|Life is what happens to us while we're making other plans. - John Lennon|
No. 47, 09 March 1992
SUCCESSOR STATES TO THE USSR MUTALIBOV RESIGNS. Yielding to intense pressure from Azerbaijani militants incensed by recent Armenian successes in Nagorno-Karabakh, President Ayaz Mutalibov submitted his resignation on 6 March to an extraordinary session of the Azerbaijani parliament, CIS and Western media reported. Mutalibov's powers were temporarily transferred to parliament chairman Yakub Mamedov and the country's cabinet was dissolved. Prime Minister Gasan Gasanov was instructed to submit candidates to form a new government within 10 days. Mutalibov's resignation, celebrated by his critics in the streets of Baku on the night of 6 March, is expected to result in an escalation of the fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan. In his short resignation speech, Mutalibov said he feared "there might be some aggression against our people." (Kathy Mihalisko) FIGHTING CONTINUES. Armenian Defense Minister Vazgen Sarkisyan told Reuter on 7 March that Azerbaijani forces launched a large-scale tank and infantry assault on the town of Askeran in Nagorno-Karabakh on 6 March, resulting in numerous casualties. Azerbaijani and Armenian spokesmen in Moscow later announced, according to Western media reports, that Armenian forces halted the offensive on 7 March. Despite a plea for negotiations by interim president Yakub Mamedov on 8 March, fighting raged throughout the disputed enclave over the weekend, particularly in the Askeran and Shaumyanov areas, according to ITAR-TASS on 8 March. Baku media reported on 8 March that the Azerbaijani town of Agdam had come under heavy shelling. (Kathy Mihalisko) ARMENIA ACCUSES CIS, TURKEY. Armenians officials have accused former Soviet army troops of aiding the Azerbaijani side in the attack on Askeran, Los Angeles Times reported on 8 March. The head of the Armenian parliamentary commission on Nagorno-Karabakh was quoted as saying that Turkey is trying to spread its influence among the Muslim republics but that Armenia and Karabakh "are in the way." Another politician, Vahan Shirkhanyan, accused Turkey of fabricating stories of Armenian atrocities. Radio Moscow said on 8 March that the planned opening of a new border crossing between Armenia and Turkey has been postponed indefinitely. (Kathy Mihalisko) "DNIESTER" ACTIVISTS BRIEFLY SEIZE ARMY COMMAND. The new commander of the 14th Army of the CIS, Maj. Gen. Yurii Netkachev, and his entire command staff were held prisoner for 12 hours in their headquarters in Tiraspol by hundreds of "Dniester Republic" activists who managed to break in during the night of 6 to 7 March, Moscow and Moldovan media reported. The activists included the leaders of the Joint Council of Work Collectives (OSTK, the strongest political force on the left bank of the Dniester) and the Womens' Strike Committee. They demanded that the 14th Army turn over its armament and vehicles to the "Dniester republic" and that the military personnel be assigned to "guard the borders" of the would-be republic. The command turned down the demands and was released from detention after negotiations with "Dniester republic president" Igor Smirnov. In a follow-up statement, Netkachev said that he would never take orders from what he termed "the so-called Dniester republic." (Vladimir Socor) SHEVARDNADZE RETURNS TO GEORGIA. Vowing to help Georgians as much as he possibly can, former Soviet foreign minister Eduard Shevardnadze returned to his native Georgia on 7 March for what he said will be an indefinite stay, according to Western and CIS media. He was met at the airport by two leaders of the anti-Gamsakhurdia forces, Jaba Ioseliani and Tengiz Kitovani, and a mob of well-wishers. On 8 March Shevardnadze, speaking from Tbilisi, appealed for Western aid for Georgia. (Kathy Mihalisko) DRAFT BUDGET FOR 1992 PREPARED. For the last six months, the Russian government has been projecting its budget quarter by quarter due to the instability in the Russian and CIS macroeconomy. An ITAR-TASS report of 6 March indicates that the government has projected a draft budget through the end of the year. Total budget spending for the year is estimated at about 2.1 trillion rubles and total incomes at 1.9 trillion rubles. The projected deficit of about 242 billion rubles is equal to 3.6% of the projected GNP of 6.4 trillion rubles for 1992. (John Tedstrom) BUDGET HIGHLIGHTS. According to the ITAR-TASS report, the year's budget is based on replacing the system of enterprise profit payments with a corporate income tax, increased exports of fuel and other raw materials, and a unified customs duty. Expenditures on military equipment are to be cut by 3.5 times in real terms (1991 expenditures were reported at 39.65 billion rubles and the 1992 budget assigns only 11.2 billion). Thus far, the 1992 budget is running "practically without a deficit" according to government officials, but remittances from foreign economic activity and the new value added tax are not being collected as thoroughly as had been hoped. (John Tedstrom) RETAIL PRICES OF MORE STAPLE FOODSTUFFS PARTIALLY FREED. A Russian government decree on retail prices, signed by Boris Yeltsin in his capacity of prime minister, was issued on 7 March, ITAR-TASS reported. It gave local authorities throughout Russia the authority to "abolish the maximum coefficients of price increases" for such staples as bread, milk, kefir, low-fat cottage cheese, sugar, vegetable oil, salt, and matches. The decree recommended that the funds freed by the liberalization of prices should be diverted to the "funds of social protection of the population." This further liberalization is in line with the Economic Policy Memorandum of 27 February and also with IMF recommendations. (Keith Bush) HEALTH DANGERS FROM STREET VENDORS. In the latest issue of Zhizn, the weekly supplement to Izvestiya, Moscow's chief sanitary officer, Irina Piskareva, warned of possible health hazards from some foods sold by street vendors, Reuters reported on 8 March. Piskareva said that a recent check on small private markets around Moscow found that some vendors were selling meat from dogs and cats to unsuspecting buyers. Many cases of contaminated foods were found, and many selling places were infested with rats. She described the situation as "very serious," with many cases of food poisoning being reported. (Keith Bush) YELTSIN DECREE ON TROOPS. Russian President Boris Yeltsin signed a decree on 4 March that transferred former Soviet troops in Germany, Poland, Mongolia, and Cuba to Russia's jurisdiction, Interfax reported on 6 March. Russian State Defense Committee Chairman Colonel General Pavel Grachev was reportedly named Plenipotentiary on questions relating to the presence of Russian troops in these countries. (Stephen Foye) OFFICERS OPPOSE YELTSIN REFORMS. Only 17% of former Soviet army officers support Yeltsin's reform plans, while 56% disapprove, Krasnaya zvezda reported on 6 March. The soldiers polled belonged to ten regiments based in Russia. Poll results also indicated, however, that some 90% of those queried believed that governing Russia should be left to professional politicians. That finding would seem to contradict an earlier poll, taken at the 17 January All-Army Officers Assembly, which suggested that a majority of officers were ready to take military-political questions into their own hands. (Stephen Foye) KOZYREV ON ARMS; BARGAINS IN SPAIN. Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev, speaking in Denmark on 7 March, criticized the Soviet Union for selling arms on an ideological basis and too cheaply, Reuter reported. He said that Russia would henceforth sell weapons only to stable, normal governments, including NATO states. Meanwhile, Reuter reported on 8 March that second-hand military hardware from the former Soviet Union will be auctioned off in May at a base in northeastern Spain. Assault helicopters can be had cheaply, as well as fighter aircraft and possibly even warships. The sale was reported by the Diari de Barcelona newspaper, which said that middle eastern countries were expected to make a number of purchases. (Stephen Foye) GORBACHEV SAYS RUSSIAN MEDIA IS BIASED. In an interview with RFE/RL on 8 March, Mikhail Gorbachev criticized the current Russian media for biased reporting. The former Soviet president said that the Russian government was trying to impose censorship of the media similar to the one that "existed under the CPSU." Therefore Radio Liberty was still needed, Gorbachev said. (Vera Tolz) RUSSIAN SCIENTISTS DENY "BRAIN-DRAIN" REPORTS. A group of nuclear physicists from the CIS defended their integrity amid reports of questionable job offers from Third-World nations, Reuters reported on 6 March. The United States had expressed concerns that countries wanting to develop nuclear weapons--such as Libya--might try to recruit underpaid nuclear scientists from the CIS. The scientists said that there was no more reason to question their integrity than that of West European and US physicists. The statement acknowledged the situation of scientists, including nuclear specialists, in the CIS to be a cause for concern. It welcomed Russian and Western initiatives to adapt their skills for peacetime uses. (Vera Tolz) STALINIST RALLIES IN MOSCOW. About a thousand Muscovites met on 5 March in Red Square to mark the anniversary of their idol, Josef Stalin, and to lay flowers on his grave (in the Kremlin wall). According to Russian television, the admirers praised Stalin for his struggle against the World Zionism and voiced their firm conviction that sooner or later Stalinism would win in the entire world. Later that day a small group of the extremist movement "Vozrozghdenie," led by prominent Russian ultranationalist Valerii Skurlatov, gathered at Pushkin Square to burn an effigy of Boris Yeltsin, "Vesti" reported. The Skurlatovites were less successful than the pure Stalinists, for the police confiscated the effigy and arrested the rally's ringleaders. (Julia Wishnevsky) ANOTHER PRO-COMMUNIST MEETING IN MOSCOW. Another pro-Communist meeting was held in Moscow on 8 March to mark the international women's day, Radio Moscow reported. The meeting, organized by the Communist group "Edinstvo" (Unity), was attended by about 1,000 people. It adopted a resolution demanding the ouster of Moscow mayor Gavriil Popov, his deputy Yurii Luzhkov and the head of the Moscow police, Arkadii Murashev. (Vera Tolz) TURKMENISTAN SIGNS GAS DEALS. Turkmenistan has agreed to supply Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan with natural gas, a Western news agency reported on 5 March, quoting Interfax. In return for its gas, Turkmenistan is to receive electrical engineering and chemical industry equipment, consumer goods and food, and accounts on both sides will be settled at world prices in US dollars on a clearing basis. The signatories have agreed not to interfere with gas shipments across their territories. In the ongoing dispute between Turkmenistan and Ukraine over gas prices, Ukraine has threatened to shut down a pipeline across its territory that carries Turkmen gas as well as Russian. On 5 March, Radio Rossii broadcast a report that Turkmen gas was no longer reaching Armenia, and gas supplies to industries and homes had ceased. (Bess Brown) RUSSIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COMMISSION MEETS. Members of the Russian Constitutional Commission meeting on 7 March expressed concern lest Russia suffer the same fate as the Soviet Union, ITAR-TASS reported. The secretary of the commission, Oleg Rumyantsev, dwelt particularly on chapter 14 of the draft constitution which deals with the powers of the federation, republics, krais, and oblasts. According to Rumyantsev the difficult question of delimiting powers could be resolved before the Congress of People's Deputies meets on 6 April to discuss the new constitution, though full agreement might not be reached with some republics. Rumyantsev said the idea of organizing so-called "lands" (zemli) had been dropped because the republics feared the lands would swallow them up. (Ann Sheehy) KOZYREV IN SCANDINAVIA. Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev held talks in Copenhagen on 7 March with Danish officials and signed three documents: a joint communique on friendly relations between Denmark and Russia, a protocol on consular ties, and an agreement between Russia, Denmark, and Greenland on fishing cooperation, ITAR-TASS reported. On 7 March, Kozyrev traveled to Norway for where he signed (on 8 March) a joint protocol for a working program to develop contacts and increase cooperation between Russia and Norway. During talks between Kozyrev and Norway's Foreign Minister Thorvald Stoltenberg, it was agreed that the two countries would resume talks on their border dispute in the Barents Sea with a new round of negotiations to begin in April 1992, ITAR-TASS reported. (Suzanne Crow) CIS PUBLISHERS CONDEMN POLTORANIN. Knizhnoe obozrenie no. 4 contained an appeal of the Association of Book Publishers of the Independent States to the parliaments and presidents of the CIS member states. The publishers say that the second congress of the Association held in Moscow in January voted unanimously for no confidence in Mikhail Poltoranin, the Russian Minister of the Mass Media and Information, widely viewed as Yeltsin's closest associate. The appeal accuses him of arbitrariness and systematic violations of the law on entrepreneurship and other Russian laws by closing down and expropriating publishing houses, firing their managers without legal grounds and ignoring the opinions of the employees. (Julia Wishnevsky) EASTERN EUROPE BALTIC STATES LITHUANIA-RUSSIA TRADE AGREEMENTS SIGNED. On 6 March Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius and Russian First Vice Premier Gennadii Burbulis signed six mutual supply agreements, Radio Lithuania reports. Russia agreed to send 3 million tons of oil, 4.1 billion cubic meters of gas, 1,500 atomic fuel cassettes, and other goods valued at $968 million, receiving in return 70,000 tons of meat, 400,000 tons of milk, industrial goods, and electricity for Kaliningrad. Lithuania was also granted the right to purchase from Russian enterprises goods worth $2.6 billion including an additional 2.5 million tons of oil and 110,000 tons of metals. Lithuania's annual demand for these products is substantially higher, and it is not yet clear how it will obtain them. (Saulius Girnius) LANDSBERGIS CONTINUES JAPAN VISIT. On 6 March Lithuanian Supreme Council Chairman Vytautas Landsbergis spoke at the opening of an exhibition at the Sezon Museum of Art in Tokyo of Mykalojus Konstantinas Ciurlionis (1875-1911), Lithuania's most famous painter, about whose music and art Landsbergis has written extensively. Together with International Relations Minister Vytenis Aleskaitis he held talks with Japanese businessmen on trade and investments, and on 7 March he met Foreign Minister Michio Watanabe, Radio Lithuania reports. Throughout the visit Landsbergis has stressed the urgency of the ex-Soviet troops to leave Lithuania. He said he expects Lithuania to join the IMF in April and hopes that a stabilization fund will be created to expedite the introduction of Lithuania's currency, the litas. (Saulius Girnius) TROOP WITHDRAWAL TALKS. On 6 March Lithuanian Supreme Council deputy chairman Ceslovas Stankevicius, Lithuanian chief negotiator for withdrawal of former Soviet troops, sent a telegram to his Russian counterpart Sergei Shakhrai proposing 16 and 20 March as dates for the second round of talks in Vilnius, Radio Lithuania reports. (Saulius Girnius) MILITARY BUILDING IN KAUNAS HANDED OVER. On 6 March a large crowd gathered around the Military Officers Club in Kaunas demanding that the military vacate the premises, the RFE Lithuanian Service reports. After talks with Lithuanian officials, the CIS officers agreed to hand over the building temporarily to the Lithuanian National Defense Ministry until an agreement between Lithuania and the Northwest Group of Forces on the its fate is concluded. On 7 March Kaunas District Military commander Maj. Virginijus Vilkelis said that his troops were guarding the building in accordance with the September 1991 government directive on military property. (Saulius Girnius) GENSCHER PROPOSES BALTIC UNIVERSITY. At the conference of the Baltic Sea States in Copenhagen, Germany's Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher proposed the creation of a Baltic European university in either Estonia, Latvia, or Lithuania. Genscher envisages the university as receiving funding from the European Community and as specializing in law, administration, and economics, Western agencies reported on 6 March. It is not clear if Genscher received his inspiration from the Baltic University that existed in the north German town of Pinneberg after World War II. (Dzintra Bungs) BALTIC MINORITY RIGHTS OFFICE TO BE ESTABLISHED? Responding to observations by Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev and Polish Foreign Minister Kryzstof Skubiszewski about problems of minorities in the countries around the Baltic Sea, the newly established Council of the Baltic Sea States will probably consider these issues in the near future. Lithuanian Foreign Minister Algirdas Saudargas, while denying Kozyrev's accusations that the Baltic States are violating the rights of their Russian-speaking minorities, offered Vilnius as home for a minority rights office. Other foreign ministers pointed out that the new council should not duplicate the work of the CSCE, Western agencies reported on 6 March. (Dzintra Bungs) THE CHECK'S IN THE MAIL? Estonia's Ambassador to Russia Juri Kahn told BNS on 6 March that he had not yet received an invitation to come the Russian Foreign Ministry to clarify Estonia's new citizenship application law . BNS reported earlier that Russia's Foreign Ministry had already formally summoned Kahn to the Kremlin. (Riina Kionka) CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE UPDATE ON FORMER YUGOSLAVIA. Austrian TV reported on 8 March that the federal army shelled Osijek for several hours the previous night. The BBC on 9 March quoted UN peace-keepers as saying that they are determined to go ahead with their mission nonetheless. Two important events are slated for 9 March: the resumption of the EC-sponsored peace talks in Brussels and an antigovernment protest in Belgrade. The object of the planned demonstrations, Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, was injured in a car accident on 8 March and will not be joining in the Brussels talks; he will be represented by his foreign minister. Meanwhile, the 9 March Vecernji list reports that Croatia plans to seek membership in UNESCO in conjunction with plans to rebuild and restore Dubrovnik, which Serbian and federal forces shelled last year. Over the weekend the German and Austrian media reported that a tense peace continues in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina. (Patrick Moore) OLSZEWSKI: NO ALTERNATIVE FOR GOVERNMENT PROGRAM. Polish Prime Minister Jan Olszewski told a news conference on 6 March that his government will not resign despite the rejection of his economic program in the Sejm on 5 March, Polish and Western media reported. Olszewski said the Sejm vote was ambiguous and the result more of a political game than a difference of opinion on substance. He said he would draft a new budget and submit it to the Sejm by 23 March. The provisional budget for the first quarter of 1992 is a holdover from the previous government. Olszewski said he will treat the next vote on the budget as an issue of confidence and will resign if it goes against him. Speaking on Polish TV on 8 March Olszewski said "there is currently no alternative to the government economic program" a situation he finds regrettable, since "in a democracy a government should not be facing situations where there are no alternatives." (Roman Stefanowski) BUSH WRITES WALESA. On 6 March President Lech Walesa's press office released a summary of a letter US President George Bush wrote him on 28 February inquiring how he could help Poland, Polish and Western media report. In his letter Bush said he understands that the Poles are anxious about their economic future, but they must understand that the key issue for them is attracting foreign investment, essential for job creation and the integration of the Polish economy with that of the world. Bush offered to send a team of experienced US business experts to advise on attracting investments, but he also stressed that it is vital for Poland "to return to the economic program supported by the IMF." The letter refers to Walesa's speech to the European Parliamentary Assembly in Strasbourg on 4 February, in which, disappointed with the level of Western help, Walesa accused the West of deluging Poland with consumer goods but refusing to undertake major investments. (Roman Stefanowski) SLOVAK CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATS SPLIT. On 7 March the Christian Democratic Movement in Slovakia split into two factions because of differences over Slovakia's relationship within the federal Czechoslovak state, an RFE correspondent reported. The new faction, called Slovak Christian Democratic Movement, is led by Slovak parliament Deputy Chairman Jan Klepac, who opposed the Slovak government's position in favor of a negotiated agreement with the Czechs on the structure of Czechoslovakia and joined with the opposition in refusing to support any agreement before the elections. Both parties said they would remain in the Slovak government coalition to avoid a governmental crisis. (Peter Matuska) THREE SLOVAK GROUPS HOLD UNIFICATION CONGRESS. On 7 March nearly 100 representatives of the Movement for an Independent Slovakia, the Slovak People's Party, and the Slovak National Unification Party held a congress to outline common goals. The congress called for the creation of a pluralistic, democratic, and neutral Slovak state. The Chairman of the Slovak Unification Party, Jan Veselovsky, told the meeting that Slovak independence is not only an emotional objective but also an economic necessity, an RFE correspondent reported. (Peter Matuska) SCREENING LAW CRITICIZED. On 6 March the International Labor Organization called on Czechoslovakia to "scrap or change" the law barring people linked to the former communist regime from jobs in state bodies or private business, Reuters reports. The ILO's ruling came in response to a report by two Czechoslovak trade unions alleging that the law extends the principle of collective guilt to tens of thousands of people probably largely innocent. On 6 March Alexander Dubcek, chairman of the Czechoslovak parliament, handed CSTK a letter from Catherine Lalumihre, secretary-general of the Council of Europe, in which she says that the screening law's restrictions "must be unequivocally applied on an individual, not a collective basis." (Peter Matuska) POLISH, CZECHOSLOVAK, HUNGARIAN DEFENSE MINISTERS MEET. The military chiefs of the so-called Visegrad Triangle countries consulted in Budapest on 6 March 1992, MTI reports. Military cooperation, coordination of defense industries, plans for a joint air defense system, and a possible common approach to NATO, were discussed. The ministers were also received by Prime Minister Jozsef Antall. The joint communiqui stated that the meeting was intended to contribute to stability in Central and Eastern Europe and building European security and was not directed against any one power. (Karoly Okolicsanyi) HEALTH WORKERS' DEMONSTRATION. About 30,000 nurses, doctors, and other health workers staged a demonstration in Budapest on 7 March Saturday, MTI reports. The main trade union speaker demanded an immediate 50% wage hike and government expenditure increases for the health sector at a level matching inflation. Public Welfare Minister Laszlo Surjan also addressed the crowd. The demonstration was designed to underscore the union's demands in the wage negotiations now under way. (Karoly Okolicsanyi) ROMANIAN OPPOSITION SOUNDS ALARM ON MOLDOVA. In a statement circulated by Rompres on 8 March, the Democratic Convention has urged the government officially to denounce the recent fighting in Moldova between Moldovans and Russian-speaking separatists in the self-declared Dniester Republic and to proclaim "any attack against the integrity of Moldova's people and territory an attack against Romanian territory and citizens." The statement calls on the government to offer Moldovans Romania citizenship without delay. President Ion Iliescu supports Moldovan independence. (Crisula Stefanescu) HIGH LEVEL CONSULTATIONS IN BULGARIA. President Zhelyu Zhelev had a four-hour meeting on 6 March with top figures of the National Coordinating Council and the parliamentary caucus of the ruling UDF. The meeting appeared to have successfully reduced tensions. Bulgarian dailies reported on 7 March that Zhelev reemphasized his commitment to the UDF principles. Among the main issues discussed were the separation of powers and the supervision of the special services, which will be subject to parliamentary control and a special law. Also discussed were the recent allegations that Foreign Minister Stoyan Ganev and Ahmed Dogan, leader of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, gave lists of secret agents to foreign embassies, but it was decided only make public all relevant information in the case. It was decided to hold such meetings about once a month. (Rada Nikolaev) DUMA MAY STOP PUBLISHING. The BSP daily Duma has intensified its campaign to stay in business. Its publishing house is under threat of being confiscated on the basis of the law on party property of 13 December 1991. On 6 March Duma reported that its editor-in-chief, Stefan Prodev, had sent an open letter to French President Mitterrand, complaining of the "attempt to liquidate the largest opposition paper in Bulgaria." On 7 March it published messages of support from functionaries of the International Organization of Journalists. On 5 March BTA quoted Minister of Finance Ivan Kostov as saying that the property of the newspapers affected by the law--such as Trud and Zemedelsko zname in addition to Duma--would be taken over by the state but would be made available for reasonable rents. (Rada Nikolaev) As of 1200 CET
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