|If we are to live together in peace, we must first come to know each other better. - Lyndon B. Johnson|
No. 44, 04 March 1992
SUCCESSOR STATES TO THE USSR ARMENIANS BLOCK TROOP WITHDRAWAL FROM NAGORNO-KARABAKH. The CIS army troop withdrawal from Nagorno-Karabakh was halted early on 3 March by Armenian protesters; one soldier was killed when Armenians opened fire after troops refused to comply with demands to surrender their weapons, Nagorno-Karabakh parliament chairman Artur Mkrtchyan told RFE/RL. A number of Armenian civilians were killed when Azerbaijani forces shot down a helicopter flying from Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia, Western news agencies reported. An advisor to Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan has told Nezavisimaya gazeta that Armenia regards the Karabakh conflict as a political dispute and an internal Azerbaijani affair, but that Armenia will not condone a peace settlement that runs counter to the wishes of the Armenian population of Karabakh. (Liz Fuller) DNIESTER SITUATION. Some Moldovan policemen who escaped capture in Dubasari (see The RFE/RL Daily Report for March 3) have regrouped in a nearby village but have come under siege there by "Dniester Republic" forces aided by Russian Cossacks. A Moldovan police unit from the right bank of the Dniester has crossed the iced over river to reinforce the besieged policemen. Moldovan media also reported on 3 March that unarmed Moldovan peasants have raided a civil defense unit of the CIS forces near Dubasari and seized weapons in order to come to the aid of the besieged police. Moscow media put the amount of weapons seized as 80 firearms and accused the Moldovan police of having staged the raid posing as peasants. There are conflicting reports about casualties in the two incidents of 3 March. (Vladimir Socor) SNEGUR ON THE DNIESTER SITUATION. On his way home from the United Nations where he addressed the General Assembly in connection with Moldova's admission as a member, President Mircea Snegur told Moldovan and Russian journalists on 3 March that the Moldovan government was dedicated to a political and peaceful resolution of the Dniester situation. Should it fail, however, Moldova would appeal to international organizations including the UN for assistance. Snegur added that, if necessary, he would call on the people in the Dniester region to resist the unlawful actions staged by "those who parade with red flags and the portraits of Lenin and Stalin" in that region of Moldova. (Vladimir Socor) GROWING WESTERN ENGAGEMENT IN MOLDOVA. The US has notified Moldova that its embassy there will open for business in Chisinau later this month and will have a staff of eight, Moldovapres reported on 2 March. On 3 March, a delegation of the Dutch Foreign Ministry arrived in Chisinau to discuss the establishment of diplomatic ties. German Social-Democratic Party leader Hans-Joachim Vogel, visiting Moldova at the invitation of the Moldovan Social-Democratic Party, told a press conference in Chisinau that he was "fully satisfied" with Moldova's adherence to human and ethnic rights and that he supported Moldova's aspirations to integrate with Europe, RFE reported on 3 March. (Vladimir Socor) STATE OF EMERGENCY EXTENDED IN TBILISI. ITAR-TASS reported on 3 March that Georgia's ruling Military Council has extended for one month the state of emergency and curfew in force in Tbilisi, where the situation remains tense with nightly shooting incidents. Beginning 2 March, demonstrations and strikes have been banned in the Abkhaz capital of Sukhumi where supporters of ousted president Zviad Gamsakhurdia continue to demand his return to power. (Liz Fuller) RESURRECTION OF THE USSR? Gennadii Zyuganov, former chief ideologue of the Russian Communist Party and now chairman of the Russian Patriotic Forces Coordination Council, is quoted by the Philadelphia Inquirer of 2 March as saying that the Yeltsin leadership will be soon swept from power with the help of the military and the police. On 17 March--the anniversary of a nationwide referendum last year in which 70% of the voters supported the preservation of a "renewed" Soviet Union--hardliners are planning to stage a huge demonstration in Moscow to advocate the restoration of the USSR Congress of People's Deputies. This would then elect a new head of state and a new government for the USSR. (Alexander Rahr) COOL GOVERNMENT REACTION TO CPD RECONVENING. The administration of the Russian President has rejected an idea put forward by a group of former USSR deputies to reconvene the USSR Congress of People's Deputies on 17 March, Mayak reported on 3 March. The administration stated that such a gathering would not be authorized to take any valid decisions. The group of former USSR deputies who want to hold the Congress is led by Ex-Premier Nikolai Ryzhkov. At a press conference on March 3, he called for the recreation of central leadership bodies for the CIS. (Alexander Rahr) DRAFT RUSSIAN CONSTITUTION SENT TO SUPSOV COMMITTEES. The draft of Russia's proposed new constitution is complete and has been submitted for scrutiny to the standing commissions and committees of the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Federation, Radio Mayak was told on 2 March by Oleg Rumyantsev, the Social Democratic leader who chairs the drafting commission. (Elizabeth Teague) GAIDAR PRESENTS REFORM PROGRAM. Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Egor Gaidar presented his economic reform package to the Russian Parliament on 3 March, Western agencies reported. The full text of the memorandum, said to comprise 19 pages, was also published by Nezavisimaya gazeta, according to "Vesti" that evening. From what details have been publicized to date, the program appears to be ambitious, tough, and perhaps unattainable. It envisages, inter alia, the virtual elimination of the budget deficit by the end of 1992, the reduction of inflation to Western levels by that date, and a single rate of exchange for the ruble within months. One agency quotes Gaidar as saying that pensions and insurance benefits will be maintained, but not indexed. The plan has reportedly received the approval of the IMF. (Keith Bush) SEARCH FOR MISSING HARD CURRENCY. Gaidar also told the deputies that the Russian government had appointed Kroll Associates of New York to help it track down and reclaim billions of dollars believed to have been siphoned out of the country by corrupt government and Party officials, and held illegally by CIS enterprises in foreign bank accounts. Gaidar had previously announced the search on Russian Television on 1 April. Details of the investigation were carried in The New York Times of 3 March. (Keith Bush) PRAVDA ANNOUNCES ANOTHER CUTBACK IN PUBLICATION. On 3 March, Pravda came out with a front-page announcement that production costs and falling circulation would force it to publish only three days a week. (Pravda first cut back from six to five days in early February.) Commenting on the move, the first program of Russian Television said that Yeltsin's recent decree aimed at decreasing the costs of the production and distribution of periodicals has not yet started to show any results. Radio Rossii quoted Pravda's chief editor Gennadii Seleznev as saying that proceeds from the sale of 1992 annual subscription were only enough to fund the production of Pravda through the end of March. (Vera Tolz) CITIZENSHIP LAW GOES INTO EFFECT IN RUSSIA. The new law on citizenship in Russia went into effect on 3 March, Radio "Mayak" reported. The radio said district interior affairs administrations had started to accept applications from people wishing to become Russian citizens. The Russian Federation's Ministry of Internal Affairs was currently drafting rules on the introduction of Russian passports. (Vera Tolz) SOBCHAK DISTANCES HIMSELF FROM YELTSIN'S GOVERNMENT. St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak has launched his strongest attack ever on the Russian government. He told Komsomolskaya pravda on 3 March that the government is overbureaucratized and that for him it was easier to maneuver between Mikhail Gorbachev's central and Boris Yeltsin's republican leadership last year than to deal with the present government today. Sobchak stressed that he could never work for such a government. He further warned of social upheavals and said that opposition to Yeltsin is growing from a coalition of former Party apparatchiks, national-patriots, and radical democrats. (Alexander Rahr) UNOFFICIAL RUSSIAN TRADE UNIONS PLAN UMBRELLA MOVEMENT. Sources in Moscow say representatives of the unofficial trade unions (Sotsprof, the Independent Miners' Union, and the pilots' and air traffic controllers' unions) met in the White House on 1 March and decided to convene a congress in April to form an umbrella organization representing all Russia's unofficial unions. Relations between the unofficial unions have improved recently through the contacts they have been having in the framework of tripartite talks in which the Russian government, official unions, and employers also participate. Meanwhile, the unofficial unions agreed to cooperate to try to influence the numerous additions and changes to the labor law currently under discussion. (Elizabeth Teague) GENERAL RAILWAY STRIKE AVERTED IN RUSSIA. Railway workers in Kursk (Western Russia), who have formed their own trade union, began a strike on 2 March, Russian Television announced that day. However, the general strike of railwaymen that was threatening to paralyze rail traffic throughout Russia has been called off following tripartite talks between the Russian government, the ministry of railways, and the Independent Union of Railway Workers (the official trade union). As a result of the negotiations, described as "lengthy and tough," railway workers have been promised better wages, working conditions and social guarantees; they also won the right to carry out commercial activities. (Elizabeth Teague) FOKIN ON TURKMEN GAS PRICE. In the latest episode of the ongoing saga of the gas price war between Turkmenistan and Ukraine, a lugubrious Ukrainian Premier went on Russian Television on 3 March to present his side of the argument. Vitold Fokin explained that the Turkmen had first asked for a 25-fold increase in the price of their natural gas, i.e., from 34 rubles per thousand cubic meters in December 1991, to 870 rubles with effect from March 1. After a "sharp, albeit professional" exchange, the Ukrainians agreed. But then the Turkmen added in transportation charges, which brought the new price up to almost 1,600 rubles per thousand cubic meters, i.e., a fifty-fold rise. Fokin publicly appealed to Niyazov to think again. (Keith Bush) UKRAINIANS PROTEST PLANNED BUDGET CUTS. More than 1,500 people demonstrated in front of the Ukrainian parliament building on 3 March to protest the government's proposed cuts in social services, Western agencies reported. The cuts are to include monthly bus passes and free train tickets for the needy. The protesters included members of the Chernobyl Union of Ukraine, whose vice chairman, Volodymyr Kobchyk, said the government had forgotten about the economic needs of schoolchildren, the elderly, and those who cleaned up after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident. Meanwhile inside the parliament building three deputies from farm regions started a hunger strike to protest shortages of machinery and fuel ahead of the spring planting season. (Ann Sheehy) REACTION TO YELTSIN'S DECREE ON THE RUSSIAN GERMANS. Bonn spokesmen and Germans already living in the Volga area welcomed Yeltsin's decree of 2 March creating two national regions for the Germans in Saratov and Volgograd oblasts, but the Interstate Committee for the Rehabilitation of Russian Germans said it was inadequate and that the restoration of the Volga German republic should have been announced first and decisions on its frontiers and status taken later, Western and Soviet agencies reported on 3 March. Horst Waffenschmidt, Parliamentary State Secretary in Bonn's Interior Ministry, called the decree a great step forward and said Russian Germans should take advantage of the offer quickly. (Ann Sheehy) KYRGYZ MILITARY SCANDAL CONTINUES. The parliamentary uproar over the removal of 14 warplanes from Kyrgyzstan is continuing. The commander who allowed the planes to leave was stripped of his seat in the Kyrgyz Supreme Soviet. He was quoted by Reuter on 3 March as telling deputies that he had acted on the orders of Evgenii Shaposhnikov, commander in chief of the CIS armed forces. The central TV evening news show reported that newly-elected Kyrgyz vice president Feliks Kulov used the occasion sharply to criticize the practice of allowing military officers to become involved in politics. (Bess Brown) CONCERN OVER TATARSTAN REFERENDUM. Deputies of the Russian Federation's Supreme Soviet met on 3 March with the chairman of the Tatarstan Supreme Soviet to express their concern over the referendum on Tatarstan's sovereignty due on 21 March, "Novosti" and "Vesti" reported. The question that voters will be asked is opaque, and a Tatar deputy said that some voters did not understand it, but a "yes" vote is seen as being tantamount to Tatarstan's secession from the Russian Federation. Radio Rossii reported on 3 March that, if the vote was in favor, the Bugulma city soviet would hold an opinion poll on the city's joining Samara oblast. (Ann Sheehy) EASTERN EUROPE BALTIC STATES MICKUNAI BASE STILL UNDER SOVIET CONTROL. On 3March, after formal ceremonies in Visoriai bidding farewell to the unit's banner, the 103soldiers of the Mickunai air defense unit left Lithuania for Latvia, the RFE Lithuanian Service reports. After a meeting with Col.Gen. Valerii Mironov, commander of the Northwest Group ofForces, who presided over the departure ceremonies, Lithuanian National Defense Minister Audrius Butkevicius said that Lithuania does not consider the departure of troops to have really begun because former Soviet troops are still guarding the Mickunai base. Difficulties have emerged in the signing of the documents formally handing over the base, whichis now likely to occur only on 9March. (Saulius Girnius) RUSSIA WANTS ABRENE. The Presidium of the Russian Supreme Soviet adopted a draft resolution rejecting Latvia's claim to Abrene, a region of northeastern Latvia that was annexed by the RSFSR after World WarII. ITAR-TASS reported on 2March that the draft resolution, which states that there is no historic ground for Latvia's claim and insists that such claims could lead to tension between the two states, is to be considered by the Supreme Soviet. In February the Latvian Supreme Council adopted a resolution asserting Latvia's claim to Abrene. (Dzintra Bungs) PRIVATIZATION GUIDELINES ADOPTED IN LATVIA. After sharp debates, on 3March the Latvian Supreme Council adopted guidelines for the privatization of state and municipal enterprises, Radio Riga reports. This legislation involves only those enterprises established after Latvia was annexed by the Soviet Union on 17June 1940. Detailed laws on specific aspects of privatization (issuing of certificates, compensation, leasing, and eventual purchase of leased enterprises, etc.) are to be drafted in the very near future. (Dzintra Bungs) MORE PRICE HIKES, SHORTAGES IN LATVIA. As of 1March, fees for postal and telephone services rose, as did the prices of alcoholic beverages. Sugar still remains in very short supply, but relief may only come at the end of March, when a shipment of unrefined sugar is expected from Cuba, Radio Riga reports. In order to fight inflation, the government decided to keep the state purchase prices of farm produce at current levels. (Dzintra Bungs) LANDSBERGIS DEPARTS FOR JAPAN. On 3March Chairman of the Lithuanian Supreme Council Vytautas Landsbergis, accompanied by his wife and International Economic Relations minister Vytenis Aleskaitis, departed for a week-long visit in Japan. He is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa and Foreign Minister Abe Watanabe as well as Emperor Akihito, Lithuanian radio reports. (Saulius Girnius) BACKIS TAKES OVER VILNIUS ARCHDIOCESE. On 3March Audrys Backis was formally installed as the Archbishop of Vilnius, Radio Lithuania reports. Among the participants in the formal inauguration Mass in the Vilnius Cathedral were Holland's cardinal Adrianus Simonis, who accompanied Backis to Vilnius on 1March, Archbishop Jean Louis Tauran from the Vatican's Secretariat, papal nuncio to the Baltic States Bishop Justo Mullor Garcia, Vincentas Cardinal Sladkevicius, and many bishops from Lithuania and other countries. (Saulius Girnius) ESTONIAN-RUSSIAN ECONOMIC ACCORD. Radio Riga reported on 3March that Estonia and Russia have signed an economic accord for 1992. Details of the agreement, which essentially involves barter of products that both sides need, have not become available. (Dzintra Bungs) CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE BOSNIAN SITUATION. Radio Sarajevo reported on 3 and 4March that the situation in certain areas of Bosnia-Herzegovina remains tense after last weekend's referendum on independence. At a press conference Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic declared the multiethnic republic independent and neutral and called for international recognition. Final results show that 63.4% of eligible voters took part in the balloting and 99.4% of the ballots cast favored independence. German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher told German radio on 3March, that his country will wait for an EC consensus on recognizing the independence of Bosnia-Herzegovina, but called for quick recognition of the former Yugoslav republic. In January the EC recommended a referendum as one precondition for diplomatic recognition. (Milan Andrejevich) "MIXED PATROLS" FOR BOSNIA. Izetbegovic condemned the blockades set up by militant Serbs in Sarajevo, but Serb leaders denied that they had taken coordinated action. The militants agreed to remove barricades, but some roadblocks remain along the outskirts of the city and in several towns in eastern Herzegovina and northern Bosnia. Late on 3March the commander of the federal army's Second Military District in Sarajevo called a meeting with Izetbegovic and Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic. The three agreed that the situation could be best handled with the mobilization of "mixed patrols" of Yugoslav army troops and Bosnian police composed of Muslims and Serbs. The joint units will patrol Sarajevo streets and disarm any Serb or Muslim militia groups. Karadzic appealed to the citizens to remain in their homes and districts. At Bosanski Brod heavy fighting between police and groups of Muslim and Serb militiamen resulted in several deaths. Early on 4March a cease-fire was negotiated and appears to be holding. Serb leaders appealed for calm after warnings from the Yugoslav federal army in Belgrade.(Milan Andrejevich) HUNGARIAN COURT REJECTS LAW ON PAST COMMUNIST CRIMES. On 3March the Hungarian Constitutional Court unanimously ruled that the law which would have opened the way to prosecution of communist officials for past crimes is unconstitutional, MTI reports. Under the law, the statute of limitations would have been extended to allow for prosecution of cases of treason, murder, and aggravated assault that occurred between December 1944 and May 1990. The Court said that the current constitution does not permit such an extension and that it is unconstitutional to make laws retroactive for the purpose of punishing individuals. The law was passed by parliament last November, but it was remanded to the court for review by President Arpad Goncz, who had doubts about the constitutionality of some provisions. Goncz told reporters that he hopes that no one will use the court decision to try to "incite passions" and to provoke detrimental debate. Hungarian society is divided over whether communists should be prosecuted for past crimes. (Edith Oltay) HUNGARY AND UZBEKISTAN SIGN BASIC TREATY. On 3March Uzbek Prime Minister Abdul Hashim Mutalov and his Hungarian counterpart Jozsef Antall signed in Budapest a basic treaty governing relations between the two countries, MTI reports. Agreements establishing diplomatic relations and providing for cooperation between the two foreign ministries were also signed. Mutalov asked for Hungarian help in developing Uzbekistan's food-processing industry. He told Antall that his country sees Turkey as the model to follow as it transforms itself into a modern, sovereign state, and he said Uzbekistan intends to foster ties with Iran, Pakistan, and China. (Edith Oltay) WALESA TO VISIT MOSCOW. Polish President Lech Walesa accepted the invitation of Russian Federation President Boris Yeltsin to visit Moscow later this month, Polish and Western media report. In his letter, delivered by Ambassador Yurii Kashlev on 3March, Yeltsin said he is "convinced that Poland, having understanding for the Russian reforms, will share the experience it has gained in the process of democratizing society and introducing a market system." Walesa will sign a treaty of friendship and good neighborly cooperation and possibly other agreements as well. A Polish delegation is now in Moscow to prepare the basic treaty and an accord on ex-Soviet troop withdrawal from Poland. Walesa had resisted accepting a previous invitation from Mikhail Gorbachev, indicating that he would travel to Moscow only when "the visit had been well prepared" and would be certain "to be useful." (Roman Stefanowski) DECOMMUNIZATION CONFERENCE IN WARSAW. A two-day conference, "Decommunization and Democracy," ended in Warsaw on 3March. About 300Polish politicians and intellectuals, together with invited guests from Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Russia, pondered how to deal with their countries' communist past in the areas of economics, law, and politics. According to PAP, one recurring question at the conference was whether further democratization will bring about decommunization, or whether decommunization is the sine qua non of the democratization process. Notable for their absence were representatives of the Center Alliance, the Christian National Union, and the Confederation for Independent Poland, who were protesting the attendance at the conference of the postcommunist Social-Democrats. (Roman Stefanowski) CZECHOSLOVAK PARLIAMENT APPROVES ELECTION DATE. On 3March the parliament presidium set 5-6 June as the date for general elections, CSTK reported. On the basis of respective proportions of the population, the presidium also approved the distribution of seats in the House of the People: 101Czech deputies and 49Slovak deputies will be elected. Czechs and Slovaks each receive 75seats in the House of the Nation. Under the constitution a presidential election must be held within 40days of parliamentary elections, but no date has yet been set. (Peter Matuska) DIENSTBIER IN LONDON. On 3March Czechoslovak Foreign Minister Jiri Dienstbier told the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London that Central and East European countries' transition to market economies needs the help of the EC, the United States, and other advanced countries in order to avoid "potential crises and conflicts." Dienstbier identified three processes that will be decisive in Czechoslovakia: halting economic decline, forming a functioning government at federal and republican levels, and integrating the country into European zone of stability, an RFE correspondent reported. (Peter Matuska) KLAUS ON CZECHOSLOVAKIA. On 3March at a meeting in New York with members of the Council on Foreign Relations, Czechoslovak Finance Minister Vaclav Klaus expressed the opinion that the position and candidacy of Vaclav Havel as Czechoslovak president will not be much affected by the June parliamentary elections. He said the main achievements of the past two years are the end of state paternalism, resumption of individual responsibility, assertion of privatization, and opening up to the world. He expressed optimism that Czechoslovak unity can be preserved, although he acknowledged that "a breakup is a real threat," CSTK reported. (Peter Matuska) CIVIC ALLIANCE PARTY STRATEGY. In an official statement the Civic Alliance Party (CAP) announced its decision to contest the legislative elections on a common platform with the Democratic Convention (DC), Rompres reported on 3March. The CAP also acknowledged the desirability of fielding a single DC candidate for president who could be someone other than their own chairman, Nicolae Manolescu, who is so far the only opposition figure to have indicated an interest in running. (Crisula Stefanescu) SPIROIU INTERVIEWED. Romanian Defense Minister Nicolae Spiroiu said in an interview with Tineretul liber, quoted by Rompres on 3March, that Romania's exports of military materiel are just a token and that all areas of embargo, including Yugoslavia, are duly observed. He said that the Romanian defense industry had taken care of 95% of the country's needs since 1982 and had even been able to export some equipment on occasion. At present because of the general recession, however, weapons production has fallen considerably. Spiroiu said that NATO efforts have gone a long way toward mitigating a sense of insecurity in East European countries that they were being discriminated against by the West. (Crisula Stefanescu)
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