|When in doubt, tell the truth. - Mark Twain|
No. 25, 06 February 1992
SUCCESSOR STATES TO THE USSR CIS HEADS OF GOVERNMENT TO MEET IN MOSCOW. The working group responsible for organizing meetings of CIS heads of state and heads of government has settled a nine-point agenda for a two-day meeting of CIS heads of government starting in Moscow on either 7-February (Interfax) or 8-February (TASS). The meeting, which was originally scheduled for 24-January, will focus on economic issues, TASS and Interfax reported on 5-February. The topics will include material supplies and financing of the CIS armed forces, food and agricultural imports, coordination in the sphere of power supplies, and an interstate agreement on ecological problems. For reasons that were made not clear, representatives of Ukraine and Azerbaijan did not attend the working group's session. (Ann Sheehy) YELTSIN IN FRANCE. Russian President Boris Yeltsin arrived in Paris for a three-day visit on 5-February. Speaking at a reception in Versailles, Yeltsin called for the "renewal of the Russo-French dialogue" which goes back in history. He noted that, "our states have always been worthy partners and have gained sufficient experience of cooperation." Following a meeting on the evening of 5-February with French President Francois Mitterrand, Yeltsin said "full understanding" was reached on disarmament questions, bilateral issues, and aid. The sides are expected to sign a friendship treaty on 6-February. (Suzanne Crow) UKRAINIAN-RUSSIAN SUMMIT ON CRIMEA PROPOSED. The Supreme Soviet of the Crimea has proposed a Ukrainian-Russian summit with the participation of Crimean representatives, the TV program "Novosti" reported on 5-February. Today is the deadline for two Russian parliamentary commissions to report on their study of the legality of the 1954 transfer of the Crimea from the RSFSR to Ukraine. In the meantime, a public opinion survey conducted in the Crimea in-January shows that 42% of respondents favored remaining within Ukraine while 15% wanted the peninsula to be part of Russia. Another 22% felt that the Crimea should be a sovereign republic within the CIS. Independent statehood was supported by only 8%. (Roman Solchanyk) OFFICERS AND POLITICIANS. The final results of polling data collected at the 17-January All-Army Officers' Assembly were published by Nezavisimaya gazeta on 5-February. Some 1,500 officers from all over the CIS reportedly completed questionnaires. The most alarming results came on a question concerning the political position that the army should adopt. Nearly 80% of all respondents said that the army must have the deciding vote on the army's future, while only 19% said that the army should wait for decisions by politicians. On the popularity of particular politicians, respondents had the most favorable feeling toward Nursultan Nazarbaev (65%), Aleksandr Rutskoi (36%), Viktor Alksnis (29%), and Boris Yeltsin (21%). The politicians arousing the greatest antipathy were Leonid Kravchuk (46%), Mikhail Gorbachev (45%), and Vladimir Zhirinovsky (33%). Some 70% of all respondents said they wanted to restore the former unified states within the USSR's borders.(Stephen Foye) KOBETS SAYS ARMY "SIMMERING." In the same issue of Nezavisimaya gazeta, Russian Federation security advisor Konstantin Kobets said that discontent is "simmering" in the armed forces and that unless that attitude is addressed, the discontent could explode into civil war. Kobets expressed his doubts about the viability of the CIS, called upon Russia openly to state that it will defend its interests and build its own army, and called upon CIS leaders to pass legislation on the political and social rights of servicemen. (Stephen Foye) CHERNAVIN ON ARMS CONTROL. The commander of CIS naval forces, Admiral Vladimir Chernavin, told reporters on 5-February that recent disarmament proposals by the Russian and US presidents "are directed toward radically reducing nuclear confrontation . . . and are both right and sensible." Chernavin nevertheless suggested that the proposed Russian cuts were more comprehensive than those being proposed by Washington, ITAR-TASS reported. (Stephen Foye) NAZARBAEV ON DISARMAMENT. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev told visiting German Economics Minister Juergen Moellemann on 5-February that disarmament issues should be resolved through consultations with military experts and in coordination with all CIS states, Interfax reported. He added that hasty decisions should be avoided, and was mildly critical of Boris Yeltsin's latest disarmament proposals, commenting that there is a large gap between the "essentially sound ideas underlying them" and their implementation. Nazarbaev appears to be annoyed that although the CIS states were informed in advance of Yeltsin's proposals, they had no role in devising the proposals. (Bess Brown) INTERVIEWS WITH NEW DISTRICT COMMANDERS IN UKRAINE. President Leonid Kravchuk's three newly-appointed military district commanders were interviewed on 5-February by Ukrinform-TASS. Lieutenant General Valentin Boriskin maintained that tension in the ranks of the army had abated after Kravchuk's recent visit to the Kiev MD, when the president gave assurances that nationality would not play a factor in decisions affecting military personnel. Lieutenant General Vitalii Radetskii of the Odessa MD said the army should stay clear of politics and concentrate purely on military affairs. His counterpart in the Odessa MD, Lieutenant General Valerii Stepanov, said that the implementation of reforms is connected with the elimination of nuclear arms and planned moves toward a professional army. (Kathy Mihalisko) TAXES CUT, PENSIONS RAISED. At a news conference in Moscow on 5-February, Russian Minister of Labor and Employment Aleksandr Shokhin and Russian First Deputy Minister of the Economy and Finances Andrei Nechaev outlined the first major retreat from the (nearly) balanced budget that was approved on 24-January. As reported by ITAR-TASS of that date, Shokhin confirmed that the value-added tax on certain staple foodstuffs will be lowered from 28% to 15%, and that pensions and stipends will be raised by some 200 rubles a month. The cut in VAT will make a "hole" of about 25-30 billion rubles in revenues, while the pension supplements will cost around 15 billion rubles a month. (Keith Bush) HOPES FOR WESTERN FOOD AID. At the same news conference, Shokhin regretted that massive Western food aid, expected after 20-January in the wake of the Yeltsin government's commitment to economic reform, had so far not materialized. He attributed the delays to technical factors on both sides, including problems with credit guarantees and with transportation. Shokhin expressed optimism that these technical problems would be resolved in the next few days. The minister gave the impression that the Russian government is relying primarily-perhaps almost exclusively-on Western aid to stabilize the food situation. (Keith Bush) PRICES, SUBSISTENCE, AND POVERTY. Shokhin told the news conference that retail prices had risen by 300-350% in January, i.e. by more than had been envisaged. In the light of the price increases, Shokhin put the current minimum subsistence level at 550 rubles a month. According to the TV news program "Novosti" of 5-February, Russian Minister of Social Affairs Ella Panfilova told the Russian parliament that day that 80% of all Russians and 90% of Russian pensioners are now living below the poverty level. (Keith Bush) GOVERNMENT RENEGES ON ADVANCE CAR PURCHASE DEALS. One of former Soviet Prime Minister Valentin Pavlov's schemes to soak up the ruble overhang was the advance purchase arrangement, aka specific purpose loan, government warrant sale, and zero-interest note. The consumer paid out the full price of a car or other coveted consumer durable and was guaranteed delivery after a few years (see Pravitelstvennyi vestnik, No. 29, 1990 for details). In his progress report in Izvestiya of 29-January, Egor Gaidar concedes that the present government cannot meet that inherited commitment, even when the excise tax on the cars is removed and the face value of the deposit doubled. [Retail prices for "Zhiguli" cars have risen from around 10,000-rubles in mid-1990 to 114,000-168,000 rubles now]. (Keith Bush) RUSSIAN PARLIAMENTARY COMMISSION CONDEMNS ALTERNATIVE POWER STRUCTURES. The Russian parliament's Commission on National-State Structures and Interethnic Relations issued a statement on 5-February describing attempts by national movements to proclaim new national-state formations and create alternative power structures as unconstitutional and a threat to interethnic relations and the integrity of the Russian Federation, ITAR-TASS reported on 5-February. The commission mentioned specifically the recent creation of a majlis (national parliament) in Tatarstan, and similar steps by national movements in Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachaevo-Cherkessia. (Ann Sheehy) YAKUTIA INTENDS TO REMAIN PART OF RUSSIA. The Yakut-Sakha information agency (YaSIA) has rejected reports in Russian parliamentary circles and in the press that Yakutia is intending to secede from Russia, ITAR-TASS reported on 5-February. In a statement sent to ITAR-TASS, YaSIA says that the Yakut parliament decreed that "the republic of Sakha (Yakutia) as a sovereign state in the Russian Federation is in favor of treaty relations with the Russian Federation." The crux of the matter is that the Russian leadership has decided to go back on its initial plan to establish treaty relations with its constituent republics, seeing this as tantamount to recognizing their independence. The republics are insisting that anything other than treaty relations is an infringement of their sovereignty. (Ann Sheehy) LIBERAL JOURNALIST MISSES GORBACHEV. Prominent journalist Olga Chaikovskaya confesses in Literaturnaya gazeta (No. 5) to missing Gorbachev "desperately." Under Gorbachev, she asserts, the country made great progress towards his aim-transformation of the USSR into a state based on law. Since Gorbachev's departure, Chaikovskaya alleges, "not only have we not gotten any closer to this aim, but we have gone a long way backward." Today, she claims, "the law and order situation in Russia is fraught with the danger of political trials." This seems to be the first time a liberal journalist has expressed nostalgia for Gorbachev's leadership. (Julia Wishnevsky) PRAVDA TO PRINT ONLY 5 DAYS A WEEK. Pravda announced on 5-February that the soaring price of paper would cause it to publish one day less per week. (The newspaper will stop appearing on Thursday, and it traditionally does not come out on Sunday.) A Western agency quoted Deputy Chief Editor of Pravda Viktor Linnik as saying the price of paper has gone up from 2,000 to 11,000 rubles per ton. He also said Pravda had been forced to pay retailers more to sell the newspaper. Linnik said there would be no reduction in subscription rates despite dropping one day a week. (Vera Tolz) KIEV DEPUTIES PROTEST ANTI-UKRAINIAN MEDIA. A group of 70 Kiev city deputies has forwarded a statement to the Ukrainian president and the Ukrainian Supreme Soviet protesting anti-Ukrainian material in the Russian mass media, Radio Kiev reported on 5-February. The statement notes that the anti-Ukrainian campaign is linked to Russian claims to the Crimea and qualifies these actions as "unfriendly." Under these conditions, say the lawmakers, it would be better for Ukraine to leave the CIS. (Roman Solchanyk) HUMAN RIGHTS ASSOCIATION FOUNDED IN UZBEKISTAN. The first human rights organization in Uzbekistan's history was founded in Tashkent on 2-February, Birlik Popular Front journalist Vasila Ahmadqizi told RFE/RL on 5-February. Tashkent State University Associate Professor Abdumannap Polatov, a member of the Birlik Executive Council, was elected chairman of the independent Human Rights Association of Uzbekistan, which is pledged to defend human rights in the political, economic and cultural spheres. (Yakub Turan/Timur Kocaoglu) TAJIKISTAN'S COMMUNIST PARTY DEFENDS ITSELF. The Communist Party of Tajikistan has issued an appeal to the country's citizens denying opposition charges that the party was responsible for violence during disturbances in Dushanbe in February, 1990, TadzhikTA-TASS reported on 5-February. The appeal called for a parliamentary statement on the 1990 events and said that the events should not be used as a divisive issue. Publication of such an appeal suggests that the ruling communists remain frightened of the influence of the democratic opposition, which is still seeking to dislodge them from power. (Bess Brown) SOME PRICES REDUCED IN TAJIKISTAN. Radio Mayak reported on 5-February that prices for some food products, including bread, flour, and meat, have been reduced in Tajikistan, and Tajik President Rakhman Nabiev has asked the Cabinet of Ministers to consider the reduction of prices for children's shoes. Nabiev admitted earlier that the population had been hit hard by the January price increases, and social measures would have to be adopted quickly. (Bess Brown) BALTIC STATES ARMS FOR ESTONIA? Estonia is looking to buy cheap weapons with which to arm its border guards, according to State and Border Defense Authority chief Toomas Puura. Puura told BNS on 4 February that Estonia would most likely get arms from withdrawing former Soviet troops. Puura said Estonia has considered buying weapons from Czechoslovakia and was recently approached by an unofficial dealer from the Chechen Republic. Puura also said Estonia thought about buying arms from other former Soviet republics, but that proved unworkable "since they don't have enough weapons for their own use." (Riina Kionka) TALLINN AIRPORT CLOSED. Acute fuel shortages closed Tallinn's airport on 5 February, Reuter re-ported. Only the once-weekly flight to Budapest took off-all others were cancelled. Airport officials have suspended ticket sales until 12 February and were unable to say when flights would resume. The closure is unlikely to affect US Vice President Dan Quayle's scheduled arrival in Tallinn on 6 February, since Quayle is flying aboard Air Force Two. (Riina Kionka) MIRONOV ON TROOP WITHDRAWAL. Col. Gen. Valerii Mironov, commander of the Northwestern Group of Forces, told the press in Riga on 4 February that he has been authorized to deal on behalf of Russia regarding the pullout of troops of the former USSR in the Baltic States, Diena and TASS reported that day. He said the specific withdrawal schedule and procedure still have to be worked out and that the pullout is contingent upon ensuring the welfare of troops and military pensioners. When asked to confirm the correctness of the troop figure-45,000 altogether, of whom 17,000 are officers and praporschiki-used in the Latvian-Russian talks on 1 February, Mironov only said that the figure is close to the mark. (Dzintra Bungs) RUSSIA TO FINANCE TROOP WITHDRAWAL FROM BALTICS. On 5 February Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shakhrai said over Russian television that Russia will finance the withdrawal of Soviet army troops from the Baltic States. Shakhrai said that the withdrawal would cost about 6 billion rubles "in old prices." He headed a Russian delegation to the Baltic States last weekend, which agreed that the withdrawal from Lithuania would begin this month and from Latvia in March. No dates were set for the completion of the withdrawal. (Saulius Girnius) MIRONOV NOT OPPOSED TO CUSTOMS INSPECTION OF THE MILITARY. On 30-January, Latvian customs officials checked for weapons a Northwestern Forces' military vehicle and its passengers at the Latvian-Lithuanian border. The passengers protested to their superiors against the inspection which was done in accordance with the decision of the Latvian Supreme Council of 22 January stipulating that everyone, including the military, may be subject to a customs check in Latvia, BNS reported on 3 February. Asked about the right of Baltic customs officials to check military persons, Mironov replied affirmatively, but noted that an accord is needed, similar to those with Poland and Germany, Diena reported on 4 February. (Dzintra Bungs) LATVIA INITIALS EC TRADE PACT. On 4-February, European Community and Latvian representatives initialled a trade and cooperation agreement. An accord was recently signed with Lithuania, and a similar agreement with Estonia is expected to be ready on 24 February, reported Reuter and AFP on 5 February. According to an unidentified EC spokesman, the accords are a first step in building closer ties between the EC and the Baltic States and place relations with the Baltic States on the same level as those with other Eastern European countries. The accord with Latvia eliminates trade barriers for many goods, but not for textiles, steel, and agricultural products. (Dzintra Bungs) CANADA WARNS BALTICS ABOUT FORMER SU DEBT. Canada has reportedly told Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania that they must accept responsibility for part of the former Soviet Union's debt, a RFE/RL correspondent in Ottawa reported on 5 February, Unnamed senior government officials said that notes were sent to the Baltic capitals in January stating that the republic in question must accept a share of the debt before Canada will agree to negotiate terms of new credit lines. Lithuanian and Latvian officials replied by saying that they will pay back "only the share of the debt accumulated by Moscow for spending within their own individual borders." This appears satisfactory since officials from the Export Development Corporation will travel to the Baltic capitals next week to negotiate the details of credits. (Saulius Girnius) CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE UPDATE ON THE FORMER YUGOSLAVIA. On 5-February Western news agencies quoted UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali as saying that leaders of Croatia and of Croatia's ethnic Serbs are stopping the UN peace plan from going ahead. Boutros-Ghali's special envoy Marrack Goulding had earlier said that the Serbs in Croatia refuse to allow UN troops to be stationed inside their enclaves and that Zagreb was trying to renegotiate the terms of the agreement concluded on 2 January. The 6-February Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports that German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher phoned Croatian President Franjo Tudjman on behalf of the EC on 3-February, and that the Croats deny that they have reneged on their promises. The German Foreign Ministry accepts the Croatian position and rejects reports that Zagreb has gone back on its word. Meanwhile, the chairman of the EC's committee dealing with the former Yugoslavia, Lord Carrington, has returned to the area for talks with Serbian, army, Bosnian, and Croatian leaders. Finally, On 5 February Macedonian police sealed off federal army bases in that republic to prevent the military from removing equipment as the army withdraws. Macedonia says that it paid good money toward the military budget over the years, and that consequently the equipment belongs to Macedonia. (Patrick Moore) KOSOVO ALBANIAN LEADER FEARS WAR. The Secretary of the Committee for the Protection of Human Rights in Kosovo fears an outbreak of war there because of Serbia's repressive rule and the recent activities of Albanian political groups. In an interview with Borba on 5-February, Zenun Qelaj said that Albanians are becoming more convinced that "life together with the Serbs is impossible," and are critical of Albanian political parties because some have agreed to hold talks with the Serbian authorities and opposition groups. More than 90% of Kosovo's population is Albanian. In 1990 Serbia ended Kosovo's self-governing autonomy, but last year Albanian political groups declared Kosovo a republic, which was endorsed in a popular vote. (Milan Andrejevich) PREPARATIONS FOR LOCAL ELECTIONS IN ROMANIA. Reports from the Central Electoral Commission, carried by Rompres and Western agencies, say that some 16,648,000 Romanians are registered for the local elections on 9-February, and 14,192 polling stations will be opened. There are 12,175 candidates for mayoral jobs and 119,736 for local councils, with 131-registered parties. Almost 5,000 Romanians and foreigners sought accreditation as observers. As regards Bucharest, the last opinion poll shows the opposition Democratic Convention's candidate leading with 48%, with the NSF candidate trailing with 19%. Bucharest will present its new government with major problems. Some $500 million are needed to rebuild its water, sewage, telephone, and road infrastructures. It is getting only 80% the water it needs, and with about 2.2 million residents was short of 120,000 apartments in 1991. It has had four mayors since December 1989. (Crisula Stefanescu) BULGARIAN-MOLDOVAN DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS. Moldova's Foreign Minister Nicolae Tiu paid an official visit to Bulgaria on 5 February and signed a protocol establishing diplomatic relations. Bulgaria had recognized the independence of Moldova last 24 December. BTA said Tiu and his Bulgarian counterpart Stoyan Ganev also agreed to prepare a treaty on friendship and cooperation, a consular convention, a trade and economic agreement, and a protocol on the exchange of goods for 1992 and 1993. Tiu was quoted as thanking Bulgaria for having been one of the first to recognize his country and saying that, after Spain and Turkey, Bulgaria is the third country with which Moldova signed a protocol. (Rada Nikolaev) BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT PASSES LAWS ON RETURNING PRIVATE PROPERTY. The National Assembly on 5 February passed two laws on returning expropriated private property to its owners or their heirs. They concern expropriation by two different groups of laws, namely one passed between 1948 and 1952, and another in the following years up to 1990. A first law restoring property forcibly sold on the basis of a law of 1975 was passed on 11 December 1991. The new laws, as summarized by BTA, involve mainly housing, but also enterprises like cinemas, print shops, food warehouses, and others. A separate law will deal with property which has since been destroyed. (Rada Nikolaev) POLISH NATIONAL DEFENSE COMMITTEE MEETS. The National Defense Committee met on 5 February for the first time under the new government to discuss the reorganization of the armed forces and the new overall defense concept, PAP said. According to Defense Minister Jan Parys: "most of the time was taken up with discussing the external threats to our sovereignty and internal threats to the country's stability." The most controversial proposal involved reducing the military by 50,000 to around 200,000 men. It's sponsor said such a reduction is both "possible and necessary" and is in accord "with the general trend toward disarmament obtaining now in Europe." Cuts are already under way. In the last two years the army's strength dropped by 14,000, and more are sure to go after Parys' proposal last week at the Military Council that all "who do not identify with the new pro-Atlantic option" leave the army voluntarily. (Roman Stefanowski) SOUTH AFRICAN PRESIDENT IN HUNGARY. Frederik Willem de Klerk paid a one day official visit to Budapest on 5 February, Hungarian radio said. He held talks with Hungarian leaders about expending bilateral relations. He also expressed shock about the economic damage caused to Hungary by "Marxism," but said that Hungary is standing before a "flowering future." He compared Hungary to South Africa, saying that both countries had given up old and useless ideologies. (Karoly Okolicsanyi) EC-HUNGARIAN TRANSIT FEE TALKS. An EC delegation started negotiations in Budapest 5-February over Hungary's ten-fold increase in truck transit fees this year, MTI said. Meanwhile, Greek truckers ended their ten-day blockade of the Greek border crossing points to Yugoslavia and to Bulgaria, which had been launched to protest the hike. Hungary says it needs the money for road improvements. The conflict in the former Yugoslavia led to road traffic between Western and South-Eastern Europe being redirected through Hungary. (Karoly Okolicsanyi) CZECHOSLOVAK TANK UPDATE. A ship carrying 12 Czechoslovak-made tanks bound for Syria has docked at the Danish port of Soeby but must apply for an export permit before it can resume its voyage, Danish Justice Ministry official Joergen Poulsen said on 5 February. The ship is also carrying ammunition and spare parts, Western agencies report. The shipment is believed to be part of a deal signed last year involving the export of 250 T-72 tanks to Syria. Last week, German authorities recalled a German ship with 16 Czechoslovak tanks in the Mediterranean. (Barbara Kroulik) (As of 1200 CET) Compiled by Carla Thorson & Charles Trumbull
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