|Life is what happens to us while we're making other plans. - John Lennon|
No. 98, 24 May 1991
BALTIC STATES FOUR BORDER POSTS IN LITHUANIA BURNED. Lithuanian National Defense Department head Audrius Butkevicius told the Lithuanian Supreme Soviet session on May 23, broadcast live over Radio Independent Lithuania, that Soviet troops had burned down four border posts on the Lithuanian-Latvian border early that morning, beating up the guards. Neighboring border posts in Latvia were also destroyed. The attacks at the posts at Vegeriai in the Akmenes Raion and at Germaniskis in the Birzai Raion were carried out by OMON troops from Riga, while those at Salociai in the Pasvalys Raion and at Smelynes in the Zarasai Raion by paratroopers. Guards at the posts were beaten up, with two of them needing hospitalization. In a later radio interview he noted that Leningrad television reporter Aleksandr Nevzorov filmed the attack in the Zarasai raion. (Saulius Girnius) OMON ATTACKS FIVE BORDER POSTS IN LATVIA. RFE/RL correspondents in Riga learned from Aivars Salins, director of the Customs Department, that between 2:00 A.M. and 7:30 A.M. on May 23, five border posts at the Latvian-Lithuanian and Latvian-Belorussian borders were attacked and four burned down; 15 border guards and 1 policeman were disarmed and beaten up by OMON forces in Latvia, and one man was injured seriously. Salins said the attacks were well-planned and coordinated with the OMON in Lithuania. The attack on the border post near Kraslava at the Belorussian border was also filmed by Nevzorov, who in the past has produced Soviet TV programs praising the exploits of the OMON, also known as "Black Berets," based near Riga. (Dzintra Bungs) LITHUANIAN RESPONSE TO ATTACKS. Lithuanian Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius sent telegrams to USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev, Internal Affairs Minister Boriss Pugo and Defense Minister Dmitrii Yazov protesting the border attacks and warning that "only a few steps remain to open confrontation," Radio Independent Lithuania reported on May 23. Vagnorius is planning to meet USSR First Deputy Prime Minister Vitalii Doguzhiev today in Moscow. The Lithuanian parliament held a closed session in the evening of May 23 that lasted until 10 P.M. and will hold another special closed session today. Information about the sessions has not yet been released. (Saulius Girnius) LATVIANS PROTEST VIOLENCE. Latvian Supreme Council Chairman Anatolijs Gorbunovs, Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis, and Minister of Internal Affairs Aloizs Vaznis sent on May 23 a joint telegram of protest to Gorbachev, Prime Minister Valentin Pavlov and Pugo concerning the OMON attack on Latvian border posts early that morning. The Latvian officials categorically protested, demanding a cessation of "terror and provocation," criminal charges to be brought against the guilty, compensation for damage incurred, and once again called for the removal of all OMON forces (officially under the jurisdicition of the USSR Ministry of Internal Affairs) from the Baltics. (Dzintra Bungs) ASSAULTS AT THE ESTONIAN BORDER. There were two assaults on the Estonian-Latvian border earlier this week similar to those in Latvia and Lithuania. According to Foreign Ministry press attache Tiit Pruuli on May 24, two armed men attacked unarmed Estonian border guards on May 19 at Luhamaa on the Estonian-RSFSR border. The men, travelling in a car with Lithuanian plates, beat the guards and threatened them with automatic weapons. One guard was taken to the hospital. A similar incident evidently involving the same men happened two days later at the Estonian-Latvian border post at Murati. Border Defense Director Andres Oovel initially described the incidents to Rahva Haal (May 23) and Paevaleht (May 24) as non-politically motivated smuggling cases. More recent information from the Estonian Foreign Ministry suggests that Oovel downplayed the incidents in order to avoid alarming the population. (Riina Kionka) NEVZOROV FILMS ESTONIAN INCIDENT. On May 23, Nevzorov accompanied a caravan of six cars to the Estonian-Latvian border post at Murati, the Baltic News Service reported that day. Nevzorov filmed the caravan's uneventful passage through the post. The caravan then drove to Luhamaa, where Nevzorov also filmed the passage through, remarking to observers that "this border is going to disappear soon anyway." The incident has fueled speculation that Nevzorov is preparing for his next major TV film. His last blockbuster consisted of footage of the Soviet military's attack in Vilnius in January. (Riina Kionka) MEETING OF DEPUTIES FROM VILNIUS AREA. Radio Vilnius reported on May 22 that 201 delegates from Polish-inhabited areas of Lithuania had met in Mosiskes in Vilnius raion and approved a project on the status of the Polish-inhabited Vilnius area. USSR People's Deputy Anicet Brodawski gave the main speech. Chairman of the Lithuanian Supreme Soviet Vytautas Landsbergis also spoke, saying that Lithuanian authorities were going to give 3,000,000 and 5,000,000 rubles of additional financial aid to the Salcininkai and Vilnius raions. The meeting declared that the future 75-member Vilnius area congress should be the main administrative body in the area. The meeting approved an appeal calling on the Lithuanian authorities to abolish the Lithuanian National Defense and State Security Departments. (Saulius Girnius) COMMITTEES TO SUPPORT SOVIET MILITARY PROPOSED. Radio Riga reported on May 23 that the USSR Baltic Military District newspaper Pribaltika, in its latest issue, proposed the formation of local committees to support the military in Latvia, especially to encourage young men to serve in the USSR military. The Radio Riga commentator then asked about the real purpose of such committees, especially in view of the widespread aversion among Latvians to service in the USSR armed forces, and wondered if such committees might engage in gathering information about all draft-age youths in a given area and those holding anti-army sentiments. (Dzintra Bungs) CONGRESS OF ESTONIA MEETS TOMORROW. The Congress of Estonia will meet May 25 for its fifth session. The Congress--an alternative parliament elected last year by citizens of the interwar Republic of Estonia and their descendents--is set to discuss the economy and reform of Estonia's legal system, Paevaleht reported on May 23. The Congress will also discuss a proposal to elect, along with the Supreme Council, a reconstructive assembly to serve as a provisional parliament until the issue of Soviet occupation is resolved. (Riina Kionka) USSR - ALL-UNION TOPICS KGB LAW PUBLISHED. The "Law on the Organs of USSR State Security" retains or extends KGB functions in the political, economic, military and law-enforcement fields according to the text of the law disseminated by TASS May 23. The law preserves KGB control over the Armed Forces and the MVD through its counterintelligence departments. It gives the KGB the right to postal censorship and eavesdropping without preliminary notification of the procuracy. It also proclaims "help" from the population to be a civic duty. The law, however, makes no connection between the KGB and the CPSU; it states that KGB activities are not guided by any political party or mass public organization. The law stresses the KGB's unified structure and codifies republican KGB functions as they were, in practice, before the law was adopted. (Victor Yasmann) EC, USSR AGREE ON FOOD AID. A two-day session of the joint EC-Soviet commission, which the EC postponed last January in protest over the Baltic crackdown, concluded yesterday in Brussels with an agreement on the distribution of 92,700 tons of food in the USSR, Western agencies reported May 23. Now that specific details of how distribution will be implemented--a previous obstacle to agreement--deliveries are slated to begin in July. At a press conference following the meeting, EC official Horst Krenzler said the two sides were also close to agreement on $484 million in technical aid to the USSR. Negotiations on $600 billion in food credits will continue. Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister Ernest Obminksy welcomed the aid as a gesture of solidarity with the USSR. (Sallie Wise) NEW FIVE-RUBLE NOTES. On May 17, Pravda carried an announcement by the USSR Gosbank that new five-ruble notes would be issued as of July 1. On May 18, it published an interview with USSR Gosbank Deputy Chairman Arnol'd Voilukov on the reasons for this issue. Voilukov was at pains to reassure readers that the issue will not be of a confiscatory nature, that old five-ruble notes will continue to be valid, and that the principal reason was to guard against forgeries now that the country "has been flooded with modern xerographic copying equipment." He implied that new issues of other denominations will appear later this year. (Keith Bush) SHATALIN SEES (A LITTLE) HOPE. Speaking to an international conference in Moscow May 21, Soviet academic and former Gorbachev economic adviser Stanislav Shatalin said that although the USSR is in a crisis situation, some positive developments give cause for cautious optimism. According to TASS May 21, chief among those developments is the willingness of Soviet republics to come to an agreement in the form of the 9+1 accord. However, even though the republics share many common goals, Shatalin noted, they have important differences over approach and pace. Shatalin said that the new draft Union Treaty is conceptually flawed, and that a looser, voluntary union of independent republics delegating specific rights and responsibilities to the center would be more realistic. (John Tedstrom) MVD BUDGET INCREASED. In 1991 the USSR MVD budget was substantially increased and now stands at 20 billion rubles, MVD Minister Pugo told Pravitel'stvennyi vestnik, no. 17. Of this sum, 5.6 billion came from the central government, while the rest came from republican authorities. The number of ordinary police nationwide was increased by 41,000. The average salary for MVD employees was increased to 510 rubles. Pugo revealed that the relatively small MVD Sixth Administration, responsible for organized crime, recently was transformed into the Main Administration for Corruption, Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking. Similar administrations were created in ten republics. (Victor Yasmann) PUBLISHERS ASK FOR SPECIAL TAXATION. Publishers of several leading Soviet periodicals have called on the Soviet government to establish a preferential taxation system for the printed media and activities associated with its production. In a letter to Gorbachev published in Pravda, May 23, the publishers also asked him to issue a decree fixing prices for paper, communications services, and transportation charges associated with the production and delivery of the printed press. The publishers made the request after announcing that a 50% to 100% price increase for newspapers will soon take effect in the USSR due to the rise in costs for paper and other services associated with the production and distribution of the printed media. (Vera Tolz) INTERNATIONAL COLLOQUIUM OF THEOLOGIANS AND SCIENTISTS IN MOSCOW. TASS reported on May 22 about the opening the same day of a colloquium on "Democracy and Moral Values" in Moscow. The conference was organized by the Soviet Committee for European Security and Cooperation and the Vatican Council for Dialogue with Non-Believers. Representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church, theologians and religious experts, legal experts, philosophers, and historians from the Soviet Union and various European countries are participating in the event. (Oxana Antic) COSMONAUT OPPOSES WOMEN IN SPACE. The commander of the joint Soviet-British space mission launched last Saturday, which includes Helen Sharman, a British chemist, told Moskovsky komsomolets before the mission that women do not belong in space. According to Western agency summaries, Anatolii Artsebarsky was quoted as saying "it's not a woman's business to fly into space." He also reportedly said that Sharman's alternate, a man, was better qualified for the space flight since he is a professional pilot. Sharman has been tasked with carrying out scientific experiments during the mission. At a televised press conference via video hookup last night, Sharman said the crew had had "no arguments so far," but politely disagreed with Artsebarsky, according to agency reports. TASS said Sharman "looked fine." (Sallie Wise) USSR - IN THE REPUBLICS YELTSIN SUFFERS SETBACK AT CONGRESS. The RSFSR Congress of People's Deputies continues to discuss proposed constitutional amendments relating to the introduction of the post of Russian President. RSFSR Supreme Soviet Chairman Boris Yeltsin and the democrats suffered a defeat when a majority at the Congress voted in favor of abolishing the provision in the law which would have prohibited the president from belonging to a political party or organization (TASS on May 23). The abolition of that provision will now make it much harder for democrats to dislodge Communist leaders from state and government organs. (Alexander Rahr) YELTSIN, RYZHKOV CAMPAIGN. Yeltsin told Izvestia on May 23 that he wants to refrain from confrontation and seeks conciliation and roundtable discussions. He conceded that democrats have overreacted in their radical attacks on the center. Historian Roy Medvedev predicted in an interview with Radio Rossii May 23 that Yeltsin will not win in the first round of elections because he faces serious opponents. Yeltsin's main opponent, Nikolai Ryzhkov, promises to struggle against overbureaucratization, to defend the rights of Russians living outside the RSFSR, to double salaries of workers employed in the state sector, and to reverse recent price increases, according to TASS on May 23. (Alexander Rahr) RUTSKOI REMINDED OF PAST "SINS". Yeltsin's running mate for the vice presidency, Aleksandr Rutskoi, defended himself from claims that he had been formerly supported by chauvinistic organizations, such as Pamyat' and Otechestvo, and that he had been a strong opponent of the late academician Andrei Sakharov. Rutskoi told Vesti [the new Russian TV news program] on May 20 that he had been one of the founders of the patriotic association Otechestvo but that he rejects its present chauvinistic views. Rutskoi also said he disagreed with Andrei Sakharov only over the latter's claim that the Soviet air force had bombed its own soldiers in Afghanistan and that otherwise he has great respect for Sakharov. (Alexander Rahr) GROMOV AS MORAL FIGURE. Speaking at a press conference, Nikolai Ryzhkov called his running mate General Boris Gromov "one of the most popular generals in our army" and "a mature political figure known for his lofty moral sense," according to TASS on May 18. Ryzhkov added that he always has had great respect for the Soviet Army. Asked whether he is competent enough to deal with Russia's economic problems, Gromov replied that he had some experience in dealing with economic issues in the armed forces. Ryzhkov had previously emphasized that the vice president must be a specialist in those areas where the president is less competent. (Alexander Rahr) RSFSR PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES ADDRESS COSSACK ASSEMBLY. A two-day assembly of Cossack atamans of south Russia that met in Moscow May 22-23 was addressed by RSFSR presidential candidate Al'bert Makashov and vice-presidential candidates Ramazan Abdulatipov and Aleksei Sergeev, TASS reported. Presidential candidate Nikolai Ryzhkov also discussed his program with some of those attending the assembly. The meeting, in which representatives of a number of the mountain peoples of the North Caucasus took part, was called to discuss ways of avoiding further inter-ethnic clashes in the North Caucasus. The assembly proposed that a congress of the peoples of the North Caucasus be held. (Ann Sheehy) ANTI-ELECTION PROTESTS CONTINUE IN TATARSTAN. Demonstrators in Tatarstan continue to protest plans to conduct polling for the RSFSR presidency in the republic, RFE/RL was told May 21. Some 15,000 people are reported to have attended an anti-election rally in Kazan on May 20. The rally was sponsored by the National Democratic Movement of Tatarstan, which maintains that Tatarstan should not participate in the election since it is sovereign and not subordinate to the RSFSR. Russian television confirmed May 23 that 16 people, headed by the leader of the Ittifaq party, the writer Favzia Bairamova, are on hunger strike to protest the holding of the elections. (NCA/Tatar-Bashkir BD/Ann Sheehy) ASSOCIATION OF SOVIET BULGARIANS CREATED. An association of Bulgarians of the USSR was set up by the first congress of Soviet Bulgarians held in Bolgrad in Odessa oblast on May 19, APN reported May 20. The association aims to set up Bulgarian schools and revive Bulgarian culture. The congress appealed to the supreme soviets of Moldavia and Ukraine, where most of the 373,000 Bulgarians in the USSR live, to sign the Union treaty. Mikhail Ivanov, adviser to the president of Bulgaria for ethnic affairs, told APN May 22 that Bulgaria was ready to assist the association. (Ann Sheehy) REPRISALS AGAINST TWO ORTHODOX PRIESTS. Keston News Service on May 16 reported the persecution of two Orthodox priests in the Soviet Union who changed jurisdiction and joined the Free Orthodox Church of Russia (Russian Orthodox Church abroad). Fr. Aleksii Averyanov in Kozelsk has been experiencing pressure from local authorities; Fr. Valerii Lapkovsky was beaten up and threatened with murder in Kerch. (Oxana Antic) MOLDAVIA DROPS "SOVIET SOCIALIST" FROM ITS NAME. At President Mircea Snegur's proposal, the Moldavian parliament voted by a large margin May 23 to drop the words "Soviet Socialist" from the republic's name, which thus becomes the Republic of Moldavia. The Moldavian Popular Front had been urging this change since its second Grand National Assembly on December 16, 1990. Yesterday the deputies also voted to change the legislature's name from Supreme Soviet to Parliament. Both motions were adopted by large margins but in the absence of most of the Russian communist deputies. (Vladimir Socor) MOLDAVIA'S STATUS NOT IN LINE WITH ITS NEW NAME. Moldavia's foremost poet, Grigore Vieru, and outgoing Prime Minister Mircea Druc both said yesterday that Moldavia's political status had to be brought in line with its new name. Vieru told a Popular Front rally in Kishinev (as reported to RFE/RL by participants), and Druc told RFE/RL in an interview, that the republic's name change was, like its sovereignty, largely declarative, and that Moldavia's real status "is still that of a Soviet colony". Both Vieru and Druc called for "full sovereignty and independence" for Moldavia. (Vladimir Socor). POPULAR FRONT RALLY CALLS FOR MOLDAVIAN INDEPENDENCE. At a mass rally in Kishinev May 23, called on short notice by the Moldavian Popular Front, the Front's leaders and Moldavia's leading writers called for an early proclamation of Moldavian independence from the USSR. All speakers also protested the ouster of Druc as Prime Minister as an undemocratic measure and a loss to the republic. The rally also chastised the Moldavian Agrarian deputies for aligning with the Communists in their opposition to radical economic and political reforms. (Vladimir Socor) DRUC ON HIS OUSTER AND PLANS. In a telephone interview from Kishinev with an RFE/RL Moscow correspondent, broadcast May 23, Druc said that he had "definite evidence" that the Kremlin had pressured Snegur into dismissing him. Druc also recalled that Gorbachev, Ryzhkov (while Prime Minister of the USSR), and KGB chief Kryuchkov had demanded his dismissal since November 1990 as a prerequisite of normalization in relations between the Kremlin and Kishinev. After almost one year as Moldavian premier, Druc's chief regret was that constant political pressures had prevented him from focusing on his central economic goal: Moldavia's transition to a market economy and privatization. An economist of radical reformist persuasion who studied under Gavriil Popov, Druc plans to draw up the Moldavian Popular Front's economic platform as well as an anti-crisis strategy suited to Moldavia's specific needs. (Vladimir Socor) KEBICH'S ANTI-CRISIS PLAN FOR BELORUSSIAN ECONOMY. Permanent commissions of the Belorussian Supreme Soviet on May 22 began to discuss an economic "anti-crisis" program devised by Prime Minister Vyacheslau Kebich, Belta-TASS said May 22. Kebich said "radical" measures are needed to shield Belorussia from the Soviet Union's general economic crash. The measures include "active privatization" of state enterprises, greater foreign investment, and a strong commitment to Belorussian sovereignty. (Kathy Mihalisko) UKRAINIAN CARDINAL IN KIEV. The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Cardinal Myroslav Ivan Lubachivs'kyi, met with the chairman of the Ukrainian Supreme Soviet, Leonid Kravchuk, and government leaders in Kiev yesterday, TASS reported May 23. Lubachivs'kyi told Kravchuk and Prime Minister Vitol'd Fokin that his church expects full rehabilitation and the return of its property. The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church was forcibly "reunited" with the Russian Orthodox Church in 1946. (Roman Solchanyk) TAJIKISTAN MOVES TO PRIVATIZE. According to Tajik Deputy Prime Minister Abduzhalil Samadov, the republic's government will begin a significant privatization of small enterprises in retail trade, social catering, and everyday services, TASS reported May 21. Repair and construction enterprises will also be privatized. As many as 3,000 enterprises in the Ministry of Retail Trade alone will be sold off. The Tajik government is creating a fund to support entrepreneurial activities and to encourage private citizens who would like to start their own businesses. A key piece of legislation will be the extension of bank credit (on a commercial basis?) to would-be entrepreneurs. The Tajik Supreme Soviet recently passed a law on privatization. (John Tedstrom)
write to us
with your comments and suggestions.