|Be slow of tongue and quick of eye. - Cervantes|
No. 207, 30 October 1991
USSR--ALL-UNION TOPICS AND RSFSR YELTSIN GATHERS SUPPORT. Democratic leaders are stressing their appreciation for Yeltsin's policy of a "reformist breakthrough." The co-leader of the Democratic Russia Movement, Yurii Afanas'ev told Western news agencies on October 29 that his Movement will support Yeltsin. RSFSR deputy Mikhail Bocharov welcomed Yeltsin's move to a more authoritarian style. Nikolai Travkin, chairman of the Russian Democratic Party, emphasized that in Yeltsin's speech, the concept of a union was put to rest. (Alexander Rahr) SILAEV COMMITTEE ENDORSES YELTSIN PROGRAM. At a session of the Committee for the Operational Management of the Economy on October 29, acting USSR Prime Minister Ivan Silaev praised the salient features of the Yeltsin program, TASS reported that day. Silaev was quoted as declaring that the RSFSR plan's provisions for price liberalization and rapid privatization would encourage the elaboration of a program for all republics. He did not view the Yeltsin blueprint as a threat to the economic community that was tentatively agreed to by eight republics on October18; "the success of reforms in the sovereign republics will largely depend on how fast and how successfully reforms go in Russia." (Keith Bush) FURTHER SUPPORT FOR THE RSFSR PLAN. The same TASS dispatch cited USSR Deputy Economics Minister Vladimir Gribov as calling Yeltsin's program hard to implement but necessary; "we have no other way--the country is in a catastrophic situation." Gribov emphasized that the freeing of prices must not be accompanied by the complete liberalization of salaries, as this would provoke rampant inflation. He advocated a reform of the tax system to draw in more revenues, stipulating higher profit taxes and the imposition of a 15% value added tax on some goods. (Keith Bush) GAIDAR - A KEY FIGURE IN YELTSIN'S NEW CABINET. RSFSR President Boris Yeltsin plans to appoint the radical economist Yegor Gaidar as RSFSR economic and finance minister and also make him his first deputy as premier, The Financial Times reported on October 30. Gaidar is regarded as the architect of the idea that Russia should go its own way without the republics. He is at odds with another radical economist, Grigorii Yavlinsky, who stresses the need to preserve the union. Gaidar will enter Yeltsin's cabinet with his own staff of young economists from Moscow and St. Petersburg economic institutes. The future RSFSR Cabinet of Ministers will consist of no more than 20 ministers. (Alexander Rahr) TWO RSFSR DEPUTIES RESIGN. Boris Isaev and Svetlana Goryacheva both asked to be relieved from their duties as deputy chairmen of the RSFSR Supreme Soviet, TASS reported October 29. The two are known opponents of RSFSR President Boris Yeltsin, and last spring they were among the deputies who asked for Yeltsin's resignation. Yeltsin's position was challenged after he had urged Soviet President Gorbachev to resign for allegedly seeking a dictatorship. (Carla Thorson) RUMYANTSEV ON REFUSAL OF RSFSR CONGRESS TO DISCUSS DRAFT CONSTITUTION. The secretary of the RSFSR Constitutional Commission, Oleg Rumyantsev, condemned the decision of the RSFSR Congress of People's Deputies to exclude discussion of the draft RSFSR constitution from its agenda, TASS reported October 28. Speaking at a press conference, Rumyantsev blamed for the decision the opponents of reform, represented by the group "Communists of Russia," deputies from the autonomous territories, and the "Smena" group. Rumyantsev said Yeltsin had prepared a major speech on the draft constitution. (Ann Sheehy) CUSTOMS DUTIES ON CONSUMER GOODS LOWERED. A presidential decree is anticipated soon that will exempt foodstuffs and other basic necessities from customs duties and reduce duties by 20% on other selected items, TASS reported October 25. The president of the Customs Commission was cited as explaining that the move was intended to bolster imports, which had fallen by 47% during the first nine months of 1991. Interfax of October 25 reported a proposal to reduce duties on other imported products and to raise the amount of hard currency that Soviet tourists were allowed to bring back into the country. (Keith Bush) SILAEV ON FATE OF UNION MINISTRIES. In a statement in the latest issue of Pravitel'stvennyi vestnik, cited by TASS on October 29, Ivan Silaev, chairman of the Interstate Economic Committee, said that a ministry of finance was no longer necessary since the budget would be formed from fixed contributions from the republics. Silaev said that the republics had agreed so far only to have a Union committee of culture, and ministries of railways, medium machine building, and the atomic energy industry. Silaev said that 37,000 employees of the central ministries and departments would be redundant. He thought the majority would go into newly created RSFSR ministries. (Ann Sheehy) SILAEV ON INTERSTATE ECONOMIC COM-MITTEE. Silaev added that the Interstate Economic Committee would take over the functions of the Committee for the Operational Management of the Economy (which he also heads) in 1992 after the republics had signed the first 10-15 agreements that will determine the mechanism of implementing the treaty on an economic community. (Ann Sheehy) KHASBULATOV SAYS SMALL TURNOUT IN CHECHEN-INGUSH ELECTIONS. At the RSFSR Congress of People's Deputies on October 29 Ruslan Khasbulatov, chairman of the RSFSR Supreme Soviet, said that only about 200,000 people voted in the election of the president of the self-styled Chechen republic, TASS reported October 29. Khasbulatov added that, in his view, this conflicted with the norms of democracy. At the time of the 1989 census the population of Checheno-Ingushetia was 1,338,000, of whom 735,000 were Chechens. Yel'tsin's representative in Checheno-Ingushetia, Akhmet Arsanov, said that the elections had taken place "under the barrels of the machine-guns" of the local national guard. (Ann Sheehy) KHASBULATOV BLAMES PRESS PARTLY FOR EVENTS IN CHECHENO-INGUSHETIA. At a press conference in the Kremlin October 29, Khasbulatov blamed the press for inflaming national enmities by its primitive and unskilled reporting on events in areas of tension. He said that fertile soil for the continuation of the "criminal" regime of ex-General Dzhakhar Dudaev in Checheno-Ingushetia had been created more than half by the support, perhaps involuntary, of the press and television. (Ann Sheehy) DUDAEV WIDENS HIS HORIZONS. An organizational committee to create a Party of the Independence of the Caucasus has been set up in the Chechen-Ingush capital of Groznyi, "Vesti" reported October 29, citing RIA. It is expected that the new party will be proclaimed at a congress of the mountain peoples of the Caucasus in November in Sukhumi. "Inform-TV" claimed, however, on October 29, that Dudaev was already facing problems in his desire to unite the peoples of the Caucasus. Not only do the Ingush want to remain part of the RSFSR but so do some Chechen. (Ann Sheehy) SITUATION DETERIORATES IN DAGESTAN. According to "Vesti" and "Inform-TV" of October 29, the situation has deteriorated in Dagestan, which also threatens to become another area of conflict in the North Caucasus. "Vesti" reported October 24 that meetings and strikes were taking place in Dagestan demanding the resignation of the republic's Supreme Soviet. (Ann Sheehy) WEALTH BECOMING SOCIALLY ACCEPTABLE. Experts have warned that egalitarianism is so deeply rooted in the Russian psyche that the population will never accept the meritocratic work ethic of modern society. But a recent public opinion poll by sociologist Boris Grushin suggests that Soviet citizens are growing more tolerant of wealth disparities. Eight months ago, only 43% of those polled found it acceptable that some members of Soviet society should be richer than others, whereas 38% disapproved. But, when Professor Grushin repeated the poll last month, he found that 75% thought the existence of rich people was acceptable, and only 13% disapproved. This finding was reported on Central TV's "Vremya" on October 27. (Elizabeth Teague) US-SOVIET COOPERATION ON CONVERSION. At a Moscow news conference on October 29, US Deputy Defense Secretary Donald Atwood said that the US will act as a "catalyst" in the conversion to civilian output of the Soviet defense industry, Western agencies reported that day. Atwood is heading a delegation of American business and political figures that is touring Soviet military industrial complexes. At the same conference, Viktor Protasov, a member of the Committee for the Operational Management of the Economy, warned that the USSR's defense industry is threatened with disaster following the collapse of central power. (Keith Bush) AID ON THE WAY? At the same press conference, Bush said that the question of aid to the Soviet Union requires further discussion. He did not provide details on the amount of aid discussed. However, a Western report of October 30 said Bush had accepted a proposal by Edward R. Madigan, US Secretary of Agriculture, that the United States provide $1 billion in aid. According to the same report, the Soviet Union has requested $3.5 billion in aid. The US Agriculture Department has said that both figures are incorrect. (Suzanne Crow) SOVIET STANCE AT MADRID TALKS. An unidentified aide to Mikhail Gorbachev said the Soviet Union will employ an evenhanded policy during the Middle East peace conference which starts October 30 in Madrid. According to a report in Israel's Ma'Ariv, the aide said: "our consistent support for the Arab side in the past stemmed mainly from our having been involved in a global conflict with the United States. Today we are no longer a superpower . . .. Our foreign policy is dictated by internal considerations and regional rather than global, strategic interests . . ..We believe that as long as the Arab-Israeli conflict remains unresolved, the chances of Islamic fundamentalism and instability spreading across our borders grow." (Suzanne Crow) HOW SYMBOLIC IS THE SOVIET ROLE? The New York Times shed light October 30 on the extent to which the USSR has been sidelined by the United States in the Middle East peace conference. When asked about seating arrangements in Madrid, a Soviet official shrugged and said: "You have to ask the Americans. We don't know anything. The Americans are handling everything." The Times report also related that in Jerusalem earlier this month, Soviet Foreign Minister Boris Pankin asked U.S. Secretary of State James Baker, moments before the delivery of Baker's comments on the US view of the Middle East situation, if Baker would tell journalists he was making a joint Soviet-American statement. (Suzanne Crow) COURT DECISION ON HASSIDIC MANUSCRIPTS NOT CONTESTED. The Moscow news program "Vesti" reported on October 28 that the decision of the State Arbitrarian Court to return the famous Hassidic manuscripts known as the Shneerson Collection has not been appealed. (See Daily Report, October 23.) The decision of the Court to return these documents to the Moscow Shneerson community is final and must be carried out before November 8. (Oxana Antic) USSR--OTHER REPUBLICS KRAVCHUK MEETS WITH BAVARIAN PRESIDENT. At a meeting in Kiev on October 29, Ukrainian Supreme Soviet chairman Leonid Kravchuk assured Wilhelm Forndran, president of the Bavarian parliament, that "Ukraine will never be a militaristic state." Kravchuk added that some Western media sources had given the public misleading and inaccurate information about Ukraine's plans for the strategic and tactical nuclear weapons located on its territory. (Kathy Mihalisko) UKRAINIAN SUPSOV VOTES TO CLOSE CHERNOBYL'. The Supreme Soviet of Ukraine appealed on October 29 to the United Nations for technical assistance in shutting down the Chernobyl' nuclear power plant, according to TASS. Although Chernobyl' was due to be phased out of operation by 1995, the recent fire at the plant's second bloc convinced the Ukrainian parliament to vote for the immediate closure of that bloc and for the shutting down of the first and third blocs by no later than 1993. (Kathy Mihalisko) HUNGER STRIKE AND COUNTER-HUNGER STRIKES IN CRIMEA. As Radio Kiev reported on October 29, Crimean people's deputy Yurii Meskhov, who heads the pro-Russian "Republican Movement of Crimea," is continuing a hunger strike to gain support for annulling the 1954 act that transferred the peninsula from RSFSR to Ukrainian jurisdiction. Three journalists from the newspaper Krymskii komsomolets are, however, staging a "counter-hunger strike" to protest Meshkov's views. Local Communist authorities have mounted a campaign to separate the Crimean ASSR from independence-minded Ukraine. (Kathy Mihalisko) NAZARBAEV IN GREAT BRITAIN. On October 29, the second day of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev's official visit to Great Britain, Nazarbaev met with British Prime Minister John Major to discuss the development of direct relations between Kazakhstan and the UK and Western assistance to the Soviet Union. TASS, Western news agencies and the RFE/RL London correspondent reported on Nazarbaev's meetings with Major and other leaders, including the president of the European Bank, Jacques Attali, to whom Nazarbaev described the economic reforms underway in Kazakhstan. Nazarbaev also met with former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who gave him a resounding vote of confidence. (Stewart Parrott/Bess Brown) NAZARBAEV ON NUCLEAR WEAPONS. In an October 29 speech to the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Nazarbaev explained his stand on nuclear weapons, saying that Kazakhstan does not want to take control of the nuclear weapons on its soil, much less use them, but insists on having a voice in the control of these weapons. Nazarbaev said that he believes that a single controlling body, to include the defense ministers of all republics, will oversee a single strategic weapons system. He also said that Kazakhstan wants to participate in arms reduction talks affecting weapons on its territory. (Stewart Parrott/Bess Brown) NO GASOLINE IN PETROPAVLOVSK. Radio Moscow reported on October 29 that all transport has stopped in Petropavlovsk, the center of North Kazakhstan Oblast, because there is no gasoline--Bashqortostan has stopped delivering it. For most of 1991 Kazakhstan has been suffering serious fuel shortages. At one point airplanes could not take off from Alma-Ata due to lack of kerosine. The failure of deliveries from the RSFSR could have serious political consequences in North Kazakhstan, because it could strengthen the argument of the region's Russian majority that the oblast should be part of the RSFSR. (Bess Brown) UZBEKS TRY TO RETRIEVE NATIONAL HERITAGE. Central TV's evening news show "TSN," quoting Megapolis-ekspress, reported on Octo-ber29 that Khorezm Oblast authorities are trying to retrieve the throne of the khans of Khiva from the Hermitage in St. Petersburg. The historic city of Khiva is located in Uzbekistan's Khorezm Oblast. According to the report, the Uzbek request was rejected on the grounds that Khorezm lacks facilities to protect the throne, and it might be stolen. (Bess Brown) BALTIC STATES SWEDEN SIGNS TRADE ACCORDS WITH BALTIC STATES. On October 28 Swedish Foreign Minister Margaretha Af Ugglas signed agreements with her counterparts Lennart Meri of Estonia and Janis Jurkans of Latvia establishing most-favored-nation trade relationships between Sweden and the two Baltic states. A similar accord between Sweden and Lithuania was endorsed in Vilnius on October29 by Ugglas and Lithuanian Foreign Minister Algirdas Saudargas, reported Western and Baltic agencies on October 29 and 30. (Dzintra Bungs) BALTIC STATES WANT COMPENSATION FOR THEIR GOLD. On November 7 Baltic officials plan to discuss in London compensation for about 13tons of gold deposited with the Bank of England in the 1920s. (The Financial Times of October 29 gives the amount as about 460,220 ozs.) About 34% of the gold belonged to Estonia, 44% to Latvia, and the rest to Lithuania. Following an accord reached between Great Britain and the USSR not to pursue financial claims against each other, the British government sold the Baltic gold in 1968. Recognizing the sensitivity of the issue for the Balts, the British Foreign Office said that it wants to negotiate rapidly "an amicable solution in the context of our broader relations," reported the RFE/RL London correspondent on October 29. (Dzintra Bungs) EUROPEAN RECONSTRUCTION BANK FAVORS BALTIC MEMBERSHIP. The directors of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development recommended on October 29 that Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania be granted membership in the EBRD, Western agencies reported that day. As members, the Baltic States would be entitled to aid from the bank. Last week Baltic representatives were in London to meet EBRD officials and discuss the economic situation in their countries. (Dzintra Bungs) BALTIC PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY ENVISAGED. Radio Riga interviewed on October 29 Deputy of the Latvian Supreme Council Aleksandrs Kirsteins about plans to establish a Baltic parliamentary assembly to coordinate the work on issues of common interest among the Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian legislatures. Twenty deputies from each state would take part in the joint sessions, intended to take place twice yearly. The first meeting is scheduled for November 7 in Tallinn. (Dzintra Bungs) OFFICES FOR US DIPLOMATIC MISSION IN RIGA. On October 29 the Latvian Supreme Council adopted a decision designating offices in Raina Boulevard and Smilsu Street for use by the US mission in Latvia, reported Radio Riga that day. The buildings are occupied by other institutions, which will have to leave promptly in order that the American diplomats can move into their offices next month. There is a severe shortage of housing and office space in Riga. (Dzintra Bungs) LATVIAN DESIGNATED AS LANGUAGE OF THE LATVIAN SUPREME COUNCIL. On October 29 the Latvian Supreme Council decided that as of November 1 the Council's official documents and proceedings will no longer be translated into Russian. Deputies of the pro-USSR Ravnopravie faction opposed the decision since many of them are not fluent in Latvian. Heretofore, the proceedings and the documents were translated into Russian, a practice dating from the Latvian SSR Supreme Soviet. The Russian-speaking deputies would, however, be able to address the council in Russian and their speeches would be translated into Latvian. The decision was adopted following reports of the deputies criticizing the slow implementation of the law on state language. (Dzintra Bungs) ESTONIA WILL SHOULDER ITS SHARE. Estonia is prepared to assume its part of the Soviet foreign debt, according to Estonia's Finance Minister Rein Miller. Miller told BNS on October 29 that "the question of the foreign debt of the former-USSR must be resolved in a nuanced way, within the framework of Estonian-USSR economic negotiations." An October 28 agreement among 12Soviet republics to repay the debt was almost wrecked when Ukraine threatened to withdraw unless the Baltics agreed to pay their share. There were no Baltic representatives at Monday's meeting, but Miller nevertheless characterized the Baltic clause in the agreement as "correct." (Riina Kionka) USSR REHABILITATES BALTIC LEADERS. USSR Prosecutor General Nikolai Trubin on October 28 ordered the rehabilitation of two interwar Baltic leaders, TASS reported that day. Trubin signed the orders for the rehabilitation of Estonia's President Konstantin Pats and Lithuania's Prime Minister Antanas Merkys, saying that both men, leaders of sovereign states, had been arrested unlawfully by foreign authorities. Pats and Merkys were arrested and deported to labor camps when the USSR forcibly annexed the Baltic states, and both died in custody. (Riina Kionka) SWEDISH PRESS: LINK AID TO POLITICAL CORRECTNESS. Citizenship laws under discussion in Estonia and Latvia have raised concerns in the Swedish press that the Baltic legislatures intend to discriminate against non-Balts. According to an October 29 RFE Estonian Service program, some observers argue that Swedish aid should be linked to passage of "more liberal" naturalization laws. (Riina Kionka) SWEDISH POLITICIANS DISAGREE. Many Swedish politicians disagree with the press. Minister for Foreign Aid Alf Svenson, for instance, told reporters that "Swedish aid to the Baltic states will remain fully in place regardless of how the citizenship issue is resolved." And Dagens Nyheter of October 27 quotes Swedish Foreign Minister Margaretha Ugglas as saying: "The citizenship question is an internal matter for the Baltic states. Only they have the authority to decide who should get citizenship and who should not. Sweden does not intend in any way to interfere or to influence Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in these questions." (Riina Kionka) IMPORT/EXPORT EASIER IN ESTONIA. Estonia's government has approved a proposal to liberalize import/export regulations. According to Paevaleht of October 29, quoting State Minister Raivo Vare, Estonia has eliminated quotas and licensing requirements, and will not levy taxes for imported and exported goods purchased with hard currency. Certain categories of goods in short supply--such as food products, lumber, cement, liquor, tobacco and bearskins--would still be subject to quotas regardless of the method of payment. The new regulations will take effect as soon as Prime Minister Savisaar signs the order, Paevaleht said. (Riina Kionka)
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