|A host is like general: calamities often reveal his genius. - Horace|
No. 237, 16 December 1991
USSR--ALL-UNION AND INTER-REPUBLICAN TOPICS CENTRAL ASIAN REPUBLICS WANT TO JOIN COMMONWEALTH. On December 13, TASS issued the declaration signed by the presidents of the Central Asian republics at the conclusion of their meeting in Ashkhabad. In the declaration, the signatories indicated the willingness of their republics to join the Commonwealth of Independent States, but insisted that the Central Asian republics should have equal rights with the three founding states, that the commonwealth not be based on ethnic or confessional considerations, and that existing borders should be recognized as inviolable. The Central Asians also called for unified control of nuclear weapons and unified command of strategic forces. (Bess Brown) ASHKHABAD PRESS CONFERENCE. At a press conference on December 13, the participants in the meeting of Central Asian presidents commented on the new commonwealth, according to a TASS summary issued that day. Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev complained that USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev's position (trying to resurrect the Union) is at odds with reality. Kyrgyzstan's President Askar Akaev said that Gorbachev had made a mistake when he did not accept the concept of an association of independent states earlier, but Akaev said Gorbachev could have a role in the new developments. Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov said that the most important thing now is economic development. (Bess Brown) KRAVCHUK ON NUCLEAR NON-USEAGREEMENT. On December 15, Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk told Soviet TV viewers that a new "political mechanism" should be worked out among the four states of the Commonwealth--Ukraine, Belorussia, Russia, and Kazakhstan--where strategic weapons are deployed. The mechanism would have control over the use of the weapons. He said the four republics had already agreed to amechanism under which there would be control over non-use, in other words, a veto. Kravchuk stressed that the ultimate goal is total disarmament. (Kathy Mihalisko) FOUNDER-MEMBERS OF COMMONWEALTH TO MEET DECEMBER 21. The meeting of the founder-members of new Commonwealth in Alma-Ata has been postponed from December 14 to December 21, the Soviet media reported on December 14. It will take place after RSFSR President Boris Yeltsin's visit to Italy on December 19-20. According to a report on "Vesti" on December 14, the chairmen of the commissions of the USSR Supreme Soviet will submit to its next joint session documents, the import of which is to ensure the line of succession from the Soviet Union to the new Commonwealth. (Ann Sheehy) GORBACHEV CRITICIZES BAKER, COMMENTS ON HIS ROLE. In an interview to be printed in Time of December 16, Gorbachev criticized US Secretary of State James Baker as being "overly hasty" in saying the Soviet Union no longer exists. In a telephone conversation with US President George Bush on December 13, Gorbachev said that he saw his task as seeing that the changes in the Soviet Union occur without confrontation and in a constitutional framework, with the participation of representative organs and the peoples themselves, TASS reported December 14. Gorbachev commented that much connected with the Commonwealth agreement was not clear to the authors themselves, particularly what mechanisms there should be for implementing it and interaction between its members. (Ann Sheehy) SHEVARDNADZE ON GORBACHEV. USSR Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze said on December 14 that Gorbachev's resignation was not imminent, that both he and Gorbachev wanted to "facilitate the process of the formation of the Commonwealth," that the Russian authorities and other republics understood this, and that he had advised Gorbachev not to be in a hurry to resign, TASS reported on December 14. Shevardnadze also said that the Soviet Union as it had existed for 70 years did not have a future, but the Commonwealth had still not shown that it was viable, The Los Angeles Times reported on December 15. Shevardnadze said that contradictory statements had been made in the republics about the control of nuclear weapons, and there was reason for concern. He also said the danger of dictatorship or a putsch still existed. (Ann Sheehy) SOBCHAK WARNS OF ANARCHY, HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS. St. Petersburg mayor Anatolii Sobchak warned on December 14 that the hasty liquidation of all central government bodies could lead to anarchy and massive violations of human rights in the Soviet Union, Interfax reported on December 14. He said that many Soviet legal norms are regulated only at the Union level, and there is a very dangerous legal vacuum. Sobchak did not rule out a role for Gorbachev in the new Commonwealth, saying many ex-leaders come back and play an even more beneficial role. (Ann Sheehy) DRM FOUNDING CONGRESS. The Democratic Reform Movement held its constituent congress in Moscow on December 14 and 15. Established this summer in opposition to the CPSU, at its first congress the DRM, according to TASS and TV reports from December 14 and 15, has emerged as a liberal opposition to the anti-Communist Russian government. "TV Inform" of December 15 quoted DRM ideologist Aleksandr Yakovlev as saying that the democrats now in power may degenerate into a new authoritarian force. Other speakers, including Shevardnadze, Sobchak, and RSFSR Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi expressed reservations about the RSFSR leadership. Nonetheless, the congress rejected a proposal calling for a compromise between the Brest and Novo-Ogarevo agreements and passed a resolution endorsing the establishment of the Commonwealth of Independent States. (Julia Wishnevsky) TENSE DAYS AT THE MOD. Only days after Yeltsin had won the support of senior commanders, the military and political leaderships in Moscow were again sent scrambling by Ukraine's December 13 announcement that it would create its own army. Following consultations between Yeltsin, Gorbachev, and Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk, Defense Minister Evgenii Shaposhnikov dispatched a high-level team to Kiev and urged Ukraine to avoid hasty actions. On the same day a working group of representatives from the republics met in the USSR Supreme Soviet to work out a temporary defense agreement, Interfax reported. On December 14, Yeltsin met with Shaposhnikov to discuss defense matters including--according to TASS--"possible candidates for the post of commander-in-chief" of the united armed forces. (Stephen Foye) WARNINGS FROM THE RIGHT. Maj. Gen. Leonid Kozhendaev, who earlier warned that commanders in the General Staff were growing impatient with the political leadership, repeated his charges on December 15 on Central TV. Apparently dismissing the Commonwealth agreement and Yeltsin's meeting with senior commanders, Kozhendaev said that conditions continue to worsen in the country and that the Soviet people stand behind the Union. On December 14, as reported by Western agencies, Rutskoi warned that the army was in an "explosive" state, that it felt ambiguous about the new commonwealth, that it was tired "of empty rhetoric and uncertainty" over its fate. (Stephen Foye) VNESHEKONOMBANK NEARLY BROKE. RSFSR Deputy Prime Minister Egor Gaidar declared on December 14 that Vneshekonombank's balance as of December 12 was down to $60 million, TASS and Interfax reported December 14. He said that hard currency is no longer forthcoming from the West, nor are republics transferring part of their hard-currency earnings. Gaidar announced that the RSFSR government is auditing loans given to former central agencies and that Russia hassharply reduced its hard-currency spending, using it exclusively to import food, spare parts, and equipment for chemical and light industries. He was not quoted as mentioning the importation of medicines. (Keith Bush) SALE OF INTERNATIONAL RAIL TICKETS SUSPENDED. The head of Moscow's international rail agency told TASS on December 14 that the sale of international rail tickets had been suspended. Sales had been halted because the railway ministry could not pay its debts of $150 million to foreign companies to cover portions of journeys on their territory. The ministry also had lost access to computers that are used to order international tickets. The official, Ivan Shchirenko, said that attempts to obtain help from RSFSR government and banking officials had yielded no results, and warned that the ministry would soon be obliged to halt trains operating to Europe and to Asia. (Keith Bush) WORLD BANK REPORT ON SOVIET DEBT. In its annual review of world debt released on December16, the World Bank estimated the Soviet Union's total foreign debt at the end of 1991 at $57-71billion, RFE/RL's Washingtoncorrespondent reported that day. Although the debt-service ratio of the former USSR is relativelylow at 25-30%, its liquidity problems are particularly acute in 1991 and 1992 due to bunching. Thus, the USSR's total debt-payment obligations in 1991 amounted to as much as $26 billion. The USSR's commercial arrears amounted to $3.5 billion at the end of August, but credits in Western banks had been drawn down appreciably. (Robert Lyle/Keith Bush) IMF SETS UP SOVIET, BALTIC DEPARTMENT. The International Monetary Fund announced on December 12 that it has created a new department to deal with the Baltic states, the Soviet Union, and its republics, RFE/RL's Washington bureau reported December 13. The IMF staff will extend advice and assistance on such matters as banking, taxation, and statistics, but the Fund will not as yet be offering loans. Fund experts are already providing technical help to the central government as well as to most of the republics individually. It was also announced that the IMF is seeking to hire an additional 280 staff members to cover the Baltic states and the former USSR. (Keith Bush) USSR--REPUBLICS AND SUCCESSOR STATES POPOV ANNOUNCES RESIGNATION. Moscow Mayor Gavriil Popov announced his resignation during the founding congress of the Movement for Democratic Reforms in Moscow on December 15, Radio Moscow reported. Popov had been threatening to resign since the Moscow City Council recently reversed his plans to introduce wide-scale privatization in Moscow. The mayor also indicated that he had reservations about Yeltsin's economic reform program. Popov, elected mayor on June 11, 1991, said that bureaucratic opposition made it impossible for him to fulfill the promises he had made to the voters. (Carla Thorson) RSFSR DEFENSE BUDGET. Interfax reported on December 12 that the RSFSR defense budget for 1992 is expected to be 323.5 billion rubles. It said that the USSR defense budget could read 529.4 billion rubles in 1992, with Russia's share being 61.3%. Calculations were reportedly made using 1992 prices. (Stephen Foye) MILITARY MOVEMENTS CIRCUMSCRIBED. The Presidium of the Moscow Oblast' Soviet has adopted a decision requiring that it be informed of all planned movements of military units in the region, Radio Moscow reported on December 12. (Stephen Foye) DNIESTER SITUATION. On December 13, the would-be Dniester SSR's paramilitary detachments machinegunned and overran a Moldavian police post on the Dniester bridge at Dubasari. For the first time in the recent series of attacks on the police, the latter returned the fire and recaptured the lost position as well as a police station lost earlier. The casualties were 4 policemen killed and 11 injured, and 3 "Dniester SSR" fighters killed and 3 injured. Also on December 13, "Dniester SSR" armed units seized the raion soviet building in Dubasari and the city soviet building in Bendery, and renewed the siege of police stations in the two towns. The preceding night, at least 4 Moldavian policemen were picked off the street in Dubasari and are being held hostage. On December 14, another Moldavian policeman was critically wounded in a sniper attack. (Vladimir Socor) MILITARY INVOLVEMENT CONTINUES. As in the preceding incidents, uniformed soldiers and officers of locally based army units were seen among the "Dniester SSR" detachments. Radio Tiraspol announced on December 13 that Lt. Gen. Gennadii Yakovlev, commander of the 14th army headquartered there, who had accepted appointment as chief of defense and security for the "Dniester SSR," officially took up that post that day. (Vladimir Socor) KISHINEV'S REACTION. The Moldavian parliament's presidium issued a statement on December 13 decrying the attacks on lawful authorities as an attempt by "the most reactionary forces of the agonizing empire" to "start a civil war in Moldavia." The presidium appealed to the population for calm and cooperation in localizing the conflict, and urged that unlawfully held weapons be turned over to the authorities. The presidium also charged that the clash was "deliberately provoked to torpedo the RSFSR's ratification of the Moldavia-RSFSR state treaty" and President Mircea Snegur's talks with Yeltsin, Kravchuk, and Shushkevich scheduled for December 12 through 15. On December 13, Snegur broke off his official tour of the three Slavic capitals and returned home. Moldavian Prime Minister Valeriu Muravschi and several members of the parliament's presidium rushed to Dubasari on December 13 to help defuse the conflict. (Vladimir Socor) EASTERN EUROPE BALTIC STATES ANTI-BALTIC DEMONSTRATIONS IN MOSCOW. Radio Riga reported on December 15 that yet another anti-democratic and anti-Latvian demonstration had been held earlier that day in front of the Latvian representation building in Moscow. For nearly two months such demonstrations have been held by conservative Russian groups supporting the CPSU, the USSR, Soviet armed forces, and OMON. The demonstration on December 15 was somewhat smaller than earlier ones, since similar demonstrations were held concurrently in front of the Estonian and Lithuanian representation buildings in the city. The demonstrators called for the release of all imprisoned communists, and for freedom for Erich Honecker and Walter Ulbricht (despite the fact that he died in 1973). These demonstrations were organized by followers of Vladimir Zhirinovsky and the main speaker was Col. Viktor Alksnis. (Dzintra Bungs) EFTA EXPANDS TIES WITH THE BALTIC STATES. Latvian Minister of State Janis Dinevics told Radio Riga on December 13 that Estonia,Latvia, and Lithuania had signed in Geneva declarations that could pave the way for Baltic membership in European Free Trade Association (EFTA). After the signing of the declarations on December 10, the current EFTA chairman, Finland's Foreign Trade Minister Pertti Salolainen, told Western agencies that the declarations showed EFTA's recognition of the need to support political and economic reforms in the former communist states. On December 10 EFTA also pledged to provide aid to help the Baltic States, Bulgaria, and Romania join the process of European integration and build their own market economies. (Dzintra Bungs) THIRD SAJUDIS CONGRESS. On December 14-15 in Vilnius about 1,000 delegates attended the third Sajudis congress and heard Chairman of the Supreme Council Vytautas Landsbergis, Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius, and Sajudis chairman Juozas Tumelis address the opening session. The congress discussed the need to change the Sajudis program, and many speakers stressed the need to support the referendum on the establishment of a Lithuanian presidency. The congress elected Landsbergis as honorary chairman of Sajudis, but, not being able to complete its work, will continue its work on December 22. The congress was broadcast live by Lithuanian television and second radio program. (Saulius Girnius) IGNALINA ATOMIC POWER PLANT. On December14 Radio Lithuania reported that Lithuanian Energy Minister Leonas Asmantas has appointed a new director of the Ignalina Atomic Power Plant. The director said that the plant already has enough fuel to last until April and that agreements for future fuel shipments from Russia are ready for signing. He also said that the Soviet military has agreed to transfer the protection of the power plant to Lithuanian forces, which should take over the guard duty in a week or two. (Saulius Girnius)
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