|Words that open our eyes to the world are always the easiest to remember. - Ryszard Kapuscinski|
No. 55, 19 March 1992
SUCCESSOR STATES TO THE USSR ARMENIA DECLARES STATE OF EMERGENCY. The Armenian Foreign Ministry declared a state of emergency throughout Armenia on 18 March in response to what it terms Azerbaijan's "intolerable" economic blockade, Radio Erevan reported. The statement stressed that Armenia has no territorial claims either on Nagorno- Karabakh or on Azerbaijan, but is demanding self-determination for Nagorno-Karabakh and seeking a political solution to the problem. The statement calls on the international community to put pressure on Azerbaijan to end the blockade which, it says, could otherwise lead to an expansion of the ongoing conflict. (Liz Fuller) MEETING BETWEEN TER-PETROSSYAN AND MAMEDOV CALLED OFF. Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan has called off his meeting with acting Azerbaijani President Yakub Mamedov scheduled for 19 March on the eve of the CIS heads of state summit in Kiev because of the Azerbaijani economic blockade, a spokesman told Western agencies on 18 March. Radio Erevan said the chairman of the Nagorno-Karabakh parliament, Artur Mkrtchyan, sent a telegram to Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk requesting that representatives from Nagorno-Karabakh be permitted to attend the meeting and that the Karabakh issue should be included on the agenda. (Liz Fuller) UKRAINE REPEATS PLEDGE ON NUCLEAR ARMS, BUT . . . Interfax reported on 18 March that Ukraine's president Leonid Kravchuk assured Russian President Boris Yeltsin by phone on 16 March that Ukraine will stick to its declared commitment of removing all tactical nuclear weapons from its territory by 1 July. However, Kravchuk advisor Mykola Mykhalchenko told Reuters that Ukraine "has every reason not to trust the leaders of Russia." The transfer of weapons to Russia for destruction would be resumed, he said, only if the West could monitor what became of the weapons once they reached Russia. (Bohdan Nahaylo) BELARUS TO SET UP OWN ARMY. The parliament of Belarus voted on 18 March to establish a national army, ITAR-TASS reported. The move follows the announcement on 16 March that Russia would form its own defense ministry. (Elizabeth Teague) GEORGIAN PROCURATOR DEMANDS GAMSAKHURDIA HANDOVER. Georgian Procurator Vakhtang Razmadze has appealed to Chechen President General Dzhokhar Dudaev to hand over ousted Georgian president Zviad Gamsakhurdia, currently resident in Groznyi, so he can be brought to trial, Sakinform-TASS reported. An investigation indicates that Gamsakhurdia may be implicated in the embezzlement of up to 36 million rubles from the Georgian state budget and also in smuggling activities. (Liz Fuller) CIS GENERAL KIDNAPPED ON UKRAINIAN TERRITORY? Has a serving CIS army commander been kidnapped by Moldovan authorities on Ukrainian territory? It is claimed by the chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the rebel "Dniester Republic" in Moldova, Grigorii Marakutsa, as reported on 18 March by Moscow RIA, that the commander of the 14th Army, Lieutenant General Gennadii Yakovlev, was kidnapped by masked gunmen on 17 March in Ukraine's Razdelnyansky district while traveling to Odessa and is being detained in Chisinau. A Moldovan Interior Ministry official is quoted by Moscow RIA as denying any knowledge of this incident. (Bohdan Nahaylo) DECONTROL OF OIL PRICES. At a news conference in Moscow on 18 March, Russian Economics Minister Andrei Nechaev confirmed that the prices of oil and petroleum products will be fully decontrolled, ITAR-TASS reported, but the decontrol will occur not on April 1, as had been widely rumored, but "significantly later." Nechaev did not specify a date, but it is assumed that he meant later this year. It has been proposed that the price of coal also be decontrolled, but coalminers have demurred because coal cannot compete with other fuels; Nechaev intimated that the price will eventually be freed and that state subsidies will be necessary. The prices of natural gas and electricity will remain controlled. He reckoned that the freeing of prices on energy carriers will result in a general price hike of 50-70%. (Keith Bush) MINIMUM PAY AND MINIMUM PENSIONS TO BE RAISED. To compensate for the anticipated price hike, Nechaev announced that it was proposed to double minimum pay rates and minimum pensions in the Russian Federation. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Shokhin elaborated on the proposed increases during a parliamentary session. Starting in the second quarter, and by regional stages, he suggested that a new monthly minimum wage of 750 rubles be introduced, while a new monthly minimum pension of 650 rubles should be instituted by the pension law that will come into effect on 1 May. (The current minimum wage and pension are both 342 rubles a month). Increases are also recommended in child and student benefits. (Keith Bush) SOBCHAK WARNS AGAINST FUEL PRICE DEREGULATION. St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak warned that the Russian government might fall if it frees fuel prices. At a news conference on 18 March, reported by Interfax, Sobchak said that deregulation of fuel prices would be "heart failure and death" for the country, but since nations do not die, "the government will." Sobchak called for breathing space to analyze the results of the first stage of the reform and also to understand that privatization and land reform will take time. (Sobchak had earlier criticized the Yeltsin government for freeing prices before commencing privatization). (Keith Bush) MOVES TO COORDINATE MONETARY POLICY IN THE CIS. Rossiiskaya gazeta reported on 18 March that the central banks of the CIS states had agreed to create a joint body to coordinate the control of the money supply. Like the freeing of oil prices, this is probably the outcome at least in part of IMF pressure. (Philip Hanson) 93% OF RUSSIANS BELOW POVERTY LEVEL. A study by the Russian Goskomstat found that only 7% of the population had a monthly per capita income of more than 1,500 rubles--deemed to be the "minimum subsistence income"--in February, Interfax reported on 18 March. The average per capita income was said to be 895 rubles a month. The average pay of workers and employees in January 1992 was 1,440 rubles, which was 350% higher than in January 1991. Retail prices, however, were higher by a factor of 11 than in February 1991 and 380% higher than in December 1991. (Keith Bush) ARMS FOR SALE. Buyers with hard currency can purchase front-line jet bombers, tanks, and even a former nuclear missile site. Rossiiskaya gazeta on 17 March quoted Kazakh businessmen and officials as saying that, as of May, entrepreneurs in Kazakhstan will be selling Su-24 "Fencer" all-weather jet bombers and a still-secret military electronic device. On 11 March Literaturnaya gazeta revealed that 40 combat helicopters and 90 T-55 and T-62 tanks were recently sold for scrap at the Tashkent exchange. The paper said that there had been "whispered reports" during that sale about the availability of jet bombers. Postfactum on 17 March reported that the Far Eastern Military District had received approval to sell off a former nuclear missile site, and planned to offer it for $10 million. While not identified, the description of the site matches the former SS-12 complex at Novosysoyevka, some 115 kilometers north of Vladivostok. (Doug Clarke) KYRGYZSTAN TO SELL URANIUM. Kyrgyz president Askar Akaev told a press conference in New Delhi that Kyrgyzstan plans to sell uranium under International Atomic Energy Agency supervision, Western agencies reported on 18 March. Akaev, who is on a three-day visit to India, promised that uranium would not be sold to states identified as "undesirable" by the UN, but said India could buy enriched uranium from his country if it wished. Noting that all the Central Asian countries have set out on their own courses, Akaev said he saw little possibility of a confederation of Islamic states in Central Asia. (Bess Brown) MORE ON KAZAKH MISSILES. Kazakh officials are still smarting over stories in Stern and the New York Times that missiles with nuclear warheads disappeared from Kazakhstan and turned up in Iran. The March 18 issue of Nezavisimaya gazeta quoted the first deputy chairman of Kazakhstan's State Defense Committee, Seidabek Altynbekov, as saying that all tactical nuclear weapons have already been removed from Kazakhstan, and it would be impossible to misplace strategic missiles. The Moscow newspaper said Kazakh officials were convinced the story of the lost missiles had been invented to persuade public opinion that Kazakhstan was incapable of controlling its own nuclear potential. (Bess Brown) RUSSIAN PARLIAMENT MEETING ON TATARSTAN REFERENDUM. The Russian parliament voted on 18 March to hold a special session on 19 March to discuss the situation in Tatarstan in connection with the 21 March referendum on the state sovereignty of the republic, ITAR-TASS reported. The decision was a reaction to the Tatarstan parliament's refusal to take note of the Russian Constitutional Court's ruling on 13 March that parts of the question being put to referendum were unconstitutional on the grounds that a "yes" vote would mean Tatarstan was no longer part of the Russian Federation. The chairman of the Constitutional Court, Valerii Zorkin, addressed the parliamentary session and called on the authorities to enforce the ruling. (Ann Sheehy) YELTSIN TO SPEAK ON EVE OF REFERENDUM. Yeltsin has agreed to speak on Russian TV on the eve of the Tatarstan referendum, ITAR-TASS reported on 18 March. Yeltsin had been asked to do so at his meeting with parliamentary factions on 18 March. When one deputy said that, in his view, Tatarstan had effectively seceded from the Russian Federation already, Yeltsin said he was not so pessimistic; "the main thing is to act carefully, gradually, and in a friendly manner." Since there seems to be nothing the authorities can do to stop the referendum going ahead, Yeltsin is presumably hoping to encourage a "no" vote. (Ann Sheehy) RUSSIAN KRAIS AND OBLASTS INITIAL FEDERAL TREATY. Authorized representatives of 53 krais and oblasts of the Russian Federation and of the cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg initialled the treaty on delimiting powers between their territories and the Russian federal authorities at a meeting in Moscow on 18 March, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. The treaty is a counterpart to the federal treaty initialled by 18 of the 20 republics of the Russian Federation on 13 March. The signing of the two treaties, which the Russian leadership hopes will take place in the near future, is regarded as important for preserving the integrity of the Russian Federation. (Ann Sheehy) SLOWER DECLINE IN RUSSIAN OUTPUT AHEAD? Russian Economics Minister Andrei Nechaev is forecasting a slower decline in industrial output in the near future than in the recent past, Western agencies reported on 18 March. He said February's level was 12.5% below February 1991, and January's was 15% down from the previous January. This in fact is worse than the decline between 1990 and 1991, reported at 8%, but Nechaev claims to find the deceleration in February encouraging. He also said that the social response to shock therapy had been encouragingly calm, but limited subsidies would be needed to avert the closure of food-processing plants. (Philip Hanson) KOZYREV TO JAPAN. Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev completed talks with South Korean Foreign Minister Yi Sang-ok on 18 March. On 19 March, he went on to Tokyo, the final leg of his Asia tour, for talks with Japanese officials. During his news conference in Beijing on 17 March, Kozyrev said that a peace treaty with Japan "is on the agenda today," adding, "although we should not rush here; we will have to tackle this problem, including a final territorial settlement," ITAR-TASS reported on 17 March. (Suzanne Crow) SAMSONOV SUPPORTS RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY. In a conversation with military journalists reported by TASS on 17 March, Col. Gen. Viktor Samsonov--the chief of the general staff of the CIS armed forces--applauded the creation of a Russian defense ministry. "I am in favor of any entity that would be subject to the law and would be operative," he said, adding "We cannot carry on like this or there will be a total collapse." Samsonov complained that the expensive creation of a defensive perimeter built up over the years had been broken by "the short-sighted policy of certain leaders." In the event of a future conflict, "hope can only be pinned on the forces in the center of Russia." (Doug Clarke) MOLDOVA UNABLE TO COPE WITH RUSSIAN INSURGENCY. Addressing an extraordinary session of the Moldovan parliament, Prime Minister Valeriu Muravschi was cited by Moldovapres on 18 March as saying that "it was increasingly difficult to contain the ['Dniester' Russian] Guard and the Cossacks" in their offensive in eastern Moldova. The republic must either raise a military force or seek international support, he said. Replying to a group of deputies who urged that Moldovan volunteers be sent to defend the left bank of the Dniester, Defense Minister Ion Costas told parliament that "What we face on the left bank are military professionals endowed with heavy armament." Addressing the same parliamentary session, President Mircea Snegur expressed his "puzzlement" at the Russian government's and parliament's failure to respond to a series of messages from Moldova in recent weeks, asking Russia to clarify its attitude to the Russian insurgency in eastern Moldova and the participation of armed units of citizens of Russia in the fighting on Moldovan territory. (Vladimir Socor) BALTIC STATES EC COMMISSIONER CALLS FOR BALTIC TRANSPORT NETWORK. On 18 March EC Commissioner for Transport Karel van Miert told an international transport conference in Szczecin that "a joint effort should be undertaken for the planning and financing" of transport networks to help reestablish the Baltic as one of Europe's great trade areas, a RFE/RL correspondent in Brussels reports. His appeal to the European Investment Bank, the World Bank, the EBRD, and the G-24 to consider ways for paying for new transport links is the first time an EC official has called for outside financing for European transport projects. An important part of the transport plans is the building of the Via Baltica highway through these states. (Saulius Girnius) SOME EX-SOVIET SOLDIERS LEAVE LATVIA. Forty-nine soldiers and officers of the former USSR armed forces are leaving their base in Bolderaja, a seaside community near Riga, on 19 March; they are taking with them 29 units of unspecificed technical equipment. Their families went to Russia earlier. The convoy is expected to cross the Latvian-Russian border en route to Vyborg on the mid-morning of 20 March, Radio Riga reports. (Dzintra Bungs) MILITARY FLIGHTS OVER ESTONIA. Although the Russian Air Force exercises over the Baltic States scheduled for 17 March have been called off, Radio Tallinn reports "intensive military flights" over Estonia, specifically in the vicinity of Paldiski and Amari. Noting that the Estonian authorities had not yet issued their evaluation of the nature and purpose of the flights, Radio Tallinn also mentioned the troop movements in Latvia that day and linked the military activities in the Baltics to the events in Moscow. (Dzintra Bungs) SOVIET TROOP WITHDRAWAL TALKS CONTINUE. On 18 and 19 March a 13-member Lithuanian delegation headed by Minister without Portfolio Aleksandras Abisala holds talks in the Lithuanian embassy Moscow on the withdrawal of former Soviet troops from Lithuania, Radio Lithuania reports. The previous round of talks was held on 11-14 February. The Lithuanians had sent the Russian side 4 proposals on the timing and terms of the withdrawal, rules for the withdrawing troops, and other legal and organizational questions. (Saulius Girnius) RUSSIA STILL LAGS IN OIL SUPPLIES TO LATVIA. Ziedonis Blumbergs, deputy Minister for Industry and Energy in Latvia, told Reuters on 18 March that despite Russia's failure to supply the promised petroleum products, Latvia does not yet intend to close the Ventspils harbor to Russian exports. Such a retaliatory step has been considered, but, Blumbergs said, if it were taken then "we'd lose too." For the first three months of 1992 Russia had agreed to send Latvia 22,000 tons of gasoline, 18,000 tons of diesel, 153,000 tons of fuel oil, and 15,000 tons of liquid petroleum. (Dzintra Bungs) LATVIAN SUPREME COUNCIL ON PRIVATIZATION. On 17 March the Latvian Supreme Council adopted additional legislation on privatization, including a law on commissions to handle the privatization of state and municipal property and a decree extending the registration deadline from 15 March to 1 July 1992. BNS reports that only about one-sixth of the agricultural enterprises that are to be privatized have been registered with the Enterprise Registry of Latvia. (Dzintra Bungs) VAGNORIUS CONCLUDES SWEDEN VISIT. On 18 March Lithuanian Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius returned to Vilnius after a two-day visit to Sweden, Radio Lithuania reports. He was accompanied by Minister of International Economic Relations Vytenis Aleskaitis, parliament foreign affairs commission chairman Vidmantas Povilionis, and the president of Lithuania's Investment Bank. On 18 March he met Swedish opposition leaders Pierre Schori and Mats Carlson and spoke at the Swedish Export Council and Swedish Foreign Politics Institute. (Saulius Girnius) CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE BOSNIAN LEADERS REACH AGREEMENT. . . Radio Sarajevo reported on 18 March that the leaders of Bosnia-Herzegovina's three ruling ethnic parties have agreed in principle to reshape the political and constitutional make up of the multiethnic republic. The leaders also agreed to reorganize the republic into three autonomous ethnic units for Muslims, Serbs, and Croats. The agreement guarantees full political and religious freedom, respect for human rights,a free enterprise system and a market economy, and a two-chamber parliament in which each of the ethnic groups will have an equal number of representatives. The central government will run foreign, monetary, and defense policy. Each of the three ethnic units will have powers over trade and economic issues, education, police, and social security. It is not yet clear, however, how much power the central government will have over the three units. The issue of a Bosnian army will be decided at a later date. (Milan Andrejevich) . . . BUT BORDERS REMAIN UNCLEAR. The agreement, brokered by EC official Jose Cutilheiro, states that Bosnia-Herzegovina will be composed of national units taking into account as yet undefined "economic, geographic, and other criteria." The current borders of the republic will remain intact, according to the agreement. The boundaries of each unit would be decided by the national absolute or relative majority in each of the republic's 109 municipalities. However, the problem with the formulation is that few ethnic boundaries can be clearly defined. One-fourth of the republic's population live in areas that are ethnically mixed. Talks are to resume on 30 March. (Milan Andrejevich) GENERAL STRIKE IN SLOVENIA. Radio Croatia reports on 18 March that some 400,000 Slovenian workers took part in a one hour general warning strike over the rapid decline in the standard of living brought on by the government's failure to introduce a comprehensive economic reform program. The strike was organized by two independent trade unions, but its effect was weakened because of disagreements between the unions. Mass rallies were called off at the last minute. The government viewed the strike as an attempt by opposition parties to bring down the government. Organizers say another strike is being planned for mid-April. (Milan Andrejevich) WARSAW APPROVES 1992 BUDGET. On 18 March the cabinet gave final approval to a proposed 1992 budget that requires sharp spending cuts and higher taxes to trim Poland's deficit. Government spokesman Marcin Gugulski told reporters "nobody is hiding the fact that this is a difficult budget." The government has promised the IMF that it will keep the deficit below 5% of Poland's gross domestic product. On 17 March the IMF gave Finance Minister Andrzej Olechowski conditional approval for the proposed budget, which still must be passed by the Sejm. Parliamentary approval of the budget would allow Poland to regain access to $1.5 billion in IMF loans, Western and Polish media report. (Wladyslaw Minkiewicz) POLAND PROTESTS TO LITHUANIA OVER MINORITY COUNCILS. On 18 March Warsaw protested to Vilnius what it said is a failure to set a date for local council elections in the two Polish- populated areas of Lithuania. Foreign Ministry official Jacek Czaputowicz told Lithuanian charge d'affaires in Warsaw Dainius Junevicius that Poland considers this a breach of the cooperation and friendship Agreement signed in January. The two local councils in Lithuania were dissolved in September after the attempted coup in Moscow. According to Western and Polish media, Vilnius promised new elections without setting a date. The accord also promised Poles the right to be educated in Polish, to spell their names in Polish, and to receive Lithuanian citizenship without having to declare their loyalty to Vilnius. (Wladyslaw Minkiewicz) FORMER CZECHOSLOVAK DISSIDENTS DEFEND JAN KAVAN. Twenty-four prominent opponents of the former regime, including current Foreign Minister Jiri Dienstbier, on 18 March denounced the state's case against parliamentary deputy Jan Kavan. Kavan, who led a dissident group from London before returning to Czechoslovakia, is among those deputies accused of contacts with the former communist secret police (STB). CSTK says the former dissidents demand an unbiased analysis of the case and say that they never saw any evidence that Kavan collaborated with the STB. Adding to the controversy, BBC television recently alleged that Kavan has not been telling the truth. (Barbara Kroulik) HAVEL: NO DANGER OF AUTHORITARIAN RULE. Czechoslovak President Vaclav Havel says he does not believe there is a danger of his country's democratic system being overthrown by an authoritarian regime. But he said it is necessary to strengthen democratic institutions. His made the comments in an interview with the German weekly Die Zeit of 19 March. He also dismissed fears that Czechoslovakia is being "Germanized." (Barbara Kroulik) INVESTIGATION AGAINST FORMER COMMUNIST PARTY STARTED. According to a 17 March Radio Budapest report Miklos Gaspar, a deputy of the Christian Democratic Peoples' Party, was asked in parliament about millions of dollars that were sent illegally to the Soviet Union by the former Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party. Chief Prosecutor Kalman Gyorgyi admitted that preliminary investigations begun on 18 February lend credence to the charges and that the case is now being investigated, but said it is too early to make any conclusions. (Judith Pataki) HUNGARIAN AGRICULTURAL COOPERATIVES OPERATE ON DEFICIT. According to the National Association of Agricultural Cooperatives and Producers, the 1991 losses of Hungary's agricultural cooperatives were greater than expected, MTI reported on 16 March. Losses amounted to some 19 billion forint ($152 million) while profits were below 5 billion forint ($40 million). Two-thirds (800) of the agricultural co-ops closed the year with a deficit and the state sector of agriculture is expected to show similarly poor results. (Alfred Reisch) HUNGARIAN FOOD INDUSTRY IN CRISIS. Participants at a conference dealing with the situation of the Hungarian food industry warned that forceful government measures will be needed to avert a crisis, MTI reported on 18 March. Food industry representatives pointed out that production dropped by 10% in 1991 and the number of employees by 7% compared with 1990. Currently, every fourth company in the food industry faces bankruptcy. (Edith Oltay) HUNGARIAN-AMERICAN MILITARY COOPERATION. Hungarian Defense Minister Lajos Fur told Radio Budapest on 18 March following talks with Pentagon officials in Washington that a joint committee headed by Hungarian and US deputy secretaries of state will coordinate military cooperation between the two countries. The committee will first convene in Washington in May this year. Fur also announced that the number of Hungarian military officers sent for studies in the US will be increased. (Edith Oltay) ROMANIAN MILITARY COMPLAINS ABOUT INSUFFICIENT BUDGET. Defense Minister Lt. Gen. Nicolae Spiroiu said on 17 March that Romania's military forces need a minimum of 358 billion lei in 1992 to modernize their training and equipment, and for maintenance costs. Parliament has allotted only 137 billion lei. The defense budget provides some $750 million--26% less than in 1991--for arms, ammunition, and fuel. The army also provides medical care to veterans and reserve officers and their families, together making up 10% of Romania's population, as well as for running the elite Elias Hospital. Spiroiu said that the army's state allotment for medical care is only 671 million lei although it should expect about 10% of the country's total health budget of 14 billion lei. (Mihai Sturdza) UDF PREPARES NATIONAL CONFERENCE. The National Coordinating Council of the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) met on 17 March to settle details of the national conference earlier postponed from February to April and now set for 11-12 April. Some 1,500 to 1,800 participants will include 15 representatives of each member party plus nationwide local representation. Guests from several international organizations will be invited. UDF spokesmen also were quoted by the Sofia dailies as saying that the conference will approve a memorandum on the UDF's coalition character. On the current discussion of restoring monarchy they said that, although in the UDF there are both republicans and monarchists, they have agreed that the issue might only become topical after the communist system has been totally dismantled. Until then they will firmly support the republic. (Rada Nikolaev) [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Elizabeth Teague & Charles Trumbull The RFE/RL Daily Report is produced by the RFE/RL Research Institute (a division of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Inc.) in Munich, Germany, with the assistance of the RFE/RL News and Current Affairs Division (NCA). The report is available Monday through Friday, except holidays, at approximately 0800 US Eastern Time (1400 Central European Time) by fax, post, or e-mail. The report is also posted daily on the SOVSET computer network. 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