|There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in. - Graham Greene|
No. 57, 21 March 1991
BALTIC STATES BALTIC OFFICIALS AT COUNCIL OF EUROPE MEETING. On March 20, the mayor of Tartu, Toomas Mendelson, and Vilnius city council member Saulius Lapienis attended a local government conference at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, Reuters reported that day. The Balts' request for guest status at the council was not approved because, a council official explained, "The Council of Europe cannot take the initiative of officially recognizing the Baltic republics." As an intermediary step, the Council invited the Balts to this conference of local and regional authorities. (Saulius Girnius) EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT DELEGATION IN BALTICS. Radio Kaunas reported March 21 that a delegation from the European parliament, headed by one of its vice chairmen, was in Lithuania. The delegation visited the Lithuanian parliament today and will travel to Riga on March 22 and Tallinn on March 23. The visits are part of a decision taken by the European parliament to learn first-hand about the situation in the Baltic republics. (Saulius Girnius) DENMARK REJECTS SOVIET CRITICISM OVER BALTICS. According to Reuters and AFP of March 20, Denmark has rejected Soviet protests over the agreements it signed recently with Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Danish Foreign Minister Uffe Ellemann-Jensen said that the Danish-Baltic accords comply with notions of international law, though the USSR claimed that they amounted to interference in the Soviet Union's internal affairs. Ellemann-Jensen has invited Soviet Foreign Minister Aleksandr Bessmertnykh to discuss the issue. (Dzintra Bungs) BALTIC AND RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY OFFICIALS MEET. Radio Riga reported March 20 that Estonian, Latvian, and Estonian deputy foreign ministers or officials of comparable rank met with RSFSR foreign ministry officials to discuss further cooperation. Other details were not reported. Radio Riga pointed out that the RSFSR Supreme Soviet has still not endorsed the Latvian-RSFSR accord signed by its chairman, Boris Yeltsin, in January. (Dzintra Bungs) ESTONIA TO RAISE PRICES? There are conflicting reports on whether Estonia will implement the all-Union price increases decreed by USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev on March 19. That same day, DPA reported from Moscow that Estonia and Lithuania had not agreed to the increases (Daily Report, March 20), but Estonia's Prime Minister Edgar Savisaar told Rahva Haal on March 20 that prices will rise in Estonia. As of April 2, 30% of all prices will be fixed by the state, 30% will be regulated according to profitability, and the remaining 40% will be freely floating, Savisaar said. Currently, 70% of all prices are set by the state, 10% are set according to profitability, and 20% float freely. (Riina Kionka) GENERAL VARENNIKOV TALKS WITH LATVIAN REPRESENTATIVES. USSR Deputy Minister of Defense Valentin Varennikov met briefly with Latvian officials in Riga on March 20. On March 19, Varennikov attended a Party conference of the USSR Baltic Military District in Riga, according to TASS March 20. Janis Baskers, head of Latvia's Security Department, told Radio Riga on March 20 that the Latvian representatives, including Deputy Prime Minister Ilmars Bisers, had presented Varennikov with an agenda of 15 issues that they wish to discuss, including definition of the status of USSR armed forces in Latvia and reduction of Soviet military presence in the Baltics. Varennikov promised a prompt reply. He said that he had also made the trip to look over the Soviet naval harbor in Liepaja, Latvia, which may be turned over to civilian administration and to seek more information about the situation in Lithuania. (Dzintra Bungs) DISPUTE OVER REMUNERATION OF ABSENT DEPUTIES UNRESOLVED. The Ravnopravie faction of deputies boycotted the Latvian Supreme Council from January 13 to February 26 in an effort to exert pressure on the Council to give the faction greater decision-making powers both in the Council and the government. Trying to persuade the deputies to return, Council Chairman Anatolijs Gorbunovs stated that they would receive some remuneration for the days they were absent, despite regulations stating that deputies are only paid for the days that they actually participate in the work of the legislature. Radio Riga reported March 21 that this offer has not been endorsed by the majority of Supreme Council deputies. (Dzintra Bungs) RIGA-TEL AVIV FLIGHTS STARTED. Following Latvian-Israeli accords reached earlier this year, weekly flights between Riga and Tel Aviv started on March 20, TASS reported that day. Seven flights are scheduled before May 1. The flights are not intended for Soviet emigrants to Israel; neither TASS, nor Radio Riga of March 20 explained why such restrictions were made. Tickets can be purchased with rubles. (Dzintra Bungs) EFFORTS TO PROTECT CONSUMER INTERESTS IN LATVIA. Radio Riga reported March 20 about the work of the recently founded Club to Protect Consumer Interests in Riga. The club investigates consumers' complaints and tries to protect their rights vis-a-vis providers of faulty goods and services. The club is also drafting consumer-oriented laws to present to the Supreme Council for consideration. (Dzintra Bungs) SHOOTING INCIDENT IN VILNIUS. On March 20 OMON troops at a roadblock in Vilnius fired shots at a bus carrying Lithuanian border guards when it refused to stop, Reuters reported that day. Lithuanian President Vytautas Landsbergis told RFE/RL that he viewed the incident very seriously, as an intentional escalation of force by the Soviets. He denied the DPA dispatch that reported that there had been a fatality. At least three border guards were, hurt, however, by machine gun fire, one apparently is in serious condition. OMON troops have recently increased their activities in Lithuania, detaining on March 19 the director-general of the Lithuanian National Defense Department, Audrius Butkevicius, for more than twelve hours. (Saulius Girnius) USSR--ALL-UNION TOPICS SUPREME SOVIET APPROVES LAW ON CABINET OF MINISTERS. The USSR Supreme Soviet on March 20 adopted a law on the USSR Cabinet of Ministers, TASS reported that day. The law gives the Cabinet the right to issue decrees that can be abrogated only by the USSR president or the USSR Supreme Soviet, but the Supreme Soviet balked at giving the Cabinet the right, which Prime Minister Valentin Pavlov had requested, to make laws. (Earlier, the Supreme Soviet rejected Pavlov's bid for ministerial immunity from prosecution for negligent or even criminal acts committed in the course of work.) Under the new law, the USSR Supreme Soviet can force the cabinet to resign if at least two-thirds of the total membership support a vote of no confidence. Since it is rare for as many as two-thirds of the deputies to attend sessions, forcing the cabinet to resign will not be easy. (Elizabeth Teague) USSR PARLIAMENT DEBATES MINERS' DEMANDS. The USSR Supreme Soviet on March 20 heard a hunger-striking miner call for the dissolution of the USSR parliament. A large number of deputies then made speeches denouncing the miners' strike. As far as could be seen from Central Television's coverage, not one deputy spoke in the miners' support. (Elizabeth Teague) SUPREME SOVIET DISCUSSES CPSU ACTIVITIES. In response to a question raised by a liberal deputy, Yurii Kol'tsov, a few days ago, as to whether recent "illegal activities" conducted by the CPSU--such as the involvement of the CPSU in the creation of "national salvation committees"--made it impossible to register the Party in accordance with the USSR law on public organizations, USSR Justice Minister Sergei Lushchikov replied on March 20 that "the CPSU has not yet applied for official registration." But, according to the law, Lushchikov continued, political parties are to be registered on the basis of an evaluation of their programs and statutes, not of the speeches of their leaders. (Central Television's reportage of both Kol'tsov's query and Lushchikov's reply left unclear the question of which particular CPSU leaders were quoted by Kol'tsov as having made illegal pronouncements.) (Julia Wishnevsky) BESSMERTNYKH ON REPUBLICAN FOREIGN MINISTRIES. USSR Foreign Minister Aleksandr Bessmertnykh said the Council of Ministers for Foreign Affairs, recently established by the central government to coordinate the activities of the foreign ministries of the Union republics, could play a constructive role in resolving ethnic conflicts between republics. He told Radio Moscow March 20 that the creation of republican foreign ministries is also "essential" for promoting republican economic interests abroad. He indicated that he does not foresee major conflicts between the USSR and the republican foreign ministries as long as their actions are coordinated. (Alexander Rahr) DEMOCRATIC RUSSIA TO SUE KRAVCHENKO? According to Radio Rossiya March 20, the Democratic Russia bloc is going to attempt to have Leonid Kravchenko, the head of the All-Union State Company for Radio and Television, prosecuted for violating the USSR law on referendum. This law forbids any agitation for or against the proposals asked in a referenda on the day the vote is held, but throughout the day of March 17, both Soviet radio and TV continued to urge people to vote "yes" in the national referendum held that day. (Julia Wishnevsky) GORBACHEV'S STAFF TO PUBLISH NEWSPAPER. Moscow News No. 10 quoted unofficial sources as saying that the staff of USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev is going to publish a newspaper that will reflect the president's views. The paper, possibly to be called Utro, ("Morning"), will be printed by the Krasnaya zvezda publishing house. Planned circulation of the four-page paper is 100,000-200,000 copies. (Vera Tolz) RUSSIAN LITERATURE MUST PRESERVE TRADITIONAL ROLE. "Our society is still an evil empire," Russian writer Anatolii Kurchatkin told a PEN conference in Budapest on March 15-19. Kurchatkin represents the liberal "April" group of Soviet writers; while a minority in the conservative USSR Writers' Union, "April" includes most of those Russian authors who boast an international reputation. (Kurchatkin was beaten up when, in January 1990, "Pamyat" members gatecrashed an "April" meeting in Moscow's House of Writers.) According to Kurchatkin, the best that awaits the USSR is the long, hard road to democracy; the worst--a return to pre-1985 totalitarianism. Either way, Kurchatkin argued, Russian literature must continue to play the role it has played since the 19th century--highlighting social evils and criticizing political abuses. (Research Institute) CANCER DEATH RATE RISING BY 2% PER ANNUM. Professor Alexei Yablokov, deputy chairman of the USSR Supreme Soviet Ecology Committee, said that between 40 and 50 million Soviet citizens live in ecological disaster zones and that the number of deaths caused by cancer is rising by 2% a year. Yablokov, who was interviewed by the Belgian daily, De Morgen, on March 20, reported that recent tests on mothers' milk showed that half the samples contained "dangerous amounts of pesticides." The interview was summarized by Reuters. (Dawn Mann) CHINA TO BUY SOVIET MIG'S. The Chinese government has decided to buy an undisclosed number of Soviet MIG-27 fighter planes, DPA reported March 20. The sale announcement comes amid a four-day air show that opened on March 19 at a base near Beijing. The show marks the first demonstration of Soviet military technology in China since the two countries normalized relations in 1989 and reflects increasing cooperation between Moscow and Beijing. (Stephen Foye) YAZOV ON HONECKER, GULF. At a March 20 news conference in Leningrad, USSR Defense Minister Dmitrii Yazov suggested that Erich Honecker should be considered a political refugee and that Moscow owed him a debt of gratitude, Reuters reported. Yazov also said that the allied ground war in the Gulf had little strategic relevance for the Soviet Union and asserted that the Soviet T-72 tank used by Syria had outperformed its U.S. counterpart. Yazov did say that the allies' use of guided missiles, massive airpower, electronic warfare and suppression of command and control provided important lessons for the Soviet Union. He also praised the performance of U.S. general Norman Schwarzkopf, saying it required great skill to manage a multi-national coalition. (Stephen Foye) MORMONS PRAISED BY LITGAZ. The lifestyle and beliefs of Mormons (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) living in Salt Lake City were described in enthusiastic terms in Literaturnaya gazeta No. 9 by a correspondent who paid a visit there. According to the correspondent, the most important Mormon qualities--firmness of spirit and unyielding labor--are precisely the ones that are most lacking in the USSR. His report also noted that the Mormon community in the Soviet Union, which was only recently established, now counts 70 believers. (In September 1990, Mormon Church headquarters in the United States said that this community had been official recognized.) (Oxana Antic) USSR--IN THE REPUBLICS REPUBLICAN SIGNATORIES TO PRICE REFORM AGREEMENT. The text of the price reform agreement between the USSR and the republics, published in Pravda March 20, shows that it was signed by all the Union republics except the Baltic. However, while the president or chairman of the supreme soviet signed for 10 of the republics, neither Yeltsin nor Zviad Gamsakhurdia, chairman of the Georgian Supreme Soviet, signed. Yeltsin's first deputy, Ruslan Khasbulatov, signed for the RSFSR, and the Georgian premier signed for Georgia. The accompanying protocol--which provides for the nine richer republics to pay sums into a fund to ensure the net minimum compensation payments in the Central Asian republics, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan--was signed only by the Slav, Central Asian and Kazakh republics. (Ann Sheehy) RSFSR REFERENDUM RESULTS. The results of the March 17 referendums from 77 of the 88 polling districts in the RSFSR show a turnout of 76.1% for the all-Union referendum and 75.42% for the RSFSR referendum, TASS reported March 20. 70.88% of those participating voted in favor of preserving the Union, and 70% in favor of instituting the post of RSFSR president. This indicates that little more than a bare majority of the total number of eligible voters supported each motion--53.9% in the case of the all-Union referendum, and 52.8% in the RSFSR. Given that the RSFSR referendum was not held in the North Ossetian, Chechen-Ingush, Tatar, and Tuvin ASSR's, it cannot be ruled out that the motion in favor of introducing the post of RSFSR president would have been defeated if the Presidium of the RSFSR Supreme Soviet had not decided on March 18 that instituting the office of president was not a constitutional matter and therefore did not require that over half the eligible voters come out in favor, but only over half of those voting. (Ann Sheehy) RSFSR FEDERATION COUNCIL DISCUSSES FEDERAL, UNION TREATIES. On March 20 the RSFSR Federation Council approved the draft federal treaty which is to regulate relations between the federal organs of power in the republic and its constituent parts, TASS reported. The draft is now being sent to soviets at all levels for examination. At the same session, "stormy debates" took place over whether the autonomous republics should sign the new Union treaty--as most of them wish to do. The meeting came to the conclusion that the Union treaty should be signed by an RSFSR delegation that would include delegations from the autonomous republics and other national-territorial and territorial units of the RSFSR, but the final decision will rest with the RSFSR Congress of People's Deputies, which opens March 28. (Ann Sheehy) MOSCOW DEPUTIES GO ON HUNGER STRIKE. Ten members of the Moscow City Council have declared a hunger strike to protest against the refusal of USSR Interior Minister Boris Pugo to replace the present head of Moscow's Main Administration of Interior Affairs, Lieutenant General Petr Bogdanov, with General Major Vyacheslav Komissarov, Radio Rossiya reported March 20. In contrast to Petr Bogdanov, who in the early 1980's worked for the KGB, Komissarov is professional police officer. His last position was as a professor in the Academy of the USSR Ministry of Internal Affairs, where he gained quite a liberal reputation. His appointment was approved by the Moscow city soviet, but although the Moscow city police are subordinate to both the city council and the USSR MVD, Pugo has insisted that cadres policy is a function of the central authorities. (Victor Yasmann) SVERDLOVSK COMMUNISTS START NEW PERIODICAL. The first edition of the newspaper of the Sverdlovsk city Party committee, Spravedlivost' ("Justice"), has been published, according to Krasnaya zvezda March 15. The city Party committee had been one of the founders of the paper Severnyi rabochii, but the Committee claimed that, in the current political situation, the paper did not give Sverdlovsk Communists "enough space to reflect their stance." In order to attract readers to their new newspaper, the committee is charging less for the paper than is charged for any other printed publications available in Sverdlovsk. (Vera Tolz) CEASEFIRE AGREED IN SOUTH OSSETIA. TASS reported March 21 that a meeting of leaders of rival Georgian and Ossetian armed groups had agreed on a ceasefire and will establish a permanent radio link in an effort to preclude further clashes. No confirmation of this report has yet been received from Georgian sources. Shooting was nonetheless reported yesterday in the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali. (Liz Fuller) CHERNOBYL'-RELATED INVESTIGATION OF KURSK OFFICIALS. criminal charges have been filed against officials in Kursk Oblast' (RSFSR) in connection with the 1986 accident at the nearby Chernobyl' nuclear plant. Radio Moscow March 20 said that radioactive fallout had reached five districts of Kursk but local authorities nonetheless allowed the May Day demonstrations to go ahead. It is worth noting, however, that the Chernobyl' affair has been rife with scapegoating in the five years since the tragedy: the decision not to cancel May Day parades, despite catastrophically high radiation in the western Soviet Union, was almost certainly taken in the Kremlin. (Kathy Mihalisko) ROMANIAN AMBASSADOR IN KIEV. Fast on the heels of British Foreign Minister Douglas Hurd's visit to Kiev, Ukrainian leader Leonid Kravchuk yesterday also welcomed Romania's ambassador to the USSR, Vasile Sandru. Sandru brought a letter from Petre Roman to the Ukrainian Supreme Soviet, in which the Romanian Prime Minister is said to have presented his views on mutual cooperation between his country and Ukraine. (Kathy Mihalisko) MOLDAVIAN LEADERS HOLD NEWS CONFERENCE IN MOSCOW. At a news conference at Moldavia's representation in Moscow, reported by Moldovapres, Moldavian Supreme Soviet First Vice-president Ion Hadarca and First Vice-premier Constantin Oboroc termed the "center's" attempt to hold the Union referendum in Moldavia despite the republic's refusal "a scenario written by the center and enacted by the military and pro-imperial forces in Moldavia." The speakers expressed concern that the Union authorities intended to use conducting the referendum as an excuse to impose a state of emergency in Moldavia. Those attending the news conference were shown Moldavian TV films documenting military pressuring of voters during the referendum and official encouragement of multiple voting. (Vladimir Socor) (END)
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