|The universe is full of magical things, patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper. - Eden Phillpotts|
No. 54, 18 March 1991
BALTIC STATES BAKER MEETS THE BALTS. On March 16, US Secretary of State James Baker met with Baltic rep-resentatives in Moscow. EstoniaUs permanent envoy in Moscow, Juri Kahn, told RFE/RL on Saturday that Baker called for the adoption of a secession law that takes into account the Baltic statesU exceptional status within the USSR. (Riina Kionka) PETERS ON MEETING WITH BAKER. After the meeting on March 16 between US Secretary of State James Baker and Baltic officials in Moscow on March 16, Latvian government representative Janis Peters said that Rthe United States and the Soviet Union are now carrying on a good dialogue, which can only be of benefit to the Baltic region,S reported Reuters that day. According to DPA MarchJ16, Peters said that the meeting had brought the Baltic independence issue Ra half a step forward.S DPA also reported that Baker had urged the Balts not to set any precondition for the coming talks with Moscow. (Dzintra Bungs) BICKAUSKAS ON TALKS WITH BAKER. The Lithuanian representative in Moscow, Egidijus Bickauskas, told Radio Kaunas on March 16 that Baker had told the Baltic representatives that the Soviet authorities had told him that they were willing to start a dialogue with the Baltic republics, but that the Balts had not responded. The Balts denied this, saying that Moscow had not shown any effort to start real talks on Baltic independence. When Bickauskas raised the continued seizure by Soviet troops of various buildings in Lithuania, Baker said he that he would investigate the matter. Bickauskas said that some progress had been made in talks with Moscow, but Rnot the kind of progress that we would like to see.S (Saulius Girnius) LATVIANS IGNORE USSR REFERENDUM. About 200,000 people in Latvia participated in the USSR referendum on March 17, Radio Riga reported March 18. Despite rumors of possible Rincidents,S the day passed quietly. 322 polling stations were, according to TASS March 17, set up by units of the USSR armed forces, work collectives, and public organizations, since the Latvian Supreme Council decided not to have anything to do with the referendum. Final results are not yet available, but they are likely to be inaccurate, due to voting irregularities. According to The Baltimore Sun of March 18, referring to a Baltfax dispatch, one reporter voted five times in Riga. TASS noted other irregularities. (Dzintra Bungs) SOVIETS DETAIN LITHUANIAN NATIONAL DEFENSE DEPARTMENT DIRECTOR. Radio Kaunas March 18 carried a briefing by Lithuanian President Vytautas Landsbergis who said that the Director-General of the Lithuanian National Defense Department, Audrius Butkevicius, and his driver had been detained the previous night by Soviet MVD troops. When Lithuanian authorities telephoned MVD authorities in Moscow to demand his release. Landsbergis said that MVD General Zhitnikov had told him that the matter had been delegated to the Moscow-appointed procurator in Lithuania, Antanas Petrauskas, and was no longer in his hands. Radio Kaunas reported this morning that Butkevicius has been released, but the driver, the automobile, and their weapons remain in custody. (Saulius Girnius) VAISVILA MEETS PUGO. Lithuanian Deputy Prime Minister Zigmas Vaisvila told RFE/RL on MarchJ17 about his two-hour meeting with USSR Internal Affairs Minister Boriss Pugo on March 16. Pugo told Vaisvila and the Lithuanian representative in Moscow Egidijus Bickauskas that some weapons seized by Soviet troops would be returned to the Lithuanian police, along with the warehouse used for their storage. Pugo said the return of other buildings seized by Soviet troops would be decided at a higher level. Pugo also said that the Lithuanian and Soviet Internal Affairs Ministries would form a working group to discuss the current problems. (Saulius Girnius) LITHUANIAN PROCURATOR FILES CRIMINAL CHARGES AGAINST PUGO. TASS reported MarchJ17 that Landsbergis, in a Lithuanian radio interview, had said that the Lithuanian ProcuratorUs office had filed criminal charges against Pugo be-cause troops under his command still occupy Lith-uanian state property. (On January 11- 13, Soviet troops seized the Vilnius television tower, the headquarters of Lithuanian radio and television, the main press house, and various other sites.) Landsbergis also complained about the increase inJthe number of Soviet troops in Lithuania. (SauliusJGirnius) LATVIAN CITIZENSHIP LAW ON BACK BURNER. At its board meeting on March 12, the PeopleUs Front of Latvia recommended that a law on citizenship in Latvia not be adopted at this time by the Supreme Council, according to Radio Riga March 13. The PeopleUs Front leadership felt that, LatviaUs independence must be restored and secured and then a new parliament should be elected which should then draft an appropriate citizenship law. The majority of the deputies in the Supreme Council belong to the PeopleUs Front faction; therefore, it is unlikely that the citizenship law will come up on the CouncilUs agenda in the near future. (Dzintra Bungs) CONGRESS OF ESTONIA MEETS AGAIN. EstoniaUs alternative parliament, the Congress of Estonia, met for the fourth time on March 16. The session, broadcast live on Estonian Radio, approved a number of draft resolutions on issues ranging from ownership rights to issuing citizen identification cards. The Congress also discussed the March 3 plebiscite on Estonian independence and the general economic/political situation. Contrary to expectations, the Congress did not elect a new executive board. The Congress was elected last year by citizens of the interwar republic and their descendents. (Riina Kionka) USSR ALL-UNION TOPICS PRELIMINARY REFERENDUM RESULTS. Preliminary, unofficial results, indicate between 66-80% support in the Soviet Far East for preserving the USSR as a renewed le federation of equal sovereign republics, Soviet and Western news agencies reported. Postfactum says residents of the Kuri18 islands voted overwhelmingly against returning one of the islands to Japan as a gesture to improve relations. AP March says that totals collected by RRukhS in Ukraine indicate that the referendum passed by a small measure, although it was rejected in Kiev by a margin of 60%. AP also reports that the final count in Turkmenia showed 95% support for the Union, and early returns in Kazakhstan indicate 94% approval. Turnout was reported to be high in most republics. (NCA) AUTONOMOUS FORMATIONS DEFY GEORGIAN REFERENDUM BOYCOTT. Although the non-Communist Georgian government had called for a boycott of the referendum, and Supreme Soviet chairman Zviad Gamsakhurdia is cited by TASS as having branded anyone who participated as a traitor, 40,000 people, mostly dependents of Soviet troops, are reported to have voted in the South Ossetian AO, according to Interfax, and some Ossetians from South Ossetia travelled to the North Ossetian ASSR to vote there. Abkhazia likewise defied the Georgian authoritiesU boycott in a move which Gamsakhurdia termed Rdeclaration of an anti- constitututional war.S (Liz Fuller) PARTICIPATION IN AZERBAIJAN AND ARMENIA UNCLEAR. In Nagorno-Karabakh, the oblast soviet, whose powers were suspended in 1989, called on the Armenian population of the oblast to vote RyesS in the referendum, presumably fearing for its future in an independent Azerbaijani state. No information is available on participation in the referendum elsewhere in Azerbaijan; Armenia called for a boycott of the referendum and will instead vote in September on whether to secede from the USSR. (Liz Fuller) MOLDAVIANS STAY HOME. Circumventing MoldaviaUs refusal to hold the Union referendum, the Union authorities set up 50 voting centers in Moldavia in military posts and in all-Union enterprises. Those voting centers opened MarchJ14, 3 days ahead of schedule. In addition, Russian and Gagauz authorities in several mixed-population districts organized the referendum there. The ethnic Moldavian population has overwhelmingly boycotted the vote. The turnout of the non-indigenous population has been high in the mixed districts but moderate elsewhere, in the aggregate falling short of the overwhelming turnout expected of non-Moldavians by the central authorities. This makes it likely that the over-all abstention rate exceeded the 65% share of Moldavians in the republicUs population. (Vladimir Socor) VOTING IRREGULARITIES IN MOLDAVIA. The Moldavian media have reported a pattern of irregularities at voting centers set up by the Union authorities. Moldavian TV and radio presented interviews with citizens who had been given as many as 7 ballots to cast, or had been allowed to vote repeatedly in different voting centers, or had requested and received ballots in the name of deceased relatives. The voting centers and the Central Electoral Commission set up by Union authorities in Kishinev did not have voter registration lists. There is no procedure for independent checking of the vote count. (Vladimir Socor) REFERENDUM IN CENTRAL ASIA. Various Soviet media reports on March 17 indicated that there was a high turnout in at least some Central Asian republics in the referendum on the future of the USSR. According to RVremya,S more than 90% of the electorate voted in Uzbekistan and more than 80% in Kazakhstan. TASS reported that in Tajikistan representatives of the Democratic Party and the Popular Front group Rastokhez tried to interfere in the conduct of the referendum. Leaders of the two parties had earlier appealed to the population to boycott the referendum. (Bess Brown) DEFENSE MINISTER VOTES RYESS IN REFERENDUM. USSR Minister of Defense Dmitrii Yazov told reporters at a Moscow polling site on March 17 that he thought a majority of citizens would vote in favor of maintaining the Union. Yazov said that those republics attempting to leave the Union constitute only about 10% of the total Soviet population, and that therefore the Union Rwas, is, and will remain.S Yazov said that he had voted RyesS on the Union question, but refused to reveal how he had voted with respect to establishing an RSFSR presidency. (Stephen Foye) TV AND RADIO VIOLATE LAW ON REFERENDUM. In the weeks preceding the referendum, Soviet radio and TV devoted considerable amounts of air-time to persuading voters to say RyesS to the Union. RVremyaS on March 17 carried interviews with a number of people who said attempts to agitate against the March 17 referendum were Rhuman rightsU violationsS (whereas attempts to agitate for the referendum were apparently not). On Friday and Saturday, television programs were interrupted every two hours by an instructional clip demonstrating how to cast a RyesS vote. On MarchJ17, in violation of the USSR law on referendum (which forbids campaigning of any sort on the day of the vote), both radio and TV continued to urge the electorate to vote Ryes.S (Julia Wishnevsky) GORBACHEV ON SOVIET REPUBLICSU DRIVE FOR INDEPENDENCE. USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev has compared movements for independence in some Soviet republics with the situation that existed in former Soviet satellite countries in 1989. In his interview, quoted by TASS March 17, Gorbachev said that when Soviet relations with East European allies became tense in 1989, his leadership took Rthe only correct positionS and gave its East European allies the possibility to rethink everything for themselves. Now, Gorbachev claims, he has difficulty finding the time to meet all the representatives of these countries to discuss future cooperation. The Soviet leader added that a similar development will take place in the relations between the center and the republics. (Alexander Rahr) RETAIL PRICE INCREASE. USSR Prime Minister Valentin Pavlov has confirmed that increases in retail prices are expected to take effect on April 2-3, and that compensatory rises in pay, pensions, and stipends will begin on March 20, TASS reported March 17. The increases will reportedly average some 60% overall, while the population will be compensated for 85% of the increases. It has been estimated that the retail price increases could remove about one-half of the monetary overhang in the possession of households. (Keith Bush) UPDATE ON MINERSU STRIKE. On Saturday TASS reported that Gorbachev will travel to Kemerovo this week to discuss the minersU strike and other problems with local officials. Food is reportedly in short supply and local officials are trying to barter coal for food, according to Radio Moscow MarchJ15. USSR Vice President Gennadii Yanaev sent a telegram to Kemerovo officials on Friday, announcing a two-fold increase in local housing construction and increased deliveries of food, medicine, and farm equipment, AP reported MarchJ16. Financial losses from the strike now total 140 million rubles, plus an estimated 10Jtimes that amount in lost enterprise production. Miners in Karaganda sent a telegram to USSR Prime Minister Valentin Pavlov on Friday, demanding he agree to talks with 36 hours or face an open-ended strike this week. (Dawn Mann) TSN: THE END OF AN RALTERNATIVE NEWSREEL.S All three TSN moderators were fired on Friday, Radio Rossiya reported March 16. TSN, a more liberal and less biased news program than RVremya,S did not appear on the evening of MarchJ15, or in the morning or afternoon of March 16. On the evening of March 16, TSN was aired, but with new moderators and sharply-reduced broadcasts; today, however, it was again taken off the air. On March 17, Radio Rossiya announced that TSN editor Vitalii Tishin had also been fired; his replacement is rumored to be Oleg Maksimenko, formerly Radio MoscowUs correspondent in Paris. According to Radio Rossiya, the purge of TSN was ordered by Leonid Kravchenko, chairman of the All-Union State Company for Radio and TV Broadcasting, who had characterized TSN, together with shows produced by local studios in Leningrad and Moscow, as Ralternative television.S (Julia Wishnevsky) KRAVCHENKO GOES AFTER MEMBERS OF DEMOCRATIC RUSSIA. Radio Rossiya reported March 17 that Kravchenko has ordered RSFSR peopleUs deputy Bella Kurkova to explain in writing why she broadcast Boris YeltsinUs March 9 address at a meeting of the Democratic Russia movement on Leningrad Television. Kravchenko, a member of the CPSU Central Committee, made it clear in a television interview on January 30 that he intended to purge members of Democratic Russia from Soviet televisionQthey include the moderators of the program RVzglyadS (which was banned by Kravchenko in December), at least one former moderator of TSN (Yurii Rostov), and the team of KurkovaUs program, RPyatoe kolesoS (RFifth WheelS). (Julia Wishnevsky) MOSCOW PRESENTS SIX-POINT PLAN. Soviet officials presented US Secretary of State James Baker with a six-point plan for stability in the Middle East on March 16. According to Soviet Foreign Ministry Spokesman Vitalii Churkin, the points were Rnot a plan, but ideas for a settlementS intended to encourage Ra wide-ranging dialogue,S AFP reported March 16. MoscowUs plan calls for limitation of arms exports to the region and a ban on ABC weapons, no creation of blocs, the interaction of countries in the region to settle problems themselves, economic cooperation, and UN involvement in any post-crisis settlement, TASS reported March 16. (Suzanne Crow) GENSCHER MEETS GORBACHEV TODAY. German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich GenscherUs second day of talks in Moscow (March 18) are expected to include working out disagreements over the Soviet troop withdrawal from Germany and the transfer of ex-GDR leader Erich Honecker to Moscow. Genscher met with Foreign Minister Aleksandr Bessmertnykh on March for discussions about the Middle East and German- Soviet relations, TASS reported. (Suzanne Crow) MOSCOW: BONN KNEW OF TRANSFER. At his March 15 Foreign Ministry Briefing, Churkin said that German Chancellor Helmut Kohl had been informed of plans to move ex-GDR leader Erich Honecker to Moscow Rseveral hours in advance,S TASS reported the same day. Churkin said the transfer had been necessitated by humanitarian considerations. (Suzanne Crow) DID HONECKER THREATEN BLACKMAIL? According to the March 17 Welt am Sonntag, Soviet officials spirited Erich Honecker out of Germany because he had threatened to blame Soviet officials for crimes that the West German government wants to charge him with. The paper, which quoted German counter intelligence sources, said Honecker blackmailed Soviet officials by threatening to turn over to Bonn documentation of the Soviet UnionUs role in the deaths of those who attempted to escape from former East Germany, AP reported March 17. (Suzanne Crow) RUSSIANS ANGRY OVER HONECKERUS TRANSFER. Radio Rossiya reported March 15Jthat many listeners were calling the station to express their fury over the arrival of former East German Communist Party leader Erich Honecker in Moscow for medical treatment. According to the report, given the acute shortage of medicine in the USSR, listeners feel the Soviet leadership is wasting valu-able drugs on a Rstate criminal.S (Julia Wishnevsky) MICHNIK COMMENTS ON SOVIET CALL FOR MARTIAL LAW. Gazeta Wyborcza March 15 reprinted PravdaUs article of March 11 (Daily Report, March 13), in which PravdaUs former Warsaw correspondent suggested the USSR should copy PolandUs 1981 experience and introduce martial law. Gazeta Wyborcza added a commentary in which editor Adam Michnik writes: RNo martial law in Russia will save the Communist system . . . . A day of freedom will come for Russia and the Russians as inevitably as it did for Poland.S (Louisa Vinton) EXECUTED METROPOLITAN REHABILITATE. The Sueddeutsche Zeitung of March 16/17 reported the rehabilitation by the RSFSR Supreme Court of Metropolitan Veniamin of Petersburg and Gdov. Metropolian Veniamin, together with 52 other people, was accused of counter-revolutionary activities in 1922 and executed. (Oxana Antic) USSR IN THE REPUBLICS NAZARBAEV ON GROUP OF FOUR. Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbaev told an interviewer from Argumenty i fakty that he and Boris Yeltsin had approached Mikhail Gorbachev to head the group of four republics (RSFSR, Ukraine, Belorussia and Kazakhstan) that have opened negotiations to form a union. He said that these four plus Uzbekistan could become the guarantors of the preservation of the USSR. Nazarbaev rejected claims that the association of the four republics represented a Rsecond centerS in opposition to Moscow. The interview appeared in No. 9 of the weekly. Yeltsin advisor Nikolai Shmelev writes in the latest issue of Moscow News that negotiations on the RUnion of the FiveS are stalled. He gave no further details. (Bess Brown/Elizabeth Teague) YELTSIN DENIES GORBACHEV INVITED TO HEAD RUNION OF FIVE.S Interviewed by KomsomolUskaya pravda on March 14, Boris Yeltsin denied that he and Nazarbaev had invited Gorbachev to head the so-called RUnion of the Five.S Yeltsin told KomsomolUskaya pravda that, while he and Nazarbaev did go to Gorbachev, as a matter of courtesy and to avoid any appearance of conspiracy, to inform him of their plans to form of union of four or five republics, RWe never asked Gorbachev to head this group of republics.S (Elizabeth Teague) GORBACHEV, LIGACHEV, REJECT RUSSIAN PRESIDENCY. In his interview with Vremya MarchJ17, Gorbachev denounced the draft RSFSR constitution that describes the RSFSR president as the commander-in-chief of a future RSFSR armed forces. Ligachev told TASS the same day that he voted for the Union but against the introduction of an RSFSR presidency because the tasks of the new post have not been clearly defined by the RSFSR Supreme Soviet or Congress of PeopleUs Deputies. (Alexander Rahr) YELTSIN PLANS HIS OWN INSPECTORATE. Interviewed by KomsomolUskaya pravda on MarchJ14, Yeltsin revealed that he plans to introduce a new post to be known as Ragent of the Supreme Soviet.S The task of these officials will be to monitor the implentation of RSFSR laws. Last December, Gorbachev tried unsuccessfully to introduce a new all-Union RHigher State Inspectorate.S GorbachevUs idea was that inspectors subordinated to the USSR Vice-President would tour the country monitoring the implementation of USSR laws and presidential edicts, but the USSR Supreme Soviet turned down his proposal on the grounds that it was too vague. Now Yeltsin appears to be taking a leaf out of GorbachevUs book. (Elizabeth Teague) CREATION OF RSFSR PUBLIC SECURITY SERVICE. The Russian Federation has formed its own public security service, the First Deputy Minister of the RSFSR Ministry of Internal Affairs, Anatoly Anikeev, told Radio Rossiya March 15. The agency will take over some 70% of the personnel of the RSFSR Ministry of Internal Affairs and will be headed by Anikeev. The new agency is will be subordinate to the USSR central government. In practical terms, this means that YeltsinUs efforts to create a republican security service under the aegis of the RSFSR Supreme Soviet may not be realized. Anikeev is known as a hardliner: he is a former chief of the Political Administration of USSR MVD Internal Troops and was in charge of several military actions in the Transcausaus and Moldova over the past two years. (Victor Yasmann ) FIRSTCONGRESS OF PEASANT PARTY OF RUSSIA HELD. The first congress of the Peasant Party of Russia opened March 16 in Moscow. Some 300 delegates attended the congress, which was held in the office of the newly-created newspaper, Rossiiskaya gazeta. Radio Moscow quoted the chairman of the party, USSR peopleUs deputy Yurii Chernichenko, as saying that the party advocates private ownership of land. The congress also commemorated the victims of the suppression by the Bolsheviks of the Kronstadt uprising on MarchJ18, 1921. (Vera Tolz) MORE VIOLENCE IN SOUTH OSSETIA. Radio Mayak reported March 15 on shooting in Tskhinvali and the Georgian village of Tamarasheni the previous night. On March 16 Moscow World Service reported an armed clash in the Ossetian village of Khetagurovo and an attack by Georgian armed groups on the raion center of Znauri which resulted in an unspecified number of casualties. The Ministry of Health of the North Ossetian ASSR has expressed concern at the possibility of an outbreak of typhoid in South Ossetia, where water supplies have been disrupted. (Liz Fuller) MILITARY MISCONDUCT IN MOLDAVIA. Moldavian health and environmental officials told the republican media over the weekend that military units sent into Moldavia in connection with the referendum are creating health hazards in localities where they are camped and are damaging natural reservations by driving through in motorized and armored columns and parking the vehicles there. Moldavian citizens in turn complained in media interviews of rowdy Soviet soldiers forcing their way into homes, taking food and drink, and smash-ing up household belongings. (Vladimir Socor) ROMANIAUS RULING PARTY, OPPOSITION SUPPORT MOLDAVIA. At its first country-wide convention, RomaniaUs ruling National Salvation Front issued on March 17 a special statement of Rprofound concernS over Rthe all-Union leadershipUs . . . attempts to force the referendumS on Moldavia and the sending of additional Soviet troops there. The NSF protested Rthe undemocratic methodsS being used to pressure Moldavia. Romanian opposition parties and extraparliamentary groups in turn organized pro-Moldavia demonstrations March 16 and 17 in Bucharest, Iasi, Galati, Suceava, and Timisoara. The state media extensively reported the opposition demon-strations. (Vladimir Socor) PRE-REFERENDUM DEMONSTRATION IN KIEV. An estimated 3,000 to 5,000 people rallied in Kiev on Saturday against maintaining the Soviet Union, AP reported March 16. Ukrinform-TASS reported only that fewer than the 100,000 expected demonstrators responded to the call issued by RRukh,S the Ukrainian Democratic Party, and the Ukrainian Republican Party. (Roman Solchanyk) KHMARA INVESTIGATION CONCLUDED. The investigation of Ukrainian peopleUs deputy Stepan Khmara has been concluded, Ukrinform-TASS reported March 16. Khmara was arrested on Novem-ber 17 in the Ukrainian Supreme Soviet on charges of assaulting a militia colonel on November 7 in Kiev. The date and place of KhmaraUs trial has not yet been set. (Roman Solchanyk) [As of 1230 CET] Compiled by Patrick Moore & Dawn Mann
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