|If you are not allowed to laugh in heaven, I don't want to go there. - Martin Luther|
No. 23, 04 February 1992
SUCCESSOR STATES TO THE USSR VALUE-ADDED TAX RATES REDUCED. The Russian Supreme Soviet Presidium and the Russian government have agreed on a reduction in the rate of value-added tax for certain products, according-to ITAR-TASS and Interfax of 3-February. The rates-will be lowered at the point of sale from 28% to 15% for flour, pasta, cereals, milk, yoghurt, and cooking oil. The tax will remain at 28% at the point of industrial processing. State-owned catering facilities will be totally exempt from the tax. One agency reported that the measure would reduce tax revenues by 25-30 billion rubles in 1992. There was no-indication-that compensatory revenue would be derived from other sources. [The move represents a serious retreat from Gaidar's stabilization blueprint.] (Keith-Bush) GAIDAR'S PROGRESS REPORT. At a news conference in Moscow on 3-February reported by CIS and Western agencies, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Egor Gaidar put the best face on a catastrophic situation. He reasserted his intention to remain in office; warned of "hard times" for the next two years at least; and hoped that Russia might gain full membership in the IMF as early as April, and thereby qualify for a stabilization fund of some $6 billion. He also set the target date for internal convertibility for the ruble-at a suggested exchange rate of 25-30 rubles to the dollar- at the end of 1993 [previous target dates have been-January-1992 and-January 1993]. (Keith-Bush) RUSSIA'S PRIVATIZATION PLANS. On the fringe of the World Economic Forum at Davos Switzerland, Anatolii Chubais, chairman of the Russian Committee for the Management of State Property, outlined the federation's plans for privatization in 1992 to Western agencies on 3-January. A minimum of 75% of all retail stores, i.e. about 110,000 stores, will be transferred to private hands. Foreign capital will not be allowed to take part in auctions or place tenders because stores would then go for unreasonably low prices, owing to the current exchange rates. Chubais said "we aim to create a solid middle class in Russia which will provide a strong basis for social stability." (Keith Bush) SOBCHAK CRITICIZES YELTSIN. St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak has again criticized Russian President Boris Yeltsin's reform program. In an interview with the International Herald Tribune on 3-February, Sobchak said Yeltsin's biggest mistake had been the failure to provide a true land reform policy. He said the Russian government should have focused on giving land to anybody prepared to use it. Sobchak also said Russia's government was making a mistake in letting military commanders decide which republic they will serve. He said this risks strengthening the role of the army in politics. (Vera Tolz) KHASBULATOV INSISTS ON RIGHT TO CRITICIZE GOVERNMENT. The chairman of the Russian parliament, Ruslan Khasbulatov said that criticizing the policies of the Russian government, was one of the most important prerogatives of his office. Speaking to the association of Russian farmers in Moscow, Khasbulatov said "we will be tough in our criticism of government policies, but we will support the government at critical moments." Khasbulatov also noted that parliament makes a distinction between President Yeltsin and the government. Khasbulatov said that he would resign from his post in parliament before criticizing Yeltsin, ITAR-TASS reported on 3-February. (Vera Tolz) SHAPOSHNIKOV SUPPORTS ARMS PLAN. CIS Commander in Chief Evgenii Shaposhnikov said in Komsomolskaya pravda on 4-February that he supported arms control proposals recently advanced by Boris Yeltsin. Shaposhnikov repudiated those critics who say that Moscow has disarmed itself despite having potential enemies, and said that Russia and the US are now allies. He said that Yeltsin's arms control proposals are not based on unilateral concessions. Shaposhnikov's remarks were summarized by ITAR-TASS on 4-February. (Stephen Foye) TURKEY HOSTS BLACK SEA REGIONAL CONFERENCE. Foreign ministers and deputies from Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Bulgaria, and Romania gathered in Istan-bul on 3-February to discuss a Black Sea regional economic agreement. The object is to facilitate and improve trade among states and republics bordering the Black Sea in the wake of the end of COMECON. The idea, proposed by President Turgut Ozal of Turkey in 1989, gained broad support last summer during a Moscow meeting of those interested countries. Ozal told those assembled in Istanbul yesterday that he was optimistic that such an organization would promote economic growth, improve communication and transportation linkages, and encourage entrepreneurship. (Duncan M. Perry) YELTSIN TO FRANCE. Russian President Boris Yeltsin will be in France from 5 to 7-February for meetings with French President Francois Mitterrand, Foreign Minister Roland Dumas, and Prime Minster Edith Cresson. Items on the agenda include the signing of a friendship treaty and several cooperation-agreements, AFP reported on 3-February. (Suzanne Crow) ROGACHEV ENVOY TO CHINA. According to "Vesti" on 3-February, Igor Rogachev has been named Russian ambassador to China. Rogachev, a career diplomat and expert on Asia, previously served as USSR Deputy Foreign Minister. He replaces Nikolai Solovev as ambassador to China. (Suzanne Crow) LUKIN COMMENTS ON US POST. Russia's new ambassador to the United States, Vladimir Lukin, says he will do everything he can to "secure America's maximum assistance" in Russia's efforts to "consolidate democracy." He also said it is important to convince the US public that Russia is committed to human rights. Boris Yeltsin announced Lukin's appointment on 1-February at the United Nations. (Suzanne Crow) GORBACHEV MEETS JOURNALISTS. Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev met on 3-February with young journalists and political scientists, "Vesti" reported that day. Gorbachev blamed the failure of the former Union republics to sign a Union treaty on the policies of the Russian leadership and warned that reactionary forces in Russia could soon increase their activities. The former president also admitted his own past mistakes. Gorbachev said that in late 1990-early 1991 he should have sided firmly with the democrats. [At the time, Gorbachev appointed to top positions Yanaev, Pugo and other conservatives who later led the putsch against him.] (Vera Tolz) RUSSIAN LAWMAKERS TO INVESTIGATE THE ROLE OF THE KGB. On 4-February, the Russian Supreme Soviet is expected to hear a report from its parliamentary commission on the role of the KGB in the August coup attempt. Last week, it was announced that the hearing would be open to the public. However, on 3-February, the commission's chairman, Lev Ponomarev told the "Ostankino" TV news that the KGB and Supreme Soviet Chairman Ruslan Khasbulatov are effectively preventing a thorough investigation of the KGB's role. Ponomarev also alleged that Khasbulatov had suppressed the findings of another commission, which was appointed by Mikhail Gorbachev to investigate the KGB. (Julia Wishnevsky) UNION OF THEATER WORKERS SURVIVES THE SOVIET UNION. At the plenary session of the USSR Union of Theater Workers, held on 3-February, the organization was renamed the "International Confederation of Theater Unions," Russian TV reported The Leningrad actor Kirill Lavrov was reelected the Confederation's chairman. Like all creative unions (except the Writer's Union), the Confederation continues to embrace the theater unions of all the former Union republics, including the Baltic states. [According to Chas pik, No. 51, 1991, the Lithuanian leader Vytautas Landsbergis still remains a member of the USSR Union of Composers, for instance.] (Julia Wishnevsky) KRAVCHUK ON UKRAINIAN-RUSSIAN RELATIONS. Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk, in an interview with the German weekly Der Spiegel published on 3-February, criticized "chauvinistic forces" in Russia who do not wish to understand Ukraine's claim to independence. The Ukrainian leader said that Ukraine is being subjected to pressure to abandon its independence. The widely-held view in Russia that Ukraine is a part of Russia must change, he asserted. (Roman Solchanyk) LENGTH OF MILITARY DUTY IN UKRAINE CUT TO 18 MONTHS. Among the items on the agenda of the current session of the Ukrainian Supreme-Soviet is a new round of military and security legislation. According to a Radio Moscow report of 2-February, the parliament has already agreed to reduce the length of military duty for conscripts serving in the ground forces of Ukraine from two years to eighteen months, and for sailors from three to two years. The rank of marshal was abolished. The parliamentarians are also expected to pass a law pertaining to conscientious objectors. (Kathy Mihalisko) REFERENDUM CAMPAIGN IN THE CRIMEA. Another campaign has begun in the Crimea to gather signatures in support of a referendum on the peninsula's territorial status, the TV news program "Novosti" reported on 4-February. This is the second time that the Republican Movement of Crimea has sought to push through a referendum. The referendum campaign at the end of last year was ruled to be illegal because there was no referendum law on the books at the time. (Roman Solchanyk) CAMPAIGN TO REHABILITATE THE UKRAINIAN INSURGENT ARMY. The Lvov Oblast Soviet has passed a resolution asking the Supreme Soviet in Kiev to recognize "the national liberation movement" from the 1930s to the 1950s as a "just struggle for Ukrainian independence," Radio Rossii reported on 3-February. In the meantime, the Lvov authorities have decided to extend certain amenities to those repressed for their participation in this movement, including former members of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA). (Roman Solchanyk) TROOP STRENGTH IN BELARUS MAY BE REDUCED BY HALF. A group of experts from the Belarusian Supreme Soviet has done a survey to determine the status of troops on the territory of Belarus, BelTA-TASS said on 3-February. These currently number 160,000, a figure that includes 60,000 personnel working on contract. It is hoped that the total number will be reduced by 1994 to 80,000, including strategic forces subordinate to joint CIS command. The experts believe that an annual military budget for Belarus of 8 billion rubles will be adequate, although the republic cannot afford to buy more weapons or up-to-date technology. (Kathy Mihalisko) CENTRAL ASIAN FOREIGN RELATIONS. On 3-February, the US Embassy in Alma-Ata opened. It is the first foreign embassy in the Kazakh capital, according to KazTAG-TASS. Also on 3-February, ITAR-TASS reported that Turkmenistan has submitted a request for admission to the UN. The other four Central Asian republics have already had their applications for admission approved by the Security Council and are awaiting the resumption of the General Assembly session at the end of February in order to formally join the UN. (Bess-Brown) DNIESTER SITUATION. On 1-February, a Moldovan kolkhoz chairman from the left bank of the Dniester was shot and killed in his car by a "border guard unit" of the "Dniester republic" near Dubasari. On 31-January, 7 Moldovan policemen in the right-bank city of Bendery were beaten up by Russian Cossacks and "Dniester republic" guardsmen who had crossed over from the left bank. On 3-February, a Moldovan police officer was shot and wounded near Dubasari by the guardsmen. The incidents, reported by Moldovapres on those dates, typically occurred when Moldovan policemen and civilians refused to stop their cars for inspection by guardsmen of the "Dniester republic" whose authority Moldova-or any other CIS member state-does not recognize. (Vladimir Socor) RUSSIAN ORTHODOX-ROMAN CATHOLIC RELATIONS. Moskovskie novosti, No. 4 published statements by archbishop Francesco Colasunno, the Vatican representative in Moscow, and by Metropolitan Cyrill, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Department of the Moscow Patriarchate concerning the tense relations between the Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches. Both hierarchs expressed hope that current contradictions would be resolved soon. Confirming the Russian Orthodox Church's intentions, ITAR-TASS reported on 3-February that a Russian Orthodox delegation will participate in a meeting with representatives of the Vatican on 2-3-March.(Oxana Antic) BALTIC STATES ESTONIAN EXCEPTIONALISM? Unlike Latvia and Lithuania, where joint communiques were issued at the end of meetings with Russian Deputy Prime-Min-ister Sergei Shakhrai, Estonia reached no agreement on troop withdrawals, BNS reported on 3-February. Both sides said the recent government changeover in Tallinn made it impossible for the Estonian delegation to conduct official talks, but other sources suggest that the Estonians, unlike their southerly neighbors, may have hardened their position. (Riina Kionka) DENMARK, GERMANY URGE BALTIC RESCUE PLAN. On 3-February in Brussels German and Danish Foreign Ministers Hans-Dietrich Genscher and Uffe Ellemann-Jensen urged the EC to consider a short-term economic rescue package for the Baltic States, an RFE/RL correspondent in Brussels reports. The ministers agreed to order a commission investigation into the needs of the Baltic States. The EC allocated 250,000 ecus of aid to Estonia to ferry 500-tons of sugar from Copenhagen to Tallinn. A British official said that the EC was reluctant to sign any association-type agreements with the Baltic States because of their poor level of development. The trade agreement with Lithuania signed on 31-January was a sort of "half-way house" to the association agreements signed with Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia. (Saulius-Girnius) JUNDZIS ON LATVIA'S ARMED FORCES. Latvia's Defense Minister Talavs Jundzis told Radio Riga on 31-January that he expects the Latvian army to consist of 8,000-9,000 men whose duties would be defensive, rather than offensive. About half would serve as border guards. The formation of the army is greatly hampered by the lack of financial resources (3.5% of Latvia's budget for 1992, which still has not been approved) and weapons. He said that Latvia hopes to obtain rifles and other smaller weapons from the departing Northwestern Group of Forces as part of the troop withdrawal accord. Jundzis noted that this would only be equitable, since the Red Army seized all property and weapons of Latvia's Army in 1940. (Dzintra Bungs) LATVIA'S BORDER GUARDS ASSUME DUTIES. Radio Riga reported on 1-February that Latvia's border guards have begun to patrol their country's borders. In the postwar years these duties were per-formed by border guards of the former Soviet Union. Initially the Latvians took over the posts in the western part of the country, but by the end of 1992 they expect to guard all of Latvia's borders. Minister of State Janis Dinevics is responsible for recruitment of and supplies for the border guards. (Dzintra Bungs) TERLECKAS CONTROVERSY. On 1-February Vytautas Sustaukas, chairman of the Kaunas chapter of the Lithuanian Freedom League read a letter on Lithuanian TV to the organization's chairman Antanas Terleckas, Lithuania's most vocal former political prisoner, questioning his leadership. The Kaunas chapter called a special congress which voted to relieve Terleckas of his post, Radio Lithuania reported on 2-February. Terleckas told the radiothat he was not worried about the action since the congress was illegal. The 27-member council, which has to approve the program of a special congress, was never consulted and at most five council members supported his dismissal. Terleckas said that the dismissal was engineered by National Defense Minister Audrius Butkevicius, whom Terleckas has accused of hindering the formation of Lithuania's army. (Saulius Girnius) HUMAN RIGHTS POLL IN ESTONIA. Some 73% of Estonians and 67% of non-Estonians in the country are not satisfied with their countrymen's level of respect human rights. According to an EC poll conducted last October in Eastern European and the former CIS states, the figures for alleged lack of respect for human rights in Estonia are among the highest for those polled. Andrus Saar, the EC's pollster in Estonia and former ECP ideological watchdog at the audience research section of Estonian Radio, told BNS on 3-February that the poll results do not mean that human rights are being abused in Estonia. Instead, Saar said, the results suggest that the idea of human rights is a highly emotional one in Estonia. (Riina Kionka) RFE/RL LATVIAN BROADCASTS FROM RIGA. RFE/RL Latvian Service began daily broadcasting of its hour-long program on the Radio Riga UHF channel on 3-February. In preparation for the evening broadcast, Radio Riga carried several announcements of the broadcasts and an interview with the service's director Rolfs Ekmanis on 3-February. RFE/RL is continuing its shortwave broadcasts to Latvia as well. (Dzintra Bungs) CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE SERBIAN LEADER SLAMS BABIC. The Serbian-dominated rump federal Presidency continued on 3-February to pressure the ethnic Serbian leadership of Croatia's Krajina region to accept the UN peace plan. Western media quoted Krajina leader Milan Babic as saying that the military is planning "a coup" against him because of his refusal to allow UN peace-keeping troops into Krajina, which he says would be the first step toward reincorporating it into Croatia. The 4-February New York Times cites Serbia's representative on the Presidency, Borisav Jovic, as saying of Babic: "You must understand what crooks we are dealing with. Babic is so weak that even one policeman would be enough to take care of him." Jovic added that the Presidency "stands behind the UN plan." (Patrick Moore) CROATS CALL ON SERBS TO RETURN TO VUKOVAR TOGETHER. The 4-February Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung quotes a letter from Vukovar's Croatian refugees calling on Serbs who fled the town to rejoin them in resettling it. Before the civil war began Vukovar had 55,000 inhabitants, 50% of whom were Croats and 40% Serbs. Vukovar witnessed some of the war's fiercest fighting before the federal army took it from Croatian forces in mid-November. The Croat civilians say in their letter that "we know that it is impossible to carve out ethnically pure territories," and add that "we grew up together, lived and worked together, and now can make a fresh start together." Serbian authorities have begun resettling Serbian refugees in some formerly Croatian and Hungarian settlements in an ef-fort to redraw the ethnic boundaries. (Patrick-Moore) GENSCHER IN POLAND. German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher arrived in Poland on 3 February for a two-day official visit aimed at strengthening political and economic ties between the two countries, Polish and Western media reported. That evening Genscher met with President Lech Walesa; the two stressed the interdependence of their countries and pledged to build on the friendship treaties ratified last year and "to set the framework for economic, political, and cultural cooperation after decades of mistrust." Genscher also met with former Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki and will meet incumbent Prime Minister Jan Olszewski, Foreign Minister Krzysztof Skubiszewski, and Sejm deputies from the German minority in Poland. (Roman Stefanowski) PAP CHIEF EDITOR REPLACED. Olszewski has fired the chief editor of the Polish news agency PAP, Ignacy Rutkiewicz, and appointed Krzysztof Czabanski to replace him, PAP and Western agencies report. In 1981 Czabanski became deputy chief editor of the Solidarnosc weekly and was active in the underground press in the martial law period. Czabanski says he plans "far-reaching structural changes" and intends to change PAP, now a government agency, into "a normal national press agency." Czabanski favors partial privatization of PAP, with the state holding majority shares but with very limited government influence. (Roman Stefanowski) HDF CALLS FOR TV AND RADIO CHAIRMEN TO RESIGN. According to Radio Budapest on 3-February, the national presidium of the ruling Hungarian Democratic Forum called on Elemer Hankiss and Csaba Gombar, the chairmen of the state-run Hungarian Television and Radio respectively, to resign. The HDF's decision followed a move by Csaba Gombar to restructure the religious programs of the radio. According to the new plan, the radio would have broadcast religious programs on FM only and at different times on each Sunday, making it very difficult for most people to follow the schedule. The new plan also made it impossible for ethnic Hungarians in neighboring countries to receive these programs. (Judith Pataki) HUNGARIAN MINISTER CALLS FOR TIGHTER VISA REQUIREMENTS. Hungarian Minister of Internal Affairs Peter Boross urged tighter visa requirements in order to "stop the wave of refugees" to Hungary. Addressing a meeting of high-ranking Internal Ministry officials, Boross said that Hungary has become a target country for refugees from Asia and Africa, and warned that "measures should be taken to prevent the emergence of social tensions similar to those that have occurred in Western Europe since guest workers appeared there in great numbers." In a related development, Radio Budapest reported that 251 people were caught by Hungarian border patrols over the weekend as they tried to enter or leave Hungary illegally, the majority came from Third World countries. (Edith-Oltay) MALEV-LOCKHEED JOINT VENTURE. On 3-February the Hungarian airline Malev and the maintenance division of the US aviation company Lock-heed formed a joint venture to maintain and overhaul large aircraft, Radio Budapest reports. Malev officials said that the venture, to be named Aeroplex of Central Europe, would be half-owned by each company and based at Budapest's Ferihegy airport. The venture has a starting capital of about $6 million and is expected to employ about 1,000 people. It will initially supply maintenance for Malev's fleet and plans to expand its services to include other European, Middle Eastern, and African airlines. (Edith Oltay) DAIWA CONSIDERING CZECHOSLOVAK INVESTMENTS. On 3-February federal Prime Minister Marian Calfa received Hajim Watanabe, Vienna representative of the Japanese Daiwa Securities Company, Ltd., the second largest investment bank in the world, to discuss the bank's interests in Czechoslovakia. Watanabe told Calfa that the bank is particularly interested in long-term investments in the country. Calfa underlined Czechoslovakia's receptiveness to Japanese investments in the privatization process in the country and proposed the establishment of direct contacts at the enterprise level, CSTK reported. (Peter Matuska) NEW CZECHOSLOVAK MBAs. On 3-February the first 62-graduates of the American Institute of Management in Prague were awarded Master of Business Administration degrees, CSTK reported. The program is part of a Czechoslovak-American project to train managers and university professors. US-Ambassador Shirley Temple Black and federal Finance-Minister Vaclav Klaus were present at the ceremony.-The institute is administered by the Univ.of Rochester, which also awarded the degrees. (Peter-Matuska) CFE INSPECTION TEAM DUE IN CZECHO-SLOVAKIA. On 3-February the Czechoslovak Defense Ministry told CSTK that a group of German experts is due to make an inspection of the Czechoslovak military command in Tabor. The experts will conduct the inspection on 4-February, in connection with the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty. (Peter Matuska) ROMANIAN MINING UNION CONFEDERATION. Romania's major miners' unions met on 2-February in the Jiu Valley town of Petrosani to found the "Mining Union Confederation." Consisting of about 106,000 members, the union aims at strengthening the miners' position with the government and mining enterprises, Rompres reported. Miron Cosma, who led the miners in demonstrations in Bucharest last year, was elected chairman. An conference session was called for 21-March. (Crisula Stefanescu) ROMANIAN-TURKISH LINKS ON THE RISE. Foreign Minister Adrian Nastase is in Istanbul for the Black Sea area conference. Turkey's ambassador to Bucharest, Yaman Bashkut, told Tineretul liber that relations between Turkey and Romania are "cordial." He mentioned the growing number of bilateral political and economic contacts and said that the chief of Turkey's armed forces will visit Romania this month. (Crisula Stefanescu) VATRA ROMANEASCA HOLDS NATIONAL CONFERENCE. The ultranationalist organization held a national conference in Lugoj at which its steering committee was joined by a large number of guests, including Josif Constantin Dragan, a wealthy returned exile and honorary president of the union. The conference discussed relations with Romanians abroad, the implications of the local elections, and press-treatment of the union. The final communique calls for reversing the privatization law which Vatra Romaneasca considers "unpopular, ambiguous, and risky for the national well-being," Rompres reports. (Crisula-Stefanescu) KOZLODUY ONCE MORE. The Bulgarian nuclear plant at Kozloduy is again causing trouble. In the early hours of 3-February a water pump at the new 1,000-megawatt reactor no. 6 broke down. The reactor had to be closed down for an expected two weeks and power rationing was reinstituted for the population with one-hour cuts every four hours. As recently as 30-January a similar failure at reactor 5 caused a brief reduction in output. In both cases BTA quoted authorities as saying no radioactive leakage was involved. BTA says reactors 3, 4, and 5 are operating normally (reactors 1 and 2, assessed as particularly unsafe, were closed last fall). On 4-February German media quoted a federal government official, Wolfgang von Geldern, just back from Bulgaria, as saying Kozloduy was a time bomb which should be closed altogether. (Rada-Nikolaev) PARDON FOR SENTENCED BULGARIAN JOURNALIST. President Zhelyu Zhelev on 3-February signed a decree pardoning journalist Vladimir Ignatov, who has been in prison since mid-1989 on a 17-year sentence for espionage and mis-appropriation of funds. Ignatov was BTA correspondent in Madrid until July 1989. Lured home by state security, he was arrested and accused of betraying secrets to Turkish intelligence services, He admitted having worked for Bulgarian intelligence. Since early 1990 Bulgarian journalists-have repeat-edly appealed for a review of the case. Ignatov's wife is an ethnic Turk who was forced to change her name in the 1984-89 assimilation campaign. (Rada Nikolaev) [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Carla Thorson & Charles Trumbull l
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