|Comedy is an escape, not from truth but from despair; a narrow escape into faith. - Christopher Fry|
No. 75, 18 April 1991
BALTIC STATES LITHUANIA'S ECONOMY SLIDES IN FIRST QUARTER. Lithuanian statistical officials announced April 17 that the republic's economic performance continues to deteriorate, TASS reported the same day. For the first quarter of 1991, industrial production was off by 3.5% from the same period in 1990. The fuel industry was off by 14.4%, construction materials down 10.2%, and food production by 16.9%. Total agricultural production was off by 17%. A significant portion of planned deliveries, especially in the food and agricultural sectors, has reduced supplies in the state sector of many basic foodstuffs by as much as two-thirds, according to Lithuania's agricultural minister. Apartment construction is off by 44% compared to the first quarter last year. (John Tedstrom) LITHUANIAN PRIME MINISTER IN OTTAWA. On April 17 Lithuanian Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius met with Canadian officials in Ottawa. In an interview with the RFE Lithuanian Service that day, Vagnorius said that he had talked with Canadian External Affairs Minister Joe Clark for about 50 minutes. They discussed the current situation in Lithuania and its relations with the USSR as well as possible Canadian support for economic reforms. Vagnorius suggested that the West should take an active policy in supporting the democratic forces in the USSR. Vagnorius did not meet with Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, who was in Florida visiting his seriously ailing mother. (Saulius Girnius) FORUM OF LITHUANIA'S FUTURE. On April 17 TASS reported the establishment of a political opposition group to the Lithuanian authorities, the Forum of Lithuania's Future. Its founding conference, held April 13 in Vilnius, was attended by members of the Lithuanian Democratic Labor Party (LDLP) (the former independent Lithuanian Communist Party), the Lithuanian Social Democratic Party, the Confederation of Free Trade Unions, and the Farmers Union. The conference elected a 30-member council whose best known members are former Prime Minister Kazimiera Prunskiene and LDLP Council member Bronius Genzelis, the RFE Lithuanian Service reported on April 14. The forum is clearly dominated by LDLP members. (Saulius Girnius) SAVISAAR IN MOLDAVIA. A government delegation headed by Estonia's Prime Minister Edgar Savisaar is visiting Moldavia this week (see MOLDAVIA HOSTS ESTONIAN PRIME MINISTER below). (Riina Kionka) PENSIONS TO RISE IN ESTONIA. The Estonian Supreme Council passed a bill on April 15 raising pensions substantially, according to the next day's Paevaleht. Pensions are currently pegged to salaries at such a low level that many retirees find it difficult to make ends meet, especially with current price rises. The new law would peg retirement benefits to at least half of a pensioner's salary. Estonia's Minister for Social Administration Siiri Oviir told Paevaleht that "the average pension currently is 105 rubles and the average monthly pay is nearly 400 rubles [per month]. This means that the amount of pensions is only 25% that of salaries--this amount should be well over 50%." (Riina Kionka) MILITARY PLANE CRASHES IN ESTONIA. A Soviet military plane crashed in Estonia on April 17, killing both crew members, AP, quoting ETA, said that day. The plane, of unspecified type, crashed about 60 km southwest of Tallinn near Ellamaa. Soviet Air Force officials did not know the cause of the crash, and have begun an investigation. There were no injuries on the ground, AP said. (Riina Kionka) GASOLINE FOR HARD CURRENCY. Estonia's first Western-style gas station opened last week in Tallinn, according to Paevaleht of April 10. The "Union" station, a project of the Finnish-Estonian joint venture "Traffic Service," sells various grades of gas for hard currency. The station also services and washes cars while customers take advantage of its coffee shop and convenience store. "Traffic Service," which also sells gas to boats at the Pirita marina, plans to open its next station in the seaside resort town of Parnu. Further down the road, "Traffic Station" reportedly plans to open a network of stations along the highway from Finland to Central Europe. (Riina Kionka) USSR - ALL-UNION TOPICS GORBACHEV: WITHOUT FOREIGN AID, DICTATORSHIP IS POSSIBLE. In separate speeches on Wednesday to the Japanese parliament and to 600 top Japanese business leaders, USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev spoke candidly about the problems plaguing the USSR and appealed for aid and investment to avert an economic collapse that could lead to a dictatorship, news agencies reported April 18. Gorbachev lamented that "these are stormy times and it is not easy to hold the wheel of the ship steady." Everything must be done now to "create prerequisites for the even more resolute progress of reform," he added. "The development of a new peaceful world order will largely depend on the outcome of perestroika," Gorbachev asserted, arguing that "rich countries that help less prosperous ones are helping themselves." (Dawn Mann) GORBACHEV-KAIFU TALKS IN OVERTIME. Talks between Gorbachev and his Japanese counterpart Toshiki Kaifu are scheduled to go into a sixth round this evening (April 18) in Japan. Originally the leaders had scheduled three rounds of talks, but obstacles concerning the Kurile Island question have delayed agreement on virtually all other bilateral questions. Japanese officials cited by AFP said that even the most minor of the 15 agreements scheduled to be signed depend on the outcome of these last sessions between Gorbachev and Kaifu. The Japanese side has also indicated that issuing separate communiques would be more meaningful than a joint statement without much substance. (Suzanne Crow) PRESS LEAKS ANGER SOVIET DELEGATION. Presidential Spokesman Vitalii Ignatenko revealed his irritation on April 17 with the Japanese press's advance leaks of official speeches and proposed communiques. Ignatenko, briefing reporters on some remarks to be delivered by Gorbachev on the evening of April 17, said "the rest you can read in the Asahi, Mainichi, and Yomiuri newspapers," Reuter reported April 17. (Suzanne Crow) BUKOVSKY COMMENTS ON SOVIET POLITICS. Writer Vladimir Bukovsky, a former Soviet dissident now visiting Moscow after a 17-year absence as a guest of Democratic Russia, told a news conference on April 17 that Gorbachev, "like the majority of dictators and tyrants...overestimates the power of the structures he administers and underestimates the hatred of the people for them," Reuters reported yesterday. But Bukovsky is mystified by "the remarkable passivity" of the population, particularly of the young: their "passivity is not just incomprehensible, it is a disgrace." (Dawn Mann) BUKOVSKY PRAISES YELTSIN. Bukovsky had high praise for RSFSR Supreme Soviet chairman Boris Yeltsin, "once a populist, now a democrat" and characterized Gorbachev as "too weak to lead the country but still too strong to retire," AFP reported April 17. He faulted the democratic opposition's lack of organization, warning that without "alternative structures, completely independent of the former system" the opposition could not defeat the Communists, and cited Poland's Solidarity as a model. (Dawn Mann) USSR'S LARGEST MINE RE-OPENS AS PRIVATE COMPANY. Miners at the Raspadskaya coal mine in Western Siberia returned to work yesterday under a historic settlement. The USSR government has agreed to transfer control of the mine from the USSR Ministry of the Coal Industry to the RSFSR government, and the RSFSR government and the miners subsequently agreed to run the mine as a joint stock company, news agencies reported April 18. Although the settlement is, on the one hand, a blow to the solidarity of the miners still out on strike, the terms of the agreement mark a further step in the erosion of central control and could set a precedent for the transferral to the republics of other centrally-held industries. (Dawn Mann) KGB INFILTRATES STRIKE MOVEMENT. Literaturnaya gazeta of April 17 published a document giving evidence of KGB penetration of strikers' movements (See also Daily Report, March 26, 1991). The document, dated July 3, 1990, describes how KGB officers from Moscow were dispatched to Novokuznetsk to help the local KGB infiltrate the first congress of the independent worker's movement last summer. The KGB agents infiltrated the congress as guests, consultants and members of delegations from strike committees from Vorkuta, the Kuzbass, the Donbass and Karaganda. The document was signed by the former Chief of the KGB Administration for Protection of the Constitutional Order, Evgenii Ivanov, and the Chief of Economic and Industrial Counter-Intelligence Nikolai Savenkov. It expressed gratitude to participants in the operation for preventing the consolidation of the workers' movement. (Victor Yasmann) MOSCOW NEWS: "PERESTROIKA WAS INITIATED BY KGB". The KGB was a driving force behind perestroika, because only the KGB has had full information about Soviet society, and only through the KGB could Gorbachev reach supreme power in the Kremlin, writes Evgenia Albats in Moscow News, No. 15. However, reforms proceeded only as long as they posed no danger to the KGB itself. According to Albats, today the CPSU has lost control over the KGB, which employs at least 2.9 million officers and which has become a dominant authority in the USSR. Now, despite positive propoganda about the agency, the KGB is subject to public criticism. Albats' article might be an "open secret" for many Soviet citizens; in the long term, the KGB might have a chance to reform itself instead to of being dismantled. (Victor Yasmann) KGB PREVENTS MILITARY BRAIN DRAIN. On April 14, the TV program "Radar" ("Na Sluzhbe Otechestvu") screened a film about a military scientist who was detained when he proposed to a foreign country to fund his defense-related project. A KGB investigator said that it will not prosecute the unidentified scientist because he was not recruited. The investigator said that the case is a result of ill-fated conversion, when people of high intellect were forced to design kitchen pans. The KGB investigator alleged that western secret services are especially interested in Soviet elite groups and are encouraging a brain drain, while the USSR needs these people during the transition to market relations. (Victor Yasmann) OFFICIAL PRESS ASSOCIATION SET UP. The inaugural congress of the newly created Press Association was held in Moscow April 17 and 18, "Mayak" and Izvestia reported. The head of the association's organizational committee, deputy chairman of the USSR State Committee on the Press Aleksandr Gorkovlyuk, said that publishers of about 500 official and independent periodicals have already applied for membership in the association. The main issue discussed at the congress was how to set up a fund for helping those periodicals which are threatened with bankrupcy. (Vera Tolz) SEOUL EXTENDS CREDITS TO USSR. The USSR Foreign Trade Bank and the South Korean Export-Import bank signed an agreement on April 16 giving the USSR $800 million in credits for purchases of South Korean raw materials and consumer goods. This is part of a $3 billion package of loans and credits agreed to earlier this year between the two countries, according to TASS, April 17. The credits are guaranteed by the USSR. This is the second such agreement between the USSR and South Korea this year. On March 30 the Soviet Foreign Trade Bank and a consortium of 10 South Korean banks signed an agreement for credits worth $500 million. In 1990, Soviet-South Korean trade totaled about $889 million, and this year it is expected to exceed $1.5 billion. (John Tedstrom) INDIAN-SOVIET TRADE. India has tightened its regulations on the sale of goods with a high import content to the Soviet Union, a senior Indian government official told Reuter April 16. The combination of high import content exports and reduced imports of Soviet oil, newsprint, and nonferrous metals has resulted in net losses in foreign exchange for India and an outstanding Soviet debt of about $1 billion. (Keith Bush) SURKOV ON NEW DUTIES. The Secretary of the newly-created All-Army Party Committee, Major General Mikhail Surkov, said in Sovetskaya Rossiya on April 9 that--despite reports to the contrary--delegates at the recent All-Army Party Conference had been highly supportive of Gorbachev. Surkov also said that budget constraints would oblige the Party to create a lean organization in the armed forces and that the number of full-time Party personnel would actually be cut. In other comments, Surkov said that the army's Communists would seek allies but would oppose anti-communist forces, and defended attacks on civilians by army units in Vilnius and elsewhere. (Stephen Foye) SHARIN ON MILITARY REFORM, CONVERSION. The Chairman of the Defense and State Security Committee, Leonid Sharin, said in the April 17 Krasnaya zvezda that the USSR Supreme Soviet is now considering a number of military reform proposals. As summarized by TASS, Sharin said that work has been slowed by the breakup of the Warsaw Pact and by the emergence of new relations among the former Pact members. Sharin also said that conversion was moving ahead and that in some cases the Defense Ministry could choose from among several contractors in placing its orders. He added that a "law on conversion" was being prepared, and said that mistakes had been made in the past in implementing conversion. (Stephen Foye) USSR - IN THE REPUBLICS YELTSIN WINDS UP VISIT TO FRANCE. On April 17 Yeltsin concluded his visit to France with an hour-long meeting with the secretary-general of the French presidential office that included a brief chat with President Francois Mitterand, news agencies reported. Presidential spokesman Hubert Vedine noted that "Yeltsin represents Russia...and it is in that capacity that it is interesting to have talks with him. But there must be no ambiguity. The Soviet Union has one president, and that is Mr. Gorbachev." Yeltsin declared himself "very satisfied" with the results of his trip, saying that officials with whom he met had "understood that a dialogue must be initiatated, even if only at the level of contacts between committees" of the RSFSR Supreme Soviet and the European Parliament. (Dawn Mann) YELTSIN CALLS FOR RESUMPTION OF TIES WITH ISRAEL. Yeltsin also told reporters that "the time has come for diplomatic" relations between the Soviet Union and Israel and said that "Russia is prepared either to associate itself (with the Kremlin's efforts to resume ties) or to establish diplomatic relations independently," Reuter reported April 17. Earlier this week, Soviet Prime Minister Valentin Pavlov and Israeli Prime Minster Yitzhak Shamir discussed the possibility of resuming diplomatic relations. (Dawn Mann) RUSSIAN TRADE UNIONS CALL FOR WARNING STRIKE. The Federation of Independent Russian Trade Unions is calling for protest actions on April 26 to support the demands of striking coal miners, TASS reported April 17. The council suggested walkouts in transportation and industrial work collectives, although it is up to individual collectives to decide what form their protest will take. The Federation advised workers in sectors where strikes are forbidden to hold rallies after hours. (NCA) MOSCOW OFFICIALS SAY HONECKER HAS NO RESIDENCE PERMIT. Mikahil Karpov, press officer for the Moscow city council, told reporters on Wednesday that an application for a residence permit for former East German leader Erich Honecker has not been submitted, and that he is not entitled to municipal social services or housing, Reuters reported April 17. Ration cards have also not been issued, but Karpov said, "I am sure that those who invited him will take care of him." Honecker's whereabouts are being kept secret; he is reportedly moved frequently. (Dawn Mann) HOUSING TO BE PRIVATIZED IN LENINGRAD. The results of a meeting of the Leningrad city soviet on April 16 indicate city soviet chairman Anatolii Sobchak's firm resolve to press ahead with the privatization of housing in the RSFSR's second city, TASS reported the same day. A group of Lensoviet deputies proposed raising housing allowances for city residents and increasing centralized investment, but Sobchak reproached them, saying that the process of privatizing housing--begun in a small way in 1988--must continue. Approximately 30% of city's population lives in communal apartments and some have been on waiting lists for private apartments for over 10 years. (John Tedstrom) MOLDAVIA HOSTS ESTONIAN PREMIER. Estonian Prime Minister Edgar Savisaar, on an "official working visit" to Moldavia since April 16, has held talks with Moldavian Prime Minister Mircea Druc and other Moldavian officials. "The time has come for us to coordinate not only economic but also political actions. We should be able to rid ourselves of the consequences of the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact through joint actions," Savisaar told Moldovapres April 17. According to a release from Moldovapres the same day, Druc and Savisaar "consider that the two republics' economic and political aspirations are similar...both republics seeking full independence from Moscow." (Vladimir Socor) POTASSIUM MINE STRIKES. Workers at a potassium mine near the Belorussian city of Salihorsk restarted a strike April 17. A statement issued by the Minsk Strike Committee said the action was taken in response to a management decision to begin court proceedings against the miners. Leaders of last week's strikes warned that protests would resume if workers were punished for taking part in strikes. Meanwhile, the strike committee at the Belaz Automobile Factory in Zhodina set April 19 as the deadline for its Communist Party Committee to leave the premises. The Party is under similar pressure at the Minsk Tractor Factory and other enterprises. (Belorussian BD/Kathy Mihalisko) ARMENIA NATIONALIZES COMMUNIST PARTY PROPERTY. TASS reported on April 17 that the Armenian Supreme Soviet has declared all Communist Party and Komsomol assets in Armenia to be state property, on the grounds that "the Party's wealth was created at the expense of the state budget." This step may have been partially intended to prevent the recurrence of attempts made in recent months by radical parties such as the Republican Party and the Union for National Self-Determination to occupy Communist Party buildings. (Liz Fuller) LETTER OF GEORGIAN CHEKISTS TO BOBKOV. Colonel A. Maisuradze and Lieutenant Colonel I. Narimanidze of the Georgian KGB have accused former First Deputy Chairman of the USSR KGB, Filipp Bobkov, of disinformation about the situation in Georgia. In an article published in Pravda of March 22, Bobkov accused the present leadership of Georgia of "demofascism" and "genocide" against the Ossetian people. In response, the Georgian KGB officers highlighted Bobkov's own role in the conflict between Georgians and Ossetians. In a letter published in Vestnik Gruzi of March 31 they said Bobkov came to Tbilisi soon after the events of April 9, 1989 and practically took all power over the republic. They also revealed a close connection between Bobkov and one of the leaders of Ossetians, Afghanistan veteran General Kim Tsagolov. (Victor Yasmann) PETRUSHENKO ON SEMIPALATINSK. In the third issue for 1991 of the Znanie Society journal Lider, Nikolai Petrushenko, one of the leaders of the conservative "Soyuz" faction in the USSR Supreme Soviet, tries to explain that popular fears of radiation from the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site are unjustified. He complains that the press propagates the anti-nuclear point of view, that there is widespread popular belief that radiation measuring devices made in the USSR are inaccurate, tries to discredit the motives of the Nevada-Semipalatinsk anti-nuclear movement, and claims that there is little concern about radiation-caused diseases outside the USSR. (Bess Brown) KAZAKHSTAN TO PRIVATIZE PROPERTY. Kazakh officials have prepared a draft law setting out the rules and regulations for privatizing state property within the republic, according to TASS April 17. The draft law will be printed in the press for review and discussion in the republic before it is introduced to the republic's Supreme Soviet. As it now stands, the draft aims to privatize enterprises in all spheres of the Kazakh economy, including a small share of the enterprises in the defense complex. Citizens of Kazakhstan, other republics and foreign countries, as well as stateless people may purchase Kazakh property according to the draft law. (John Tedstrom) TATARSTAN WILL NOT ELECT A PRESIDENT. The Tatarstan Supreme Soviet has decided against electing a president for the republic, TASS reported April 17. Republican Supreme Soviet chairman Mikhail Shaimiev said a law on the presidency should be adopted first, and the Supreme Soviet has established a commission to examine the question. (Dawn Mann) [As of 1300 CET] Compiled by Patrick Moore and Sallie Wise
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