|It is easier to love humanity than to love one's neighbor. - Eric Hoffer|
No. 51, 13 March 1992
SUCCESSOR STATES TO THE USSR POPOV AUTHORIZES 17 MARCH RALLY. Moscow mayor Gavriil Popov has granted a permit to Communist groups who want to hold a large rally in Manezh Square in Moscow on March 17, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 March. Earlier this month, Popov's deputy Yurii Lyzhkov issued a statement that banned this rally. Popov himself previously opposed the rally. In addition, the presidium of the Russian parliament urged Popov on 11 March to deny the rally permission. The sudden change in Popov's position on the rally may have been motivated by the fear that suppressing such activities might serve to bolster the popularity of Communists, who now try to portray themselves as persecuted dissidents. (Vera Tolz) RUSSIAN PRESS DEBATES USSR CONGRESS. Russian newspapers on 12 March debated the Communists' plan to reconvene the USSR Congress of People's Deputies on 17 March. While the former conservative Communist media supported the idea, Moskovsky komsomolets called the plan "an attempt at a new coup d' etat." ITAR-TASS said that the Russian procurator general had warned of legal actions against organizers of the meeting. A former member of the now defunct USSR Constitutional Compliance Committee, Vadim Filimonov, noted that "neither the Russian procurator general nor the Russian parliament have the legal right to prevent a meeting of the USSR Congress." and that the threat to charge the organizers with treasons is not well grounded. (Vera Tolz) TODAY'S CIS PREMIERS' MEETING. Most of the items of the preliminary agenda for the meeting on 13 March of CIS heads of government items are economic, according to ITAR-TASS of 12 March. Those items that refer to agreements on "principles" (of tax and customs policy, in particular) or are uncontroversial (standardization, commercial dispute resolution framework), may well produce agreements. A proposed agreement on the principles and mechanisms (emphasis added) of internal-debt service, along with discussion items on foreign debts and assets and on an inter-bank union and payments arrangements are more serious and more likely to end in tears. (Philip Hanson) THE SIZE OF THE EX-SOVIET NATIONAL DEBT. Irinia Demchenko in Izvestiya of 5 March gives ex-USSR Gosbank data on the build-up of the Soviet national (internal) debt since 1968. Of an end-1991 total of 940 billion rubles, more than 800 comes from the Gorbachev period. This represents borrowing by the government from the old state banking system to cover budget and crypto-budget deficits. The growth in 1991 is put at 394 billion rubles. Demchenko notes that the Russian government, quite separately, has built up a debt of 125 billion rubles to its own central bank, over two years. The article confirms the complete failure of the 1990 attempt to fund the Union deficit by issuing bonds. (Philip Hanson) WHAT TO DO WITH THE EX-SOVIET NATIONAL DEBT? Demchenko notes that, unlike the external debt, the inherited internal debt has not been of much interest to the West, so little international pressure has been put on Moscow to give information. With the formal demise of USSR Gosbank on 1 March, however, information can now be released. And the question of how the successor states are to share and cope with this debt is relevant to final stabilization attempts. Demchenko says the Russian government has told the IMF it accepts responsibility for internal debt of 435 billion rubles. That is its own plus less than half the Soviet debt legacy. (Philip Hanson) EXTERNAL DEBT REPAYMENT. Yurii Gromushkin, an adviser to the Minister of Foreign Economic Relations, told Rossiiskaya gazeta on 12 March that Russia was unable to service all of its own foreign debt because it was having to shoulder 90% of the obligations of the former USSR. He noted the unfavorable structure of debt service payments, and forecast a peak in payments due in 1992 [other projections see 1993 as the peak year]. Gromushkin was critical of other former Soviet republics for not meeting the commitments they made in 1991 to assume joint and several responsibility for the debt of the former USSR. In order to meet payments to date, Russia had been obliged to freeze individual and company hard currency accounts, running up an internal debt of several billion dollars. (Keith Bush) KRAVCHUK INTERVIEWS. Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk, in interviews in Trud and the Warsaw newspaper Rzeczpospolita, discusses Ukraine's view of the CIS, military issues, relations with Russia, and the upcoming CIS summit in Kiev. Summaries of the interviews were reported by ITAR-TASS and Radio Ukrainy on 12 March. Concerning the CIS, Kravchuk repeated his oft stated position that the CIS has a future if it avoids the path followed by the former USSR. Ukraine, said Kravchuk, will never agree to the reanimation of "old structures." The Ukrainian leader expressed his conviction that military disputes with Russia, specifically the question of the Black Sea Fleet, will be resolved at the 20 March CIS summit in Kiev. (Roman Solchanyk) KRAVCHUK ANNOUNCES HALT TO TRANSFER OF NUKES TO RUSSIA. On 12 March in Kiev, Kravchuk announced to the press his decision to stop the withdrawal of tactical nuclear weapons from Ukraine, a process that got under way in January with the transport of tactical missiles to Russia and was due to be completed by June. He justified the decision on the grounds that Ukraine, as a nuclear-armed state bearing "extremely high responsibility . . . cannot guarantee that the withdrawn weapons will be destroyed, that they will be under the necessary control, or that they will not fall into the wrong hands," in view of what Kravchuk termed "the political instability that currently exists." (Kathy Mihalisko) CALL FOR INTERNATIONAL CONTROL. In his remarks, which were received by the RFE/RL Ukrainian service, Kravchuk said Ukraine is appealing again to the governments of Western Europe and the United States to put the withdrawal and elimination of the Ukraine-based nuclear arsenal under international control. He considered Russian-based facilities for the destruction of the weapons to be inadequate. Kravchuk's announcement came after Foreign Minister Anatolii Zlenko, together with his other CIS counterparts, took part earlier this week in a North Atlantic Cooperation Council meeting in Brussels where ten former Soviet republics were accepted into the council. (Kathy Mihalisko) FAILURE TO AGREE ON WITHDRAWAL OF STRATEGIC WEAPONS FROM BELARUS. Parliamentary chairman Stanislau Shushkevich has said that work on the draft documents for the 20 March CIS summit in Minsk has become "very difficult" owing to the inability of the CIS General Staff to "think in new ways," Belarusian Radio relayed on 9 March. Referring to pre-summit talks last week in Moscow between republican defense officials, Shushkevich maintained that Belarus had even surpassed Ukraine in defending national interests against the demands of the CIS command. He claimed that discord between the commonwealth states and the commander in chief during those talks arose after a breakdown in negotiations over the withdrawal of strategic weapons from Belarus. (Kathy Mihalisko) CHAUS CONCURS WITH SHUSHKEVICH. Acting Belarusian Defense Minister Petr Chaus told Belarusian Radio on 9 March, that he agreed with Shushkevich's criticism of the CIS General Staff that the staff does not take the viewpoints of the commonwealth states into account. But, Chaus added, those states do not agree among themselves on the question of joint command over the armed forces. Whereas the states on the western periphery of the CIS, and in part Uzbekistan, want to create their own national forces, other Central Asian states and the Republic of Armenia are arguing for unity. In related news, the Belarusian parliament on 12 March announced a decision to call back all its citizens who are currently performing military duties as soldiers and NCOs in the Transcaucasian states and Moldova, according to BELTA-TASS. (Kathy Mihalisko) GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT CONVENES IN GROZNYI. Some 70 deputies to the Georgian parliament convened in Groznyi on 12 March and condemned the political situation in Georgia as an attempt by the Communist mafia and criminal bands to bring Georgia back under the influence of a modernized Russian empire, ITAR-TASS reported. They called for a republic-wide campaign of civil disobedience in order to achieve the restoration of constitutional rule and legality. Addressing the session, ousted Georgian president Zviad Gamsakhurdia attacked the newly created State Council as illegal and charged that the West was "blinded by Shevardnadze." (Liz Fuller) US CALLS FOR IMMEDIATE CEASE-FIRE IN NAGORNO-KARABAKH. Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati telephoned Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan and Azerbaijani Premier Hasan Hasanov on 12 March to discuss the Karabakh situation, and an Organization of the Islamic Conference mission arrived in Teheran for talks prior to going to Armenia and Azerbaijan, Western agencies reported. Speaking in Paris, Turkish deputy Prime Minister Erdal Inonu stated that Hasanov had asked for Turkey and France to help bring about a cease-fire Azerbaijani Popular Front leaders in Baku said that negotiations with Armenia were unlikely until Azerbaijan had "liberated" the territory captured by Armenia. After a telephone conversation between US President Bush and Turkish President Suleiman Demirel the White House issued a statement calling for an immediate cease-fire between Armenia and Azerbaijan. (Liz Fuller) COMMON CURRENCY FOR CENTRAL ASIA? Among proposals made at a Tashkent conference of Uzbek government representatives, members of the opposition and leading economists has been a suggestion that the five Central Asian republics should introduce a common currency, Radio Rossii reported on 12 March, quoting Interfax. The common currency proposal was advanced in the course of a discussion of whether Uzbekistan should introduce its own currency. Both Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan have raised the question of a national currency, but since Kazakhstan became independent, its leadership has supported remaining within the "ruble zone." (Bess Brown) TURKMENISTAN TO RESUME GAS DELIVERIES TO UKRAINE. Turkmenistan has agreed to resume natural gas deliveries to Ukraine, but at prices that approximate world prices, Radio ukraina reported on 11 March. The announcement was made by Turkmen President Niyazov in a press interview. Niyazov also said that beginning next year Turkmenistan will be charging world prices for all goods that it delivers to its trading partners. (Roman Solchanyk) DNIESTER RUSSIANS "INFURIATED" BY ARMY SHIFT. Maj. Gen. Vyacheslav Sitnikov, chief of staff of the 14th Army of the CIS, told Reuters on 10 March that the Army's recent shift to neutrality vis-a-vis the "Dniester republic" had "infuriated" the local Russians, who are staging threatening demonstrations outside barracks in Tiraspol and putting the officers and their families under "great social pressure." The Army's commander, Maj. Gen. Yurii Netkachev, told Interfax on 10 March that local Russians--seeking arms--had recently raided military depots in Tiraspol and that he had ordered the grounds mined to prevent further raids. (Vladimir Socor) 14TH ARMY'S NEW COMMANDER. Netkachev became commander of the 14th Army in late January, replacing Lt. Gen. Gennadii Yakovlev who was transferred to the reserves by the CIS command for having openly assisted the "Dniester republic" against Moldova. Chisinau has developed a satisfactory working relationship with Netkachev, Moldovan officials told the RFE/RL Research Institute on 9 March. They added that the general, who comes from Belarus, supports an independent Belarus with its own army. (Vladimir Socor) CONSTITUTIONAL COURT CONSIDERS TATARSTAN REFERENDUM. The Russian constitutional court met on 12 March to discuss the constitutionality of the 21 March referendum on the status of Tatarstan, the Russian media reported. Tatarstan did not send a representative to the hearing. Objections were raised to the wording of the referendum question and also to the fact that under the Tatarstan referendum law it is possible for a quarter of the population of Tatarstan to decide the question of the territorial integrity of Russia. Russian Vice-President Aleksandr Rutskoi and Deputy Premier Sergei Shakhrai addressed the court. The court's decision is to be announced on 13 March. (Ann Sheehy) AUTONOMOUS TERRITORIES TO SIGN FEDERAL TREATY ON 20 MARCH. The heads of the soviets of Russia's autonomous okrugs and oblasts decided in the course of a two-day meeting in Khanty-Mansiisk that they would sign the federal treaty delimiting powers between Russia and its constituent territories in Moscow on 20 March, ITAR-TASS reported. The leaders of Russia's constituent republics have been invited to Moscow on 13 March to approve the federal treaty, but it is not expected that all will attend. In an interview with Radio Mayak on 12 March the chairman of the Chuvash parliament Eduard Kubarev said the treaty should be signed soon even if all the republics were not ready to sign it now. The Russian leadership wants the treaty signed before the Congress of People's Deputies considers the draft constitution. (Ann Sheehy) EASTERN EUROPE BALTIC STATES DISPUTE OVER ABRENE. On 11 March the Russian Federation's Supreme Soviet refuted the Latvia's Supreme Council decision of 22 January 1992 "On the nonrecognition of the annexation of the town of Abrene and six wards of the Abrene district." The historically Latvian area was taken over by Russia after World War II. Now inhabited mostly by Russians, the area is known as Pytalovo and forms part of Pskov Oblast. Insisting that the Latvian claims are groundless, the Russian legislators accuse their Latvian counterparts of exacerbating relations between the two states and violating the CSCE accords and the 13 January 1991 agreement between Latvia and Russia, despite the fact that the Russian Supreme Soviet has not ratified the latter agreement. (Dzintra Bungs) UNEMPLOYMENT INCREASES IN LATVIA. Unemployment may reach 9-12% in Latvia. From 15 January to 1 March, 7,901 persons had contacted the employment office in search of work, but by 10 March that figure had grown to 9,500; the respective figures for those officially registered as unemployed were 1,825 and 2,500. Unemployment compensation has been accorded to only 424 persons. Sergejs Blazevics, head of the State Employment Service told Diena on 11 March that a new program is required to cope quickly with the badly deteriorating situation. (Dzintra Bungs) NEW CHARGES AGAINST RUBIKS. Diena reported on 9 March that new charges have been brought against Alfreds Rubiks, former First Secretary of the Latvian Communist Party's Central Committee. Rubiks was arrested in late August 1991 for his role in the failed putsch. Latvia's Deputy Procurator-General, Jazeps Ancans, said the new charges, raised on 20 February, have to do with Rubiks's activities in January 1991, when communists tried to topple the government of Latvia. Ancans said the investigation is continuing and Rubiks would be brought to trial this year. (Dzintra Bungs) CANADIAN COMPANY TO BUILD CELLULOSE PLANT IN LATVIA. Alfred Wong, president of the Canadian-based Albokem Firm, said that his company is building a plant for the production of cellulose in the town of Dobele in southwestern Latvia, an RFE/RL correspondent in Ottawa reported on 9 March. The plant is expected initially to produce 7,000 tons of high quality cellulose to be used in the making of specialty paper, such as bank notes. Wong said that production would probably meet Latvia's domestic needs and there would be something left over for export to Eastern and Central Europe. (Dzintra Bungs) DATE FOR LITHUANIAN PRESIDENTIAL REFERENDUM SET. On 12 March the Lithuanian Supreme Council by a vote of 100 to 2 with 9 abstentions decided to hold the referendum on presidential powers on 23 May, Radio Lithuania reports. The voters will be asked to vote yes or no to the question: "Do you agree with the proposals for the Republic of Lithuania law on the president, on the institution of the president of the Republic of Lithuania and changes and amendments to the Temporary Fundamental Law of the Republic of Lithuania?" In an earlier attempt on 28 February the parliament failed to get the necessary 67 votes for the referendum. (Saulius Girnius) ESTONIAN SOCIAL WELFARE MINISTER CONFIRMED. The Estonian Supreme Council confirmed Laur Karu as Minister for Social Welfare on 12 March, BNS reported that day. Karu, who won the post in a 62-5 vote with 5 abstentions, previously worked in Estonia's Ministry of Health. (Riina Kionka) CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE WOERNER: NATO WILL NOT ALLOW "SECURITY VACUUM" IN EAST. On 12 March NATO Secretary-General Manfred Woerner said that even though the alliance is not yet ready to accept new members, it will not allow a "security vacuum" to develop in Central and Eastern Europe. He told a security seminar in Warsaw that while it cannot now offer formal security guarantees, NATO can help improve regional security by bringing the countries involved closer to the alliance. Woerner later told newsmen that during his recent talks with top Polish officials there were no demands for NATO to grant formal security guarantees to Warsaw. Western and Polish media carried the story. Woerner continued on to Riga, where he begins a two-day round of meetings with top Latvian officials on 13 March. (Wladyslaw Minkiewicz & Dzintra Bungs) OLSZEWSKI WILL BROADEN COALITION. On 12 March Prime Minister Jan Olszewski held talks with representatives of seven parliamentary clubs forming the hub of the government coalition. After the meeting government spokesman Marcin Gugulski said that Olszewski had been empowered to hold initial talks on broadening the coalition, PAP reports. Jaroslaw Kaczynski, chairman of the Center Alliance, said that Olszewski had already met with the Democratic Union chief, Tadeusz Mazowiecki. (Wladyslaw Minkiewicz) POLISH SKINHEADS DEMONSTRATE AT ISRAELI EMBASSY. On 12 March about 40 skinheads shouted anti-Semitic slogans and made Nazi salutes in a noisy demonstration outside the Israeli Embassy in Warsaw. Riot police cordoned off the embassy, and the youths, carrying a banner with a Nazi-like insignia, left the scene singing nationalist songs, Western media report. The demonstrators were lead by Boleslaw Tejkowski, head of the small Polish National Community Party. Tejkowski is due to stand trial next week for allegedly making anti-Semitic statements during last year's parliamentary election campaign. (Wladyslaw Minkiewicz) CZECHOSLOVAK PARLIAMENT PASSES RESOLUTION ON 1991 BUDGET. On 12 March the Czechoslovak parliament approved the report of the federal government on the 1991 state budget. The government reported an combined federal and republican budget deficit of 18.6 billion koruny ($620 million). The deputies asked the government to report on how it intends to handle the failure of the budget to meet IMF monetary criteria, CSTK reported. (Peter Matuska) DEMONSTRATION FOR SLOVAKIA'S INDE-PENDENCE. CSTK reports that a demonstration for an independent Slovak state took place in Bratislava on 12 March. The demonstration of several hundred people was organized by one of the smaller Slovak pro-independence parties, the Movement for the Liberation of Slovakia. Party Chairman Frantisek Kollar said his party does not want to create a county like the wartime Slovak state but rather a free, democratic Slovakia. A Czechoslovak flag was burned at the end of the otherwise peaceful rally. Referring to the 53rd anniversary of the foundation of the wartime independent Slovak state, on 12 March federal parliament Chairman Alexander Dubcek called this a tragic chapter in Slovak history, but pointed out that the Slovak nation had rehabilitated itself through its 1944 uprising against Nazi Germany. (Peter Matuska) BATA TO OPEN FIRST SHOP IN PRAGUE. On 13 March the Canadian-based Bata Shoe Company, the world's largest, reopens a shop in Prague in a building that housed the firm's headquarters before the family left Czechoslovakia on the eve of World War II. The company signed an agreement with the Czech government last December under which it will open a total of 35 shops across the country, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. Bata will own 70% of the shares and the Czech government the rest. The company's local headquarters are in Zlin, Moravia, founder Tomas Bata's native town. (Peter Matuska) CZECH UNEMPLOYMENT DROPS. On 12 March the Czech Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs said that the unemployment rate in the Czech Republic in February was 5.9% lower than in January, and the overall unemployment rate in the republic stands at 4.14%, CSTK reports. At the end of February 217,554 people were out of work. Labor offices in the Slovak Republic report that in February 319,294 people, or 12.7% of the Slovak work force, were out of work, but comparative data were not provided. Slovak Labor and Social Affairs Minister Helena Wolekova told CSTK that she believes that in three to four years unemployment in Slovakia could fall to an acceptable level of 3-5%. (Peter Matuska) HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT TO INVESTIGATE TV PRESIDENT. Radio Budapest reports that on 12 March Prime Minister Jozsef Antall asked the cultural committee of parliament to investigate the situation at Hungarian TV and to ascertain whether its president Elemer Hankiss is competent to run the institution. Hankiss was appointed to the position about one year ago with the agreement with the six parliamentary parties. Earlier this year he took off for a six-month stay in the United States, leaving a chaotic situation behind. When a deputy was appointed, Hankiss refused to accept his decisions and reprimanded him, over the objections of Antall. (Judith Pataki) ROMANIAN-US RELATIONS. US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said on 11 March that in view of Romania's advance towards democratic pluralism and a market economy, the US is ready to sign a new trade agreement. Among other things, the treaty would allow low tariffs on Romanian exports to the US under most-favored-nation trade status. A treaty would require ratification by the Senate, which will probably consider the matter this spring. On 12 March the new US Ambassador to Romania, career diplomat John Davis, who served previously as Ambassador to Poland and head of the State Department's East European desk, presented his credentials to President ION Iliescu in Bucharest. (Mihai Sturdza) SPLIT WITHIN NSF NEARLY OFFICIAL. Iliescu met on 11 March with the leaders of the main political parties. It was agreed that general elections should be held no later than June. On 12 March, during a meeting with the NSF deputies in parliament, Iliescu said NSF leader Petre Roman must quit the party's leadership "in order to ensure the NSF's salvation." No clear stand within NSF's ranks has yet been expressed about the issue. (Mihai Sturdza) ILIESCU APPEALS FOR RESTRAINT ON DNIESTR EVENTS. On 11 March Iliescu appealed to Romania's political leaders to avoid voicing claims about Romanian lands now in Moldova or in Ukraine. He explained that such claims are seen as Romanian intervention in the internal affairs of its neighbors, and that Western governments have informed him that they are unsympathetic and would probably not support such claims. (Mihai Sturdza) LUKANOV TRAVEL BAN PROTESTED. In the National Assembly on 12 March a BSP deputy raised a question about the incident on 11 March in which police prevented former Prime Minister Andrei Lukanov from leaving the country. The deputy complained that Lukanov's human rights had been violated and that he is entitled to parliamentary immunity. Debates on the matter were blocked by National Assembly chairman Stefan Savov, who said that the matter lies in the competence of the Constitutional Court. On 12 March Reuters quoted a BSP spokesman as saying Lukanov will probably sue the government for "moral damages." (Rada Nikolaev) BULGARIAN PENSIONERS DEMONSTRATE. Pensioners demanding an updating of their pensions rallied in many places in the country on 12 March. In Sofia where Western agencies estimated the demonstrators at 15,000, the rally was clearly influenced by the socialists, and speakers called for resignation of the government. BTA reported that in other places the demonstrators stressed their political neutrality. (Rada Nikolaev) CREDITS TO BULGARIA TO BE DELAYED? In a report by Vienna's Die Presse on 11 March and picked up by several Sofia dailies the next day, World Bank representative John Wilton was quoted as saying that the IMF and World Bank are planning to delay the second installment of the credits promised to Bulgaria. The reason given is the continued lack of a law on privatization and the lagging economic reform. Returning from the US on 12 March, Prime Minister Filip Dimitrov assured Bulgarian Radio that the credits will eventually be granted since they are linked to imminent legislation. On 13 March BTA reported that several dailies had disputed the reports on delay of the credits. (Rada Nikolaev)
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