|When in doubt, tell the truth. - Mark Twain|
No. 50, 12 March 1992
SUCCESSOR STATES TO THE USSR PRESIDIUM OF RUSSIAN PARLIAMENT DISCUSSES ATTEMPTS TO CONVENE USSR CONGRESS. On 11 March the Presidium of the Russian parliament called attempts to reconvene the USSR Congress of People's Deputies on 17 March "an assault on the sovereignty of the Russian Federation," "Ostankino" television reported that day. The presidium called on the Russian government, the government of Moscow, and its mayor's office not to allow the meeting of the USSR Congress to take place. That same day Moscow newspapers published a statement from the Moscow mayor, Gavriil Popov, who described the plans of the Communist-nationalist opposition bloc to reconvene the USSR Congress as "another coup attempt." (Vera Tolz) LUKYANOV PROPOSED AS USSR PRESIDENT. Some former USSR deputies who want to hold an unofficial Congress of USSR People's Deputies in Brest on 17 March, have proposed Anatolii Lukyanov for the post of head of the Soviet state, Moskovskie novosti (No. 10) reported. Lukyanov, who was chairman of the ex-USSR Supreme Soviet, is currently in prison and under investigation for his role in the putsch. Commenting on the emerging conservativism among the deputies, First Deputy Chairman of the Russian Supreme Soviet Sergei Filatov told ITAR-TASS on 11 March that conservative forces may also dominate at the forthcoming Russian Congress of People's Deputies which will begin on 6 April. Filatov blamed the emergence of a strong conservative reaction on the failure of democrats to unite. (Alexander Rahr) COUNCIL OF OPPOSITION MOVEMENTS SET UP. Leaders of 25 extreme nationalist and Communist groups announced the creation of the joint Council of Opposition Movements, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 March. The leaders, including member of the Russian parliament Sergei Baburin, former member of the leadership of the Russian Communist Party Gennadii Zyuganov and writer Aleksandr Prokhanov, held a press conference in Moscow on 11 March at which they called for a meeting of the USSR Congress of People's Deputies and a mass anti-government demonstration to be held on 17 March. (Vera Tolz) CIS STRUCTURES START WORK. Some CIS structures seem to function despite other disagreements among former Soviet republics. The first meeting of the CIS Council for Railway Transportation took place in Moscow, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 March. All CIS member states sent their representatives to the meeting and Georgia asked for observer status at the council. The Russian Minister of Railway Transportation Gennadii Fadeev was elected chairman of the Council for 1992. (Alexander Rahr) IMF STABILIZATION PACKAGE SOON? Several reports from Washington and Moscow suggest that a package of assistance and stabilization measures for Russia will be completed in the next few weeks by the International Monetary Fund. The reports differ, however, on the dates and on whether the package will be fully funded. The Washington Post of 11 March gives the impression that a quantification of the aid required by Russia will be approved by the Fund's directors on 27 April, but it is still not clear where the money will come from. All sources quote these requirements as adding up to about $12 billion in food donations, debt relief, and other financing, plus $5 to $6 billion for a ruble stabilization fund. (Keith Bush) DETAILS OF THE STABILIZATION FUND. The Boston Globe of March 12 reckons that the assistance and stabilization package could be approved by the IMF Executive Board on 30 March, and implies that it will be fully funded. It cites Anders Aslund, one of the Russian government's Western advisers, as explaining how the figure of $5 billion was arrived at. It is calculated to cover five weeks of imports: at present, according to Aslund, the Russian government has only $100 million in reserves--enough to pay for one day's imports. Aslund believes that the stabilization fund would enable the ruble to be pegged at about 25 to $1; without it, the ruble might stabilize at around 75 to $1. (Keith Bush) RUBLE EXCHANGE RATE. At the currency auction in Moscow on 10 March, it took 140 rubles to buy $1, i.e., virtually unchanged from the previous week's rate, Interfax reported on 11 March. The lowest point for the ruble was recorded in January, when it fell to 230 rubles to the dollar. (Keith Bush) PRIVATIZATION OF LAND IN RUSSIA. A Russian presidential edict "On the sale of land to citizens and legal persons in connection with the privatization of state and municipal enterprises" has achieved parliamentary approval under the one-week time-limit for parliamentary rejection of these edicts. It allows non-farm land to be bought, and not merely leased, when the state enterprise occupying that land is privatized or when such a plant is extended. Kommersant (March 9) describes this as a breakthrough for both domestic and foreign business. More detailed legislation will however be needed. The edict went to parliament on February 29, so it came into effect on March 6. (Philip Hanson) UKRAINE AND RUSSIA TO GUARANTEE FOREIGN DEBT. Ukraine and Russia will collectively guarantee the former Soviet Union's foreign debt, Radio Rossii reported on 11 March. According to the report, Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk told visiting American senators that such an agreement will be reached at the 20 March CIS meeting in Kiev. Russia will assume the responsibilities of eight former republics and Ukraine will guarantee payment for five others; the payments will be made through a special bank that is neither Ukrainian nor Russian. (Roman Solchanyk) UKRAINE TAKES OVER STRATEGIC TANKERS. A regiment of IL-78 refueling aircraft that was part of the strategic air division at Uzin, near Kiev, has been removed from the list of CIS strategic forces and apparently attached to the Ukrainian armed forces. Interfax on 11 March said that this had been done through the efforts of Ukrainian Defense Minister Konstantin Morozov and at the insistence of the division's leaders. Part of the division had earlier declared allegiance to Ukraine, prompting the removal of the division commander by CIS commander in chief Marshal Evgenii Shaposhnikov. The IL-78, nicknamed MIDAS by NATO, is the most modern tanker in the ex-Soviet air force. Only some 12 are believed to be in service, so this regiment might be the only one of its kind. (Doug Clarke) UKRAINIAN FOREIGN INVESTMENT LAW. The Ukrainian parliament unanimously approved a foreign investment law on 11 March, Western agencies reported. The law, which goes into effect on 12 March, allows foreigners to buy up to 100 % of Ukrainian businesses or property. It also guarantees the right of foreign investors to repatriate revenues and profits. Another clause provides for compensation in the event that property owned by foreigners is nationalized by a future government. All current joint ventures are exempted from taxation for five years after they start to make a profit. New joint ventures will be exempted from taxation on their profits for three years. (Keith Bush) BELARUS: SITUATION BECOMING "CRITICAL." The Belarusian parliament went into session on March 11 with a warning from Chairman Stanislau Shushkevich that Belarus is approaching a "critical" situation, according to BELTA-TASS. Shushkevich accused the "former nomenklatura" of impeding changes and said that land reform is being "sabotaged." At its current session, he continued, parliament should approve a bill to enable democratic elections of new local governments. Against the background of the opposition's campaign to sponsor a referendum on new elections to the country's parliament, Shushkevich's words clearly indicated that he is trying to shift the blame for the country's ills to lower-level bodies. He said that although the existing parliament has made many mistakes, it is still capable of tackling the problems facing Belarus. (Kathy Mihalisko) RUTSKOI ON TRANSCAUCASUS. Tactical nuclear weapons are still located in Azerbaijan and Armenia, but possible seizure of these weapons by terrorists is unlikely, according to Russian Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi. Rutskoi told Vesti on 11 March that he favors an immediate withdrawal of troops of the Transcaucasian military districts from the "sovereign states" of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia, arguing that these states "should sort out things between themselves." Rutskoi also told ITAR-TASS on 12 March that Armenian and Azeri requests for Soviet military equipment to build their own armies should be rejected. (Alexander Rahr) AZERBAIJANI PRIME MINISTER ON NAGORNO-KARABAKH. Speaking at a joint news conference in Baku on 11 March with British Foreign Office minister Douglas Hogg, Azerbaijani Premier Hasan Hasanov stated that he wanted a peaceful settlement of the Karabakh conflict, but that there was a 50-50 chance of all-out war unless Armenia immediately withdrew its "state terrorist army" from the region, Western news agencies reported. Hogg expressed confidence that last month's CSCE proposals could form the basis for a negotiated settlement. Two Azerbaijani officials met in Tehran with Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati to discuss Iran's mediation plans; IRNA announced that Azerbaijan had agreed to Iran's proposal for an international observer force to monitor a cease-fire. Armenian parliament chairman Babken Ararktsyan told Western journalists that Armenia and Azerbaijan are trying to arrange direct negotiations on Nagorno-Karabakh. (Liz Fuller) TAJIKISTAN ADOPTS LAW ON FOREIGN INVESTMENTS. Tajikistan has adopted a law on foreign investment, TadzhikTA-TASS reported on 11 March, giving foreign investors the right to set up enterprises, purchase stock, and participate in the privatization of state enterprises. The law also establishes legal guarantees for foreign investments. Tajikistan has lagged behind neighboring Uzbekistan in the matter of foreign investment: Uzbekistan passed a similar law last July. (Bess Brown) KARIMOV TO CHINA. Uzbek President Islam Karimov begins a visit to China on 12 March, according to Western agencies and Interfax. He is the first Uzbek leader to visit China since Uzbekistan gained independence last year. The object of the visit, according to Interfax, is to discuss ways to promote bilateral cooperation and to broaden friendly contacts. Uzbekistan and China established diplomatic relations at the beginning of January. (Bess Brown) RUSSIAN AUTONOMOUS FORMATIONS DISCUSS FEDERAL TREATY. A meeting of the Association of the Autonomous Formations of Russia, which embraces the (former) autonomous okrugs of the republic, opened in Khanty-Mansiisk on 11 March to discuss the draft federal treaty to be signed between Russia and its constituent territories, the Information Program of Central Television reported. The meeting is being attended by the chairman of the Russian parliament's Council of Nationalities, Ramazan Abdulatipov. The Russian leadership is hoping that the treaty can be signed in the near future. (Ann Sheehy) TATARSTAN REFERENDUM. There is no certainty that Tatarstan representatives will attend the session of Russia's constitutional court on 12 March that will examine the legality of the 21 March referendum on the status of Tatarstan, but the Tatarstan president Mintimer Shaimiev is continuing to canvas for a "yes" vote and denying that the referendum is on secession from Russia, "Vesti" and Rossiyskaya gazeta reported on 11 March. Russian Vice-President Aleksandr Rutskoi issued an appeal to his fellow countrymen on 11 March in connection with the referendum, saying that a "yes" vote would destroy Russia, ITAR-TASS reported. Rutskoi, like many others, understandably interprets the referendum question as sanctioning secession. (Ann Sheehy) LOCAL AUTHORITIES OBJECT TO RUSSIAN-CHECHEN MEETING IN SOCHI. The head of the administration of Sochi Nikolai Karpov sent an appeal to the leadership of the Russian parliament on 11 March asking that the proposed talks in the city between Russian and Chechen representatives be postponed, ITAR-TASS reported. The talks were expected to start on 12 March. Karpov argued that Sochi was not the best place for such talks in view of recent claims by representatives of Georgia and the Confederation of Mountain Peoples of the Caucasus to Russia's Black littoral and local ethnic conflicts at the end of 1991. Karpov expressed holiday makers were arriving in increasing numbers (Ann Sheehy) KARELIAN PARLIAMENTARY CHAIRMAN OBJECTS TO MISINFORMATION. The chairman of the Karelian parliament V.N. Stepanov said on Radio Mayak on 10 March that he regarded reports in the central press that Karelia wants to secede from Russia as provocationary, and that the Karelian parliament would request an investigation. Stepanov said that at the last parliamentary session some deputies, frustrated at the ignoring of the republic's rights, had suggested that the question of whether or not Karelia could exist autonomously be put on the agenda, but it had not been included. Stepanov said Karelia was in favor of the signing of the federal treaty, once it had been reworked to take account of the republic's suggestions. (Ann Sheehy) EASTERN EUROPE BALTIC STATES BALTIC AMBASSADORS PRESENT CREDENTIALS. On 11 March President George Bush received the credentials of the Lithuanian and Latvian ambassadors, Stasys Lozoraitis and Anatols Dinnbergs, an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington reports. Bush told the ambassadors that the US will provide more aid. Senate confirmation hearings on the US ambassadors to Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, Robert Frasure, Ints Silins, and Darryl Johnson, are now scheduled to take place on 12 March. (Saulius Girnius) ESTONIA OUSTS MILITARY DEPUTIES. In a surprise move, on 11 March the Estonian Supreme Council voted 57 to 1, with one abstention, to expel the four representatives of the former Soviet military serving as parliamentary deputies, BNS reports. The military representatives were "elected" by Soviet military troops stationed in Estonia in polling held only on military bases, separate from regular parliamentary elections in March 1990. These four consistently voted with the Russian-speaking, pro-Soviet Intermovement bloc in the Supreme Council. Their continued participation in the legislature, even after Estonia regained its independence, was a sore point with many Estonians. (Riina Kionka) TALLINN MAYOR GONE. In another unexpected vote, the Estonian Supreme Council on 11 March finally accepted the resignation of Tallinn mayor Hardo Aasmae, BNS reports. Aasmae was forced to resign last month after losing a no-confidence vote in the city council. The Estonian Supreme Council, however, has the authority to override the city council, so, with Aasmae's allies in the Supreme Council aggressively and repeatedly blocking confirmation of his resignation, Aasmae had continued in office. (Riina Kionka) ANOTHER PUBLIC DISCUSSION OF DRAFT CONSTITUTION? The Estonian Supreme Council on 12 March will address the issue of whether the completed draft constitution requires another public discussion period before being put to a referendum, BNS reports. Earlier this week, the chairman of the Supreme Council Foreign Affairs Commission, Indrek Toome, proposed reopening the discussion, citing unresolved problems in the draft. Toome's proposal has drawn sharp criticism from supporters of the final draft, who say the Constituent Assembly has already adequately considered all suggestions received from organizations and individuals during the two-month period reserved for public reaction after the draft was published in late December. (Riina Kionka) COMMEMORATIONS OF REESTABLISHMENT OF INDEPENDENCE. On 11 March the second anniversary of the reestablishment of Lithuanian independence was celebrated throughout the republic. The main ceremonies at the Lithuanian parliament were attended by delegations from Estonia, Germany, Latvia, and Poland as well as many ambassadors. Addresses were made by Supreme Council chairman Vytautas Landsbergis and Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius. About 20,000 people attended a rally in Independence Square organized by Sajudis, prior to which there was a parade by the Lithuanian National Defense forces. The ceremonies were broadcast live by Radio Lithuania. (Saulius Girnius) RIGA-MOSCOW PLANE SERVICE RESUMES. Diena reported on 10 March that on a trial basis Latvia has resumed a morning flight to Moscow. All flights to parts of the former USSR had to stopped earlier this year because Latvia was not getting the fuel that had been promised by Russia. Recently Latvian Airlines was able to obtain fuel but at unsubsidized, market prices. Consequently the one-way ticket price is 925 rubles; in contrast, the return ticket from Moscow to Riga costs only 240 rubles. (Dzintra Bungs) CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE CZECH, SLOVAK PARLIAMENT LEADERS SUGGEST SUSPENDING TALKS. On 11 March, after more than a year of failed efforts to agree on Czechoslovakia's future state structure, the leaders of the Czech and the Slovak parliaments, Dagmar Buresova and Frantisek Miklosko respectively, said further Czech-Slovak talks should be suspended until new parliaments are elected in June. Buresova said she believed the Slovak parliament rejection of the draft agreement worked out at Milovy made failure inevitable. Miklosko suggested that the Milovy agreement failed to address the Slovak desire for more autonomy. In his view the Czech side's failure to make new proposals after the agreement was rejected endangered the whole federation, an RFE/RL correspondent reports. (Peter Matuska) DEMONSTRATION FOR SLOVAKIA'S INDEPENDENCE. On 11 March about 7,000 people in Bratislava turned out for a demonstration organized by the cultural organization Matica Slovenska, CSTK reports. The demonstrators carried banners with slogans against the Czechoslovak federal state and chanted calls for a free, democratic, and independent Slovakia. An official of Matica Slovenska, Stanislav Bajanik, said the institution is promoting unity among Slovak parliamentary parties to achieve independence. (Peter Matuska) DEMONSTRATION AGAINST CZECHOSLOVAK-GERMAN TREATY. On 11 March about 6,000 people demonstrated in Prague against the Czechoslovak-German treaty of friendship. The demonstration was organized by an alliance of left-wing groups known as Movement 90 that object to the high level of German capital flowing into Czechoslovakia, Western media report. The treaty, which was signed by President Vaclav Havel and Chancellor Helmut Kohl last month, renounced territorial and other claims by each government against the other. The German cabinet approved the treaty on 11 March and sent it to parliament and the Czechoslovak parliament will consider the treaty next month. (Peter Matuska) HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT DISCUSSES HYDROELECTRIC PROJECT. According to an RFE/RL correspondent's report on 11 March, Hungarian Deputy Foreign Minister Tamas Katona has warned parliament against damaging relations with Slovakia over the controversial Gabcikovo-Nagymaros hydroelectric dam project. Hungary has been considering canceling the 1977 bilateral treaty and stopped practically all construction on the project in 1989 after environmental protests. Czechoslovakia has continued to work on the scheme and wants to finish it. Hungary claims that the plan would cause enormous environmental damage in Hungary by changing groundwater levels. They say the dam would also alter the flow of the Danube causing a change in the location of the border. Katona is concerned that a hasty, unilateral move by Hungary could "embitter Hungarian-Slovak relations for decades." (Judith Pataki) BULGARIAN EX-PREMIER GROUNDED. On 11 March Andrey Lukanov, former prime minister and prominent member of the BSP, was stopped from leaving the country. The incident occurred in conjunction with a declaration by Prosecutor-General Ivan Tatarchev that 47 former top-ranking communists, whose past activities are under investigation, may not leave the country. Lukanov's passport had been confiscated when he returned from a visit to Moscow two days earlier but was returned to him upon intervention of parliamentary chairman Stefan Savov. (Kjell Engelbrekt) BULGARIANS PLAN TO MERGE BANKS. The formation of the Bank Consolidation Company (BCC) was announced at a news conference in Sofia on 11 March, Reuters reports. Officials said the BCC, set up as a holding of the Bulgarian National bank and the Foreign Trade Bank, will become the major shareholder of the numerous so-called commercial banks. Following preliminary evaluation by financial experts, the commercial banks will later be merged into 8-12 larger banks. According to BCC estimates, privatization of the banking system will take about three years. (Kjell Engelbrekt) BELGRADE STUDENT PROTESTS CONTINUE. The student-organized rally against the socialist government that began Tuesday in Belgrade continued on the morning of 12 March. About 300 students pressed for the resignation of Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic and called for new elections. Belgrade's independent radio B-92 said the rally on Wednesday involved not only university and secondary school students but members of the Serbian teachers association and the Women's Movement of Yugoslavia as well. The organizations had sent out letters to parents in protest what they called the government's manipulation of children for political purposes. Serbian Orthodox Bishop Atanasije Jevtic called for the creation of "a national government of salvation, unity, and concord." Opposition political leaders also addressed the rally. Antigovernment demonstrations at this time last year resulted in two dead. (Milan Andrejevich) BOSNIAN SERBS REJECT EC PLAN. An emotion-filled session of the Assembly of the Serbian People of Bosnia-Herzegovina, rejected an EC plan on the future political shape of the multiethnic republic. The action was taken after deputies had been briefed by Serb negotiators on the progress of talks among the republic's top Muslim, Serb, and Croat leaders. One deputy said he was rejecting the Muslim and Croat proposal to federalize the republic, describing it as "the birth of a Muslim bastard on the land of our grandfathers." Radio Sarajevo carried the report on 11 March. Serbs are calling for the "cantonization" of the republic, a confederation of units formed along ethnic lines. Muslims and Croats In Bosnia-Herzegovina recently voted in favor of independence, which Serbs oppose. (Milan Andrejevich) BOSNIANS CONTINUE TO FORM PARAMILITARY GROUPS. Radio Sarajevo reports that Serb officials in Bosnia-Herzegovina have released a statement claiming to have concrete evidence that 30,000 Muslims have been organized into paramilitary units by the Muslim Party for Democratic Action, the republic's largest party. The Serbs claim these units--some with names like "the Handzar Division," "the Kemal Ataturk Division," and "the Red Fez Division"--have received weapons through Slovenia and Croatia and are financed by Libya and Iran. By the same token, the Serbs deny reports that the Serbian Democratic Party has formed paramilitary units and claim that the presence of the Muslim "Green Berets" and the Croatian Defense Forces (HOS) in Bosnia-Herzegovina "has been rudely passed over in silence." For some time Bosnian police officials have said that all three ethnic groups are "armed to the teeth" and have formed paramilitary units. (Milan Andrejevich) CZECHOSLOVAK TROOPS TO JOIN UN FORCES. On 11 March the Czechoslovak parliament approved the federal government's plan to send 480 soldiers and 20 cease-fire observers to join the UN peacekeeping mission in Croatia, an RFE/RL corespondent reports. (Peter Matuska) WOERNER AND EIDE ON NATO RELATIONSHIP WITH POLAND. On 11 March, after talks with Foreign Minister Krzysztof Skubiszewski, NATO Secretary-General Manfred Woerner said that the alliance attaches "special importance" to Poland due to Warsaw's "good relations" with its neighbors, notably those to the East. He reiterated that the Alliance is striving for a "three-pillar" security arrangement in Europe among NATO, the EC, and the CSCE. Skubiszewski said it was impossible for the moment to set a timetable for Polish entry into NATO but progress would ensue "step by step." In another development, the NATO Military Committee Chairman, Norwegian Gen. Vigleik Eide, said this is not the right time for Poland formally to join the alliance. After meeting Defense Minister Jan Parys on 11 March, he told newsmen in Warsaw that when NATO talks about military cooperation with members of the former Warsaw Pact, "it is aimed at all our former adversaries, none excluded." Earlier, Eide expressed support for a widening of cooperation between NATO and Poland. Western and Polish media carried the story. (Wladyslaw Minkiewicz) POLISH PRIME MINISTER TO VISIT FRANCE. Poland's Premier Jan Olszewski will make an official two-day visit to France on 18 March, Western and Polish media report. He is expected to meet with Prime Minister Edith Cresson, President Francois Mitterrand, and Foreign Minister Roland Dumas as well as with French industrialists. (Wladyslaw Minkiewicz)
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