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No. 230, 05 December 1991
USSR--ALL-UNION AND INTER-REPUBLICAN TOPICS COMMERCIAL DEBT REPAYMENTS SUSPENDED. Vneshekonombank sent telexes on December 4 to foreign banks saying that repayments on $3.6 billion of commercial debt principal will be suspended until January 1993, Western agencies reported that day. A Vneshekonombank spokesman said that the bank will continue to make interest payments on its commercial debt. Although a deputy chairman of the bank, Eduard Gostev, is quoted as saying that this move is in line with the agreement on debt relief reached with the G-7 nations in November, that agreement was concerned with government debts. This latest suspension appears to be a unilateral measure, made without prior agreement with creditor banks. (Keith Bush) DEFENSE MINISTRY CRITICIZED. A commentary by Pavel Kalashnikov published in Nezavisimaya gazeta on November 21 argues that, despite wholesale changes in the military leadership, the Defense Ministry remains determined to save as much of the old mass army as possible. Given political disintegration and economic collapse, Kalashnikov says, MoD plans to cut 700,000 troops are woefully inadequate; its demand to maintain military spending--in constant prices--at roughly the 1991 level is impossible to meet. He warns that the MoD's failure to take radical measures now could mean a dangerous breakdown of the army later. (Stephen Foye) NO PROGRESS IN CUBAN WITHDRAWAL TALKS. The first round of Soviet-Cuban talks on the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Cuba have ended "with no concrete results," according to Interfax and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung of December 2. The FAZ reported that, although the Cuban side has agreed "in principle" to the Soviet withdrawal, it continues to insist on linking it to a US withdrawal from the Guantanamo Bay naval base. The Soviet negotiating team, led by special envoy Vyacheslav Ustinov, rejects such a linkage. No date yet has been set for another round of talks. (Sallie Wise Chaballier) CREW HAD ORDER TO BLOW UP SUB. A former political officer on the Whisky class U-137 submarine that ran aground in Sweden in 1981 says that the crew had orders to blow up the vessel if Swedish authorities tried to board, Western agencies reported on December 4. Vasilii Besedin told a Swedish newspaper that the sub had suffered a navigational error and that the crew had been ordered to defend the vessel at any price. (Stephen Foye) LENIN LIBRARY MAY REOPEN BY END OF YEAR. The Lenin State Library, ordered to close last week because of health and safety violations, will seek permission to reopen by the end of the year, TASS and Western agencies reported on December 3. The library had previously said that it had no funds to carry out the repairs required by Soviet health inspectors, but the Soviet minister of culture, Pyotr Shabanov, said that an emergency grant of 2 million rubles had been authorized for library renovations. (Carla Thorson) USSR--REPUBLICS AND SUCCESSOR STATES FINAL REFERENDUM RESULTS IN UKRAINE. The Central Electoral Commission in Kiev on December 4 released the final results of the December 1 referendum and presidential election, Radio Kiev reported. Of those voting in the referendum, 90.32% supported Ukraine's August 24 declaration of independence. Chairman of the Ukrainian Supreme Soviet Leonid Kravchuk won 61.59% of the presidential vote. Runner-up was Vyacheslav Chornovil, chairman of the Lvov Oblast Soviet, with 23.27% of the vote. He was followed by Vladimir Grinev (14.7%), Levko Lukyanenko (4.49%), Ihor Yukhnovskyi (1.74%), and Leopold Taburyanskyi (0.57%), (Roman Solchanyk) GORBACHEV (AGAIN) ASKS UKRAINE TO STAY IN UNION. Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev sent a congratulatory telegram to Ukrainian President-elect Leonid Kravchuk, TASS reported on December 4. The message expressed Gorbachev's desire for close cooperation and mutual understanding in the common effort to implement democratic changes and "the formation of a union of sovereign states." (Roman Solchanyk) YELTSIN ON UKRAINIAN INDEPENDENCE. RSFSR President Boris Yeltsin yesterday said that Russia respects the will of the Ukrainian people, Interfax reported on December 4. The Russian leader stated that Ukrainian independence is a favorable factor for the promotion of relations among the former Soviet republics, particularly the Russians, Ukrainians, and Belorussians. The RSFSR has already recognized Ukraine's independence. (Roman Solchanyk) SOBCHAK: RSFSR CONCERNED ABOUT RUSSIANS IN UKRAINE. St. Petersburg mayor Anatolii Sobchak told Le Figaro on December 4 that the RSFSR's reaction to Ukrainian independence is less important than the question of how the Russian population of Ukraine will react. Sobchak decried what he called "the threat of forced Ukrainianization" in Crimea, where there is a Russian majority, though upon further questioning he conceded that Kiev was permitting the use of the Russian language there. He warned that Russia would "immediately raise territorial claims" if Ukraine refused to join in a political union with Moscow. Sobchak stressed that the prospect of a conflict between the two republics is particularly threatening given the nuclear arms on their territories. He also said that he believes a new putsch, this time led not by Communists but right-wing military officers, might succeed. (Kathy Mihalisko and Alexander Rahr) SOBCHAK DISTINGUISHES BETWEEN INDEPENDENCE AND SECESSION. And in remarks on Radio "Mayak" on December 4, Sobchak, repeating the argument previously made by Gorbachev, maintained that the Ukrainian referendum was about independence, not secession from some form of Soviet Union. Everything depends on how Ukraine deals with its independence, Sobchak said. Further, Sobchak repeated the warning issued by Yeltsin's press secretary at the end of August with regard to Ukraine's borders. If Ukraine remains within the Soviet Union, he said, there would be no border problems with the RSFSR. Otherwise, he suggested, Russia would reclaim "numerous Russian provinces" that were "given" to Ukraine. (Roman Solchanyk) CHURKIN AGREES WITH SOBCHAK. Vitalii Churkin, USSR Ministry of External Relations spokesman, presented the Ministry's view of the Ukrainian referendum yesterday, TASS reported on December 4. Like Sobchak and Gorbachev, Churkin told a press briefing that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs does not consider the referendum results to mean that Ukraine "automatically" separates itself from the Union. (Roman Solchanyk) BELORUSSIA AWAITS YELTSIN, KRAVCHUK. The presidents of the RSFSR and Ukraine will arrive in Minsk on December 6 for the weekend "Slavic Summit." Yeltsin's trip to Belorussia was planned before the Ukrainian referendum, for the purpose of signing a Russian-Belorussian agreement and garnering Minsk's support for RSFSR policies. The results of the independence vote in Ukraine will give Yeltsin's visit a different significance, according toparliamentary opposition leader Zyanon Paznyak in an interview on December 3 with the RFE/RLBelorussian service. Paznyak lamented what he called the emergence of a tendency on the part of Belorussian leaders to "follow Russia's tail." (Kathy Mihalisko) DOES KRAVCHUK HAVE SOMETHING ELSE TO OFFER MINSK? In his December 3 interview, Paznyak welcomed the announcement that Kravchuk will be in Minsk. Paznyak, who is still chairman of the Belorussian Popular Front, hoped that the eventual outcome would be a cooperative union of the Baltic States, Belorussia, and Ukraine. Meanwhile, Kravchuk told a Western news agency on December 3 that while in Minsk he hopes to discuss the formation of an economic union between Belorussia and Ukraine, possibly with Russian participation, to be headquartered not in Moscow but in Minsk or Kiev. (Kathy Mihalisko) ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT RESTATES TERRITORIAL CLAIM ON UKRAINE. Following-up on the Romanian parliament's declaration of November 28 (see Daily Report, November 29), the Romanian government and Foreign Ministry issued similar but more specific statements on November 29 and December 3, respectively (reported by Romanian media on those days). Acknowledging Ukraine's "inalienable right to self-determination," "greeting Ukraine's independence with sympathy," and expressing readiness to establish diplomatic relations with it, the government urged Ukraine to enter into negotiations with Romania under provisions of CSCE documents on the peaceful change of borders to settle the question of northern Bukovina, Hertsa district, Hotin county, and southern Bessarabia. The Foreign Ministry added that "unquestionably, the Republic of Moldavia should participate in those negotiations." (Vladimir Socor) MORE ON ZLENKO'S CANCELLED VISIT TO ROMANIA. TASS reported on December 4 that Ukrainian Foreign Minister Anatolii Zlenko, who had been scheduled to arrive on an official visit to Romania on November 29, did reach the Romanian border on that day but turned back on learning of the Romanian parliament's declaration raising territorial claims against Ukraine. TASS added that the sides had planned to sign during Zlenko's visit a declaration on the principles of Romanian-Ukrainian relations, and had also agreed to establish diplomatic relations and to conclude a treaty of friendship, good neighborliness and cooperation. (Vladimir Socor) RUSSIAN PRICES TO BE FREED IN MID-DECEMBER. RSFSR Deputy Prime Minister Egor Gaidar told the Interstate Economic Committee (still occasionally referred to as the Interrepublican Economic Committee) on December 4 that Russia will end subsidies on most goods on December 16, Western agencies reported that day. Some republican leaders at the meeting were reported to be concerned about the impact of a unilateral Russian price liberalization upon their own economies, and Belorussian Prime Minister Vyacheslav Kebich is said to have asked Gaidar if a postponement were possible. Gaidar's answer was not reported. (Keith Bush) INTERNAL CONVERTIBILITY FOR THE RUSSIAN RUBLE. Gaidar later that day told an international conference on trade and economic cooperation in Moscow that Russia will make the ruble internally convertible by the beginning of January, Interfax reported on December 4. [This means that the ruble can be freely exchanged at market rates within the RSFSR. Presumably, other republics will have to follow suit]. Gaidar said that a stabilization fund will be needed, and he asked for Western financing forthis. [Earlier estimates put the amount of Western credit required at about $12 billion]. Meanwhile, according to Interfax of the same date, the free market rate of exchange fell to 130 rubles to the dollar. (Keith Bush) RUSSIA ASKS FOR ENVIRONMENTAL AID. Russian Environment Minister Viktor Danilov-Danilyants asked the World Bank for money to help restore the environment at a European environmental conference in Berlin, Western agencies reported on December 3. A World Bank Director, Harinder Kohli, said that Russia could obtain such aid once it joined the bank, but Russian membership could take several years to achieve. He also noted that a $30 million credit for "technical support" had already been given to the USSR which could be used for environmental projects. (Carla Thorson) KARACHAI-CHERKESS SOVIET SUPPORTS SEPARATE KARACHAI AUTONOMY. On December 3 a session of the Karachai-Cherkess soviet set up a commission to present to the RSFSR Supreme Soviet a statement justifying the restoration of Karachai autonomy as a necessary condition for the complete rehabilitation of the Karachai people, TASS reported on December 3. The Karachai have been insisting on the restoration of the separate autonomy they lost as a result of their wholesale deportation. The session also appealed to the RSFSR Supreme Soviet to adopt a law on the complete rehabilitation of the Cossacks. (Ann Sheehy) ARMENIAN OFFICIAL CALLS FOR UN TROOPS IN NKAO. Speaking in Paris on December 3, Armenian Foreign Minister-designate Raffi Hovannisian called for the immediate dispatch to Nagorno-Karabakh of UN peacekeeping troops. Hovannisian urged the world community to pay attention to the situation in the NKAO because "it is quite probable that there will be no Armenian population in Nagorno-Karabakh tomorrow." Hovannisian also stated that Armenia will recognize Ukraine'sindependence and is preparing to conclude cooperation treaties with Ukraine and Russia. (Liz Fuller) SOLDIERS IN GEORGIA GET ORDERS TO FIRE. The Military Council of the Transcaucasus Military District has decided to attach armed guards, with orders to shoot if attacked, to all military convoys, TASS reported on November 4. In a message to the republic's leadership, the district's commander, Colonel General Valerii Patrikeev, said that military personnel have no other way to protect state property and their own honor. (Stephen Foye) AZERBAIJAN, IRAN SIGN COOPERATION PACT. Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati and Azerbaijani Prime Minister Gasan Gasanov signed anagreement on political, economic, scientific and cultural cooperation in Baku on December 3, TASS announced that day. Velayati also told reporters that a large Iranian bank plans to open a branch in Baku soon. (Liz Fuller) EASTERN EUROPE BALTIC STATES BUSH SIGNS TRADE BILL FOR BALTIC AND EAST EUROPEAN STATES. On December 4 President George Bush signed a bill into law that grants permanent preferential trade status to the Baltic States, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary. Bush said that this legislation, giving most-favored-nation trade status to all five countries, reaffirms America's continuing commitment to Hungary and Czechoslovakia, and will help normalize US economic relations with Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, as well as assist them in becoming integrated into the world economy. An RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported the story on December 5. (Dzintra Bungs) BALTIC STATES ADMITTED TO EBRD. On December 4 the board of governors of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) voted unanimously to admit Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia as members, Western agencies said. The three states had applied for membership in September and will now be allowed access to the bank's capital, which is now about 10 billion ECUs. (Saulius Girnius) LANDSBERGIS RESPONDS TO GORBACHEV'S COMMENTS. On December 4 Chairman of the Lithuanian Supreme Soviet Vytautas Landsbergis issued a statement criticizing Gorbachev's television comments about receiving hundreds of letters from Russians and other minorities in the Baltic states asking for protection against persecution, Radio Lithuania reported that day. He said that anyone interested in situation of the minorities could visit Lithuania and compare living conditions there and in the USSR. He noted that Gorbachev had made similar references to protest letters in the past, such as those by Lithuanian Communist Party leaders asking for presidential rule. In view of the activities of the armed underground KGB, Gorbachev's comments should raise serious international concern about the fate of the Baltic states, Landsbergis added. (Saulius Girnius) RUUTEL-SHEVARDNADZE MEETING. The Soviet foreign minister discussed ongoing disengagement talks on December 4 in Moscow with Chairman of the Estonian Supreme Council Arnold Ruutel, TASS reported that day. The meeting was the first official sign from Moscow that the Soviet chief delegate for talks, St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak, had been replaced. After the meeting, Ruutel said the "complex situation in St. Petersburg" does not allow Sobchak to concentrate on the talks. (Riina Kionka) ESTONIA WANTS "PROFESSIONAL TALKS." Estonian officials involved in Soviet-Estonian disengagement talks want the talks to be less "emotional" and to take on "a more technical and professional air," according to a December 4 BNS report. The official in charge of coordinating talks, Ago Tiiman, complained that morning that Estonia had not been formally notified about a change in chief negotiators (see above). Tiiman added that the expert meeting on border questions set for December2 in St. Petersburg had been cancelled after unofficial reports that the delegation leaders had been changed. Tiiman did not say who had cancelled that meeting. (Riina Kionka) LITHUANIAN AND LATVIAN PARLIAMENTS RECOGNIZE UKRAINIAN INDEPENDENCE. On December 4 the Lithuanian Supreme Council unanimously approved a statement recognizing Ukraine's independence. It is convinced that Lithuania and Ukraine will foster mutual respect and trust which will benefit cooperation among all European nations. On December 4 the Latvian Supreme Council voted to recognize Ukraine and authorized the government to seek to establish diplomatic relations, Radio Riga reported. (Saulius Girnius and Dzintra Bungs) NEW LEADER FOR PEOPLE'S FRONT FACTION IN LATVIA. Radio Riga reported on December 4 that Indulis Berzins was elected to chair the People's Front of Latvia faction of the Latvian Supreme Council. He replaces Janis Dinevics, who became minister of state in November. Berzins received 55 of the 72 votes, while his opponent Peteris Simpsons received only 12. Andrejs Pantelejevs was elected first deputy chairman of the faction. Radio Riga did not say how large the PFL faction currently is, but pointed out that, while its size has diminished recently as former members created their own factions and groups, it still remains the largest faction in the legislature. (Dzintra Bungs)
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