|There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in. - Graham Greene|
No. 243, 27 December 1991
SUCCESSOR STATES TO THE USSR GORBACHEV RESIGNS. Mikhail Gorbachev announced his resignation in a grim 12-minute address to the nation, broadcast on Central TV on December 25. He defended his reform cause, saying that he has fulfilled the historical task of leading a totalitarian country towards democracy. But he also stressed that he remains committed to the idea of a unitary multinational state and cannot agree with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. He nevertheless promised to support the Commonwealth. Gorbachev appealed to his successors to preserve the course of democratization. (Alexander Rahr) YELTSIN HAS FINGER ON NUCLEAR BUTTON. Immediately after his resignation, Gorbachev handed the codes for the launch of nuclear weapons to Russian President Boris Yeltsin, TASS reported on December 25. Yeltsin stressed that he would have the only nuclear key but added that he could not fire the weapons without authorization from the Presidents of Belorussia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. The same day the Russian parliament ratified the Alma-Ata agreement on the creation of a joint military command of independent states. (AlexanderRahr) COMMAND OF THE ARMED FORCES. With the resignation of Gorbachev, Boris Yeltsin assumed formal command over the fractured Soviet armed forces, Western and Soviet sources reported on December 25. In a speech to the Russian Supreme Soviet, Yeltsin emphasized that he now exercised primary control over the Soviet nuclear arsenal. That same day, the Russian Supreme Soviet ratified the "Agreement on Joint Measures Regarding Nuclear Weapons" signed by the leaders of the four republics possessing nuclear arms (see Daily Report of December 23). In other remarks, Yeltsin told legislators that the Russian federation would soon be setting up its own defense bodies. (Stephen Foye) RSFSR CHANGES ITS NAME. On December 26, the RSFSR Supreme Soviet voted to change the official name of the RSFSR to the Russian Federation (or Russia), Radio Moscow reported. The new title removes "Soviet" and "socialist" and reflects the official demise of the Soviet Union following Gorbachev's resignation as USSR President on December 25. The Russian Federation is the last of the republics of the former Soviet Union to alter its official title. (Carla Thorson) UKRAINE OBJECTING TO RUSSIA BEING A "FIRST AMONG EQUALS." With the formal demise of the USSR, Ukrainian leaders have again been reiterating that the new Commonwealth of Independent States is supposed to be an association of equals and that Ukraine is not prepared to allow Russia to unilaterally assign a leading role to itself. For instance, according to Radio Kiev on December 26, Ukrainian president Leonid Kravchuk stated in an interview that day that he objected to the EC's recognition of Russia as the legal successor to the USSR. He also said that Russia had no right to represent the CIS because the latter consists of eleven independent states. (Bohdan Nahaylo) RUSSIAN-UKRAINIAN ECONOMIC FRICTIONS. "Serious" disagreements surfaced at the December 24 session of the Commonwealth Council, accordingto TASS and Interfax of December 25 and Izvestia of December 27. Russian First Deputy Premier Gennadii Burbulis reportedly claimed that his Federation's economic reform program had been adopted as the basis for Commonwealth reform, and confirmed that most Russian prices would be decontrolled on January 2. Ukraine objected to this date, proposing January 15 instead. Ukraine also complained that Russia continued to control the money presses and refused to supply other states with adequate banknotes to meet the anticipated demand when most prices and wages are freed. (Keith Bush) FIGHTING CONTINUES IN TBILISI. Following a lull in fighting and a temporary cease-fire on December 26, clashes between pro-Gamsakhurdia forces and rebel National Guardsmen trying to storm the Parliament building were continuing on December 27 for the sixth consecutive day. Georgian first deputy health minister Merab Kvitashvili told TASS on December 26 that the death toll stands at 42, with 268 people injured. Western news agencies quote rebel leader Tengiz Kitovani as claiming that gunmen from Chechen-Ingushetia had arrived in Tbilisi to fight for Gamsakhurdia. (Liz Fuller) YELTSIN REJECTS COMMONWEALTH MEMBERSHIP FOR GEORGIA. RSFSR President Boris Yeltsin refused a request made by his Georgian counterpart Zviad Gamsakhurdia on December 22 for an urgent meeting, TASS reported on December 25. Yeltsin further told the RSFSR parliament on December 25 that the Commonwealth leaders had decided to reject the application for membership made by Gamsakhurdia the previous day because of human rights violations in Georgia and South Ossetia. A planned mediation trip to Georgia by RSFSR first deputy prime minister Gennadii Burbulis was called off on December 24. (Liz Fuller) ARMENIA APPEALS TO REPUBLICS OVER NKAO. On December 26 the Armenian parliament adopted an appeal to the other republics of the Commonwealth to take immediate action to safeguard the population of Nagorno-Karabakh, characterizing the situation there as "explosive" as Soviet troops are being withdrawn, TASS reported on December 26. Radio Rossii subsequently reported that the troop withdrawal from the NKAO had been halted and that those troops still in the oblast will remain there until leaders of the CIS meet in Minsk on December 30. On the agenda is the creation of an inter-republican security force to replace the former USSR MVD. (Liz Fuller) SOUTH OSSETIAN PARLIAMENT DECLARES INDEPENDENCE. A session of the South Ossetian Oblast Soviet on December 22 passed a resolution proclaiming the oblast's independence and called upon the parliaments of the constituent republics of the former USSR to recognize its independence, TASS reported the same day. In response to rumors of a threatened Georgian attack on the oblast capital of Tskhinvali, the parliament also created a republican Defense Committee. (Liz Fuller) YELTSIN HUMILIATES GORBACHEV. Russian President Boris Yeltsin further humiliated Mikhail Gorbachev by depriving him of his Moscow state-owned apartment shortly after his resignation speech, Postfactum reported on December 25. Yeltsin decreed that Gorbachev's apartment be privatized. Yeltsin said that Gorbachev should have retired last February, and that Gorbachev made a crucial mistake in 1987 when he failed to change his reform tactics. Gorbachev was quoted in Komsomolskaya pravda on December 24 as saying that he regretted not forming a common front with Yeltsin and other democratic leaders in the summer of 1990 against Communist hard-liners and hadnow to pay "dearly" for his mistake. (Alexander Rahr) RUSSIAN PRIVATIZATION PROGRAM APPROVED. The Russian Federation Cabinet approved the privatization program for 1992 on December 26, TASS and Interfax reported that day. Russia's Minister of Science, Higher Education, and Technical Policy, Boris Saltykov, listed three categories of enterprises in this connection: those to be privatized next year include stores, restaurants, and small workshops; those not liable to privatization include banks, railways, airlines, and some armament factories; and a third group that may be privatized only with prior permission includes plants making medicines, alcohol, tobacco products and baby food. Saltykov indicated that the privatization of Russia's economy would take 3-5 years to complete, and he anticipated revenue from privatization of some 92 billion rubles in 1992 and about 300 billion rubles in 1993. (Keith Bush) MONEY SUPPLY AND BANKNOTE DENOMINATION. TASS on December 23 quoted "reliable sources" in the USSR Goskomstat to the effect that the amount of money in circulation on November 1 was 211 billion rubles, up from 132 billion on January 1. The Deputy Chairman of the Russian Parliament's Budget Commission, Aleksandr Pochinok, told Western agencies the same day that 500-ruble notes would be circulated starting December 27, and that 1,000 ruble-notes would be printed starting in March 1992. (Keith Bush) YELTSIN PROMISES TO VETO CONTROVERSIAL PRESS LAW. At a meeting with editors of Russian newspapers on December 25 (broadcast by Russian TV that day), Boris Yeltsin promised to veto the republican press law adopted by the RSFSR Supreme Soviet a few days earlier. The Russian law is widely considered to be "three steps back" in comparison with the All-Union press law. While the latter required journalists to reveal their sources only to the courts, the Russian law requires that journalists name their sources to prosecutors and the police. The law also allows the police to search the offices of newspapers and journals and forbids secret filming. On December 26, the Supreme Soviet attempted to review the law, but the motion failed to win the necessary number of votes. (Julia Wishnevsky) FORMER REPUBLICS CONFIRM COMMITMENT ON DEBT REPAYMENT. At the end of a two-day meeting in Paris with representatives of 17 creditor nations, the finance ministers of 8 former republics reaffirmed their commitment to repay the Soviet foreign debt, RFE/RL's Paris bureau reported on December 21. The republics were Russia, Belorussia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Moldavia. Both sides agreed to meet again in Paris on January 3 to conclude a "final agreement." (Joel Blocker/ Keith Bush) RUSSIAN ECONOMIC PROSPECTS IN 1992. At a news conference on December 20, Russian First Deputy Minister for Finance and Economy Andrei Nechaev spoke of the anticipated impact of the Gaidar economic reform, Interfax reported that day. At the beginning of January, the Russian government would submit a draft budget for the first quarter of 1992 that provided for no deficit. The VAT is expected to generate 41.8%, and income tax 23%, of budgetary revenues. There will be large cuts in defense and housing expenditure. Enterprises will be allowed to keep more of their hard-currency earnings [at present, they are supposed to remit 40% of these to the state]. Nechaev reckoned that living standards might drop by about 30%. (Keith Bush) SILAEV'S NEW JOB. RSFSR President Boris Yeltsin has appointed Ivan Silaev as Russia's representative to the European Community, according to Interfax of December 20. Western agencies said that Silaev's office confirmed the appointment but did not say when he would assume the post. Interfax on December 24 quoted Gennadii Burbulis as saying that Silaev's interim committee would cease to exist at the end of December 1991. (Keith Bush) RUSSIAN SUPSOV SUSPENDS MERGER OF KGB AND MVD. The Supreme Soviet of the Russian Federation has suspended the provision of Yeltsin's edict on the merger of the internal affairs and state security agencies, Vesti, TV Inform and TASS reported on December 26. Provisions concerning Russian jurisdiction over the central MVD and foreign intelligence remain unchanged. Opponents of the merger, including many KGB officers, have argued that the consolidation may lead to a repetition of the experience of the Stalinist NKVD. Russian MVD minister Viktor Barannikov, however, has said that the measure was dictated by a "need to strengthen the potential of the law enforcement agencies" and to better protect human rights, combat organized crime, corruption and drug trafficking. (Victor Yasmann) DEFENSE CHIEFS MEET. Representatives rom the republics with responsibility for military affairs met with Defense Ministry and General Staff personnel in Moscow on December 26 and 27, Western and Soviet agencies reported. The talks were aimed at overcoming problems in reaching a common defense policy, and anticipated a key meeting on defense issues sched uled for December 30 in Minsk. The military representatives met behind closed doors, however, and few details of the meeting were available. (Stephen Foye) MOLDAVIAN PARLIAMENT LIKELY TO AMEND CIS DOCUMENTS. On December 24, President Mircea Snegur submitted to the Moldavian Parliament the founding documents of CIS, which he signed at the meeting in Alma-Ata on December 22. Urging the parliamentary commissions to pass judgment on the documents before the full parliament votes on ratification, Snegur said that the documents may be ratified with conditions such as those voted by the Ukrainian parliament, Moldovapres reported on December 24. Deputies told RFE/RL that parliament is likely to take its time in examining the documents--as well as those due to be signed at the December 30 meeting in Minsk--and that a conditional ratification on the Ukrainian model seems likely. (Vladimir Socor) SNEGUR CHALLENGES POPULAR FRONT OVER REUNIFICATION WITH ROMANIA. Snegur also urged Parliament to expedite the adoption of a law on referendum and challenged the Moldavian Popular Front to put the issue of reunification with Romania to a referendum. Snegur again argued--as he has repeatedly of late--that only a small minority of Moldavians desire reunification. On December 22, the Front had called for a general strike in the republic and mass demonstrations in Kishinev against Snegur's signature on the CIS documents and for reunification with Romania. The strike call was not heeded anywhere, and only 200 to 400 demonstrators gathered in Kishinev on December 23 and 24. (Vladimir Socor) EASTERN EUROPE BALTIC STATES FUEL SHORTAGE IN ESTONIA. The Estonian government has told citizens to reduce heat in their homes and at workplaces to 17 degrees Celsius due to a severe energy crisis, according to a Baltic News Service report on December 25. A government spokesman is quoted as saying that the government has decided to cut public transportation in cities by 50% and inter-city bus transport by 30%. Estonia's Minister of Economy Jaak Leitman said on December 23 that Estonia had gasoline and diesel fuel reserves for only three months. (Jan Trapans) EC FOOD AID FOR BALTIC. European Community officials said that EC ministers have approved $60 million in emergency food aid for the Baltic States, according to Western agencies. The ministers, meeting in Brussels on December 23, also opted to study whether another $60 million in aid should be provided in February. The three Baltic States had asked for a total of $500 million in aid. (Jan Trapans) ISRAEL PLANS TO OPEN BALTIC EMBASSY. Israel will open an embassy in the Baltic States, most likely in Riga, said Yosef Govrin, deputy head of the Foreign Ministry's East Europe desk, on December 26. There would be only one embassy for all three Baltic countries. Govrin also noted Israel intends to open an embassy in Ukraine and was considering another mission either in Kazakhstan or Uzbekistan. (Jan Trapans) CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE NEW POLISH GOVERNMENT, AT LAST. By a narrow margin, the Sejm on December 23 approved the cabinet proposed by Prime Minister Jan Olszewski, ending a two-month stalemate over the formation of a new government. The vote was 235 to 60, with 139 abstentions. Votes from the Polish Peasant Party, a former communist ally, gave Olszewski's three-party minority coalition the needed majority. The postcommunist Democratic Left voted against, while the Democratic Union, the Liberal-Democratic Congress, and the KPN withheld their support by abstaining. The new cabinet includes Poland's first postwar civilian defense minister and four interim heads of ministries (industry, privatization, housing, and communications) that are to be dissolved or merged into one giant economic ministry. Planning chief Jerzy Eysymontt takes over coordination of economic policy from outgoing reform architect Leszek Balcerowicz. (Louisa Vinton) CHANGE OF COURSE IN POLAND? After the vote on the government, Olszewski backed away from election campaign promises of a decisive "breakthrough" in economic policy, stressing that any increase in government spending was out of the question. "A breakthrough in the economy is impossible," Olszewski said, as quoted by Gazeta Wyborcza. "The breakthrough slogan," he continued, "means only a change in the style of exercising power and a constant dialogue between government and society." President Lech Walesa, who had opposed Olszewski's candidacy out of concern for the maintenance of difficult austerity policies, commented that the new government inspired both hope and fear. Walesa gave it a 50-50 chance of survival and encouraged Olszewski to seek the support of other parties. Jerzy Eysymontt, the new minister responsible for economic policy, told reporters that fighting recession was the new priority, that inflation would likely remain at current levels in 1992, and that economic growth would be possible only in 1993. (Louisa Vinton) POLAND RECOGNIZES COMMONWEALTH NATIONS. In a communique issued on December 26 and carried by PAP, Polish Foreign Minister Krzysztof Skubiszewski announced that Poland "recognizes as states all the republics belonging to the Commonwealth of Independent States" and is prepared to open normal diplomatic relations with them. Skubiszewski pointed out that Poland had earlier recognized its neighbors to the East--Russia, Belorussia, and Ukraine--on the basis of bilateral agreements reached in 1990 or 1991. (Louisa Vinton) ATTACK ON JEWISH EMIGRANTS IN HUNGARY. Hungarian Internal Affairs Minister Peter Boross told the parliament's December 23 session that terrorists had attacked a bus carrying Jews from the former USSR bound for Israel who were en route to Budapest's Ferihegy Airport, MTI reported. The bus was damaged by a bomb that was exploded by remote control in a car parked on the road. The police car accompanying the bus burned out and two policemen were seriously injured, but the emigrants escaped unhurt. Boross said that there was evidence that professional terrorists had prepared the attack, and several threats had reached his Ministry in past few months. Hungary has been a major transit point for Soviet Jews since 1989: between the summer of 1989 and June this year over 125,000 Jews from the USSR emigrated to Israel via Budapest, with 40,000 passing through the country between June and October 1991 alone. (Edith Oltay) HUNGARY ON COMMONWEALTH. In a communique issued on December 27, the Hungarian government said that it recognized the "Commonwealth of Independent States" established at Alma-Ata and would "establish diplomatic relations with the sovereign states . . . within the shortest possible time." The communique said that Hungary has begun negotiations with Belorussia and Moldavia on establishing diplomatic relations. Hungary already has diplomatic relations with Russia, Ukraine, and the Baltic states. The communique praised Gorbachev's "outstanding historical role" and said that he played "a great role" in making possible a peaceful change of regime in East Central Europe. It also praised Boris Yeltsin's "determining role" in the democratic transformation of the former USSR. (Edith Oltay) END OF USSR: CZECHOSLOVAK REACTION. Czechoslovak President Vaclav Havel on December 26 sent a telegram to Mikhail Gorbachev, thanking him for his policy of democratization, CSTK reports. Havel wrote that Gorbachev had helped transform a colonial empire into a community of free and independent states and helped Czechoslovakia and other former satellites regain their freedom. On December 24, Havel telephoned Russian President Boris Yeltsin to express congratulations on the creation of the new Commonwealth of Independent States. On December 23, Czechoslovakia announced it would recognize Belorussia. (Barbara Kroulik) FATE OF SOVIET-CZECHOSLOVAK TREATY UNCLEAR. Czechoslovak Foreign Minister Jiri Dienstbier said on December 26 that the Russian Federation would not automatically take over the newly-drafted Soviet-Czechoslovak treaty on bilateral relations. He said on television that a Czechoslovak delegation would soon visit the former Soviet republics to discuss security issues and energy supplies. The new treaty was to establish a new basis for mutual relations, replacing the now anachronistic treaty signed during the rule of Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. Although initialled in October, the new treaty had not yet been signed. (Barbara Kroulik) BULGARIA RECOGNIZES FORMER SOVIET REPUBLICS. The Bulgarian government on December 23 announced it recognized Belorussia and said it expected the two countries' foreign ministers to meet in coming months, possibly to sign protocols on diplomatic relations and trade in 1992. On December 24, BTA briefly reported that the government had recognized the independence of the republics of Moldavia, Armenia, and Kazakhstan and expressed readiness to establish diplomatic relations. Bulgaria had earlier established relations with Russia and Ukraine. The rest of the republics have not been mentioned. A Foreign Ministry statement quoted by BTA on December 24 expressed satisfaction with the creation of the Commonwealth of Independent States. It supported the decision that Russia should take the place of the USSR in the UN Security Council and expressed readiness for dialogue and cooperation with the individual states. (Rada Nikolaev) ROMANIA RECOGNIZES FORMER SOVIET REPUBLICS. TASS reported on December 26 that Romania had recognized Belorussia as a sovereign state. The Romanian government had already decided on December 24 to recognize the independence of the republics of Uzbekistan, Kirghizstan, Tadzhikistan and Turkmenistan, Rompres reported. Romania expressed its readiness to establish diplomatic relations with these republics and to develop friendly cooperation with them. (Crisula Stefanescu) ROMANIAN LEADERS ON TERRITORIAL DISPUTE WITH UKRAINE. In an address to a joint session of the two chambers of the Romanian parliament held on December 21 to mark the second anniversary of the fall of the Ceausescu regime, President Ion Iliescu renewed the call for negotiations with Ukraine concerning what he called "the status of the Romanian territories which were incorporated into the former Ukrainian SSR through arbitrary decisions lacking all historic or legal basis," Radio Bucharest reported that day. Referring to this issue, Romanian Foreign Minister Adrian Nastase told a press conference on December 23 that "the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact cannot be disinvented" and that Romania and Ukraine "will have to find a political formula for resolving these problems," Radio Bucharest reported. (Vladimir Socor) ROMANIAN PUBLISHING IN FINANCIAL CRISIS. The 51st issue of the Romanian Writers' Union publication Romania Literara, black-bordered and headlined "Romanian Culture at a Deadlock," announced that as a result of the dramatic increase in the costs of publishing cultural journals, the RWU was compelled to suspend all its publications. It called for increased government funding for culture. Describing the financial situation of the cultural press, Romania Literara used such strong terms as: "cultural genocide" and "anticultural policy," Rompres reported. (Crisula Stefanescu) SERBIA TO PROPOSE CREATION OF A NEW YUGOSLAVIA. Yugoslav media on December 26 quoted Branko Kostic, Vice President of the rump federal Presidency, as saying that a proposal for the creation of a new Yugoslav state was being drafted. He said the proposal would be announced in January. Kostic said the new federation would consist of Serbia, Montenegro, and the self-proclaimed Serbian autonomous regions in Croatia and Bosnia which recently declared themselves independent and in favor of a federal Yugoslavia. Meanwhile, four republics--Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia--have met the December 23 deadline for applying for EC recognition as independent states. Serbia's predominantly ethnic Albanian province of Kosovo and the Krajina, a Serbian region within Croatia, have also applied for EC recognition. Both regions have declared themselves republics, but were not invited to apply for recognition. (Milan Andrejevich) YUGOSLAV ARMY NOT EAGER TO END WAR. The Belgrade daily Borba reported on December 24 that the Yugoslav Peoples' Army (YPA) shows no sign of wanting an end to the war in Croatia. The daily cited speeches made during Armed Forces Day on December 22. According to Borba, federal defense secretary Colonel General Veljko Kadijevic said that the YPA has succeeded in carrying out its "transformation" and is "prepared to realize the tasks it is given." Federal Vice President Kostic was quoted as saying "we are confident that the YPA will continue to meet its responsibilities honorably and successfully for the good of freedom and peace." He added that Armed Forces Day will be held again next year. (Milan Andrejevich)
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