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RFE/RL Daily Report

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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