|Every custom was once an eccentricity; every idea was once an absurdity. - Holbrook Jackson|
No. 31, 14 February 1992
SUCCESSOR STATES TO THE USSR DEFENSE WILL DOMINATE MINSK TALKS. As republican leaders gather for the 14-February CIS summit, reports out of Minsk indicate that discussion on military issues will dominate the proceedings. Belta-TASS reported on 13-February that 13 draft documents have been approved for discussion. They include agreements on: defining the powers of the CIS supreme defense bodies; drawing up a single defense budget and procedure to finance the joint armed forces; defining the status of CIS strategic forces; the disposition of general purpose forces during a transitional period; and creating the main command of the CIS armed forces. Control over general purpose forces has proven in the past to be a particularly contentious issue. Meanwhile, CIS Commander in Chief Evgenii Shaposhnikov told Radio Mayak on 13-February that the working group meeting before the summit had not considered the issue of control over the Black Sea Fleet. (Stephen Foye) ECONOMIC TOPICS ON SUMMIT AGENDA. Four economic topics, which were not dealt with by the Council of the CIS Heads of Government on 8-February, are on the agenda of the Minsk summit, Ivan Korotchenya, chairman of the working group responsible for organizing CIS summit meetings told Belta-TASS on 13-February. They include the question of a single railway transport system, economic interaction in the CIS, and a differentiated approach to profitability within the limits of 50%. (Ann Sheehy) KOBETS ON CFE AND DIVISION OF ARMY. In an interview published by Izvestiya on 13-February, Russian state defense advisor, Army General Konstantin Kobets discussed the difficulties of dividing up former Soviet general purpose forces while observing limits set by the CFE treaty. Kobets said that the current deployment of tanks and other weaponry and equipment favors Ukraine, Belarus, and the Transcaucasian republics, and that Russia therefore opposed dividing up these assets on the basis of simple "privatization." He called instead for using criteria established earlier within the former Warsaw Pact as the basis for dividing up forces within the relevant CIS republics. Under this formulation, he said, Russia would receive 54.1% of the assets in question, Ukraine would receive 21.8%, and Belarus 6.6%. His remarks were clearly linked to the 14-February Minsk meeting and to proposals that Russia create its own army. (Stephen Foye) STATUS OF RUSSIAN ARMY. Russian President Boris Yeltsin on 13-February denied widespread reports that he intends to issue a decree ordering the creation of a Russian army soon after the 14-February meeting, ITAR-TASS reported on 13-February. On the same day, Yeltsin advisor Galina Starovoitova denied a recent report that she has been offered the post of Russian defense minister. She told RFE/RL that while she would accept such a post if it were offered, she felt that Russian society had not matured to the point where it could accept a civilian defense minister, let alone a woman. (Stephen Foye) SHEVARDNADZE ON DANGERS OF ETHNIC CONFLICT. Shevardnadze said in Moscow on 13-February that ethnic conflict was the most acute problem facing the former USSR, Interfax and Western agencies reported on 13-February. Shevardnadze, who was addressing the first meeting of the ethno-political studies center he helped to set up, said the center would prepare recommendations for CIS leaders, focussing initially on Nagorno- Karabakh, South Ossetia, the ethnic Germans, and Russian-Ukrainian relations. He said separatist leaders in the CIS had underestimated the possible international repercussions of their actions. The center stated that in the past four years nearly 10,000 people had been killed in 175 ethnic clashes. (Ann Sheehy) CHANGES IN YELTSIN ECONOMIC PROGRAM. During his address to the Russian parliament on 13-February, President Boris Yeltsin announced that he would disclose changes in his reform program on nation-wide television on 19-February, CIS and Western agencies reported that evening. First Deputy Prime Minister Gennadii Burbulis later told Interfax that the corrections would affect recent measures in the fields of taxation, prices, loans, and social protection. Interfax on 13-February also quoted Aleksei Ulyukov, an economic adviser to the Russian government, as saying that prices on oil, coal, and bread would shortly be decontrolled; a "bread supplement" would be added to wages, pensions, and stipends. (Keith Bush) YELTSIN ON KOZYREV'S FUTURE. In the question and answer period following his address to the Russian Supreme Soviet on 13-February, Russian President Boris Yeltsin tried to sidestep a question on Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev's future. Asked about Kozyrev's possible appointment as ambassador to the UN, Yeltsin said only: "As Mark Twain put it: 'the rumors of my death are somewhat exaggerated,'" He then added: "Kozyrev is not being appointed to any post. He is working as foreign minister and remains in that job. He is alive and well and is sitting in front of you," Russian TV reported on 13-February. (Suzanne Crow) RECESSION CONTINUES. At a news conference in Moscow on 13-February, reported by ITAR-TASS and Reuters, Goskomstat Chairman Pavel Guzhvin reported that Russian industrial output had dropped by 15% in January. [It was not clear whether the decline was measured against January 1991 or December 1991]. The area of land under cultivation in 1992 will be lower than last year, and the output of tractors and combines in January was down by about one half. The consumer price index was up by some 350%, while wholesale prices had risen by a factor of five. Oil extraction was down by 14%. (Keith Bush) RUTSKOI SHARES FATE OF LIGACHEV. Russian President Boris Yeltsin told the parliament that Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi has been entrusted with the task of overseeing agricultural reform and would be obliged to report to him every two weeks and to parliament every month on the progress of reform, Radio Moscow reported on 13-February. Rutskoi's new appointment is reminiscent of Gorbachev's banishing of his rival Egor Ligachev to that same sector in 1988. (Alexander Rahr) RUTSKOI FAVOURS GREAT RUSSIAN STATE. Rutskoi told Nezavisimaya gazeta on 13-February that he favors a transition to democracy through a "lengthy period" of strong central power, which would be democratically elected and controlled by the parliament. Rutskoi also stressed that he will fight for the "reestablishment of a single democratic state united on the territory of the greater Eurasian territory." He thus seemed to propose the recreation of a Russian empire on most of the territory of the former Soviet Union. (Alexander Rahr) STANKEVICH PROMOTED. The duties of Russian State Counsellor Sergei Stankevich have been enlarged. Formerly responsible for ties with social organizations, he has also officially been placed in charge of "political questions," Radio Mayak reported on 13-February. As a result, Stankevich is now Russian President Boris Yeltsin's main advisor on Russian domestic political affairs and has moved, together with other close Yeltsin aides to office in the Kremlin. (Alexander Rahr) RUSSO-CHINESE BORDER ACCORD. On 13-February the Russian Supreme Soviet ratified the agreement concluded between the USSR and China on the eastern section of the two states' border signed in May 1991. Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev and Chairman of the Supreme Soviet Committee for International Affairs and Foreign Economic Ties Vladimir Lukin took pains during the parliamentary debate to point out that Russia made no territorial concessions to China over the border. Debate focussed on the fate of islands in the waterways along the border-a matter of considerable historical importance to Moscow and Beijing. Kozyrev said that of the 1,845 islands in the rivers, more than half (both in number and area) belong to Russia. He noted that two islands in the region of Khabarovsk and Argun were still a matter of dispute, ITAR-TASS reported on 13-February. (Suzanne Crow) NEWSPAPER PREDICTS INFORMATION CRISIS IN RUSSIA. Russia and other member countries of the CIS are on the verge of an "information catastrophe," Komsomolskaya pravda predicted on 12-February. The newspaper said that the sharp increase in costs of paper, printing and distribution has resulted in a situation where most major newspapers are almost bankrupt. The newspaper said that if, in the near future, the Russian government and other CIS members don't take steps to save these papers, they will be closed down. Those few official newspapers which are government subsidized as well as various small papers (which are usually very radical) won't help to overcome the "information hunger" in the CIS. Meanwhile, the Russian Journalists' Union called on 13-February for a one-day blackout of political news coverage in the CIS to protest paper shortages and financial problems, Western agencies reported that day. No date for the strike was announced. (Vera Tolz) UKRAINIAN CONSTITUTION REJECTS SOCIALISM AND COMMUNISM. The Ukrainian Supreme Soviet voted on 13-February to amend the country's constitution by dropping all references to communism and Soviet power, Reuters reported on 13-February. Deputies deleted Article 68 from the constitution describing Ukraine as a Soviet socialist republic dedicated to building communism. Instead, Ukraine is now described as an "independent, democratic, legal state." (Roman Solchanyk) KRAVCHUK GRANTED BROADER POWERS. The Ukrainian parliament also granted President Leonid Kravchuk the right to issue economic decrees until a new Ukrainian constitution is approved. Kravchuk had earlier asked for increased powers, saying that reform measures were being blocked by local administrators. The Ukrainian leader will now be able to reorganize government ministries and appoint ministers. He can also declare war, martial law, or a state of emergency. In other legislative action, deputies failed to adopt a measure giving the Supreme Soviet the authority to confirm or amend the borders of the Crimean ASSR. (Roman Solchanyk) NEW UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENTARY FACTION. Deputies in the Ukrainian Supreme Soviet have formed a parliamentary faction called "New Ukraine," Radio Kiev reported on 13-February. The group is composed of representatives from various political parties, associations, and entrepreneurs. The initiative comes from leaders of the Party of Democratic Rebirth of Ukraine headed by, among others, Deputy Chairman of the Ukrainian Supreme Soviet Vladimir Grinev. (Roman Solchanyk) EC OFFICIAL ON UKRAINIAN DEBT. EC Commissioner Henning Christophersen has said that Ukraine's insistence on repaying its share of the former Soviet foreign debt independently could endanger EC aid to the CIS, Reuters reported on 13-February. The official told a news conference that Ukraine would not receive any of the $1.6-billion in aid to the CIS unless it made a firm pledge to service its share of the debt. It could not be excluded, he added, that Ukraine's stand on the issue could threaten overall aid to the CIS. (Roman Solchanyk) BAKER IN CENTRAL ASIA. Turkmenpress-TASS reported on 13-February that US Secretary of State James Baker has agreed to establish diplomatic relations with Turkmenistan. Turkmen Foreign Minister Abdy Kuliev told journalists that the two countries will soon exchange embassies. Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov has been invited to visit the US. After meeting with Niyazov, Baker travelled to Tajikistan, where he met with Tajik President Rakhman Nabiev, and according to an ITAR-TASS report of 13-February, pronounced himself satisfied with Tajikistan's commitment to democracy, development of a market economy, and respect for human rights. Nabiev later told a press conference that Tajikistan strictly follows a policy of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and their components, and he confirmed earlier statements that the country does not intend to export uranium. (Bess Brown) MOLDOVA MORE INTERESTED IN ECONOMIC QUESTIONS. Before leaving for Minsk, Moldovan President Mircea Snegur said that Moldova was-more interested in discussing economic than military questions at the summit, ITAR-TASS reported on 13-February. He said that the republic could solve its military problems through talks with the top army leadership. On his arrival in Minsk, Snegur said that Moldova was having productive talks with representatives of the high command on forming Moldovan armed forces on the basis of units stationed in Moldova, Belta-TASS reported on 13-February. He said Moldova would not sign doc-uments dealing purely with joint armed forces. He also said that in his view the "commonwealth is not long-lasting," Western agencies reported. (Ann Sheehy) MOLDOVAN PREMIER ON COOPERATION WITH REPUBLICS OF FORMER USSR. Moldovan Premier Valeriu Muravsky told the Moldovan parliament on 13-February that the economies of the former union republics were so closely integrated that Moldova should continue to cooperate with these republics and any divorce should be civilized, Moldovapres reported on 13-February. Muravsky said that because of this Moldova should take an active part in the meetings of CIS leaders and CIS coordinating organs. At the same time, Moldova needed to establish contacts with other countries. Because Russia could not fully meet its fuel needs, Moldova was establishing its first business contacts with Kuwait. (Ann Sheehy) BALTIC STATES TALLINN MAYOR FORCED TO RESIGN. Tallinn's controversial mayor Hardo Aasmae resigned on 13-February after soundly losing a no-confidence vote in the city council, ETA reports. The city council's Republican Party faction, which pushed for his removal, said Aasmae could not supply Tallinn with food or get crime under control and that he often acted without first consulting the city council. The council also "personally blamed [Aasmae] for harming the reputation of the city by scandalous behavior." Aasmae has drawn sharp criticism over the last year for his flamboyant style and shady business dealings, which allegedly in-cluded demanding personal kickbacks for allowing foreign companies to create joint ventures in the-city. Aasmae was widely expected to fall as soon as his long-time close associate, former Prime Minister Edgar Savisaar, was removed from power. (Riina Kionka) WEAPONS FOUND AT TALLINN'S PORT. An incident this week in Tallinn suggests that trade in weapons intended for the former Soviet armed forces may be on the rise. During a routine check at the port, Estonian customs officials discovered a shipment of 15,000 Makarov-type pistols, ETA reported on 12-February. Listed in the shipping documents as "sporting pistols," the guns were sent by the Izhevsk Mechanics Factory in Russia's Udmurt republic via Tallinn to a company called Kenford Enterprises, Ltd., in Finland. The Makarov is a light gun with a short range unsuitable for sporting purposes. It is carried by some Soviet military officers for self-defense and is favored by terrorists for its compactness. The ETA report did not say whether the guns were to be shipped further once they reached Finland, or whether the factory had received official sanction for the arms sale. Estonian Customs Department Deputy Director Igor Kristapovits said he feared Tallinn would become a point of arms and narcotics transit trading, adding that it was alarming "to see such an amount of weapons transported without any security, like they were cabbages." (Doug Clarke & Riina Kionka) NEW AGRICULTURE MINISTER. Estonian Prime Minister Tiit Vahi has named Aavo Molder as Minister of Agriculture, ETA reported on 13-February. Molder, currently director of the Laeva experimental state farm, is now a Supreme Council deputy. The Supreme Council is expected to confirm the appointment next week. (Riina Kionka) WARNING STRIKE IN RIGA. Bus drivers in Riga staged a warning strike during the morning of 13-February to draw public attention to the problems caused by an acute shortage of fuel and spare parts. These factors have necessitated reduction of bus service and an increase in ticket prices. At the same time, the bus drivers' income has fallen, because they are not paid for cancelled bus trips. Their situation is exacerbated by the soaring inflation in Latvia. Regular (i.e. reduced) bus service was resumed in the afternoon, Radio Riga reported on 13-February. (Dzintra Bungs) LANDSBERGIS CONCLUDES VISIT TO GERMANY. Vytautas Landsbergis concluded his four-day visit to Germany with meetings with Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Economics Minister Jźrgen Mšllemann, and other government officials. Landsbergis said that he had asked for help in creating a stabilization fund of $100-200 million to support a Lithuanian currency, which he hopes to introduce in the second half of the year, after Lithuania has joined the IMF. He also asked for German technical support to renovate the Lithuanian railroad used to withdraw former Soviet troops from both countries. Mšllemann said that an investment protection treaty would probably be signed on 28-February, a RFE/RL correspondent in Bonn reported on 13-February. (Saulius Girnius) RETURN OF KGB FILES TO LITHUANIA. On 14-February Radio Lithuania reported that Russian Security Minister Viktor Barannikov did not see any major problems in returning KGB files to Lithuania. He had held talks on the question on 12-February with Lithuanian Deputy Prime Minister Zigmas Vaisvila and delegated Lithuanian parliament deputies. Barannikov said that it would take time to select the desired agency files and they could be given to Lithuania only after the signing of an intergovernmental agreement that would detail the handing over of the files and the conditions of their future use. (Saulius Girnius) CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE SLOVAKS REJECT TREATY. On 12-February the Slovak parliament presidium rejected the draft treaty aimed at resolving the dispute between Czechs and Slovaks over keeping the country together. Parliament leaders said their negotiators had made too many concessions to Czech teams. The draft text failed by one vote. Slovak Premier Jan Carnogursky said that the country could break up unless the treaty is approved, CSTK reports. (Barbara Kroulik) TOP CZECHOSLOVAK COMMUNISTS COMMITTED TREASON IN 1968. The Czechoslovak Interior Ministry on-February 13 said 18-former communist leaders committed treason in connection with the 1968 Soviet-led invasion, Western agencies report. The men were named in a report stemming from an investigation launched in 1990. It names former party leaders Milos Jakes and Vasil Bilak and former premier Josef Lenart as well as Zdenek Mlynar, a "Prague Spring" reformer who helped found the Charter-77 human rights movement. Ministry spokesman Martin Fendrych said the 20-year statute of limitations on most crimes makes it unlikely they will be prosecuted. Mlynar, denying he committed treason in 1968, denounced the ministry's statement as "political slander" and said the charges of helping a foreign occupier are inconsistent with the persecution he has suffered since then as "an enemy of the post-August regime." (Barbara Kroulik) CONTROVERSY OVER POLAND'S FINANCES. Andrzej Topinski, acting head of the Polish National Bank (NBP), has warned that the bank would not agree to a base interest rate on central bank lending much below the current level of 40%, Polish and Western media reported on 13-February. The need for a high base rate is also accepted by Finance Minister Karol Lutkowski, who argues that the base rate should stay at around the present level, in order to attract capital to finance the government budget deficit (currently running at about 6% of gross national product). Jerzy Eysymontt, the minister in charge of the Central Planning Office (CUP), on the other hand, sees a lower base rate as a way to fight recession. Polish financial policies have a bearing on the further disbursement of the three- year, $2.5-billion IFM loan facility, suspended last year. The CUP's Halina Wasilewska said on 13-February that she saw the possibility of compromise among the various government members, but also pointed out that the NBP's position is somewhat independent from the government, since the bank is answerable only to the Sejm. (Roman Stefanowski) SYMBOLIC ENDING TO UKRAINIAN-POLISH CONFERENCE. At the close of a three-day conference at Jadwisin, Dmytro Pavlychko, Chairman of the Ukrainian Supreme Soviet's Foreign Affairs Commission, spoke the same symbolic words first used in the 1960's by the Polish Episcopate in connection with German-Polish relations: "we forgive and beg for forgiveness." Pavlychko said that "there have been many wrongs between Ukraine and Poland in the past, but in order that we may build something positive, let us leave the past to the historians," PAP reported on 12-February. The last day of the conference was given over to a discussion of nuclear weapons remaining in Ukraine and the conversion of the armaments industry to civilian needs. (Roman Stefanowski) ROMAN SATISFIED WITH ELECTIONS. Former premier Petre Roman, who heads the National Sal-vation Front, expressed satisfaction with the NSF's performance in local elections. Although the final official results are still not available, Roman said that he has been told the NSF won about 45% of the total votes, nearly double the votes won by the opposition Democratic Convention; but he acknow-ledged losses in the main cities of Bucharest, Brasov, and Timisoara, Rompres reported. (Crisula Stefanescu) ROMANIAN BORDER VIOLATIONS. Romania's Senate passed on 13-February a law making it a crime to cross the Romanian border illegally, or to smuggle cultural treasures, weapons, ammunition, or drugs. Punishment would range from six months to two years in prison. Rompres quotes the commander of the border guards. Gen. Dumitru Luca, as saying that about 2,000-border violations were reported in the first six weeks of this year, the most serious on the borders with Hungary and Yugoslavia. (Crisula Stefanescu) BULGARIAN ECONOMIC STATISTICS FOR JANUARY. On 13-February BTA quoted the National Statistical Institute as reporting that industrial production in January had dropped by 34% as compared with January 1991. The main reason cited was the lack of marketing opportunities, which resulted in the discontinuation of 115-products and the temporary closing of 355 enterprises. Only 47% of industrial enterprises reported no drop in their sales. Retail turnover was said to have dropped by as much as 57.5% below the January 1991 level. Decreases were also reported for construction and transport. (Rada Nikolaev) MACEDONIAN LEADER IN SOFIA. Lyubcho Georgievski, leader of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity in the Republic of Macedonia, is visiting Sofia at the invitation of the Fatherland Union, BTA reported on 13-February. He met with Aleksandar Yordanov, leader of the parliamentary caucus of the UDF and chairman of the Parliamentary Commission on Foreign Policy, who told BTA that the guest expressed his gratitude for Bulgaria's recognition of Macedonia. On 14-February BTA said that the daily press gives extensive coverage to the visit and the previous evening Georgievski had been interviewed on TV "without translation," a fact that demonstrated the close linguistic relationship between Bulgarian and Macedonian. (Rada Nikolaev) UN BEGINS TO SET UP PEACE-KEEPING FORCE FOR FORMER YUGOSLAVIA. International media reported on 13 and 14-February that UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali has urged the quick deployment of 13,000 soldiers and police to the Yugoslav area, primarily to Croatia. Milan Babic, the increasingly isolated ethnic Serb leader in Croatia's Krajina region, had warned Boutros-Ghali in a letter that the troops might become casualties, but apparently UN officials feel that other Serbian and federal army leaders can control Babic. The operation will be the UN's biggest since the Congo crisis of 1960-64, and 31-countries are being asked to contribute troops. They include Czechoslovakia, France, Poland, Russia, and Britain, but none of-the former Yugoslavia's immediate neighbors, most of whom did not want to participate anyway. (Patrick Moore) BOSNIA CONFERENCE BEGINS. Yugoslav and Western media report that the EC conference on Bosnia-Herzegovina has begun in Sarajevo. Reporters are not allowed in the closed-door session, but there is widespread speculation that Serb-Croat rivalry has been shelved, with both sides supporting the partition of the multiethnic republic into cantons. This solution is strongly opposed by Muslims, numerically the republic's largest nationality. On 11-February an official of the Croatian Democratic Community, one of three parties sharing political power in the republic, said that the "best democratic solution to the Bosnian crisis is that it be cantonized." A spokesman for the Serbian Democratic Party told RFE/RL that no definitive agreement has been made so far, but he is confident that the Croats will convince their Muslim allies that a peaceful reorganization of the republic is the only way to avoid civil war. On 29-February, a Muslim-Croat backed referendum on Bosnian independence takes place. (Milan Andrejevich) YUGOSLAV AIRPLANES VIOLATE HUNGARIAN AIRSPACE. Hungarian Defense Ministry spokesman Gyorgy Keleti alleged, according to MTI, that on 13-February two Yugoslav federal army war planes violated Hungarian airspace, and Yugoslav war planes also entered the 10-kilometer neutral air zone along the Hungarian-Yugoslav border several times. The Yugoslav air force denied the violations, and Yugoslavia's military attache in Budapest was summoned to the Hungarian army headquarters to clarify the matter. The Hungarian air force has been placed on an increased state of alert. (Edith Oltay) VUK DRASKOVIC VISITS HUNGARY. On 13-February, the leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement, Vuk Draskovic, arrived for a four-day visit to Hungary at the invitation of the Jakov Ignjatovic cultural foundation. Draskovic is scheduled to meet Hungarian Foreign Minister Geza Jeszenszky, the head of Secretariat for Hungarians Abroad, Geza Entz, the leaders of major Hungarian parties, and representatives of the Serbian minority in Hungary. (Edith Oltay) [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Carla Thorson & Charles Trumbull l
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