|Comedy is an escape, not from truth but from despair; a narrow escape into faith. - Christopher Fry|
No. 5, 09 January 1992
SUCCESSOR STATES TO USSR BARGAIN IN THE MAKING OVER BLACK SEA FLEET? There are hints that the parties concerned would like to defuse the impasse over the Black Sea Fleet. Radio Rossii reported on January 9 that the navy had sent a proposal to Ukraine on a phased transfer of some units of the fleet to Ukraine. It also spoke of the possibility of creating a joint Black Sea Fleet. Ukraine's President Leonid Kravchuk told TASS on January 8 that as long as the Black Sea Fleet was part of the strategic forces-that is, as long as it possessed nuclear weapons-it would belong to the CIS. These weapons would be withdrawn from Ukraine by July 1 of this year. (Doug Clarke) STATEMENT ON "GROUNDLESS ACCUSATIONS AGAINST UKRAINE." The Ukrainian National Information Agency on January 8 issued a statement to protest the tendency of some CIS members (i.e., Russia) to make Ukraine the scapegoat for current tensions in society. The statement condemned what it termed tendentious statements by "the highest leadership of a neighboring state" on Ukraine's alleged violations of the Minsk agreement in the military sphere, particularly with respect to the Black Sea Fleet. (On January 8, following criticism of Ukraine's moves by Yeltsin, Ruslan Khasbulatov, and top naval commanders, St. Petersburg mayor Anatolii Sobchak told CIS TV that Ukraine's efforts to take control of former Soviet military units showed that the idea of the Commonwealth has failed.) The statement accused Russian leaders of attempting to recreate imperial military structures by demanding the loyalty of nonstrategic forces stationed in Ukraine. (Kathy Mihalisko) KRAVCHUK: SPEED UP IMPLEMENTATION OF START. Kravchuk on January 8 reaffirmed his country's non-nuclear intentions before a visiting delegation of the US Armed Services Committee, headed by chairman Les Aspin, and added that Ukraine, unlike Russia, does not plan to join NATO or any other military blocs. As quoted by CIS and Western agencies, Kravchuk said Ukraine is studying a plan to remove all tactical weapons from its soil by July 1, destroy all strategic arms by 1994, and do the START treaty several steps better by eliminating all ICBM silos in Ukraine in only three years, with international help. (Kathy Mihalisko) CIS NUCLEAR HOT LINE. During his meeting with Aspin's delegation, Kravchuk also maintained that reliable telephone communications have been established between himself, Russian President Boris Yeltsin, Belarus Supreme Soviet Chairman Stanislau Shushkevich, and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev to prevent any one side from launching a nuclear missile without coordination with the other three strategically armed states. As quoted on January 8 by TASS, Kravchuk added that a device will be installed in his office in the next few days that "will be able, when necessary, to block the nuclear button. This means that it will be impossible to launch a missile from any point in the former Union without a joint decision by us." (Kathy Mihalisko) RUSSIA PUBLISHES MILITARY OATH. Russia has added its entry to the growing list of military oaths being presented to members of the former Soviet military. This version, published in Izvestia on January 9, calls for allegiance to the "Russian Federation and its people" and has the service member swear never to use weapons "against my own people and their legally elected organs of power." It calls for military service anywhere the Russian government decrees, either inside or beyond Russian territory and requires the service member to observe the laws of the state on whose territory he or she is stationed. Postfactum on January 8 indicated that some non-Russian mid-rank officers in the Far Eastern Military District said they would not take the oath. Russians serving in the Black Sea Fleet in Ukraine will evidently have 3 oaths to choose from: Russia's, Ukraine's, and a CIS oath. (Doug Clarke) YELTSIN FACES ANGRY SHOPPERS. On the first leg of his tour (deemed "courageous" by Central TV's anchorman) to gauge reaction to price liberalization, Yeltsin encountered "indignation" and "dissatisfaction" among shoppers in Saratov and Engels, according to TASS and Central TV of January 8. The President made the valid point that his predecessors had not dared to take this vital, albeit painful, step towards the market. Russian First Deputy Minister of the Economy and Finances Andrei Nechaev told RFE/RL on the same day that the liberalization of prices is proceeding normally. (Keith Bush) NEW WAGE DATA. The average monthly wage of Russian industrial workers has risen to 960 rubles, according to estimates of the Russian Ministry of Labor, reported by Western agencies on January-8. Trud, presumably of the same date, is quoted as giving average monthly wage and salary levels for Moscow, where industrial workers receive 1,194 rubles, teachers 756 rubles, and medical workers 650 rubles a month. The latest issue of Commersant is also quoted as estimating the current poverty level at roughly four times the minimum wage of 342 rubles a month. (Keith Bush) CASH SHORTAGE REPORTED. According to Radio Moscow on January 8, the Russian Central Bank has only enough cash for two days of transactions. However, in an interview with Corriere della Sera of the same date and reported by TASS, the chairman of the bank, Georgii Matyukhin, stated that the printing presses are working flat out, and that checks would be issued at the end of January to cover the shortage. Matyukhin also disclosed that 500-ruble notes would be in circulation by April, but he opposed the issue of 1,000-ruble notes, as this would, in his view, further stimulate inflation. He was critical of the Gaidar strategy of freeing prices before competition among producers was effective. (Keith Bush) ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT LEADERS MEET WITH GAMSAKHURDIA. Two Armenian parliament leaders met with deposed Georgian President Zviad Gamsakhurdia in Idzhevan on January 8 to discuss his and his entourage's "temporary stay" in Armenia, TASS reported on January 8. An Armenian representative in Moscow denied the claim made by the notoriously unreliable Military Council member Tengiz Kitovani that Gamsakhurdia had been offered political asylum in Armenia, TASS reported on January 8. Gamsakhurdia told journalists on January 8 that he had been deposed by "the nomenklatura mafia" which had proved "stronger than democracy" and that he would not resign but "continue our fight for legitimacy and justice, for the establishment of constitutional power in Georgia," Western news agencies reported on January 8. (Liz Fuller) ACTING PRIME MINISTER CLAIMS GAMSAKHURDIA IS MENTALLY ILL. Speaking at a press conference in Tbilisi on January 8, acting Georgian Prime Minister Tengiz Sigua argued that Gamsakhurdia can no longer hold office as he was certified insane by the Serbsky Institute in the late 1970s. Sigua further stated that parliamentary elections will be held in April but that no president would be elected; he expressed support for the idea of a constitutional monarchy, according to Cox Newspapers of January 9. Demonstrations in support of Gamsakhurdia were held on January 8 in Tbilisi, and the cities of Kutaisi and Sukhumi in Western Georgia, "Vesti" reported on January 8. The Tbilisi meeting dispersed peacefully after an hour. (Liz Fuller) MOSCOW MAYOR'S SPECIAL POWERS CRITICIZED. Moscow Mayor Gavriil Popov has again come under fire by local government officials because of the special powers to carry out economic reforms granted by Yeltsin on January 1. Pravda of January 8 carried an interview with Aleksandr Sorokin, chairman of one of Moscow's regional councils, in which Sorokin said that Popov's increased authority jeopardized the regulation and monitoring of the city budget. He suggested that Popov's increased authority would only aggravate the deterioration of relations between the mayor and the City Council. (Carla Thorson) YELTSIN ON GERMAN AUTONOMY. On his visit to the Osnovsky sovkhoz in Saratov oblast on January 8, Yeltsin promised the local population that only those areas where Germans constituted 90% of the population would be included in a restored German autonomous territory, TASS and Central Television reported on January 8. Yeltsin again mentioned the Kapustin Yar testing ground in Volgograd oblast as a possible area for German resettlement. (Ann Sheehy) BASHKIR-TATAR TENSIONS IN BASHKIRIA. Interethnic tensions have risen in Bashkiria in the wake of the decision by the recent Congress of the Bashkir People to work for the creation of an independent Bashkir state within the republic's existing frontiers, in which the "indigenous inhabitants" would enjoy substantial privileges, TASS reported on January 8. The decision has been sharply condemned by a plenum of the Tatar Public Center of Bashkiria, which said that under no circumstances would areas inhabited by Tatars be part of a self-proclaimed Bashkortostan. In 1989 Bashkirs constituted 21.9%, Tatars 28.4%, and-Rus-sians 39.3% of the republic's population. (Ann Sheehy) FRONTIER BETWEEN CHECHNYA AND INGUSHETIA RESTORED. The parliament of the self-proclaimed Chechen republic decided on January 8 that the frontier that divided the Chechen and Ingush autonomous oblasts before their merger in 1934 should be restored, TASS reported on January 8. The parliament said it based its action on the creation of an independent Chechnya and the desire of the Ingush, confirmed by a recent referendum, to create their own autonomous territory within the Russin Federation. (Ann Sheehy) HEAD OF RELIGIOUS BOARD REMOVED. Tashkent journalist Anvar Usmanov informed RFE/RL on January 8 that Muslim religious leaders in Uzbekistan had just announced the resignation of the chairman of the Muslim Religious Board for Central Asia, Mufti Muhammad-sadyk Muhammad-Yusuf. An unsuccessful attempt to remove the mufti was made in 1991 after he had been accused of having allowed the sale of Korans donated by Saudi Arabia that were supposed to be distributed free to believers. The mufti was also charged with being too subordinate to state authorities. According to Usmanov, Muhammad-Yusuf has been replaced by his predecessor, Shamsuddin Babakhanov, who was ousted after demonstrations by angry believers who accused him of insufficient commitment to Islam. (Bess Brown) NEW FOREIGN MINISTER IN UZBEKISTAN. UzTAG-TASS reported on January 8 that Ubaidulla Abdurazzakov has been appointed Foreign Minister of Uzbekistan. He formerly headed the State Committee on Publishing. He replaces Shakhlo Makhmudova, who was transferred to unspecified "other work." This is the second time in two months that a Central Asian republic has replaced a female foreign minister with a man-on December 21, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev replaced Akmaral Arystanbekova with Toleubai Suleimenov. In the past, when republican foreign ministries were largely for show, those in Central Asia were often headed by "token women." (Bess Brown) KARIMOV'S STATE REORGANIZATION. The appointment of a new foreign minister in Uzbekistan was part of a reorganization of state functions undertaken by President Islam Karimov. UzTAG-TASS reported on January 8 that the post of vice president has been abolished and that of prime minister has been created. The incumbent Vice President, Shukrullo Mirsaidov, has been appointed a state secretary responsible to the president; there have been rumors of disagreements between Karimov and Mirsaidov. At the same time, the institution of hakim (governor) has been created in oblasts, raions and towns. These officials, who will be directly subordinate to the president, will head executive and legislative organs in their regions. (Bess Brown) PRICE INCREASES IN KYRGYZSTAN. Radio Mayak reported on January 8 that Kyrgyzstan's Vice President German Kuznetsov had given a press conference on the price increases in the republic, seeking to turn popular anger over the increases against the bureaucracy. Describing the increases as part of a necessary "shock therapy," Kuznetsov said that the problems that accompanied the increases showed that the state trade network is incapable of coping with market mechanisms. (Bess Brown) ALMA-ATA WORKERS THREATEN TO STRIKE. The Russian TV news show "Vesti" reported on January 8 that the previous day representatives of 40 enterprises in Alma-Ata had met with oblast trade union leaders and threatened to stage a city-wide general strike if prices are not lowered again. On January 10, workers' representatives and trade union officials are to meet with Kazakhstan's prime minister to discuss social protection in the face of freed prices. (Bess Brown) CORRECTIONS. The Daily Report of January-7 incorrectly reported the date on which Ukrainian Defense Minister Konstantin Morozov asserted that Ukraine intended to take control of the Black Sea Fleet. In fact, Morozov made his statement on January 4 (not January 5). The date for Rabochaya tribuna's report on KGB surveillance of Gorbachev's political rivals in the Daily Report of January 8 was incorrectly given as December 7. The correct date is January 7. BALTIC STATES LITHUANIA PROTESTS EXERCISES. The Lithuanian government protested military maneuvers planned for January-8 in the vicinity of Vilnius, BNS reports. Lithuanian government spokesman Edigius Bickauskas told reporters that the Northwestern Group of Forces notified the government of planned exercises but used "a tone [suitable for] ultimata." Bickauskas said the maneuvers violate Lithuania's sovereignty and are not helpful in building normal and mutually beneficial relations between Lithuania and the CIS. ETA reported on January 8 that military exercises were also held in Estonia that day, but there was no reaction from the Estonian government. (Riina Kionka) WORLD BANK IN ESTONIA. A World Bank delegation is visiting Estonia this week, ETA reported on January 8. The delegation is evaluating the local economy in preparation for Estonia's possible membership in the IMF and the IBRD. Minister of the Economy Jaak Leimann, the delegation's official host, said the adoption of Estonia's own currency would be the main economic event of 1992, but added that introduction of the kroon would be "a shock rather than a romantic episode." (Riina Kionka) FUEL SHORTAGES CONTINUE IN LATVIA. Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis told Diena on January-7 that in 1992 Latvia can expect to receive from Russia 70% of the petroleum products that it received in 1991. An accord was reached in Moscow on January 6 in which it was stipulated that Latvia would provide food for the Soviet troops on its territory in exchange for the petroleum products. Due to fuel shortages the number of flights from the Riga airport has been drastically cut and the number of buses running in Riga has been reduced. In order to alleviate these problems, Latvian officials have flown to Bashkiria to try to obtain petroleum products in exchange for foodstuffs. (Dzintra Bungs) IVANS RESIGNATION ACCEPTED. On January-7 the Latvian Supreme Council (voting 85 for, 18-against, and 24 abstaining) accepted Dainis Ivans's resignation as deputy chairman. The council did not elect anyone to replace Ivans and decided to discuss further the possibility of restructuring the leadership of the council, Diena reported on January-7. Ivans announced his desire to resign from the office of deputy chairman of the Supreme Council in December 1991. (Dzintra Bungs) LITHUANIA FREES PRICES. On January 8 Lithuania freed the prices of food and other consumer goods, according to Western agency reports that day. This step was necessitated by Lithuania's desire to institute a market economy and follows similar steps taken earlier by Latvia and Estonia. For some goods prices jumped 200%. Despite the price hikes, milk, butter, sugar, and salt are still rationed in Lithuania. (Dzintra Bungs) GERMANY TO HELP LITHUANIAN MILITARY. On January-8 an accord was reached in Bonn between Defense Ministers Gerhard Stoltenberg of Germany and Audrius Butkevicius of Lithuania that Germany would help train Lithuania's armed forces and build up its administration. The talks between Stoltenberg and Butkevicius also dealt with developments in the Baltic States, the security situation in Europe, and cooperation in the new North Atlantic Cooperation Council, Western agencies report. (Dzintra Bungs) CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE UN STILL TO SEND OBSERVERS TO YUGOSLAVIA. On January-8 the UN Security Council approved sending 50-observers to Yugoslavia despite the downing of an EC helicopter the previous day by what the January 9 Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung calls "Serbian rockets of death." The EC, however, said it is suspending its observer mission in Yugoslavia until the safety of its personnel is assured but plans to go ahead with its peace conference in Brussels on January 9. (Patrick Moore) YUGOSLAV DEFENSE MINISTER RESIGNS. Western media also reported that federal Defense Minister Veljko Kadijevic resigned on January-8 "for health reasons," and that Chief of Staff Blagoje Adzic, a Serbian hard-liner, will assume his duties. The BBC on January-9 quotes Borba as calling the helicopter incident "an attempted coup." The broadcast added that Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic is exerting strong pressure on Serbian leaders in Croatia to accept the agreement he signed with UN envoy Cyrus Vance, Kadijevic, and Croatian President Franjo Tudjman. It is not clear, however, whether he has succeeded, as German TV suggested on January-8. Elsewhere, a few incidents were reported in Dubrovnik and elsewhere, but the cease-fire generally seemed to be holding on the second day of Serbian Orthodox Christmas. (Patrick Moore) SOLIDARITY CALLS FOR PROTEST OVER PRICE HIKES. On January-8, following a meeting in Gdansk with Labor Minister Jerzy Kropiwnicki, the Solidarity Trade Union leaders voted 72-1 to call a nationwide one-hour strike January-13 to protest energy price increases introduced on January-1. In a last-minute plea to union representatives, Prime Minister Jan Olszewski said "suspending the rises would finally ruin the budget, already in a fatal state." In response, Solidarity Chairman Marian Krzaklewski told reporters "if the government suspends its decision-.-.-. Solidarity will suspend its strike action." Solidarity made clear, however, that its protest was directed against the manner in which the price hikes were introduced-without consultation with the trade unions-rather than the hikes themselves. Earlier, workers in a Gdansk region went on a one-hour warning strike, Western and Polish media reported. (Wladyslaw Minkiewicz & Louisa Vinton) REVIEW ON ABORTION RULES ASKED. Ombudsman Ewa Letowska told Gazeta wyborcza on January-8 she believed the medical association new rules on abortion violate both the Polish Constitution and a series of Polish laws. She said she has asked the Constitutional Tribunal for a judicial review of the association's decision. The doctors decided last month to allow abortion only in cases of rape or if pregnancy threatens a mother's life, but current Polish law allows abortion in additional circumstances as well. (Wladyslaw Minkiewicz) POLAND AND LITHUANIA TO SIGN FRIENDSHIP TREATY. Polish Foreign Minister Krzysztof Skubiszewski will visit Lithuania next week to sign a declaration on friendly relations between the two nations as well as a consular convention. The declaration, due to be signed January-13, will formally end a period of tensions between Warsaw and Vilnius over Lithuania's treatment of its ethnic Polish minority. Skubiszewski postponed signing the agreement last November after Warsaw said Vilnius had tried to change some of the clauses regarding the Polish minority in Lithuania, Western and Polish media reported. (Wladyslaw Minkiewicz) CZECH MINISTER REJECTS MERCEDES CONDITIONS. Czech Industry Minister Jan Vrba on January-8 rejected as "totally unacceptable" conditions set by Mercedes Benz for a joint venture with Czech truck manufacturer Avia. The joint venture, announced on January-6, requires approval by the Czech government. CSTK quotes Vrba as saying that negotiations are continuing and that it is premature to set a deadline for the agreement. Hospodarske noviny reported that Mercedes sought tax-free operation in Czechoslovakia for 10 years, among other conditions. (Barbara Kroulik) BSN, NESTLÉ STRIKE SWEET DEAL. The French BSN and Swiss Nestle groups on January-8 each obtained approval from the Czech government to buy 21.5% of Cokoladovny Prague, Czecho-slovakia's biggest confectionery. Czech priva-tization minister Tomas Jezek has valued the deal at about $100 million, foreign agencies report. (Barbara Kroulik) CZECH JUSTICE MINISTER STEPS DOWN. On January 8 Leon Richter stepped down from his post after denying that he had collaborated with the former communist secret police. Richter offered to resign last week citing poor health as one of the reasons. His resignation was accepted the same day by the Czech parliament. (Barbara Kroulik) HUNGARIAN-ESTONIAN PRIME MINISTERS MEET. Hungarian and Estonian Prime Ministers Jozsef Antall and Edgar Savisaar met for the first time in Budapest on January 8 in what MTI described as an "atmosphere of cordial friendship." The two Prime Ministers agreed to develop bilateral political, economic, and cultural ties which had been reduced to a minimum during the decades of Soviet rule. Antall suggested the setting up of a joint committee to coordinate the expansion of bilateral ties, and stressed that Hungary intends to develop "especially close and cordial relations with the kindred Estonian and Finnish peoples." Savisaar expressed the wish to examine Hungary's experiences concerning privatization and the withdrawal of Soviet troops. (Edith Oltay) HUNGARY CONCERNED ABOUT BISHOP TOKES. Hungarian Foreign Minister Geza Jeszenszky telephoned his Romanian counterpart Adrian Nastase to express concern about the safety of the ethnic Hungarian Reformed Bishop of Oradea, Laszlo Tokes, who has recently received death threats. Jeszenszky asked Nastase to determine who issued the death threats and pointed out that such actions hurt Hungarian-Romanian relations. Nastase replied that the threats probably came from a "troublemaker or lunatic" intent on damaging Romanian-Hungarian relations. Bishop Tokes, who sparked the 1989 Romanian revolution, has received numerous death threats, some of them published openly in the ultranationalist press. Jeszenszky's action was reported by MTI, citing a statement by Hungarian Foreign Ministry spokesman Janos Herman. (Edith Oltay) UNEMPLOYMENT IN ROMANIA. The Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare reported on January 7 that 265,978 persons (almost 60% of them women) are registered as being currently unemployed; 223,776 are industrial workers. The Labor Office also registered 71,462 persons who are unemployed but who, for reasons not made clear, are not entitled to compensation under the unemployment law. The office pays benefits worth about 60% of the total indexed net basic wages for 594,760 employees of the commercial companies that had to shut down in November 1991 because of energy shortages. These benefits total some one billion lei. (Mihai Sturdza) ROMANIA'S AGRICULTURE IN A DESPERATE STATE. Agriculture and Food Minister Petre Marculescu told Dimineata on January-3 that the damage inflicted by decades of forced collectivization cannot be undone in only one year of privatization. The new private farmers did not get the assistance the needed, he said, and privatization has been accomplished through arbitrary measures and accompanied by theft of state property. Five of the eight million hectares of arable land remain unplowed for the spring sowing. Romania's 100,000 tractors are insufficient to complete all farm activities in time. The dramatic drop in agricultural output, high equipment prices, and lack of hard currency to pay for imports have created bleak prospects for the food supply in 1992. (Mihai Sturdza) BULGARIAN STRIKE COMES JUST BEFORE ELECTION. Tens of thousands of Bulgarian workers staged a nationwide warning strike on January-8 to demand increased minimum wages and pensions and improved social benefits, Western agencies report. Asen Rizov, deputy chairman of the excommunist Confederation of Independent Trade Unions that organized the action, said that 270,000 workers went on what was mostly a one-hour strike. Rizov said another 520,000 workers were displaying arm bands or other signs of support but remained on their jobs. The anticommunist trade union movement Podkrepa not only did not support the action but also claimed that a large majority of the excommunist unions did not support the strike. The confederation's action comes only four days before Bulgaria's first popular presidential election Sunday. Twenty-one candidates for the presidency have been announced, but incumbent Zhelyu Zhelev is regarded as the clear favorite. (Nick Kaltchev) TODOROV TRIAL BEGINS. Gen. Vladko Todorov, former chief of Bulgarian intelligence, went on trial in Sofia on January-8, Western agencies reported. He is accused of destroying files containing evidence about the 1978 murder in London of exiled dissident writer Georgi Markov. Military prosecutor Lilko Yotsov was quoted as saying that the case "caused a lot of damage to Bulgaria's international prestige." Todorov faces up to eight years in prison. His codefendant, former Deputy Interior Minister Stoyan Savov, died two days ago, a probable suicide. (Charles Trumbull) [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Sallie Wise Chaballier & Charles Trumbull
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