|The fool wonders, the wise man asks. - Benjamin Disraeli|
No. 65, 04 April 1991
IN THE BALTIC STATES LITHUANIAN-SOVIET REPRESENTATIVES MEET. Lithuanian and Soviet working groups met April 3 and are to meet again in the Kremlin today to prepare for talks that could lead to negotiations on Lithuania's independence. USSR Justice Minister Sergei Lushchikov told TASS April 3 that the first meeting was held at the Lithuanian representation in Moscow and lasted more than three hours. Neither he nor Lithuanian representatives provided any details about what issues were discussed. (Dzintra Bungs) MERI IN CANADA. Estonia's Foreign Minister Lennart Meri says the USSR should be a part of any international conference called to discuss the Baltic republics and demands for independence, an RFE/RL correspondent reported from Ottawa on April 3. Meri, who met with Canadian parliamentarians and government officials, also lobbied for an international Baltic conference when he and Supreme Council Chairman Arnold Ruutel visited Washington, D.C. last week. (Riina Kionka) US SENATORS CALL FOR BALTIC INDEPENDENCE NEGOTIATIONS. On April 3, six senators were luncheon guests of Supreme Council Chairman Anatolijs Gorbunovs, who reiterated his call for an international conference to further the Baltic quest for independence, reported Radio Riga that day. Also discussed was a US Information Center in Riga. Senator Howell Heflin (D-Alabama) told the press the American lawmakers wanted to show their solidarity with Baltic aspirations for independence; he added that the visit should serve to prod Moscow to start negotiations on independence for Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Senator David Oren (D-Oklahoma) said he did not foresee the Baltic States becoming a security threat to the USSR should they become independent--a fear expressed by some Soviet leaders. (Dzintra Bungs) MOSCOW RELEASES REFERENDUM FIGURES FOR LATVIA. Moscow has finally released more precise information on the March 17 referendum in Latvia, according to Radio Riga of April 2. The Latvian authorities refused to have anything to do with the USSR referendum. Previous reports from Moscow only indicated that the vast majority of the approximately 500,000 participants had endorsed a renewed USSR federation. The latest report said that 415,147 persons, or 95% of those participating in the referendum, voted "yes"; 4% voted "no"; 1% of the ballots were considered invalid. Ballots from Soviet military bases in Latvia were counted separately and were not included in these figures. Because of widespread irregularities, even the latest report from Moscow provides, at best, only approximate results. (Dzintra Bungs) CHERNOBYL VICTIMS IN LATVIA. Citing information provided by the Chernobyl Society in Latvia, Radio Riga reported on March 30 that about 50 persons have so far died in Latvia as a consequence of the 1986 disaster. The most frequent causes of death were cancer, heart malfunction, and suicide. About 30,000 persons from Latvia participated in the cleanup operations in Chernobyl. (Dzintra Bungs) COOPERATIVES FLOURISHED IN LATVIA IN 1990. According to figures provided by the Latvian Statistics Department, at the end of 1990 there were 6,400 registered cooperatives in Latvia, of which about 5,400 were operating actively. Their turnover last year was two billion rubles, or twice as much as in 1989, Radio Riga reported on March 30. (Dzintra Bungs) POPULARITY POLL IN ESTONIA. A recent poll shows that Chairman of the Supreme Council Arnold Ruutel is still the most popular politician in Estonia. According to ETA on April 3, Ruutel garnered 94% of the votes among Estonians, and 52% among non-Estonians. The poll, conducted on March 12-18 by the EMOR group, surveyed 902 residents of Estonia, of whom 63% were ethnic Estonians, 30% were Russians, and 5% represented other nationalities. (Riina Kionka) ALL-UNION AFFAIRS GOVERNMENT OFFERS TO DOUBLE MINERS' WAGES. In an effort to end the month-long miners' strike, the USSR government is offering to double coalminers' wages between now and January 1992, Reuters reported April 4. The pay raise would be phased and conditional on increased productivity in the mines. The offer was presented April 3 to miners' representatives gathered in Moscow for discussions with Soviet leaders. The delegations were addressed yesterday by Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, who told them "We are all in the same boat--let us row in the same direction." The miners said the government is refusing to consider their political demands, which include a call for Gorbachev's resignation. (NCA) GORBACHEV ORDERS SPEEDIER LAND DISTRIBUTION. Soviet Television reported April 3 that Gorbachev has ordered republican and local governments to speed up the distribution of farming plots to peasants. Gorbachev has sent telegrams to thousands of local government bodies, telling them to accelerate the plan that was proposed in January; he said three million hectares of land should be distributed to private farmers by this Spring. Saying that the land distribution ordered in January "is taking place in an unsatisfactory way," Gorbachev's telegrams call on local authorities to take action against those not carrying out the order. (NCA) OPPOSITION SEEKS UNIFIED STAND. Leaders of opposition groups from the 15 Soviet republics plan to meet in Moscow April 21 to coordinate their policies. Represented will be such groups as "Democratic Russia," Ukraine's "Rukh," and the popular fronts of the Baltic states. "Democratic Russia" leader Yurii Afanas'ev told The Washington Post April 3 that the meeting will discuss the formation of unified bodies to develop an opposition strategy. He said these might take the form of institutions to shadow the central government. (NCA) NEW CRITERION FOR POVERTY LEVEL? At a press conference in Moscow to discuss the retail price changes, USSR Deputy Minister for Labor and Social Affairs Nikolai Cheshenko stated that nearly 80 million people in the USSR "now live close to or below the poverty line, which has been set at 100 rubles a month" (TASS, April 2). The official definition of poverty was generally declared to be 78 rubles a month until recently, and it is not clear whether Cheshenko's new figure applied to the situation before or after the retail price hike. On March 20, USSR Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Shcherbakov told Soviet TV that "the new minimum living wage will no doubt be close" to 180 rubles a month. (Keith Bush) TOURIST EXCHANGE RATE BOOSTED. On April 3, the USSR Gosbank announced that, with immediate effect, foreign tourists in the Soviet Union will receive an exchange rate for their hard currency close to the free-market rate, The New York Times and The Washington Post reported April 4. The new tourist rate will be fixed several times a week. The initial exchange rate was posted at 27.6 rubles to the dollar, compared with a previous rate of 5.74 rubles to the dollar. The commercial rate will remain at 1.76 rubles and the official rate at 0.58 rubles to the dollar. (Keith Bush) PENSION FUND CONTRIBUTION SHORTFALL. Radio Moscow-1 reported April 1 that the USSR Pension Fund has been established in accordance with the Law on Pension Provisions for Citizens. The Fund took out a credit from the USSR Gosbank for the first quarter of 1991 in anticipation of receiving the contributions due from enterprises, organizations, kolkhozes and cooperatives. The paying in of these contributions has, however, been going "extremely unsatisfactorily" in many regions, causing "serious anxiety about the future of tens of millions of pensioners and families with children." The Fund appeals to the said enterprises, etc., to fulfill their duty. (Keith Bush) ARMY'S PARTY CONGRESS CONCLUDES. The First All-Army Party Congress, consisting of over 1,000 delegates and ostensibly reflecting the Party's "reformed" role within the Armed Forces (Party organizations are no longer formally controlled by the military-political organs), met in Moscow on March 29-30. According to reports by Western news agencies, speeches at the Congress were generally hard-line (see next item). In a March 30 address, President Gorbachev attacked his domestic opponents for trying "to destabilize society" by exploiting and inciting tensions. He endorsed a strong military and said the army should "have everything necessary to reliably guarantee" state security. (Stephen Foye) YAZOV ADDRESSES PARTY CONFERENCE. In a hard-line speech, Defense Minister Dmitrii Yazov told delegates to the First All-Army Party Congress that the future of the CPSU depended to a large extent on the vitality of the Army's one-million-strong Party organization. Yazov criticized "separatist, nationalist, and extremist forces" who, he said, are trying "to trample" the legacy of communism. He called attempts to eliminate the Party's influence in the army "unconstitutional," and accused liberals of undermining national security to satisfy their own ambitions. Yazov added that the Gulf War and the West's "strong-arm tactics" prove that Moscow still faces a serious military threat. (Stephen Foye) YAZOV: TROOPS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR VILNIUS KILLINGS. Defense Minister Dmitrii Yazov told Soviet television viewers on March 30 (see yesterday's Daily Report) that troops had not used live ammunition during the January 13 attack in Vilnius that left 13 civilians dead. Yazov said that military commanders had not given orders to use weapons and that troops did not fire with live cartridges. He claimed that post-mortems were not performed on any of the victims because such examinations would have demonstrated that the troops did not use weapons. Yazov has consistently denied complicity in the January 13 attack and has been an apologist for military actions taken in Vilnius. (Stephen Foye) SYRIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN MOSCOW. Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq al-Shara arrived in Moscow on April 3 for a working visit. Reuter reported April 3 Shara would meet with Soviet Foreign Minister Aleksandr Bessmertnykh and possibly with President Gorbachev before returning to Damascus on April 4. Meanwhile, Israel Defense Minister Mosche Arens claimed on April 2 that Syria was negotiating with the USSR for a large arms purchase, AFP reported April 3. (Suzanne Crow) US HOPES FOR SUMMIT. The White House said on April 3 that President Bush still hopes to meet President Gorbachev sometime before the end of June, but no date has been set. The statement came after a German paper reported that Bush and Gorbachev would meet in Berlin following a CSCE meeting. Germany, the USSR and the US have all denied knowledge of plans for such a meeting. (NCA/Suzanne Crow) MORE ON BERING SEA ACCORD. Sovetskaya Rossiya continues to examine the June 1990 US-Soviet agreement defining the maritime boundary in the area of the Bering Sea. In a full-page spread of three articles (March 22), the paper presents views both opposing and supporting the agreement. One of the articles, seeking to discredit the USSR Foreign Ministry and the agreement in question, calls for "the right to bring suit against [Foreign] Ministry...officials for an unserious attitude toward an extremely serious problem." The newspaper also calls for the involvement of the RSFSR Foreign Ministry in consultations regarding the agreement's ratification. (Suzanne Crow) GORBACHEV EXPECTED IN NAGASAKI. During his trip to Japan April 16-19, Mikhail Gorbachev is expected to tour Nagasaki, Japanese government sources told Reuter on April 3. (Suzanne Crow) IN THE REPUBLICS MINSK WORKERS PROTEST PRICE INCREASES. On April 3, factory workers in Minsk translated widespread anger at the government's price increases into spontaneous strike action. The protest began at the Kozlov Electro-Mechanical Plant and spread rapidly to other factories, including the important tractor, automobile and motor works. According to reports received by RFE/RL, as many as 100,000 workers poured into the streets to demand "market salaries for market prices." A six-person strike committee was set up under the leadership of a member of the noncommunist Workers' Union of Belorussia. Activists have called for a city-wide strike on April 8 if their demands for higher salary compensation are not met. (Belorussian BD/Kathy Mihalisko) INDEPENDENT BELORUSSIAN CONFEDERATION OF LABOR FOUNDED. The Minsk strike came on the heels of the founding congress of Belorussia's new Confederation of Labor, held March 30 and 31. The 115 delegates represented independent labor organizations such as the above-mentioned Workers' Union and strike committees in cities, coal fields and industrial centers throughout Belorussia. In an appeal to workers, the Congress said the country cannot hope to achieve normality in the absence of free labor unions. It also sent a telegram in support of striking Soviet miners and their political demands. Mikhas' Sobol', an activist in the USSR workers' movement, was elected chairman of the Confederation. (Belorussian BD/Kathy Mihalisko) RSFSR BUDGET CONTRIBUTION. According to Reuter of April 3, Yeltsin's deputy Ruslan Khasbulatov told reporters in Moscow his republic would oppose the Orlov/Gerashchenko/Kucherenko proposals to rescue the union budget for 1991 by tightening central control over union-republic legislation and banks (see the Daily Reports of April 2 and 3). "It will bleed dry our republic and other republics," Khasbulatov is quoted as saying. Yeltsin had earlier this year said that the RSFSR would contribute about 78 billion rubles to the union budget in 1991--well down on its 1990 contribution and far short of central requirements. (Keith Bush) YELTSIN SURVIVES ANOTHER ATTEMPT TO OUST HIM. RSFSR Supreme Soviet chairman Boris Yeltsin won a victory April 3 when the RSFSR Congress of People's Deputies again refused to hold a vote a no confidence in him. But Yeltsin also suffered a number of defeats at the April 3 session. The Congress turned down his proposal for direct elections soon for a Russian executive president. Instead, it ordered the preparation of legislation authorizing such an election, but set no date for the vote. In addition, the Congress failed to support Yeltsin's call for an all-Union coalition government of "popular trust and national accord." The Congress is continuing today (April 4). (NCA) CONGRESS REFUSES TO LIFT TARASOV'S IMMUNITY. The RSFSR Congress of People's Deputies April 3 refused the request of USSR Procurator General Nikolai Trubin to lift the immunity of one of its members, millionaire-entrepreneur Artem Tarasov, so that he could be prosecuted on charges of insulting President Gorbachev. Soviet Television reported that only 280 of the 854 deputies present voted in favor of allowing Tarasov to be charged with "offending the honor and dignity of the USSR President." (Tarasov alleged in an interview in January that Gorbachev had agreed to trade the southernmost Kurile Islands to Japan for 200 billion dollars' worth of investment in the Soviet economy; Gorbachev's office has denied this. Gorbachev begins a visit to Japan April 16 and is expected to discuss the future of the Kuriles with Japanese officials.) (NCA) DEPUTIES: TARASOV CASE BRINGS LAW INTO DISREPUTE. Khasbulatov, who chaired the session when Trubin spoke, was heard over Soviet Television whispering to the Procurator General, "Didn't you realize there was no way this was going to get through?" The RSFSR Supreme Soviet has twice refused Trubin's requests for permission to charge Tarasov. Deputies commented yesterday that Trubin's decision to appeal to the Congress of People's Deputies is quite disproportionate to the gravity of Tarasov's act. In the run-up to Gorbachev's visit to Japan, the Soviet press is full of speculation about the future of the Kuriles, much of it similar to Tarasov's. Yet, deputies noted, Colonel Viktor Alksnis, who openly accused Gorbachev of telling lies and orchestrating coups d'etat in the Baltic states, has got off without so much as a reprimand; deputies said the disparity in the treatment of the "democrat" Tarasov and the "reactionary" Alksnis makes a mockery of the law on protecting presidential honor. (Julia Wishnevsky) PRIVATIZATION BEGINS IN LENINGRAD. Quoting the Russian Information Agency, Izvestia April 3 reported the sale of four state stores at a televised auction in Leningrad. A total of 21 people took part in the bidding, which was apparently restricted to the auction room and, it seems, not open to telephone bidders. The premises fetched a total of 3.5 million rubles. Leningrad Mayor Anatolii Sobchak announced that privatization of apartments in the city would commence on April 16. (Keith Bush) "TSN" NEWSMEN REAPPEAR. The present session of the RSFSR Congress has coincided with the start of RSFSR Television, which is broadcasting two 10-minute reports on the Congress daily. RSFSR TV has also provided a home for several stars who recently left Central Television for political reasons. These include several former "TSN" moderators banned from the alternative news service by the chairman of Soviet radio and TV, Leonid Kravchenko. With a few notable exceptions, the best-known Soviet TV journalists (including the moderator of the Soviet-American "telebridges," Vladimir Pozner) have transferred to RSFSR TV following disputes with Kravchenko. As of April 14, RSFSR TV will be on the air six hours daily. (Julia Wishnevsky) JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES REGISTERED IN RSFSR. Izvestia reported on March 29 that RSFSR Minister of Justice N. Fedorov has approved the registration of 25 religious organizations, including the Jehovah's Witnesses. Jehovah's Witnesses, who have worshipped in the USSR since the annexation of the Baltic states and parts of Ukraine, Moldavia and Belorussia in the 1940s, were until recently severely persecuted. (Oxana Antic) WHO GUARDS YELTSIN AND SOBCHAK? The number of officers in the security department of the RSFSR Supreme Soviet does not exceed 50, while the KGB's Ninth Administration for Government Protection numbers several thousand officers, the deputy head of the former department, Yurii Goryakin, told Argumenty i fakty (No. 10). Goryakin, a retired KGB major, complained that the Ninth Administration is reluctant to honor earlier agreements and hand over state mansions and armored limousines to the RSFSR for Yeltsin's use. The KGB denied Goryakin's accusations, telling Sovetskaya Rossiya (March 30) that the delay was due to technical reasons. In contrast to Yeltsin, the Chairman of Leningrad City Soviet, Anatolii Sobchak, is guarded by the KGB Ninth Administration. On January 8, the television news "TSN" reported that the KGB had assumed responsibility for Sobchak's protection following threats to his life. (Victor Yasmann) POPE SANCTIONS UKRAINIAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCH. Speaking April 1 in Lvov, Cardinal Myroslav Lubachivsky, Archbishop Major of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, indicated that Pope John Paul II is in favor of elevating the leader of the UCC to the rank of Patriarch. Reuters quoted Lubachivsky as saying that the Pope no longer sees any obstacles to such a move, which would raise the status of the Ukrainian Catholic Church both in Ukraine and abroad while maintaining the faith's allegiance to Rome. Reuters speculated that the step would anger the Russian Orthodox Church. In related news, the Papal Nuncio in Moscow, Francesco Colasuonno, told DPA April 2 that the Pope may visit Ukraine at the end of 1992. (Kathy Mihalisko) PRAVDA LAMBASTES DEMOCRATS IN WEST UKRAINE--AGAIN. Pravda on March 23 lashed out at the noncommunist soviets in West Ukraine which organized the parallel March 17 referendum on Ukrainian independence. The paper charged that local leaders are using the overwhelming vote in favor of independence as a chance to step up their repression of Communists. In tones reminiscent of Brezhnev-era rhetoric, the newspaper of the CPSU Central Committee warned that defeat awaits the "so-called democrats" who have declared war on the CPSU. (Kathy Mihalisko) KRAVCHUK URGES YELTSIN-GORBACHEV TALKS. In an interview published April 2 in the Christian Science Monitor, Ukrainian Supreme Soviet chairman Leonid Kravchuk said he believes that Boris Yeltsin sincerely supports a sovereign Russia. But, Kravchuk went on, Ukraine is making steps toward sovereignty without confronting Gorbachev. Kravchuk suggested that Yeltsin and Gorbachev settle their differences in a round of talks, and suggested that the latter put aside his personal feelings toward the Russian Federation leader. (Kathy Mihalisko) GAMSAKHURDIA SENDS YET ANOTHER PROTEST TO GORBACHEV ... On April 3 Georgian Supreme Soviet chairman Zviad Gamsakhurdia sent yet another telegram to Gorbachev protesting an incident in which two teenage girls were injured by an APC of the USSR Interior Ministry, and demanding that "all interference in the affairs of the sovereign republic of Georgia be stopped to avoid further destabilization of the situation", Tbilisi Radio reported that day. (Liz Fuller) SOUTH OSSETIAN SITUATION STILL SUBJECT OF RUMORS AND CONTRADICTIONS. Radio Tbilisi reported on April 3 that the situation in Tskhinvali the previous day was "tense," as USSR MVD troops had transported quantities of military equipment into the town. TASS, however, claimed that the night of April 2-3 was the calmest for months, but went on to cite rumours that an attack on the town by 12,000 Georgian militants was imminent. TASS further quoted a USSR MVD spokesman as advocating the introduction of a state of emergency throughout South Ossetia to facilitate the work of the MVD troops charged with maintaining order and to provide a basis for negotiations between Georgians and Ossetians. (Liz Fuller) MOLDAVIAN POPULAR FRONT LEADER CHASTISES ROMANIAN DISINTEREST. Interviewed by the Romanian National Peasant Party daily Dreptatea March 23, Moldavian Popular Front Executive Committee Chairman Iurie Rosca again expressed disappointment over lack of support from the Romanian authorities. Rosca attributed Bucharest's "tacit complicity" with Moscow to residual Communist mentalities and the "scarecrow" of economic dependence on the USSR. He also criticized the radical nationalist organization Vatra Romaneasca for opposing aid to Moldavia on the ground that it would expose Romania to Soviet counteraction in Transylvania. Rosca was particularly caustic about Vatra Romaneasca's avowed suspicions that the Moldavian movement aims to unite with Romania's rump Moldavian province and tear it away from Romania. (Vladimir Socor) END OF RAMADAN TO BE WORK-FREE IN CHECHEN-INGUSHETIA. The end of the Islamic fasting period of Ramadan on April 16 will be a work-free day in the RSFSR's Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Republic, Radio Moscow stated April 3. (CMD/NCA) [As of 1300 CET] Compiled by Patrick Moore and Elizabeth Teague
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