|The only thing one knows about human nature is that it changes. - Oscar Wilde|
No. 146, 02 August 1991
BALTIC STATES LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT IN EMERGENCY SESSION. Lithuanian parliament deputies spent August 1 in an emergency session discussing "terrorist and repressive structures of the Soviet Union in Lithuania," Radio Independent Lithuania reported that day. Lithuanian Supreme Council Chairman Vytautas Landsbergis called the Medininkai killings "pre-planned," only the latest incident in "one chain of terrorism." The parliament appealed to CSCE member states, asking that the CSCE crisis control mechanism be applied to normalize relations between Lithuania and the USSR. Another resolution requested that Denmark and Iceland, two of the most vocal supporters of Lithuania, raise the issues of Soviet aggression and Lithuanian independence with the UN Security Council. (Gytis Liulevicius) DEATH TOLL RISES. The Lithuanian parliament information bureau announced that a seventh border guard died at 11:35 A.M. this morning (August 2) in a Vilnius hospital. The latest death leaves only one survivor as a potential witness to the Medininkai attack. Investigators had no hard leads in connection with the murders as of late August 1, Radio Independent Lithuania reported that day. In a report to parliament, Lithuanian prosecutor-general Arturas Paulauskas said that "there are five or six possible versions of the crime," but did not elaborate, pending further investigation. The victims were apparently forced to lie on the floor and shot point-blank in the head. There was no indica-tion of an armed struggle, Paulauskas said. (Gytis Liulevicius) BUNDESTAG DEPUTY CONDEMNS KILLINGS. Christian Democrat Wolfgang von Stetten condemned the Medininkai murders as "cowardly," an RFE/RL correspondent in Bonn reported August 1. The Bundestag deputy, chairman of the German-Baltic Parliamentary Friendship Circle, described the killings as the result of a "false Soviet policy" and a "miscalculation" by USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev. Von Stetten called on Gorbachev to withdraw special units like the OMON from Lithuania, and to begin serious negotiations on independence. He said he would attend the victims' funeral, if possible. (Gytis Liulevicius) BALTIC MILITARY DISTRICT DENIES INVOLVEMENT. In a statement carried by TASS on August 1, the Baltic Military District disavowed the Medininkai attack, demanding a "swift and objective investigation [of this] terrorist act." The District's Military Council resented Lithuanian suspicions of army or OMON involvement in the killings, considering them an attempt to "ignite anti-Soviet hysteria and anti-army psychosis, not only in the Baltic region, but also in other republics." According to the statement, "destructive societal forces" are trying to drive a wedge between the people and the army. (Gytis Liulevicius) LATVIA SENDS CONDOLENCES TO LITHUANIA. Radio Riga reported August 1 that on behalf of the Latvian Supreme Council and the Council of Ministers, Supreme Council Chairman Anatolijs Gorbunovs had sent a telegram of sympathy and solidarity with the Lithuanian people in connection with the recent shooting of the customs officials at Medininkai. The telegram, also recalling the January 13 shooting of Lithuanian civilians by Soviet forces, said that the Latvians bow their heads in honor of the victims. (Dzintra Bungs) ONE LATVIAN CUSTOMS POST CLOSED. The customs post at the Daugavpils Railroad Station has been closed, presumably because the rent had not been paid, according to Radio Riga of August 1. This reason does not appear to be entirely plausible, because for months the pro-USSR local authorities in Daugavpils had been agitating to have the post closed. The population of Daugavpils, Latvia's second largest city, is mostly non-Latvian. (Dzintra Bungs) GONCHARENKO PROPOSES NEW OVER-SIGHT BODY FOR OMON. Colonel Nikolai Goncharenko, identified by Radio Riga of July 31 as coordinator of OMON forces in the Baltics, has proposed to the MVD that OMON units in the Baltics be directly answerable to Moscow, via a newly created interregional oversight body. Currently the Black Berets in the Baltics are under the jurisdiction of the MVD armed forces. Goncharenko also wants OMON to concentrate on fighting organized crime. His proposal reportedly has the backing of Vitalii Sidorov, Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs of the USSR. If accepted, such a proposal would give OMON a pretext for staying on in the Baltics. (Dzintra Bungs) JEWISH HERITAGE SEMINAR OPENS IN JURMALA. A two-week Jewish heritage seminar opened in Jurmala on July 31, reported Radio Riga that day. The seminar is attended by young people from various regions of the USSR. Most of the instructors, however, come from abroad: Israel, United States, and Europe. Their aim is to better acquaint the participants with Jewish cultural and religious traditions. (Dzintra Bungs) ANOTHER PRICE RISE FOR BUS TICKETS IN RIGA? The Riga city public transportation is still operating with a deficit, despite a price hike in tickets in January, according to Radio Riga July31. Currently, income from ticket sales is covering only 48% of expenses. What is more, there is no money for modernizing the transport depots. Some money may be obtained from the local governments of Riga districts, but another increase in the price of tickets may be necessary soon. (Dzintra Bungs) NO SOLUTION IN SIGHT FOR PROPER EFFLUENT PURIFICATION IN RIGA. Radio Riga reported on July 31 that even after Riga's effluent purification plant is completed, problems will still persist. At least eight major industries in the city have said that they will not be able to channel properly treated effluent to the plant because they simply do not have the necessary equipment for this first, essential step in the purification process. Though these factories will be heavily fined for not adhering to the required norms, without their cooperation the basic problem of contaminated water in Latvia's capital will still be unresolved. What is more, it is not clear just when this year the city's effluent purification plant will be finished--the project has been in the works for decades. (Dzintra Bungs) OFFICIAL COMPARES POLLUTION TO AIDS. An official from the northeastern Estonian city of Narva has characterized the environment there as being "an ecological AIDS." Chairman of the Narva city council health commission Valerii Khomyakov told reporters that only one in every ten children in Narva is healthy, and that the number of area births has been halved in the past two years. The major health problems come from high levels of toxic substances--some of them radioactive--in oil shale ash that area electric power stations produce as a by-product. According to Khomyakov, an average of 14 grams of ash per square meter rains on Narva annually. Paevaleht carried Khomyakov's remarks on July12. (Riina Kionka) USSR--ALL-UNION TOPICS AFTER THE SUMMIT. While seeing off US President George Bush yesterday (August 1), Gorbachev said "another floor has been added to the structure of friendly relations" between the US and USSR. He also outlined his view of "the most important gains" in recent US-Soviet relations. "The reduction of nuclear arms has begun and is gathering momentum. The European process has been brought to a qualitatively new level. We have helped to resolve a number of regional conflicts and have brought others closer to a settlement. A major step has been made toward a new type of international economic relations." Foreign Ministry spokesman Vitalii Churkin said yesterday, according to Western reports, that the most important achievement was that the two presidents were able to discuss future economic cooperation in depth. (Sallie Wise) GORBACHEV QUOTES THE BIBLE. During his speech bidding farewell to Bush, Gorbachev referred to the Bible. As reported by Western agencies August 1, the Soviet head of state said to the American president: "Our meetings are always honest attempts to see where we stand, or, to paraphrase the Bible, to see which stones we have gathered and which stones we have not yet reached." (Oxana Antic) RSFSR, KAZAKHSTAN TO SIGN UNION TREATY AUGUST 20. RSFSR President Boris Yeltsin told journalists August 1 that the RSFSR and Kazakhstan would sign the Union treaty on August 20 in the Georgievsky zal of the Kremlin, Russian TV reported August 1. Yeltsin said the process of signing the treaty would last until the end of September, by which time Ukraine would be ready to sign it. The draft treaty would seem to be a bad deal for Gorbachev, now that he has lost the battle over federal taxation. Both Nazarbaev and, belatedly Yeltsin, realize that the treaty is necessary if they are to proceed with economic reform and the transition to the market. They may be hoping that a decision to go ahead initially without Ukraine may force the latter's hand, but will Ukraine be prepared to sign a text already agreed by others? (Ann Sheehy) SHEVARDNADZE RESIGNATION NO IMPULSE MOVE. Eduard Shevardnadze's resignation in December 1990 was his fourth resignation attempt, Jim Hoagland writes in The Washington Post of August 1. Hoagland interviewed both the former foreign minister and his aide, Sergei Tarasenko. In December 1989, Gorbachev talked Shevardnadze out of resigning in protest over the killing of civilians in the capital of Shevardnadze's native Georgia earlier that year; Tarasenko declined to tell Hoagland what prompted the other two protests. But, Tarasenko said, Shevardnadze last December "found himself in an intolerable situation" that had been developing for more than a year. Among other things, Hoagland says, Shevardnadze was upset that Gorbachev did not defend him against attacks on his performance as foreign minister. He also was furious that Gorbachev's special Mideast envoy, Yevgenii Primakov, was not providing him with full accounts of his conversations with Saddam Hussein, and became convinced that Primakov was more interested in shoring up Saddam's position as a Soviet client than in getting Iraq out of Kuwait. (Elizabeth Teague) GOVERNMENT ORDERS END TO LOW-COST COUNTRY HOMES. The Soviet government on July 31 ordered all state agencies to halt the sale of country dachas to officials, Western agencies reported August 1. The move follows revelations by the USSR's parliamentary watchdog that top officials, including former prime minister Nikolai Ryzhkov and former deputy prime minister Aleksandra Biryukova, bought luxurious country homes from the state a rock-bottom prices. The order decrees that all such sales should cease until new regulations on the privatization of state property come into operation. (Elizabeth Teague) AIR CONTROLLERS WIN CONCESSION. A Soviet trade union official was quoted by Western agencies on August 1 as saying the Soviet government has agreed to the union's demand that the retirement age of air traffic controllers be lowered. This is a partial victory for the new, independent trade union of air traffic controllers, which has threatened strike action on August 10 in support of demands for higher pay, lower working hours, and longer vacations. (Elizabeth Teague) SIGN OF STRENGTH OF NEW UNION. The air traffic controllers' union resembles two other new unions, set up in the past year by airline pilots and by coalminers. These differ from the official trade unions in two key respects. First, while the official unions administer social insurance funds on behalf of the state, the independent unions have no state ties. Second, the official unions are "branch" unions; i.e., they enrol managers alongside employees, and an electrician who works in a coal mine will belong to the coalminers, not the electricians', union. The unofficial unions are purely professional: they do not enrol managers and only faceworkers may, for example, join the independent coalminers' union. (Elizabeth Teague) MARKOVIC IN MOSCOW. Yugoslav Prime Minister Ante Markovic held talks in Moscow yesterday with his Soviet counterpart Valentin Pavlov, TASS and Western agencies reported August 1. Pavlov reiterated the Soviet position that Yugoslavia should not break up. Markovic is scheduled to meet Gorbachev today. (Sallie Wise) "SOYUZ" DELEGATION IN IRAQ. A delegation of USSR Supreme Soviet deputies from the hardline "Soyuz" faction reportedly began talks with members on the Iraqi National Assembly in Baghdad on August 1. Western agencies August1 reported a release from the official Iraqi news agency saying that the Soviet delegation leader [unnamed] had said that Soviet experts are ready to return to Iraq to participate in reconstruction after the war. The Iraqi agency also reported that the Soviet delegation leader had pledged to press for lifting of the embargo against Iraq. (Sallie Wise) IWC FORECAST OF SOVIET GRAIN HARVEST. The International Wheat Council forecast on August1 that the Soviet grain harvest this year will total 195 million tons and that the USSR will seek to import some 35 million tons of grain during the agricultural year through mid-1992, RFE/RL's London bureau reported that day. The IWC estimate is 10 million tons lower than the latest known USDA projection, but in line with recent authoritative Soviet pronouncements, which have ranged from 180 million tons to 205 million tons. It is also generally agreed that the USSR will wish to import as much grain as it can afford and as much as its ports, transportation system, and storage capacity can handle--i.e., up to 40 million tons. (Keith Bush) HEAVY SALES OF PLATINUM. Platinum futures prices fell to five-year lows on July 30 on reports that the Soviet Union has been selling large quantities of platinum, according to The Wall Street Journal (European Edition) of July31. It had been reported that the USSR has shipped 730,000 ounces of platinum during the first half of 1991: this is more than during the whole of 1990 and represents about one-fifth of total Western supply. Forty-year old Soviet bars are coming on to the market, which suggests that part of the sales is coming out of reserves. (Keith Bush) UN PLAN FOR CHERNOBYL AID. The United Nations on August 1 announced a global plan to spend $646 million to combat the effects of the Chernobyl disaster. According to Western agency reports that day, countries will be asked to pledge funds for the project at a conference in conjunction with the opening of the UN General Assembly on September 20. The plan would address issues ranging from health and reconstruction to environmental issues, and would involve all-Union authorities as well as the RSFSR, Ukraine, and Belorussia. (Sallie Wise) PRAVDA'S FATE IN DOUBT? At a press conference July 31 kicking off a subscription drive for about 8,000 periodicals, V. Leont'ev, director of "Pravda" publishers, sounded worried. As reported by Infonovosti of the same date, Leont'ev cautioned that, "strictly speaking, we do not have the moral right to announce today subscriptions for 1992, since we aren't assured of paper even for this year." Infonovosti reported concern that if the present level of state distribution of paper at fixed prices is not maintained, "then not a single Party paper will be able to support itself." (Sallie Wise) USSR--IN THE REPUBLICS BUSH CAUTIONS AGAINST ISOLATION. Bush addressed the Supreme Soviet of the Ukrainian SSR yesterday, sending a message of both support and caution to his audience. He said the US supports "the struggle in this great country for democracy and economic reform" and "those in the center and the republics who pursue freedom, democracy and economic liberty." Bush assured his audience that the US is not interested in meddling in internal Soviet affairs, but does want "good relations, improved relations, with the Republics." He further stated that "the 9-plus-1 agreement holds forth the hope that republics will combine greater autonomy with greater voluntary interaction -- political, social, cultural, economic," rather than pursuing a course of isolation. He ended his speech by saying, "we support those who explore the frontiers of freedom." (Natalie Melnyczuk) UKRAINIAN REACTION TO BUSH SPEECH. Ukrainian reaction to President Bush's address to the Supreme Soviet in Kiev is only beginning to filter out, but so far it appears that his campaigning for the Union treaty and his remarks about nationalism, ethnic hatred and local despotism did not go down terribly well. Vyacheslav Chornovil, chairman of the Lvov Oblast soviet, said the part of Bush's speech he liked best was when the President spoke of democracy, "which it won't hurt the Communists to hear." On the eve of Bush's visit, Ivan Drach, chairman of Rukh, issued a statement saying that Bush, seemingly "hypnotized by Gorbachev," appears to believe that Moscow is the source of stability. (Kathy Mihalisko) POLOZKOV BECOMES A MUSCOVITE. Ivan Polozkov, the hardline leader of the conservative Russian Communist Party, has at last won permission to reside in Moscow. Until now, the radical-leaning Moscow city authorities had refused him a resident permit. Their refusal meant that, despite Polozkov's election last year to lead the Russian Communist Party, which has its headquarters in Moscow, he and his family have until now been forced to retain as their official domicile the southern city of Krasnodar where Polozkov was previously Party boss. Now, Komsomol'skaya pravda reports (August 1), Polozkov has managed to swap flats with another Party official, formerly based in Moscow, who has been transferred to Krasnodar. (Elizabeth Teague) CHURCH REVIVAL AND SELF STYLED PRIMATES. The editorial board of Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on July 23 that it had received a letter from the "acting press-attache" of the controversial primate of the Russian Greek Catholic Church, Vikentii Chekalin, about this Church and demanding that it be published. Since the origins of the Russian Greek Catholic Church are clouded, and its primate highly controversial (see "Is the Russian Greek Catholic Church Reemerging?", Report on the USSR, Volume 3, No. 3O, July 26, 1991), the editors turned to Moscow's St. Louis church for information. Aleksei Barmin [not identified] pointed out in his answer that archbishop Vladimir Sternyuk of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church had no canonical right to name Vikentii Chekalin without informing the Vatican about it. (Oxana Antic) ALIEV REJECTS UNION TREATY. Radio Rossii on August 1 quoted former Azerbaijan CP first secretary and Politburo member Geidar Aliev as arguing that it is "impossible" for Azerbaijan to sign the new Union treaty; he dismissed assurances of a renewal of the Union as "a fraud against the people." Azerbaijan President and Party first secretary Ayaz Mutalibov has consistently stressed Azerbaijan's support for the Union Treaty. (Liz Fuller) NEW POLITICAL UNION CREATED IN ARMENIA. Armenian Prime Minister Vazgen Manukyan, together with three supporters, has announced the creation of a new political organization, the Armenian National-Democratic Union, TASS reported August 1. The aim of the new organization, according to a statement issued by its founders, is to unite the existing political groupings in Armenia "on the basis of a common national ideology," since the current preoccupation of many parties "with a social rather than a national struggle" could be "fatal" for Armenia. (Liz Fuller) BIRLIK ON DEMOCRACY IN UZBEKISTAN. In June, a Komsomol'skaya pravda correspondent was expelled from Uzbekistan for having tried to interview leaders of the Popular Front Birlik on their movement and political life in Uzbekistan. Two Birlik leaders, Abdurakhim Pulatov and Pulat Akhunov, then traveled to Moscow for the interview, which appears in the July 27 issue of the daily. The interviewees say that despite their long-term goal of independence for Uzbekistan, they believe it should remain part of the USSR for now, because the republic has a better chance of absorbing democracy from the rest of the country. If it were independent, the present corrupt and conservative leadership would remain in control. (Bess Brown) ANOTHER INSTALLMENT IN KIRGIZ MURDER MYSTERY. In December, 1980, the chairman of Kyrgyzstan's Council of Ministers, Sultan Ibraimov, was murdered. Popular opinion in the republic has firmly held that former republican Communist Party chief Turdakun Usubaliev had seen the victim as a potential rival and had had him eliminated. An official explanation, published after Usubaliev's removal, claimed that the killing was the work of a mentally disturbed individual of Slavic origin. An editor of Literaturnyi Kyrgyzstan suggests in the June issue of the journal that Absamat Masaliev, the conservative republican Party chief who recently resigned, was responsible for the murder. (Bess Brown)
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