|A host is like general: calamities often reveal his genius. - Horace|
No. 35, 20 February 1992
SUCCESSOR STATES TO THE USSR YELTSIN ON REFORM CORRECTIONS . . . In President Boris Yeltsin's interview on Russian TV, 19-February, there were few specifics on the corrections to his reform program that had long been predicted by Burbulis, Gaidar, and Yeltsin himself. He promised tax breaks for enterprises which increased output, new "beneficial" tax laws for privatized firms, a reevaluation of the 28% value-added tax, and continued subsidies for steel, aviation, and space plants. However, Yeltsin vowed to maintain the thrust of his reform program (which, incidentally, has never been published in detail). He admitted that privatization should have been implemented earlier, and warned that "we have many very hard times ahead of us." (Keith Bush) . . . ON RELATIONS WITH UKRAINE. During his television interview, Yeltsin also discussed Russia's relations with Ukraine. Responding to a question about the recent summit in Minsk, Yeltsin said that he could not conceal that the talks were difficult. The problem, he maintained, is that there are "many" in Moscow who view Russian-Ukrainian relations from the standpoint of "old Unionist traditions" when all of the states "marched in a single line." The Russian leader maintained that Ukraine's position and opinions should be respected and that relations should be normal and businesslike. Yeltsin also said that Russia has no reason to do anything that would force Ukraine out of the CIS. (Roman Solchanyk) KRAVCHUK: YELTSIN HAS NO AUTHORITY TO SPEAK FOR CIS IN ARMS TALKS. Speaking on 19-February at a press conference in Kiev, Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk asserted that the Russian president has no authority to speak for the CIS as a whole in nuclear arms reduction talks with the United States. As quoted by Radio Kiev, Kravchuk proposed that the disarmament process begun by the United States and the Soviet Union now enter a "4 + 1" stage, i.e., that Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan take part in negotiations with Washington. A second stage of talks, which Kravchuk called "4 + 4," would include the world's other nuclear powers. The US State Department was quick to respond with a statement saying that all four CIS states with long-range weapons will be included in disarmament talks, according to Western news agencies. (Kathy Mihalisko) UKRAINIAN PAPER SENSES MOSCOW PLOT IN "DEFECTION" OF BOMBER PILOTS. The Ukrainian Supreme Soviet newspaper Holos Ukrainy has interpreted the controversial flight of six SU-24 crews from Ukraine to Russia as an action planned by certain political and military forces in Moscow to sow discord between Yeltsin and Kravchuk at the Minsk CIS summit on 14-February. The paper was quoted in a Radio Kiev broadcast on 18-February. After talks with military intelligence officials in Kiev, the correspondent became convinced that on 13-February the crews first flew north over Belarus, rather than heading west to Smolensk when they reached the Belarusian border, for no apparent reason other than to provoke participants in the summit. The chief of staff of the Seventh Regiment, whose last name is Krishtopan, put the regimental banner in his briefcase and drove in a private automobile to Moscow. (Kathy Mihalisko) AIRMEN APPEAL TO SHAPOSHNIKOV. Krasnaya zvezda on 20-February, published an appeal to the CIS commander in chief from personnel in the long-range heavy-bomber regiment in Uzin, Ukraine, asking him to do all in his power to ensure that their division does not come under Ukrainian jurisdiction. Claiming to represent 55% of the personnel and 75% of the "commanders and navigators," the signatories charged that the division commander was using agitation . . . strong-arm pressure and disinformation" to get the regiment to swear an oath of loyalty to Ukraine. They warned that military discipline and combat readiness had declined. (Doug Clarke) YELTSIN GIVES THE MILITARY A PAY RAISE. The Russian president signed a decree on 19-February raising the pay of officers, warrant officers, and "re-engaged servicemen." Interfax said that the minimum salary for a junior officer would be 1,800 rubles per month. All official payments to servicemen will be tax exempt. (Doug Clarke) STAROVOITOVA ON MILITARY REFORM. While she has denied that she is in line to become the Russian Defense Minister, presidential advisor Galina Starovoitova has indicated what she would do if she got the post. In an interview published in Kuranty on 19-February, she said that first she would make "a real cut" in the armed forces. Combat capability would be increased by setting up "highly professional crack units on a voluntary contract basis." She said that she would "assimilate most carefully" the DM 7 billion provided by Germany to house troops returning from the former East Germany. She complained that the present military leadership was "incomprehensibly planning some new defense construction worth DM 4 billion." (Doug Clarke) THREAT OF CUSTOMS BARRIERS WITHIN CIS. The chairman of the Russian Federation Customs Union, Anatolii Kruglov, told a news conference that Russia would protect its economic interests by erecting "customs barriers" along its borders if the other CIS members failed to sign a customs union treaty now under negotiation, The Christian Science Monitor and The Journal of Commerce reported on 19-February. To date, Russia has managed to create a "ruble zone," in which there is free movement of goods, services, capital, and labor, with only two of its neighbors, Belarus and Kazakhstan. Exportable raw materials, such as fuels, wood, and leather, are "siphoned off" by CIS members from Russia to other states. (Keith Bush) FORECAST OF OIL OUTPUT AND EXPORTS. Recent warnings that Russia will shortly become a net importer of oil are "dubious," according to Rossiiskaya gazeta of 18-February, as quoted by ITAR-TASS. The newspaper estimates that oil output in the CIS this year will reach at least 400-410-million tons, including 350- 360 million tons from Russia, and that the net export surplus will be 40-50 million tons. (Keith Bush) SUGAR PROCESSING VIRTUALLY STOPPED. Vasilii Severin, the head of the Russian Agricultural Ministry's sugar-processing department, told ITAR-TASS on 18-February that shortages of raw sugar have left only 4 of the Federation's 95 sugar-processing plants in operation. Deliveries of sugar beets in 1991 were 8 million tons short, and thus the plants produced only 4 million tons of sugar instead of the planned 7.5 million tons. Severin hoped that raw sugar from Cuba and France would arrive shortly, while 2 million tons of Ukrainian sugar had been promised for the second half of this year. (Keith Bush) UNEMPLOYMENT IN RUSSIA. Russian First Deputy Minister of Labor and Employment Fedor Prokopov told a news conference on 19-February that unemployment in the Federation continues to rise, Biznes-TASS and Western agencies reported. In January, some 70,000 were registered as unemployed: 12,000 of these are receiving unemployment benefits. Prokopov reckoned that the total number of jobless could reach 8 million-or 10% of the workforce-by the end of the year, but government resources might not be adequate to pay benefits to all of those registered. The number of vacancies has fallen to about 570,000. The employment situation has been aggravated by the influx of refugees fleeing ethnic conflicts. (Keith Bush) DEATHS EXCEED BIRTHS IN RUSSIA. In November-December 1991 the number of deaths in the Russian republic (281,000) exceeded the number of births (265,000) for the first time since 1945, Vechernaya Moskva reported on 18-February. Moreover, the newspaper said, the demographic situation was not expected to improve in 1992 when the number of women aged 20-29 would decline by 150,000. (Ann Sheehy) RUSSIAN PRESIDENTIAL CONSULTATIVE COUNCIL MET. A meeting of the Presidential Consultative Council took place in the Kremlin on 19-February. The council, which consists of leading democrats who were members of the Interregional Group of People's Deputies-such as Gennadii Burbulis, Gavriil Popov, Anatolii Sobchak, Egor Yakovlev, Oleg Bogomolov, Pavel Bunich, Daniil Granin, Aleksei Emelyanov, Tatyana Zaslavskaya, Mark Zakharov, Yurii Koryakin, Valentin Fedorov, Vladimir Tikhonov, and Yurii Boldyrev-has now met under Yeltsin's chairmanship to discuss the general political situation in Russia, Russian Central TV reported. (Alexander Rahr) KOMSOMOLSKAYA PRAVDA FAILS TO APPEAR AT NEWSSTANDS. The Moscow daily, Komsomolskaya pravda, failed to appear at newsstands after running short of newsprint, the first program of Russian TV reported on 19-February. The television called the situation the "first sign of an information crisis" in Russia. A Western agency quoted the newspaper's editor-in-chief, Vladimir Fronin, as saying "we are appealing to President Yeltsin to intervene and sign a decree to let us print. We are still waiting." (Vera Tolz) CHECHEN LEADER WARNS RUSSIA OF "HOLY WAR." Chechen President Dzhakhar Dudaev said in an interview published in Nezavisimaya gazeta on 18-February that the mountaineers were read to fight Russia as they did 200 years ago, but this time they would not lose, ITAR-TASS reported. He said 50,000 Chechens had declared a "holy war" and another 150,000 would shortly join them. Dudaev accused the "power structures of Russia" of supporting provocations in Georgia, South Ossetia, Ingushetia and in the Caucasus generally, and said that, if the provocations and political terrorism continued, Chechnya would be forced to resort to the same methods. (Ann Sheehy) REFERENDUM CAMPAIGN IN THE CRIMEA. After ten days, the organizers of a campaign to hold a referendum in the Crimea have gained almost 20,000 signatures, Radio Kiev reported on 19-February. For the referendum to be held, 180,000 signatures must be assembled within a two month period. According to the report, many Crimeans do not support holding a referendum inasmuch as the peninsula already has autonomous status and has declared its sovereignty. (Roman Solchanyk) GREEN LIGHT FOR REFERENDUM PETITION IN BELARUS. On 13-February, to the surprise of the Belarusian political opposition, the Central Electoral Commission gave the go-ahead to plans to collect signatures in support of a popular referendum calling for early elections to the Supreme Soviet of Belarus. No less than 350,000 signatures are required for the petition drive. Still to be resolved is the question of revamping the electoral laws, which favored communist candidates in the parliamentary elections two years ago. Some former communists who are still in power, such as Prime Minister Vyacheslau Kebich, have said that the population is too apathetic where politics are concerned to want to repeat the process of electing deputies so soon. (Kathy Mihalisko) NEW INITIATIVES ON NAGORNO-KARABAKH. More than 20 people were killed on 19-February by heavy artillery fire in the NKAO capital of Stepanakert and the parliament building was destroyed. CIS Commander in Chief Evgenii Shaposhnikov expressed concern over the escalation of fighting and proposed that heads of CIS member states make a greater effort to resolve the conflict by political means; he also proposed a CIS peacekeeping force. Addressing the European parliament commission on international affairs and security issues on 19-February, Azerbaijani Prime Minister Hasan Hasanov stated that Azerbaijan would shelve plans to create its own armed forces if Armenian guerrilla groups operating in Nagorno-Karabakh were disarmed. The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 19-February criticizing what it termed "the one-sided approach" of the European Parliament to the NKAO issue. Turkish Prime Minister Suleiman Demirel warned Europe and the US that support for Armenia in the NKAO dispute could lead to a regional war. (Liz Fuller) NAZARBAEV ON IRAN, CIS. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev, on a visit to Austria, told a press conference on 19-February that Kazakhstan and Russia have a special responsibility to steer the Central Asian states away from Muslim fundamentalism and the influence of Iran. This was Nazarbaev's strongest statement against Iran to date. He also said that he had opposed the creation of a commonwealth of Central Asian states to parallel the Slavic commonwealth established last December, insisting instead that the Central Asian states join the Slavic ones to found the CIS, because he did not want to see the former USSR split into a European and an Asian part. (Bess Brown) THE CONFLICT CONCERNING THE SHNEERSON COLLECTION CONTINUES. Radio Mayak reported on 18-February that the Russian State Arbitration Court canceled its earlier decision ordering the Lenin Library (now the Russian State Library) to return the famous Hasidic manuscripts known as "Shneerson collection" to the Hasidic community in Moscow (see RFE/RL Daily Report Nos. 171, 191, 207, 1991.) (Oxana Antic) CRITICISM OF THE HOLY SYNOD. Mikhail Frankov analyzed what he called satirically "Mysteries of the Holy Synod" in an article published in Moscow News No. 6. The journalist raised some questions about the structure and the activities of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church in connection with recent publications in the press about the collaboration of Russian Orthodox Church hierarchs with the KGB.(Oxana Antic) BALTIC STATES ESTONIA PASSES REHABILITATION LAW. On 19-February the Supreme Council passed a law rehabilitating those who were repressed by Soviet organs without benefit of a court trial and found guilty without evidence, BNS reported that day. By the conditions of the law, which passed 58-0 with no abstentions, Estonia declared such decisions illegal. Estonia has been handling such instances on a case by case basis, but the new law will help speed up processing. It contains a provision for new evidence to be brought before the Supreme Court against alleged war criminals rehabilitated under the program. (Riina Kionka) VAHI WINS ONE, LOSES ANOTHER. The Estonian Supreme Council on 19-February confirmed Prime Minister Tiit Vahi's choice of Aavo Molder as Minister of Agriculture by a vote of 71-1 with 10-abstentions, BNS reports. The council failed to muster the 42-votes needed to confirm Merle Krigul as Minister without portfolio responsible for nationality affairs. Krigul, who lost the post in a 39-27 vote with 11-abstentions, had not won the support of the Supreme Council Commission on Nationality Affairs. (Riina Kionka) LALUMIéRE: ESTONIA DOES RIGHT BY MINORITIES. Council of Europe Secretary- General Catherine Lalumire wrapped up her Baltic tour in Tallinn on 19-February by speaking out in support of Estonia's treatment of minorities, ETA reported that day. Lalumire said she became convinced during her visit "that there exist long-lasting liberal traditions towards the minorities in Estonia." She expressed understanding of the problem the 38% Russian minority creates for Estonia, adding "I understand that giving the right to vote to all Russian people living in Estonia could jeopardize Estonia's identity." (Riina Kionka) ANTI-INDEPENDENCE FORCES IN LATVIA. Auseklis Plavins, Latvian Defense Ministry spokesman, told BNS on 19-February that recently there has been a consolidation of the various forces (such as Interfront, Council of War and Labor Veterans, Latvian Communist Party Operative Center, etc.) opposing an independent Latvia, and a creation of secret communist party cells in enterprises. Moreover, former KGB employees are now working in the Ministry of Internal Affairs system or private guard and detective agencies. Plavins also said that several Latvian Supreme Council deputies of the Ravnopravie faction are helping soldiers retiring from the former USSR armed forces to obtain residency permits in Latvia. (Dzintra Bungs) PUBLISHING MAY RESUME IN LATVIA. Newspapers may reappear this weekend, Radio Riga reported on 19-February. Reports from the Press Building, where the largest newspapers in Latvia are printed, say the papers will use low-quality newsprint from the Sloka plant in Latvia. The "Week without Press" came about when publishers decided to enlist the government's help in overcoming the grave shortage of newsprint. The government would like Latvia to become self-sufficient in paper production and is encouraging the output of standard quality newsprint in Latvia. The government is also trying to ensure a regular supply of newsprint from Karelia and increase imports though an agreement with Russia. (Dzintra Bungs) TAXI AND GOVERNMENT DRIVERS' JOB ACTIONS. Radio Riga reported on 19-February that earlier that day drivers for the Council of Ministers staged a two-hour strike for higher pay. They stopped their strike after receiving promises that their monthly wages of 850-rubles, would be raised to 2400-rubles, which is what drivers for the Supreme Council are paid. BNS reports that taxi drivers in Riga intend to hold a "warning strike" on 20-February to try to persuade the government to investigate corruption in the Riga taxi park and to take steps to improve working conditions and salaries of the drivers. (Dzintra Bungs) SHAPOSHNIKOV ON KALININGRAD DEMILITARIZATION. Responding to the appeal by Vytautas Landsbergis for the demilitarization of Kaliningrad Oblast, Evgenii Shaposhnikov, commander in chief of the CIS armed forces, told a press conference in Moscow on 18-February that the withdrawal of troops was a matter for Russia and "nobody can dictate terms to us," Radio Lithuania reports. He said that the withdrawal of Soviet troops from the Baltic will be paid for by both Russia and the Baltic States and cautioned against moving too quickly and without due attention to social guarantees for the officers and soldiers stationed there. (Saulius Girnius) CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE GERMANY FORGIVES HALF OF POLAND'S GOVERNMENT DEBT. The German Finance Ministry announced on 19-February the forgiveness of half of the $5.5-billion Poland owes the German government, Polish and Western media reported. The remaining 50% is to be repaid over the next 18-years at market interest rates. The writeoff is in line with the agreement reached in March 1991 between Poland and the 16-nations of the Paris Club. The $11.5-billion that Poland owes to German commercial banks is still due. German bankers feel that until Poland starts again to pay interest-payments were suspended in 1990-no talks about writeoffs of the commercial debts are possible. The Polish debt worldwide totals $45.9-billion, of which $33-billion is in government debts. (Roman Stefanowski) "BALCEROWICZ PLAN" SHELVED? On 19-February Polish Prime Minister Jan Olszewski accepted the resignation of his Finance Minister, Karol Lutkowski, submitted just before the government presented its economic program to the Sejm on 17-February. Asked whether his resignation means the end of the country's economic stabilization program according to the "Balcerowicz Plan," Lutkowski replied that "he does not have that impression." He added, however, that some of the elements of the government's economic program for 1992 may "threaten the economic stabilization of the country." The more important of these elements are the administrative adjustments of prices and creating credit facilities exceeding the GNP growth rate. (Roman Stefanowski) CARNOGURSKY WARNS OF DISINTEGRATION. Western media reported on 19-February that Slovak Prime Minister Jan Carnogursky warned that the rejection of a draft treaty between the Czech and Slovak republics by Slovak parliamentary leaders has increased the danger of Czechoslovakia's disintegration. Carnogursky admitted that even his own Christian Democratic Movement is split on the issue of Czechoslovakia's constitutional setup. He claimed that a "significant majority of Slovaks are eager to see Slovakia achieve the level of other peoples-even states-in Europe." The Prime Minister warned that an independent Slovakia that lacked a policy sympathetic to its ethnic minorities would destabilize Central Europe by fueling nationalism in Hungary and could lead to conflict with the southern neighbor. (Jan Obrman) CZECHOSLOVAKIA AMENDS LAND LAW. On 18-February the Czechoslovak parliament lifted some curbs on returning land seized by the former communist regime from the original owners, Western media reported. The amendment lifts a limit of 250-hectares (617-acres) of both arable and forest land that can be restored to a former owner under legislation passed by the democratic government in May 1990. It also allows Czechoslovak citizens of German or Hungarian nationality living in Slovakia to reclaim property confiscated from them after they were accused of collaboration with the Nazis. The law does not apply to land claims by former owners among some three million ethnic Germans forcibly evicted from Bohemia to Germany after World War II. (Peter Matuska) HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT REPEALS POLI-TICAL CONVICTIONS. On 19-February the Hungarian parliament unanimously approved legislation repealing sentences for crimes committed against the state and public order between 1963 and 1989. The legislation invalidates sentences imposed for plotting against the state, rebellion, provoking insubordination, attempts at illegally crossing to the West, and refusal to return to Hungary from visits abroad. Justice Minister Istvan Balsai said that many sentences handed down during the period violated the constitution in effect at the time, and that the goal of the legislation was the political, moral, and legal compensation of those convicted. Separate legislation will regulate financial compensation. (Edith Oltay) ROMANIAN DIPLOMATIC CALENDAR. In his 19-February weekly briefing, Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Traian Chebeleu announced visits to Romania by Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic on 20-February, NATO Secretary- General Manfred Wrner on 21-22-February, and Carlos Westendorp, Secretary of State at the Ministry of External Affairs of Spain, on 22-24-February. Romanian Foreign Minister Adrian Nastase will pay an official visit to Turkey on 25-27-February, Rompres reported. (Crisula Stefanescu) ZHELEV BACK FROM FRANCE. Early on 19-February Bulgaria's president Zhelyu Zhelev, accompanied by foreign minister Stoyan Ganev, returned to Bulgaria after a two- day official visit to France, Bulgarian radio reported. On the previous day Zhelev and French president Franois Mitterrand signed a friendship and cooperation treaty, the first between the two countries. The agreement provides for collaboration in the areas of ecology, crime fighting, security, and foreign policy. France also pledged to support Bulgaria's "total integration" into the European Community. (Kjell Engelbrekt) INCREASING PRESSURE ON THE BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT. In an open letter to the prime minister on 19-February, the chairman of the Podkrepa Confederation of Labor Konstantin Trenchev declared that the organization no longer feels bound by previous commitments to maintain "social peace" on the labor market. Trenchev indicated that the letter, appearing in Podkrepa, was a reaction to the government's refusal to give trade unions a direct influence on the country's economic policy, which he said was causing unemployment and a drop in real income. On the previous day visiting officials of the IMF and World Bank warned the cabinet that upcoming wage negotiations might fuel inflation, which in turn could further delay structural economic reforms. (Kjell Engelbrekt) SERBIAN FORCES TO EVACUATE ALL OF CROATIA? The 20-February Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung says that UN special envoy Cyrus Vance and Croatian Foreign Minister Zvonimir Separovic agreed on 19-February that the federal military and Serbian irregulars will evacuate all of Croatia under the UN peace plan, not just those areas where peace-keeping troops will be stationed. Croatian President Franjo Tudjman repeated that his forces will "reestablish the Croatian legal order" in areas where the Serbian units refuse to withdraw or disarm. On 18-February the "parliament" of the largely ethnically Serbian Krajina region voted not to disarm the Serbian irregulars, but not to oppose the UN forces either. Austrian TV said that front-line Croatian troops (presumably including the tough paramilitary HOS units under the control of a far-right party) oppose the peace plan, which would make it impossible for them to retake territory lost to the Serbs last year. (Patrick Moore) SLOVENIAN PRIME MINISTER SURVIVES NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE. Radio Slovenia reported on 19-February that Prime Minister Lojze Peterle barely survived a vote of no-confidence called by independent deputies in the Slovenian parliament. Their candidate, Marko Voljc, currently director of the World Bank department for Central and South America, missed being elected by six votes. Last December, the ruling DEMOS coalition split and agreed to hold elections by 30-April. Elections will probably be held early in 1993. Peterle, chairman of the Christian Democrats, has been largely blamed for the rapidly declining economy that has increased the potential for labor unrest. Metal and power industry unions decided on 19-February to stage a two-hour general strike on 18-March. Amid a steady decline in the standard of living, many unions are demanding higher guaranteed wages and the abolition of the sales tax on basic food products. (Milan Andrejevich) FOREIGN AFFAIRS ACTIVITIES. On 18-February Ukraine and Croatia established diplomatic relations. International media also report that the US told Slovenia that its request for recognition is still "under review." On 19-February German media suggested that the Serbian authorities might allow Lufthansa to resume flights to Belgrade this spring, while the previous day the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung had said that the EC foreign ministers meeting in Lisbon on the 17th began considering lifting sanctions against Serbia and Montenegro. (Patrick Moore) As of 1200 CET Compiled by Carla Thorson & Charles Trumbull
write to us
with your comments and suggestions.