|Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece. - Vladimir Nabokov|
No. 67, 08 April 1991
IN THE BALTIC STATES BALTIC POPULAR FRONTS MEET. Leaders of the three Baltic popular fronts met in Ligatne, Latvia, April 3 and called for a greater role for their movements in the drive to independence, Estonian Radio reported that day. At the meeting, the Popular Fronts of Estonia and Latvia and Lithuania's "Sajudis" adopted a joint communique calling on the Baltic parliaments and governments to strengthen Baltic integration by renewing those inter-Baltic treaties signed before June 1940. The communique said the activity of the popular movements "must be aimed first and foremost at the attainment of state independence." (Riina Kionka) LATVIAN-USSR TALKS PLANNED FOR APRIL 11. Radio Riga reported April 5 that talks between Latvian and USSR representatives are expected to start in the Kremlin at 11 AM on April 11. Heading the Latvian delegation will be Deputy Prime Minister Ilmars Bisers and Latvia's permanent representative in Moscow Janis Peters. When Bisers met with USSR First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Velichko on April 4 in Moscow, they noted that they disagreed on many issues. Bisers says, therefore, that he expects the initial meeting on April 11 to focus on drawing up topics for further discussion. The Latvians hope that these talks will eventually lead to negotiations on independence, but, given the Estonian and Lithuanian experience, they do not expect quick results. (Dzintra Bungs) ESTONIAN EXCHANGE OPENS. The Tallinn International Business Information Exchange opened April 4, Rahva Haal reported the next day. The exchange is a rudimentary commodities market where buyers and sellers trade goods and information. The first day of trading saw offers of foodstuffs and other consumer goods, construction and other materials, coal, lasers, manufacturing equipment and information on attaining credits from the West and on studying there. If a buyer and seller make a deal at the exchange, that deal must be registered. The Tallinn Exchange, which has a 50,000 ruble membership fee, has members from similar exchanges and enterprises in Moscow, Leningrad, Minsk, Omsk, Karaganda, Alma-Ata, Lithuania and Hungary. (Riina Kionka) LITHUANIA PLANS TO EXPLORE FOR OIL. The Lithuanian has government has allocated 5 million rubles for the exploration, research, and drilling of oil. According to the bill, passed on March 29 by the Supreme Council, the Ministry of Energy is to submit a proposal by May 15 on oil drilling in Lithuania. In this connection, the Mazeikiai oil refinery and the Klaipeda port are to be renovated. (Dzintra Bungs) LEADERS FROM RUSSIAN-POPULATED CITIES TO MEET WITH "SOYUZ." City council chairmen from Baltic cities where Russians and other Slavs comprise a majority of the population left for Moscow April 5 to meet with members of the "Soyuz" faction of Soviet parliament. Daugavpils city council chairman Vladimir Zharkov said the purpose of the meeting was to "determine the status of the towns that are in favor of preserving a renewed USSR federation," reported ETA on April 5. According to the results of the Baltic independence polls and USSR referendum on March 17, the populations of these cities and towns tended to oppose the independence of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. (Dzintra Bungs) ALL-UNION TOPICS YELTSIN SAYS GORBACHEV MIGHT BE REMOVED BY PARLIAMENT. RSFSR Supreme Soviet chairman Boris Yeltsin says a special Congress of USSR People's Deputies could be called to discuss the dismissal of Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. Yeltsin told reporters April 5 that a group of USSR deputies has collected the number of signatures necessary to call the session, but added that neither the date for the Congress nor its agenda has been set. (Yeltsin's remarks were shown on Soviet TV the same day.) He did not say which deputies were calling for Gorbachev's replacement, but The Los Angeles Times identified them April 6 as the hardline "Soyuz" group. Yeltsin may have mentioned the threat to put pressure on Gorbachev to agree to the roundtable talks for which Yeltsin is calling. (NCA/Elizabeth Teague) THE CPSU AND THE ARMY. The upshot of the recent All-Army Party Congress seems to be that the CPSU will continue to dominate army life, but that the Party's primary source of influence will shift from political organs to Party committees. According to TASS, Major General Mikhail Surkov, who was elected Secretary of the All-Army Party Committee at the Congress, told Sovetskaya Rossiya April 6 that the renovated Party organization in the army is "not some newly created party. We are the same army communists ... who used organizationally to be members of political agencies." Meanwhile, Pravda of April 4 reported that the predominantly Communist officer corps would fight to maintain its political monopoly. (Stephen Foye) STRIKES CONTINUE. TASS reported April 6 that most mining regions remain paralyzed by the 5-week old coalminers' strike. The Kuzbass region in Siberia and the Donbass region of Ukraine are operating at about half capacity. "Vremya" announced April 7 that coalminers in the northern Inta region had returned to work that day, even though it was Sunday and the Easter holiday, but added that mines in the Arctic region of Vorkuta were shut down completely and scattered pits were striking elsewhere. "If our demands are ignored, we do not exclude the possibility of an all-Union political strike," Pavel Shushpanov, leader of the independent miners' union, told Izvestia April 6. (NCA) NEW STRIKE LEGISLATION IN PREPARATION? USSR prime minister Valentin Pavlov told Rabochaya tribuna (April 5) the continuation of the strikes was a great disappointment. But he added that legislation now pending in the USSR Supreme Soviet would preclude political strikes; further details are not known. (NCA) PAVLOV BLAMES MINERS' STRIKE ON GOVERNMENT. Pavlov told Rabochaya tribuna that the miners' strike is largely the result of the failure of the government [of Pavlov's predecessor Nikolai Ryzhkov] to keep the promises it made to end the 1989 miners' strike. Pavlov also admitted that his own government should have moved faster to negotiate with the miners when the present strike began last month. Addressing miners' representatives in the Kremlin April 3, Pavlov assured them that, since the government accepted it had been at fault, it would not prosecute any of the miners for taking part in the present strike. Pavlov's remarks were cited in Izvestia on April 5. (NCA/Elizabeth Teague) GORBACHEV RELENTS ON 5% SALES TAX. Gorbachev issued a decree April 5 exempting many goods from his new 5% sales tax. His presidential decree allows the USSR government and the republics to expand the list of consumer goods and types of jobs and services to be exempt. The new tax is highly unpopular and has sparked public protests in some cities. On April 6, Rabochaya tribuna cited RSFSR Pricing Committee member Vladimir Goncharov as saying that the sales tax has been abolished altogether in the RSFSR. Abolition or reduction of the sales tax will mean that the budget deficit will climb and that the stabilization fund meant to tide over failing enterprises and industries will not be financed. (NCA/Keith Bush) TRADE UNION SESSION. Trud reported April 3 on a session of the USSR General Confederation of Trade Unions (VKP) Council Presidium on March 29. A draft agreement between the Council and the USSR Cabinet of Ministers drawn up at the session--held four days before the retail price hikes--called for full prior compensation for the increase in the cost of basic foods and nonfood goods and services. (In the event, compensation for a claimed 85 percent of the increase was instituted.) The draft agreement also stipulated "economic protection" for Trud, to guarantee its supply of paper through centralized allocation channels at fixed state prices. (Keith Bush) PROTESTS OVER RETAIL PRICE INCREASES. The VKP Council Presidium is demanding that the USSR Cabinet of Ministers fully compensate workers for increased catering charges in factory, university, and school cafeterias, and in the health system, Trud reported April 5. The Moscow Soviet Executive Committee Anti-Crisis Committee noted that less money is coming in on public transport and suggested that this is because "many people are simply unable to afford the fare of 15 kopeks" (Radio Moscow-1, April 5). (Perhaps more people are riding free?). And the Committee of Soviet Women has complained to Premier Pavlov that women who do not work outside the home have not been compensated, and now find themselves unable to keep their families fed and clothed (TASS, April 6). (Keith Bush) IZVESTIA RIDICULES RUBLE SCAM COVERAGE. Izvestia on March 29 poured scorn on the sensational media coverage of the first ruble scam affair and of other purported financial rackets. Commenting on the ruble scam "show," the paper said "it seems that either mafia cooperatives or the legal government of a sovereign state have moved abroad all the cash and non-cash money existing in the country." It deplored the racial connotation of racketeering charges against Chechen and Georgian "mafiosi." And it regretted the investigation of the "case of the 140 billion," noting that though "no formal elements of a crime are so far perceptible, a criminal shadow has been cast on the government of a sovereign republic." (Keith Bush) ON USING FORCE. A March 28 Izvestia commentary suggests that the use of MVD and army units for policing operations in the Soviet Union has fallen short of international norms. While apportioning some blame for domestic disorders to republican governments, Andrei Kovalev stressed the dubious constitutionality of using army units in Vilnius and elsewhere. He specifically questioned antagonistic relations between local elected authorities and military commanders, and criticized the formation of so-called national salvation committees. His comments anticipated the April 5 ruling by the USSR Constitutional Compliance Committee that military commanders should not be subordinated to Party bodies (see Daily Report for April 5). (Stephen Foye) NO MORE ARMS TO NICARAGUA. Aleksandru Mocanu, Deputy Chairman of the Council of the Union in the USSR Supreme Soviet, was quoted by La Prensa on April 5 as saying "The Soviet Union sustains its position not to send any more armament to Nicaragua. We hold this position very firmly." Mocanu also said "this includes spare parts," AP reported April 5. (Suzanne Crow) NEW AMBASSADOR TO IVORY COAST. TASS reported April 5 the appointment of Mikhail Maiorov, a career diplomat since 1971, to the post of ambassador to the Ivory Coast. He has served in Soviet embassies in Algeria and Morocco. In 1988 Maiorov was appointed Deputy Chief of the African Countries Department at the Foreign Ministry. Boris Minakov, heretofore ambassador to the Ivory Coast, is retiring. (Suzanne Crow) ROUND TABLE IN MOSCOW. A conference entitled "Perestroika in the USSR: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow" will be held on April 20/21 in Moscow, Radio Moscow reported on April 6. Leaders representing a wide range of Soviet political opinion will participate. Foreign journalists will have to pay an accreditation fee of $500. Expected to take part in the discussions are Vadim Bakatin, Egor Ligachev, Nikolai Petrakov, Gavriil Popov, Ruslan Khasbulatov, Grigorii Yavlinsky, and Aleksandr Yakovlev. Also invited are Eduard Shevardnadze, Ivan Silaev, and Valentin Pavlov. According to "Novosti" (April 5), the idea of holding such a conference came from Boris Yeltsin. (Alexander Rahr) CENTRIST BLOC DECLARED DEFUNCT. Izvestia reported March 30 that a joint session of representatives of the so-called Centrist Bloc which was set up last summer had met in Moscow and decided to disband itself. Those present noted that 9 of the 11 founding organizations have left the bloc in recent months, and the bloc had been hijacked for use as a front organization by "right-wing reactionary forces." (Elizabeth Teague) IN THE REPUBLICS EASTER CELEBRATED IN USSR. Central Television gave unusually broad coverage to the Russian Orthodox Easter at the weekend. On Saturday (April 6) "Vremya" began its 9 P.M. newscast by wishing viewers a happy Easter. The same evening, Nikolai Shishlin, a senior official of the CPSU Propaganda Department, opened his "International Panorama" program with a citation from the Sermon on the Mount and congratulated viewers on the Easter holiday. Then it was announced that the evening program was being re-scheduled to show Sergei Rakhmaninov's masterpiece, "The Vespers of the Vigil," in honor of Easter. The TV program published in the press originally advertised this concert for Sunday; presumably, Central Television forgot that, for believers, celebration of Easter begins on the night of Holy Saturday, and corrected their mistake at the last minute. (Victor Yasmann) YELTSIN AND PAVLOV ATTEND EASTER VIGIL. At midnight on April 6, the Easter liturgy, celebrated by Patriarch Aleksii of Moscow and all Russia, was televised live from Moscow's Cathedral of the Epiphany; transmission continued throughout the night. Towering over the heads of the other worshippers was Boris Yeltsin, accompanied by his wife. Behind him stood Moscow's deputy mayor Sergei Stankevich; close by was prime minister Valentin Pavlov; all were clutching candles. At one point transmission was interrupted to show film of the Pope greeting the crowds in St Peter's Square on March 31 in Belorussian, Russian and Ukrainian. (Elizabeth Teague) FIRST MASS IN ST BASIL'S CATHEDRAL SINCE 1917. Mass was also celebrated on Easter Sunday morning (April 7) in the Church of the Intercession in Red Square--better known as St Basil's Cathedral. Parts of the ceremony were shown on "Vremya" that night. On Easter Monday (April 8), Patriarch Aleksii is to say Mass in the Assumption Cathedral in the Kremlin. (NCA) YELTSIN PROMISES TO EXAMINE MINERS' DEMANDS. Yeltsin told a press conference April 5 he had agreed with miners' representatives that day to set up an interparliamentary commission to examine both the political and the economic demands of the miners. Yeltsin's news conference was reported by Soviet Television. (Elizabeth Teague) YELTSIN SAYS RSFSR UNREADY FOR MULTIPARTY ELECTIONS. Asked at the press conference on April 5 whether he supported the call of Nikolai Travkin, leader of the Democratic Party of Russia, for the holding of new, multiparty elections in the RSFSR in December this year, Yeltsin replied that it was too early since most parties are not yet ready to mount an effective opposition to the CPSU. "Article 6 may have been removed from the constitution," Yeltsin commented, "but the CPSU today remains the ruling party, with all its property, and power, and the KGB and the army. Everything belongs to it." (Elizabeth Teague) CONFLICT CONTINUES OVER WHO RUNS MOSCOW POLICE. The dispute continues between the Kremlin and the RSFSR over control of Moscow's police department. On April 6, the RSFSR's ministry of internal affairs named Major-General Vyacheslav Komissarov as the chief of Moscow police. But "Vremya" reported that evening that the USSR ministry of internal affairs had issued a counterstatement saying that it was in control of the Moscow police department and that its man, USSR first deputy minister of internal affairs I.F. Shilov, is the chief. (NCA) RUSSIAN COMMUNISTS TO FIGHT PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION. Representatives of the "Communists of Russia" group in the RSFSR parliament held a press conference April 5 and announced that the RSFSR Communist Party "may put forward its own candidate" when the post of RSFSR president comes up for election June 12. They may have a hard time finding a credible candidate, given that the "Communists of Russia" argued strongly at the Congress that there was no need for the post of president in the RSFSR. (Elizabeth Teague) KHASBULATOV ON INTERNAL GRAIN EMBARGO. Ruslan Khasbulatov, first deputy chairman of the RSFSR Supreme Soviet, has asked journalists to ease up on wild accusations against Yeltsin who is, Khasbulatov said, very sensitive to such criticism. Khasbulatov said that quadripartite agreement between Russia, Ukraine, Belorussia and Kazakhstan will be signed soon. He was quoted by Kuranty on March 22 as saying the RSFSR's economy is in trouble because major regions such as Stavropol', Rostov and Krasnodar, which are still controlled by the CPSU, have failed to deliver 50% of their harvest to the Russian government. Khasbulatov claimed that the all-Union referendum would have been voted down in the RSFSR had the republic not tied it in with its own referendum. (Alexander Rahr) KIRGHIZ COMMUNIST PARTY LEADER REPLACED. Absamat Masaliev, Communist Party first secretary of Kyrgyzstan since 1985, has been replaced "at his own request" and taken a job in the CPSU Central Committee apparat, TASS reported April 6. TASS said there were two candidates for the post of republican Communist Party first secretary, but identified only the winner, Dzhumgalbek Amanbaev, formerly Party first secretary in Issyk-Kul Oblast and a close associate of republican president Askar Akaev. Masaliev's departure for Moscow is unsurprising; having failed to win the presidency, Masaliev sought to discredit the popular Akaev, but his activities, as well as his extreme conservatism, served more to discredit the republican CP. (Bess Brown) UKRAINIAN STRIKERS WIN RELEASE OF DETAINED PARLIAMENTARIAN. The Ukrainian Supreme Court has given in to a demand by striking coal miners and released a deputy of the Ukrainian Supreme Soviet from detention in Kiev, Radio Kiev announced April 5. The deputy, Stepan Khmara, was awaiting trial on charges of attacking a policeman last November during ceremonies marking the Bolshevik Revolution. Khmara denied the accusation, but the Supreme Court gave in only after coal miners in Chervonohrad, Khmara's constituency, included his release among their demands. The Radio did not say whether charges against Khmara have been dropped. (NCA) KUZBASS DEPUTIES CRITICIZE DEMOCRATIC UNION. A group of RSFSR people's deputies from the Kuzbass have protested a call, issued by the Kuznetsk branch of the anti-Communist Democratic Union, for the disbandment of the Soviets and their replacement by "committees of national resistance." The Democratic Union also reportedly called on the Kuzbass coalminers to throw out their bosses and seize control of their mines. According to "Vremya" April 7, the deputies called on the USSR Procurator General to take action against the Kuznetsk branch of the Democratic Union, saying its call is aimed at the violent overthrow of the constitutional order. (Vera Tolz) "SOYUZ" STARTS ITS OWN PERIODICAL. The hardline "Soyuz" group of USSR people's deputies, which advocates the preservation of the USSR, has begun to publish its own periodical. The first issue of the journal, entitled Politika, carries interviews with the group's leader Yurii Blokhin, US ambassador to Moscow Jack Matlock, and Russian nationalist Igor' Shafarevich, as well as a number of articles attacking Soviet "democrats" and rejecting the idea that the USSR needs a market economy. (Vera Tolz) STRIKE THREAT IN GEORGIA. Georgian Supreme Soviet chairman Zviad Gamsakhurdia has sent a telegram to Gorbachev threatening to call a general strike in Georgia unless Gorbachev withdraws all Soviet army and MVD troops from South Ossetia within an unspecified time period, Reuters and AP reported April 7 and April 8, respectively. Gamsakhurdia stated that Georgian workers would adopt the demands put forward by striking Soviet miners; he claimed Soviet MVD troops were abetting Ossetians in attacks against Georgian villages in what he termed "flagrant aggression against the Georgian republic." (Liz Fuller) AND IN BAKU. According to Reuter of April 6 and The Washington Post of April 7, workers at the Lieutenant Schmidt plant in Baku, which produces machinery for the Soviet oil extraction industry, stopped work on April 6 to demand higher wages to compensate for this month's food price increases. Workers at Baku port and a second oilfield equipment plant have threatened to strike beginning today. (Liz Fuller) GEORGIAN SUPSOV ANNULS MARCH 17 REFERENDUM RESULTS. The Georgian Supreme Soviet has passed a resolution declaring invalid the results of the March 17 referendum in Georgia, and noting "blatant violations" of the voting procedures. Details of violations Abkhazia have been provided by the Georgian Deputy Procurator (Vestnik Gruzii, March 26 and 29). These claims have been substantiated by a Swiss observer who was visiting Abkhazia at the time. (Liz Fuller) MOLDAVIA SEEKS WITHDRAWAL OF SOVIET TROOPS. Moldavia desires negotiations with the USSR Defense Ministry for the withdrawal of Soviet troops from the republic, President Mircea Snegur said, without elaborating, in a televised interview reported by Moldova Suverana April 1. The demand is consonant with the Moldavian Popular Front's platform which calls for turning the republic into a "demilitarized zone." Snegur's move appears to be also prompted by the recent Soviet military repression in the Baltic and the deployment and misconduct of troops in Moldavia at the time of the Union referendum which Moldavia refused to hold. (Vladimir Socor) SNEGUR FOR YELTSIN. Reiterating in the same interview that Moldavia will not sign the Union Treaty but will seek direct relations with other republics and countries, Snegur singled out "Boris Yeltsin's Russia" as a desirable partner for Moldavia. Snegur also urged Romania to seek direct relations with "the Russian Federation of Boris Yeltsin and of the Democratic Russia movement". (Vladimir Socor) WOULD-BE DNIESTER SSR CREATES NEW POWER STRUCTURES. Set up in eastern Moldavia by Russian conservative communists seeking secession from Moldavia, the would-be Dniester SSR is about to proclaim a government of its own as its highest executive authority. Under a decision reported by "Vremya" April 5, that government will only execute the laws and decisions of the USSR and Dniester SSR; no mention is made of Moldavian law. The would-be republic has instituted its own budget and a "Dniester SSR State Bank", and ordered enterprises in the territory to cease income tax payments to Moldavia's republican budget, Krasnaya zvezda reported April 4. (Vladimir Socor) EX-COMMUNIST MOLDAVIAN REFORMERS FOUND NEW PARTY. The Moldavian Communist Party's "Democratic Platform" faction has published a draft statute and is about to transform itself into an independent party, TASS reported April 5. Accusing the Moldavian CP of "supporting center's imperial policy," the new party defines itself as "socialist-oriented." It supports the parliamentary system of government, "the formation of a modern civil society" in Moldavia, and "full sovereignty for the republic." On the day the draft statute was published, the top four leaders of the Democratic Platform were expelled from the Moldavian CP, even though they had themselves publicly resigned from the Party a month earlier. (Vladimir Socor) [As of 1300 CET] [Compiled Patrick Moore & Elizabeth Teague]
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