There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in. - Graham Greene
RFE/RL Daily Report

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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