|If we are to live together in peace, we must first come to know each other better. - Lyndon B. Johnson|
No. 56, 20 March 1991
BALTIC STATES USSR CRITICIZES DANISH ACCORDS WITH BALTICS. On March 19 the USSR Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent a protest note to its Danish counterpart concerning Denmark's recently-concluded protocols with Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, TASS reported that day. USSR Foreign Ministry spokesman Vitalii Churkin said that the USSR objected in particular to Denmark's intention, as stated in the protocols, to grant diplomatic recognition to the Baltic states as soon as possible. Churkin also warned that the protocols could impair Soviet-Danish relations. (Dzintra Bungs) NO NEW PRICE HIKES FOR ESTONIA, LITH-UANIA. Estonia and Lithuania will not raise prices in conjunction with the all-Union price increase set for April 2, DPA reported March 19. USSR Supreme Soviet member Sergei Riyabchenko told DPA that-the two Baltic states were not on a list of those republics that have verbally agreed to the price hike. Riyabchenko reportedly saw the list at a closed meeting with Prime Minister Pavlov. (Riina Kionka) ESTONIA'S NEW PRESIDIUM. The Estonian Supreme Council chose a new presidium on March-18, Rahva Haal reported March 19. The new group consists of Inter-regional Council chairman Vladimir Lebedev; Viru deputy Vitali Menshikov, Popular Front activists Ignar Fjuk and Liia Hanni; Liberal Democrat Tiit Kabin; Republican Party member Ulo Uluots; and Rural Union and "Free Estonia" member Heino Kostabi. The four Supreme Council directors remained uncontested in their seats, bringing the presidium total to 11-members, down from 16. The new group, encompassing a wider range of views than the old body, is likely work out many political disputes on its own before introducing them into the Supreme Council, as the old Popular Front-dominated presidium did. (Riina Kionka) MORE CHURCHES IN LATVIA. Janis Timpa, Deputy Director of the Department of Religious Affairs under the Latvian Council of Ministers, told LETA on March 15 that the number of parishes and religious organizations is growing in Latvia. Currently there are 256 Lutheran, 186 Roman Catholic, 61 Baptist, 90 Russian Orthodox, and 65-Old Believers' parishes in Latvia. These figures shed light on the situation of the larger religious denominations, but do not reflect the situation of the smaller sects, which have also become more active lately. (Dzintra Bungs) LATVIA ADOPTS LAW TO PROTECT RIGHTS OF NATIONAL MINORITIES. On March 19 the Latvian Supreme Council adopted a comprehensive law "On Free Development and Rights to Cultural Autonomy of the National and Ethnic Groups in Latvia." The law guarantees the rights of national minorities, which comprise about one-half of Latvia's population; it also states that any acts encouraging discrimination, national superiority, or strife are punishable by law. Deputy Ruta Marjasa noted that the pro-Moscow opposition faction of deputies, Ravnopravie, which claims to represent the Russian-speaking population of Latvia, took a passive stand during the drafting of this legislation, and did not disrupt the work of the deputies, Radio Riga reported March 19. (Dzintra Bungs) SQUARE IN VILNIUS NAMED AFTER SAKHAROV. On March 16 the square in front of the main printing house in Vilnius, which was seized by Soviet troops in January, was named after the late Soviet physicist and human rights activist Andrei Sakharov. Sakharov's widow, Elena Bonner, spoke at the dedication ceremonies, saying that "the Russian nation, those soldiers, [and] youths who are now in this building . . . should thank Lithuania for naming this square for Andrei Sakharov, a man who loved freedom more than they," Radio Kaunas reported March-19. (Saulius Girnius) LITHUANIAN AID TO STRIKING COALMINERS. The Lithuanian Workers' Union responded to the coal miners' strike in the USSR by organizing the collection of money and food in Lithuania to aid the strikers, union's chairman Aldona Balsiene told RFE/RL on March 18. More than 450 tons of food have already been sent to the miners in the Kuzbass, Donbass, and Vorkuta. The response was so great, in fact, that the collection of food was halted when it was not clear whether the various obstacles to its shipment could be overcome. The generosity of Lithuanians was in part prompted by the fact that the Kuzbass miners had immediately protested-the military assaults in Vilnius in January, even threat-ening to strike if they were not halted. (Saulius-Girnius) INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATORS SAY KREMLIN PLANNED CRACKDOWN. A group of retired military officers has published a report in Moscow News No. 9 in which they claim that the storming of the Vilnius television center on January 13 was carried out by the troops from the Pskov Airborne Division and the KGB "speznaz" detachment attached to the KGB's Seventh Administration, with help from tank units from the Vil'nus' garrison, all under the command of Colonel General Vladislav Ochalov. The report noted that three days earlier, a functional space telecommunications center, directly connected to Moscow, was installed at a military base in Vilnius, a fact they claim indicates that the Kremlin had immediate access to information from Vilnius. The authors conclude that the January 13 action was planned, approved, and coordinated by the central leadership-including President Mikhail Gorbachev-well in advance. (Victor Yasmann) USSR ALL-UNION TOPICS PRESIDENTIAL DECREE ON PRICE HIKES. USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev yesterday issued a decree introducing new retail state prices and tariffs for transportation and communications services as of April 2, TASS reported March 19. Money from the increases will be used to pay tax-free compensations (which will begin March-20) to the population and to finance salary increases for workers in the areas of education, health, social security, culture, and archives. Prices will not be raised on medicines and medical supplies, coffee, vodka, synthetic materials, and gas, coal, firewood, kerosene, etc. Chairman of the USSR State Committee on Prices Valentin Senchagov said the central government will set prices but republican governments will be allowed to make adjustments based on regional considerations. (Dawn Mann) SAVINGS ACCOUNTS TO BE FROZEN? According to AFP March 19, citing Interfax, a bill that would freeze 50% of the savings held in personal and private (co-operative) commercial accounts is being prepared. President of the Federation of Soviet Cooperatives Vladimir Tikhonov, speaking in Leningrad said this is "straightforward confiscation." USSR Prime Minister Valetin Pavlov reportedly outlined the plan at a closed meeting of the USSR Supreme Soviet on Tuesday. The presidential decree issued yesterday (see above) notes that "in connection with the price hikes" measures for compensating "losses to owners of deposits, USSR State Bank certificates, and state securities" need to be elaborated. (Dawn Mann) STRIKES SPREAD, GORBACHEV IN KEMEROVO. TASS reported March 19 that some 300,000 miners, mostly in the Donbass, Kuzbass, and Vorkuta are on strike. Gorbachev met with local officials in Kemerovo on Tuesday and promised that wages, tax laws, and food supplies would be adjusted for miners there, according to TASS. Gorbachev and the officials rejected the use of the strikes to press "unreasonable" political and economic demands. No representatives of the striking miners were present. In Kiev, Ukrainian deputy prime minister Viktor Gladush offered to begin negotiations with Donbass miners, while the directors of the Dobass "Pavlogradugol" association filed suit against their striking miners for ignoring procedures on strikes set out in Soviet labor laws. Miners in Chelyabinsk have sent a fully-empowered delegation to Moscow to seek talks, and a national strike committee that will seek the resignation of Gorbachev and his government was formed in Moscow yesterday. Miners in Karaganda and Rostov have suspended their strike until May 25 in order to give officials time to fulfill promises to improve living conditions. (NCA/Dawn Mann) BAKATIN ON MINERS' STRIKE. In his first interview since his political comeback as a member of the USSR Security Council, Vadim Bakatin supported Gorbachev's rejection of the Kuzbass miners' political demands. Bakatin told Vremya March 19 that if Gorbachev gave in to the miners' demands, he would be violating the USSR constitution. (Bakatin presumably had in mind the miners' demand that power be transferred to the Federation Council, an idea also put forward by RSFSR Supreme Soviet chairman Boris Yeltsin.) Bakatin criticized "certain groups of deputies" for raising tensions and abusing the miners' strikes to satisfy their own political ambitions. (Alexander Rahr) USSR PROSECUTOR GENERAL DEFENDS YELTSIN. USSR Prosecutor General Nikolai Trubin sent a legal evaluation of Yeltsin's March 9 speech (in which he declared "war" on the central leadership) to the USSR Supreme Soviet on Tuesday. According to TASS March 19, Trubin concluded that Yeltsin had not called for the forcible overthrow of the country's leadership. A number of USSR deputies had asked the Prosecutor General to evaluate the legality of Yeltsin's comments in light of the constitutional ban on calling for the forcible overthrow of the state. (Alexander Rahr) GORBACHEV CALLS FOR DEFENSE INDUSTRY RESTRUCTURING. Gorbachev told a meeting of economists on March 19 that restructuring of the defense industries offered one path out of the current economic crisis. According to a Pravda account of the meeting, summarized by Reuters, Gorbachev said: "Distortion in favor of military production in the economy has been our misfortune. But the military sector offers a colossal opportunity." He pointed especially to "processing, storage and transport of farm produce" as areas where the defense industries could help out. The statements imply a return to an earlier stage of reform in which the defense sector was charged with lifting the general economy. (Stephen Foye) MILITARY TELEVISION PROGRAM REVAMPED. "Na sluzhbe otechestvu" ("In the service of the fatherland"), Central Television's military program, has been replaced. Its successor, "Radar," aims to unite viewers on the basis of "spirituality, traditions, and pride for the Motherland," according to the Deputy Chief of the Main Political Administration of the Soviet Army, Colonel General Grigorii Stefanovsky, who moderated the first broadcast on March 17. The "Radar" television association was created in December, 1990 by the USSR Ministry of Defense, the All-Union Radio and Television Company, and the Soviet Cultural Foundation (where Stefanovsky is in charge of a special project on "The Army and Culture.") Guests on the first show included some of the most prominent figures of the "national patriotic" camp, including writers Valentin Rasputin and Aleksandr Prokhanov, journalist Aleksandr Nevzorov, Colonel Viktor Alksnis and Bishop Vikentii. (Victor Yasmann) PRAVDA EQUATES DEMOCRATIC ACTIVITY WITH COUP D'ETAT. "A remarkable aid for preparing a coup d'etat" is how Pravda on March-12 describes a handbook prepared by USSR people's deputy Arkadii Murashev for use by members of "Democratic Russia." Pravda's vitriolic commentary makes it clear that the handbook teaches activists how to operate a xerox machine, gives guidance on selecting candidates for election and running an electoral campaign, suggests they should fundraise by canvassing cooperatives and small enterprises, urges them to make contacts with the mass media, and advises them to learn how to organize a rally, demonstration, and strike. In Pravda's eyes, these activities-the very stuff of democratic politics-are nothing other than preparations for a "coup d'etat." (Elizabeth Teague) ALKSNIS DOUBTS RATIFICATION OF PARIS AGREEMENT. "I foresee big difficulties in the USSR Supreme Soviet with ratification of the Paris agreement on the reduction of conventional arms from the Atlantic to the Urals," Colonel Victor Alksnis said on "Radar" on March 17. Since November 1990, when agreement was reached, the entire concept on which the agreement was based has been "ruined" Alksnis said by the "one-sided concessions" of the USSR. Now, he continued, we face the exploding of the "last myth of perestroika, the myth of our successful foreign policy." (Victor Yasmann) RELATIONS WITH DOMINICAN REPUBLIC RENEWED. TASS reported March 19 the renewal of diplomatic relations with the Dominican Republic, which have been stagnant since 1959, according to TASS. There are no plans to exchange ambassadors. Rather, the Dominican Republic will use its mission in Germany to renew ties with the USSR, and the USSR will use its mission in Venezuela. (Suzanne Crow) IZVESTIA APPROVES RFE/RL NOBEL NOMINATION. Izvestia on March 14 commented on Estonian foreign minister Meri's nomination of RFE/RL for the Nobel Peace Prize. Izvestia observed that political changes in Eastern Europe in the past couple of years caused some people to say that RFE/RL had outlived its purpose. "However," Izvestia noted in a clear reference to the attempts of the Gorbachev leadership to reverse the course of glasnost, "in recent months no such statements have been heard." (Elizabeth Teague) FIRSTSOVIET STUDY OF KATYN MASSACRE. The first major Soviet study of the massacre by the NKVD of Polish officers in the Katyn woods in 1943 has been published in Moscow, TASS reported March 19. (Last year, the USSR officially admitted to Soviet responsibility for the crime, which it had blamed on the Nazis.) The book, Katynsky labirint ("The Labyrinth of Katyn"), written by Literaturnaya gazeta correspondent Vladimir Abarinov, contains new archival materials and interviews with still-living witnesses of the tragedy. (Vera Tolz) SHELEPIN DEPICTS BREZHNEV-TIME BORGIAS. On March 14, Trud began serializing the recollections of former KGB chairman and Politburo member Aleksandr Shelepin. Shelepin, who played a leading part in the plot against Nikita Khrushchev and later conspired to take the post of Leonid Brezhnev, takes issue with reformers who have criticized him in their own recently-published memoirs-Fedor Burlatsky, Georgii Arbatov and Sergei Khrushchev. Shelepin also relates, among other things, how Semen Tsvigun, the one-time deputy head of the KGB and Brezhnev's brother-in-law, invited a Party official to dinner. This official, who had intended to criticize Brezhnev at an upcoming Central Committee plenum, could not attend the plenum because he was in the hospital, suffering from food poisoning. (Julia Wishnevsky) USSR IN THE REPUBLICS MORE REFERENDUM RESULTS. Soviet referendum commission chairman Vladimir Orlov told the Supreme Soviet March 19 that in the nine republics where voting took place under normal conditions the results so far showed that 77% of those voting voted in favor of the Union, TASS reported. Preliminary results for the RSFSR were 71.75% in favor of the Union, and 71.09% in favor of instituting the office of president in the RSFSR, TASS reported March 19. Unfortunately, figures for the turnout are not yet available, but TASS reported that the final results of the all-Union referendum are now expected on March 21. (Ann Sheehy) ALLEGED VOTING FRAUD IN BELORUSSIA. Belorussian Popular Front leader Zyanon Paznyak told RFE-RL March 19 that a poll watcher sent by the democratic opposition to observe the referendum in Minsk's Zavodsky district was beaten up and ejected from the voting station by members of the official electoral committee. In addition, a free-lance journalist in Minsk reported voting irregularities in a number of Belorussian villages, including one case where the electoral committee in Rudinsk took the ballot box around to homes after the polls closed and urged people to vote for the Union. The journalist said there are numerous reports of people voting on behalf of relatives. (Belorussian BD/Kathy Mihalisko) MOLDAVIAN LEADERS ON THE REFERENDUM. At a press conference in Kishinev, the leaders of the Moldavian parliament sharply criticized the central Soviet media for "misleading the world" about the situation in Moldavia, Moldovapres reported March 19. The parliamentary leaders refuted allegations of the widespread use of physical intimidation against those wishing to vote in the referendum (which Moldavia refused to hold on its territory but which was nevertheless organized locally by military authorities and the soviets of some mixed- population districts). President Mircea Snegur termed the reporting by the central media "brutally insulting to the leaders and the people of Moldavia." Internal Affairs Minister Ion Costas said that the Moldavian police had prevented civilian pickets from blockading the voting centers and that isolated situations in which intimidation had occurred were being investigated by judicial authorities. (Vladimir Socor) CHORNOVIL SAYS WEST UKRAINE VOTE EXCEEDED EXPECTATIONS. Commenting to Le-Figaro, March 19, on West Ukraine's overwhelming vote in favor of Ukrainian independence, Lvov oblast soviet chairman Vyacheslav Chornovil said he was genuinely astonished by the magnitude of the victory, which, he said, surpassed even the results of the Baltic independence referendums. Chornovil claimed that at least 50% of the Russians in the region also voted for independence (though it is not clear whether he was referring to Russians who actually took part in the West Ukrainian ballot or to the total Russian population). (Kathy Mihalisko) UPDATED REFERENDUM RESULTS IN UKRAINE. The latest figures on the results of the balloting in the all-Union referendum in Ukraine show that 70.5% of the eligible voters supported the center's notion of a "renewed federation," Radio Kiev and Ukrinform-TASS reported March 19. The preliminary tally was 73.4%. The updated figure was announced in the Ukrainian Supreme Soviet and at a press conference of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine yesterday. (Roman Solchanyk) NEW RADICAL ECONOMIC REFORM PROGRAM FOR RUSSIA. The RSFSR Supreme Economic Council, under the chairmanship of Mikhail Bocharov, is currently working on a new economic program for the "revival of Russia," according to RSFSR deputy Aleksandr Deryagin. Deryagin told Radio Mayak March 19 that this program will establish the framework for future reform. Deryagin added that Bocharov's program seems very promising and could lead to significant improvements in the republican economy in a relatively short time. The program will be presented to the RSFSR Congress of People's Deputies when it meets at the end of March. (Alexander Rahr) RADIOROSSIYA REPORTEDLY JAMMED IN LENINGRAD OBLAST. Residents of Lodeinoe Pole in Leningrad oblast complain that broadcasts by Radio Rossiya are regularly jammed in their region, the radio's news service reported March 19. The head of the communications center of Lodeinoe Pole told the radio that he knew nothing about the jamming. (Vera Tolz) BELORUSSIAN CP WANTS TO CONTROL PLURALIST NEWSPAPER. Moskovskie novosti wrote March 3 that the Central Committee of the Belorussian Communist Party is unhappy with Narodnaya hazeta, the five-month-old organ of the republican Supreme Soviet. First secretary Anatolii Malofeev is said to have ordered Communist deputies to meddle in the affairs of the newspaper, and the ideological secretary recently raised the question of "ending the access of various dubious papers to the printing facilities of the Central Committee." Narodnaya hazeta strives to present the viewpoints of all deputies, printing interviews not only with the most conservative but also the appeals and protests of the non-Communist parliamentary opposition. (Kathy Mihalisko) MORE FATALITIES IN SOUTH OSSETIA. TASS quotes former Ossetian obkom first secretary Anatolii Chekhoev as claiming that four people were killed in clashes in Tskhinvali on the night of March 16-17, and two more on March 17 after the closing of the polls; Chekhoev further asserted that only nine of 43,000 persons who participated in the referendum voted "No." On March 18, Radio Tbilisi reported that four young Georgians were burned to death earlier that day by Ossetian extremists. The death toll since mid-December is now forty-four, including 11 police. (Liz Fuller) BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY IN KIEV. British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd began his visit to the Soviet Union yesterday with a first stop in Kiev, Radio Kiev and Ukrinform-TASS reported March-19. Hurd said starting in Ukraine will give him a different perspective on the Soviet Union than if he had arrived in Moscow. (NCA/Roman Solchanyk) UKRAINIAN-LANGUAGE PRESS DISAPPEARING FROM CRIMEA. According to Molod' Ukrainy March 5, newspapers in Ukrainian are increasingly difficult to buy in Crimea, which recently reasserted its status as an autonomous republic within the Ukrainian SSR. The problem apparently affects even the conservative Party organ Radyans'ka Ukraina. Instead, Crimean kiosks have started to stock Russian Federation papers such as Volzhskie novosti and the ultrarightist Sovetskaya Rossiya. In another sign of anti-Ukrainian sentiment in official Crimean circles, Yalta authorities are refusing to implement a decision to establish a museum to poetess Lesya Ukrainka. (Kathy Mihalisko) ANOTHER SENTENCE IN OSH AFFAIR. TASS reported March 19 that the Supreme Court of Kyrgyzstan has sentenced a participant in last summer's violence in Osh Oblast to 12 years imprisonment. The defendant, Ataman Tashaliev, was accused of having led an attack on Uzbek homes in the town of Uzgen, where some of the worst violence between Kirgiz and Uzbeks took place. According to the head of the investigating team sent by the USSR State Prosecutor's office, 65 cases arising from the Osh violence have been sent to the courts, and about half of these have already been heard. At least two death sentences have been handed down. (NCA/Bess Brown) [As of 1230 CET] Compiled by Doug Clarke & Dawn Mann
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