|Man will occasionally stumble over the truth, but most times he will pick himself up and carry on. - Winston Churchill|
No. 54, 18 March 1992
SUCCESSOR STATES TO THE USSR "USSR CONGRESS OF PEOPLE'S DEPUTIES" MEETS. The "Sixth USSR Congress of People's Deputies," convened with the express purpose of challenging the establishment of the CIS and proving that the USSR remains a viable entity, turned out to be a farce. Russian television newscasts of 17March reported that the only meeting place the organizers could find, after hours of search, was a sovkhoz club 70 kilometers away from Moscow; only a few hundred of the Congress's original 2,250members turned up; the meeting had to be held in candlelight since the authorities cut off power supplies; and the police evicted the partici-pants after only an hour and a half. (Julia Wishnevsky) "CONGRESS" DECISIONS. Estimates of the numbers attending the "Sixth USSR Congress of People's Deputies" vary between 150 and 400, according to various eyewitness accounts, but the number fell well short of the quorum of 1,700 necessary for the decisions of the "Congress" to have had legal force. The gathering elected a "Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet" with Chechen communist Sazhi Umalatova in the chair. This body includes Roy Medvedev, Leonid Sukhov, Viktor Alksnis, Anatolii Denisov, and the radical deputy Aleksandr Obolensky. Among other reso-lutions, the "Congress" declared the USSR still to be in existence within its 1977 borders. Another resolu-tion rejected the resignation of President Gorbachev, identified him as the person chiefly to blame for present developments in the former USSR, and call-ed on him to deliver a report on his activities as USSR President at the next Congress. (Julia Wishnevsky) ANTI-GOVERNMENT RALLY. The Congress was followed, in the evening of 17 March, by an anti-government rally in downtown Moscow. Reportedly, it drew nothing like the turnout organizers said they had expected. Estimates varied, but Western reports agreed that 10,000 were present (Reuters, 17 March). A scuffle broke out when a small pro-Yeltsin group paraded through the rally bearing a Soviet flag defaced by a swastika, but no injuries or arrests were reported, Interfax said. Speakers at the rally urged people to resist the government's economic reforms and called for the return to com-munism and restoration of the USSR. (Vera Tolz) DEMOCRATS' INTOLERANCE. The "Sixth USSR Congress of People's Deputies" revealed as much about the lack of tolerance of the Russian democrats now in power as it did about the weakness of the conservative opposition. Opponents of the USSR President--both left and right--had far fewer difficulties finding a place for their political meetings in the Gorbachev era. (Julia Wishnevsky) GEORGIAN STATE COUNCIL REACHES TRUCE AGREEMENT WITH GAMSAKHURDIA SUPOR-TERS. On 17 March representatives of the Georgian State Council and supporters of ousted Georgian President Zviad Gamsakhurdia drew up an agreement on the cessation of military activities in Western Georgia, ITAR-TASS reported. Forty-eight hos-tages held by Gamsakhurdia supporters will be released on condition the State Council withdraws its troops from the town of Zugdidi and turns overcontrol of the area to the police. The pro-Gamsakhurdia forces will form a separate battalion that will become part of the republic's armed forces. (Liz Fuller) VANCE, TER-PETROSSYAN ON NAGORNO-KARABAKH. UN special envoy Cyrus Vance met with acting Azerbaijani president Yakub Mamedov and Premier Hasan Hasanov in Baku on 17 March on the first leg of his fact-finding trip. Vance characterized the talks as "good" and promised to do his best to bring about a peaceful solution to the Karabakh conflict, Western media reported. Iranian deputy foreign minister Mahmoud Vaezi traveled to Baku on the third stage of a separate mediation effort. Speaking at a news conference in Erevan, Armenian President Ter-Petrossyan argued that Azerbaijan should hold talks with Karabakh representatives since Karabakh is "a separate political entity," ITAR-TASS reported on 17 March. He said Armenia would recognize Karabakh's independence only if another country did so first. (Liz Fuller) UZBEKISTAN BACKS AWAY FROM COMMONWEALTH. Two Central TV news reports of 17 and 18 March suggest that Uzbekistan may be distancing itself from the CIS. According to the first report, government and opposition leaders have been meeting with economists to discuss the possibility of Uzbekistan's introducing its own currency. A later report said that Uzbeks serving in the military who are stationed in countries that are not part of the Commonwealth, in the Transcaucasian Military District and in the Caspian Sea flotilla will be summoned home in the course of the next month. (Bess Brown) BELARUS LEADERS ON TRANSFER OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS. The chairman of the Belarusian par-liament, Stanislav Shuskevich, has reaffirmed that Belarus will continue to transfer tactical nuclear weapons from its territory to Russia for their destruc-tion, BELTA-TASS reported on 17 March. He de-scribed Ukraine's decision to suspend similar trans-fers as "exclusively the business of that state." The same day, however, INTERFAX reported that Bela-rusian defense minister Petr Chaus had expressed understanding for Ukraine's action. The destruction of the weapons being transferred to Russia must be assured and "supervised," Chaus said; he added that Belarus too was reviewing the problem of shipping nuclear arms to Russia. (Bohdan Nahaylo) RUBLE EXCHANGE RATE FALLS. At the weekly trading session of the Moscow Interbank Currency Exchange on 17 March, the rate for the ruble fell to 160.5 to the dollar, against 140 rubles in the previous week, Reuter reported. An official of the exchange was quoted as attributing the fall to the anticipated freeing of fuel prices, which is expected to lead to sharp and widespread increases in prices throughout the economies of the CIS. (Keith Bush) KOMI OIL WORKERS RESUME STRIKE. Oilworkers in the Komi Republic have resumed a strike over pay and other demands, halting work at 42 oil wells, ITAR-TASS reported on 17 March. The oilmen had stopped work in February for several days demanding higher bonuses, better supplies of consumer goods, and the freeing of prices for oil and gas. They complained that the authorities had failed to meet a 15 March deadline to respond to their demands. (Keith Bush) LIBERAL MEDIA TURN ON YELTSIN. A long article criticizing President Boris Yeltsin appears in Moscow News (no. 11, 1992), a newspaper that was among the first to engineer Yeltsin's rehabilitation in the late 1980s. The critique is penned by Lyudmila Pertsevaya, a journalist who knew Yeltsin when he was first secretary of the Sverdlovsk Oblast' Party organization. Perstevaya portrays Yeltsin as the very model of a traditional obkom secretary who persecuted journalists and other intellectuals but who managed to win the hearts of simple folk with his populist approach. (Julia Wishnevsky) YELTSIN/LIGACHEV RIVALRY RECALLED. According to Pertsevaya, the main reason Yeltsin was sacked from the Politburo in 1987 was his desire to replace Egor Ligachev, then the second most powerful man in the Soviet hierarchy. However, Pertsevaya acknowledges that at a certain stage Yeltsin became a genuine democrat, thanks to the influence of Moscow intellectuals. These same intellectuals, she claims, are today deserting Yeltsin because he is showing signs of returning to his old authoritarian ways. (Julia Wishnevsky) BURBULIS RULES OUT NEW COUP. Interviewed on 16 March on Russian TV's Moment istiny program, First Deputy Prime Minister Gennadii Burbulis ruled out the possibility of a fresh coup in Russia on the grounds that the majority of Russians trust Boris Yeltsin and his team. Burbulis predicted that economic stabilization will be achieved in six months and that from then on those who today reject reform will support it. Meanwhile, the speaker of the Russian parliament, Ruslan Khasbulatov, has accused Burbulis of lobbying for the dissolution of the parliament and hinted, according to Kommersant of 9-16 March, that Burbulis should be imprisoned together with the putschists. (Alexander Rahr) CATHOLIC-ORTHODOX RIFT WIDENS. Meetingin Istanbul on 13-15 March, Orthodox Church leaders issued a joint declaration accusing the Roman Catholic Church of trying to expand into the spiritual vacuum created by the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, Western agencies reported on 15-16March. Twelve patriarchs and archbishops representing 14 autonomous Orthodox Churches decided to suspend dialogue aimed at overcoming their spiritual differences with the Catholic Church until the problem is resolved. (Oxana Antic) CIS SHIPS BLOCKED AT SUEZ CANAL. Seventeen merchant ships of the Commonwealth of Independent States--mostly Ukrainian--remain blocked at the entrances to the Suez Canal, Western agencies reported on 17 March. It is expected that they will be granted passage during the next few days after transit fees totalling nearly $1 million have been paid. (Keith Bush) HELP FOR MILITARY IN KAZAKHSTAN. Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbaev has issued a decree promising regular food and consumer goods supplies to military units stationed in Kazakhstan. The decree also provides for military personnel who have served twenty years to buy their homes for 50% of their value; those without housing will receive a financial compensation. Earlier in the year Nazarbaev had promised to take measures to improve living conditions for military personnel serving in Kazakhstan. Riots over living conditions at Baikonur in February provided an additional incentive for the decree. (Bess Brown) RUSSIANS CONTINUE OFFENSIVE IN EASTERN MOLDOVA. In the pre-dawn hours of 17 March, the "Dniester" Russian forces and Don Cossacks resumed the offensive on the remaining Moldovan police posts in Dubasari raion, using armored vehicles and rockets. Moscow and Moldovan media spoke of substantial casualties but no count is available as yet. The Moldovan media said Moldovan peasants on the left bank of the Dniester were aiding the police, building anti-tank trenches and other obstacles to stop raids by "Dniester" forces, and staging demonstrations to express loyalty to Chisinau. In Chisinau and other localities, Moldovans rallied to demand arms and to criticize President Mircea Snegur and the government for not calling a general mobilization. The commander of Moldovan police in the Dniester area, Colonel Vladimir Roskov (apparently an ethnic Russian), was quoted by Moldovapres as saying the police were no match for the firepower, logistics, and military professionalism of the attackers. (VladimirSocor) ANOTHER CEASE-FIRE AGREED. At 11:00 a.m. on 17 March, Moldovan Prime Minister Valeriu Muravschi made a televised speech in Russian announcing a unilateral cease fire by the Moldovan police and calling on the "Dniester" forces to follow suit. A formal cease fire went into effect at 7:00 p.m. (Vladimir Socor) UKRAINE MOVES TO PROTECT BORDER WITH MOLDOVA. Reflecting mounting Ukrainian concern about the armed conflict around the "Dniester Republic," Ukraine's president Leonid Kravchuk issued a decree on 17 March ordering the protection of the state's border with Moldova. According to Radio Ukraine, the decree imposes a special regime on a 50-kilometer deep zone along the border and bans the transit through Ukrainian territory of armed groups and "violators" of Ukraine's border-crossing and customs regulations. Trips by tourist groups from Ukraine and other states through Ukrainian territory into Moldova have also been temporarily halted. (Bohdan Nahaylo) KOZYREV IN CHINA. Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev said following talks on 17 March in Beijing with Chinese State Council Premier Li Peng and Foreign Minister Qian Qichen that relations with China are gaining priority in Russian foreign policy. Kozyrev confirmed that Yeltsin had accepted an invitation to visit China (at an unspecified date) and that a comprehensive bilateral treaty is being prepared. Instruments of ratification for the recently-concluded border treaty between Russia and China were exchanged. Kozyrev stressed that a significant part of the planned troop reductions will take place in regions of Russia close to China and that the an-nounced retargeting of nuclear weapons away from the USA will not lead to an increase in military threat to the east, ITAR-TASS reported. (Suzanne Crow) KOZYREV IN ROK. From China, Kozyrev traveled to Seoul for talks with Foreign Minister Yi Sang-ok. The two ministers discussed ways to discourage the development of nuclear weapons in North Korea. Kozyrev said Russia had already stopped supplying technology related to the construction of nuclear power plants and nuclear fuels to the DPRK. He also stressed that it was Russia's intention to prevent the migration of Russian nuclear scientists to North Korea, Yonhap reported on 18 March. (Suzanne Crow) PRIMAKOV CALLS ON STUDENTS TO JOIN INTELLIGENCE. The Director of Russian Foreign Intelligence, Evgenii Primakov, has appealed to the students of the Moscow Institute of Foreign Relations to join his service, ITAR-TASS and Vesti reported on 17 March. Introducing a course of lectures on modern intelligence, Primakov said what his agency needs most is economists, physicists and chemists. Primakov said his service has no information either of any leak of nuclear technology from the CIS countries or of cases of emigration of experts involved in the development of nuclear weapons. He accused the mass media of conducting a disinformation campaign in order to put the Soviet nuclear arsenal under international control. (Victor Yasmann) EASTERN EUROPE BALTIC STATES UNEXPECTED QUIET IN LATVIA. Radio Riga reported on 17 March that the situation in Latvia was calm that day. The planned demonstrations in support of the restoration of the USSR did not take place. The exercises planned over the Baltic States by the former USSR air force were called off in response to public pressure and objections by the Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian governments; the exercises may be rescheduled for April. Troop and tank movements were, however, seen in various parts of Latvia, including Riga, Jelgava, Tukums, and Ventspils. (Dzintra Bungs) EXPERTS MEET AGAIN TO DISCUSS TROOP DEPARTURE. The second meeting of Latvian and Russian experts to discuss the withdrawal of troops of the former USSR from Latvia started on 17 March in the Latvian town of Ligatne, Radio Riga reports. The experts were expected to discuss a troop withdrawal timetable, the political activization of the armed forces, the takeover of property used by the military, and other related topics. This session is expected to end on 19 March. (Dzintra Bungs) POSSIBLE CONFLICT WITH CIS ARMY. On 17 March the former USSR 7th Paratroop Division, stationed in Kaunas, informed the Lithuanian National Defense Ministry that it had received a secret telegram from Col. Gen. Valerii Mironov, commander of the Northwestern Group of Forces, ordering it to secure the Military Officers Club in Kaunas, Radio Lithuania reports. The club had been turned over to Lithuania on 6 March in accordance with the Lithuanian government decree of 16 September 1991. Deputy Prime Minister Zigmas Vaisvila telephoned Russian State Secretary Gennadii Burbulis who promised to clarify the situation. Vaisvila also sent a telegram to Russian Deputy Premier Sergei Shakhrai inquiring whether such an order had been given and noting that its implementation would rudely violate Lithuanian laws. (Saulius Girnius) RUSSIAN ENTERPRISE COMPLAINS OF LATVIAN PORT FEE. Diena of 16 March reported that Russia's Rosnefteprodukt has accused the Latvian company Ventpils Nafta of illegally pumping off 32,800 tons of diesel oil that the Russian company was sending abroad via the Ventpils port. The accusation suggests that Rosnefteprodukt was not aware of a Russian-Latvian accord worked out earlier this year providing that fees for the use of Latvian port facilities would be paid by Russian firms in kind rather than in rubles. For petroleum products the fee was set at 6% of the amount of product transported through a given port. (Dzintra Bungs) DISAGREEMENT ON SITE OF OIL TERMINAL. The site of the oil import terminal in Klaipeda has created a controversy, the RFE/RL Lithuanian Service reported on 17 March. The government's choice of Melnrage raised a furor in Klaipeda. The city's executive committee chairman Vytautas Cepas complained that the decision had been made without consulting officials in Klaipeda. He considers Melnrage to be the worst possible site since the construction would displace many residents and require the destruction of about 100 hectares of the Giruliai Forest. Cepas considers the best site to be at Butinges, even though the deepening of the channel could take up to a year. Several thousand people in Klaipeda held a rally last week protesting the Melnrage site. (Saulius Girnius) VAGNORIUS IN SWEDEN. On 17 March Lithuanian Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius began a two-day visit to Sweden, Radio Lithuania reports. He and Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt signed a trade accord removing all customs and quotas from industrial goods shipped between the two states. As was the case with a similar earlier Latvian agreement, certain raw materials are exempted. Estonian Prime Minister Tiit Vahi is expected to sign a trade agreement when he visits Stockholm next week. Vagnorius said that he would like the agreements to cover a broader area of trade, but was glad for the ten joint ventures already formed with Swedish partners. He said that the Swedish parliament could decide how to compensate Lithuania for the gold reserves that Sweden had handed over to the USSR in 1940. (Saulius Girnius) CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE CENTRAL EUROPEAN FREE TRADE ZONE? According to a 17 March statement by Hungary's Ministry of International Economic Relations and reported by MTI, a free trade agreement between Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Poland (the Visegrad "Three") is expected to be completed by 1 July 1992. Unlike the associate membership agreements the three countries signed with the EC, which call for asymmetrical tariff reductions, this arrangement is symmetrical and envisions the gradual elimination of tariffs on the basis of full equality among the three countries. (Alfred Reisch) POLAND REACHES NEW AGREEMENT WITH IMF. On 17 March Finance Minister Andrzej Olechowski announced that a conditional agreement has been reached with the IMF on Warsaw's budget and economic reforms, allowing Poland to regain access to $1.5 billion in IMF loans. Olechowski told newsmen at the Polish Embassy in Washington that the IMF accepts a $4.5 billion projected government budget deficit. According to an RFE/RL correspondent, the Sejm has to approve the budget without pushing the deficit higher. The agreement brings Poland back into compliance with IMF's guidelines, which say Poland's deficit cannot exceed 5% of its gross domestic product. Olechowski also discussed commitments from the World Bank for $1 billion in new loans. He said an additional $1 billion in foreign loans will be sought with IMF help. (Wladyslaw Minkiewicz) TEJKOWSKI TO UNDERGO PSYCHIATRIC TESTS. On 17 March a Warsaw regional court ordered psychiatric tests for Boleslaw Tejkowski, leader of the Polish National Community Party. He is accused of spreading hatred and anti-Semitism, Western and Polish media report. The charges stem from allegedly anti-Semitic remarks he made during the parliamentary election campaign last year. Tejkowski has pleaded innocent to insulting and "publicly humiliating" state authorities, Jews, Pope John Paul II, and the Polish episcopate. He claims he is on trial only because "Jewish journalists" gave his taped speeches to prosecutors. The court adjourned his trial shortly after it began to allow psychiatric evaluation of the defendant. (Wladyslaw Minkiewicz) HAVEL RECALLS TWO OFFICIALS. On 17 March Czechoslovak President Vaclav Havel recalled two Czechoslovak diplomats whose ouster was recommended by the government 12 days ago, CSTK reports. Havel's spokesman Michael Zantovsky said Frantisek Barbirek was recalled as Ambassador to Bulgaria and Cestmir Cisar was recalled from his post as special envoy to the Council of Europe. The reasons for the government's recommendation were not made public. Barbirek and Cisar both held positions in the former Communist Party, but Zantovsky declined to comment on whether they were ousted under the screening law. (Barbara Kroulik) CHARGES FILED AGAINST RUDE PRAVO CHIEF EDITOR. Zdenek Porybny, chief editor of the former Czechoslovak Communist Party daily Rude pravo, has been charged with fraud and illegal business practices. CSTK says that the charges were revealed on 17 March by Deputy Interior Minister's press spokesman Stanislav Fajkus. An investigation was launched last week. Rude pravo said yesterday that Porybny was taken into custody, and police searched the newspaper's offices. The police also searched the offices of the body which links the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia and the Slovak Democratic Left Party, CSTK reports. (Barbara Kroulik) ROMANIA'S PRESIDENT ON HUNGARIAN MINORITY. In an interview published in the 16 March issue of the Budapest daily Kurir, Romanian President Ion Iliescu advised Hungary not to concern itself with the fate of the Magyar minority in his country, RFE/RL's Budapest correspondent reports. According to Iliescu, "Romanian citizens of Hungarian nationality" enjoy "unlimited, equal rights" under the country's constitution and can defend their rights themselves. Consequently, Hungary's concern for them amounts to interference in Romania's internal affairs and "annoyed" his country, which has been trying to eliminate Hungarian suspicions toward Romania, Iliescu said. (Alfred Reisch) WORKERS DEMONSTRATE IN BUCHAREST. More than a thousand union leaders and workers from the mining, construction, and auto industries came to Bucharest from the provinces on 17 March and assembled in front of the government headquarters. Prime Minister Theodor Stolojan met a delegation that requested the indexing of salaries to prices, better pay regulations, and the urgent privatization of those enterprises selected last year. They also demanded that the enterprises redistribute 30% of their capital to employees. A group of miners lead by Miron Cosma went to parliament and presented the workers' case to a group of deputies. (Mihai Sturdza) FOREIGN INVESTMENTS IN ROMANIA. In January and February 1992 the National Development Agency (NDA) registered 1,288 new joint companies with a total investment of $5,063,000. Investors still find Romanian legislation on foreign capital discouraging, however, even if it is exempt from price controls. Consequently 95% of Western investment in the former East Bloc has bypassed Romania, said NDA Director Florin Bonciu. He added that over the past two years 8,022 firms were set up by investors from 82 countries. Total investments were $269 million. Some 2,000 ventures were created by recently arrived Chinese, with only token Romanian participation in the overall investment of $550,530. (Mihai Sturdza) BULGARIAN-TURKISH FISHING CONFLICT. Even while Defense Minister Dimitar Ludzhev visited Turkey last week and a high-level Turkish military delegation is in Bulgaria this week, a bilateral conflict over fishing in the Black Sea has been escalating. Bulgarian media have been repeatedly reporting Turkish boats fishing in Bulgarian waters. Coast guard cutters were sent to chase them off, and on 13 March a Bulgarian sailor was killed when a cutter was rammed after firing warning shots. On 17 March Reuters reported that the Turkish ambassador to Sofia had been handed a protest note and the Ministry of the Interior said Bulgaria would strictly protect its Black Sea waters, including the use of weapons if necessary. (Rada Nikolaev) JEWISH ORGANIZATION IN BULGARIA. On 14 March B'nai B'rith, the international Jewish society, restored its lodge in Bulgaria, which had been banned in 1941, local dailies report. The lodge will be called Carmel and will be headed by Alfred Krispin, a well-known journalist. On 16 March guests from B'nai B'rith, headed by vice chairman Henry Schneider, were received by President Zhelyu Zhelev. They said that insofar as is possible their society is ready to help Bulgaria to overcome its problems. Krispin assured Zhelev that the members of the Bulgarian lodge will work as Bulgarian patriots. The event coincides with the visit of Prime Minister Filip Dimitrov to Israel, which began on 17 March. (Rada Nikolaev) SERBIAN BISHOP CALLS MILOSEVIC A TRAITOR. Bishop Atanasije Jevtic said in an interview on Belgrade's independent television station Studio B on 15 March that Serbia's President Slobodan Milosevic is "a traitor" to the Serbian people. Jevtic explained that Milosevic promised a better life for all Serbs but in reality the Serbian people are sinking deeper into chaos. He added that Serbs were betrayed by the communists and that "Serbia's grave is Tito's and Milosevic's Yugoslavia." He said that Milosevic's advocacy of peace is only a sign of "pure capitulation," and that it will be difficult for Serbs to restore their honor after the defeat. His views of Milosevic and his ruling Socialists (former communists) are the harshest ever to be expressed publicly by a major figure of the Serbian Orthodox Church. During last week's antigovernment rally in Belgrade, Jevtic told the crowd that Serbia needs a national government of salvation. (Milan Andrejevich)
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