|A host is like general: calamities often reveal his genius. - Horace|
No. 244, 30 December 1991
SUCCESSOR STATES TO USSR CIS LEADERS BEGIN CRUCIAL SUMMIT MEETING IN MINSK. A meeting of the leaders of the new Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) opened in Minsk on December 30 to decide on the future shape of this interstate association and the direction that it will take. With divisions having already opened among the eleven participating states over military and econo-mic matters, as well as the role of Russia, it is expected, as TASS put it on December 29, that the negotiations will be "delicate" and "difficult." Ukraine, for instance, according to Radio Rossii of December 29, made it clear on the eve of the summit that it is not prepared to sign the proposed CIS charter. Ironically, the meeting is being held on the anniversary of the founding of the USSR--December30, 1922. (Bohdan Nahaylo) YELTSIN ADDRESS TO RUSSIA. RSFSR President Boris Yeltsin appealed to Russians in a nationwide broadcast on Russian TV on December 29 to "to start living in a new way." Yeltsin blamed the legacy of Communism for the country's problems and stressed that the upcoming economic reforms, while painful and unpopular, are unavoidable. He called for endur-ance and promised that improvement will come in summer of next year. He congratulated his country-men on avoiding a civil war such as the one in Yugosl-avia. (Alexander Rahr) DISAGREEMENT ON DEFENSE. Two days of talks in Moscow and a visit to Kiev (December 26) by CIS CinC Evgenii Shaposhnikov have failed to resolve sharp differences among CIS member states on security issues. Shaposhnikov told Russian TV on December 27 that most CIS members had rejected his concept of a "unified" (edinykh) army in favor of, at best, a looser association of "joint" (ob'edinennykh) armed forces. The primary stumbling block has been the determination of Ukraine, Moldavia (see item below), and Azerbaijan to create national armies. A Ukrainian official said Shaposhnikov had urged retention of unified forces for at least a five-year transition period, but that he had left Kiev "disappointed." Defense issues are expected to be high on the agenda at the meeting of commonwealth leaders in Minsk. (Stephen Foye) SQUABBLE OVER THE BLACK SEA FLEET. The disposition of the Soviet Black Sea Fleet has become one of the military issues the CIS leaders must solve. Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk was quoted by Western agencies on December 29 as saying Ukraine "is and should be a maritime power." Komsomolskaya pravda reported on December 27 that the trip by Shaposhnikov and Fleet Admiral Ivan Kapitanets to Kiev on December 26 was a hurried one; the paper speculated that the visit had to do with Ukraine's decision on the full transfer of the Black Sea Fleet to its jurisdiction. Interfax on December 25 claimed that Ukraine had protested the transfer of the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov from the Black Sea to the Northern Fleet. Ukraine would appear to have little grounds for complaint in this matter, as the Kuznetsov had always been slated to join the Northern Fleet and was originally scheduled to sail North in August. (Doug Clarke) YELTSIN ON FLEET. Speaking in Minsk before the meeting of the CIS, Russian President Boris Yeltsin said the question of control over the Black Sea Fleet will be discussed at the December 30 meeting. Yeltsin said that the Black Sea Fleet has historically been Russian, but that "Ukraine probably also has the right to seek some part of the Black Sea Fleet." Yeltsin expressed confidence that the issue could be resolved with out damaging each others' interests, TASS reported December 30. (Suzanne Crow) RUSSIA TO CREATE NATIONAL GUARD. Boris Yeltsin announced on December 29 that Russia would create a National Guard of between 30,000 and 40,000 men on the basis of old Russian military traditions, TASS and Western agencies reported. Coming on the eve of the Minsk meeting, the announcement by the leader of the largest CIS republic may have been issued with an eye toward damping the enthusiasm of other member states for creating their own national armies. According to The Washington Post on December 30, Yeltsin also said that Russia would cut back sharply on spending for defense procurement in the new year. (Stephen Foye) HOUSING PROBLEMS FOR WITHDRAWING TROOPS. The Commander of Soviet forces in Germany, Colonel General Matvei Burlakov, said in Die Welt on December 28 that construction of housing by German firms for withdrawing Soviet troops is significantly behind schedule. In remarks summarized by Western agencies on December 27, Burklakov said that none of the 36,000 apartments slated had been built. While the general was reportedly careful not to blame the Germans for the delay, he did suggest that Bonn had provided an unfair estimate of Soviet military property in Germany that is being used as collateral for the housing. (Stephen Foye) LAND PRIVATIZATION DECREE. Russian President Boris Yeltsin issued a decree on December 28 on the privatization of agricultural land throughout the Federation, TASS and Interfax reported that day. The decree calls for the rapid reorganization of kolkhozes and sovkhozes, and for the transfer of much of their land to private farmers before spring planting. Initial reports suggest that the measure does not provide for a completely free market in land: it allows only farmers (not the general public) to buy and sell land within prescribed limits. Sovkhozes are to be turned into holding companies, while kolkhozes are to become real cooperatives. (Keith Bush) ENTERPRISE PRIVATIZATION DECREE. On December 29, President Yeltsin signed a decree on the accelerated privatization of state and municipal enterprises, according to RIA and "Vesti" of that date. Few details were made available, but it appears that local programs for privatizing these enterprises are to be implemented by the end of January, 1992. The Russian government's own privatization program for state and municipal enterprises is to be finalized by March 1, 1992 and submitted to the Supreme Soviet. (Keith Bush) PRICE DECONTROL AND ITS EFFECTS. Appendices to the Russian Federation decree of December 19, carried by TASS on December 23, provide specifics of the maximum permitted multiples of existing prices and tariffs for those goods and services whose prices will remain controlled in Russia after January 2. The Belarus Council of Ministers announced on December 29 that most retail prices in the republic will be decontrolled starting January 3, according to TASS of December 29. In a related move, Interfax on December 28 reported that, starting on December 30, 40-50% of salaries in Ukraine will be paid in the form of coupons which will serve as an alternative currency, eventually replacing the ruble. At this writing, it was not clear whether Ukraine and other members of the CIS will liberalize wholesale and retail prices in concert with Russia and Belarus. A com-munique from Minsk may clarify matters. (Keith Bush) PRIMAKOV JOINS YELTSIN. After meeting with senior officials of Soviet foreign intelligence, Boris Yeltsin announced that the agency would be renamed the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, TASS reported on December 26. Evgenii Primakov will continue to head the service. (Victor Yasmann) KHASBULATOV SAYS FAMINE "IMPOSSIBLE." Ruslan Khasbulatov, chairman of the Russian Supreme Soviet, sought to reassure the population in an interview on Moscow TV on December 28. He said that some disruptions in the heating and food supplies are likely, but people should not hoard food in anticipation of a famine. A famine, he said, "is simply impossible. We will not let that happen." (Carla Thorson) RUSSIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT CONCERNED. The Russian Federation's Constitutional Court has expressed concern over violations of the republican Constitution and laws, Russian TV newscasts reported on December 26. As examples, the judges cited the new republican law on the media, as well as Yeltsin's edict merging the former USSR and RSFSR ministries of internal affairs and KGBs. The Court also objected to the change of the republic's name, on the grounds that only the Congress of People's Deputies, not the Supreme Soviet, is entitled to change the Russian Constitution. (Julia Wishnevsky) RUSSIAN PRESS LAW AMENDED. On December 27, the Russian Federation Supreme Soviet amended the controversial Press Law, adopted by the body a few weeks before. The parliament repealed the passages ordering journalists to reveal their sources to the police and banning secret filming. The law was widely condemned as violating journalists' rights, and Yeltsin had promised to veto it. (Julia Wishnevsky) CENTRAL TELEVISION TRANSFORMED INTO RUSSIAN STATE CONCERN. Boris Yeltsin has signed an decree transforming Central Television into the Russian State Television and Radio Company "Ostankino", TASS reported, December 27. The new television company will take over the property and assets of Central Television. Egor Yakovlev, who since August has headed the Second Channel (known as "Russian Television"), will be the president of "Ostankino" company. Yeltsin's decree also envisages the management of the Ostankino to organize journalistic coverage of the "political, economic and cultural events" within the whole territory of the CIS. Another provision of the edict calls for the creation of television joint stock society, which will be open for the members of the CIS. (Victor Yasmann) KRAVCHUK ON UKRAINIAN INDEPENDENCE AND THE COMMONWEALTH. Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk has been outlining Ukraine's priorities in the domestic and external spheres. He told Ukrinform on December 28 that Ukraine intended to pursue its own independent foreign policy and would not agree to the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) representing it at the international level. He noted with pride that Ukraine had been "the force" that had "destroyed the [Soviet] empire." As a democratic independent European state, Kravchuk explained, Ukraine wants to become a member of the EC. It is also especially interested in developing ties with countries where large numbers of Ukrainians have settled. At home, Kravchuk said, the top priority is fundamental reform of the economy. (Bohdan Nahaylo) KRAVCHUK ON THE UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT AND ELECTIONS. Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk has kept the pledge that he made before the presidential election and has proposed to the Ukrainian parliament the draft of a law on multiparty elections, Radio Kiev reported on December 27. Kravchuk has also urged the parliament to add the final touches to the draft of Ukraine's new constitution, which it approved earlier this year, and to offer it for public debate. Before the presidential elections, Kravchuk promised that in the event of his victory, he would call on the Ukrainian parliament (whose majority is made up of conservative former Communists) to adopt a new, more democratic law on multiparty elections and then dissolve itself so that new elections could be held. (Bohdan Nahaylo) GAMSAKHURDIA IGNORES CALLS FOR HIS RESIGNATION. Anti-Gamsakhurdia rebels stormed KGB headquarters in Tbilisi on December 27 and freed several prominent political prisoners. A first round of talks between pro- and anti-Gamsakhurdia forces on December 28 resulted in a ceasefire; a joint call for Gamsakhurdia's resignation and the transfer of presidential powers to the republic's parliament was issued after a second round of talks the same day. Several senior Gamsakhurdia supporters defected to the opposition. Fighting resumed on December 29; troops loyal to Gamsakhurdia drove opposition forces out of the parliament building which they had penetrated the previous day. TASS reported on December 29 that the civilian population was fleeing from central Tbilisi. (Liz Fuller) ARMENIAN-RUSSIAN SUMMIT. At a one-day Armenian-Russian summit in Moscow on December 29 Russian Federation President Boris Yeltsin and Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan signed a treaty on friendship, cooperation and mutual assistance that gives special attention to human rights and economic cooperation, TASS reported that day. Yeltsin subsequently told reporters that the CIS summit in Minsk on December 30 would discuss the Armenian-Azerbaijan conflict over the NKAO and try to find a political solution. An Azerinform correspondent told Moscow television on December 28 that Azerbaijan rejects the NKAO's demand for separate Common-wealth membership. (Liz Fuller) AZERBAIJAN HOLDS REFERENDUM ON INDEPENDENCE. A referendum was held in Azerbaijan on December 29 to evaluate popular support for the October law on Azerbaijani independence, TASS reported on December 29. Observers from Turkey and several former Soviet republics travelled to Azerbaijan to monitor the voting. (Liz Fuller) ELECTION AND REFERENDUM IN UZBEKISTAN. Soviet and Western news agencies carried reports on December 29 on the presidential election and referendum on independence held in Uzbekistan that day. Contestants for the presidency were the incumbent, Islam Karimov, backed by the Popular-Democratic (formerly Communist) Party, and poet Muhammad Salih, chairman of the small Erk Democratic Party. The opposition Popular Front group Birlik was not allowed to nominate a candidate. Karimov was heavily favored to win. Preliminary results were expected on December 30. In a second ballot, voters were asked to vote for or against Uzbekistan's independence, declared by the republic's Supreme Soviet on August 31. (Bess Brown) KAZAKHSTAN ADOPTS CITIZENSHIP LAW. KazTAG reported on December 20 that Kazakhstan's Supreme Soviet had adopted a law on citizenship. According to the report, the equality of citizens is guaranteed regardless of nationality, religious confession or political convictions. The report does not, however, list the requirements for obtaining citizenship. This, to many Kazakhs of all political orientations, would be the most important aspect of the citizenship law, which they hoped would be a mechanism for limiting migration of non-Kazakhs into Kazakhstan. (Bess Brown) BAN LIFTED ON TAJIKISTAN'S COMMUNIST PARTY. TASS reported on December 25 that Tajiki-stan's Supreme Soviet had removed the ban it had placed on the activities of the republican Communist Party in October, pending investigation of the party's actions during the August coup. The ban was first instituted in September by the chairman of the Supreme Soviet; its revocation at that time contributed to large anti-Communist demonstrations that continued until the ban was reimposed. But opposition forces in the republic suffered a setback with the November election of former Communist Party chief Rakhman Nabiev as republican president. The conservative legislature declared that no evidence was found to link the Tajik CP with the coup. (Bess Brown) MOLDAVIA WANTS "NEUTRALITY," INDEPENDENT MILITARY. At a meeting on December 28 with the command staff of the forces of the former USSR based in Moldavia, President Mircea Snegur declared that "Moldavia intends to become a neutral state," the Presidential Chancellery announced in a communique issued through Moldovapres that day. The Chancellery told RFE/RL that Kishinev will take the position in the coming negotiations with the CIS that the republic's sought-for neutrality presupposes exclusive republican command of all conventional forces in the republic, precluding Moldavia's participation in joint command structures. (Vladimir Socor) MOLDAVIA ACCELERATES ECONOMIC REFORMS. The Moldavian Parliament voted on December 27 to empower the president of the republic to introduce economic reforms by presidential decree, Moldovapres reported that day. The measure is designed to circumvent parliamentary resistance from Russian communist holdovers and Moldavian Agrarians to some of the planned reforms. Prime Minister Valeriu Muravschi told Parliament that his government will begin price liberalization on January 2, 1992 by allowing staple food prices to double and other commodity and consumer goods prices to quadruple in this first stage. Muravschi also announced that the planned Moldavian currency will be introduced in July, 1992. At the same sitting, the Parliament voted the law on the operation of joint-stock companies in Moldavia. (Vladimir Socor) "DNIESTER SSR" GUARDS SEIZE ARMORED VEHICLES. An armed detachment of the "Dniester SSR Republican Guard" accompanied by Russian women from the Tiraspol-based "Women's Strike Committee" raided the base of a USSR MVD battalion in Bendery, Moldavia's Ministry of Internal Affairs said in a press release on December 23. They made off with 2 armored personnel carriers, 2 military trucks, and other equipment, which they took to Tiraspol. The MVD unit offered no resistance and failed to notify the Moldavian authorities in time, suggesting collusion with the raiders. Meanwhile, Moldavian police in Bendery remain trapped in their headquarters building by the superior force of the "Dniester" guards. (Vladimir Socor) BALTIC STATES ESTONIA WELCOMES CIS, LAUDS GORBACHEV. Chairman of the Estonian Supreme Council Arnold Ruutel welcomed the establishment of the CIS and credited Mikhail Gorbachev with having started the reform process in the USSR. In a press statement following Gorbachev's December 25 announcement, Ruutel said the reform process had outstripped its instigator, but that the CIS "opens the possibility for Estonia's eastern neighbor to move toward stability and prosperity." Ruutel also called on CIS member states to halt immediately their citizens' service in the former Soviet armed forces, which he said continue to occupy Estonia. BNS carried Ruutel's remarks on December 27. (Riina Kionka) FLYING HIGH IN LITHUANIA. Lithuania will raise airline prices on January 1, BNS reported on December 29. In the new year, a flight from Vilnius to Moscow will cost 300 rubles instead of 47. Visitors to Alma-Ata will pay 950 rubles, up from 113; flights to Baku and Tbilisi will cost 1000 rubles, up from 85 and 77, respectively. (Riina Kionka) ESTONIAN AGREEMENTS WITH UZBEKISTAN . . . Estonia signed an economic and trade accord with Uzbekistan on December 26, BNS reported the next day. Uzbekistan will send Estonia nearly 18,000 tons of cotton in return for Estonian manufactured goods and paper products. The parties will conclude a separate agreement in case either state introduces its own currency. (Riina Kionka) . . . AND WITH RUSSIA. Estonia signed a similar agreement with the Russian Federation on December 28, BNS reported the next day. The parties agreed to trade in world prices and on a most-favored-nation basis but to restrict export of certain goods in short supply. A supplementary accord, to be signed within the next month, will govern trade in case either side introduces its own convertible currency. Estonian officials involved in the talks leading to the agreement reportedly involved in the talks leading to the agreement reportedly accused Russia of not fulfilling its delivery promises for 1991. Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar denied the charges, saying that Estonia had concluded earlier agreements with the USSR, not with Russia. (Riina Kionka) CORRECTION. Estonia has sufficient gasoline and diesel fuel reserves for only three days, not three months, as reported in the Daily Report, December 27. CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE CZECHOSLOVAKIA WANTS SOVIET DEBT IN KIND. An advisor to Czechoslovak Finance Minister Vaclav Klaus says that Czechoslovakia wants the Commonwealth of Independent States to repay the USSR's debt to Czechoslovakia in goods rather than in money. CSTK reported on December 27 that Zdenek Rachac had estimated that the debt amounted to about $5 billion. He said that Czechoslovakia had not yet worked out what each former Soviet republic owed it. (Barbara Kroulik) BIG POLISH-RUSSIAN TRADE DEAL. Poland and Russia signed a trade agreement on December 24 covering "strategic" commodities worth $1.4 billion for each side. Poland is to provide Russia with coal and sulphur, $500 million in food, and $400 million in medicines, according to a report in Gazeta Wyborcza on December 27. In return, Russia is to supply Poland with natural gas and oil. These deliveries should cover all of Poland's natural gas needs and half its oil needs for 1992. A special payments mechanism was devised to avoid the problems of the past. The Poles will pay hard currency into a special account at the Polish Trade Bank; the Russians will draw on this account for their purchases; and a zero balance should be the end result. The agreement was the result of outgoing Finance Minister Leszek Balcerowicz's visit to Moscow on December 18. (Louisa Vinton) PROBLEMS ON POLAND'S BORDERS. Huge crowds of travelers hoping to enter Poland from Ukraine have led the Polish authorities to consider "very drastic measures," including the imposition of entry visas, Deputy Internal Affairs Minister Jerzy Zimowski reported at a press conference on December 23. Ukrainian officials in the Lvov area imposed a ban on the export of 56 goods, including alcohol and food, on December 22 in an attempt to limit border congestion. According to PAP, Ukrainian officials admitted to their counterparts that "horrible corruption" prevailed among Ukrainian customs and border security personnel. The informal trading conducted at Polish bazaars by travelers from the East has also become a serious problem. Polish officials estimated that Soviet "tourists" returned home from Poland with about $1 billion in 1991, despite the fact that the sale of dollars to foreigners is illegal. Officials also said that some 200 people--most of them Romanians--are apprehended every month during illegal attempts to cross Poland's western border into Germany. (Louisa Vinton) CROATIAN UPDATE. German and Croatian media on December 28 quoted President Franjo Tudjman as telling parliament that Croatia must fight on until "the Serb occupier" is evicted "from the last bit of Croatian territory." He also repeated his call for early deployment of UN peace-keeping forces. Meanwhile, for the first time in the war a general alarm went out in Zagreb as the Serbian-dominated federal army fired surface-to-surface missiles nearby. The army also intensified its offensive against Karlovac southwest of Zagreb, with shelling resulting in at least 10 deaths in 24 hours. In eastern Croatia, Osijek continued to be bombarded by Serbian-backed forces. (Patrick Moore) SERBIA DIVIDED OVER WAR, OPPOSES SOCIALISM. Two opinion polls conducted by the Belgrade Institute for Political Studies suggest that Serbia is divided on the issue of the war in Croatia and is turning away from socialism. In a poll published by the Belgrade daily Politika on December 24, 52% of the respondents supported Serbia's government policy on the war, while 48% opposed it. 53% felt the mobilization of the army reserve was fully jusitified, but 28% saw no reason to fight and said they would avoid the call up. On December 29, the daily published results of another poll showing that only 27% supported socialist ideas, down from 40% a year ago. The proportion of non-socialists and anti-socialists had risen from 54% to over 67%. (Milan Andrejevich) SERBIA TO OBSERVE MAJOR RELIGIOUS HOLIDAYS. For the first time in fifty years, Serbian citizens will be given the day off with pay in observance of major religious holidays. According to Radio Belgrade, Serbia's National Assembly on December 27 passed a law extending such rights to the republic's Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Jewish and Muslim believers. (Milan Andrejevich) ROMANIAN AND MOLDAVIAN PRIME MINISTERS MEET. Romanian Prime Minister Theodor Stolojan and his Moldavian counterpart Valeriu Muravschi held talks on December 28, at the latter's request, in the Romanian border town of Husi. Muravschi said he wanted to inform Stolojan about recent developments in the former Soviet Union, which he said could help speed up the process of economic and cultural integration between Romania and Moldavia. Meanwhile, at a holiday gathering on December 27, Stolojan told reporters that reversing the decline in production, which is 35% below the 1989 level, was Romania's priority for 1992. He described the new wage system that takes effect on January 1; this allow the liberalization of salaries on the condition that managers lay off inefficient employees, Rompres reported. (Crisula Stefanescu) HUNGARIAN TAX OFFICIALS GET BROADER POWERS. On December 27, the Hungarian parliament modified the law on taxation to make it possible for tax, customs, and social security authorities to obtain information from banks on depositors' accounts to ascertain a taxpayer's financial situation, MTI reported. Beginning in 1992, Hungarian taxpayers will also have to make yearly property returns to provide tax authorities with a "photograph of their financial position." The law passed by a vote of 170 to 108, with 5 abstentions. The major opposition parties criticized the law as a violation of the right to privacy. Finance Minister Mihaly Kupa argued that the law "does not give unlimited interference rights to the tax office, only a fair chance to correctly supervise." It was Kupa who introduced income taxes to Hungary in 1988, a unique move among communist countries at the time. (Edith Oltay)
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