|When in doubt, tell the truth. - Mark Twain|
No. 66, 05 April 1991
IN THE BALTIC STATES LITHUANIAN-SOVIET TALKS "ARDUOUS." Both Radio Vilnius and TASS April 4 described the talks between Soviet and Lithuanian representatives that day as long and difficult. Ceslovas Stankevicius, head of the Lithuanian team and Deputy Chairman of the Supreme Council, said progress had been made though agreement was not reached on all issues (such as the return of the Vilnius TV center to Lithuanian authorities). Lithuanians were also asked to adhere to the USSR Constitution--a demand that they found totally unacceptable. Neither side regarded the talks as the start of formal negotiations on Lithuania's independence. Followup talks are to be held later this month or early in May. (Dzintra Bungs) LATVIAN GOVERNMENT CHANGES EXPECTED. Latvia's Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis told the Supreme Council March 28 that he plans to restructure the government, Radio Riga reported that day. He said that he would aim to have plans completed by mid-April. Economics Minister Janis Aboltins is expected to be replaced; he drew much criticism over the way the price increases were instituted in Latvia. (Dzintra Bungs) INFLATION ANTICIPATED IN LATVIA. According to Latvia's Minister of Finance Elmars Silins, the country is heading for inflation. Since 1989 remuneration has increased more than labor productivity. In 1990 wages rose 13.7%, while productivity grew by only 4.3% overall; in the agricultural sector the respective figures were 15% and 0%, reported Radio Riga on April 3. The situation is likely to be aggravated by the price hikes in Latvia and the USSR as a whole this year. (Dzintra Bungs) GEORGIAN ON HUNGER STRIKE IN RIGA. According to Diena of April 3, Stepan Kalandishvili, a teacher of history and religion from Georgia, started a hunger strike March 31 at the Dom cathedral square in Riga. He had come to the Latvian capital to attend a session of the Latvian Citizens Congress. Since March 25 he had been trying to fly back to Georgia. The problem is that Kalandishvili is traveling on a passport issued by Georgia's Citizens League--a document recognized by the Latvians but not by the Soviet authorities at Riga airport. (Dzintra Bungs) ALL-UNION AFFAIRS MILITARY REGULATIONS "UNCONSTITUTIONAL." The USSR Constitutional Oversight Committee has ruled that military regulations binding the armed forces to policies issued not only by the Soviet government, but also by the Communist Party, are unconstitutional. The decision was announced in Izvestia of April 3. TASS reported that the ruling was a response to an RSFSR Supreme Soviet request to investigate the constitutionality of the December 29, 1990, order calling for joint MVD and army patrols. The Committee ruled that those military regulations obligating commanders to act in accordance with policies promulgated by the government and the CPSU, or that called upon garrison chiefs to work with local Party organizations, violate articles 6 and 7 of the Soviet constitution. (Stephen Foye) MINERS VOW TO CONTINUE STRIKE DESPITE PAY OFFER. An official of the independent miners' union in Siberia's Kuzbass has rejected the pay raise offered earlier this week by the USSR government in an effort to resolve the month-long miners' strike. The deputy chairman of the union's Executive Bureau, A. Sergeevich, told Soviet Television on April 4 that wage increases for miners alone would merely set miners against workers in other industries. He called for radical changes in all sectors of the economy. Other miners' representatives were quoted by Komsomol'skaya pravda April 5 as saying the government offer did not go far enough. They said the miners now in Moscow for negotiations with the Soviet government were chosen by the bosses and do not represent grassroots opinion. (NCA/Elizabeth Teague) GENERALS COOL ON CFE. Top political officers told reporters on April 4 that the USSR Supreme Soviet may not ratify the CFE treaty, The Times of London reported. Their press conference was devoted to last week's All-Army Party Conference. Colonel General Nikolai Shlyaga, head of the Main Political Administration, said that the treaty still had to be evaluated. Major General Mikhail Surkov, a rising star among political officers who has just been elected Secretary of the army's All-Union Party Committee, warned that a "signature is one thing and ratification another." He claimed the USSR Supreme Soviet Defense Committee had not even seen the text of the treaty. (Stephen Foye) MOSCOW SATISFIED WITH GULF RESOLUTION. Speaking at a Foreign Ministry briefing April 4, Sergei Lavrov, Chief of the Ministry's International Organizations Administration, said UN Resolution 687 draws a conclusive line under the war in the Persian Gulf and aids in the process of establishing a lasting peace and stability in the region as a whole. Lavrov stressed that the USSR considers the ceasefire and corresponding pullout of multinational forces from Iraq an important aspect of the resolution. He also stressed the importance of the resolution's guarantees of the preservation of Iraq's territorial integrity, TASS reported April 4. (Suzanne Crow) GORBACHEV CALLS FOR DEFENSE COOPERATION WITH SYRIA. Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Shara met with Foreign Minister Aleksandr Bessmertnykh and President Mikhail Gorbachev on April 4 for talks on bilateral relations, the Gulf conflict, and problems in the Near East, TASS reported April 4. TASS cited Gorbachev as saying the Soviet Union is determined to develop friendly and cooperative relations with Syria in all areas including in the area of defense. Tass cited Foreign Minister Aleksandr Bessmertnykh as saying the Soviet Union supported Syria's "constructive position" on creation of a security system in the region. (Suzanne Crow) ROGACHEV WANTS "NEW SYSTEM OF RELATIONS." Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Rogachev addressed the 47th general meeting of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific on April 4 in Seoul and said "the region has not yet succeeded in developing a viable negotiating mechanism" to usher in a "new system of relations." He said it is necessary to "[reduce] to reasonable levels the huge war machine which has developed in Asia and the Pacific over the years of confrontation" of the Cold War. Rogachev also stressed the USSR's interest in developing trade and economic ties the region. He said trade with China and Japan amounted to 15.4 billion dollars in 1990, AP reported April 4. (Suzanne Crow) GOLD OUTPUT AND SALES. The Financial Times of April 4 interviews two Western analysts on the prospects for Soviet gold output and sales. One foresees an increase in gold sales from 6-8 million to up to 11 million troy ounces, which would bring about $4 billion at current world prices. The other suggests that gold output may have been cut by some 30 percent. A combination of these two factors would run down the country's gold reserves rather quickly. (It might be noted that the Soviet authorities declined late last year to give the IMF-led team any details of the USSR's gold output, sales and reserves). (Keith Bush) GERMAN AID PRAISED. Izvestia on March 29 reviewed recent shipments of humanitarian aid from private individuals to the USSR. Out of a total weight of 71,686 tons of parcels, some 60,000 tons came from Germany. The bulk of the parcels' contents has lately consisted of medicines and medical equipment, rather than food, as was initially the case. The article describes individual instances of generosity and assistance which continue despite "the tragic events in Vilnius." The tenor of the coverage differs sharply from recent remarks by Prime Minister Pavlov who, on at least two occasions, has publicly downplayed the scale and significance of German humanitarian aid to the USSR. (Keith Bush) OLEG OZHERELEV INTERVIEWED. The Financial Times of April 2 carried a lengthy interview with Gorbachev's new economic adviser, Oleg Ozherelev. In contrast to Stanislav Shatalin and Nikolai Petrakov, the proponents of a rapid dash to a free market, Ozherelev's posture is characterized as one of "caution, withdrawal, and stabilization." His "Chilean connection" relates rather to Salvador Allende than to Augusto Pinochet. The interviewers read into this a firm intention on Moscow's part to avoid a coup by using at least some authoritarian methods. Ozherelev favors the rapid privatization of small enterprises--stores and workshops--but for the medium-sized and larger enterprises he advocates using "the old system to reestablish links which will allow them to produce properly once more." (Keith Bush) "POLITICAL TRANSPLANTS WILL BE REJECTED." Former Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze contributed a piece to The Guardian on April 3 on world politics. Shevardadze likened society to a living organism which has "a strongly developed immune system...designed to reject any social, political or economic 'transplants' that are incompatible with the nature of man and society." He spoke at length on the importance of the United Nations and stressed that the "world should follow the UN Charter the whole way" because that document "provides us with all the necessary information." One improvement he suggested is the creation of two levels--political and military--in the UNSC. (Suzanne Crow) INDEPENDENT SIBERIAN TV BROADCASTS ITS OWN "VZGLYAD." As its first major undertaking, the recently established independent television company of Siberia and the Far East commissioned Vladimir Mukusev (a former moderator of the popular TV show "Vzglyad," which was banned by Central Soviet Television at the end of last year) to prepare for it a three-hour program under the same name. Reporting this development, Izvestia (March 25) said the Siberian "Vzglyad" has been shown in the major cities of Siberia and the Soviet Far East. It included interviews with former KGB general Oleg Kalugin and former investigator of corruption among top Party officials Tel'man Gdlyan, as well as reports on recent meetings of democrats in Moscow and on Boris Yeltsin's controversial speech of March 9 in Moscow's Cinema House. (Vera Tolz) LENIN STILL POPULAR IN USSR. A recent opinion poll conducted in ten Soviet cities by the Independent Social Forecast Center with the assistance of the Institute of Marxism-Leninism and the CPSU's Academy of Social Sciences finds that "Lenin's name is still honored in the USSR." 59.1% of those polled expressed a positive view of the founder of the Soviet state, while only 10.3% were negative. 66.4% reportedly condemned "anti-Leninism" in the Soviet press. The organizers of the poll stressed, however, that more educated people tended to be more critical of Lenin. Thus, according to the poll, which was summarized by APN on April 3, negative attitudes towards Lenin are twice as prevalent among scientists and scholars as among ordinary people. (Vera Tolz) INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON LENIN IN MOSCOW. Meanwhile, the Novosti press agency organized an international conference on Lenin's heritage, APN reported March 29. "Was Lenin to blame for Stalinism?" was one of the main issues discussed. Among those invited were such well-known Western historians as Richard Pipes, known for his negative view of the October Revolution and Lenin's policies, and the biographer of Stalin, Robert Tucker. The Soviet side was represented among others by historian Vladlen Loginov, who has been one of Lenin's main defenders. (Vera Tolz) IN THE REPUBLICS YELTSIN WINS ANOTHER VICTORY. The RSFSR Congress of People's Deputies agreed April 5 to grant Boris Yeltsin expanded executive powers. TASS quoted Yeltsin as telling the Congress APRIL 4 he needed the powers to "preserve civil peace, restore public order, and avert social conflicts." Under Yeltsin's plan, the Congress will delegate some of its own law-making powers to the RSFSR's standing parliament--the RSFSR Supreme Soviet--and to the presidium of the Supreme Soviet. Decisions adopted under this arrangement will still, however, be subject to confirmation by the Congress. This means that the RSFSR Supreme Soviet and its presidium will no longer be bound by the RSFSR Constitution adopted in the Brezhnev era. (NCA/Julia Wishenvsky) PROVISIONAL DATE SET FOR POPULAR ELECTION OF RSFSR PRESIDENT. The RSFSR Congress of People's Deputies set a tentative date April 4 for the first direct election of an executive president by the population of the Russian Republic. The date provisionally set for the election is June 12. The election will take place after the next session of the RSFSR Congress of People's Deputies, expected to open on May 21, Soviet Television announced April 5. (Julia Wishnevsky) VIKTOR SHEINIS: "DEMOCRACY HAS TRIUMPHED!" In an interview with RSFSR television April 5, Viktor Sheinis (an ideologist of the "Democratic Russia" bloc in the RSFSR parliament) said that, while Yeltsin's call for extraordinary powers might at first glance appear undemocratic, in fact it had helped the democrats to override opposition from Communist deputies to the setting of a date for the first democratic election of an RSFSR leader. "Democratic Russia" had to make no fewer than ten attempts before it got the Congress to approve dates for (a) the presidential election and (b) the convocation of the next session of the Congress (which must introduce the necessary changes into the RSFSR Constitution to create the post of executive president). The bloc had lost all the previous nine votes on this subject. (Julia Wishnevsky) MINSK PARALYZED BY WORKERS' PROTESTS. Most enterprises in Minsk were not operating April 4, according to TASS, as thousands of people gathered outside the Belorussian Supreme Soviet to demand both a doubling of wages to compensate for the April 2 price increases and the abolition of Gorbachev's new 5% sales tax. Demonstrators also called for the resignation of Gorbachev and Prime Minister Pavlov and the disbanding of the USSR and Belorussian Supreme Soviets. According to information received by telephone from Minsk by RFE/RL's Belorussian Service, OMON troops were standing by the parliament building but there were no clashes. The strikes began April 3 at Minsk's Kozlov plant and quickly spread to other factories in Minsk, Mogilev, Brest and other localities. (Belorussian BD/Kathy Mihalisko) BELORUSSIAN GOVERNMENT RESPONSE. The Belorussian government has agreed to start talks with a strike committee formed in Minsk, Radio Minsk reported April 4. It is not clear when talks will begin. The Radio quoted Belorussian prime minister Vyacheslav Kebich as saying he understands the concerns of the protestors but the republic may not have the funds to meet their demands. (NCA) RSFSR "DEFENSE MINISTER" INTERVIEWED. "Officers of the USSR Defense Ministry and the KGB will work together with civilians in the RSFSR's State Committee for Defense and Security," the newly appointed chairman of that body, Colonel General Konstantin Kobets, told Komsomol'skaya pravda in an interview published March 26. Kobets, who is a leader of the Armed Forces and KGB faction in the RSFSR Supreme Soviet, was until recently deputy to General Staff chief Mikhail Moiseev. At the same time, Kobets headed the Communications Department in the General Staff (one of the most secretive jobs in the Soviet Army). General Kobets told Komsomol'skaya pravda he does not intend to leave active service, and that his posting to the RSFSR Council of Ministers was approved by a decree of the USSR Cabinet of Ministers. Kobets said his Committee's top priority will be the conversion of defense industry plant in the RSFSR, not the creation of a "Russian" army. (Victor Yasmann) KGB GUARD FOR YELTSIN'S OPPONENTS. As noted in the Daily Report (April 4), the KGB does not provide bodyguards for either RSFSR Supreme Soviet chairman Boris Yeltsin or his first deputy Ruslan Khasbulatov. But, RSFSR people's deputy Aleksandr Politkovsky told Soviet Television April 4, the six RSFSR Supreme Soviet deputy chairmen who signed the February 21 denunciation of Yeltsin have all been granted KGB protection. At least three of the six seem to require protection from their own electorates: Vladimir Isakov, Svetlana Goryacheva, and Boris Isaev have all had very serious troubles in their constituencies as a result of their criticism of Yeltsin. (Julia Wishnevsky) RUSSIAN SOVEREIGNTY THREATENED. Sergei Shakhrai, chairman of the RSFSR Supreme Soviet Committee on Legislation, told Argumenty i fakty (No. 11) that the Kremlin is making a sophisticated attempt to undermine Russian sovereignty by encouraging moves toward independence in the RSFSR's 16 autonomous republics. Shakhrai said the draft Union Treaty, which Boris Yeltsin has refused to sign, gives the autonomous republics the right to quit the RSFSR or to suspend its laws on their territory. As a result, the RSFSR could lose up to 50% of its present territory. Shakrai added that the draft Treaty could also deprive Russia of much of its industry; under the draft, the center would retain control of all military enterprises on the territory of the RSFSR, and these form 70% of the republic's industrial potential. (Alexander Rahr) RELIGIOUS COMMUNITIES IN UKRAINE. As of January 1, there were nearly 10,000 registered religious communities in Ukraine, according to a document prepared for Ukraine's Supreme Soviet deputies who are considering a new republican law on freedom of conscience. Among Christians, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church--which is under the jurisdiction of Patriarch Aleksii II--claims the largest number of communities (5,031), followed by the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (1,912), the Baptists (1,059), and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (811). Somewhat surprisingly, only 23 registered and 2 unregistered Jewish communities were listed--far fewer than the number of Old Believer or Seventh Day Adventist groups. (Kathy Mihalisko) INCREASINGLY VIRULENT ANTISEMITISM IN CP JOURNAL. The January issue of Politichesky sobesednik, an organ of the Central Committee of the Belorussian CP, contains the most openly anti-Semitic material seen in that monthly journal for a long while. A commentary on a work by A. Kuz'mich, "Russia and the Market," concurs that rich Western bankers are plotting to turn Russia into a colony of corporate exploitation; a second piece, by one E. Shchekatikhin, states in so many words that Jews are the primary enemies of Russia. Another highlight from the same issue: a list of reasons why the people buried at Kurapaty were victims not of Stalin's NKVD but of German fascists. (Kathy Mihalisko) ANOTHER CALL FOR REVIVAL OF RIVER PROJECT. TASS reported on April 4 that Uzbekistan's Russian-language daily Pravda Vostoka has published another appeal for the Siberian river diversion project. Vadim Antonov, director of the republican association for designing water projects, argues that the diversion scheme, put on hold by Moscow in 1986, is needed to save the Aral Sea. He says that, in view of demographic pressure in the Aral basin, reducing irrigation is not feasible. Antonov's plea is the latest in a series of articles by political figures and water specialists in the Central Asian republics, arguing that there is no practical alternative to the diversion plan if the Aral is to be saved. (Bess Brown) KARAGANDA COURT REFUSES TO DECLARE STRIKE ILLEGAL. Radio Moscow reported on April 4 that the Karaganda Oblast court has rejected a suit by Karagandaugol', the oblast coal extraction association, to have the March 1-2 miners' strike declared illegal. The report said that the court had explained its decision by classifying the miners' demands as political and saying political demands are not covered the USSR law on collective labor conflicts. Since the demands advanced by the Karaganda miners, as reported in the press, dealt largely with pay increases and improvements in living standards, the court seems to have been very flexible in its definition of "political." (NCA/Bess Brown) MOLDAVIA HOSTS STRIKING MINERS' DELEGATION. A delegation of striking miners from Kuzbas and Donbas, headed by independent union leader Vyacheslav Sharipov, visited Moldavia April 1 through 3 at the invitation of the Moldavian Popular Front. The delegates told a press conference in Kishinev that they supported Moldavia's aspirations toward "real sovereignty". The Moldavian Popular Front has launched a republic-wide action to collect aid for the striking miners and their families. On the other hand, the leadership of the self-proclaimed Dniester SSR--who are Russian conservative communists seeking to secede from Moldavia--issued a declaration condemning the striking miners for "undermining" the USSR and "sabotaging" its economy, and urging the Party organizations of striking mines to take firmer steps to ensure the resumption of work. (Vladimir Socor) MOLDAVIAN CULTURE MINISTER IN THE USA. The Moldavian Minister of Cultural and Religious Affairs, Ion Ungureanu --who is a noted theatrical director--is visiting the USA April 4 to 14 at the invitation of Virginia State University, Moldovapres reported April 4. (Vladimir Socor)
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