|Words that open our eyes to the world are always the easiest to remember. - Ryszard Kapuscinski|
No. 36, 21 February 1992
SUCCESSOR STATES TO THE USSR YELTSIN COULD LOSE SPECIAL POWERS. Russian President Boris Yeltsin faces the danger of being stripped of his special powers at the forthcoming Congress of People's Deputies which opens on 6-April if his reforms have not born fruit by then, Nezavisimaya gazeta warned on 20-February. Another target of attack from lawmakers could be leading members of the government. The newspaper also reported that Vice-President Aleksandr Rutskoi was upset because Yeltsin has not given him additional powers for supervising agricultural reform. Rutskoi demanded the right to direct the conversion process of the military-industrial complex into the agricultural sector and to use demobilized soldiers for work in the fields. (Alexander Rahr) RUTSKOI TO PRESENT OWN ECONOMIC PLAN. Vice-President Aleksandr Rutskoi said that he has almost completed work on his own economic reform package and will soon present it to the public, according to Radio Rossii on 20-February. The main idea of the Rutskoi plan is to conduct an inventory of all real estate in Russia and then issue shares on the value of all assets. Rutskoi stressed that the shares should be distributed free of charge to the Russian population. He hopes that through this measure, those segments of the population which live below the poverty line will feel more secure. (Alexander Rahr) PARTIAL RECOVERY OF THE RUBLE. There have been widespread reports in the CIS and Western media of a perceptible strengthening of the ruble against the dollar in recent days. The Wall Street Journal of 20-February cited a rate of 170 rubles per dollar (down from 230 rubles three weeks ago) at the Moscow International Currency Exchange, and a rate of 70 rubles offered by commercial banks (down from about 150 rubles two weeks ago). Conspiracy theories are legion, with the strengthening attributed to the cornering of currency by the mafia, or to a deliberate withholding of ruble notes by the authorities. A simpler explanation is that the printing presses have been unable to keep pace with the explosion of prices and wages. (Keith Bush) RUSSIAN DECREE ON DEMONOPOLIZATION. After a cabinet meeting on 20-February, Aleksei Ulyukaev, an economic adviser to President Yeltsin, told ITAR- TASS that a presidential decree on demonopolization would be issued on 21-February. The decree would spell out sanctions against firms deemed guilty of monopolistic practices. Ulyukaev put their number at around 2,000. The cabinet meeting also discussed a draft presidential decree on privatization. Movement on this is expected soon. Price liberalization, privatization, and demonopolization are the three main planks of the Yeltsin economic reform program. (Keith Bush) RUSSIAN ARMS EXPORTS. Russian Deputy Minister of the Economy and Finances Ivan Materov believes that Russia will export arms in 1992 to the value of about $8 billion, Radio Rossii reported on 19-February. [This compares with an estimated 5 billion rubles for the arms exports of the former USSR in 1991]. The revenues could be used for financing conversion, but most of the sales will be on a credit basis, and Materov expects cash sales of only $1.5 billion or so. He disclosed that Latin American nations, and especially Argentina, Brazil, and Chile, had shown interest recently in buying arms from Russia. (Keith Bush) MINIMUM WAGE DEMAND. The Russian Federation of Independent Trade Unions [i.e. former official unions] has called for an increase in the minimum wage from 342 rubles to 1,000 rubles a month, starting on 1-March, ITAR-TASS reported on 20-February. The Federation declared that more than 90% of the population now lies below the poverty level after the price liberalization of 2 January and other reform measures. The Federation will also press for a wage indexation mechanism. (Keith Bush) TENGHIZ DECISION SOON. The chairman of Chevron told The Financial Times on 20-February that a decision on the company's joint venture plans to develop the Tenghiz oilfield is expected within a month. The project has been subjected to controversy, political infighting, changing legislation, and disruption caused by the breakup of the former USSR. It is seen by many as a touchstone for the future viability of joint ventures in the CIS. (Keith Bush) GORBACHEV CRITICAL OF CIS LEADERS. In an interview with the radio station Ekho Moskvy, Gorbachev said he was struck by the flabby and irresponsible way the CIS leaders were acting in the face of the accelerating disintegrationary processes, ITAR-TASS reported on 20-February. He said that they behaved as if everything was normal at their monthly meetings, and that in his view these meetings had so far been largely unproductive. "I cannot forgive my former colleagues for this," Gorbachev added, and suggested that in present circumstances they should meet once a week or even not disperse until they had reached agreement. (Ann Sheehy) KRAVCHUK ON CIS. Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk met with foreign journalists on 19-February and outlined his views on the CIS, Radio Kiev reported. Kravchuk said once again that the CIS was created in order to prevent the spontaneous disintegration of the Soviet Union. According to the Ukrainian leader, the CIS should move through two important parallel phases: divide up everything that had been jointly accumulated and consolidate strong ties within the CIS on new, civilized foundations. (Roman Solchanyk) UKRAINIAN LEADERS PESSIMISTIC ON CIS. The Financial Times on 20-February quoted several Ukrainian leaders to the effect that the CIS has no future as an effective long-term body. Chairman of the Ukrainian Supreme Council Ivan Plyushch said that the CIS will play a transitional role to help its members go through a "divorce process." Plyushch maintained that Russia wanted to play the leading role "under the guise of cooperation." Another Ukrainian spokesman, President Kravchuk's chief advisor Mykola Mykhalchenko, asserted that the recent CIS summit in Minsk "decided nothing" and suggested that Yeltsin was politically unreliable. (Roman Solchanyk) KIEV CONDUCTS INQUIRY OF SELLING OFF OF BLACK SEA FLEET ASSETS. Following President Kravchuk's press conference on 19-February, a document was shown to journalists in confirmation of rumors that Moscow has drawn up a list of Black Sea Fleet vessels and submarines to be sold for hard currency. As summarized by Radio Rossii, 15 submarines were on the list in 1991, many of which found buyers. India purchased a "Zhdanov" cruiser for $2.2 million; at present, 49 boats and ships are up for grabs, and there are plans this year to add 13-more vessels. Kiev authorities have begun an inves- tigation of the legality of the sales. (Kathy Mihalisko) SHAPOSHNIKOV ON SUBMARINE COLLISION. On 20-February, the CIS commander in chief briefed the Russian Supreme Soviet on the collision between a CIS and an American submarine that took place near the entrance to Kola Bay on 11-February. As shown on Russian TV, he admitted that the two countries had different methods of determining the limits of territorial waters: the Americans drew a line parallel to the coast line, while the Russians used a "base-line" method in which a straight line was drawn across the entrance to a bay or gulf. The territorial issue aside, Shaposhnikov said that the area had been defined as a naval training range and he thought that foreign military vessels "would seem to have no business" in such an area. He indicated that the Americans would be invited to resume bilateral talks on determining territorial waters in the Barents Sea. (Doug Clarke) A CIS GENERAL LOOKS AT THE MINSK SUMMIT. In a report published by ITAR- TASS on 20-February, LTG Leonid Ivashov, the chief of the Administrative Directorate of the CIS General Staff, noted that lack of time had prevented many important military documents from being discussed by the CIS states at their recent Minsk summit. Among these were drafts on provisions for intelligence-gathering, and universal military regulations. The leaders also had not agreed on how to define the powers of the CIS bodies in defense matters, on the high command of the armed forces, and on the principles for manning the armed forces. They also failed to agree on "who will have how many tanks, planes, armored vehicles, and artillery." (Doug Clarke) YELTSIN'S FORMER PRESS SECRETARY TO SET UP POLITICAL MOVEMENT. Yeltsin's press secretary, Pavel Voshchanov, whose resignation was announced on 17-February, told Izvestiya on 20-February that he intended to set up a new political movement, called "New Democratic Forces." The movement will function as an electoral bloc, which aims to elect new people not connected with the former CPSU nomenklatura during the next presidential and parliamentary elections in Russia. (Officially, the next parliamentary election is to be held in 1994 and the presidential election in 1996, however, many people are calling for these elections to be held earlier.) Yeltsin's government has been strongly criticized because many of its members previously served in the CPSU Central Committee and other former top Soviet structures. (Vera Tolz) TRUD JOINS LIST OF PAPERS CUTTING OPERATIONS. The Moscow daily Trud is the latest-Rus-sian newspaper to cut operations because of-sharp-cost increases linked to free-market reforms, ITAR-TASS reported. On 20-February, Trud, with 4.3-million subscribers across the former USSR,-failed to appear. The paper has announced plans to publish only four times a week instead of the usual six. (Vera-Tolz) FORMER DEPUTY ON COUP INVESTIGATION. Former USSR people's deputy and chairman of the now disbanded USSR parliamentary commission investigating the coup, Aleksandr Obolensky, gave a press conference in Moscow on 19-February,-Radio Rossii reported. On 6-February, Komsomolskaya pravda said that Obolensky had mysteriously disappeared with the commission's documents. Obolensky denied this report and stressed that the commission's documents are safely stored in Moscow's state archives. Obolensky claimed that his commission could not find any significant details of the circumstances of the coup, because some people in Yeltsin's administration were "not interested in the truth about the coup coming out." Obolensky named one of them-the Russian Procurator General, Valentin Stepankov. (Vera Tolz) NEW CONCEPT OF SCIENCE POLICY IN RUSSIA. Yeltsin's aid on scientific and technological issues, Academician Anatolii Rakitov, said that Russian scientists together with the government have developed a new concept of science policy in the republic, ITAR-TASS reported on 20-February. The program stipulates that the Russian government will abandon the traditional Soviet strategy of controlling science. The government, however, will continue financing the development of science in Russia. The new policy entails the adoption of a series of new laws-on intellectual property, on authors' rights, and on education. (Vera Tolz) LAW ON CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTORS PASSED IN UKRAINE. On 19-February, the Ukrainian parliament adopted a law on "alternative nonmilitary service" for draft-age youths who object to performing military duties. The legislation was treated as an important development in the expansion of human rights in Ukraine. (Kathy Mihalisko) FOKIN IN TURKMENISTAN. Ukrainian Prime Minister Vitold Fokin hurriedly flew to Ashkhabad on 20-February to discuss an unexpected increase in the price of gas demanded by Turkmenistan, Radio Kiev reported. Turkmenistan, which supplies Ukraine with about one quarter of its gas, increased the price almost tenfold and has threatened to halt deliveries if the bill is not paid. (Roman Solchanyk) REFERENDUM CAMPAIGN IN THE CRIMEA. The Crimean ASSR Supreme Soviet opened its session on 20-February and is scheduled to discuss the republic's economic situation and privatization, Radio Kiev reported. Representatives of the Republican Movement of the Crimea are reportedly pressing for a decision to hold a local referendum on the Crimea's status. If successful, proponents of a referendum would not be obligated to gather the 180,000 signatures normally required to proceed with the local vote. (Roman Solchanyk) PROGRESS TOWARDS CEASEFIRE IN NAGORNO-KARABAKH. After 8 hours of talks in Moscow on 20-February the foreign ministers of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia signed a communique agreeing on the need for an immediate ceasefire, for the restoration of communications and dispatch of humanitarian aid, and for continuing negotiations on a settlement of the NKAO conflict, The Los Angeles Times and The Chicago Tribune reported on 21-February. There is, however, still disagreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the participation in negotiations of representatives from Nagorno- Karabakh and over the possible deployment of UN peacekeeping troops there. (Liz Fuller) MOLDOVA FORBIDS TRANSACTIONS IN FOREIGN CURRENCY. A presidential decree published on 20-February forbids transactions in foreign currency on the territory of Moldova, Moldovapres reported. An exception is made only for organizations having extra-territorial status. Retail trade and services for foreign currency are to be banned from 1-July. Citizens, enterprises and organizations registered in Moldova who have opened accounts outside the republic are to close them within 30 days and transfer foreign currency funds to Moldovan banks. (Ann Sheehy) BALTIC STATES A FOURTH BALTIC STATE? The administrative head of the Kaliningrad Oblast is lobbying for that area to become the fourth Baltic state to be formed from the former USSR, according to a 20-February BNS report. Interviewed on Kaliningrad TV, Yurii Matochkin said the oblast territory should become an independent legal entity because Kaliningrad has been declared a free economic zone and enjoys significant autonomy in many questions already. (Riina Kionka) LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT DISCUSSES BUDGET. More than seven weeks into the new year, the Lithuanian Supreme Council has not yet passed the 1992 budget. At a session broadcast live by Radio Lithuania on 20-February, Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius presented a budget with a deficit of 1.3-billion rubles. The chairmen of the parliament's commissions commenting on the proposal suggested that more funds be allocated to agriculture and other areas by decreasing planned growth in the government apparatus. Chairman of the Economics Commission Kazimieras Antanavicius made a number of suggestions for radical changes in the budget. The parliament will continue to meet until a budget is approved. (Saulius Girnius) RUSSIA-LITHUANIA ECONOMIC TALKS. Trade talks in Moscow begun the previous day made little progress on 20-February, Radio Lithuania reported. Russia's proposal that oil be exchanged at world prices only for meat was rejected by the Lithuanian delegation. Lithuania could provide 200,000-tons of meat, the equivalent of some 2.75-million tons of oil, but this would meet only about one-fifth of the country's needs. Lithuania suggested sending textiles and machine tools as well. The talks will resume next week. (Saulius Girnius) LALUMIéRE UNDERSTANDS LATVIAN SITU-ATION. Andrejs Pantelejevs, chairman of the Latvian Supreme Council's commission on human and nationality rights, told Radio Riga on 20-February that Catherine Lalumire, Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, felt that the guidelines for citizenship adopted by the Latvian Supreme Council (for example, 16-year residency requirement, language proficiency, etc.) were understandable given Latvia's demographic situation and should not be a barrier toward Latvia's joining the Council. Lalumire agreed that Russians do not fit the traditional concept of a national minority (usually under 10% of the population), and that different approaches must be sought to deal with issues related to their presence in Latvia. (Dzintra Bungs) LATVIA CHARGES TRANSIT FEES FOR GRAIN. BNS reported on 20-February that as of that date Latvia would be charging Russia a transit fee in kind for grain going there. The fee would 4-6% of the amount of the imported grain, as per the accord reached between Russian representatives and Latvia's Agriculture Ministry. In a related development, Latvia received 40,000-tons of corn from the United States to help feed its livestock, Diena reported on 19-February. (Dzintra Bungs) CONTAMINATED WATER IN RIGA. Radio Riga advised listeners on 20-February to boil tap water 15-minutes before drinking it, because a Ukrainian plant is no longer able to supply a coagulant necessary for water purification. Managers of the plant in Sumy explained that the problem stems from Russia's failure to provide the necessary petroleum products to Ukraine; they promised to resume supplies of the coagulant as soon as they obtain the raw materials, but did not indicate when that might be. (Dzintra Bungs) CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE TROOP WITHDRAWAL FROM POLAND LAGGING. A press spokesman for Gen. Zdzislaw Ostrowski, Poland's official responsible for monitoring troops of the former USSR in Poland and their withdrawal, told Gazeta wyborcza on 20-February that between April and September 1991 only 4,387 soldiers left Poland. Since then men and equipment were merely switched among bases. There are still about 45,000 troops in 22-garrisons now controlled by the Russian Federation in western parts of Poland. According to agreement all combat troops of the Northern Group of Forces should leave Poland by 15-November of this year, with all other, except support units, to be withdrawn by the end of 1993. (Roman Stefanowski) EDELMAN CONDEMNS NATIONALISTIC EXCESSES IN POLAND. Marek Edelman, the only surviving commander of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, condemned the lack of reaction by the Polish government and the society at large to anti-Semitic and anti-German incidents by a group of 300-extreme nationalists in the town of Zgorzelec on 15-February. In an open letter to Gazeta wyborcza on 20-February Edelman said that such incidents destabilize the country and seriously threaten the young Polish democracy. (Roman Stefanowski) CARNOGURSKY WARNS SLOVAK PARLIAMENT. In a television address on 20-February Slovak premier Jan Carnogursky called on Slovakia's parliament to avoid illegal moves toward independence. The parliament meets in Bratislava next week and could pass a declaration of Slovakia's sovereignty. Such a declaration had been successfully kept off the agenda by moderates as long as talks were underway with the Czechs on a draft treaty to keep the country together. Last week the Slovak parliament presidium rejected the draft treaty. (Peter Matuska) CZECH PARLIAMENT AMENDS ELECTORAL LAW. On 20-February the Czech parliament passed an amendment to the election law that would allow two parties in a coalition to enter the Czech parliament if together they receive at least 7% of the vote. Three parties in a coalition must receive 9%. Coalitions of four or more parties in a coalition must receive 11% of the vote before receiving parliamentary mandates. The requirement for a single party-at least 5% of the vote-remains unchanged, CSTK reported. (Peter Matuska) OPENING STB FILES WOULD BE IMPOSSIBLE. On 20-February Interior Minister Jan Langos said it would be "technically impossible" to open the files of the former Czechoslovak secret service STB as has been done in the former East Germany. In an interview with Mlada Fronta dnes Langos said many of the STB files were destroyed and "only fragments remain." He concluded that publication of a full list of STB members and collaborators "will never be possible." (Peter Matuska) HUNGARIAN ECONOMIC DECLINE IN 1991. According to preliminary figures released by the Hungarian Central Statistical Office on 20-February, the performance of the Hungarian economy, measured by the gross domestic product, declined by between 7% to 9% in 1991. Industrial production was the worst hit declining by 19% in 1991 compared to 9% in 1990. The figures indicate that the state's role in the economy is being diluted as private enterprise begins to take hold. State-owned companies accounted for 55% of gross domestic product last year, 10% less than in 1990. Some 40% of state-owned companies have completed or are in the process of carrying out their transformation into limited liability companies. (Edith Oltay) HUNGARIAN DRAFT MINORITY LAW UNACCEPTABLE. In a statement issued on 19-February and reported the next day by MTI, the Round Table of National and Ethnic Minorities in Hungary called the minority law approved by the government on 6-February "unacceptable" and "in violation of the consensus reached earlier" between government and minority representatives. Among other things, the group felt the draft law contains "discriminatory regulations" against certain minorities, excludes most minority members from exercising their right to local self-government, fails to solve the minorities' representation in parliament, and restricts their cultural autonomy. (Alfred Reisch) HUNGARIAN-ROMANIAN POLICE TO COOP-ERATE ON ILLEGAL ALIENS. Police Brig. Gen. Andras Turos told Radio Budapest on 20-February that the two police forces have agreed to cooperate in stemming the flow of illegal aliens seeking to enter Hungary from Romania. Turos estimated that there are some 40-50,000 aliens in Romania, mostly from African, Asian, and Far Eastern countries, who are waiting for an opportunity to cross into Hungary illegally on their way to Western Europe. (Edith Oltay) TRADE UNION WARNING. The National Trade Union Block gave a communique to Rompres stating that "if the national collective work contract is not completed by 22-February, they will initiate actions that could lead to stoppages in key sectors of the national economy." (Crisula Stefanescu) MILOSEVIC IN BUCHAREST. Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic held talks with President Ion Iliescu during a one-day visit in Bucharest. In his statement to the press, Milosevic assessed as "very satisfactory" Romania's stance on the Yugoslav crisis and its position regarding what he terms "the continuation of Yugoslavia," Rompres reported. Milosevic and Iliescu agreed that Romania's recognition of Croatia and Slovenia would not hinder the development of cooperation nor damage relations between Romania and Serbia. Milosevic specifically mentioned that Romania will "surely continue" to allow the transport of oil supplies to Serbia through its territory. The two also discussed projects on the Danube and the creation of Serbian-language schools for Romania's Serbian minority and of a Serbian Cultural Center in Timisoara. (Crisula Stefanescu) SERBIAN CHETNIKS ORDERED TO TAKE ORDERS FROM ARMY. The 21-February Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung says that the "interior minister" in the largely ethnically Serbian Krajina region of Croatia has ordered local Serbian irregulars to subordinate themselves to the federal military within eight hours or be driven out of the area. The move is intended to prevent the chetniks from sabotaging the UN peace plan by acting on their own. The Serbian and military authorities in Belgrade have promised to control the chetniks. The UN is expected to vote to set up a peace-keeping force for the former Yugoslavia on 21-February and send the first units to the trouble spots next week. Irish diplomat Cedric Thornberry was named on 20-February to serve as the political head of the UN operation, Western media said. (Patrick Moore) KOSOVO ALBANIANS GIVE PETITION TO UN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION. Western media reported on 20-February that Albanian human rights activists and political leaders from Kosovo had given that UN body the previous day a petition with 500,000 signatures protesting growing Serbian "terror and force" in the area. On 20-February the Albanians told a German human rights group in Gttingen that they are asking Germany and the EC for the same kind of support that Bonn gave to Croatia in order to prevent "a war in Kosovo that would even make the Serbian crimes in Croatia pale by comparison," the 21-February Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung says. (Patrick Moore) PETERLE DEMANDS GOVERNMENT RESHUFFLE. After having survived a no- confidence vote on 19-February, Slovenia's Prime Minister Lojze Peterle is now demanding the resignations of foreign minister Dimitrij Rupel, interior minister Igor Bavcar, and information minister Jelko Kacin. The three are members of the Democratic Party, one of six parties in the coalition (DEMOS) that survived until December 1991. Peterle is chairman of the Christian Democrats, the largest party in the former coalition. Radio Slovenia remarked on 20-February that the Slovenian political scene in the coming weeks "will become very turbulent and unpredictable." (Milan Andrejevich) KGB GENERAL ON MARKOV MURDER. Former KGB general Oleg Kalugin, assisting the investigation into the murder of exiled Bulgarian writer Georgi Markov in London in 1978, on 20-February refuted the version that the dissident had been jabbed by a poison- tipped umbrella, saying that the miniature pellet had been fired from an air gun hidden in a ballpoint pen. According to Bulgarian dailies, Kalugin said he had given the investigators the names of some ten former top Soviet officials, including two exchairmen of the KGB, allegedly involved in the operation. On 18-February Kalugin claimed two earlier assassination attempts had failed. (Kjell Engelbrekt) BULGARIA'S TOBACCO INDUSTRY IN CRISIS. The production of tobacco, traditionally one of Bulgaria's key export products, has fallen steeply over the last decade, according to report by the US Department of Agriculture. The report says that Bulgaria's output in 1991 was down to 75,000 tons, less than half the annual yield in the 1970s. The decline is explained mainly by several years of dry weather, changeovers to other crops, and urbanization. Bulgartabac, the state tobacco company, is currently seeking to develop new products for the international market. (Kjell Engelbrekt) As of 1200 CET Compiled by Carla Thorson & Charles Trumbull
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