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No. 235, 12 December 1991
USSR--ALL-UNION AND INTER-REPUBLICAN TOPICS YELTSIN WINS ARMY'S SUPPORT? Reports out of Moscow suggest that RSFSR President Boris Yeltsin has won tentative support for his Slavic commonwealth from military commanders. Yeltsin addressed the military leadership on the morning of December 11, less than 24 hours after USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev spoke to the same group. Interfax quoted Yeltsin as saying that a poll taken by Defense Minister Evgenii Shaposhnikov indicated that a majority of commanders were satisfied with Yeltsin's program. A Radio Moscow commentary on December 11 said that Gorbachev, in contrast, had been received coolly by the convocation. It added that one reason the officers supported Yeltsin is that the majority of them are Slavs and are favorably disposed to a Slavic commonwealth. (Stephen Foye) A PROBLEMATIC ALLIANCE. Yeltsin's alliance with the high command is nevertheless likely to be complicated. While the Minsk agreement clearly aims at preserving unified control over Soviet strategic forces, its impact on command of conventional forces is unclear. Interfax reported on December 12 that Yeltsin claimed the establishment of a Ukrainian army does not contradict the agreement, a statement that seems inconsistent with other remarks implying preservation of a highly unified armed forces structure. It is this issue that has been at the crux of civil-military tensions to date, and is a likely reason for the recent dismissal of General Staff Chief Vladimir Lobov. (Stephen Foye) GORBACHEV STILL CONTROLS SOVIET NUKES. Yeltsin has told a group of deputies to the Russian parliament that Gorbachev "for the time being" remains the Commander-in-Chief of Soviet armed forces and the Soviet nuclear arsenal, according to a December 10 TASS account. A deputy who attended this closed meeting reported that Yeltsin foresaw Gorbachev remaining in charge of the military during a transitional period, but that institutions of the new commonwealth would eventually assume control. In a related development, the new Belorussian Defense Minister, Pyotr Chaus, was quoted by TASS on December 11 as saying that Belorussia should not rush into giving up the strategic nuclear weapons based on its territory. (These are thought to be 54 mobile SS-25 ICBMs.) (Doug Clarke) GORBACHEV AND YELTSIN MEET. Yeltsin said on December 11 that he and Gorbachev had not agreed on everything during their meeting earlier in the day, but that their relations had improved since Sunday's founding of a Commonwealth of Independent States, Western agencies reported on December 11. Speaking to reporters, Yeltsin said he discussed with Gorbachev the commonwealth's plans to begin functioning as a separate entity. Gorbachev did not support them, but both he and Gorbachev had ruled out the use of force to solve their dispute. So far there has been no comment from Gorbachev on the meeting. (Ann Sheehy) YELTSIN ADDRESSES RSFSR SUPREME SOVIET. Yeltsin delivered a report to the RSFSR Supreme Soviet on December 12 on the situation in the country in connection with the signing of the Minsk agreement, TASS reported the same day. RSFSR Supreme Soviet Chairman Ruslan Khasbulatov told TASS on December 12 that he approved the Minsk agreement and was sure it would be ratified by the parliament, although there would be criticism. (Ann Sheehy) GORBACHEV LAYS NO CLAIM TO ROLE IN FUTURE STRUCTURES. In an interview, excerpts of which were published in Nezavisimaya gazeta on December 12, Gorbachev said it was time to say that he personally laid no claim to a role in the future structures of a successor state to the Soviet Union, TASS reported on December 12. He just wanted it to be a Union state, and said he would respect any decision if it were constitutional. He repeated that the Minsk agreement was unacceptable, but it could be a different matter if it were discussed and synthesized with the draft Union treaty. (Ann Sheehy) CONSTITUTIONAL OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE PRONOUNCES. The USSR Constitutional Oversight Committee said on December 11 that the statement in the Minsk agreement that "the USSR is ceasing to exist as a subject of international law and a geopolitical reality" has no legal force, TASS reported on December 11. Agreeing with Gorbachev's assessment, the committee said that individual republics could not make such a decision. Nor were they empowered to say that USSR organs had ceased to function on their territory. Committee members expressed serious concern at the statement that USSR norms no longer applied on the territory of the member states of the Commonwealth. (Ann Sheehy) PRESIDENTIAL LEGAL ADVISER CONCURS. Talking to TASS on December 11, Gorbachev's state counsellor for legal policy Veniamin Yakovlev made much the same points. He maintained that neither the three Slavic republics nor all twelve republics had the right to declare the 1922 Union treaty defunct, saying that, according to the treaty, only a Congress of the USSR could change it, which was why Gorbachev has been forced to raise the question of convoking a Congress of USSR People's Deputies. Yakovlev also said that suddenly halting the functions of USSR organs and laws could have very serious consequences since the legislation regulating the economy, the army, and so on was primarily Union legislation. (Ann Sheehy) CENTRAL ASIAN REACTION TO COMMONWEALTH. There was confusion in December 11 Soviet and Western news agency reports on the Central Asian reaction to the Slavic commonwealth agreement. Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Gennadii Burbulis was quoted as saying that Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev had told him that Kazakhstan wanted to join the commonwealth as a co-founder, but an adviser to Nazarbaev told another news agency that Nazarbaev had said that there had only been consultations so far. Yeltsin was quoted as saying that Kyrgyzstan definitely wanted to join, but the chairman of the republic's Supreme Soviet said that the decision was up to the legislators. (Bess Brown) CENTRAL ASIAN LEADERS TO DISCUSS COMMONWEALTH. Soviet and Western news agencies reported on December 11 that the presidents of the five Central Asian republics planned to meet in Ashkhabad or Dushanbe on December 12 to discuss the new commonwealth. According to a Radio Moscow report, Uzbek President Islam Karimov was unhappy about the apparent ethnic orientation of the commonwealth. (Bess Brown) TRANSCAUCASUS REACTIONS TO COMMONWEALTH. Although Yeltsin told reporters on December 11 that Armenia would join the new Commonwealth, acting Armenian Foreign Minister Raffi Hovanessian told The Los Angeles Times that no decision has yet been made. TASS reported on December 11 that a session of the Azerbaijan State Council chaired by President Ayaz Mutalibov had welcomed the creation of the Commonwealth "provided it does not exclude the process of gaining sovereignty for the republics." Interfax reported on December 11 that the Presidium of the Georgian parliament had issued a statement describing the Commonwealth accord as "historic;" it is not clear whether Georgia will join. (Liz Fuller) VNESHEKONOMBANK PRESSES FOR G-7 DEAL. Vneshekonombank Deputy Chairman Tomas Aligebov told the Interstate Economic Committee on December 11 that his bank is running out of resources and has trouble even paying interest on the country's foreign debt, Interfax reported that day. Aligebov is said to have urged acceptance of the G-7 offer made in November. This provided for a loan of $1 billion in return for collateral of 104 tons of gold. An alternative course of action would be to borrow hard currency from Soviet commercialbanks. Aligebov is also quoted as saying that Soviet holders of accounts in his bank are transferring hard currency abroad in an "avalanche." (Keith Bush) CASTRO: NO SOVIET OIL SHIPPED TO CUBA FOR DECEMBER. Cuban President Fidel Castro told a congress of school children in Havana on December 6 that the USSR has shipped no oil to Cuba for this month, Western agencies reported December 7, quoting Cuban media the same day. He gave no indication whether this was due to the USSR's economic confusion or to a deliberate decision to suspend the shipments. Castro questioned the USSR's ability to guarantee future oil supplies to Cuba, and said that the island was already running on half the oil it normally received from the USSR. Agency reports cited Cuban diplomats as saying that Castro's foreign trade minister is currently trying to strike a deal either with the central Soviet authorities or with individual republics. (Sallie Wise Chaballier) CONFLICT OVER PRAVDA. The RSFSR Ministry of Mass Media has told Pravda, which since the disbanding of the CPSU has been published as an independent paper, to vacate its office. The ministry said that the new Pravda is not a legal successor of the CPSU CC daily to which the office belonged. Meanwhile, the "Pressa" publishing house which prints Pravda said the newspaper owes it 1 million rubles. In their turn, representatives of Pravda told a press conference on December 11 that actions against them amounted to an attempt by the RSFSR government to silence an organ of the opposition, "Vesti" reported. Radio Moscow said December 11 that telephone and electricity supplies were switched off in Pravda's main technical department. As a result, no issue of the paper appeared on December 11. (Vera Tolz) USSR--REPUBLICS AND SUCCESSOR STATES RUSSIA SEEKS IMF PROGRAM. The Russian government is pressing the IMF for a special program whereby aid would be tied to the implementation of a rigorous reform schedule, The Financial Times of December 11 reported. Such a program would be unprecedented, as the RSFSR is not a member of the Fund, nor is it even a subject of international law. The Russian authorities are said to be hoping for conditional credits for food imports, debt repayments, and a stabilization fund for the convertibility of the ruble priced at up to $15 billion a year. The World Bank will also be asked to fund programs of structural adjustment, such as privatization in agriculture and industry. (Keith Bush) HONECKER MAY BE EXPELLED FROM RUSSIA. Izvestia of December 12 reported that Russian authorities have ordered former East German leader Erich Honecker to leave Russia by tomorrow (December 13), or else he will be deported to Germany. According to Izvestia, Honecker has protested the Russian order and has appealed to the USSR government for political asylum. Gorbachev thus far has been reluctant to expel Honecker from the USSR. (Sallie Wise Chaballier) NAGORNO-KARABAKH VOTES FOR INDEPENDENCE. TASS reported on December 11 that seven Armenians were killed in clashes during the December 10 referendum. Eighty percent of the electorate participated in the referendum, of whom 99% reportedly voted in favor of independence. The Azerbaijani population of the oblast reportedly boycotted the referendum. Polling stations operated in Armenia to enable Armenian refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh to participate. (Liz Fuller) AZERBAIJAN WOULD WELCOME TURKISH MEDIATION OVER NKAO. Azerbaijani Prime Minister Gasan Gasanov was quoted by a Western news agency on December 11 as stating that Turkey's mediation would contribute to a settlement of the ongoing conflict with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh, where he claimed the situation is deteriorating. (Liz Fuller) IRAN REJECTS PRIORITY FOR AZERBAIJAN. The Iranian Mejlis voted on December 10 against giving top priority to a bill tabled by hardliners led by former interior minister Ali Akbar Montashemi proposing that Iran formally recognize Azerbaijan's independence, Western agencies reported from Teheran on December 10. On the same day IRNA quoted deputy foreign minister Mahmoud Vaezi as stating that Iran respects the will and choice of the Azerbaijani people and will help Azerbaijan establish a market economy. (Liz Fuller) AZERBAIJAN BECOMES MEMBER OF ISLAMIC CONFERENCE. Azerbaijan was formally admitted on December 8 to the Organization of the Islamic Conference on the eve of its four day summit in Senegal, Western news agencies reported the same day. (Liz Fuller) GEORGIA DELAYS SIGNING BLACK SEA FLEET ACCORD. TASS reported on December 11 that Georgian President Zviad Gamsakhurdia had delayed signing an agreement giving the Soviet Black Sea fleet access to Georgian ports in order to study more closely the terms of the accord, under which training would be provided for officers of a future Georgian Navy in return for allowing the fleet access toGeorgian ports and guaranteeing the safety of Soviet sailors and their families on Georgian territory. (Liz Fuller) SNEGUR ON RELATIONS WITH ROMANIA. Moldavian President Mircea Snegur told a news conference in Kishinev on December 10 that his overwhelming electoral victory confirmed that "the people's will today is for an independent Moldavia . . . We [and Romania] will exist as two states which speak one language," Moldovapres reported on December 11. Moldavia will continue to cooperate with Romania economically and culturally "butonly under conditions of total independence of the Republic of Moldavia," Snegur said. (Vladimir Socor) BALTIC STATES LATVIAN SUPREME COUNCIL ON POSSIBILITY OF MILITARY COUP. On December 12 the Latvian Supreme Council started discussing the various signs that would seem to suggest that a coup may be attempted in the Baltic area by Soviet military forces, Radio Riga reported. The Supreme Council had asked Lt. Gen. Valerii Mironov, commander of the USSR North West Forces (formerly USSR Baltic Military District, based in Riga) to attend the plenary session, but he declined. Minister of Defense Talavs Jundzis outlined the causes for concern and noted the forces Latvia would have at its disposal to resist an attempted coup. From his report it is clear that Latvia might be able to offer only minimal armed resistance insofar as Latvian forces have almost no weapons. (Dzintra Bungs) BALTIC STATES APPEAL TO G24 FOR EMERGENCY AID. On December 11 officials from Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania met with the G24 nations in Brussels, Western agencies reported. The Balts outlined medium-term needs for economic aid, stressing that their industrial infrastructure, run down during 50 years of Communist rule, needs modernizing. The G24 pledged to consider the request urgently, but gave no further details. (Saulius Girnius) PRESS BRIEFING BY LITHUANIAN PROSECUTOR. On December 11 Radio Lithuania broadcast a press briefing by Prosecutor General Arturas Paulauskas. He vehemently denied allegations that Lithuania was massively rehabilitating Nazi war criminals, charges that were published on December 9 in a Göteborg, Sweden, newspaper. The allegations were made by a Ms. Kuplinskyte, a representative of the Simon Wiesenthal Fund in Lithuania. He dismissed Kuplinskyte's claim that she was the only Jewish lawyer in Vilnius, saying that she was not a lawyer but an official in the prosecutor's office. Paulauskas also rebutted claims in Pravda on December 10 that former Edinstvo leader Valerii Ivanov had been illegally arrested. Ivanov was legally arrested, Paulauskas said, for his activities in trying to overthrow the Lithuanian authorities. (Saulius Girnius) LATVIAN SUPREME COUNCIL DEPUTY CHAIRMAN RESIGNS. Dainis Ivans, First Deputy Chairman of the Latvian Supreme Council, announced his resignation from that position on December 11, Radio Riga reported. The resignation is to go into effect on January 1, 1992. Ivans, who will remain a deputy, did not explain the reasons for his resignation, but indicated that for some time he had felt that he had accomplished all that he could as one of the chairmen of the legislature. (Dzintra Bungs) LATVIA TO REGISTER ITS RESIDENTS. Also on December 11 the Supreme Council adopted a law on registering Latvia's residents. One purpose for such a registry is to prepare for the elections (no date has been set) of deputies to Saiema, which is to replace the Supreme Council. The Latvian registry is being modeled on a similar scheme used in Denmark. (Dzintra Bungs) MVD TROOPS NO LONGER GUARDING PRISONS IN LATVIA. According to Radio Riga of December 11, Leons Aire, Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs, told the Supreme Council that day that Latvian forces had taken over guard and other security duties for various prisons and labor camps in Latvia from the USSR MVD forces. This would seem to suggest that the MVD forces may indeed leave Latvia by the end of the year as had been agreed with the USSR Ministry of Internal Affairs in the fall. (Dzintra Bungs)
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