|Every man passes his life in the search after friendship. - Emerson|
No. 59, 25 March 1991
BALTIC REPUBLICS BALTIC COUNCIL MEETING IN JURMALA. The Baltic Council, consisting of top leaders from Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, met in Jurmala on March 22 to evaluate the Baltic situation. This was their first meeting since the Soviet crackdown in January in Lithuania and Latvia. The Baltic leaders called for an international conference to discuss ways to restore independence in their countries and they appealed for help in gaining membership in the CSCE, Reuters and Radio Riga reported March 23. (Dzintra Bungs) LATVIAN CITIZENS' CONGRESS SESSION ENDS INCONCLUSIVELY. On March 23 and 24 representatives of the Latvian Citizens' Congress convened in Riga for its fifth session. The citizens' movement is plagued by disunity and financial problems. Many delegates wanted to elect a new leadership, but this was not possible because on the second day there was not quorum. The congress also failed to map out some solutions to the financial problems. According to RFE Latvian Service correspondent's report of March 24, after two days of stormy debates the session ended inconclusively without resolving any of the serious problems that the participants had hoped to resolve. (Dzintra Bungs) USSR MILITARY PRESENCE IN LATVIA. On March 17, Eriks Tilgass, identified as a Latvian government adviser on military affairs, told Latvian Television that, according to the information that he had been able to obtain, there were 120,000 Soviet soldiers stationed in Latvia and that USSR troops continue to be transferred from Eastern Europe to three regions in Latvia, including Talsi. On March 18, Radio Riga remarked that these figures tend to be low when compared to other recent estimates. According to Tilgass, the Soviet military occupies 326 sites in Latvia that add up to over 70,000 hectares of land for which they pay no rent or invest in its upkeep. (Dzintra Bungs) LATVIAN DEMOCRATIC GROUPS ON CITIZENSHIP RIGHTS. According to Radio Riga March 23, the People's Front of Latvia, and nine other pro-independence organizations have adopted a statement on Latvian citizenship. The statement says that the issues concerning Latvian citizenship cannot be resolved until Latvia gains de facto independence from the USSR. The ten groups also condemned interethnic strife and violence and said that they "are ready to protect [the rights of] any inhabitant of Latvia regardless of his nationality or citizenship." (Dzintra Bungs) FORMER PRESIDENT NIXON IN LITHUANIA. Former US President Richard Nixon visited Lithuania on March 23 and 24 at the invitation of President Vytautas Landsbergis. Radio Kaunas reported March 24 that thousands of cheering people lined the streets of Vilnius leading from the airport to the Lithuanian parliament building. Nixon met with Landsbergis, Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius, the chairmen of the parliament's commissions, leaders of political parties, and representatives of ethnic minority groups. He also visited the buildings seized by the Soviet military in January and placed flowers on the graves of some of the victims of the attack. Nixon said that the independence of Lithuania was "inevitable." (Saulius Girnius) USSR--ALL-UNION TEMPORARY TAXATION MEASURES. On March 24, TASS carried two presidential decrees connected with the retail price increases scheduled for April 2. The first listed temporary (of unspecified duration) taxation provisions that a) lowered the corporation tax from 45% to 35%, b) raised the enterprise manpower tax ceiling to 480 rubles a month per worker or employee, c) raised kolkhoz manpower taxes to 160 rubles a month for each kolkhoznik employed in the public sector, and d) raised monthly income relief on individual taxation to 160 rubles (Keith Bush) INDEXATION OF SAVINGS ACCOUNTS. The second decree of March 24 provided for offset payments amounting to 40% of the value of savings deposits held on March 1. Together with increments to wages and monetary transfer payments, this is intended partially to compensate the population for the forthcoming retail price increases. Offset payments of up to 200 rubles will be payable from July 1. Compensation payments above this level will be frozen for three years, although they will earn interest of 7% per annum. Since current rates of inflation are considerably in excess of 7%, this provision will reduce the real value of savings and will adversely affect public confidence. (Keith Bush) FURTHER DECLINE IN OUTPUT. Gross industrial output during the first two months of 1991 fell by 4.5% compared with the corresponding period of 1990, according to The Financial Times of March 22, citing Goskomstat data. The reasons given were: shortages of raw materials; the breaking of contracts; the failure to conclude contracts; and industrial disputes. (The latter excludes the coalminers' strike that started on March 1). Physical declines included soap--down 17%, and cigarettes--down 6%. (Keith Bush) MINERS' REFUSE TO RETURN TO WORK. USSR Prime Minister Valentin Pavlov on Friday called on striking coalminers to return to work today, but strike leaders say the strike will continue, news agencies reported over the weekend. Speaking on Central Television on Saturday, Pavlov said that a continuation of the strike would mean that all workers, including miners, would have to work for several years to repair the economic damage. USSR Minister of the Coal Industry Mikhail Shchadov, also interviewed on television Saturday, said the strike is affect many other sectors of the economy and that his ministry cannot deal with political demands, but that it will try to resolve economic problems. The USSR government formed 11 special commissions on Friday and sent dispatched members to coal-producing areas to negotiate, TASS reported that day. (Dawn Mann) GORBACHEV INDICATES REPUBLICS MAY LEAVE. USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev indicated in his interview with Der Spiegel on March 25 that those republics wishing to secede from the Soviet Union may do so and would subsequently be treated by the Kremlin as subjects of international law. He added, however, that the republics could secede only in accordance with existing Soviet law. Gorbachev compared the republican drive for independence with the shift of former East European allies from Moscow to the West in 1989, noting that today these former allies are again seeking to re-establish ties with the Soviet Union. Gorbachev said that to quit the Soviet federation would be "madness" and that even Jesus Christ could not succeed in splitting Soviet society. (Alexander Rahr) POLITICAL PARTIES FACE REGISTRATION PROBLEMS. The majority of political parties, including the CPSU, still have not submitted to the USSR and republican Ministries of Justice the documents necessary to obtain official registration as required under the new law on public associations. TASS reported March 22 that "the second round" of registrations took place at the USSR Justice Ministry that day, 22 non-political groups were registered. So far, none of the self-proclaimed all-Union political parties have been able to meet the registration requirements. Several parties, have, however, been registered in the RSFSR, by republican authorities there earlier this year. (Vera Tolz) IVASHKO CLAIMS DECLINE IN PARTY MEMBERSHIP HAS HALTED. In its Press Review on March 23, TASS cited deputy general secretary Vladimir Ivashko as saying that "one out of every 9 people who left the CPSU in 1990 is now coming back" and that hundreds of thousands joined the Party last year. (Suzanne Crow) REPORT ON SOLDIERS' DEATHS HUSHED UP. Knight-Ridder Newspapers reported March 24 that a study on peacetime deaths in the Soviet army--which charges that thousands of soldiers have been tortured, beaten, or killed by fellow soldiers--has been suppressed by the military. Written by a commission formed in November 1990 on the orders of Gorbachev, the study claimed that 6,000 to 10,000 suspicious deaths had occurred between 1986 and 1990. The main causes of violence reportedly were: rivalry between ethnic groups, hazing of new recruits by officers, and harassment of younger soldiers by older ones. A TASS account said only that peacetime deaths were caused by "weak discipline." (Stephen Foye) GORBACHEV ON FOREIGN POLICY. In his Der Spiegel interview, Gorbachev was asked to comment on the extent to which his significant successes in foreign policy helped him. Gorbachev said, "what we did in foreign affairs was necessary for us and everybody else." On the Gulf, Gorbachev noted, "we have reminded our American friends that the situation regarding the presence of troops must be returned to that which existed on August 1 of last year," TASS reported March 25. (Suzanne Crow) BESSMERTNYKH TO CHINA. Foreign Minister Aleksandr Bessmertnykh will visit China from March 31 to April 2, the Chinese Foreign Ministry announced March 24. Bessmertnykh extends the series of recent Soviet visits to China and will likely make preparations for the prospective May 1991 visit of Chinese Communist Party chief Jiang Zemin, the first visit by a high-level Chinese Party leader since 1957, AFP and AP reported March 24. (Suzanne Crow) SUPREME SOVIET COMMITTEES ON GERMAN TREATIES. The USSR Supreme Soviet Committees on Defense and Security and on International Affairs met on March 22 and decided to recommend conditional ratification of the two remaining treaties with Germany concerning the withdrawal of Soviet troops and Bonn's financial assistance connected with this pullout. As TASS reported March 22, the two treaties with Germany received "great attention" and "specific proposals" connected with their ratification were made. TASS has not yet reported on details of the committees' proposals, but it is widely suspected that the Supreme Soviet will seek more German compensation for the Soviet pullout. (Suzanne Crow) ADVISERS TO COME OUT OF CAMBODIA. Unidentified Soviet officials told AFP on March 24 that Moscow is preparing to pull its technicians out of Cambodia due to economic problems in the Soviet Union. The technicians work in the water and electricity plants in Cambodia. Moscow has also recently cut financial aid to the besieged Phnom Penh government. (Suzanne Crow) INDIA TO EXTEND FRIENDSHIP TREATY. India's Foreign Secretary Muchkund Dubey discussed the extension of New Delhi's 1971 Treaty of Friendship with the Soviet Union in view of its scheduled expiration in August 1991. While the treaty calls for automatic renewal for five-year terms after the initial twenty-year period, Dubey told reporters that the new term would be longer--perhaps up to 20 years, the New York Times reported March 24. (Suzanne Crow) KRASNAYA ZVEZDA ON SOVIET MILITARY POWER. A staff writer for the armed force's newspaper charged on March 22 that the Soviet Union has become a second-rate power in relation to the "hyper power" of the U.S. As summarized by Reuters, the author, Captain S. Sidorov, said Washington no longer viewed Moscow as an equal and implied that the U.S. was likely to throw its weight around as a result of the Gulf War. Sidorov argued that a primary reason for the USSR's strategic decline was domestic instability. He said that until a political consensus is forged, Moscow "shall obtain nothing from the Americans but attempted 'diktat' and other manifestations of the Persian syndrome." (Stephen Foye) RUSSIAN PHILOSOPHER ON DISINTEGRATION OF USSR. The monthly magazine of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Troops, Na boevom postu (No. 1) reprinted an essay by the famous emigre philosopher, Ivan Il'in, titled "What will the dismemberment of Russia bring to the world?" In this futuristic work, written in late 1940's, Il'in forecast that after the fallacy of the Communist regime in the USSR had been exposed, "world propaganda" would be tempted to encourage the disintegration of the USSR, a step that would, Il'in argued, be extremely dangerous and lead only to chaos. The only way to prevent anarchy would be to establish a "Russian national dictatorship" that would suppress all separatist movements, Il'in, who died in 1954, wrote. The magazine's editorial comment was that "democracy and liberty" could not justify the splitting of a monolithic state--such a split would eventually spell the end of world civilization.(Victor Yasmann) COSSACK SQUADS HELP ARMY, MVD WITH JOINT PATROLS. Strong young men in 1913-style Cossacks' uniforms have joined the MVD and the Army in patrolling the streets, airports, and railway stations of Eastern Siberian cities, according to Komsomol'skaya pravda March 22. The young men belong to the Baikal Cossack community, which decided to form its own squads to maintain public order. The Cossacks volunteers were trained by local MVD the officers. Last December, Komsomolskaya pravda reported on the desire of Orenburg Cossacks to volunteer in the KGB Border Troops. The newspaper has also expressed its concern over the revival of a Cossack tradition: whipping people found guilty of immoral behavior. On February 9, Komsomol'skaya pravda reported on the occurrence of a whipping in the Kuban' Cossack community. (Victor Yasmann) RESTORERS VERSUS CLERGY. Radio Rossiya March 22 reported on a press-conference that was organized in connection with the opening of an exhibition, "Paintings of Pskov in the 13th through the 17th Centuries." Emotions flared during the press conference over the return of some "cultural memorials," that is, monasteries and church buildings, to the Russian Orthodox Church. Radio Rossiya broadcast remarks made by the chairman of the Restorers' Association of the USSR, Savelii Yamtchekov, who accused the Church of having let unique wall paintings and other art treasures rot. (Oxana Antic) USSR--IN THE REPUBLICS GAMSAKHURDIA, YELTSIN REACH AGREEMENT ON SOUTH OSSETIA. On March 23 RSFSR Supreme Soviet chairman Boris Yeltsin travelled to Vladikavkaz, the capital of the North Ossetian ASSR, where he told a large rally that he would try to send relief for Ossetian refugees from Georgia. Radio Rossii reported that Yeltsin then travelled south to Georgia where he met with Georgian Supreme Soviet chairman Zviad Gamsakhurdia in the village of Kazbegi. The two men agreed on measures to halt ethnic clashes in South Ossetia. According to Interfax, these include creation of a joint militia force to disarm illegal groups and keep order, and requesting the withdrawal of USSR Defence Ministry units. They also agreed on an accord between Georgia and the RSFSR to be signed before the end of April. (Liz Fuller) BUT FIGHTING CONTINUES. TASS reported March 24 that heavy fighting was continuing in South Ossetia for the fourth consecutive day. Shells were fired at Tskhinvali on the night of March 23-24; residents were beaten in two Ossetian villages on March 24, and homes set ablaze in two further villages. Eight Ossetians are reported to have been wounded. The TASS report contradicts an earlier claim by the Georgian Interior Ministry that the ceasefire reported on March 20 was still in force. On March 22 TASS reported reprisals against Ossetians living elsewhere in Georgia. (Liz Fuller) RSFSR SUPREME SOVIET DEBATES YELTSIN. On March 23, debate broke out in the RSFSR Supreme Soviet over Yeltsin's remarks to Leningrad's Kirov factory workers (see below), TASS reported March 24. TASS reported that Yeltsin was both criticized and defended (he himself was on his way to North Ossetia). sendimir Isakov, chairman of the RSFSR Supreme Soviet Council of the Republic, told Sovetskaya Rossiya March 23 that Yeltsin is establishing a "ruthless" dictatorship and "suppressing all dissent." Isakov is one of those who called for the upcoming special session of the RSFSR Congress of People's Deputies at which conservatives hope to remove Yeltsin from office. On March 17, a special question was put to voters in Isakov's district, asking whether they wanted to recall Isakov as their deputy--two-thirds voted in favor. (Dawn Mann/Julia Wishnevsky) YELTSIN INTENSIFIES CAMPAIGN AGAINST GORBACHEV. Yeltsin told workers at the Kirov industrial plant in Leningrad last Friday that if he is elected RSFSR president he would purge Communist Party officials from local government posts, Reuters reported March 22. The same day, Leningrad Television broadcast a part of Yeltsin's speech, in which he said, "today we need to save the country not from the enemy without, but from the enemy within." He urged the factory workers to abandon their ties to the center and to place themselves under the jurisdiction of the RSFSR parliament and offered them financial inducements to do so. Yeltsin repeated his accusations against USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev, adding that the latter has no desire to accommodate the RSFSR. Workers at the Kirov plant have promised to go on strike if Yeltsin is unseated at the upcoming RSFSR Congress of People's Deputies, Reuters reported March 23. (Alexander Rahr) THURSDAY'S RALLY NOT BANNED. The Moscow city council has given Democratic Russia permission to hold a rally in Moscow's Manege Square on March 28, the opening day of the RSFSR Congress of People's Deputies, Radio Moscow reported March 23. The USSR Supreme Soviet last Thursday issued a resolution urging the city council to ban the rally (Daily Report, March 22). That resolution authorized the USSR government to take steps to ensure order and safety, and on March 24 Gorbachev ordered the USSR Cabinet of Ministers to "take all necessary measures" to maintain order, TASS reported that day. Gorbachev acted in response to an appeal sent to him by 29 RSFSR people's deputies, who charged that at past congresses deputies were psychologically "terrorized" and even physically attacked, and that Yeltsin and other officials have not responded to their calls for protection. (Dawn Mann) YELTSIN VISITS CHECHEN-INGUSH REPUBLIC. Yeltsin continued his tour of the southern parts of the RSFSR with a visit March 24 to the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Republic, TASS reported that day. In the town of Nazrany, Yeltsin addressed a rally that has been under way for nearly two weeks. Demonstrators have been demanding restoration of the autonomous status of the Ingush people, abolished in 1934. They are also demanding the return of territory transferred to neighboring North Ossetia after the Ingush were evicted from their native land in 1944. TASS says that, in a speech at the rally, Yeltsin offered to help restore the autonomy of the Ingush people. But he suggested that the territorial dispute with North Ossetia be resolved through negotiations involving the RSFSR parliament. (NCA) YELTSIN MEETS HURD. In a meeting with British foreign secretary Douglas Hurd, Yeltsin described the process underway in the Soviet Union as "reorganization on a truly democratic basis." TASS March 21 quoted him saying that it is "high time" to raise relations between the Russian Federation and Britain to a higher level. RSFSR foreign minister Andrei Kozyrev, who participated in the meeting, told reporters later that Yeltsin had dispelled Western apprehensions that the Soviet Union is heading towards civil war. Kozyrev said Yeltsin described the economic reform process in the Russian Federation at length and that both sides have agreed to promote further contacts between representatives of the RSFSR and Britain. (Alexander Rahr) BOLDYREV SAYS MINERS WILL SHOW SUPPORT FOR YELTSIN. Ukrainian strike leader Yurii Boldyrev, a USSR people's deputy, said March 24 that striking miners from the Donbass, Kuzbass, and possibly other regions will meet in Moscow on March 27-28 to try to unify their demands, AP and Reuters reported. The meeting is timed to coincide with the opening of the RSFSR Congress of People's Deputies, at which there may be an attempt by Communists to put a vote of no confidence in Yeltsin. Boldyrev says that the meeting will show the miners' support for Yeltsin. (NCA/Kathy Mihalisko) KRAVCHUK SAYS MINERS SHOULD NEGOTIATE WITH REPUBLIC. Speaking March 22 in the Ukrainian Supreme Soviet to representatives of the Donbass coal miners, chairman Leonid Kravchuk upbraided the strikers for turning to the central government in Moscow for help. As quoted by Ukrinform-TASS, Kravchuk stressed that economic problems are a matter for the Ukrainian government and parliament alone, and he wondered why the striking regions, which had voted by a large majority in favor of Ukraine's sovereignty in the March 17 republican plebiscite, should now be "bringing the republic to its knees." (Kathy Mihalisko) STRIKES IN WEST DONBASS RULED ILLEGAL. The Dnepropetrovsk oblast' court ruled March 22 that strikes at the Pavlograd Coal conglomerate and at the "Heroes of the Cosmos" mines are illegal, in accordance with the USSR law on labor conflicts that was passed in October, 1989. Radio Kiev-3 explained that the strikers, for their part, are arguing that work stoppages this month are a continuation of the strikes held in the summer of 1989, before that law was passed. (Kathy Mihalisko) MOLDAVIAN POPULAR FRONT AIDING STRIKING MINERS. The Moldavian Popular Front's Executive Committee appealed March 22 to the people of Moldavia to send aid to striking coal miners in Russia and the Ukraine. It urged people to bring food parcels to special collection points and to donate money into a special bank account in Kishinev for the miners. The appeal said that the central authorities "oppose not only the interests of the outlying national republics but also those of Russia, seeking to perpetuate the humiliation and impoverishment of all peoples of the USSR including the Russian people." (Vladimir Socor) CRIMEAN ASSR CHOOSES NEW CHAIRMAN, PREPARES CONSTITUTION. The first session of the Supreme Soviet of the recently reestablished Crimean autonomous republic was held March 22. Radio Kiev-2 announced that Nikolai Bagrov, chairman of the Crimean Oblast soviet, and his deputy, Georgii Kapshuk, were elected to the chairmanship and deputy chairmanship of the Crimean ASSR. A commission was created to work out a constitution for the autonomous republic, and it was decided to elect 39 new deputies to the Crimean SupSov from among the deported nationalities. (Kathy Mihalisko) MOLDAVIA CONCERNED OVER POSSIBLE EXCEPTIONAL MEASURES. The Moldavian Supreme Soviet presidium made public March 23 a resolution condemning "the slander campaign against Moldavia" which, it said, was being conducted by Pravda, Krasnaya Zvezda, Central Television, and other central media organs, as well as by the USSR Supreme Soviet deputies including Marshal Sergei Akhromeev and the chairman of the Soyuz group, Yurii Blokhin. The Moldavian presidium expressed concern that the campaign is designed "to prepare the ground for imposing exceptional measures in Moldavia, bringing the Moldavian people back into a state of vassalage and raising the danger of Moldavia's territorial dismemberment," in retaliation for Moldavia's boycott of the Union referendum. (Vladimir Socor) KISHINEV SCORES ROMANIAN NONRECOGNITION. The Moldavian parliament's newspaper Sfatul Tarii March 22 criticized the Romanian government for failing to distinguish between residents of Moldavia and other Soviet citizens in terms of visa, residency, border traffic, and currency exchange regulations. Complaining that the new Romanian-Soviet agreement on the matter did not include any facilities for Moldavians, Sfatul Tarii commented that Romania is "tacitly failing to recognize the sovereignty of the Republic of Moldavia," negotiating instead directly with Moscow and bypassing Kishinev on issues of direct interest to Moldavia. The article was clearly timed to the Romanian Foreign Minister's impending stopover in Kishinev. (Vladimir Socor) ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN KISHINEV. Stopping over in Kishinev March 24 on his return to Romania from an official visit to Moscow and Kiev, Romanian Foreign Minister Adrian Nastase met briefly with the Moldavian leadership. Moldovapres said that the sides discussed "the need to improve their coordination." President Mircea Snegur commented on the need for special border-crossing facilities for Romanian and Moldavian residents only. Rompres cited Nastase as envisaging a "cultural confederation" and eventually an "economic confederation" of Romania and Moldavia--in fact the formula launched by Snegur on his visit to Romania last month. (Vladimir Socor) VOTING BEGINS IN GEORGIAN REFERENDUM. TASS reported March 23 that voting had begun in Georgia for those who, for whatever reason, would be prevented from participating in the referendum planned for March 31 on whether Georgia's independent status of 1918-1921 should be restored. (Liz Fuller) IRANIAN DELEGATION VISITS AZERBAIJAN. Tehran Domestic Radio reported March 22 that a political and cultural delegation headed by Ayatollah Musavi-Ardebili is visiting Baku. The Ayatollah participated in a special 45 minute broadcast on Azerbaijani television on the occasion of Nowruz; he also met with Azerbaijani President and CP first secretary Ayaz Mutalibov. (Liz Fuller) "MUSCOVITES CHOOSE FREEDOM OF THE PRESS." This was the conclusion drawn by Nezavisimaya gazeta February 7, in its reportage on an opinion poll conducted by the Moscow branch of Tatyana Zaslavskaya's Center for Public Opinion Studies. The poll, which queried 500 Muscovites of various ages and professions, sought to assess the credibility of various local newspapers with regard to their coverage of the Baltic crackdown. Liberal, pro-Baltic newspapers proved to be most trusted, while none of the three Communist Party papers were. Pollsters also asked whether respondents agreed or disagreed with Gorbachev's proposal to suspend the USSR Press Law and reinstate censorship: only 11% agreed, 79% disagreed, and 10% were undecided. (Julia Wishnevsky) (END) [As of 1230 CET]
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