|The absence of alternatives clears the mind marvelously. - Henry Kissinger|
No. 70, 11 April 1991
BALTIC STATES LATVIAN-USSR TALKS START TODAY. According to Radio Riga and TASS of April 10, talks between Latvian and Soviet representatives were to start today (April 11) at the Kremlin at 11:00 A.M. Both delegations will be led by deputy prime ministers: Ilmars Bisers of Latvia and Vladimir Velichko of the USSR. Though the agenda remains to be worked out, Deputy Sergei Dimanis from Latvia said that borders and the status of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the State Prosecutor's Office in Latvia may be discussed. Aris Jansons, press attache at the Latvian representation in Moscow said that USSR Prime Minister Valentin Pavlov may meet the Estonian and Latvian prime ministers on April 18 or 19. (Dzintra Bungs) BALTIC SOLDIERS UNION FORMED. Radio Riga reported on April 9 and 10 on an article in Za Rodinu of April 9 on the establishment of the Baltic Soldiers' Union. The newspaper is published under the auspices of the USSR Baltic Military. It printed also the draft statutes of the new organization, whose aim is to defend the social and political interests of Soviet soldiers, the USSR Constitution, the integrity of the Soviet Union, and the rights of Soviet citizens. The document reportedly allows soldiers to use force to uphold the organization's aims. The article in Za Rodinu urged that similar organizations be formed in other regions of the USSR. (Dzintra Bungs) LANDSBERGIS CONGRATULATES GEORGIA. On April 10 Lithuania's Supreme Council Chairman Vytautas Landsbergis congratulated the Georgian parliament on its April 9 decision to declare independence. According to a DPA dispatch of April 10, Landsbergis drew parallels between Lithuania and Georgia, saying both republics have chosen freedom and both face threats from the central Soviet government. (Dzintra Bungs) ALL-UNION TOPICS LABOR UNREST CONTINUES. Strikes continued in several parts of the Soviet Union yesterday (April 10), as miners and other workers pressed political demands that included the resignation of President Mikhail Gorbachev. TASS described the situation in Western Siberia's Kuzbass region as "tense," with 47 out of 76 mines closed. TASS said bus drivers in the regional center Kemerovo joined the strike yesterday, making it difficult for people to get to work. In Ukraine's Donbass, TASS reported, 22 out of 122 mines were on strike, while 12 out of 13 mines were on strike in the Far North Vorkuta region. Strikes were also reported from Minsk and other industrial centers of Belorussia (see below for details). (NCA) GORBACHEV MAY BE ASKED TO GIVE ACCOUNT AT PLENUM. Addressing a press conference in Moscow April 10, Presidential aide Georgii Shakhnazarov denied that Mikhail Gorbachev plans to relinquish his post as Party general secretary, TASS reported that day. He did not however deny that Gorbachev may be required to give a personal account at a forthcoming plenum of the CPSU Central Committee. A number of local Party organizations (including the Kiev city Party committee) are calling for an extraordinary plenum to discuss the political and economic situation in the USSR, according to TASS of April 9. Asked about the miners' strike, Shakhnazarov suggested that the leadership of the RSFSR should prevail on miners to return to work. (Alexander Rahr) "SOYUZ" LEADER REPORTS ON MEETING WITH GORBACHEV. On April 10, TASS carried a report by Yurii Blokhin, leader of the hardline "Soyuz" group of USSR people's deputies, on talks April 8 between "Soyuz" and Mikhail Gorbachev. Blokhin denied recent reports that the group is demanding Gorbachev's resignation. (In fact, some of the group's leaders, such as Evgenii Kogan, have said recently that Gorbachev should not stay in power.) Blokhin said his group, whose aim is the preservation of the Union, thinks the president is too indecisive, but that he has lately begun to move in the right direction. Blokhin said that, during the meeting, "Soyuz" criticized the latest draft of the Union Treaty on the grounds that it gives too much power to the republics. (Vera Tolz) "WE WERE...PUSHED TO USE FORCE." Interviewed April 10 by Literaturnaya gazeta, Eduard Shevardnadze said pressure was put on the Soviet leadership in 1989 to use force to suppress the East European revolutions. "There was of course an alternative [to the Soviet Union's passivity.] We were quite actively pushed to use force.... In other words, we were told to act according to the scenarios of 1953, 1956, and 1968." Reuter, which summarized the interview on April 10, did not say whether Shevardnadze indicated which circles were pushing for the use of force. (Suzanne Crow) MOSCOW AMBIVALENT ON ISLANDS. According to the results of a telephone poll of Moscow conducted April 2-3, 51.8% of those questioned opposed the return of the southern Kurile Islands to Japan. 22.2% called for the compensated return of the islands, 3.5% said the islands should be returned to Japan unconditionally, while 3.4% did not know about the issue. TASS's April 10 report did not identify the missing 19.1%. An April 4 APN commentary disparaged those who, it said, would "exchange their homeland for stereo tape recorders, videos, or for the billions promised to buy the islands." (Suzanne Crow) SOVIET-GREEK FRIENDSHIP TREATY. During his April 9-10 visit in Athens, Foreign Minister Aleksandr Bessmertnykh held consultations with Greek President Constantine Karamanlis and Foreign Minister Antonios Samaras. The two countries signed a Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation on April 10, agreed to expand business contacts, and talked about direct economic contacts between the Soviet Union's and Greece's Black Sea regions, TASS reported April 10. (Suzanne Crow) STATE BUDGET DEFICIT. Aleksandr Orlov, deputy chairman of the USSR Supreme Soviet's Committee on Planning and Finance, elaborated on the current budget crisis in Rabochaya tribuna April 10. The RSFSR has withheld all of the 45 percent corporation tax and the 5 percent sales tax levied since January 1. The state budget deficit for the first quarter of 1991 has already climbed to 31.1 billion rubles, whereas a deficit of 26.7 billion rubles had been planned for the entire year. Orlov indicated that the Federation Council might be asked to suspend republican laws which contradict union legislation, and to find ways of forcing the union-republics to cough up their dues. (Keith Bush) WAGE POLICY FOR 1992-95? Pravda of April 8 carries a short, unattributed, and somewhat opaque report on the negotiation of base industry pay agreements for the period 1992-95. The USSR Cabinet of Ministers has ordered the ministries of various basic industries (such as power and electrification, petroleum and gas, metallurgy, railways) and certain individual associations and concerns (such as Norilsky nikel, Teknokhim, and Gazprom) to conclude by July 1 wage rate agreements for 1992-95. The agreements are to stipulate each side's mutual obligations to provide the economy with the necessary volume of output, as well as a complex of social guarantees for the workers. (Keith Bush) KRAVCHENKO EXPLAINS DEPARTURE OF NEWSMEN. Replying to viewers' questions during a live phone-in on Soviet TV April 9, the head of the All-Union State TV and Radio Company, Leonid Kravchenko, denied he had fired two well-known political commentators, Vladimir Pozner and Vladimir Tsvetov. Kravchenko said Pozner and Tsvetov left Central TV of their own free will. He did however admit that the two journalists were displeased with the current situation regarding Soviet Television. So, it appeared, are many viewers. Many of the comments read out during the program asserted that Kravchenko's management of Central TV is essentially aimed at reestablishing political censorship. (Vera Tolz) FUTURE OF "VZGLYAD" STILL UNCLEAR. Speaking in the same TV program, Kravchenko dashed hopes that the popular TV show "Vzglyad" might soon return to the screen. Such hopes were aroused when, on March 25, Kravchenko's deputy Valentin Lazutkin asserted that it had been decided to restore the show, which was banned at the end of last year. Answering a question from a viewer, Kravchenko stressed that, "for the time being," restoration of the show is still considered undesirable. (Vera Tolz) LOMAKIN HAS THE GRACE TO BLUSH. Another question phoned-in to the same program asked why Boris Yeltsin is rudely interrupted when he appears on TV, while Mikhail Gorbachev is allowed to speak without interruption. The moderator, Sergei Lomakin, squirmed in his seat, since it was he whose hectoring tone during a 40-minute interview with Yeltsin on February 19 angered many TV viewers. In contrast, Lomakin's boss, Kravchenko, allowed Gorbachev to speak without interruption for over an hour during an interview before the all-Union referendum. But Kravchenko (referring to another Gorbachev appearance) claimed Gorbachev received "only 7 minutes," and contrasted this with 11 minutes granted to Yeltsin's deputy, Ruslan Khasbulatov. (Elizabeth Teague) "PYATOE KOLESO"--KRAVCHENKO'S NEXT VICTIM? The popular Leningrad TV program, "Pyatoe koleso," came under sharp attack during the April 9 phone-in. ("Pyatoe koleso" always presents a point of view on Soviet domestic events that is alternative to that of "Vremya," even though Leningrad TV is subordinated to Kravchenko.) Kravchenko read from a hefty pile of notes in which viewers complained that "Pyatoe koleso" was overtly anti-Soviet and that the leadership of Central Television should take action against the show's moderator, Bella Kurkova. (Vera Tolz) NEW AIDE TO GORBACHEV APPOINTED. 39-year-old Valentin Karasev has been appointed aide to Mikhail Gorbachev with responsibility for liaison with state and social organizations, TASS reported April 9. Karasev, a candidate of historical sciences, has until now been a member of the USSR Supreme Soviet Committee on the Soviets of People's Deputies, Development of Government, and Self-Government. Before that, he chaired the department of CPSU History and Scientific Communism at the Kramatorsk Industrial Institute in Donetsk Oblast. Announcing the new appointment, presidential spokesman Vitalii Ignatenko said he himself will remain in charge of ties with the mass media. (Alexander Rahr) BREZHNEV DACHA LEASED TO BRITISH-SOVIET COMPANY. Leonid Brezhnev's 56-hectare dacha complex near Kislovodsk in the North Caucasus will become a resort for foreign tourists, TASS reported April 8. The agency said that is what a British-Soviet joint venture called Asmaral plans to do with the complex, which it has obtained on a 49-year lease from the city of Kislovodsk. It says the city will get 2 million rubles a year for the lease, plus half of the profits from the resort. According to TASS, Brezhnev visited the complex only once, and Gorbachev gave it to the Kislovodsk city Soviet a year ago. (NCA) IN THE REPUBLICS STRIKES IN BELORUSSIA. On April 10, just one day after President Gorbachev proposed a moratorium on strikes and political demonstrations, as many as 100,000 workers filled Lenin Square in central Minsk to call for the resignation of the Soviet and Belorussian leaderships. All told, more than 60 Minsk enterprises were on strike, including the huge tractor factory visited by Gorbachev in late February. Speakers condemned the Communist Party, urged the holding of new multiparty elections to the Belorussian parliament, and the nationalization of CP property. Uladzimir Honcharik, chairman of the official trade unions, was forced by jeering workers to abandon his defense of the Communist record. (Belorussian BD/Kathy Mihalisko) OTHER BELORUSSIAN CITIES JOIN IN. Strikes were also reported in the industrial cities of Zhodina, Borisov, Gomel, Maladechno, and Saligorsk, a potassium mining center. Rallies in support of the Minsk workers were held in Grodno and Lido. RFE/RL has learned that plans are being made for an all-Belorussia strike to take place later this month. (Belorussian BD/Kathy Mihalisko) BELORUSSIAN GOVERNMENT CAN'T MEET DEMANDS. First deputy prime minister Mikhail Myasnikovich yesterday told strike leaders that the republican government cannot meet the workers' economic demands, which include salary increases to compensate for last week's drastic price increases. Strikers were, however, given a chance last night to appear on republican TV. Minsk Strike Committee member Georgi Mukhin used the broadcast to criticize the Party for "the collapse of the economy, lies about Chernobyl, and the annihilation of peoples and their languages." (NCA/Kathy Mihalisko) GEORGIA CALLS FOR GENERAL STRIKE. On April 10 Georgian Supreme Soviet chairman Zviad Gamsakhurdia called for a one-day general strike by railway and port workers and factories subordinate to all-Union ministries to press for the withdrawal of Soviet troops from the disputed region of South Ossetia. He predicted somewhat optimistically that the strike action, which would disrupt shipments of coal and oil, "will be a great blow to the Soviet economy," Reuters reported (April 10). (Liz Fuller) GAMSAKHURDIA CALLS ON GORBACHEV TO RECOGNIZE GEORGIAN INDEPENDENCE. Gamsakhurdia sent a personal letter to Gorbachev April 10 affirming Georgia's readiness to work out new political and economic relations with Moscow, and expressing the hope that Gorbachev "will ultimately fulfill your principles of democracy and recognize Georgia as an independent state", AP reports (April 10) quoting the Independent Russian News Agency. (Liz Fuller) USSR MVD TROOPS ARREST GEORGIAN MILITIA. Interfax and Radio Tbilisi reported April 10 that USSR MVD troops had detained 21 Georgian militiamen in several villages close to the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali in what a senior MVD officer told TASS was "an attempt to break Georgia's blockade" of the town. Ten Ossetians were also detained and one killed; quantities of weapons and ammunition were confiscated. (Liz Fuller) "SOYUZ" DEMANDS PRESIDENTIAL RULE IN SOUTH OSSETIA. As quoted by TASS April 10, "Soyuz" leader Yurii Blokhin said that, during its April 8 meeting with Gorbachev, his group reiterated its demand for the introduction of direct presidential rule in South Ossetia. Blokhin said that, if Gorbachev is afraid to make this step, the USSR Supreme Soviet should take responsibility for the decision. Presidential rule in South Ossetia is advocated as the only way of stopping the bloodshed not only by the hardline "Soyuz," but also by some democrats, including Andrei Sakharov's widow Elena Bonner. (Vera Tolz) ECONOMIC SITUATION IN KYRGYZSTAN WORSENS. Kirgiz president Askar Akaev has told the republican Cabinet of Ministers that the socio-economic situation in the republic has worsened to such an extent that there is danger of a "political explosion." Akaev's comments were reported by TASS on April 10. The volume of production is down for all basic indicators of industrial and agricultural output. If this situation continues next winter, Akaev said, actual hunger will be a real possibility. Akaev offered a recovery program that includes privatization of small service firms and developing economic ties with foreign countries. (Bess Brown) MURDER OF COSSACK LEADER CAUSES DISTURBANCES. The murder of an ataman of the Terek Cossacks in Sunzhensk raion in the RSFSR's Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Republic has sparked unrest among the local Russian population, Radio Moscow reported on April 9. Ataman Podkolosin, who worked as a municipal clerk, was stabbed by a local man named Batyrov. The local Cossack community are convinced the incident was ethnically inspired and are demanding protection from the republican Supreme Soviet. Instead of reporting the incident as the murder of a local bureaucrat, Radio Moscow highlighted the ethnic character of the incident. (Victor Yasmann) TRIAL DATE SET FOR UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENTARIAN. The trial of Ukrainian People's Deputy Stepan Khmara has been set for April 29, Radio Kiev reported on April 10. Khmara was arrested last November in connection with an incident involving an MVD officer in Kiev on Revolution Day. He was released from prison on April 6. (Roman Solchanyk) MOLDAVIA SETS IMMIGRATION QUOTA. The Moldavian government will limit immigration into Moldavia from other Soviet republics for 1991 to a figure equivalent to 0.05% of Moldavia's current population, Labor Minister Gheorghe Spinei told TASS April 10. The quota amounts to some 2,000 persons. The measure is designed to stop the long-standing practice of the enterprises of all-Union subordination bringing manpower from other republics into Moldavia. Enterprises and organizations wishing to bring in personnel and dependents in excess of the quota will have to pay a fine of 25,000 rubles per individual immigrant. The quota system will not apply to persons wishing to be repatriated to Moldavia from other republics (meaning in practice transplanted Moldavians). (Vladimir Socor)
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