-like relations had developed between the District and the Latvian parliament and government. Nonetheless, Kuzmin stressed: "we categorically reject that the lofty ideas of democracy, sovereignty, and independence must be implemented by shunning the USSR Constitution and infringing on the rights and social guarantees of a considerable part of the republic's population, including servicemen." As an example, Kuzmin cited the fact that Soviet soldiers stationed in Latvia would not be taking part in the poll on Latvia's independence, TASS reported February 22. (Dzintra Bungs) USSR-ALL-UNION TOPICS SOVIET GOVERNMENT STATEMENT ON GROUND WAR. Soviet Foreign Ministry Spokesman Vitalii Churkin, reading the Soviet government's statement on the ground war (February 24), said, "the instinct for a military solution won through, despite the fact that Iraq's agreement to withdraw its forces...created a qualitatively new situation." The statement also said, "the Soviet Union expresses regret that a real chance for a peaceful way out of the conflict was missed," and stressed that the "it is still not too late" to work out the differences in the peace proposals of the USSR "and other countries" with the assistance of the United Nations, TASS reported February 24. (Suzanne Crow) LAST MINUTE SOVIET DIPLOMATIC EFFORTS. Soviet diplomatic efforts to end the Gulf war continued through the evening of February 23, the day before the US-led alliance began its ground offensive. Soviet ambassador to the UN, Yulii Vorontsov, made an eleventh-hour appeal for the delay of war, arguing that Iraq had accepted the latest of the USSR's peace proposals. Iraq's chaotic response to Soviet peace offers--signalling agreement and at the same time launching missiles at Israel--left the USSR in a difficult and perhaps humiliating position. (Suzanne Crow) TASS COMMENT ON START OF GROUND WAR. TASS political analyst Askold Biryukov wrote on February 24 that "military logic won out over common sense." Biryukov claimed the Soviet peace proposals had no chance of being accepted in Washington because the date of the ground offensive had been determined two weeks before. "It is clear that the American military...was itching to finish off the Iraqis or force them to surrender...to the mercy of the victorious American soldiers," TASS reported February 24. (Suzanne Crow) ON GORBACHEV'S MOTIVATIONS. According to Andrei Kortunov of the USA-Canada Institute, Gorbachev had a variety of different motivations in pursuing peace in the Gulf. First, "it is the last chance to show what he can do here," second, "he desperately needs a foreign policy victory," and third, "he has to confirm his Nobel prize-winner status." Kortunov's comments were broadcast on Radio Moscow's Top Priority program February 23. (Suzanne Crow) KOMSOMOLSKAYA PRAVDA DISCUSSES PRIMAKOV. An article in Komsomolskaya pravda February 16 said there was much dissent within the USSR Foreign Ministry concerning the ideas of Gorbachev's special envoy Evgenii Primakov on how to settle the Gulf war. Among other things, "Westernizers at the MFA argued that Primakov's idea of finding an 'Arab' solution to the conflict was 'sheer stupidity.'" An unnamed Soviet diplomat quoted in the piece likened such a solution to hearing your neighbors killing each other and not calling the police. The article also discussed the feeling among "Arabists" at the MFA that Shevardnadze had failed to consult them at the start of the Gulf war. (Suzanne Crow) MANIFESTATION IN SUPPORT OF THE SOVIET ARMY. The USSR ministers of the interior and defense, Boris Pugo and Dmitrii Yazov, as well as KGB chief Vladimir Kryuchkov, took part in the demonstration in support of the Soviet Army and the integrity of the USSR on Soviet Armed Forces Day in Moscow, TASS reported February 23. Estimates of participation range from 30,000 to 300,000 (the latter being the figure cited by TASS). The demonstration was organized by the Moscow city Party committee, the parliamentary group Soyuz, and other conservative organizations. At the meeting, an appeal to the Soviet people that called for the preservation of the Soviet state was issued. (Alexander Rahr) MORE ON ARMY DAY. While some hard-line spokesmen, including Soyuz leader Viktor Alksnis, reportedly delivered fiery speeches attacking Soviet democrats and American actions in the Gulf, Western sources characterized the crowd as dispirited. Military personnel were ordered to attend the rally in civilian clothes in order to increase the number of participants, Reuters reported. Other army day rallies were held in Leningrad, Kiev, Vilnius, and Riga. (NCA/Stephen Foye) PRE-ARMY DAY CEREMONY. At a Kremlin gala on the evening of February 22, USSR First Deputy Defense Minister Konstantin Kochetov told the crowd that the military leadership had no political ambitions, AP reported. Kochetov denounced Boris Yeltsin, but was reticent about criticizing US actions in the Gulf and was upbeat about relations with the West. He said that "the source of international tension is shifting more and more towards the Third World." Although Gorbachev was present at the ceremony, he did not speak, nor, according to the report, did he mingle with the crowd. (Stephen Foye) CPSU SECRETARIAT DISCUSSES REFERENDUM PREPARATIONS. A meeting of the CPSU Central Committee secretariat on February 24, chaired by CPSU deputy general secretary Vladimir Ivashko, discussed preparations for the March 17 referendum on the preservation of the Soviet Union, TASS reported. CPSU Central Committee secretary Oleg Shenin said a common shortcoming of the preparatory work so far was that it was often being carried out without reference to the Party's position on stabilizing the economic situation. Shenin said Party organizations must take part in explaining the role of financial compensation and showing care and concern for all strata of the population, particularly the socially defenseless. (Ann Sheehy) DEMOCRATS STAGE DEMONSTRATION IN SUPPORT OF GLASNOST'. Several thousand people gathered in the center of Moscow to demonstrate in support of the popular TV program "Vzglyad," which has been banned since the end of last year, TASS reported February 22. Members of "Democratic Russia" addressed the meeting, calling on the crowd to support Yeltsin and the resignation of the Kremlin leadership and to vote "No" in the March 17 national referendum on the future of the Soviet Union. The same day, a statement authored by "Vzglyad" staffers, defining glasnost' as "the means for the dissemination of ideas which may move society toward national accord and a worth existence," appeared in Moskovskie komsomolets, Radio Moscow reported. (Alexander Rahr/Dawn Mann) PAVLOV UNVEILS PLAN TO DISMANTLE GOSPLAN. At a Moscow news conference on February 22, USSR Prime Minister Valentin Pavlov outlined a plan to dismantle Gosplan and most of the industrial ministries, TASS and Western agencies reported. Pavlov said the only production-related ministry to remain will be the Ministry of Automotive and Agricultural Machine Building, while ministries overseeing railways, engineering, power, and the nuclear industry would be revamped. Pavlov said the aim of the reform is to create a system in which no one will interfere in enterprise activities. The plan, he said, will be put before the USSR Supreme Soviet soon and, if approved, would be carried out over a 2-3 year time span. (NCA) CHRISTMAS DECLARED A NON-WORKING DAY. Moskovsky Tsetkovnyi Vestnik, January, 1991, published Patriarch Aleksii's appeal to Boris Yeltsin to declare Christmas (January 7) and Good Friday official holidays. The RSFSR Supreme Soviet subsequently declared January 7 a non-working holiday. (Oxana Antic) USSR--IN THE REPUBLICS PRO-YELTSIN RALLY IN MOSCOW. A crowd estimated at between 40,000 and 150,000 gathered in Manezh Square near the Kremlin yesterday to attend a pro-Yeltsin rally, Western news agencies and TASS reported February 25. Yurii Chernichenko, a USSR People's Deputy, told the crowd that "Yeltsin represents Russia, we must not betray him," and Father Gleb Yakunin said, "Yeltsin spoke the truth" when he denounced Gorbachev last week, Reuters reported. "Vremya" did not report on the demonstration during its Sunday broadcast, but it did feature a special report on a smaller anti-Yeltsin rally held on Saturday. According to the New York Times February 25, "Vremya" presented a distorted report on the rally, making it seem more important. (Dawn Mann) YELTSIN DOES NOT WANT GORBACHEV'S POST. During his visit to Novgorod, RSFSR Supreme Soviet chairman Boris Yeltsin was asked if he and Gorbachev might both have to resign in order to achieve political stability, to which Yeltsin replied, "Such a scenario is possible," Reuters reported February 22. Reuters also reported that Yeltsin told his audience that he "will, of course, have to cooperate [with Gorbachev] and will have to carry on a dialogue." Yeltsin said, however, that he would "categorically reject" an offer to run against Mikhail Gorbachev as an alternative candidate for the post of USSR President, TASS reported February 22. Yeltsin added that he is prepared to give an account at the extraordinary session of the RSFSR Congress of People's Deputies scheduled for March 28. (Dawn Mann/Alexander Rahr) SILAEV UNDER PRESSURE TO RETIRE. RSFSR Prime Minister Ivan Silaev told the RSFSR Supreme Soviet that the central leadership has urged him to resign in connection with the ruble scandal. Radio Moscow February 22 quoted excerpts from Silaev's dramatic speech, in which he said he cannot work under the present circumstances and this speech may be his last. He complained that the republican legislature has failed to provide his government with a legal basis for actions. He called for the adoptation of a law on local self-government to clarify relations between the republican government and the periphery over which, Silaev claimed, his government now has no control. (Alexander Rahr) CHERNOBYL' INVESTIGATION MAY DISCREDIT SILAEV. On February 7, USSR Prosecutor Nikolai Trubin told TASS that his office had launched a new investigation on the "possible abuse of power and suggestions that some high ranking officials incorrectly evaluated the dimensions of the catastrophe and neglected, therefore, to take the necessary measures to protect people in the contaminated area." Silaev, then Deputy Chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers, was the first crisis manager to take command of the local headquarters in Chernobyl' (Radio Moscow, May 21, 1986) and was in charge of the initial clean-up operation from May 2 until May 20; Silaev was also the first official to brief journalists at the site. (Victor Yasmann) SEVENTEEN DIE IN LENINGRAD HOTEL FIRE. Reuters reported February 23 that 17 people were killed in a fire in the Intourist hotel, "Leningrad." The fire broke out after a TV set exploded on the seventh floor of the nine-story hotel. Ten firefighters, six tourists, and one hotel employee died in the fire. (NCA) OFFICERS LAUNCH HUNGER STRIKE. Some 18 officers stationed in the city of Ul'yanovsk have begun a hunger strike to protest the planned disbandment of military construction units assigned to civilian ministries, Radio Moscow reported February 24. The officers are apparently upset because rumors of the impending disbandment led local authorities to halt military housing construction one year ago, and because the cuts could cost them their jobs and the housing that they now occupy. The hunger-strikers reportedly include veterans of the Afghan War and of Chernobyl'. They are demonstrating outside of local Party headquarters in an effort to shame those Party officials. (Stephen Foye) VORONIN TOURS GEORGIA. Lev Voronin, a USSR First Deputy Prime Minister, toured those areas of Georgia in which a state of emergency is in effect and met in Tblisi with Georgian Supreme Soviet chairman Zviad Gamsakhurdia, TASS reported February 25. The two men discussed how to end armed clashed in South Ossetia, where the Georgian authorities have imposed a state of emergency in some areas. The Georgian Supreme Soviet has until today to impose a state of emergency throughout South Ossetia; if it does not do so, the USSR Supreme Soviet will. Voronin also travelled to North Ossetia, in the RSFSR. (NCA) PATRIARCH ALEKSII APPEALS TO GEORGIAN BELIEVERS. TASS, quoting Izvestia February 22, summarized an appeal issued by Patriarch Aleksii to Catholicos Patriarch Iliya and believers in Georgia, in which the head of the Russian Orthodox Church criticizes those responsible for the tense situation in South Ossetia, and asks the Catholicos to remind them that Christian belief does not permit anyone to hate anybody at all. (Oxana Antic) UKRAINIAN CP PROPOSALS ON DRAFT UNION TREATY. The Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine has issued its own set of "substantial amendments and additions" to the draft of the Union treaty, Radio Moscow reported February 22. The proposals emphasize that every republic is a constituent part of the Union as "a sovereign, independent state" and that they retain their independence in the solution of all questions pertaining to the state and economic, social, and spiritual development. (Roman Solchanyk) MOLDAVIAN PRESIDENT'S POWER BID FALLS SHORT. Moldavian President Mircea Snegur's demand for the establishment of presidential government as a condition for his remaining in office has suffered an initial setback. A motion submitted to parliament February 22 to amend the republic's constitution in the sense desired by Snegur received 155 votes, well short of the two-thirds majority of 245 votes required for constitutional changes. Snegur's supporters are preparing a modified resolution to be submitted soon. The Moldavian president had indicated in parliament the preceding day that he wanted to obtain the resignation of Prime Minister Mircea Druc. (Vladimir Socor) MOLDAVIAN LEADERS ADDRESS PUBLIC RALLY. The Moldavian leadership appeared in corpore at a youth rally in Kishinev's athletic stadium February 23. Taking the floor one after the other, Snegur and Druc both pledged to continue "striving for Moldavian state independence." While Snegur indicated that he favored a gradualist approach, Druc did not include that qualification and was clearly the crowd's favorite. The two leaders sought to convey the impression that they were prepared to patch up their differences. Interviewed by Moldavian television the same evening, Snegur backtracked from the demand for Druc to resign. (Vladimir Socor) MOLDAVIA TO INTRODUCE REPUBLICAN COUPONS. Addressing the same rally, First Vice-Premier Constantin Tampiza announced that Moldavia would shortly introduce republican coupons as the only way to protect the republic's consumers and prevent the uncontrolled flow of scarce goods from Moldavia to other republics. Tampiza also indicated that coupons were planned as a short-term, transitional solution toward the introduction of republican currency. (Vladimir Socor) ALL-BURYAT CONGRESS IN ULAN-UDE. A three-day all-Buryat congress ended in Ulan-Ude on February 24, TASS reported. The delegates unanimously condemned as unconstitutional the act of 1937 that split the Buryat republic into three, but decided for the present to call only for the creation of national-cultural autonomy to consolidate the Buryat people. The congress set up an all-Union association of Buryat culture. Delegates condemned reports on the congress in some mass media to the effect that the Buryat republic was reorienting itself towards a union with Mongolia and towards Asian culture. (Ann Sheehy) "KYRGYZSTAN" CALLS FOR "NO" VOTE IN REFERENDUM. At its first congress, which took place recently in Bishbek, the democratic movement "Kyrgyzstan" came out against the March 17 referendum, Radio Moscow reported February 23. (Ann Sheehy) FIRST LABOR EXCHANGE IN UZBEKISTAN. The first labor exchange in Uzbekistan has been set up in the industrial city of Navoi, Radio Moscow reported February 24. At present there are only little over 1,500 unemployed in the city, but the number is expected to rise. The exchange will pay out unemployment benefits and retrain redundant workers for new industries in the city as well as trying to find jobs for the unemployed. (Ann Sheehy) PUBLIC COUNCIL ON RELIGIOUS QUESTIONS SET UP IN UZBEKISTAN. A public council on religious questions has been set up in Uzbekistan, Radio Moscow reported February 22. The members of the council include state officials, religious figures of various denominations, scholars, lawyers, and representatives of the public. The council will be a consultative and expert agency of the department of interethnic relations in the apparat of the Uzbek president. (Ann Sheehy) (END) [As of 1300 CET]
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