|If you are not allowed to laugh in heaven, I don't want to go there. - Martin Luther|
No. 81, 26 April 1991
BALTIC STATES PARATROOPERS SEIZE MORE BUILDINGS IN LITHUANIA. On April 25 Soviet paratroopers occupied a number of buildings and air fields, Radio Kaunas reported that day. The buildings included technical schools in Alytus, Marijampole, Panevezys, Siauliai, Klaipeda, Kaunas, and Vilnius, the "Signal" hotel in Alytus, and the "Sauletekis" factory. Three airfields were also seized. In the buildings the soldiers confiscated everything available, under the pretext that the materials belonged to the Soviet DOSAAF. Algimantas Norvilas, chairman of the "Vytis" sports club (formed after the reorganization of DOSAAF in Lithuania), noted that all the buildings had been built using Lithuanian funds, and disputes about motor vehicles had been settled with DOSAAF officials in Moscow. (Saulius Girnius) SOVIET MVD SOLDIER SHOT IN VILNIUS. On April 25 Soviet MVD Sergeant R. Akhmedov was killed from a shot by a colleague who was handling his weapon improperly, TASS reported that day. Military Prosecutor of the Vilnius garrison Lieutenant Colonel V. Ushenin said that both soldiers were sober and there were no grounds to assume that the shooting was deliberate. The soldiers were guarding the Vilnius Radio and Television tower seized by Soviet troops on January 13 killing 15 people. (Saulius Girnius) REUNIFICATION IN ESTONIA. A group of Petseri residents have appealed to Estonia's Supreme Council Chairman Arnold Ruutel to begin talks on their status, Paevaleht reported on April 23. Petseri was part of interwar Estonia, but was annexed in 1945 to the Pskov oblast. As citizens of the previous Republic of Estonia, Petseri's residents think they should be reunited with the current Estonian republic. In their appeal, residents called on the Supreme Council to nullify its 1945 resolution handing over Petseri to the RSFSR, that immediate talks begin with the RSFSR "on resolving the problem," and that residents be allowed to vote for the planned state assembly set to replace both the Supreme Council and the alternative Congress of Estonia. (Riina Kionka) USSR - ALL-UNION TOPICS DESPITE CRITICISM, GORBACHEV WINS VOTE OF CONFIDENCE. The two-day CPSU Central Committee plenum that ended April 25 featured harsh criticism of Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and his policies, TASS and Western agencies reported April 26. At one point during the second day, Gorbachev strode to the rostrum and offered abruptly to resign as Party general secretary. This is by no means the first time Gorbachev has offered to resign; as on previous occasions, the offer was overwhelmingly voted down. Only 13 voted for, with 322 against and 14 abstentions. The episode repeated the pattern at last year's Party Congress. On both occasions, hardline Communists made fierce criticisms of Gorbachev's policies in an attempt to influence his behavior; he called their bluff by offering to resign, whereupon they realized that, without him, the CPSU would split into two. This would be a solution favored by many liberals and reformers, but for conservative Party apparatchiks, dependent on the Party's system of privilege for their very livelihood, such a course is anathema. (Elizabeth Teague) PAVLOV URGES PARTY TO BE PRAGMATIC. Addressing the CPSU plenum, USSR Prime Minister Valentin Pavlov said that "the market demands freedom for the producer, which presupposes the possibility...to manage one's property"; such freedom does not, he insisted, contradict the Party's programmatic goals, TASS reported April 25. Pavlov argued that the de-nationalization and privatization measures contained in his anti-crisis program would offset the impact of price reform and help solve the problem of dividing property between the center and the republics and other regions. Pavlov declared his readiness to "broaden the social base of the government" and to include "representatives of republics and movements" among its members. Pavlov has, however, already reneged on an earlier promise to promote more republican representatives to leading positions in the USSR Cabinet of Ministers. (Dawn Mann) PLENUM DECIDES ON CONSULTATIONS WITH OTHER PARTIES. The CPSU CC has resolved to hold political consultations with other political parties and movements, TASS reported April 25. A resolution passed at the plenum April 25 instructed the Central Committee's Secretariat to invite various political parties and movements to discuss joint actions aimed at leading the USSR out of crisis. This seems to be the first serious reaction to the idea of holding a roundtable of various political parties, promoted at pro-democratic mass rallies in Moscow in February and March, 1990. Later this idea was taken up by members of the democratic faction at the RSFSR Congress of People's Deputies, but until now the central Soviet leadership had ignored the proposal. (On the attitude of the USSR's various political groups to the idea of a roundtable, see Moscow News, No. 15, p. 5. (Vera Tolz) MORE ON JOINT DECLARATION, YELTSIN'S REACTION. Among the provisions of the "Joint Declaration on Urgent Measures for the Stabilization of the Situation in the Country and for Overcoming the Crisis" (see Daily Report, April 25) is an appeal to striking miners and all other workers of the country to end "strikes for economic and political reasons." The statement also called for early all-Union elections, a new constitution and rapid conclusion of a Union treaty (TASS, April 25). Reporting to the RSFSR Supreme Soviet the same day on Gorbachev's meeting with leaders of the Union republics, RSFSR Supreme Soviet Chairman Boris Yeltsin described the signed declaration as a "tremendous victory." He said by signing the document with the leaders of nine republics, Gorbachev recognized them as "sovereign states," TASS reported. (Vera Tolz) STRIKES CONTINUE BUT END MAY BE IN SIGHT. Striking coal miners in Vorkuta plan to return to work late in the day on April 27, following a preliminary accord between RSFSR and USSR officials on placing the mines under RSFSR control, TASS reported April 25. They have said, however, that they may resume the strike if their political demands are not met. Miners at the Raspadskaya mine, who had returned to work earlier this week, are back on strike, according to Reuters April 25. Miners in the Kuzbass will stay out on strike: Kemerovo strike committee member Nikolai Volkov characterized Wednesday's joint Gorbachev/Yeltsin statement as a "useless scrap of paper," according to Reuters April 25. Some 10,000 metro-construction workers in Leningrad struck on Thursday to demand higher wages and Gorbachev's resignation, while Yeltsin told the RSFSR Supreme Soviet in a closed session that he thinks the strikes could end by May 1, DPA reported April 25. A republic-wide strike has been called by Democratic Russia and the Federation of Independent Russian Trade Unions for Saturday. (Dawn Mann) CPSU POLITBURO ISSUES MAY DAY SLOGANS. The Politburo has at last published a set of slogans for May Day (Sovetskaya Rossiya, April 26). The list is shorter than ever (there are only 14 slogans) and has appeared a week later than normal. The delay may be due to fact that, for the first time ever, the slogans drop their normal triumphalism and speak openly of the Soviet Union's problems. They call for "spiritual rebirth" and "moral regeneration" and, in the most striking departure from tradition, exhort Soviet workers to rescue the country from "the crisis" and "prevent the collapse of the national economy." Until Gorbachev's rise to power, Soviet leaders maintained that crises happened only in capitalist countries and were impossible in socialist ones. (Elizabeth Teague) COMMUNIST PEOPLE'S DEPUTIES OPPOSE SPECIAL CONGRESS SESSION. In response to calls for the convening of an extraordinary session of the USSR Congress of People's Deputies issued by the conservative "Soyuz" faction, a group of USSR Supreme Soviet members who are also members of the CPSU has said it opposes such calls. TASS April 25 quoted a spokesman for the group, Gennadii Kiselev, as saying a special session is unnecessary as there are no new issues to discuss, would be expensive, and would keep people from the spring sowing. (Dawn Mann) USSR AGREES TO CO-SPONSOR MIDEAST TALKS. After meetings with US Secretary of State James Baker in Kislovodsk, Foreign Minister Aleksandr Bessmertnykh said the USSR "intends to act as co-sponsor of [a] conference" for negotiating a settlement in the Middle East. According to a report in today's New York Times (April 26), Bessmertnykh's announcement of the USSR's willingness to hold such a conference was halting. The Times says "it took [Bessmertnykh] four tries at two separate news conferences with Baker to state explicitly that Moscow would serve as a co-sponsor with Washington." (Suzanne Crow) RELATIONS WITH ISRAEL? Israel insists the USSR must agree to full diplomatic relations before Moscow be permitted to participate in a Middle East peace conference. The USSR's agreement to co-sponsor the peace conference with the United States suggests movement in this direction. Bessmertnykh was quoted by Vremya on April 25, as saying "our relations with Israel are developing and progressing, and if that tendency continues in the future, then there will be no particular difficulty in establishing diplomatic relations on a full level." His plans to travel to Israel next month are definite, TASS reported April 25. (Suzanne Crow) SINO-SOVIET SUMMIT IN MAY. Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Jiang Zhemin will visit Moscow from May 15-19 marking the first Soviet-Chinese communist party summit since 1957, AFP reported April 24. (Suzanne Crow) SOVIET PILOT ASKS FOR ASYLUM IN TURKEY. A Soviet airman has asked for asylum after flying an MI-8 military transport helicopter from an airfield in the southern Transcaucasus district to Turkey, Reuter and TASS report. The flight took place on the night of April 24. Turkish Foreign Ministry officials told the semi-official Anatolian News Agency that the pilot was being questioned, and said that he was an Armenian. On April 25, however, TASS identified the airman as Lieutenant I. Gimatov, a name that would appear to be Moslem rather than Armenian. (Stephen Foye) DECREE ON AFGHAN VETERANS. Gorbachev issued a decree on April 25 that ordered the USSR Cabinet of Ministers to complete, by June 1, a plan outlining increased social benefits for veterans of the Afghan war. The package is to include occupational re-training (to ease veterans' transition into a market economy), increased medical benefits (to insure that all invalids are ambulatory by 1993), and the creation of a fund to benefit veterans of foreign wars. The decree calls on the USSR Defense Council to coordinate these activities. It addresses concerns long expressed by military spokesmen, and comes as Afghan veterans play an expanding role in domestic policing activities. (Stephen Foye) SHCHIT DELEGATION IN GERMANY. A delegation from the renegade military union Shchit ("Shield") arrived in Bonn on April 25 in order to begin discussions with representatives of the German army's own long established military union, TASS reported. According to the leader of the Soviet delegation, RSFSR People's Deputy Vitalii Urazhtsev, the purpose of the visit is to gather information and to benefit from the experience of the German union so as to better protect the rights of Soviet servicemen. Urazhtsev said that Shchit hoped both to build concrete ties with the German union and to ultimately gain admittance into the European organization of military unions. (Stephen Foye) SOVIET ORGANIZATION FOR NUCLEAR VICTIMS FORMED. A new Soviet public organization has been formed to publicize the problems of people who tested nuclear weapons and took part in military exercises involving nuclear arms. TASS reported April 24 that the "Committee of Veterans of Special Risk Units" says that many of those who helped build up the USSR's nuclear weapons capability died or suffered radiation damage. The committee's chairman, Vladimir Bentsianov, told TASS that the committee wants to help victims obtain the special food, medical treatment, and social protection they need. It will also ask the Soviet government to accord these people the status of war veterans, and to compensate them monetarily for their suffering. (NCA/Sallie Wise) NO NEW LABOR CAMPS. The Soviet Interior Ministry has denied rumors that it is constructing new labor camps in Siberia, Yakutia, and Kolyma. According to a Radio Rossii report of April 24, an MVD statement that day said that the ministry lacks funds to bring existing camps up to United Nations standards, let alone to build new ones. (NCA/Sallie Wise) KGB AND ECOLOGY. Corresponding member of the USSR Academy of Sciences Alexei Yablokov has called on the KGB to create an efficient structure within the agency to prevent the penetration of ecologically harmful technology into the USSR. In an interview with Komsomol'skaya pravda on April 12, Yablokov said that the KGB must watch the "ecological imperialists" who are trying to impose on the USSR technologies forbidden in other countries. Yablokov, who is a former chairman of the Soviet division of "Greenpeace," said the KGB must stop the export from the USSR of valuable raw materials camouflaged as industrial junk. (Victor Yasmann) KRAVCHENKO TO BE REPLACED AS USSR PEOPLE'S DEPUTY. The USSR Journalists' Union decided to recall the chairman of the USSR State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company, Leonid Kravchenko, as the union's representative to the USSR Supreme Soviet. Earlier this month, Kravchenko was expelled from the Union, which elected him USSR People's Deputy in 1989. Radio Moscow-1 reported April 25 that the Union proposed two candidates as deputies to the Soviet parliament instead of Kravchenko. They are the newly elected chairman of the Union, Eduard Sagalaev, and Galdibek Shalakhmetov, the press secretary of Kazakh President Nazarbaev. (Vera Tolz) "VZGLYAD" TO BECOME JOINT-STOCK COMPANY. On April 15 a district soviet in Moscow registered a new joint-stock company "'Vzglyad' From the Underground," set up by moderators of the popular TV show "Vzglyad," which was banned last year. Kommersant (No. 15) quoted the moderators as saying they continued to prepare broadcasts despite the ban and submitted the programs to republican televisions in the Baltic States, Georgia, Armenia and Moldavia. Now the joint-stock company will continue supplying republican television with the program free of charge and will sell video cassettes of "Vzglyad" to individual citizens as well as video salons. (Vera Tolz) USSR - IN THE REPUBLICS DEMOCRATIC RUSSIA CRITICIZES YELTSIN FOR DECLARATION. Leaders of the pro-Yeltsin Democratic Russia movement complained that the chairman of the Russian parliament made too many concessions in signing the declaration with Gorbachev. On April 25 Reuters quoted Lev Ponomarev as saying he was most concerned about the declaration's call to stop strikes. Another Democratic Russia official, Nikolai Sukhanov, said he hoped Yeltsin will properly explain his action. (Vera Tolz) YELTSIN MOST POPULAR CANDIDATE FOR PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS. Boris Yeltsin is the most popular candidate for the upcoming presidential elections in the RSFSR, Rabochaya tribuna reported April 25. According to an opinion poll conducted by the newspaper at a number of enterprises in the Russian Federation, in terms of popularity Yeltsin is immediately followed by Leningrad city soviet chairman Anatolii Sobchak. Surprisingly the third place is occupied by former prime minister Nikolai Ryzhkov, while the fourth is shared by former MVD chief Vadim Bakatin and USSR people's deputy Galina Starovoitova. (Vera Tolz) DEMOCRATIC RUSSIA SUPPORTS GENERAL STRIKE APRIL 26. The all-Russian "warning strike" in protest of Gorbachev's policies will be held April 26 as planned, TASS quoted the Democratic Russia movement as saying. Representatives of the movement, supported by another organization--the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of the RSFSR--stressed they were going to ignore the call to end strikes put forth in the joint declaration by Gorbachev and the leaders of nine Union republics. (Vera Tolz) DEMOCRATIC RUSSIA TO HOLD MAY DAY DEMONSTRATION MONDAY. The Democratic Russia movement said it will hold a May Day demonstration on Manezh Square next Monday (April 29) instead of May 1 on Red Square as earlier planned. The Moscow Federation of Trade Unions and the Association of Free Trade Unions of the Russian Federation plan to hold rallies on Red Square on May 1, Radio Moscow-1 reported April 25. (NCA/Vera Tolz) CHERNOBYL ANNIVERSARY. Today, the fifth anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, will be marked in the Soviet Union by demonstrations, marches, fund-raising marathons, and memorial services. In a message to world leaders thanking them for their help, Gorbachev admitted that the full consequences of the disaster are still not known. Some members of the US Congress, including Christopher Cox of California, have criticized the Soviet government in recent days for its five-year information coverup of the disaster. The anniversary is taking place in an atmosphere of continued uncertainty: Ukrainian people's deputy Volodymyr Yavorivsky told TASS that the sarcophagus over the damaged reactor is in danger of exploding. (NCA/Kathy Mihalisko) METROPOLITAN FILARET ON CHERNOBYL. Ukrinform-TASS reported on April 24 about the appeal by the metropolitan of Kiev and Galicia, Filaret, and the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. In this appeal, issued on the fifth anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, the metropolitan called upon believers to let this date be a day of commemoration, love, charity, and Christian unity. The metropolitan and the Holy Synod asked all Ukrainian Orthodox churches to hold memorial services for the Chernobyl victims on April 26. (Oxana Antic) CHURCH MEDAL FOR CHERNOBYL FIREMEN. Also on April 24, Ukrinform-TASS reported that metropolitan Filaret, in the name of Patriarch Aleksii, presented the medal of Saint Vladimir to representatives of Ukraine's firemen. The metropolitan said how highly the Church values the courage that firemen showed when liquidating the results of the Chernobyl accident. The metropolitan handed the firemen a check for over 100,000 rubles - a donation from the Church to the families of those workers who suffered after the accident. (Oxana Antic) ORSHA WORKERS FACE PROSECUTION. TASS said April 25 that Belorussian officials have begun criminal proceedings against workers in Orsha who have been taking part in this week's political strikes in the republic. Organizers claim that up to 15,000 protesters managed to block numerous freight and passenger trains on one of the main railway links between Moscow and the west. Work stoppages and rallies meanwhile continued in Minsk yesterday, but there are reports that strike committees may call off the protests until the Belorussian Supreme Soviet convenes May 21. The republican Minister of the Interior appealed April 25 to his USSR counterpart, Boriss Pugo, to send Belorussian troops home from Nagorno-Karabakh. (Belorussian BD/Kathy Mihalisko) ZNAMYA YUNOSTI UNDER THREAT. RFE-RL has learned that the staff of the liberal daily Znamya yunosti, which is sponsored by the Belorussian Komsomol, is considering going on strike. At a Komsomol plenum in recent days, the paper's chief editor, A. Klaskovskii, was criticized for devoting too much coverage to events not connected to the Communist youth organization. Klaskovskii failed to be reconfirmed as chief editor. The staff of Belorussia's most popular newspaper fears that it will be replaced by more conformist journalists. (Belorussian BD/Kathy Mihalisko) UKRAINE APPOINTS DEFENSE COMMISSION. The Ukrainian Supreme Soviet's recently formed Permanent Commission on Questions of Internal and External Security has been renamed. On April 24, Radio Kiev reported, the parliament voted to call it the Commission on Questions of Defense and State Security. The move is in keeping with Ukraine's growing self-assertiveness in matters related to the military and security. (Kathy Mihalisko) UKRAINIAN STUDENTS END STRIKE. Ukrainian students yesterday decided not to continue their strike, Radio Kiev reported April 25. The announcement was made at a session of the Coordinating Council of the newly-formed Union of Ukrainian Students. The head of the Union said that the students decided to trust the Ukrainian Supreme Soviet, which had promised to examine the entire range of students' demands in May. (Roman Solchanyk) UKRAINIAN SUPREME SOVIET ON "SOYUZ". The Ukrainian Supreme Soviet yesterday appealed to the top state organs of the republics and the USSR criticizing the "Soyuz" group in the Soviet parliament, Ukrinform-TASS reported April 25. The statement says that the call by some "Soyuz" members for a country-wide state of emergency represents an attempt to return to the times of "the administrative-repressive system." It says that the Ukrainian Supreme Soviet is in control of the situation in the republic, and that calls such as those put forth by "Soyuz" are inadmissible and violate Ukrainian sovereignty. (Roman Solchanyk) SOVIET TV FROWNS ON KRAVCHUK FOR SPEAKING UKRAINIAN. During Ukrainian Supreme Soviet Chairman Leonid Kravchuk's recent visit to Germany, his insistence on using the Ukrainian language during his negotiations in Bonn and Munich confused his German partners: they could not find an appropriate translator, said a commentator on Vremya, April 25. "What would happen if diplomats from Bavaria visiting Moscow would ask for a translator from the Bavarian dialect, which is unknown in most of Germany?", said Vladimir Kondrat'ev, Central Television's correspondent in Bonn. (Victor Yasmann) ARMENIAN SUPSOV CALLS FOR SPECIAL SESSION OF USSR CPD. The extraordinary session of the Armenian Supreme Soviet which opened April 25 has called for a special session of the USSR Congress of People's Deputies to discuss the situation in those areas of Azerbaijan which have a predominantly Armenian population, TASS reported that day. Azerbaijan has recently abolished several Armenian-populated raions as separate territorial-administrative units. The Armenian press has for months charged that Azerbaijan is planning a mass deportation of Armenians. (Liz Fuller) SYMBOLIC GENERAL STRIKE IN GEORGIA. A three-minute general strike took place in Georgia April 25 in support of demands for the withdrawal of Soviet troops from South Ossetia, according to the Georgian news agency Sakinform. TASS April 25 quoted the newspaper of the Georgian Social-Democratic Party as arguing that the former status of the South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast should be restored. (Liz Fuller) ARMY "SOLE REMAINING BAR" TO MOLDAVIAN POPULAR FRONT. The Soviet armed forces daily Krasnaya zvezda April 19 charged that the Moldavian Popular Front "is actively preparing for the ultimate political battle with the Center, the Army, the Communists, and those who disagree with its views". "The army remains today the sole bar holding back the ambitions and extremism of the resolute Frontists," it said. Krasnaya zvezda described the Front as "the leading political force in Moldavia... All local authority structures are in fact subordinate to it. The Front determines the government's policy decisions, calls the tune in parliament, and orchestrates the clamorous public campaigns". (Vladimir Socor) ROMANIAN PRESIDENT DENOUNCES MOLDAVIAN POPULAR FRONT. At a press conference in Bucharest April 24, defending the recently signed Romanian-Soviet treaty, Romanian President Ion Iliescu denounced the Moldavian Popular Front as harboring "sectarian and extremist views". Iliescu was reacting to the Front's criticism of his government as "neocommunist" and of the treaty as seriously flawed. The Romanian official media failed to report Iliescu's remark, but it was reported by TASS the same day and it could be seen live on Moldavian TV. (Vladimir Socor) ROMANIAN OFFICIAL ON "ROMANIAN LANDS" BESSARABIA AND NORTH BUKOVINA. Interviewed by the Sueddeutsche Zeitung April 25, Romanian Assistant Prime Minister and Minister for Economic Reforms Adrian Severin called for "human rights and the right of self-determination" to be granted to Romanians in the "Romanian lands" of Bessarabia and North Bukovina. Although Romania has "historic rights" to the two provinces, Severin said, it favors the "autonomy" of Bessarabia and North Bukovina leading toward "a second Romanian state," under the formula, "one people, two states". The question of reunification, Severin said, should be deferred to the future and the decisions of the people involved; "Bucharest does not wish to initiate border changes". (Vladimir Socor). KISHINEV SCORES ECCLESIASTICAL SUBORDINATION TO RUSSIAN PATRIARCHATE. Moldavia's Minister of Culture and Religious Affairs, Ion Ungureanu, has again expressed Kishinev's discontent with the canonical subordination of the Eparchy of Moldavia to the Russian Orthodox Church, Kathpress reported in a dispatch from Kishinev carried by the Sueddeutsche Zeitung April 25. Ungureanu said that this situation prevents the Church from supporting the Moldavian people's aspirations for national independence. Although Moldavia has proclaimed sovereignty, "we still belong from the ecclesiastical point of view not only to the USSR, but even to Russia". (Vladimir Socor) KAZAKHSTAN CREATES SATELLITE TELEVISION COMPANY WITH SAUDIS. The new satellite television company "Asia TV" has been established in Alma-Ata by the joint Soviet-Saudi Arabian bank "Al Baraka", the Baikonur space center, and other state and public All-Union organizations, reported TASS on April 25. Thanks to satellites the station's signal will available in many countries, said the company's president, Altyn Galiev. Galiev stressed the commercial orientation of his company and added that personnel will be recruited on a contract basis. He did not mention what the main broadcasting language of the station would be: Russian, Kazakh or Arabic. (Victor Yasmann) [as of 1300 CET] Compiled by Patrick Moore and Sallie Wise
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