|In the effort to give good and comforting answers to the young questioners whom we love, we very often arrive at good and comforting answers for ourselves. - Ruth Goode|
No. 238, 17 December 1991
USSR--ALL-UNION AND INTER-REPUBLICAN TOPICS YELTSIN PRESENTS GORBACHEV WITH ULTIMATUM. RSFSR President Boris Yeltsin is reported to have told USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev in a private meeting to resign by the middle of January, according to Western news agency reports on December 16. At a recent meeting with USSR Defense Minister Evgenii Shaposhnikov, Yeltsin reportedly excluded the possibility that Gorbachev will be named as commander-in-chief of the Commonwealth's joint armed forces, and stressed that a military man, who would be completely subordinated to the heads of independent states, should get this job. According to Gorbachev's aide Grigorii Revenko, Gorbachev will not resign formally but simply say that he is no longer capable of carrying out his duties. (Alexander Rahr) CONTROL OF SOVIET NUKES. In a statement read on Russian TV on December 16, Yeltsin explained that control of nuclear weapons in the new Commonwealth would be in the hands of the leaders of the four nuclear republics, plus "the supreme commander-in-chief." They would consult with each other, but any launch order would come from a "unified center." Yeltsin acknowledged that Ukraine and Belorussia would not transfer the strategic nuclear weapons on their territory to Russia, but would insist that they be destroyed in place. He said that further talks would be held with Kazakhstan on this matter. In a interview published in Le Monde on December 16, General Konstantin Kobets--touted to be the Russian defense minister--said that Gorbachev would remain in command of the armed forces "for a few more months." Kobets claimed that all tactical nuclear weapons, and all the nuclear warheads for strategic weapons, would be returned to Russia, and that in the future all nuclear weapons "will be exclusively in Russia's hands." (Doug Clarke) BURBULIS ON COMMONWEALTH INSTITUTIONS. RSFSR First Deputy Prime Minister Gennadii Burbulis told Le Figaro on December 14 that Russia, as well as a representative of the Commonwealth of Independent States, should have a seat on the UN Security Council. He also said that the coordinating bodies of the Commonwealth will be a Council of Heads of States, a Council of Heads of Governments, and an institution which coordinates policy. The post of chief coordinator of Commonwealth policy should rotate among the heads of states, he added. Burbulis did not exclude that a new, stronger union could emerge from the Commonwealth in the future. (Alexander Rahr) BIG CUTS IN DEFENSE SPENDING? Russian Federation Economics and Finance Minister Egor Gaidar told ABC on December 15 that the governments of Russia, Ukraine, and Belorussia--currently at work on next year's military budget--"are trying to implement radical defense spending cuts on all military programs, including... nuclear weapons." His remarks were reported by TASS on December 16. (Stephen Foye) GROUND FORCES CUT BACK EXERCISES. Colonel General Eduard Vorobyev, deputy CINC of Ground Forces, told TASS on December 12 that tactical exercises have been reduced considerably. He attributed the cuts to political tensions, problems with the withdrawal from Eastern Europe, lack of funding, and manpower shortages. (Stephen Foye) TURKEY RECOGNIZES INDEPENDENT REPUBLICS. On December 16 Turkish government spokesman Akin Gonen announced that Turkey recognizes all independent Soviet republics, Western agencies reported that day. Turkey had previously extended full diplomatic recognition to the three Baltic republics and Azerbaijan. (Saulius Girnius) HONECKER MAY FLY TO NORTH KOREA. Russian authorities appear to have abandoned their efforts to expel former GDR leader Erich Honecker from Russia. Honecker sought refuge in Chile's embassy in Moscow last week to avoid repatriation to Germany to face trial on manslaughter charges. According to The Los Angeles Times of December 17, Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev said on December 16 that "the Russian Federation has nothing to do [with the Honecker affair] altogether. It is a matter for Germany and Chile to decide." Meanwhile, Western agencies reported December 17 that a North Korean airliner is waiting to take Honecker and his wife to North Korea. But a North Korean embassy spokesman in Moscow said his government has received no answer to its offer to accept Honecker for medical treatment. (Sallie Wise Chaballier) KGB MILITARY COUNTER-INTELLIGENCE STAYS IN ARMY. In an interview with Izvestia of December 6, Major General Yurii Bulygin, Chief of KGB Military Counter-Intelligence [Third Main Administration], said that the major threat to the Soviet Army is an internal one, linked to the danger that the Armed Forces' moral and psychological potential could be undermined. Although his administration will protect the Army from external threats, such as espionage and terrorism, Bulygin did not exclude cooperation with western secret services in some areas. On the domestic front, the administration will protect the Army against organized crime, corruption, and drug trafficking. Bulygin also advocated introducing a military police force in the Soviet Army and renaming his service the Main Military Administration of the Interrepublican Security Service. (Victor Yasmann) CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF MOSCOW ON SOVIET-CATHOLIC RELATIONS. TASS reported from Rome on December 10 that Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Moscow, said at a press conference held in connection with the special bishops' synod going on in Rome that, since there is practically no Soviet Union any longer, the interlocutor of the Catholic Church in Russia today is Yeltsin. The archbishop also said that the proposed visit of Pope John Paul II to the USSR is not feasible at present because of strained relations between the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox Church. (Oxana Antic) USSR--REPUBLICS AND SUCCESSOR STATES KAZAKHSTAN DECLARES INDEPENDENCE. Kazakhstan's Supreme Soviet adopted a declaration of independence on December 16, according to a KazTAG report of that day. In doing so, the legislators acknowledged the reality of the republic's situation since the dissolution of the USSR. How the inhabitants of the northern oblasts that are populated largely by Russians will react to the declaration remains to be seen. According to the report, the declaration states that the present boundaries of the republic are inviolable. The same day, Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev proclaimed December 17 a Day of Democratic Renewal, according to Radio Moscow. It commemorates not only the independence declaration, but also the protests of 1986 in Alma-Ata, which began on December 17. (Bess Brown) KARIMOV VISITS TURKEY. On December 16, Soviet news services reported the arrival in Turkey of an Uzbek government delegation led by President Islam Karimov. It is his first trip abroad since Uzbekistan declared its independence. The Uzbeks are seeking Turkish assistance in the transition to a market economy, and also want Turkey to agree to an exchange of consulates. (Bess Brown) TURKMEN COMMUNIST PARTY CHANGES NAME. The Communist Party of Turkmenistan has voted at a special congress to dissolve itself and reconstitute itself as the Democratic Party of Turkmenistan, according to a TASS report of December 16. The name Democratic Party had already been taken by a small opposition group which has been refused registration. (Bess Brown) KAZAKH OPPOSITION JAILED. Three members of the tiny Alash Party of Kazakhstan have been jailed for invading an Alma-Ata mosque on December 13 and beating up the head of the Muslim Religious Board for Kazakhstan, TASS reported on December 16. Alash, which has been refused registration on grounds of extreme nationalist positions (members believe that non-Kazakhs should be forcibly driven out of Kazakhstan) want the head of the Religious Board removed from office because he does not agree with their vision of an Islamicized society. (Bess Brown) ENERGY CRISIS IN CENTRAL ASIA. On December 8, Central TV summarized the effects of the current energy crisis in Central Asia: in Kyrgyzstan, kerosene for heating and cooking is in short supply, and airline flights have had to be rescheduled because of lack of fuel at the Bishkek airport. No gasoline or diesel fuel has been shipped to the republic, which is entirely dependent on outside sources for these products, since the beginning of December. In Uzbekistan, many homes receive electricity only a few hours per day, and in Tajikistan electric power to industry has been cut by 15%, and street lighting has been reduced. A December 8 TASS report attributed the power shortage in Tajikistan to lack of fuel for Uzbekistan's generating plants, which supply the neighbor republic in winter months. (Bess Brown) SHAKHRAI APPOINTED YELTSIN'S DEPUTY. Thirty-four-year-old Sergei Shakhrai has been appointed RSFSR Deputy Prime Minister in charge of supervision of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the State Committee for Defense, and the Federal Security Agency (the former KGB). Interfax reported on December 14 that Shakhrai, who previously had worked as RSFSR State Counsellor for legal affairs, will also supervise the Ministry of Justice and the newly created State Committee for Nationalities Policies. With the appointment of Shakhrai, the formation of the top leadership of the RSFSR Government is accomplished. It now consists of Yeltsin, his first deputy Burbulis, and the three "ordinary" deputies--Shakhrai, Gaidar, and Aleksandr Shokhin. (Alexander Rahr) RSFSR INDUSTRIAL MINISTER ON REFORM, PRIVATIZATION. RSFSR Minister of Industry Aleksandr Titkin told a conference of officials from the machine-building industries that the privatization of large enterprises should not be an uncontrolled process, TASS reported on December 10. Titkin argued that, with uncontrolled privatization, "we will quickly find ourselves without high-technology products, in the first place machine tools." Still, Titkin said that the government should support entrepreneurs and the development of small businesses in industry. A major obstacle to that support, however, is a shortage of investment funds and the weak fiscal position of the RSFSR government. This suggests that privatization in the RSFSR might not go as quickly as Yeltsin's reform plans would indicate. (John Tedstrom) CLAMPDOWN ON HARD CURRENCY WITHHOLDING. RSFSR Central Bank Chairman Dmitrii Tulin told TASS on December 16 that Russian enterprises had been ordered to refrain from keeping hard currency accounts abroad. [Many firms have been refusing to pay the 40% tax levied on hard-currency earnings, which is one of the reasons for the current liquidity squeeze]. Tulin said that the RSFSR Supreme Soviet plans legislation later this month to establish a Russian hard currency reserve. The law will stipulate how much enterprises will have to pay into this reserve, which will be used to buy goods for the RSFSR. (Keith Bush) FOOD SUPPLY REVIEW. Starting on December15, armed troops were to accompany shipments of foodstuffs between warehouses and retail outlets in St. Petersburg, according to Radio Moscow of December 14. Moscow bakeries were reported by TASS of December 16 to be working at capacity, but the needs of the population "could not be fully met." And TASS of the same date reported that bread-rationing has been introduced in parts of the Altai region--a major grain-growing area. (Keith Bush) BELORUSSIA SUBSTITUTES COUPONS FOR RUBLES. As TASS reported on December 14, as of January Belorussians will be receiving 60% of their salaries in coupons and the remainder in rubles. Pensioners and students will be paid in coupons only. The measures were taken to stabilize the flow of rubles in the republic. (Kathy Mihalisko) DNIESTER SITUATION. On December 15,members of a Conciliation Commission formed by President Mircea Snegur the preceding day (comprised of officials from Kishinev and the left bank of the Dniester) signed in the village of Dzerzhinskoe a protocol on the disengagement of opposing forces in theDubasari area. The protocol's sole known point, as reportedby Moldovapres on December 16, provides for theforces to be returned to the bases where they are permanently stationed. Snegur, the government, and the parliament have declared December 17 a day of national mourning for the burial of the 7 killed in the Dubasari clash of December 13. (Vladimir Socor) ONE-SIDED INTERNATIONALIZATION OF DNIESTER CONFLICT. Under a decision "to provide any necessary help" to the "Dniester SSR," the self-styled Gagauz Supreme Soviet has "brought the Gagauz defense forces to a state of full readiness," TASS reported on December 14. Volunteers from St. Petersburg and from the All-Russian Cossack Union arrived on the Dniester's left bank "to defend the Slavs" there, Moldovapres and Western news agencies reported on December 15. The Chief of Staff of a Cossack Host from Southern Russia cabled the Moldavian government threatening to send more volunteers and military equipment to the left bank of the Dniester. In Riga, local Russians mounted pickets in support of local ex-OMON officers on trial for their crimes and against "Moldavia's actions on the Dniester," Russian TV's "Vesti" reported on December 14. (Vladimir Socor) EASTERN EUROPE BALTIC STATES GORBACHEV APPOINTS NEW DELEGATION HEADS FOR BALTIC TALKS. USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev appointed three Soviet diplomats to lead the Soviet delegations for talks with the Baltic States. According to Radio Rossiya of December 16, the new delegation heads are: Yurii Dubinin (replacing St. Petersburg mayor Anatolii Sobchak) for talks with Estonia; Valentin Kopteltsev (replacing Soviet presidential advisor Aleksandr Yakovlev) for Latvia; and Viktor Smolin (replacing Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze) for Lithuania. No indication was given when the Soviet-Baltic negotiations would start. (Dzintra Bungs) BALTIC STATES ASK UN TO HELP REMOVE SOVIET TROOPS. In a joint letter addressed to UN Secretary-General Javier Pirez de Cuillar the ambassadors of the Baltic States asked for help in removing Soviet troops from their territory, Radio Lithuania reported on December 16. Although the USSR recognized the Baltic States' independence on September6, it has done nothing to remove the troops or sign a treaty or agreement legalizing their presence. With the disintegration of the USSR, the ambassadors wrote, there is "a real possibility" that the center will be unable to control its troops in the Baltic, some of whose officers "have openly suggested the possibility of remaining despite orders to the contrary from Moscow." The letter asked the UN to monitor closely the developing situation in their states. (Saulius Girnius) OFFICIAL BELORUSSIAN DELEGATION VISITS LATVIA. An official delegation from Belorussia, headed by Supreme Soviet Chairman Stanislau Shushkevich, arrived in Riga on December 16, Radio Riga reported. The guests were welcomed at the airport by Latvian Supreme Council Chairman Anatolijs Gorbunovs and his wife. That afternoon Shushkevich and Gorbunovs signed an accord on the principles of good-neighborly relations between Latvia and Belorussia. This document will be followed by specific accords on cooperation in other realms, including ecology and culture. The economic and commercial accord, signed earlier this month in Minsk, will go into effect on January 1, 1992. (Dzintra Bungs) FOREIGN-BORN IN LATVIA. According to figures recently published by the Latvian State Committee on Statistics, 26% of the 1989 population of Latvia were born outside the country. The majority of foreign-born were Russians, Belorussians, and Ukrainians who had recently migrated to Latvia. Forty-five percent of Russians living in Latvia were born outside the country. The proportion of those born outside of Latvia was much higher among more recent inmigrants, such as Belorussians and Ukrainians. (Albert Motivans) TURKEY TO ESTABLISH EMBASSY IN VILNIUS. On December16 Turkish government spokesman Akin Gonen announced that Turkey recognizes all independent Soviet republics, Western agencies reported. Turkey had previously extended full diplomatic recognition to the three Baltic republics and Azerbaijan. Gonen said that Turkey would establish an embassy, not a consulate, in Vilnius, whose ambassador would also be accredited to Latvia and Estonia. (Saulius Girnius)
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