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No. 53, 17 March 1992
SUCCESSOR STATES TO THE USSR YELTSIN ESTABLISHES RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY. On 16 March Russian President Boris Yeltsin issued a decree creating a Russian Defense Ministry, and named himself as the temporary Defense Minister. The text of the decree, published by ITAR-TASS, indicated that the ministry would deal with personnel policy, budgeting, and the procurement of arms and provisioning of the Russian armed forces. These forces, when established, would be part of the CIS General Purpose Joint Forces and would remain operationally subordinate to the CIS high command. The decree tasks the government to prepare a draft law on the Russian armed forces within one month for submission to the Supreme Soviet. (Doug Clarke) UKRAINIAN REACTION TO CREATION OF RUSSIAN ARMED FORCES. Ukrainian Prime Minister Vitold Fokin said on 16 March that he was not surprised by President Yeltsin's announcement that Russia will create separate armed forces of its own after all, Western agencies reported. Speaking in Kiev, he commented: "Russia has finally cut short the niceties and frankly said that a state is not a state without armed forces."(Bohdan Nahaylo) UKRAINE CLARIFIES POSITION ON NUCLEAR ARMS ELIMINATION. Having triggered of a wave of criticism from both Moscow and the West by their decision to halt the transfer of tactical nuclear weapons to Russia for their destruction, Ukrainian leaders have been busy explaining their action and offering reassurances. Both Western and CIS agencies have reported statements made in recent days by President Leonid Kravchuk and Ukrainian Defense Minister Konstantin Morozov reaffirming Ukraine's commitment to becoming a nuclear free state and, as part of this process, eliminating tactical nuclear weapons from Ukraine by 1 July 1992. Ukrainian representatives have pointed out that the fate of nuclear weapons transferred from Ukraine to Russia has given rise to great concern because at this delicate time for both states it seems that the arms are being stockpiled because of a lack of capacity and are not being destroyed straight away. The Ukrainian side has said that it will press for a modification of the arrangements for the dismantling of the weapons to include a "mechanism of joint control." (Bohdan Nahaylo) NEXT CIS HEADS OF GOVERNMENT MEETING SCHEDULED. The next meeting of the CIS heads of government will be in Tashkent at the end of April, when eleven military and 14 economic items are expected to be on the agenda. (Ann Sheehy) KOZYREV TO THE FAR EAST. Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev left Moscow for China, South Korea and Japan, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 March. In an interview published in the Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun on 15 March, Kozyrev said that Russia will assume a "mission" for the peaceful development of the Asia-Pacific region. He stressed that Russia will not target its nuclear missiles at Japan or China. Kozyrev called recent comments of Japanese politicians on Russia's willingness of returning the Kurile islands to Japan as "a bit premature at the present stage." Kozyrev pointed out that many Russians are against the return of the Kurile islands and the Russian government has to take this into account. (Alexander Rahr) KOZYREV PROPOSES TACTICAL NUKE BAN. During his current visit to Beijing, Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev said that Russia was ready to negotiate a "global zero variant" for tactical nuclear weapons. According to ITAR-TASS on 16 March, he also told his Chinese counterpart, Qian Qichen, that Russia would be interested in a mutual agreement not to deploy certain types of tactical nuclear weapons in border areas. (Doug Clarke) STANKEVICH ON RIGHT AND LEFT CENTERS IN RUSSIA. Russian State Counsellor Sergei Stankevich told Die Presse on 14 March that there are two major centers in Russian politics now. First, the right-wing center, which wants Russia to become a new superpower with a strong executive, based on Russian national traditions but, at the same time, committed to market economy. The second center, which Stankevich described as "left-wing," seeks to revive social democracy, decentralize power and open Russia to foreign ideas. According to Stankevich, the right-wing center has more political chances but added that the left-wing center will dominate politics in Russia's big industrial cities. (Alexander Rahr) TATARSTAN PARLIAMENT IGNORES RUSSIAN CONSTITUTIONAL COURT. An extraordinary session of the Tatarstan parliament on 16 March decided not to alter the formulation of the question on the status of Tatarstan to be put to a referendum on 21 March, the Russian media reported. A resolution was adopted which reiterated that the referendum was not about state separation from Russia, but said that relations between Russia and Tatarstan should be based on an inter-state treaty. The resolution reportedly made no mention of the ruling of the Russian Constitutional Court on 13 March that parts of the question were unconstitutional. (Ann Sheehy) EC FOOD LOAN WITHHELD. At a meeting in Brussels on 16 March, the finance ministers of the European Community agreed to continue to withhold Russia's share of a $1.5 billion Community food loan, Western agencies reported. They maintained that Russia must comply with the EC's conditions for the loan, including the waiving of its sovereign immunity if it defaults on its loans--a standard clause in EC loan contracts. (The waiver enables creditors to seize the assets of a government that defaults). The ministers also agreed to maintain the condition that all republics accept joint responsibility for the debts of the former Soviet Union, but dropped the eligibility requirement that all republics be up to date in servicing their current debts. (Keith Bush) AGRICULTURAL REFORM RESOLUTION. On 12 March, the Russian parliament adopted a resolution on "the pace of agrarian reform," ITAR-TASS reported. This gave the Russian government until 20 April to submit to the parliament a draft program for agrarian reform for the period 1992-95. It also stipulated a series of measures like the granting of subsidies for fuel and lubricants used in agriculture, priority for privatization of agricultural processing businesses, the provision of incentives for using unclaimed private plots, investment in agro-industrial facilities, and so on. (Keith Bush) INTERVENTION TO SUPPORT RUBLE EXCHANGE RATE. At the last currency auction, the Russian Central Bank spent more than $15 million to support an exchange rate of 140 rubles to the US dollar, according to Izvestiya of 12 March, quoted by ITAR-TASS. The report observed that the bank does not have adequate reserves to repeat such support in the future. Meanwhile, another ITAR-TASS dispatch of 12 March reported that 1000-ruble notes went into circulation that day. (Keith Bush) NAGORNO-KARABAKH UPDATE. ITAR-TASS quoted Azerbaijani authorities as claiming that over 30 people were killed or wounded on 16 March when the town of Fizuli bordering Nagorno-Karabakh came under heavy artillery fire. Armenian Foreign Minister Raffi Hovanissian announced on 16 March that Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan will propose the deployment of a CIS peacekeeping force in Nagorno-Karabakh at the CIS summit in Kiev on 20 March. Ter-Petrossyan is to meet with acting Azerbaijani President Yakub Mamedov in Kiev on 19 March, Western agencies reported on 16 March. (Liz Fuller) GEIDAR ALIEV'S POLITICAL COMEBACK. Following in the footsteps of his former Politburo colleague Eduard Shevardnadze, ex-Deputy Chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers and Chairman of the Nakhichevan Supreme Soviet Geidar Aliev has been appointed to the State Council created in Azerbaijan on 12 March, together with the acting Azerbaijani president and premier and two representatives of the Azerbaijan Popular Front. According to Komsomolskaya pravda of 14 March, Aliev is the sole Azerbaijani politician whose popularity has risen over the past six months. (Liz Fuller) KAZAKH NUCLEAR WEAPONS TO IRAN? Military officials in Russia and Kazakhstan have denied a story in the German news magazine Stern claiming that Iran may have obtained two nuclear warheads and medium-range delivery systems from Kazakhstan, Western and Russian agencies reported on 16 March. Stern based its story on information from the German intelligence service, which was quoted as saying that Iran lacked the necessary codes and facilities to launch the weapons. A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman insisted that all nuclear weapons remain under the strictest central control, and a spokesman for Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev said that Kazakhstan is adhering to its obligations to prevent proliferation of nuclear weapons. (Bess Brown) REPUBLICAN GUARD TO BE SET UP IN KAZAKHSTAN. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev issued a decree on 16 March establishing a Republican Guard in Kazakhstan to safeguard the vital interests of the country and protect the constitutional rights and freedoms of its citizens, KazTAG-TASS reported. The Guard will be subordinate to the president. Plans for creation of a National Guard in Kazakhstan were described by State Defense Committee chairman Sagadat Nurmagambetov in December 1991; both Nazarbaev and Nurmagambetov have insisted that Kazakhstan wanted to remain part of a unified Commonwealth army. (Bess Brown) HONDA FACTORY IN KAZAKHSTAN? Construction has begun on a Honda plant in Ust-Kamenogorsk that is projected to turn out 70,000 passenger cars a year by 1994, according to The Journal of Commerce of 12 March, citing a Russian radio report. No confirmation was forthcoming from a Honda spokesman. Local defense plants were said to be participating in the construction. A Toyota assembly plant was opened in Tashkent in November 1991. (Keith Bush/Bess Brown) UZBEKISTAN OIL DISCOVERY. Citing Russian TV and a telephone call to Tashkent, The Journal of Commerce on 17 March reported the discovery of what could turn out to be a major oil deposit in the Minbulashky oilfield in Uzbekistan. The television broadcast had spoken of a borehole there producing about 31,000 barrels or 5,000 cubic meters a day, but the chief engineer of Uzbekneft cautioned that it was impossible at this stage to measure the flow. (Keith Bush) RUSSIAN INSURGENCY IN EASTERN MOLDOVA ESCALATES. On 14 and 15 March, the "Dniester republic guard" and Don Cossacks attacked Moldovan police units in three villages in Dubasari raion in an attempt to eliminate the last remaining Moldovan police presence on the left bank of the Dniester. The police appear to have held their own, but the villages suffered heavy damage and several hundred Moldovan peasants took refuge on the right bank. Russian forces also blew up two highway bridges over the Dniester. According to sources in Chisinau and Tiraspol, cited by Moldovan, Moscow, and international media, the death toll for this latest round of clashes is being put provisionally as 6 "Dniester" guardsmen and 3 Moldovan policemen, with a score of injured on each side; but Tiraspol accuses Chisinau of undercounting the Moldovan dead. (Vladimir Socor) "DNIESTER" ARSENAL GROWING. The "Dniester" Russians and Cossacks deployed for the first time in these clashes a substantial force of armored personnel carriers and 6 "Grad" multiple rocket-launching systems, one of which was captured by Moldovan police. Raiding a military depot near Tiraspol, in obvious collusion with military servicemen who guided them through a minefield protecting the depot, "Dniester" guardsmen and Cossacks carted away in military trucks 1,100 Kalashnikov submachine guns along with 1.5 million cartridges, 1,300 grenade and mortar rounds, and 30 portable rocket launchers, Russian and Moldovan media reported. (Vladimir Socor) UKRAINIAN CONCERN OVER CONFLICT IN MOLDOVA. Radio Ukraine reported on 15 March that the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has issued a statement expressing concern about the involvement of "Cossack" volunteers from the Don region in southern Russia in the armed conflict in Moldova. The statement describes the Cossacks fighting on the side of the "Dniester Republic" as "mercenaries," the use of which, it also stresses, violates international legal norms. The following day, the Foreign Ministry called for a cease-fire in the Moldovan conflict over the "Dniester Republic" and offered to mediate. It said that refugees from the fighting were crossing into Ukraine. Warning both sides not to violate its border, it said that it would take steps to protect its frontier. (Bohdan Nahaylo) UKRAINIANS IN MOLDOVA APPEAL TO KIEV. Radio Ukraine reported on 16 March that representatives from the large indigenous Ukrainian population living in the self-proclaimed "Dniester Republic" in Moldova have appealed to the Ukrainian Supreme Council and to Ukrainian president Leonid Kravchuk to help prevent the conflict in their region from spreading. "In their struggle for power," the appeal states, "the political leaders are not thinking about the people and are ready to stir up a Dniester Karabakh." According to Radio Ukraine, some 250,000 Ukrainians live in the Dniester region.(Bohdan Nahaylo) EASTERN EUROPE BALTIC STATES BALTIC COUNCIL MEETING. Meeting in Jurmala, Latvia, on 16 March, the Baltic Council renewed appeals for a speedy withdrawal of ex-Soviet troops from Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, and sent letters to each of the CIS states urging them to seek an immediate solution to this problem, BNS and Reuters report. The Chairmen of the Supreme Councils of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania also issued a statement calling for the demilitarization of the Baltic Sea, specifically noting that the withdrawal of nuclear weapons would allow it to be a "nuclear-free zone," Radio Lithuania reports. The Baltic leaders said they would welcome a gradual decrease in military forces in the Kaliningrad and St. Petersburg regions. The Baltic Council also renounced responsibility for the USSR's foreign debt, stressing that the Baltic States are not the successors of the USSR and cannot be held responsible for the settlement or repayment of that debt. The council also protested against the unilateral decision by Russia to block the hard currency assets of the Baltic depositors in the former USSR Bank for Foreign Economic Affairs, and criticized the planned 17 March reconvening of the USSR Congress of Peoples Deputies. (Dzintra Bungs & Saulius Girnius) CONCERN OVER TROOP AND VETERANS' ACTIVITIES. BNS reported on 16 March that the police in Latvia has been placed on alert for possible actions related to the 17 March Congress of Peoples Deputies meeting in Moscow. Pro-Russian groups, including USSR veterans' organizations, are planning to picket the Supreme Council and hold meetings that day in Riga. Unusual activities by ex-Soviet troops have also been reported in Pskov Oblast along the Latvian-Russian border. Deputy Minister of Defense Dainis Turlajs said, however, that there is probably no need for special concern, especially since the Russian group of experts to discuss the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Latvia is to arrive in Riga on 17 March. (Dzintra Bungs) RUBLES OR LATS? Einars Repse, president of the Bank of Latvia, told the press on 12 March that final plans have not been completed for the introduction of Latvian currency, the lats. Still under consideration, according to Diena of 13 March, is the introduction of an interim currency, referred to for the purposes of discussion as the Latvian ruble. Such a step might be necessary if an acute shortage of CIS rubles occurs. The value of the lats would be set to equal one ecu, or approximately $1.22. (Dzintra Bungs) LITHUANIAN REPRESENTATION. On 17 March Radio Lithuania reported that Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius has issued a decree regulating the financing of Lithuania's missions abroad. Lithuania plans 22 embassies, most of them in Europe, but financial considerations will limit the size of the staffs to 2-4 persons with larger numbers in the USA--9 and Russia--28. Consulates are also planned in Poland, Russia, and Germany, and representatives will be sent to the UN and the EC. (Saulius Girnius) CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE OLECHOWSKI: POLISH GOVERNMENT NEEDS SPECIAL POWERS. On 16 March Polish Finance Minister Andrzej Olechowski met with US Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady in Washington, seeking support for Warsaw's economic plans for the next year. According to an RFE/RL correspondent in Washington, he also met top officials at the IMF, where he presented the proposed Polish budget for 1992 and discussed plans to cut the deficit. Later Olechowski met with World Bank officials to discuss modernization loans. Olechowski told Le Figaro on 16 March that the Polish government needs special powers to carry out its economic reforms. The powers are needed because Poland's system is dominated by parliament, leaving the government no executive power. (Wladyslaw Minkiewicz) PRIVATE RAILWAYS FOR POLAND. A Polish-Danish joint company, the Lubuska Regional Railway, is planning to create Poland's first private railway in decades, using surplus rolling stock bought at bargain prices. The company's director, Zdzislaw Wolny, told PAP that the first equipment, two diesel locomotives and eight carriages, was delivered on 16 March. Up to 10 passenger routes along 366 km of rail lines given up by Polish State Railways in Zielona Gora are planned. Freight services will also be offered. (Wladyslaw Minkiewicz) CZECHOSLOVAKIA REJECTS ISRAELI ARMS SALES REPORT. In reaction to a report published in Haaretz of 16 March that Czechoslovakia recently sold Egypt and certain North African countries MiG-23 fighter bombers fitted with Israeli avionics, Czechoslovak Foreign Trade Ministry official Stefan Glezgo said his country had never exported MiG-23s. Glezgo rejected as "obviously groundless" the Israeli daily's assertion that Czechoslovakia "indiscriminately" sells "weapons of all kinds equipped with Israeli-made components," CSTK reports. (Peter Matuska) US, CZECHOSLOVAKIA SIGN PRESERVATION AGREEMENT. On 17 March US Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger and Czechoslovak Ambassador to the US Rita Klimova are to sign an agreement on preserving sites of cultural and historic importance. The agreement is the first in a series of pacts with East and West European nations to preserve monuments, historic buildings, and cultural sites that have a special meaning for Americans whose ancestors came from Europe, an RFE/RL correspondent reports. (Peter Matuska) HAVEL ON EC, DUBCEK'S NEW AFFILIATION. On 16 March Czechoslovak President Vaclav Havel discussed his country's aspirations to join the European Community with EC Commission Vice President Martin Bangemann. Speaking to reporters in Prague, Bangemann said the country has met the basic condition for membership--establishing a democratic political system--and suggested that Czechoslovakia, together with Poland and Hungary, would be able to join the EC within ten years. On 16 March presidential spokesman Michael Zantovsky said Havel hopes Alexander Dubcek's decision to join the Slovak Social Democratic Party will stabilize Slovak politics. The party advocates more Slovak autonomy but within a federal Czechoslovakia, an RFE/RL correspondent reports. (Peter Matuska) HUNGARIAN DEFENSE MINISTER TO THE US. MTI reports that Defense Minister Lajos Fur left on 16 March for a four-day official visit to the US at the invitation of US Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, who visited Hungary in December 1991. Fur will discuss military policy issues at the Pentagon and visit several US military bases to become acquainted with American military training and combat weaponry. (Alfred Reisch) FAVORABLE BALANCE OF PAYMENTS. According to preliminary reports supplied by the Hungarian National Bank, Hungary's current payments account registered a $300 million surplus in January 1992, MTI reported on 16 March. Due to a growth of exports and drop in imports, the trade balance showed a $210 million surplus and the tourism balance a $9-10 million surplus in January. During the same period, $80-85 million in working capital entered Hungary and hard currency reserves grew by $100 million and reached $4.1-4.2 billion. (Alfred Reisch) RISING PRICES. According to the Central Statistical Office, consumer prices in Hungary rose by 2.7% in February 1992 compared to the preceding month and 25.8% compared to February 1991, MTI reports. At the same time last year, these figures stood at 4.9% and 33.2%, respectively. Over half of the February 1992 price increase was due to reduced price subsidies, i.e., central measures affecting the price of milk, butter, and dairy products. Within the 12-month 25.8% price increase, household energy prices rose by 73.5% and foodstuff prices by 13.7%. In the first two months of the 1992 consumer prices rose 6% compared to December 1991. (Alfred Reisch) ILIESCU'S BBC INTERVIEW. In a BBC broadcast on 15 March Romanian President Ion Iliescu replied to questions from listeners worldwide. Asked if he does not fear trial for his participation in Ceausescu's crimes and repression of the revolution of December 1989, or for having masterminded the miners' rampages last year in Bucharest, Iliescu provided examples of his noncompliance with Ceausescu's orders, denied any involvement in the 1989 repression, and avowed that the miners had come to the capital in order to reinstate order. He warned against attempts to punish former communists, saying that in so doing there would be a great risk of reviving communist repression methods. Iliescu also denied that he favors the old nomenklatura and stated that as a free thinker he respects all religious beliefs. (Mihai Sturdza) ROUNDUP OF FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE TO ROMANIA. The biweekly Economistul writes that in 1990 and 1991 the EC provided some 1.8 billion ecus (over $2 billion) in assistance to Romania. That represents about 45% of the amount provided under the G-24 assistance programs, which include EC loans of about 800 million ecus (of which 370 million ecus are covered by the PHARE assistance program and need not be repaid). Of the 800 million ecus, some 115 million ecus will go to emergency financial assistance, and 375 million ecus to support the convertibility of the leu and the balance of payments. Outside its general aid to the region, the EC is providing one billion ecus for specifically Romanian programs, of which 220 million are nonrepayable. The EBRD has promised credits worth over 180 million ecus. Prime Minister Stolojan met a delegation from the World Bank on 10 March to discuss a proposed $350 million loan. (Mihai Sturdza) PROPERTY OF BULGARIAN TURKS TO BE RETURNED. A law providing for the return of property of ethnic Turks is planned, according to Deputy Chairman of the National Assembly Kadir Kadir, a member of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms. Speaking in Razgrad, one of the main areas inhabited by Bulgarian Turks, Kadir told BTA on 15 March that the law is intended for the relief of those who sold their houses under pressure in the summer of 1989 because they were leaving for Turkey and who meanwhile have returned. Kadir said he doubted the law would contribute to social tension, and he pointed out that those citizens who bought houses from emigrating Turks fairly would be fully compensated. (Rada Nikolaev) LATEST ON BULGARIA'S MONARCHY ISSUE. The Bulgarian Democratic Center, a group of mainly antimonarchist parties, plans to propose a referendum on the question of whether Bulgaria should be a monarchy or a republic, BTA reports. Passions in Bulgaria were recently stirred by statements by exiled Tsar Simeon II and President Zhelev's interview in the Madrid daily El País on 9 February, in which he called Simeon's father, Boris III, a war criminal. Meanwhile, the media report that Simeon's mother, 84-year old Queen Ioanna, will visit Bulgaria; Zhelev said on 11 March that he would welcome her. In a phone interview with Bulgarian Radio on 13 March, Simeon's sister Maria Luisa said that her mother would only come after her husband's grave has been found. A commission headed by National Assembly Chairman Stefan Savov has been searching for the Tsar's remains, which were exhumed by the communist regime. (Rada Nikolaev) TENSIONS REMAIN HIGH IN BOSNIA. Radio Sarajevo reports that the situation in areas of northern Bosnia and western Herzegovina have reached dramatic proportions. Heavy fighting between Muslims and Serbs is reported in Bosanski Brod. Several people were wounded after Serb gunmen opened fire on a funeral of a Muslim teenager. A cease-fire was negotiated on the evening of 16 March, but reports say that the situation is uncertain. In Mostar, Herzegovina, Muslims and Croats have refused to remove roadblocks on two main approaches to the city set up in protest against the unruly behavior of federal army reservists from Serbia and Montenegro. The federal army commander in Mostar told city government officials that extremist paramilitary units from Croatia are using the roadblocks to provoke clashes with the Yugoslav army, and he warned of mass bloodshed. (Milan Andrejevich)
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