|When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece. - John Ruskin|
No. 241, 20 December 1991
USSR--ALL-UNION AND INTER-REPUBLICAN TOPICS YELTSIN TAKES OVER. RSFSR President Boris Yeltsin has issued decrees asserting Russian control over all Soviet structures on Russian territory except the USSR ministries of defense and nuclear energy, TASS reported on December 19. Thus the Kremlin, the USSR Presidential apparatus, the USSR Ministry of External Relations, the Interstate Agency for Security (the former KGB), the MVD, and all Soviet foreign currency accounts are being taken over by Russia. Soviet embassies have now come under Russian jurisdiction, but their fate will be determined by all commonwealth members at the forthcoming meeting in Alma-Ata. (Alexander Rahr) RUSSIA TAKES OVER CENTRAL STATE AND INTERNAL SECURITY ORGANS. Yeltsin issued an edict creating an RSFSR Ministry of Security and Internal Affairs; the new Ministry will consist of the USSR MVD, the RSFSR MVD, the Interrepublic Security Service (MSB) and the RSFSR Federal Security Agency (AFB) "Vesti" and Radio Moscow reported December 19. According to unoffiflcial information cited by Radio Moscow, the USSR Minister of Internal Affairs, Viktor Barannikov, will be Chief of the new Ministry. The Director of the RSFSR AFB, Victor Ivanenko, told Radio Moscow that the merger was made despite his agency's protests. MSB Chief Vadim Bakatin remarked that the new MVD and KGB consolidation shows that the "chekist spirit" in law-enforcement agencies is ineradicable. (Victor Yasmann) FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE RETAINS CENTRALIZED STATUS. Tatyana Samolis, spokeswoman for Soviet foreign intelligence--the Central Intelligence Service (TsSR), told a press conference in Moscow on December 19 that the Service will retain its centralized nature as an element of the strategic defense system of the Soviet commonwealth, no matter what form the Soviet confederation may take. According to Russian TV, Samolis showed a document dated October, 1949 and signed by Josef Stalin, forbidding KGB activities in Eastern Europe. Samolis claimed that other documents in the Service's possession "clearly prove that neither the KGB nor the International Department of the CPSU were involved in political assassinations in Europe in the 1960s to 1980s." (Victor Yasmann) LATEST ON NUKES. US Secretary of State James Baker told a Brussels news conference on December19 that during his recent trip to the USSR he had been assured privately that Belorussia, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine had agreed to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as non-nuclear powers. This would mean they would not be able to keep any nuclear weapons on their territories. Western agencies also reported on December 20 that Ukraine and Russia have agreed to withdraw all tactical nuclear weapons from Ukraine in less than one year. Strategic nuclear bombers and their weapons will also be transferred to Russia, while Soviet strategic missiles in Ukraine will be taken off alert status. The agreement was disclosed by Gen. Sergei Zelentsov of the USSR Ministry of Defense and confiflrmed by Gen. Vadim Grechaninov, the deputy chief of staff of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense. (Doug Clarke) GORBACHEV LETTER TO ALMA-ATA MEETING. In a letter to the participants in the Alma-Ata meeting on December 21 on the creation of the Commonwealth, USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev said that the transition from the USSR to the new Commonwealth was taking place in very diffiflcult circumstances. He said that any attempt to break up the system that controls the country's strategic weapons was dangerous. He also said that the Commonwealth should be recognized as an entity in international law and it would be impossible to maintain a common strategic defense without a minimum of common foreign policy. Gorbachev also proposed a common "Commonwealth citizenship" for a period to prevent ethnic conflicts and discrimination. He suggested that member states stick with the Economic Community treaty, and fiflnally pleaded that the transition of power be conducted with dignity and in accordance with the law. The text of Gorbachev's letter, which is dated December 18, was issued by TASS on December 19. (Ann Sheehy) ELEVEN REPUBLICS TO ATTEND ALMA-ATA MEETING. Of the twelve remaining republics of the Soviet Union, only Georgia will be absent from the meeting in Alma-Ata on December 21 on the creation of the Commonwealth of Independent States, Soviet media reports indicated on December 19. The Moldavian and Azerbaijani presidents were the latest to announce that they will attend the meeting, but they may intend only to discuss the Commonwealth accord and not actually sign it. (Ann Sheehy) ARMENIAN, AZERBAIJANI LEADERS WILL ATTEND ALMA-ATA MEETING. Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan told the Armenian parliament that "there are no obstacles" to Armenia joining the Commonwealth, and that Yeltsin and Nazarbaev had both informed him by telephone that their respective republics would recognize Armenia's independence, Moscow Television reported on December 18. Azerbaijani President Ayaz Mutalibov will travel to Alma-Ata despite an appeal by opposition groups not to do so, but a defiflnite decision on whether or not Azerbaijan will join the Commonwealth has not yet been taken and may be postponed until after the Azerbaijani referendum on independence on December 29, Baku journalists told RFE/RL's Azerbaijani service on December 19. (Liz Fuller) WIDESPREAD FUEL SHORTAGES. CTV and TASS on December 19 reported fuel shortages in many areas, including the Donbass, Buryatia, the North Caucasus, and Armenia. Two major reasons cited are the withholding of fuel by producers until prices are raised in January and the insistence on barter deals by other suppliers. (Keith Bush) THE GROUNDING OF AEROFLOT. At a news conference in Moscow, reported by agencies on December 19 and by The New York Times on December 20, the Russian Deputy Transport Minister, Aleksandr Larin, reviewed the sorry state of Aeroflot. About 2,800 of its fleet of 7,000 are grounded for lack of spare parts and fuel; many of the aircraft are superannuated; and the airline's safety record has deteriorated. A threefold increase in domestic fares was announced, while tickets for international flights will increasingly be sold for hard currency only. (Keith Bush) OECD REPORT ON SOVIET ECONOMY. In its year-end economic review, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development painted a somber picture of developments in the Soviet economy, Western agencies reported December 18. But although the report mentioned the August coup, its assessment of the former Soviet Union's foreign trade and balance of payments situation appears to be based on mid-year data and has been overtaken by events. It estimates, for instance, a surplus in the country's current account. (Keith Bush) STAROVOITOVA SUGGESTS UN ROLE IN TRANSCAUCASUS. Galina Starovoitova, adviser on ethnic questions to Yeltsin, told RSFSR TV on December 18 that military actions between Armenia and Azerbaijan, Georgia and Ossetia have become so exacerbated in recent weeks that the conflict has involved neighboring countries. Starovoitova recently has had intensive contacts with Western governments which advocate a peace-keeping role for the United Nations in the Transcaucasus, especially after the possible withdrawal of all-Union MVD Troops from the region. In contrast, Starovoitova asserted, the security situation in the North Caucasus--i.e. Checheno-Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria and Dagestan--poses no real danger to the national interests of the RSFSR. She said that she and Yeltsin have an understanding of the peoples' desire to have their national states in an alliance with Russia. (Victor Yasmann) RUTSKOI SECURES POW AGREEMENT. Russian Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi is reported to have concluded an agreement with Iran-based mujaheddin on the release of two Soviet prisoners of war in exchange for a group of Afghan resistance prisoners held in Kabul. According to TASS of December 19, while in Tehran Rutskoi also signed an agreement to expand bilateral cooperation between Russia and Iran. Rutskoi is now in Pakistan for talks with Pakistani offiflcials and Afghan resistance leaders. (Sallie Wise Chaballier) RELIGION IN LABOR CAMPS. The latest issue of Soyuz published an illustrated report on religious life in "corrective-labor camps." According to this report, the situation now is slowly improving. Priests are now permitted to visit prisoners and that visit is not considered to be a "meeting with relatives." Prisoners can also wear crosses. In some camps churches are being built by prisoners, a development which the newspaper's correspondent called "a phenomenon." (Oxana Antic) SUICIDE RATES IN THE USSR. Data released by the State Committee on Statistics (Press Release #252, August 23, 1991) showed that in the fiflrst half of 1991, the suicide rate in the Soviet Union had increased to 22 per 100,000 people. The suicide rate in the USSR had been slowly increasing since 1986-1988, when the rate was only 19 per 100,000. In 1990, the rate was 21, or about 61,000 people in absolute fiflgures. According to these data, in the USSR men were 3 1/2 times more likely to commit suicide than women, and those aged 25-39 years were more at risk than those in other age groups. Regionally, the rates ranged from 2-8 in Transcaucasia and Central Asia (except Kyrgyzstan) to 26-27 in Russia and the independent Baltic states. In comparison, recent rates per 100,000 people from selected Western countries include: USA (1986), 13; FRG (1987), 17; UK (1987), 8; and Finland (1986), 26. (Albert Motivans) USSR--REPUBLICS AND SUCCESSOR STATES POPOV MAY RECONSIDER. Moscow Mayor Gavriil Popov said he would be willing to withdraw his resignation if he was sure that he would be able to carry out a privatization program without interference from the Russian government, Soviet and Western agencies reported on December 19. During a press conference in Moscow, the mayor criticized Yeltsin's reform program, saying that freeing prices before privatization will be a disaster. Popov had announced his intention to resign after his privatization program was cancelled by the Moscow City Council. (Carla Thorson) UNEMPLOYMENT GROWING IN RUSSIA. There are more than 2 million unemployed in Russia and this fiflgure is expected to increase by four or fiflve times in the near future, the Moscow daily Trud reported on December 19. The TASS summary of the article noted that pre-retirement age people, intellectuals, and poorly qualififled workers make up the majority of those affected. An allowance will reportedly be paid to those granted unemployment status, but only for a period up to twelve months. (Carla Thorson) AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL TO OPEN MOSCOW BUREAU. Radio Rossii, citing the Russian Information Agency, reported on December 19 that Moscow Mayor Popov signed orders that day granting permission to Amnesty International to open an information bureau in Moscow. (Sallie Wise Chaballier) IRAN TO OPEN CONSULATES IN CENTRAL ASIA. Iran will soon open consulates in the capitals of the fiflve Central Asian republics, TASS reported on December 19 quoting the Iranian newspaper Jomhuriye islam-i. Agreements on opening Iranian consulates in Central Asia and Central Asian representation in Tehran were reached during Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati's recent tour of the Muslim republics. Iranian diplomatic representation already exists in Baku. (Bess Brown) AGREEMENT SIGNED BETWEEN UZBEKISTAN AND TURKEY. Uzbek President Islam Karimov completed his visit to Turkey with the signing of an agreement between Uzbekistan and Turkey covering cooperation in the fiflelds of transport, education, culture, science, and broadcasting, TASS reported on December 19. A special protocol covers cooperation between Uzbekistan's state-run information agency, UzTAG, and the Anatolian News Agency. (Bess Brown) EASTERN EUROPE BALTIC STATES AID TO BALTIC STATES, ALBANIA. On December19 the European Community's executive commission announced new plans for emergency food aid to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Albania from the EC surplus food stocks, Western agencies reported that day. The Baltic States together would get food worth $58 million and Albania--$45 million. All four countries had requested higher amounts of aid. (Dzintra Bungs) BALTIC OFFICIALS FEAR SOVIET MILITARY UNREST. Meeting in Vilnius with defense experts of the Nordic countries, Baltic leaders expressed continued fear of Soviet military unrest in their countries, Western and Baltic agencies report on December 19. They are especially afraid of what might happen when their countries fail to supply food and fuel to the Soviet soldiers and officers stationed there. Estonia intends to stop the food supplies on December 31. USSR Defense Ministry spokesman Col. Ivan Skrylnik said that a total withdrawal of Soviet troops from the Baltic States before 1994 is out of the question. The former USSR has stalled on talks with the Baltic States that would lead to negotiations on the troop withdrawal issues. (Dzintra Bungs) BALTIC MONETARY SITUATION. According to BNS dispatches of December 18, there are 4-6 billion rubles circulating in Estonia, about 18 billion rubles in Latvia, and about 13 billion rubles in Lithuania. Having the largest cash reserves, Latvia has offered to provide Estonia and Lithuania each with 600 million rubles. Diena reported on December 18 that in Latvia, a system of coupons similar to the one in Lithuania may be instituted next year to function alongside the ruble until Latvia's own currency is instituted. On December 17 Radio Riga reported rumors that 50- and 100-ruble bills would be soon taken out of circulation by the authorities in Moscow but said the rumors could not be verified. (Dzintra Bungs) CHINA APPOINTS ENVOYS TO THE BALTIC STATES. The Chinese Foreign Ministry has appointed envoys to the Baltic States, Xinhua reported on December 19. China's Ambassador to Finland, Qiao Zonghuai, will also serve as his country's envoy to Estonia, Ambassador to Sweden Tang Longbin will also represent his country in Latvia, and Ambassador to Poland Pei Yuanying is to be accredited to Lithuania. (Dzintra Bungs) PETERS DENIES PLANS TO ARREST ALKSNIS. Janis Peters, Latvian representative in Moscow, dismissed as groundless a rumor that eight specially trained guards from Latvia had arrived in the Russian capital to arrest Col. Viktor Alksnis, Radio Riga reported on December 19. Peters pointed out that Alksnis is a Latvian SSR deputy to the USSR Supreme Soviet who, although frequently in Moscow, resides in Riga. He said that such rumors were probably started by those groups in Moscow that have been consistently opposing Latvia's independence. (Dzintra Bungs) ESTONIA WANTS HELP WITH SOVIET REACTORS. Estonia's Foreign Minister Lennart Meri has asked the International Atomic Energy Agency to place two small research reactors at a Soviet naval base in Paldiski in northwestern Estonia under international nuclear controls, RFE/RL reported on December 19. (Dzintra Bungs)
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