|If you are not allowed to laugh in heaven, I don't want to go there. - Martin Luther|
No. 96, 22 May 1991
BALTIC STATES LITHUANIAN GOVERNMENT TELEGRAM TO USSR. Radio Independent Lithuania reported May 20 that Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius had sent a telegram to USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev, Prime Minister Valentin Pavlov, and First Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Doguzhiev stating that the Lithuanian government generally supported the USSR's economic anti-crisis program. He said that Lithuania would participate in work on the program, hoping that it would normalize economic relations with the USSR and spur international economic activities after the preparation and signing of an agreement between the Lithuanian and USSR governments. (Saulius Girnius) MEETING OF DEPUTIES FROM POLISH REGION OF LITHUANIA. A meeting of deputies from the Polish-inhabited region of Lithuania is to take place today in Salcininkai, Radio Independent Lithuania reported May 22. Lithuanian National Defense Department head Audrius Butkevicius told The Los Angeles Times on May 20 that CP officials had traveled to Moscow where Chairman of the USSR Council of Nationalities Rafik Nishanov urged them to create a Polish republic in Lithuania. Leon Jankielewicz read a Polish faction statement at the Lithuanian parliament on May 21 saying the meeting would not call for a Polish republic, but only discuss a project on the status of the Polish-inhabited Vilnius area that he claimed had been ignored by Lithuanian authorities. (Saulius Girnius) LATVIAN LEADERS DEPLORE VIOLENCE IN ARMENIA AND AZERBAIJAN. Radio Erevan read on May 18 a statement recently adopted by the Latvian Supreme Council Presidium expressing alarm over the bloodshed in Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. The presidium condemned the use of force by the Soviet military against Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh, and called for the establishment of an international commission under UN auspices to seek a resolution of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. (Dzintra Bungs) GROMOV ON "BLACK BERETS". USSR MVD First Deputy Minister General Boris Gromov said on Central TV May 18 that there are 30 Special Purpose Militia Detachments (OMON) units Union-wide, with a total figure of 8,000 OMON servicemen. Gromov denied that OMON troops (known also as "Black Berets") in Vilnius are occupying the Lithuanian Television Center. He said that the building is guarded by regular MVD troops. He added that the MVD considers the government of Vytautas Landsbergis to be a legally elected body which, however, adopted illegal practices. (Victor Yasmann) TASS VIDEO NEWS SERVICE PRODUCES DOCUMENTARY ON LATVIA. A recently created audio and video news service of the government agency TASS has produced its first full-length documentary, the agency reported May 14. Called "Latvia: An Instant Before the Future," the documentary features interviews with representatives of various political groups in the republic--the leaders of the Latvian Popular Front and the first secretary of the pro-Moscow Latvian CP, a clergyman, and a member of the OMON troops. TASS said that the next documentary to be produced by the audio and video service will be on Soviet Germans. (Vera Tolz) USSR - ALL-UNION TOPICS USSR SUPREME SOVIET DISCUSSES UNION TREATY. The draft Union treaty was discussed in closed session by the USSR Supreme Soviet May 21 after Georgii Tarazevich, chairman of the parliament's commission on nationalities policy, had reported the discussions of the draft in the parliamentary committees and commissions, TASS reported. Tarazevich said that the draft had been approved in the main, but over 200 comments and suggestions had been made. Chairman of the Supreme Soviet Anatolii Luk'yanov argued that the USSR President and parliament had a right to take an active part in the elaboration of the text on the grounds that it was not a question of creating a new state but renewing an existing one. (Ann Sheehy) USSR "CONCERNED" ABOUT ETHIOPIA. The Soviet Foreign Ministry released a statement on May 21 (TASS) expressing "serious concern" about the growing scale of internal armed conflict in Ethiopia. The statement called on all parties to the conflict to agree to an immediate ceasefire, to set aside enmity and mistrust and to commence negotiations in the interests of national reconciliation. The MFA declared Soviet readiness "actively to assist the beginning of the negotiating process in the name of restoring peace and stability in Ethiopia. [The USSR] will cooperate with all who share this goal." Another TASS report May 21 quoted "observers" as linking Ethiopian President Mengistu Haile Mariam's departure to growing military pressure from opposition groups. (Sallie Wise) ANDREOTTI IN MOSCOW. Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti arrived in Moscow yesterday (May 21) for a "short working visit," TASS reported the same say. During his two-day visit Andreotti is scheduled to hold talks with Gorbachev and Pavlov. TASS said Gorbachev and Andreotti will discuss a broad range of international issues, as well as questions of bilateral relations. A TASS dispatch from Rome of May 21 reported that an agreement signed last January granting the USSR 2.2 billion lire in credits has now gone into effect. (Sallie Wise) NO G-7 INVITATION FOR GORBACHEV. After several weeks of conflicting reports, it now seems certain that Gorbachev will not be invited to the Group of Seven summit in London in July. Today's (May 22) New York Times and Chicago Tribune cite US administration officials as saying President George Bush has decided against the invitation. The NYT said Bush considered the idea to be "a non-starter." Just yesterday, Gorbachev's spokesman Vitalii Ignatenko reiterated that the Soviet President would welcome a chance to attend the G-7 summit, Western agencies reported May 21. (Sallie Wise) KOHL ASKS SOVIET GERMANS TO STAY PUT. German Chancellor Helmut Kohl said at a new conference in Washington May 21 that he would prefer that the two million or so Soviet Germans remained in the Soviet Union rather than emigrated to Germany, which is already suffering from rising unemployment, Western agencies reported May 22. Kohl was commenting on the law on emigration just approved by the USSR Supreme Soviet. Kohl said that he had often discussed the Soviet Germans with Gorbachev, adding that the FRG had always wanted the Soviet Germans to be able to live well in the Soviet Union. (Ann Sheehy) MOSCOW ASKS BONN FOR MORE. According to the German weekly Wirtschaftswoche of May 17, Gorbachev asked Kohl in mid-April for a further DM 30 billion in aid, trade credits, and supplementary compensation for Soviet troop withdrawals from eastern Germany. This would be in addition to a total of DM 57.3 billion already extended since German unification in various bilateral and multilateral agreements. The influential magazine is pessimistic about Moscow's chances of receiving further aid of this volume, although it does support German participation in the exploitation of Soviet oil and gas reserves. (Keith Bush) SOVIETS ADD TEN SUBMARINES. According to the latest edition of Jane's Fighting Ships, published on May 20, the Soviet Union launched ten new submarines last year, six of them nuclear powered and equipped with the latest weapons and sensors. As summarized by The Times (London) of May 21, the book also warned that after five years of perestroika, the rate of build-up in the Soviet navy had not declined enough to justify "the partial unilateral naval disarmament which is affecting the West." By the mid-1990's, the report said, the Soviet navy is expected to introduce new generations of ballistic missiles, and nuclear and conventionally powered submarines. (Stephen Foye) GENERALS ABUSE PRIVILEGES. Up to one billion rubles, or nearly 1% of the Soviet military budget, may be wasted due to fraudulent or irrational use of military transports by high-ranking military leaders, Komsomol'skaya pravda reported on May 18. According to Western agencies, a USSR Supreme Soviet commission investigating such abuses said that heavy transport planes made thousands of flights with no cargo. Among those singled out for criticism were Marshals Sergei Sokolov and Viktor Kulikov, Generals Valentin Varennikov and Konstantin Kochetov, and Leonid Sharin, Chairman of the Supreme Soviet Defense and State Security Commission. (Stephen Foye) JAPANESE BANKS SUSPEND CREDITS TO USSR. In what may prove to be only the beginning of a trend, Japanese banks have moved to suspend further credits to the Soviet Union, according to TASS and Western reports May 21. A representative of Vneshekonombank, Vladimir Sterlikov, said yesterday that the credit suspension mainly would affect Japanese companies whose Soviet clients were not paying their bills. Further, Japanese banks warned that hard currency shortages in the USSR reduced the country's creditworthiness. Soviet firms are currently some $450 million behind in payments to Japanese creditors. (John Tedstrom) LITTLE WESTERN INVESTMENT IN SOVIET AGRICULTURE. USSR Deputy Prime Minister Fyodor Sinko told a news conference in Moscow that foreign investors have shown little interest in helping to reform Soviet agriculture, Western agencies reported May 21. Western assistance and credits were needed to correct shortcomings in the food supply chain, but Sinko complained that "the flow of foreign investors is very slow." It might be noted that the initial draft of the Pavlov anti-crisis program unveiled on April 9 envisaged no fundamental reform or restructuring of the socialized agricultural sector. (Keith Bush) PARTIAL CONVERTIBILITY OF THE RUBLE. USSR Gosbank Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko told Izvestia May 18 that plans for moving towards partial convertibility of the ruble are to be completed by July 1. They will then be submitted for examination abroad "and by the IMF in particular," and could come into effect from January 1992. Soviet and foreign enterprises would be allowed to sell and buy rubles for hard currency at market rates, and foreign investors would be able to repatriate profits in hard currency. Soviet enterprises would still not be allowed to invest hard currency abroad. The USSR Gosbank will be looking for substantial Western credits to support the ruble in foreign exchange markets. (Keith Bush) MINIMUM CONSUMER BUDGET. TASS and Vremya on May 21 reported the issuance of a presidential decree establishing a "minimum consumer budget." This will be based on scientific norms and will take into account the needs of various social and ethnic groups. It will, however, be devised in the light of "what is economically possible." The USSR Cabinet of Ministers is to review this budget at least once a year and adjust it to price increases. (With inflation approaching or exceeding 100% a year after the retail price hikes of April 2, a more frequent review of the "minimum consumer budget" may be called for). (Keith Bush) INDEXATION MEASURE PROPOSED. Gorbachev has approved a plan for partial indexation of incomes, and has forwarded it to the USSR Supreme Soviet, TASS reported May 17. It is believed to cover all or most monetary transfer payments, i.e., pensions, stipends, maternity and child benefits, and unemployment payments. Despite earlier calls from the trade unions and other bodies for full indexation of all wages, the government is apparently resisting such a move on the grounds that this would lead to an uncontrollable wage-price spiral. (Keith Bush) PAVLOV ON ROOTS OF ANTI-CRISIS PROGRAM. Prime Minister Valentin Pavlov told Ogonek (no. 17) that the government's anti-crisis program is a program of survival. Pavlov said he wanted to preserve the lessons of "the previous stage of perestroika," while incorporating the "ideas and constructive suggestions" of a number of people including the late Andrei Sakharov, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbaev, economist Grigorii Yavlinsky, political scientist Sergei Kurginyan, economist Tat'yana Koryagina, and others "regardless of their political, religious, and other convictions." (Victor Yasmann) BAKATIN ON SECURITY COUNCIL. Former interior minister Vadim Bakatin told a raion Party meeting in Moscow recently that the Security Council is being run by two officials: he is in charge of political affairs, and Evgenii Primakov handles economic questions. Nezavisimaya gazeta on May 16 quoted him as saying that the presidential apparatus consists only of two departments and about 30 officials, and that Gorbachev therefore still relies on the Party apparatus. Bakatin described how, in the autumn of last year, conservatives resisted Gorbachev's attempts to adopt the radical economic "500 Days" program and forced the president to dismantle his Presidential Council and to change the country's government structures. (Alexander Rahr) USSR - IN THE REPUBLICS YELTSIN AT CONGRESS. In his opening speech to the Fourth RSFSR Congress of People's Deputies, Supreme Soviet Chairman Boris Yeltsin welcomed Gorbachev's recent moves toward conciliation with Russia and other republics, according to Radio Moscow on May 21. Yeltsin noted that under his leadership, major steps to strengthen Russia's sovereignty have been taken. While having been successful in reforming Russia's legislature, Yeltsin admitted that almost nothing had been achieved in the economic sphere. He blamed the center which, until recently, had controlled the entire economy. Yeltsin said that if elected RSFSR President, he would strengthen executive power on all levels by enhancing the role of city soviet chairmen. (Alexander Rahr) CONSERVATIVES FAIL TO BLOCK YELTSIN. Communist deputies tried in vain to resist debate on the RSFSR Presidency at the first session of the RSFSR CPD. The majority of deputies approved the proposed agenda, ensuring that the Congress would first vote on the law on election procedures and powers of the President, rather than, as conservatives had suggested, on the amendments to the constitution, Western agencies reported May 21. The latter requires a two-thirds majority of votes and Yeltsin's opponents had hoped to block endorsement of the law. Conservatives at the Congress warned that Yeltsin's election as President would lead to capitalism. (ALexander Rahr) NORTH OSSETIAN DEPUTIES WALK OUT OF RSFSR CONGRESS. North Ossetian deputies to the RSFSR Congress walked out May 21 after demanding that a statement by their Supreme Soviet declaring the recent RSFSR law on the rehabilitation of repressed peoples unconstitutional be read to the congress, Radio Rossii and TASS reported. Yeltsin proposed that the matter be submitted to the constitutional court due to be set up at the Congress. The law calls for frontiers existing prior to the deportation of whole peoples in the 1940s to be restored, which would mean North Ossetia would have to return territory to Checheno-Ingushetia. Russian TV reported May 17 that Checheno-Ingushetia would refuse to sign the Union treaty until this territory was returned. (Ann Sheehy) BAKATIN, MAKASHOV ENTER RACE FOR PRESIDENCY. Vadim Bakatin decided to run for RSFSR president at Gorbachev's urging. Before that, Yeltsin had suggested he be his running mate for Vice-President and Bakatin had accepted the offer, according to Western agencies on May 21. Meanwhile, General Albert Makashov opened his campaign for the RSFSR Presidency with a plea for patriotism, socialism and internationalism in an interview with Nezavisimaya gazeta on May 21. Makashov said that the country must be prepared for the worst and that a war is possible. He claimed that a majority of citizens share his view. (Alexander Rahr) COMMUNIST TACTICS IN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS. The RSFSR Communist Party supports Nikolai Ryzhkov as well as Vadim Bakatin to see which of them does better against Yeltsin in the first round of the RSFSR presidential elections. Its tactic is to keep Yeltsin from winning in the first round. Some RCP leaders told The Los Angeles Times on May 21 that although they back Ryzhkov, they regard Bakatin as a better candidate against Yeltsin in a run-off. Yeltsin's running mate, Aleksandr Rutskoi, opened his campaign with an attack on Ryzhkov. At the same time, Rutskoi praised Ryzhkov's running mate, Boris Gromov, as an outstanding commander who would make an ideal defense minister, Western agencies reported May 20. (Alexander Rahr) BAKATIN ENDORSES PRIVATE PROPERTY. The main difference between Yeltsin's two opponents from the Communist Party--Nikolai Ryzhkov and Vadim Bakatin--is the question of private property. In contrast to Ryzhkov, who rejects the concept of private property, Bakatin told Newsweek (May 27 issue) that in his view, "the right to private property should be acknowledged as sacred" and that after that, "everything will fall into place." Bakatin said that the eventual defeat of the CPSU derives from the fact that it "still cannot coherently say words like 'private property.'" (Alexander Rahr) CRISIS IN WEST SIBERIA OIL FIELDS. Soviet specialists are predicting a shortfall of oil production this year of more than 30 million tons, according to a Radio Moscow report May 21. A commission of RSFSR SupSov deputies has just returned from an eye-opening tour of Tyumen where they were surprised by the bad conditions in the oil producing region. The commission is drafting legislation to correct some of the problems. The oil and gas industries inside the RSFSR, unlike the coal industry, remain under all-Union jurisdiction. This restricts what the republican government can do, and RSFSR deputies are inclined to see whether or not they can pursue foreign investment more aggressively. (John Tedstrom) MURDER OF PRIEST STILL UNDER INVESTIGATION. TASS reported on May 16 that the murder of Russian Orthodox priest Aleksandr Men' on September 9, 1990, is still under investigation. The killing of the noted and highly respected theologian aroused indignation in Russia and abroad. TASS said that more than 500 people have been checked, and more than 2,000 investigated. TASS quoted an interview with investigator Ivan Lechenkov in the weekly Glasnost', in which he said that a false trail was laid to confuse the search for the real motives for the crime. (Oxana Antic) STRIKE LEADERS PUT PRESSURE ON BELORUSSIAN DEPUTIES. Yesterday (May 21), the opening day of the fourth session of the Belorussian Supreme Soviet, featured heated debate over the question of including the political and economic demands of Belorussian strike committees onto the session's agenda. The deputies, according to Belta-TASS, agreed in the end to put the following, inter alia, on the agenda: "departification" of state enterprises and organizations, nationalization of property belonging to the CPSU and the Belorussian Communist Party, performance of military service in Belorussia, and proposed measures to guide the republic through the transition to a market economy. (Kathy Mihalisko) STRIKES FOR SOVEREIGNTY? Strike leader Sergei Antonchyk, a Belorussian People's Deputy, announced on May 21 that 80% of the republic's strike committees were ready to call for a job walkout May 22 because not all their demands were put on the agenda. These included the issues of giving Belorussia's declaration of state sovereignty the status of constitutional law, adoption of new electoral legislation to pave the way for multiparty elections, and creation of a coalition government of national trust. Representatives of the strikers are expected today to address the Supreme Soviet. (Kathy Mihalisko) UKRAINE CONSIDERS NEW CONSTITUTION. A majority of Ukrainian lawmakers supported direct presidential elections in the republic, Ukrinform-TASS reported May 21. The Ukrainian People's Deputies also favored changing the name of the constitution to "Constitution of Ukraine," dropping the word "Socialist" from the title. Proposals to restructure the republic along federative lines, however, were rejected, as was the idea of oblast autonomy. (Roman Solchanyk) MOLDAVIAN PARLIAMENT PARALYZED. The breakup of the Moldavian coalition through the defection of the Agrarians and, independently of this, President Mircea Snegur's bid to dismiss Mircea Druc's government and assume all executive power have combined to paralyze the Moldavian Supreme Soviet. The Moldavian Popular Front, which dominates the Druc government, has overruled the Prime Minister's initial intention to resign at Snegur's request. The Popular Front deputies, now reduced to a minority and unable to obtain an open vote on the composition of the government--in which case many deputies would have hesitated to vote against Druc's team--withdrew from parliament May 21, Moldavian media reported that day. (Vladimir Socor) PRO-POPULAR FRONT DEMONSTRATIONS IN KISHINEV. On May 21, thousands of Kishinev residents demonstrated outside the Supreme Soviet building in support of the Druc government and the Popular Front, Moldavian media reported the same day. There were minor clashes when the Moldavian police tried to clear the area. Supreme Soviet chairman Alexandru Mosanu and other parliamentary leaders who do not belong to the Popular Front are also resisting Snegur's power bid as unconstitutional and joined the demonstrators. The Popular Front and its allies, including Mosanu, have called a mass rally in Kishinev's central square for May 24. (Vladimir Socor) MOLDAVIAN COALITION CALLS FOR INDEPENDENCE PROCLAMATION. In a statement read on Moldavian TV by Moldavian Writers' Union chairman Mihai Cimpoi, the Moldavian Alliance for Independence--consisting of a dozen public movements and organizations allied to the Popular Front--has come out in defense of Druc's government and has called for an immediate proclamation of Moldavian independence, journalists in Kishinev told RFE/RL by telephone May 21. The Popular Front deputies have announced that they would not return to parliament until Snegur submits the independence proclamation to the chamber. In his speech opening the parliamentary session May 14, and again May 21, Snegur had pledged to do that during the current session. On May 21, however, parliament adjourned amid the turmoil. (Vladimir Socor)
write to us
with your comments and suggestions.