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No. 80, 25 April 1991
BALTIC STATES DOCKERS' STRIKE IN KLAIPEDA ENDED. The strike by dock workers in Klaipeda has ended, Radio Kaunas reported on April 24. Strike committee leader Ramunas Milikas said that the workers had returned to work the previous evening after a meeting with the USSR Deputy Minister of Transportation, who agreed to most of their demands. (Saulius Girnius) SOVIET TROOPS TAKE OVER BANK BUILDING IN VILNIUS. On April 24 Radio Kaunas reported that Soviet Interior Ministry troops had taken over, without violence, a building in Vilnius containing the Naujoji Vilnis district branch of the Republic of Lithuania Agroindustrial Bank and a commercial bank, registered as a branch of the USSR Bank. The soldiers controlling the entrance to the building said they were following directives of USSR Minister of Internal Affairs Boriss Pugo to protect Soviet banks. Chairman of the Lithuanian Supreme Council Vytautas Landsbergis telephoned USSR Deputy Prime Minister Vitalii Doguzhiev after the seizure. Doguzhiev told him there could be no question of the use of force and that all disputes had to be achieved through political means and economic agreements. (Saulius Girnius) LITHUANIAN APPEAL TO GORBACHEV. On April 22 Landsbergis wrote an appeal to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in the name of the Lithuanian Supreme Council that was given to Gorbachev's secretariat the next day by the Lithuanian permanent representative in Moscow, Egidijus Bickauskas, Radio Kaunas reported on April 24. The appeal noted that Lithuania has consistently favored constructive talks with the USSR and called on Gorbachev to name a delegation to begin talks on Lithuania's independence. It also urged Gorbachev to use the CPSU plenum to declare a fundamental rejection of the use of force or threats of force so as to create a normal political atmosphere for the talks. (Saulius Girnius) NEW OFFICERS IN LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT. On April 24 the Lithuanian Supreme Council elected new officers, Radio Kaunas reported that day. It chose Algirdas Endriukaitis as its deputy secretary and Aurimas Taurantas as its speaker. Endriukaitis (born in 1936) is not a member of any political party or faction in the parliament. Taurantas (born in 1956) is a member of the Lithuanian Greens' Party and the Joint Sajudis faction. Deputy speakers are to be elected on April 25. (Saulius Girnius) USSR-LATVIA ECONOMICS TALKS. On April 23 Latvian Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis and USSR Prime Minister Valentin Pavlov talked for about an hour about USSR-Latvia economic relations, Latvian government press attache Aris Jansons told the RFE Latvian Service on April 24. Godmanis did not give Jansons details of the meeting, but hinted that some progress toward an agreement had been made by saying that the problem of Soviet-Latvian financial difficulties was "now a question for financial experts." Moscow has previously threatened Latvia with economic sanctions if it did not guarantee the payment of 4,200 million rubles to the Soviet budget. (Saulius Girnius) USSR - ALL-UNION TOPICS GORBACHEV AND REPUBLICAN LEADERS SIGN PACT. Gorbachev and representatives of nine Union republics, including RSFSR Supreme Soviet Chairman Boris Yeltsin, have signed a five-point joint statement on measures to stabilize the crisis situation in the country. The text of the agreement was hammered out at a meeting April 23 at a country dacha near Moscow and published on the front page of Pravda April 24. In addition to the RSFSR, the session was attended by representatives of Ukraine, Belorussia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Kirghizia, and Turkmenistan. The agreement places primary emphasis on speedy conclusion of a new Union treaty and adoption of a new USSR constitution. It also recognizes the right of the three Baltic states, Moldavia, Armenia, and Georgia to "independently decide" if they will join in the Union treaty and contains an economic package that reverses several elements of the government's recently announced anti-crisis measures. (Roman Solchanyk) GORBACHEV FIGHTS OFF HARDLINE CHALLENGE--FOR THE PRESENT. An expanded plenum of the CPSU Central Committee opened in Moscow yesterday (April 24), amid rumors that hardliners would require Gorbachev to give an account of his stewardship and try to force him relinquish the Party leadership. Few details of the debate were published at the end of the first day, but the consensus is that Gorbachev skillfully exploited his new agreement with Yeltsin and eight other republican leaders to rebuff calls for his ouster. The plenum continues today and conservatives are promising no let-up in their efforts to call Gorbachev to heel. "The real decisions on what to do will be taken tomorrow," Reuters reported Latvian Party leader Alfreds Rubiks as saying at the close of the first day; "today was just the test-firing of the guns." (Elizabeth Teague) DEPUTIES LACK CONFIDENCE IN CPSU. An opinion poll among USSR and RSFSR People's Deputies and Moscow city and raion soviet deputies conducted by sociologist Boris Grushin revealed that this "political elite" by and large does not trust the CPSU to lead the USSR out of crisis. Radio Rossii on April 24 reported the findings of the survey. To the question "Is the CPSU capable of leading the country out of crisis?", 60% of the respondents replied "no," 28% replied "yes," and 12% had no opinion. (Sallie Wise) IMF: GLOOMY ECONOMIC OUTLOOK FOR USSR. In its annual world economic outlook released on April 24, the International Monetary Fund pictures unfavorable prospects for the Soviet economy, with output declining, inflation rising, and price and supply imbalances becoming "particularly severe," NCA reported April 25. Although the USSR's lack of progress in implementing economic reforms so far kept output losses in 1990 "relatively moderate...it is likely to involve considerably higher cost in the long run." Continued rigidities in the system, coupled with price distortions, prevent "significant efficiency gains," the report concludes, while the lack of financial discipline jeopardizes general economic stability. (Keith Bush) EMIGRATION BILL DISCUSSED BY PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE. A draft of the USSR's long-awaited law on exit and entry has been debated by the USSR Supreme Soviet's Committee on International Affairs, Soviet Television reported April 24. The committee heard proposals that the controversial new law should not come into effect until July 1, 1992. The Supreme Soviet is to debate the bill on May 7. (Elizabeth Teague) UNEMPLOYMENT AND MIGRATION. At an informal meeting of European labor ministers in Prague, USSR Minister for Labor and Social Affairs Valerii Paulman reported that 1.5 million Soviet citizens have already decided to seek work abroad, CTK reported April 24. Because of anticipated unemployment in the USSR, Paulman reckoned that at least 8 million Soviet citizens will seek jobs abroad during the next three years. On April 18, TASS reported that 452,000 Soviet citizens emigrated in 1990: of these, roughly a third were laborers, a third were professionally employed, and the rest were retired or unemployed. (Keith Bush) IMPORTANT TRENDS IN REGIONAL BANKING. Vostokinvestbank has recently been granted the right to conduct independent hard-currency operations in the Asia-Pacific region, TASS reported April 24. The bank has assets worth "hundreds of millions of rubles," and is making venture capital investments in numerous industrial and research and design operations. This is a growing trend among regional commercial banks, and the opportunities for Vostokinvestbank to support Soviet joint ventures with partners in the Asia-Pacific region are also growing, albeit not as fast as the USSR might like. All things being equal, once successful investments have been made, the process should accelerate and could contribute to regional development and independence in the Soviet Far East. (John Tedstrom) NEW FOREIGN MINISTRY DIRECTORATE FOR ASIA. On April 24 TASS highlighted the creation of a new unit at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs: the Directorate for Common Problems of the Asia-Pacific Region. The unit was created earlier this year: Vestnik MIDa (No. 4, February 28) identified Aleksandr Prokhorovich Losyukov as head of the unit. Losyukov is a career diplomat who has served at Soviet embassies in Afghanistan (1968-72), United States (1974-80) and in the Philippines (1985-90). The creation of the unit could signify the resurgence of Soviet interest in developing ties in Asia, a plan derailed repeatedly over the last few years by pressing issues in Europe. (Suzanne Crow) USSR TURNS "UGLY FACE TO ASIA." The Times (London) of April 24 reported on the speech Leonid Mlechin, Deputy Editor-In-Chief of Novoe vremya, made at a Soviet-Japanese gathering during last week's summit. According to the Times report, the speech likened Japanese economic practices to its "aggressive militarism" of the past, claimed other Asians resented the Japanese, and implicitly warned Japan that since it possesses no nuclear weapons, it cannot consider itself a world power as can the USSR. The Times correspondent noted that the speech lent credence to the idea, stated by a Japanese man present, that "the bear is turning its cuddly face to the west, its ugly face to Asia." (Suzanne Crow) BAKER, BESSMERTNYKH MEET IN KISLOVODSK. US Secretary of State James Baker is meeting with his Soviet counterpart Aleksandr Bessmertnykh April 25 in the Caucasus resort of Kislovodsk to discuss Middle East issues. The focus of the talks is preparations for the Arab-Israeli negotiations. Syria and Israel have not yet agreed on terms to talk. Baker said that the United States has been in constant communication with the Soviet Union and now "it's time for the two of us to sit down face to face," AP reported April 25. (Suzanne Crow) FINNISH LEASEHOLD FARMERS IN KARELIA? Representatives from the Finnish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry have been meeting with members of the Karelian ASSR Supreme Soviet to discuss joint ventures, Helsinki Radio reported April 18. The Karelian side is said to be prepared to lease land to Finnish farmers on long-term agreements. (Keith Bush) FIGURES ON PEACETIME ARMY DEATHS. A fact-finding commission investigating peacetime deaths and violence in the Soviet armed forces reports that some 120,000 servicemen have died over the past fifteen years, an average of 8,000 per year. According to a Novosti reprint of an article in Number 67 Kuranty, the commission estimates that the deaths were the result of suicide (50%), inflicted injuries (20%), accidents (10%), and electric burns and shocks (5%). The commission also estimates that cerebral and cranial injuries, rape, and other physical shocks caused disabilities in 30% of the cases reviewed. It concludes that "irregular practices" have caused over 70% of all deaths and injuries. (Stephen Foye) NEW SERVICEMEN'S UNION FORMED. A retired major has told RFE/RL that a new union for servicemen has been established in Leningrad and held its first working session on April 23. Retired Major Valentin Turchin said that the union hoped to find a common language between Soviet society and the army. He added that the new union differs from Shchit (Shield)--a renegade union that has long criticized the Soviet Defense Ministry--in that Shchit's activities are limited to defending the rights of servicemen. Turchin said that he also belongs to Shchit. (NCA/Stephen Foye) POPULARITY OF TV FALLS. The popularity of television as the main source of information and entertainment for Soviet citizens seriously decreased in 1990, the weekly Sem' dnei (April 14-21) reported. The weekly's survey reported that although 54% of those polled thought the quality of TV programs improved in 1990, the number of unpopular programs (watched by less then 10% of regular viewers) increased by 14%. The average age of regular TV viewers also changed, increasing from 30-49 in the first years of perestroika to 50-59 in 1990. It should be noted that these unfavorable tendencies started to be visible before the appointment of Leonid Kravchneko as head of Soviet Central TV. One can guess that Kravchenko's policies would contribute to a further decrease in TV's popularity. (Vera Tolz) FILM CRITICIZING RADIO LIBERTY ATTACKED BY VIEWERS. A moderator of the Central TV program Teleskop admitted on April 24, when asked to name the worst central TV broadcast of the month, that a majority of viewers named the film "Alien Voices." This film attacked Radio Liberty and, as officially stated, was prepared by the KGB press center. One critic of the program even suggested it be given a special prize for the worst possible film. The film was also criticized in liberal Soviet newspapers, including Komsomol'skaya pravda (April 9) and Literaturnaya gazeta (April 10). (Vera Tolz) USSR - IN THE REPUBLICS LAW ON ELECTION OF RSFSR PRESIDENT ADOPTED. The RSFSR Supreme Soviet adopted a law on election of the RSFSR president on April 24, TASS reported that day. Any citizen of the RSFSR between the ages of 35 and 65 can be elected president. RSFSR political parties, trade unions, and public organizations can nominate candidates. According to Radio Mayak April 24, these candidates are officially registered once they prove that they have the support of 100,000 voters; it seems that candidates also need the support of one-fifth of the RSFSR People's Deputies (i.e., those serving in the republican Congress of People's Deputies), although this passage of the broadcast not clear (candidates may only need the support of one-fifth of the members of the RSFSR Supreme Soviet). The president is elected to a 5-year term and can serve no more than 2 terms. Any republican citizen 18 years of age or older can vote. A 50% voter turnout is required to validate the election; the candidate who receives over 50% of the votes cast is elected. The first election is scheduled for June 12. (Dawn Mann) LAW ON RSFSR PRESIDENT UNDER DEBATE. Debate on the draft of another law -- on the RSFSR presidency itself -- began April 24, TASS reported. The draft states that the president is the chief executive in the republic but does not have the right to dismiss the republican Supreme Soviet or the Congress of People's Deputies or suspend their activities. The President cannot be a people's deputy and, once elected, must suspend membership in all political parties. (Dawn Mann) DEMOCRATIC RUSSIA REGISTERED. The Democratic Russia movement has been officially registered by the RSFSR Ministry of Justice April 24, TASS reported. TASS said the movement has millions of supporters in Russia and is represented in almost all its major cities. The movement, which supports the policies of Yeltsin, will hold its second congress in June. (NCA/Vera Tolz) LAY-OFFS IN MOSCOW HALTED. The Moscow City Executive Committee has halted until July 1 lay-offs in the city's enterprises, Radio Rossii reported April 22. The reason given was that questions of social protection for the unemployed and arrangements for finding new jobs have not yet been settled. It is hoped that solutions will be provided by the all-Union and RSFSR legislation due to come into force on July 1. (Keith Bush) MOSCOW ORTHODOX YOUTH MOVEMENT. TASS reported on April 23 on the opening that day of the first meeting of the Orthodox youth of Moscow. Patriarch Aleksii II was present at the opening. A representative the organizing committee told a TASS reporter that more than 250 priests and laymen are participating in the meeting. The purpose of the meeting is the creation of a new public organization, the Moscow Orthodox Youth Movement. The meeting ends April 25. (Oxana Antic) BELORUSSIAN STRIKES INTENSIFY. Tensions mounted yesterday in Belorussia on the second day of the general strike, under growing fears of police intervention. The Presidium of the Supreme Soviet held a joint meeting with the KGB, MVD, and military district commanders. The Presidium again rejected the strikers' main demand for an emergency session of parliament and deputy SupSov chairman Stanislau Shushkevich, who until now enjoyed support from democratic forces, refused to address a rally in Minsk. Opposition deputies have called on colleagues to suspend their membership in the republican Supreme Soviet until an emergency session is convened. There are indications the opposition wants to form an alternative parliament. (Kathy Mihalisko) "WORKERS' ACTION A SERIOUS THREAT TO SYSTEM." Ales' Susha, editor of the main organ of the pro-independence Belorussian Popular Front, was quoted April 25 in The Times as saying that the meeting between the Presidium and law enforcement officials shows that the authorities are working out emergency plans to end the strike. As Susha put it, "it is a sign that the workers' action is becoming an increasingly serious threat to the system." Strike leaders have vowed that they will continue, however, until satisfied that the Communist political system will be changed. (Kathy Mihalisko) RAILWAY TRAFFIC BLOCKED IN ORSHA. As reported April 24 by news agencies, thousands of people in Orsha blocked a main rail line from Moscow to the west, in a show of support for the general strike. Interfax quoted an Orsha strike committee leader as saying that extra police units and troops were patrolling the city but no clashes took place. (NCA/Kathy Mihalisko) CALLS FOR RESIGNATION OF BELORUSSIAN MEDIA CHIEF. Minsk strikers have added the resignation of the chairman of Belorussian TV and Radio to the list of their demands owing to republican media's one-sided coverage of events. Radio Rossii said April 24 that strikers are accusing two television correspondents of openly instigating clashes between workers and police. At a press conference, Minsk Strike Committee representatives said that 42 enterprises in the capital are taking part in the job action, including, as of yesterday, the Minsk auto works. A total of 80 factories throughout Belorussia have joined the general strike. (Kathy Mihalisko) PREPARATIONS FOR GENERAL POLITICAL STRIKE IN UKRAINE. The Ukrainian republican strike committee has announced plans for a republic-wide political strike, Ukrinform-TASS reported April 24. The announcement was made at a press conference yesterday called by "Rukh" and the democratic opposition in the Ukrainian parliament. No date for the beginning of the strike was given. Student leaders are also threatening a republic-wide action if their demands are not met. (Roman Solchanyk) GEIDAR ALIEV UNDER ATTACK. Komsomol'skaya pravda of April 13 printed a Postfaktum dispatch summarizing an appeal published in Bakinsky rabochii to the Azerbaijan CP Revision-Control Commission from sixteen former leading Azerbaijani functionaries who were dismissed and disgraced for no reason by Aliev during his tenure as Party first secretary. They point out that the "wave of oppression" that hit Azerbaijan in the 1970s has not yet been properly evaluated and condemn Aliev's most recent attempts as a deputy to the Azerbaijani Supreme Soviet "to incite animosity between various groups and derail the process of stabilization in the republic." (Liz Fuller) FIGHTING CONTINUES IN NORTH OSSETIA. Radio Moscow reported April 24 that fighting between Ossetians and Ingush in North Ossetia is continuing. Some 25 violent incidents have been reported since April 19. DPA April 23 quoted Interfax as reporting that an Ossetian police officer was shot dead the previous day. Soviet interior ministry forces are patrolling the area around the North Ossetian capital of Vladikavkaz. (Liz Fuller) ARMENIAN GENOCIDE COMMEMORATED IN EREVAN AND STEPANAKERT... TASS reported April 24 that tens of thousands of Armenians marched yesterday through Erevan to the monument commemorating the victims of the 1915 genocide. For the first time, representatives of all political parties in the Armenian parliament took part, as did representatives of the diaspora and the republican leadership, including Supreme Soviet chairman Levon Ter-Petrossyan, and Catholikos Vazgen I. A similar ceremony took place in Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh. (Liz Fuller) AND IN MOSCOW. TASS reported April 24 that a requiem was held that day at the Armenian Apostolic Church in Moscow to mark the anniversary of the beginning of the Armenian genocide of 1915 and in memory of Armenians killed by Azerbaijanis over the past three years. The ceremony was attended by members of the USSR and RSFSR Congresses of People's Deputies and by representatives of the Russian and Armenian intelligentsia. (Liz Fuller) TER-PETROSSYAN WRITES TO GORBACHEV OVER NAGORNO-KARABAKH. Armenian Supreme Soviet chairman Levon Ter-Petrossyan has sent a telegram to Gorbachev expressing concern at recent mass deportations of Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh, and requesting that Azerbaijani interior ministry troops should be withdrawn from all Aremenian-populated areas. The Armenian Supreme Soviet is to meet in extraordinary session today to debate the "explosive" situation in Nagorno-Karabakh, TASS reported April 24. (Liz Fuller) NATURAL DISASTERS IN TAJIKISTAN. The month of April has seen Tajikistan visited by a severe earthquake and, according to a TASS report of April 24, major landslides in the Dangara Plateau region, which in recent years has been transformed into one of the republic's most important agricultural regions. The Dangara landslides have not only left hundreds homeless but have damaged irrigation and road systems. The republic will probably have to deal with the results of the disasters with little outside help: in the last year, a number of Central Asian officials have lamented the breakdown of the disaster-assistance system coordinated by Moscow. (Bess Brown) MOLDAVIAN POPULAR FRONT CONDEMNS ROMANIAN-SOVIET TREATY. In a statement issued April 22, the Moldavian Popular Front condemned the Romanian-Soviet treaty of friendship recently signed by Gorbachev and Romanian President Ion Iliescu as "codifying a relationship of vassalage" of Romania toward the USSR. Expressing astonishment that the Romanian government was the first of the former Warsaw Pact member countries to sign a friendship treaty with Moscow, the Moldavian Popular Front alleged that Romania had "failed to give a political and legal appraisal" of the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact and its secret protocols. The Front took issue with the treaty's blanket recognition of existing borders, terming it contrary to the aspirations for national independence of the Baltic States, Georgia, and Armenia. (Vladimir Socor) MOLDAVIAN PRIME MINISTER IN TALLINN. On the heels of an official visit by Estonian Prime Minister Edgar Savisaar to Moldavia, Moldavian Prime Minister Mircea Druc has arrived in Estonia to participate, together with the three Baltic Prime Ministers and pro-reform officials from other republics and from the Moscow and Leningrad city soviets, in a new round of the "Tallinn meetings" on horizontal economic links among republics. (Vladimir Socor). MOLDAVIAN JEWISH TREATISE PUBLISHED. For the first time since the Soviet annexation, a book on the history of Jews in Moldavia has been published in the republic, TASS and Novosti reported April 24. Titled From the History of Moldavia's Jewry, the massive volume surveys almost 600 years of Jewish presence in Moldavia. Owing to their historical roots in Moldavia, the Jews are considered an indigenous population by the Moldavian national movement. (Vladimir Socor) Compiled by Patrick Moore and Sallie Wise
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