|Words that open our eyes to the world are always the easiest to remember. - Ryszard Kapuscinski|
No. 232, 09 December 1991
USSR--ALL-UNION AND INTER-REPUBLICAN TOPICS SLAVIC LEADERS ESTABLISH COMMONWEALTH OF INDEPENDENT STATES. At the end of a two-day meeting in seclusion in a Belorussian village outside Brest, Russian President Boris Yeltsin, Belorussian Supreme Soviet Chairman Stanislau Shushkevich, and Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk announced that they had agreed on December 8 to establish a "commonwealth of independent states" comprising the three Slavic republics and open to all republics of the former USSR and other states sharing the commonwealth's goals and principles. TASS issued a proclamation by the heads of state of the Republic of Belorussia, the RSFSR, and Ukraine; the principles of the commonwealth agreement; and a declaration on the coordination of economic policy. The three sides, as founding members of the USSR and signatories of the 1922 Union treaty, bore witness to the end of the USSR "as a subject of international law and a geopolitical reality." The new commonwealth will strive for coordination in the spheres of foreign policy, development of a common economic space, customs and migration policies, transport and communications, ecology, and crime fighting. The members pledged to take measures to reduce defense spending, eliminate nuclear weapons, and work toward neutrality, and they envision a series of future agreements in a wide range of areas. (Kathy Mihalisko) COMMONWEALTH'S COORDINATED ECONOMIC POLICY. Late on December 8, TASS carried the text of the "Declaration by the Governments of Belorussia, the RSFSR, and Ukraine on Coordination of Economic Policy." Highlights were: the maintenance and development of existing close economic ties between the three states; the promised creation of fully-fledged market mechanisms; the "transformation" of property relations; the retention of the ruble as a basis for economic relations, while introducing national currencies with mutual safeguards; the preservation of a unified economic space; and a pledge to agree on 1992 defense expenditure within 10 days. (Keith Bush) MINSK CHOSEN AS COORDINATING CENTER. The agreement signed on December 8 states that Minsk has been chosen as the official point of coordination for the organs of the new commonwealth. The activities of organs of the former USSR become null and void in the states that have signed the commonwealth agreement. (Kathy Mihalisko) YELTSIN ADDRESSES BELORUSSIAN PARLIAMENT. Giving what essentially was a prelude to the Brest commonwealth agreement, Yeltsin on December 7 told the Belorussian Supreme Soviet that "we have seen the failure of the idea of a half-federation, half-confederation that would bind each state under a system of dual power." In remarks to Radio Moscow on December7, Shushkevich, the only one of the threeSlavic leaders in Brest who has not been popularly elected (and the only one who was not a former Communist Party official) said that USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev was guilty of trying to maintain the Union's old attributes. (Kathy Mihalisko) GENERAL STAFF CHIEF SACKED. Only one day after concluding a high-profile visit to Great Britain, Army General Vladimir Lobov was removed as Chief of the Soviet General Staff by order of Gorbachev. Interfax reported on December 7 that, according to well-placed sources, Lobov had been replaced "for reasons of health" and because of difficulties reforming the armed forces. Neither explanation is convincing. Interfax reported that a Defense Ministry spokesman had called the firing "unexpected," and the news agency also mentionedunofficial reports that Lobov had resigned over developments in Ukraine and elsewhere that threatened the unity of the armed forces. (Stephen Foye) LOBOV REPLACED BY SAMSONOV. The Commander of the Leningrad Military District, Colonel General Viktor Samsonov, has been named to replace Lobov, Soviet and Western sources reported on December 7. The 50-year-old commander is best known for his role in the August coup when, at the behest of Leningrad Mayor Anatolii Sobchak, he refused to send troops into the city. By all accounts, however, Samsonov is no radical. A Radio Rossii commentary on December8 characterized him as a firm proponent of a unified military who has run his own district with an iron hand. Samsonov also lacks the strongtheoretical background of his predecessor. (Stephen Foye) TOWARDS A NEW BANKING STRUCTURE? In a series of interviews granted to The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times, and Western agencies on December 6, the chairman of the Russian Central Bank, Georgii Matyukhin, and one of his deputies, Dimitrii Tulin, aired their views on the future banking structure in the former USSR. Although the Russian bank has been expected to assume the functions of the USSR Gosbank in January 1992, their positions differ from already announced RSFSR policies, not to mention previous central guidelines. It is known that the Russian leadership would like to replace Matyukhin by Boris Fedorov (currently detached to the EBRD). But the present infighting may well have been rendered irrelevant by the events of the weekend. (Keith Bush) SILAEV COMMITTEE AT WORK, BUT TO WHAT PURPOSE? In meetings December 4-6, the Inter-State Economic Committee met under the chairmanship of Ivan Silaev and reached agreement on several key points, TASS reported December 7. Among the most important were the establishment of a special committee to oversee the foreign debt problem (the committee met December 6 but could not elect a chairman because it could not reach a quorum); and agreements on coordinating price liberalization and economic reform measures. In many respects, however, agreements among the various successor states and between them and foreign governments and international organizations will likely take precedence. Silaev said that a full package of agreements on inter-state economic relations could well be ready for signing in Minsk on December 12 and that these agreements would constitute a new economic arrangement. But the trilateral agreement between Russia, Ukraine, and Belorussia would seem to render much of Silaev's efforts pointless. (John Tedstrom) AGREEMENT ON FOREIGN DEBT. Despite the creation of the "Slavic Commonwealth," there is bound to be great interest in the agreement Silaev's group reached on the foreign debt of the former USSR. In particular, the statement issued by the committee on December 6 (it was signed December 5) said that the extraordinary economic conditions in the country dictated that the Bank for Foreign Economic Affairs only make interest payments on the foreign debt (now totalling about $67 billion) at this time. The agreement established a committee with responsibility for oversight of the debt problem, and said that that committee would work with the IMF and other international organizations on questions of monetary and fiscal reform and debt payment. (John Tedstrom) WESTERN BANKS WANT CLARIFICATION ON FOREIGN DEBY. According to Soviet and German press reports December 6 and 7, a group of commercial bankers met in Frankfurt December 6 to discuss the foreign debt of the former USSR. Led by Deutsche Bank, the group focused on the problem of rescheduling the debt in an orderly fashion. The situation was complicated during the trilateral agreement reached by Ukraine, Belorussia, and the RSFSR December 8. Although there is agreement in principle among the three it seems as if the details of a rescheduling program remains to be worked out. At this point it is simply not clear which body has ultimate responsibility for servicing the debt. (John Tedstrom) RUSSIA AND UKRAINE AGREE ON DEBT TO HUNGARY. In a related development, Hungary's prime minister, Jozsef Antall, on December 7 reached agreements with Moscow and Kiev on their share of Soviet debt owed to Hungary. The agreements indicate that Ukraine and Russia might pay with commodities instead of money. Payments are to begin next year. Details about the size of the debts to be repaid and over what period are not yet available. (John Tedstrom) USSR--REPUBLICS AND SUCCESSOR STATES DNIESTER SITUATION. In successive press releases and news conferences in Kishinev on December 6 through 8, Moldavia's Ministry of Internal Affairs and Central Electoral Commission reported that joint detachments of "Dniester SSR" armed guards and uniformed Soviet soldiers besieged or took over several police and other law enforcement and government offices in eastern Moldavia. Such piecemeal takeovers have been under way since September in the Dniester area, but these are the first with military participation. The armed detachments also continued to enter Moldavian villages to dissuade residents from voting in Moldavia's presidential election on December 8, and they closed down some polling stations. Army helicopters overflew Moldavian villages dropping leaflets urging residents not to vote. (Vladimir Socor) MOLDAVIA APPEALS TO UN OVER "POLITICAL-MILITARY PUTSCH." Moldavian President Mircea Snegur, parliament chairman Alexandru Mosanu, and Prime Minister Valeriu Muravschi appealed on December 6 to the United Nations over "a political-military putsch" in eastern Moldavia. They said that paramilitary detachments of the would-be "Dniester republic" and local Soviet army units had "started an overt aggression against Moldavia, occupying raion centers and settlements," being abetted by the USSR Ministry of Defense and other "central power structures." The Moldavian leaders urged that observers from the UN and other international organizations be sent to monitor the situation. (Vladimir Socor) SOVIET GENERAL'S "DNIESTER" APPOINTMENT CONFIRMED. The appointment of Lt. Gen. Gennadii Yakovlev, Commander of the 14th Army, as Chief of Defense and Security of the "Dniester SSR" (see Daily Report, December 6) was confirmed by the would-be republic's officials to Western agencies on December 6. Moreover, Lt. Gen. Yurii Kuznetsov, First Deputy Commander of the Odessa Military District and Yakovlev's hierarchical superior, told Ukrinform/TASS on December 7, as cited by Radio Moscow that day, that "Yakovlev's agreement to take on the duties of defense chief for the Dniester republic is his own affair." Moldavia's Ministry of Internal Affairs meanwhile told Moldovapres on December 7 that units of the 14th Army are to become the "Dniester SSR"'s regular army by January 1992. (Vladimir Socor) MILITARY INTERVENTION DENIED. Kuznetsov said that "not a single Soviet army soldier participated in the activities imputed to us." He claimed that "Dniester republic" paramilitary detachments were dressed in Soviet army uniforms "which they obtained we don't know where," and that they had "received their arms from the militia" (apparently meaning the Moldavian police stations recently seized by the "Dniester SSR"). Kuznetsov claimed that he had rebuffed Dniester leader Igor Smirnov's request for military deployment in the Dniester area and Smirnov's subsequent threat to seize arms from the military. The claim looks implausible, given the military's well-documented support for the "Dniester" paramilitary force and the placement of the 14th Army under "Dniester" authority. (Vladimir Socor) SHAPOSHNIKOV IGNORES APPEALS--BUT DEMANDS FUNDS. Snegur told a news conference on December 6 and an electoral meeting on December 7 that he had cabled USSR Defense Minister Evgenii Shaposhnikov and had sought to contact him by telephone in connection with the troop movements in eastern Moldavia, but Shaposhnikov ignored the cables and calls. However, the Moldavian government received a message from Shaposhnikov demanding from Moldavia an allegedly overdue sum of 1.2 billion rubles to the USSR military budget, Snegur's press office informed RFE/RL. Since proclaiming independence in August, Moldavia ceased contributing to the USSR military and space budgets. (Vladimir Socor) ROMANIA CONDEMNS SOVIET ARMY INTERFERENCE IN MOLDAVIA. On December 7 the Romanian Foreign Ministry strongly condemned the Soviet army for its alleged arming of Russian separatists in order to disrupt the presidential election in Moldavia, Romanian media and Western agencies reported. The statement mentioned Romania's "great concern" about the situation and said that "such illegal acts supported by military forces worsen the situation in the region." The statement demanded "the immediate withdrawal from the territory of the Republic of Moldavia of the armed forces which jeopardize its sovereignty." (Crisula Stefanescu) MINIMUM WAGE TO BE RAISED IN RSFSR. The RSFSR Supreme Soviet agreed on December 6 to raise the minimum wage level to 342 rubles per month for workers in organizations financed by the state budget. The increase will take effect January 1, 1992. Off-budget enterprises and organizations must introduce the same minimum wage in the first quarter of 1992. Radio Moscow carried the announcement December 6, but made no mention of increases for pensioners, the unemployed, or the disabled. These groups are extremely hard hit in the current inflationary environment, and increases in their payments should be expected. Increases of budgeted salaries and payments will put further pressures on the Russian budget, already running in deficit with little scope for increased revenues. (John Tedstrom) SILAEV BLAMES FOOD CRISIS ON RUSSIAN REGIONS. Ivan Silaev, de facto Soviet Prime Minister, has complained that the food crisis in Moscow is a result of the failure of Russian regions to meet their supply obligations. He told a news conference December 7 that the regions are only supplying about half of what they should be and that Moscow will begin bartering with them for increased supplies. Moscow has been authorized to trade up to 15% of the goods produced in the city for these barter deals. The main reason farmers are not supplying the city is that they can get higher prices in their local markets. Silaev's comments were carried by TASS and Western agencies December 7. (John Tedstrom) NORTH OSSETIA DEMANDS SANCTIONS AGAINST GEORGIA. The North Ossetian parliament has sent a telegram to Yeltsin and RSFSR parliament chairman Ruslan Khasbulatov calling for the imposition of sanctions against Georgia in an attempt to constrain Georgia to halt its military attacks on the disputed region of South Ossetia, TASS reported on December 8. (Liz Fuller) BALTIC STATES ESTONIAN DIPLOMATIC NOTE TO MOSCOW. Estonia's Foreign Ministry has denied allegations made last week by Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev that the Baltic states are violating the rights of minorities living there, BNS reported on December6. Tallinn sent an official note to the USSR Ministry of External Affairs protesting the allegations and asking for evidence of such violations. Last week Gorbachev told reporters that Russians, Ukrainians, and "other minorities" living in the Baltic states have appealed to the USSR for "defense." (Riina Kionka) CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY OPTS FOR PREWAR BORDERS. Estonia's Constituent Assembly (CA) has voted to regard the borders established by the 1920 Tartu Peace Treaty as the current borders of the Republic of Estonia, according to BNS on December6. The Tartu borders include two areas in northeastern and southeastern Estonia that were annexed after World WarII by the RSFSR. The fate of the two areas is supposed to be governed by a separate RSFSR-Estonian agreement, but negotiations have not yet begun. The CA's decision is not final. Before it takes effect, the CA as a whole must vote on the entire draft constitution, which will then go before the population for approval in a referendum. (Riina Kionka) PRICES TO BE DECONTROLLED IN LATVIA. Radio Riga reported on December 6 that prices in Latvia are expected to be decontrolled this week, perhaps as early as December10. Minister of State Janis Dinevics stated that Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis, who is visiting the Transcaucasian states, will address the people of Latvia before this move, intended as a step toward establishing a market economy, is taken. (Dzintra Bungs) KGB STAFF DECLINES IN LATVIA. Edmunds Johansons, former chairman of the KGB in Latvia, told Diena of December 6 that 1,400 persons used to be on the KGB payroll (of these about were 350agents), but that now the number has declined to about 200. Diena learned from a former KGB employee that the organization's budget in Latvia was 11million rubles (of which 5million were allocated for "operative" work); he said that a large number of former KGB employees are now working as consultants for various firms and cooperatives. (Dzintra Bungs) OGONEK FINANCES LAWYER FOR OMON LEADER. Diena reported on December 5 that Tatyana Kuznetsova, who served as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's lawyer in the early 1970s, has been engaged to defend Sergei Parfenov. Kuznetsova's fees are to be paid by Ogonek, the Moscow weekly. The Latvian authorities are preparing a court case against Parfenov, a former leader of the OMON detachment that was based near Riga until its transfer to the Tyumen region at the end of August. Many OMON members engaged in violent actions against the people of Latvia and were active supporters of the coup in Moscow. (Dzintra Bungs) KAUNAS SAJUDIS CONFERENCE. On December 6 the Kaunas chapter of Sajudis held a conference at which 64 delegates to the Third Sajudis Conference on December 14-15 were elected, an RFE/RL correspondent reported on December 8. Executive Secretary Alfonsas Vaisnora's call for a campaign to gather 300,000 signatures for a referendum on the office of president was greeted warmly, and parliamentarian Rolandas Paulauskas, who opposed it, was booed from the speaker's platform. The conference also issued a statement supporting the government's position on the press. It called the newspaper strike "a political blackmail action the purpose of which is to destabilize the internal situation and discredit the Lithuanian leadership among foreign countries." (Saulius Girnius) LANDSBERGIS IN STRASBOURG. On December 7 Chairman of the Lithuanian Supreme Council Vytautas Landsbergis traveled from Paris, where he signed the Paris Charter, to Strasbourg at the invitation of Pan Europa President Otto von Habsburg. On December 8 he spoke at the Pan Europa Conference and met with Strasbourg's mayor to discuss possible cooperation. Later that day he returned to Vilnius via Warsaw, Radio Lithuania reported December 9. (Saulius Girnius)
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