|When in doubt, tell the truth. - Mark Twain|
No. 63, 02 April 1991
IN THE BALTIC STATES RUUTEL, MERI MEET BUSH. Chairman of Estonia's Supreme Council Arnold Ruutel and Foreign Minister Lennart Meri met with US President George Bush on March 29 at the White House, RFE's Estonian Service reported that day. During the 45-minute meeting, Ruutel told Bush that Moscow is still not negotiating seriously with the Baltic states. Ruutel also reiterated a recent all-Baltic request for an international conference to discuss the status of the Baltic states. Ruutel, who is visiting the US for the first time, told RFE/RL that President Bush seemed genuinely concerned about Estonia's problems. (Riina Kionka) ESTONIAN, SOVIET TEAMS TALK. The Estonian and USSR negotiating delegations met on March 28 for the first time since last Fall. Estonian Supreme Council speaker and chief negotiator Ulo Nugis told RFE/RL that day by telephone from Moscow that he hoped the current consultations would lead to full negotiations. The two sides have not met since last Fall, when talks broke down after the Soviet team announced it could only talk about Estonia's participation in the new Union treaty. (Riina Kionka) LITHUANIAN-SOVIET TALKS TO START THIS WEEK? Radio Vilnius and TASS reported on March 30 that Lithuanian Supreme Council chairman Vytautas Landsbergis had accepted "with pleasure" USSR Deputy Prime Minister Vitalii Doguzhiev's proposal to resume bilateral talks on April 4 and 5. The agenda has not been announced. Working groups are to meet on April 3. The first talks, scheduled for March 26, did not take place--reportedly on account of Doguzhiev's dissatisfaction that Landsbergis was not leading the Lithuanian delegation and that the Lithuanian side had set preconditions for the meeting. (Dzintra Bungs) GORBUNOVS: BALTIC INDEPENDENCE TO BE SETTLED IN MOSCOW. Chairman of the Latvian Supreme Council Anatolijs Gorbunovs told the press, according to Radio Riga of March 28, that he believes the issue of Baltic independence will be resolved in talks in Moscow. He observed that though the search for European support for Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian independence is strongly disliked by the Soviet government, including USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev, the Baltic governments have to resort to such activity because of the lack of constructive action in this direction on the part of the Kremlin. (Dzintra Bungs) MORE PRICE INCREASES IN LATVIA. Latvia raised prices on a wide variety of items in January but is now being forced to increase the prices of many other items as a consequence of the Union-wide price hikes ordered by Moscow. In Latvia the latest increases involve those goods and services heretofore highly subsidized by the government. Consequently the Latvian government plans to increase the existing monthly compensation of 66 rubles to adults (and 40-50 rubles for children). Although Latvia is already compensating its population for the price increase, Moscow is continuing to pressure Latvia to contribute also to the USSR fund to compensate for the latest price hikes. (Dzintra Bungs) ALL-UNION AFFAIRS RETAIL PRICE RISES. Huge price increases go into effect today (April 2) throughout the USSR. Prices will double for milk and eggs, treble for meat, and quadruple for rye bread. Big increases are also being posted for a wide range of other consumer goods such as refrigerators, tv sets, shoes and clothing. In many cases, these are the first price increases in 30 years. In Moscow, most food stores and farmers' markets were closed April 1, as store employees re-wrote price tags. Western agencies reported that the deputy mayor of Moscow, Sergei Stankevich, told a press conference that "some unrest is possible." (NCA) PANIC BUYING REPORTED. Western news agencies reported widespread panic buying of consumer goods prior to the retail price increases averaging 60 percent that came into effect on April 2. Several Soviet observers predicted an initial relative abundance of goods on sale at the new prices. Stores have been withholding their wares, waiting for the much bigger mark-ups, and consumers have reportedly hoarded over 100 billion rubles' worth of foodstuffs and an even larger volume of other staples. The retail price increase is not of itself a step in the direction of the market, but it does represent a necessary measure to reduce the huge subsidy bill and a major contribution to the stabilization of the consumer market. (Keith Bush) GORBACHEV AND PAVLOV TO MEET MINERS. Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and USSR Prime Minister Valentin Pavlov are scheduled to meet today (April 2) with representatives of the country's striking and non-striking miners. The meeting represents a concession on Moscow's part; earlier, Soviet leaders said they would not meet with the miners as long as they remained on strike. While still not as massive as the 1989 miners' protest, the present strike, which began with a one-day token protest in Ukraine's Donbass on March 1, has gradually spread; the AP says it is now affecting about a third of the country's major coal-producing areas. (NCA/Elizabeth Teague) KUZBASS MINERS THREATEN TO FLOOD THEIR MINES. Representatives of striking coal miners in Siberia's Kuzbass region told the RSFSR Congress of People's Deputies on March 31 that they would sabotage their pits by flooding them if the government refuses to meet their economic and political demands, TASS reported. (NCA) SVERDLOVSK BAUXITE MINERS JOIN STRIKE. Sympathy strikes have also been declared in other industries. The latest report comes from Sverdlovsk. Soviet TV reported April 1 that four out of the five bauxite mines in the Sverdlovsk area (Boris Yeltsin's power base) struck yesterday in support of the coal miners. (NCA/Elizabeth Teague) KGB DEPUTY CHAIRMAN WARNS OF THREAT TO USSR. KGB deputy chairman Gennadii Titov, who heads KGB counterintelligence, told Rabochaya tribuna on March 30 that the USSR is facing the worst threat to its security since World War Two. Titov, whose remarks were summarized by Radio Moscow that day, admitted that the threat has its roots inside the Soviet Union, but alleged that the disintegration of the USSR is also being encouraged by Western intelligence services. (NCA) NEW TRAVEL CURRENCY REGULATIONS. With effect from April 2, Soviet tourists traveling abroad will be able to purchase only $200 a year or an equivalent sum in other hard currencies: for this they will have to pay rubles at the current hard-currency auction rate, TASS reported April 1. The latest auction rate was reported to be around 27 rubles to the US dollar, which means that the modest annual hard-currency allowance will cost more than one year's average wage, even after the supplement to offset the higher retail prices. For the past eighteen months, Soviet citizens traveling abroad have been permitted to change a maximum of 2,000 rubles at the tourist rate of some 6 rubles to the dollar. (Keith Bush) UNION BUDGET SHORTFALL. USSR Finance Minister Vladimir Orlov told Pravda March 29 that seven republics have failed to transfer tax revenues to the central budget. The shortfall for the first two months of 1991 was 43.5 billion rubles, including 38.6 billion owed by the RSFSR; this is to be compared with a reported planned budgetary income of 277 billion for the entire year. Orlov said that the central government has had to borrow money for essential services, and will have to begin cutting programs on April 1 if the money is not forthcoming. (Keith Bush) WARSAW PACT MILITARY STRUCTURE DISSOLVED. The military structure of the Warsaw Pact was officially dissolved March 31, ending the Pact's function as a military alliance, TASS reported. Soviet General Petr Lushev surrendered his powers as commander-in-chief of the joint Warsaw Pact armed forces, while Soviet General Vladimir Lobov gave up his post as chief of staff. The Warsaw Pact still exists as a political alliance, but its Political Consultative Committee plans to meet in Prague in June or July to discuss dissolving the political organization as well. (NCA) PRAVDA: WARSAW PACT WAS A "BASTION OF PEACE." In an editorial marking the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact's military structures on April 1, Pravda said the Pact was "one of the bastions of peace and security in Europe." Pravda faulted the tendency to emphasize the "dark pages" of the Pact's history and argued, "you cannot exclude obvious facts from history... It was not the USSR and its allies that launched the exhausting and senseless arms race" and "the Pact arose six years after the NATO military bloc was formed." Reuter quoted parts of the Pravda commentary on April 1. (Suzanne Crow) BESSMERTNYKH PRAISES "VITALITY" OF SINO-SOVIET RELATIONS. After three hours of talks in Beijing on April 1, Soviet Foreign Minister Aleksandr Bessmertnykh and his Chinese counterpart Qian Qichen stressed the "progress" made in Sino-Soviet relations. They said visit to Moscow by Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Jiang Zemin planned for May 15-17 will strengthen the dialogue between the two countries. Bessmertnykh stressed the "vitality" of the countries' relations and said Moscow is "willing to continue to develop and strengthen the relationship," AFP reported April 1. (Suzanne Crow) GORBACHEV RESPONDS ON CFE. US President George Bush said Mikhail Gorbachev had responded to the United States' request to look into a dispute concerning the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE), but Bush did not elaborate on Gorbachev's response, AFP reported April 1. According to an unnamed US official quoted in the same report, some progress in settling CFE disputes has been made, but Gorbachev's response does not resolve the issue. The United States is making Soviet compliance with CFE a precondition for concluding language on the strategic arms treaty (START) and the formal scheduling of a US-Soviet summit. (Suzanne Crow) SHEVARDNADZE INTERVIEWED BY SOVIET TV. On March 29, Soviet TV's "Before and After Midnight" broadcast a long interview with Eduard Shevardnadze in which the former foreign minister criticized the use of military and special MVD units in Moscow on March 28. The leadership, Shevardnadze said, should trust its own people. On a personal note, Shevardnadze said his sensational resignation last December was not unexpected to either his family or his close associates. Last year, another popular TV show, "Vzglyad," was closed down when its moderators tried to screen a segment on Shevardnadze. These days, the monthly "Before and After Midnight" is virtually the only liberal program still appearing regularly on Central TV's first channel. (Julia Wishnevsky) SHEVARDNADZE ON US-SOVIET MARITIME ACCORD. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times on March 31, Shevardnadze said attacks on his foreign policy are "foolish." Reacting to recent criticism of the US-Soviet Maritime Accord (see Daily Report, February 26), Shevardnadze said "negotiations were conducted at the highest level of expertise--with the participation of the military, defense ministry, the minister himself and even--I can reveal a small secret--the KGB..." Shevardnadze also noted that while Gorbachev, Ryzhkov and the Politburo approved the accord at the time, "everybody is now silent. Funny that." (Suzanne Crow) SHEVARDNADZE SAYS HE URGED GORBACHEV TO SUPPORT DEMOCRATS. Shevardnadze went on in his interview with the Los Angeles Times to say that Gorbachev fully understands the need for an alliance with the democrats but hesitates to approach them since they lack a strong political basis. The former foreign minister said he met recently with Gorbachev for over two hours' discussion, during which he urged Gorbachev to open a dialogue with the leaders of the republics, including Boris Yeltsin. Shevardnadze said that, if Gorbachev was able to deal with former US president Ronald Reagan, who called the USSR an "evil empire," he should be able to find a common language with Yeltsin. In an interview with the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza March 29, Shevardnadze expressed "shock" at Gorbachev's decision to deploy troops in Moscow last week. (Alexander Rahr) SHEVARDNADZE'S ASSOCIATION TO PUBLISH JOURNAL. Shevardnadze revealed at the end of his interview with the Los Angeles Times on March 31 that his newly-created Foreign Policy Association will publish a journal in addition to holding meetings and discussions. He did not offer any details. (Suzanne Crow) YAKOVLEV ON REFORM PROCESS. Former Politburo member Aleksandr Yakovlev called in an interview with the French newspaper La Tribune (March 28) for cooperation between Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin. Yakovlev maintained that, conservative opposition notwithstanding, the shift to a market economy is being implemented and new economic infrastructures are being created. Yakovlev said Baltic independence aspirations are unrealistic since, he argued, the Baltic states could not survive economically outside the Soviet Union. (Alexander Rahr) TSIPKO EXPLAINS WHY USSR IS NOT EASTERN EUROPE. Interviewed by The Guardian March 30, Soviet philosopher Aleksandr Tsipko gave five reasons why a revolution like those that occurred in Eastern Europe in 1989 is unlikely in the USSR. They are: (1) lack of communication between the Moscow intelligentsia and the rest of the population; (2) lack of a real opposition outside the Soviet Union's old system; (3) stronger roots of Stalinism in Soviet than other societies; (4) authoritarian attitudes in the USSR favoring a "strong hand"; and (5) suppression of true patriotism in Russia which could fill the ideological vacuum created after the demise of communism. (Alexander Rahr) IN THE REPUBLICS GEORGIA VOTES FOR INDEPENDENCE. Georgian electoral commission officials announced April 1 that 90.53 percent of the republic's 3.3 million eligible voters participated in the March 31 referendum on the restoration of Georgian independence. Of these, 98.93 percent voted "yes." Even raions with a predominantly non-Georgian population voted in favour of independence, presumably in response to Supreme Soviet chairman Zviad Gamskahurdia's threat to extend Georgian citizenship and the right to own land only to those who voted "yes." Western observers expressed scepticism at the results but registered no significant irregularities. (Liz Fuller) ABKHAZIA, ADZHARIA SUPPORT INDEPENDENCE, SOUTH OSSETIA BOYCOTTS REFERENDUM. Voter participation in Abkhazia was reportedly 60 percent, of whom 97 percent voted for independence--a figure difficult to reconcile with the result of the all-Union referendum, in which 52.4 percent of voters participated, of whom 98.4 percent voted in favor of preserving the USSR. In Adzharia, participation was so high that extra ballot papers had to be printed; in Batumi participation was over 100 percent, indicating that non-residents had traveled there to vote. In South Ossetia, the referendum was boycotted in the districts of Tskhinvali, Dzhava and Kornisi; no results for the remaining districts are available. (Liz Fuller) RICHARD NIXON ON GEORGIAN INDEPENDENCE. Former US President Nixon, on a private visit to the USSR, traveled to Tbilisi on March 29, and on March 31 accompanied Georgian Supreme Soviet chairman Zviad Gamsakhurdia to the polls, AFP reports. Radio Tbilisi quotes Nixon as characterizing Gamsakhurdia as "a strong leader who wants to achieve freedom and independence for his country by peaceful means." Nixon also affirmed that if he had the right, he would gladly vote for Georgian independence. (Liz Fuller) SOUTH OSSETIA ROUNDUP. On March 30 Soviet President Gorbachev sent a message to Georgian Supreme Soviet chairman Zviad Gamsakhurdia calling for immediate measures to halt bloodshed in South Ossetia and begin negotiations. Gamsakhurdia responded that such measures had been taken and that relative calm had been restored. At least four people were killed in two clashes in the oblast on March 31; on the same day the RSFSR Congress of People's Deputies called on Georgia to restore South Ossetia's autonomous status, lift its blockade of Tskhinvali and allow refugees to return. On April 1 the USSR SupSov voted by 353 to 7 to recommend that Gorbachev impose state of emergency in South Ossetia. (Liz Fuller) RSFSR CONGRESS ENTERS SIXTH DAY. The RSFSR Congress of People's Deputies ended its fifth day of work yesterday (April 1) without deciding whether or not to vote on whether the Russian Federation should have a directly-elected president. Supporters of RSFSR Supreme Soviet chairman Boris Yeltsin--who has said he would be a candidate for the post of president--want the Congress to decide the issue, but they have not been able to muster enough support in the Congress to bring the matter up for a vote, TASS reported. TASS says the Congress will try again to settle the presidential issue at today's session. Conservatives and liberals are evenly matched among the Congress deputies and the result so far has been stalemate. (NCA/Elizabeth Teague) HEAD OF UKRAINIAN CATHOLIC CHURCH SPEAKS ON SOVEREIGNTY. Cardinal Myroslav Lubachivsky, leader of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, has vowed to work for the republic's spiritual revival and political sovereignty. Lubachivsky was addressing a crowd of thousands in Lvov on March 31, hours after celebrating his first Mass in his homeland in 53 years. The cardinal, who is 76, returned to Ukraine on March 30 from the Vatican, where he headed the church in exile. (NCA) REORGANIZATION OF RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH. Service Orthodoxe de Presse reports (No. 156, March 1991) on the organizational measures adopted by the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church at its 29-31 January session. These measures are intended to coordinate religious education and charitable work and to reactivate diocesan and parish life. New dioceses have been created: the diocese of Kazahkstan, where about 40 percent of the population is Russian, has been divided into three new ones, while two new dioceses have been created in the Soviet Far East. (Oxana Antic) UZBEKISTAN REMOVES TAX ON SOME CONSUMER ITEMS. Radio Moscow reported on March 29 that Uzbekistan's Cabinet of Ministers issued a resolution removing the 5 percent sales tax on basic foodstuffs and certain consumer goods. These included bread and pasta products, vegetable oil and butter, milk, meat, eggs, sugar, special foods for children, soap and washing powders and cotton fabrics. The reason given for the removal of the sales tax was "social protection of the population." (Bess Brown) TAJIKISTAN LOWERS PRICES. Another Central Asian republic has reportedly tampered with Moscow-ordained economic measures. According to Radio Moscow on March 30, Tajikistan's Council of Ministers set prices for some goods lower than those ordained for the Union as a whole. Certain food items, including bread, sugar, and green tea will cost less, as will consumer goods produced in Tajikistan. Although the radio reports did not say so, presumably the two republics feel they are exercising the sovereignty they proclaimed last year. (Bess Brown) CONGRESS OF SOVIET GREEKS DISCUSSES AUTONOMY. TASS reported on March 31 that a 3-day Congress of Soviet Greeks in the south Russian city of Gelendzhik has ended with the creation of an All-Union Social Association of Greeks. Among the issues discussed by the 247 delegates to the congress was the possibility of creating an autonomous formation for Soviet Greeks; no agreement was reached on this question. The Association will work for the rebirth and development of the Greek language, customs and traditions, and to strengthen ties with Greek communities abroad. (Liz Fuller) YAVLINSKY FAVORS A STRONG CENTER. Grigorii Yavlinsky, co-author of the "500 days program" and now advisor to Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev, told Izvestia March 16 that the republics must agree on a single economic reform program and that individual republican programs, like that which recently has been proposed for Russia, are unrealistic. He stressed the importance of a coordinating role of the center and urged the republics to exert joint pressure on the center to force it to implement necessary economic reforms for the entire Soviet Union. (Alexander Rahr) [As of 1300 CET] Compiled by Patrick Moore & Elizabeth Teague
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