|To live is so startling, it leaves little time for anything else. - Emily Dickinson|
No. 236, 13 December 1991
USSR--ALL-UNION AND INTER-REPUBLICAN TOPICS GORBACHEV BEGINS TO FACE UP TO THE INEVITABLE. In a meeting with the press in the Kremlin on December 12, USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev seemed ready to bow to the inevitable and repeated his determination to resign if the Soviet state was destroyed, Soviet and Western agencies reported on December 12. Gorbachev said that the main work of his life was done, and maintained that most other people would have given up long ago. At the same time, he warned that a situation was arising that could lead to dictatorship. He also expressed his resentment that RSFSR President Boris Yeltsin had telephoned US President George Bush first about the commonwealth agreement, and that only then did Belorussian leader Stanislau Shushkevich inform him. (Ann Sheehy) RSFSR SUPREME SOVIET APPROVES COMMONWEALTH AGREEMENT. The RSFSR Supreme Soviet approved the Minsk agreement on the formation of a Commonwealth of Independent States on December 12 by 188 votes in favor, 6against, and 7 abstentions, TASS reported December 12. The Russian parliament also renounced the 1922 Union treaty. Yeltsin described the parliament's decision as historic. In his speech to the Supreme Soviet he said the republics had been driven to this solution by Gorbachev's obstinate refusal to give up the idea of a strong center. (Ann Sheehy) DEATH THROES OF USSR SUPREME SOVIET. The RSFSR Supreme Soviet also followed the Belorussian legislature's example and recalled the republic's deputies from the USSR Supreme Soviet. Gorbachev issued a statement saying that such actions did not contribute to the stability of society at a time when the fate of the state was in question and he called on the parliaments of both republics to reexamine the question, TASS reported on December 12. Gorbachev was to have addressed the legislature, but did not turn up. Since Ukraine decided much earlier not to send deputies to the USSR Supreme Soviet it is hard to see how the body can function meaningfully any longer. (Ann Sheehy) CENTRAL ASIAN LEADERS MEET. The presidents of the five Central Asian republics met in Ashkhabad on December 12 to discuss their reaction to the commonwealth. Soviet media reported that a press conference would be held on December 13, and the five Central Asian presidents would meet with Yeltsin and Ukrainian and Belorussian leaders the following day in Alma-Ata. Uzbek President Islam Karimov said on his arrival in Ashkhabad that he would accept a commonwealth of independent states but not a union of sovereign states. Tajik President Rakhman Nabiev agreed with Karimov, as did Kirgiz President Askar Akaev, who commented that a commonwealth is the most democratic way to organize a union. (Bess Brown) CENTRAL ASIAN REACTIONS. A TASS press roundup of December 12 quoted a statement in Izvestia by Turkmen Deputy Prime Minister Ata Charyev, who said he was convinced that the Central Asian presidents would support the new commonwealth but would request minor changes so that their republics would have equal status with the Slavic states. Izvestia's correspondent in Alma-Ata reported that a majority of deputies to the Supreme Soviet of Kazakhstan see the commonwealth as the only possibility to retain the process of integration. A Bishkek journalist told RFE/RL that before leaving for Ashkhabad, Akaev asked Kyrgyzstan's legislature to decide if the republic should join the commonwealth. (Bess Brown) NAGORNO-KARABAKH WANTS TO JOIN COMMONWEALTH. TASS reported on December 12 that the chairman of the Nagorno-Karabakh Executive Council, Leonid Petrosyan, has sent messages to the presidents of Russia, Ukraine, and Belorussia requesting membership in the commonwealth. According to The Los Angeles Times of December 13, the Azerbaijani parliament voted the previous day in favor of commonwealth membership. RSFSR deputy Viktor Sheinis is quoted by The Boston Globe (December 13) as arguing that Azerbaijan and Georgia should not be admitted to the commonwealth until they show willingness to abide by international norms on human rights. (Liz Fuller) NEW SECURITY SYSTEM? Reports on Yeltsin's meeting with officers remain fragmentary, but an unnamed participant told Komsomol'skaya pravda on December 12 that Yeltsin proposed unified command over strategic forces, including, apparently, air, naval, and PVO forces. As summarized by TASS, republics would be allowed their own ground forces (this formulation appears inconsistent with Ukraine's decision to take control of all armed forces on its territory). Russia would not create its own army. Defense Ministry spokesman Valerii Manilov said that the commonwealth would function on the principles of collective security with a united command of the common armed forces. The Independent on December 12 suggested that Yeltsin's trump card was his ability to raise military wages. (Stephen Foye) GORBACHEV'S APPEAL TO ARMY. Interfax reported on December 11 that, according to unnamed military sources, Gorbachev attempted "to split the armed forces" during his December 11 meeting with officers when he asked them to support a convening of the USSR Congress of People's Deputies and a referendum on the commonwealth agreement. Major General Aleksandr Tsalko told Interfax on December 11 that Gorbachev had called the army a factor for stability in the USSR, and said he would not use it for political purposes, although he urged it to support the idea of a union. Several sources have said that there was little difference between the presentations of Gorbachev and Yeltsin. (Stephen Foye) BATENIN ON NUCLEAR WEAPONS. General Gelii Batenin, an adviser to the RSFSR Foreign Ministry, told the RFE/RL Research Institute on December 11 that all tactical nuclear warheads have been removed from the Baltic States, Transcaucasia, and Central Asia. Until 1996 they will all be stored in Russia, he added. He said that only delivery vehicles for tactical nuclear weapons remain in these republics. Batenin further revealed that 70% of Soviet nuclear warheads have been disabled and that tactical nuclear weapons will be eliminated from the navy by 1992. He maintained that the KGB has lost its previous control over the warheads after the putsch, and denied that Russia now has its finger on the nuclear button. (Alexander Rahr) SILAEV ON THE COMMONWEALTH AND EC AID. Ivan Silaev, the head of the Interstate Economic Committee, was quoted by TASS on December 12 as saying that he supports the creation of the Commonwealth of Independent States, as this will ease economic negotiations between the former Soviet republics. He seems to be acknowledging force majeure, as there remains little raison d'etre for the IEC. On December 12, Silaev also signed a technical aid agreement package with the European Community worth $520 million. However, RFE/RL's Paris correspondent on that day noted that the European Parliament had voted to continue its freeze on EC food and technical aid to the former Soviet Union. (Keith Bush) GERMANS WITHHOLD CREDIT GUARANTEES. German government officials told RFE/RL's Bonn correspondent December 11 that credit guarantees are now being given for Soviet deals only in a few, urgent cases. The problem is said to be the lack of counter-guarantees provided by Vneshekonombank since the end of October, and republican banks also have been unable to replace the central foreign trade bank in this function. (Bonn provides government guarantees for foreign credits only if a bank in the recipient country provides a guarantee that the necessary hard currency is available). Germany has to date provided credit guarantees for Soviet deals to the value of DM 26-27 billion. (Michael Wall/Keith Bush) WESTERN BANKS COVER POSSIBLE LOSSES. After the steering committee for Western creditor banks met in Frankfurt on December 6, several large German and Austrian banks are reported to have "made provisions" for their outstanding loans to the former Soviet Union. The International Herald Tribune of December 10 and The Wall Street Journal of December 11 list some of the banks that have increased their loss provisions for Soviet loans and reduced their unsecured exposure. (Keith Bush) AIRPORTS CLOSED FOR LACK OF FUEL. TASS reported on December 12 that 92 airports throughout the USSR were closed, while another 38 airports were on the brink of closure, because of a lack of fuel. The figure was said to represent more than half of all airports in the country, but The Los Angeles Times of December 13 gave a total number of 350 airports. The newspaper attributed the fuel shortage to a lack of tank cars and blockades stemming from territorial, political, and economic disputes. (Keith Bush) HONECKER IN CHILEAN EMBASSY. Former East German leader Erich Honecker yesterday (December 12) sought refuge in Chile's embassy in Moscow after being threatened with expulsion from Russia by midnight December 13. A Chilean spokesman said Honecker is a "personal guest" of Chile's ambassador to the USSR; however, Chile (where Honecker's daughter lives) has refused to grant him the political asylum he has requested, according to The Washington Post of December 13. A Bavarian Radio [Bayerischer Rundfunk] newscast on December 13 quoted USSR Foreign Ministry adviser Vyacheslav Dashichev as predicting that Honecker would soon be deported to Germany. (Sallie Wise Chaballier) USSR--REPUBLICS AND SUCCESSOR STATES FOOD RATIONING IN MOSCOW. The Moscow City Council has decided to introduce food rationing, Radio Moscow reported on December12. The decision was said to stem from the disastrous position of the consumer market in the city and from the quite real threat of famine. Plans had been announced in November to ration in the city, inter alia, meat, milk, butter, sausage, and eggs, but these were cancelled by Mayor Gavriil Popov. The City Council also earlier this month cancelled Popov's plans to begin the privatization of Moscow's stores, citing critical food shortages. Reports of Popov's imminent resignation abound. (Keith Bush) KRAVCHUK DECREE ON UKRAINIAN ARMED FORCES. Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk issued a decree on December 13 creating a national armed forces out of former units of the Soviet army and Black Sea Fleet and appointing himself commander-in-chief. Western agencies today also confirmed that the Supreme Soviet this week added an amendment to the ratified commonwealth agreement emphasizing Ukraine's right to leave the commonwealth's joint defense structure after the republic's nuclear arms have been eliminated. (Kathy Mihalisko) UKRAINE RECOGNIZES INDEPENDENCE OF CROATIA AND SLOVENIA. While awaiting recognition of its independence from the US and EC countries, Ukraine has itself extended recognition to several states in a similar situation. On December 12 the Presidium of the Ukrainian Supreme Soviet decided to recognize the independence of Croatia and Slovenia, Radio Kiev reported that same day. On December 11 it also reported that Kravchuk has sent a letter to President Bush assuring him about Ukraine's foreign and security policies and calling for the establishment of direct bilateral relations between the US and Ukraine. (Bohdan Nahaylo) UKRAINE RECOGNIZES GEORGIAN INDEPENDENCE. Addressing a public meeting outside the Georgian government building in Tbilisi on December 12, Georgian President Zviad Gamsakhurdia stated that Ukraine has recognized Georgia's independence, Tbilisi Radio reported the same day. Gamsakhurdia said that the question of recognition had been raised by Kravchuk during a conversation the previous day. (Liz Fuller) RUSSIA WILL NOT SIGN ECONOMIC ACCORD WITH GEORGIA. RSFSR Deputy Prime Minister Egor Gaidar is quoted by TASS of December 12 as affirming that Russia will not sign a 1992 economic agreement with Georgia until the situation in South Ossetia stabilizes. Gaidar admitted that this was "a terrible sanction," but argued that it was warranted by the deteriorating situation in the region. TASS further quoted the deputy chairman of the South Ossetian Supreme Council as stating that Georgian blockades are preventing humanitarian aid from reaching Tskhinvali, and the town is without electricity, gas, or food. (Liz Fuller) MOLDAVIAN PRESIDENT TO MOSCOW, KIEV, MINSK. Moldavian President Mircea Snegur on December 12 began an official visit to Moscow, Kiev, and Minsk for talks with Yeltsin, Kravchuk, and Shushkevich. Snegur becomes the first leader of a former Soviet republic to meet with the three founders of the Commonwealth of independent states. Snegur was cited by Moldovapres on December 11 as expressing interest in a possible economic association with the commonwealth. He also intends to discuss with the three leaders an early partial withdrawal of USSR troops from Moldavia. (Vladimir Socor) EASTERN EUROPE BALTIC STATES IMF CREATES NEW BALTIC, SOVIET DEPARTMENT. Michel Camdessus, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, announced on December 12 that the IMF had created a new department to deal with the Baltic States and the former Soviet Union. The department will conduct some of the same procedures that could lead to loans to member countries, but it is not clear if loans would be granted to nonmembers. The Baltic states and the USSR are expected to become IMF members in 1992. IMF is already providing technical help to the USSR and most of the republics individually, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reported on December 13. (Dzintra Bungs) LATVIAN LEGISLATURE ADOPTS NO DECISION ON SOVIET THREAT. On December 12 the Latvian Supreme Council discussed the threat to Latvia posed by Soviet armed forces but did not adopt a decision on the matter, Radio Riga reported. One of the factors prompting the discussion were plans of the USSR Northwestern Group of Forces to hold maneuvers in Latvia. Col.Gen.Valerii Mironov refused to attend the parliamentary session to talk about these plans. Latvian Defense Minister Talavs Jundzis pointed out that any USSR army activities in Latvia can now be considered as interference in Latvia's internal affairs. Jundzis added that he did not believe that a coup could be staged in Latvia in isolation from events in Moscow. (Dzintra Bungs) LATVIANS STOIC ABOUT DECONTROLLED PRICES. Radio Riga reported that since December10, when price controls for foodstuffs and agricultural products were lifted, prices rose immediately, though lines in front of shops selling bread and dairy products remained long. One of the reasons for the lines was that the shops were afraid to order too much of a given item due to the higher prices. People reacted stoically to the higher prices, especially for bread, saying that while they are worried how they would make ends meet, they understood the need for price decontrols and the establishment of a market economy. According to Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis, prices should start to stabilize in about two months. (Dzintra Bungs) LITHUANIA, UKRAINE ESTABLISH DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS. On December 12 Lithuanian Foreign Minister Algirdas Saudargas and his Ukrainian counterpart Anatolii Zlenko exchanged notes on the establishment of diplomatic relations, Radio Lithuania reported. The two countries agreed to establish offices in Kiev and Vilnius headed by chargés d'affaires to be appointed later. The ministers discussed cooperation in political, economic, ecological, and cultural areas. Saudargas also talked with Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk and Supreme Soviet Foreign Affairs Commission Chairman Dmytro Pavlychko. (Saulius Girnius) LANDSBERGIS VISIT TO GERMANY AND ITALY. Chairman of the Lithuanian Supreme Council Vytautas Landsbergis has departed for a two-day unofficial visit to Germany and Italy, Radio Lithuania reported on December 13. He expects to meet with various political and business leaders during the visit. German conductor-pianist Justus Franz, who had organized a concert tour to Lithuania after the January 13 attack on the television tower, is sponsoring the trip. (Saulius Girnius)
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