|Comedy is an escape, not from truth but from despair; a narrow escape into faith. - Christopher Fry|
No. 228, 03 December 1991
USSR--ALL-UNION AND INTER-REPUBLICAN TOPICS GORBACHEV WARNS OF NEW COUP. Interviewed in this week's issue of Literaturnaya gazeta, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev says a new coup may be in preparation "by someone from the military-industrial complex, someone from the Communist Party structures." Gorbachev, whose remarks were summarized by TASS on December 3, said a coup can be averted by pushing ahead with reforms. Commenting on the situation in Ukraine, Gorbachev said it was shameful to try to provoke confrontation between Russians and Ukrainians. His main aim, he said, is to avoid bloodshed and to build a world in which the ties that bind people are so strong that even "Jesus Christ could not untie these knots." (Elizabeth Teague) RUBLE PLUNGES AGAINST DOLLAR. In the first day of almost unrestricted trading in Moscow, the exchange rate for the ruble plunged on December 2 to around 80 to the US dollar, Western agencies reported December 2. Exchange rate controls for foreign tourists visiting the USSR and for Soviet citizens travelling abroad had been largely lifted with effect from December 1. Although the USSR Gosbank had been offering a tourist rate of 47 rubles to the dollar in recent weeks, the exchange rate has fluctuated at hard-currency auctions and at commercial banks between 70 and 124 rubles to the dollar. (Keith Bush) STOLYAROV TO HEAD DEFENSE PERSONNEL COMMITTEE. At a meeting on November 30, the Defense Ministry collegium named Major General (of Aviation) Nikolai Stolyarov chairman of the newly created Committee for work with military personnel, TASS reported on December 2. The Committee is to take over many of the duties of the former Main Political Administration, and the Defense Ministry commission charged with liquidating that body reportedly agreed to Stolyarov's appointment. Stolyarov is a former political officer, who earlier was a member of the CPSU Central Committee. He supported RSFSR President Boris Yeltsin during the attempted August coup, and in its wake was appointed a deputy chairman of the USSR KGB. (Stephen Foye) USSR TURNS OVER PRAGUE SPRING FILES. Soviet ambassador to Czechoslovakia Aleksandr Lebedev has given Czechoslovak authorities over 200 pages of archival material--including previously classified cables which passed between Moscow and the Soviet embassy in Prague--in an effort to shed light on the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. Czechoslovak authorities are particularly eager to see a letter allegedly written by Czechoslovak Communist Party officials inviting the Warsaw Pact intervention. According to Soviet ambassador Lebedev, "no letter of invitation is among the documents . . . . It is quite possible that it does not exist." More documents are to follow, Western agencies reported on December2. (Suzanne Crow) USSR SUPREME SOVIET DELEGATION TO JAPAN. A delegation of the USSR Supreme Soviet left December 1 for Japan, TASS reported. The Soviet deputies plan to discuss prospects for concluding a bilateral peace treaty and settling the Kurile Islands dispute. (Carla Thorson) CPSU GAVE US COMMUNISTS $2 MILLION PER YEAR. According to Aleksandr Drosdov, editor of Rossiya, the CPSU gave $2 million annually to the Communist movement in the US with an occasional supplement of an additional $1 million. Drosdov is working on a book about CPSU allocations abroad and claims that he has seen records dating back to the 1960s, The New York Times reported on December 1. (Suzanne Crow) YAKOVLEV SEES DECLINE OF DEMOCRACY. Aleksandr Yakovlev warned a meeting of the Political Council of the Democratic Reform Movement held in Moscow December 2 that the USSR is steadily drifting further away from the democratic path of development. Yakovlev's observation was cited by an anchor of "TV Inform" later that day. (Julia Wishnevsky) REPUBLICS PRELIMINARY REFERENDUM RESULTS IN UKRAINE. Official preliminary results of the December 1 referendum in Ukraine show that 90.85% of voters approved of Ukrainian independence, Radio Kiev reported on December2. More than 60% voted for Chairman of the Ukrainian Supreme Soviet Leonid Kravchuk as Ukraine's president. The results were announced by the chairman of the Central Electoral Commission. (Roman Solchanyk) US MOVES TOWARDS RECOGNITION OF UKRAINE. White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater yesterday welcomed Ukraine's referendum on independence as "a tribute to the spirit of the Ukrainian people" and announced that Secretary of State James Baker would visit Kiev and Moscow next week to discuss Ukrainian independence, Western news agencies reported. Baker's trip will be preceded by the visit of a special State Department envoy, Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Niles. Fitzwater said that "we obviously are moving toward full diplomatic recognition." (Roman Solchanyk) INTERNATIONAL RECOGNITION OF UKRAINE. Poland yesterday became the first country to recognize Ukraine as an independent state and establish diplomatic relations, Radio Kiev and TASS reported on December 2. Also yesterday, Canada announced that it will recognize Ukraine and begin negotiations on diplomatic relations shortly, and Czechoslovakia said that it is prepared to extend recognition as well. Several other West European states yesterday commented on the referendum and suggested that they will be moving towards establishing diplomatic ties. (Roman Solchanyk) KRAVCHUK: COLLECTIVE CONTROL OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS. Kravchuk would like to see the four republics where Soviet strategic nuclear weapons are based--Russia, Ukraine, Belorussia, and Kazakhstan--form a collective body to control all nuclear weapons throughout the former USSR, according to press accounts of his December 2 news conference. At the same time, he was quoted by The New York Times as stating that the Ukraine was not demanding "a finger on the nuclear button." The implications of Ukrainian independence for the security of Soviet nuclear weapons is one of the topics to be discussed at a special NATO meeting to be held on December 3. The topic will also be high on Baker's agenda when he visits Kiev later in the month. (Doug Clarke) GAIDAR PROPOSES BUDGET CUTS. RSFSR Deputy Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar told the RSFSR Supreme Soviet Presidium on December 2 that Russia will assume responsibility for much of the Union budget provided that all republics undertake to cut their expenditures by at least 15%, Western agencies reported that day. A draft resolution on a joint union and RSFSR emergency budget to cover the rest of this year will be presented to the RSFSR Supreme Soviet on December 5. It stipulates that Russia will cover the expenditures of all republics for defense, debt servicing, and other necessary items. [On November 30, Yeltsin stated that Russia would underwrite the salaries of state employees]. (Keith Bush) RUSSIAN PRICES TO BE FREED IN DECEMBER? During a visit to Khabarovsk on December 1, RSFSR Supreme Soviet Chairman Ruslan Khasbulatov said that prices will probably be liberalized in Russia in mid-December, TASS reported on December 2. (The RSFSR government adopted a draft law on price liberalization on November 29). The freeing of prices before the end of 1991 would be in line with Yeltsin's original timetable, as set out in his October 28 speech, but this deadline has been criticized and implicitly amended by Gaidar, Burbulis, and others. Meanwhile, RSFSR Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi withdrew his threat to resign if prices in Russia are freed soon, TASS reported on December 2. (Keith Bush) RUSSIAN CENTRAL BANK SHORT OF CASH. Inform-TV and Western agencies reported on December 2 that the Russian Central Bank is either withholding or delaying the payment to institutions and enterprises of funds for the 13th-month bonus and long-service bonus payments traditionally due on December 1. Bank sources attributed the move to shortage of cash, but confirmed that money would be available for the payment of salaries, pensions, and stipends. (Keith Bush) UNEMPLOYMENT PROJECTION. RSFSR Deputy Prime Minister for Social Affairs Aleksandr Shokhin told The Financial Times of November 29 that up to 15 million people could become long-term unemployed over the next two to three years. Around 30 million could lose their jobs, but half of these should find new employment quickly. Sixty pecent of the unemployed would be in Russia, where much of the obsolete industry is located. Shokhin said that Russia was seeking a $12 billion stabilization fund to help introduce internal convertibility of the ruble, as well as further debt relief following the recent agreement with the G-7 nations. (Keith Bush) CENSORSHIP IN RSFSR TV? Until recently, journalists from RSFSR TV said that they did not face any censorship. Nonetheless, a program by well-known St. Petersburg TV journalist Bella Kurkova sharply criticizing the office of the RSFSR General Prosecutor was broadcast only on a channel in the Soviet Far East (Orbita TV) and did not appear on the Moscow channel of RSFSR TV. (Kurkova criticized the search of a former CPSU Central Committee employee who leaked materials on CPSU financing of Western communist parties to the RSFSR government weekly Rossiya.) In the past, such discrepancies frequently occurred on Central TV. (Julia Wishnevsky) NEVZOROV'S PROGRAM CANCELLED. The regularly-scheduled St. Petersburg TV show "600 Seconds" moderated by controversial reporter Aleksandr Nevzorov was taken off the air December 1 on the personal order of the city's mayor Anatolii Sobchak. On December 1 Radio Moscow cited the chairman of the St. Petersburg Television and Radio Broadcasting Company, Viktor Yugin, as saying the main reason behind the action was Nevzorov's support for the attempted coup. Meanwhile, RFE/RL learned last week that Nevzorov, along with Colonel Viktor Alksnis, has set up a movement called "Nashi" (Our People) to combat the disintegration of the Soviet Union. (Vera Tolz) REFERENDUM SHOWS OVERWHELMING SUPPORT FOR INGUSH REPUBLIC. Preliminary results of the Ingush referendum inNovember show that 97.4% of those who voted in favor of forming a separate Ingush republic in the RSFSR with the return of the Prigorodnyi raion of North Ossetia and with its capital in the right bank part of Vladikavkaz, TASS reported on December 2. According to the referendum commission, 92,000 Ingush or over 70% of adult Ingush took part in the referendum. This contrasts with the earlier claim by RIA that only 5% had taken part (see Daily Report of December 2). (Ann Sheehy) USSR CONSTITUTIONAL COMPLIANCE COMMITTEE ON NKAO. The USSR Constitutional Compliance Committee chairman, Sergei Alekseev, announced on December 1 that actions taken by Azerbaijan and Armenia concerning Nagorno-Karabakh were unconstitutional, Interfax reported on December 2. The ruling was made in connection with Azerbaijan's decision to revoke the autonomous status of Nagorno-Karabakh, and follows the USSR State Council Resolution last week calling on Azerbaijan and Armenia to cancel all acts concerning the disputed enclave's legal status. (Carla Thorson) NAZARBAEV THREATENS TO TAKE TOUGH MEASURES. Soviet and Western news agencies reported on December 2 that Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev, reelected with 98.8% of the vote, told a post-election press conference that he interpreted his landslide win as a mandate for "more resolute measures in the economic field." Nazarbaev warned that there will be greater social tensions during the transition to a market economy, and all political parties should work together to solve problems. If any try to act outside the framework of the law on public organizations, severe measures will be applied. The remark was probably directed at the small Kazakh nationalist parties, Jeltoqsan and Alash. (Bess Brown) SNEGUR INDEFINITELY DEFERS REUNIFICATION WITH ROMANIA. Interviewed in Le Monde of November 28, Moldavian President Mircea Snegur said that Moldavians "are not prepared" to reunify with Romania, and that reunification "is a matter for the next generation or even later." According to a recent opinion survey, only 15% of Moldavians favor reunification, Le Monde was told. This is the latest in a series of statements by Snegur pointing to the unpopularity of the idea of reunification. Leaders of the opposition Popular Front do not dispute such estimates but blame Snegur for not working to change public opinion. (Vladimir Socor) Compiled by Sallie Wise Chaballier and Charles Trumbull EASTERN EUROPE BALTIC STATES ALKSNIS: BALTIC INDEPENDENCE AN ILLUSION. After a noisy demonstration in St. Petersburg on December 2 by conservatives calling for the reinstatement of Aleksandr Nevzorov's TV program "600 seconds," Col. Viktor Alksnis told Western agencies that Baltic independence is an illusion: once the economies collapse, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania would be back within the USSR. He warned that Russians in the Baltic States have only begun to fight for their rights. Though Alksnis is of Latvian extraction, he has been a leading spokesman of Soviet conservatives wanting to maintain the integrity of the USSR, an advocate of Russian rights, and a supporter of OMON. (Dzintra Bungs) VATICAN'S ENVOY TO THE BALTIC STATES. On November 30 it was announced that Pope John Paul II has appointed Bishop Justo Mullor Garcia as ambassador to Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, the RFE/RL Vatican City correspondent reported that day. Prior to this appointment, Bishop Mullor Garcia, a Spaniard, held diplomatic posts for the Vatican in Europe, Africa, and at the UN. (DzintraBungs) MEETING WITH LITHUANIAN BISHOPS. On December 2 Chairman of the Lithuanian Supreme Council Vytautas Landsbergis and Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius met for more than two and a half hours with the Lithuanian bishops, Radio Lithuania reported that day. Deputy Chairman of the Lithuanian Conference of Bishops Antanas Vaicius said that he viewed state policies as positive and is grateful for financial support, especially for the seminary in Telsiai. The continued return of church properties was discussed. Plans for a visit to Lithuania by Pope John Paul II will only be made after papal nuncio Mullor Garcia establishes his residency in Vilnius. (Saulius Girnius) SOVIET ARMY PROPERTY IN LITHUANIA... On December 2 Deputy Chairman of the Lithuanian Supreme Council Ceslovas Stankevicius commented on Radio Lithuania on the law regulating property occupied by the Soviet armed forces. Because the land belongs to the state, all agreements giving land to the military were declared to have been illegal from the time of their signing. Any attempts to sell properties, such as the airport in Siauliai, are illegal unless approved by the Lithuanian government. Lithuania is willing to continue to supply water and other utilities to bases on a commercial basis and does not immediately intend to change the production of military factories. (Saulius Girnius) ... AND LATVIA. Soviet armed forces have given up two buildings in Riga, the former German embassy and the Latvian Society building. Still under discussion is the transfer of the USSR Baltic Military District museum in Pils Street to another site. Referring to statements by Latvian government's counsellor on defense affairs Eriks Tilgass, BNS also reported on December 2 that troops are being reduced in the military training base in Adazi. The training base in Varme, near Liepaja, has been handed over to Latvian border guards. No new USSR army recruits are being brought into Latvia. According to Tilgass, a government commission will be formed to oversee the Soviet troop departure from Latvia. (Dzintra Bungs) LATVIA TO COOPERATE IN INVESTIGATION OF NAZI WAR CRIMES. The State Prosecutor's Office of Latvia will cooperate with Canada and Great Britain in the investigation of Nazi war crimes, reported BNS on November 29. (Dzintra Bungs) ESTONIA STILL LOOKS EASTWARD. Some 95% of Estonia's economic relations are with entities in the East and only 5% with firms in Western states, according to Material Resources Minister Aleksander Sikkal. Sikkal told BNS on December2 that many partners in the East, especially states in Central Asia, still want to conclude the sorts of trade agreements that were possible in 1990, "during the period of relative prosperity," but Estonian enterprises need to be able to deal as independently as possible in the eastern market. Sikkal noted that Estonia is currently conducting intense talks with the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan. (Riina Kionka)
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