|The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion. - Thomas Paine|
No. 234, 11 December 1991
USSR--ALL-UNION AND INTER-REPUBLICAN TOPICS GORBACHEV, YELTSIN MEET WITH COMMANDERS. USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev met with senior military officers in Moscow on December 10, Western and Soviet agencies reported, while RSFSR President Boris Yeltsin was scheduled to meet the same group on December 11. According to a Defense Ministry spokesman, the gathering included senior commanders from the Defense Ministry, the General Staff, and all chiefs of military districts and fleets; military representatives from the republics also attended. He said that the meeting was an annual affair and had been scheduled far in advance. Izvestia reported on December 11 that Gorbachev had been expected at the Defense Ministry on December 9, but had failed to appear. (Stephen Foye) WHO IS COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF? While Gorbachev remains nominally the head of the armed forces, the meetings in Moscow are clearly an outgrowth of the commonwealth agreement and reflect a move by Yeltsin to assert control over the Defense Ministry. Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Gennadii Burbulis was quoted by Western sources on December 10 as saying that the military leadership had not expressed any "negative reactions" over formation of the commonwealth and that the question of command over the army will be "resolved in the next few days." Izvestia suggested on December 10 that the officer corps would serve whoever supported it financially. (Stephen Foye) TURMOIL IN THE DEFENSE MINISTRY. Deputy Defense Ministers Vladimir Arkhipov and Yurii Yashin were relieved of their duties on December 10, as heads continued to roll at the MoD. Western agencies report that Arkhipov has been replaced by Colonel General Ivan Fuzhenko, formerly commander of the Turkestan Military District. No replacement for Yashin was named. The Cologne Deutschlandfunk Network reported that the General Staff also met in Moscow on December 10 under the direction of Defense Minister Evgenii Shaposhnikov, and that more personnel changes are expected there. The report said that all actions have been taken in consultation with Yeltsin. (Stephen Foye) MAKSIMOV ON NUCLEAR WEAPONS. In an interview appearing in Izvestia on December 11, General of the Army Yurii Maksimov, chief of the newly created Strategic Deterrence Forces, added his voice to the debate over who is in control of Soviet nuclear weapons. He insisted that Gorbachev remained in control of both strategic and tactical nuclear weapons. He felt there was no chance of nuclear proliferation, that there was only one nuclear state--"the Soviet Union as a whole or the state system that will be its rightful successor." A different position was expressed by Burbulis, who told reporters on December 10 that Yeltsin was talking with Shaposhnikov about the status of Soviet nuclear forces and the issue of control would be resolved in the next few days. (Doug Clarke) NEW KREMLIN SECURITY CHIEF. The Commandant of the Moscow Kremlin for the past five years, Gennadii Bashkin, has been replaced by his deputy, Mikhail Barsukov, TASS reported on December 10. The Commandant of the Kremlin, the residence of both the USSR and the RSFSR Presidents, has under his command the elite KGB Kremlin Guards and until recently was responsible to the USSR President, who is also the Supreme Commander-in-Chief. Traditionally, the Kremlin Commandant was hand-picked by the Soviet leader and loyal to him. It is not known who ordered Bashkin's replacement, but the timing raises questions as to whether the new Kremlin security chief is loyal to Gorbachev or to Yeltsin. (Victor Yasmann) GORBACHEV NOT THINKING OF RESIGNATION. Gorbachev's press spokesman, Andrei Grachev, said on December 10 that Gorbachev was open to any variant of a Union treaty that was arrived at constitutionally and democratically, and that Gorbachev was not at present thinking of resignation, TASS reported on December 10. He would devote his efforts to seeing that the course of events did not deviate too far from what he thought correct, Grachev added. Gorbachev was counting on the support of the public and existing political and legislative structures. If a referendum were held, it should take place in all twelve republics. (Ann Sheehy) BURBULIS ON MINSK AGREEMENT. Burbulis told RSFSR and USSR deputies on December 10 that Gorbachev's call for an extraordinary session of the USSR Congress of People's Deputies to discuss the future of the country would arouse only confrontation, TASS reported December 10. At the same time, he said he did not exclude the idea of holding a referendum. At a press conference the same day, he said that the Minsk agreement was not aimed at removing Gorbachev from political activity, andsuggested that his experience could be used constructively. Burbulis also pointed out that the text of the agreement did not say that the USSR "has ceased" to exist but "is ceasing to exist." (Ann Sheehy) LUBENCHENKO ON MINSK AGREEMENT. Chairman of the USSR Supreme Soviet's Council of the Union Konstantin Lubenchenko distributed a statement on December 10 saying that the Minsk agreement was completely illegal and its political consequences could be dire, TASS reported on December 10. Lubenchenko said that in present circumstances the USSR Supreme Soviet was one of the few forces that could in some way guarantee the integrity of the Union, and said it was the duty of deputies to carry this through to the end, regardless of the position adopted by the USSR President. Lubenchenko's stance is reminiscent of that of the former chairman of the Supreme Soviet, Anatolii Lukyanov. (Ann Sheehy) SHUSHKEVICH ON INTERSTATE ECONOMIC COMMITTEE. A major question in the aftermath of the formation of the Slavic Commonwealth is the role and relevance of the Interstate Economic Committee (MEK) chaired by Ivan Silaev. Speaking to reporters December 10, the Chairman of the Belorussian Supreme Soviet, Stanislau Shushkevich, said that "nothing in any of the documents establishing the Commonwealth undercuts the structure Silaev heads or brings changes in its (the MEK's) activities." This implies a (limited) role for a coordinating body that goes beyond the three current Commonwealth members. Shushkevich's remarks were broadcast on Radio Rossia on December 10. (John Tedstrom) FORMER USSR'S FOREIGN DEBT. One example of where the Interstate Economic Committee (MEK) might serve a purpose is on the question of the former USSR's foreign debt. The Commonwealth documents did not mention the debt, but the MEK reached provisional agreement on each republic's share of the debt during its meetings December 4-6. All other indications, however, point to very little, if any, economic role for a Center based in the Kremlin. On the question of foreign debt, it is clear that, at least for the foreseeable future, each new state will have full independence in economic policymaking and responsibility for debt service. (John Tedstrom) LIGACHEV IS BACK. Former Politburo conservative Egor Ligachev volunteered an interview with the RSFSR TV program "Sovershenno sekretno" on December 7. Ligachev asserted that a popular movement aimed at reviving Communism is gaining ground in the former Soviet Union, and added that sooner or later the Partocracy will triumph. Asked about the August coup, Ligachev said that he sympathized with the aims of its organizers but disapproved of the anti-Constitutional means employed to achieve them. The show's anchor, Artem Borovik, opined that Ligachev knows more than he revealed and added that the reason for the interview was Ligachev's jealousy of his "eternal enemy," Aleksandr Yakovlev, who was interviewed by "Sovershenno secretno" three weeks ago. (JuliaWishnevsky) USSR--REPUBLICS AND SUCCESSOR STATES BELORUSSIA AND UKRAINE RATIFY COMMONWEALTH AGREEMENT. Without too much difficulty, the Minsk commonwealth agreement was ratified on December 10 by the Supreme Soviets of Belorussia and Ukraine. The vote in Minsk was 263 in favor and only one against; in Kiev, 288 deputies out of 367 voted their approval. Addressing the Ukrainian parliament that day, President Leonid Kravchuk rejected Gorbachev's criticism of the Minsk agreement, stating that "the breakup of the USSR did not occur on December 7-8 but at the beginning of the period of perestroika--and we know precisely who is the author of this breakup." Kathy Mihalisko) SHUSHKEVICH, THE COMMONWEALTH, AND MOSCOW. As reported by Radio Mayak, Belorussian Supreme Soviet Chairman Stanislau Shushkevich told parliamentary deputies on December 10 that the commonwealth was necessary because "you yourselves could see how the Union treaty talks had reached an impasse." That was an unusual stance for Shushkevich to take; only recently he was predicting that his Supreme Soviet would easily and swiftly ratify the Union treaty. Shushkevich has been criticized in the liberal republican press for not resisting Gorbachev's plans. A commentary in the December 3 issue of Znamya yunosti argued that Belorussia should hold its own independence referendum to help it gain international recognition. (Kathy Mihalisko) UNIONS PICKET YELTSIN AND POPOV. The Moscow Trade Union Federation began picketing outside the Moscow City Council, the mayor's office, and the Russian "White House," TASS reported on December 10. The trade unions' chairman, Mikhail Shmakov, said that the unions were demanding that Yeltsin and Mayor Gavriil Popov stop price increases until social protection measures for Muscovites have been instituted and the food supply as well as law and order in Moscow have been assured. The picketing is expected to continue through December 12, and Shmakov said that if the picketing was unsuccessful, concrete actions would be taken. The unions have reportedly formed a strike committee. (Carla Thorson) POPOV THREATENS TO RESIGN AGAIN. Popov said he may resign both for health reasons and because of differences with the Russian government over privatization of businesses and housing. In an interview with Moskovsky komsomolets of December 10 summarized by TASS, Popov noted that he had promised to give land to the people, but the Russian government had done nothing but make promises for the past two years. The Moscow City Council cancelled Popov's privatization orders last week, prompting the mayor's first resignation threat. (Carla Thorson) ELECTIONS TO RUSSIAN ACADEMY. The first elections to the Russian Academy of Sciences took place on December 7, TASS reported. Thirty-nine newly elected academicians will join members of the USSR Academy of Sciences, which earlier this year was transferred to RSFSR jurisdiction. The election of 130 Russian academicians had been planned, but after the vote (conducted by members of the former USSR academy) the majority of positions remained vacant. Former all-Union academicians claim that most of the proposed candidates lack proper scientific qualifications. TASS pointed out the fact that many of those elected on December 7 occupy high positions in the RSFSR state and government hierarchy. Among those elected is Chairman of the Russian parliament Ruslan Khasbulatov. (Vera Tolz) RSFSR PLANS TO IMPORT MEDICINES. RSFSR President Boris Yeltsin has signed a decree on the purchase of foreign medicines, Interfax reported December 9. Russia will allocate 1.35 billion hard-currency rubles to import essential medicines and the raw materials and equipment to produce medicines. The decree also stipulated that government proposals be readied within two weeks on raising the prices of medicines to citizens and to health-care facilities, together with compensation arrangements. (Keith Bush) KAZAKHSTAN CHANGES OFFICIAL NAME. Kazakhstan's Supreme Soviet voted on December 10 to drop "Soviet Socialist" from the republic's official name, according to a KazTAG-TASS report of the same day. The report does not make absolutely clear whether the new name is "Kazakh Republic," which would offend the republic's large non-Kazakh population, or "Republic of Kazakhstan." According to the December 10 edition of the Russian TV news show "Vesti," a majority of deputies in Kazakhstan's legislature also condemned Gorbachev's claim that five oblasts of the RSFSR were given to Kazakhstan during the Virgin Lands campaign of the 1950s. (Bess Brown) DNIESTER SITUATION. The siege of the Moldavian police station in Bendery by an armed detachment of the "Dniester SSR" and by uniformed soldiers took a new turn in the evening of December 9 as Moldavian peasants from neighboring villages came to the aid of the police by forming a human wall around the building. The "Dniester" guards and soldiers have recently taken over a number of police stations on the left bank and have now crossed onto the right bank. The Moldavian police is under strict orders not to fire. (Vladimir Socor) MOLDAVIAN PRESIDENT MAY CALL FOR "POPULAR RESISTANCE." On December 10, at his first news conference after his election by popular vote, Moldavian President Mircea Snegur commented on the "political-military putsch" in the Dniester area. Snegur said that "if Moscow and the army want to bring us to our knees, I may again call for popular resistance to the putsch, as I did in August." Moldavia defied the attempted coup in August through mass mobilization to stave off the threat of military intervention. (Vladimir Socor) EASTERN EUROPE BALTIC STATES GORBUNOVS REPLIES TO RUTSKOI. On December 10 Latvian Supreme Council Chairman Anatolijs Gorbunovs received a telegram from RSFSR Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi demanding the release of OMON leader Sergei Parfenov on the grounds that his arrest was illegal. Replying later that day, Gorbunovs pointed out that Parfenov had been detained in October with the help of the RSFSR Procuracy and Ministry of Internal Affairs on the basis of an agreement that was signed on May 22, 1991 by the RSFSR Procuracy and the Latvian authorities. He added that Latvia has prepared for consideration a new accord on legal cooperation with Russia, but that until such an accord is ratified, the earlier agreement should be honored, BNS reported on December 10. (Dzintra Bungs) LATVIA ADOPTS HUMAN RIGHTS LAW. On December 10 the Latvian Supreme Council adopted a constitutional law on human and civil rights, with 90 of the 114 deputies present voting for the legislation. The law was protested by deputies of the Ravnopravie faction claiming that it is against the spirit of international human documents Radio Riga reported that day. Evidently they base the claim on the fact that the Latvian legislation distinguishes between certain civil and human rights, such as the right to vote, which, according to the legislation, is accorded to citizens. (Dzintra Bungs) CEPAITIS "CONSCIOUSLY COOPERATED" WITH KGB. On December 10 Balys Gajauskas, chairman of the parliament committee investigating KGB activities, reported to the Supreme Council that the committee had decided that deputy Virgilijus Cepaitis had "consciously cooperated with the KGB," Radio Lithuania reported that day. He invited the deputies to look over the documents the committee had examined. The Liberal faction's proposal for a nonbinding resolution urging Cepaitis to resign was approved by a vote of 41 to 3 with 14abstentions. (Saulius Girnius) TEMPORARY CLOSING OF LAZDIJAI/OGRODNIKI BORDER POST. On December 9 the Lithuanian government issued a decree ordering the temporary closing of the post on the Polish border at Lazdijai beginning at 1400 on December 10 because of the unsatisfactory sanitation conditions there, Radio Lithuania reported on December 10. The post will remain closed until Poland rebuilds facilities on its side to enable traffic to cross more rapidly. The closing does not apply to a range of official governmental and business traffic or to those traveling on regularly scheduled public transportation. (Saulius Girnius) FEWER ALCOHOLICS SEEKING TREATMENT IN ESTONIA. Fewer people in Estonia are seeking treatment for alcohol abuse since independence, according to an Eesti ekspress report of December 6. Estonia used to have 703 beds in alcohol treatment centers, but lowered demand reduced that capability to 400 beds. Some a clinics have become homes for abused battered women and children, while others have been converted into long-term care facilities. Eesti ekspress says the lowered demand does not indicate "a sobriety epidemic" but instead is linked to a higher cost of living. Because one hour of treatment costs 60rubles, it seems likely that fewer people needing help are seeking it. (Riina Kionka) SWEDISH MILITARY ATTACHE ACCREDITED. Radio Riga reported on December 10 that earlier that day Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Martins Virsis had accredited Soren Lindman as Sweden's Military Attache to Latvia. Lindman is also expected to serve in the same capacity in Estonia and Lithuania. (Dzintra Bungs)
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