|Absence makes the heart grow fonder. -|
No. 57, 23 March 1992
SUCCESSOR STATES TO THE USSR TATARSTAN VOTES FOR INDEPENDENCE. Despite a last minute appeal by Russian President Boris Yeltsin for a "no" vote in the 21 March Tatarstan referendum on the state status of the republic, preliminary results show that 61.4% voted in favor while 37.2% voted against, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 March. Altogether 81.6% of the electorate paticipated, which means that 50.2% of those entitled to vote were in favor of ndependence. The "yes" vote was highest in the predominantly Tatar rural areas (75.3%), while in Kazan and some other cities a majority voted against. (Ann Sheehy) REACTIONS TO REFERENDUM RESULTS. After the results were known, Aleksandr Lozovoi, deputy chairman of the Tatarstan parliament, said the republic now intends to negotiate with Russia for a new status for Tatarstan within the Russian Federation, Russian and Western agencies reported. Lozovoi warned that Russian pressure on Tatarstan could encourage separatists. The chairman of the Tatar Public Center, Marat Mulyukov, described the results as a "great victory." Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Gennadii Burbulis appealed to Tatarstan to remain part of Russia and to sign the federal treaty. (Ann Sheehy) SIGNING OF RUSSIAN FEDERAL TREATY POSTPONED. Yeltsin's press service announced on 22 March that the signing of the federal treaty had been postponed to 31 March, ITAR-TASS reported. The reason was said to be "purely organizational problems." Only two days previously it had been said the signing would take place on 25 March. The treaty had earlier been initialled by representatives of Russia's constituent republics, krais, and oblasts, with the exception of Tatarstan and Checheno-Ingushetia. However, it has already run into problems in the republics. The Buryat Supreme Soviet is to discuss the objections of its constitutional commission on 26 March, and the Kabardino-Balkar Republic will only sign if changes are made, ITAR- TASS reported on 20 and 21 March respectively. (Ann Sheehy) CONGRESS OF RUSSIAN GERMANS CALLS FOR FREE EMIGRATION. At the end of a three-day congress of Russian Germans in Moscow Russian German leader Heinrich Groth said that emigration to Germany was now the top priority for the Interstate Council for the Rehabilitation of the Germans of the Former USSR and that the council intended to call on Russia and Germany to enable all who wish to leave to do so in three to five years, ITAR-TASS reported on 22 March. This marks a serious setback for the German government's efforts to persuade them to stay in the successor states of the former Soviet Union. Yeltsin's recent decree on a gradual restoration of the former Volga German Republic was dismissed as an effective refusal to recreate German autonomy. (Ann Sheehy) SIBERIAN SEPARATISTS CAUTIONED. The procurator of the Tomsk region in Western Siberia has said that criminal proceedings may be instituted against anyone who calls for Siberia to secede from the Russian Federation, RFE/RL's Russian Service was informed by Moscow journalist Andrei Makarov on 19 March. The warning was issued as preparations got under way for a Congress of Siberian local government bodies, to be held in Krasnoyarsk on 27-28 March. Some of the Congress organizers, who include the Independent Siberia Party, want the Congress to adopt a declaration of independence and to proclaim itself the supreme organ of a newly-proclaimed sovereign state of Siberia. (Jean Riollot and Elizabeth Teague) CIS SUMMIT DOES LITTLE TO STRENGTHEN COMMONWEALTH. The one-day meeting of CIS heads of state in Kiev on 20 March did little or nothing to strengthen the Commonwealth. Although a total of 17 documents were signed, a majority of these were not signed by Ukraine, and decisions on key issues were once again postponed, the CIS and Western media reported. Acrimonious words were exchanged between Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk. The latter complained that decisions taken by CIS leaders were never implemented, but Ukraine is the main opponent of any coordinating bodies. Russia angered Ukraine by refusing to discuss the sharing out of the assets of the former Soviet Union, currently mostly in Russian hands. The next summit meeting has been scheduled for 15 May in Tashkent. (Ann Sheehy) FEW MILITARY DECISIONS AT KIEV SUMMIT. The leaders of 11 CIS states again failed to grapple with the most serious military issues at their meeting in Kiev. Yeltsin told ITAR-TASS on 20 March that they did not have enough time to decide on the composition of the CIS strategic forces or the matter of a joint military budget. In a 22 March interview on Ostankino TV, Kravchuk said that the leaders had agreed on a document providing for the material and technical support of the military--one of the few military documents Ukraine signed at the summit. Radio Mayak on 20 March announced that the leaders also decided to establish a CIS peace- keeping force, but its utility seems in question. It will only be able to operate with the consent of both conflicting parties, and Azerbaijan and Armenia were reported to have opposed the measure. (Doug Clarke) MILITARY CHIEFS CONFIRMED. ITAR-TASS announced on 20 March that the CIS presidents formally appointed Colonel General Viktor Samsonov as the head of the CIS Armed Forces General Staff, Army General Yurii Maksimov to command the CIS Strategic Armed Forces, and Colonel General Vladimir Semyonov to head the CIS General Purpose Armed Forces. All three officers have been serving in these or similar positions. (Doug Clarke) NO CHANGE IN UKRAINIAN STAND ON NUKES. At the post-summit press conference, broadcast by Radio Mayak on 20 March, Ukrainian President Kravchuk said that Ukraine continued to insist on a temporary suspension of the transfer of tactical nuclear weapons to Russia until the joint commission called for in the Alma- Ata accord was functioning. In his 22 March interview, Kravchuk said that this commission would initially be made up of representatives from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, but, in a second stage, it would be opened up to "international observers." (Doug Clarke) NAZARBAEV ON NUCLEAR WEAPONS. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev said in an interview published in the Italian daily La Stampa that Kazakhstan has the right to be a member of the club of nuclear nations because of the nuclear weapons tests conducted on its territory, ITAR-TASS and Western agencies reported on 20 March. Nazarbaev added that Kazakhstan had become a nuclear power against its will, but now intends to participate in strategic arms reduction negotiations. Removal of the strategic missiles from Kazakhstan would cost billions of rubles which the country does not have, he said. (Bess Brown) UKRAINIANS SEE CIS DAYS AS NUMBERED. After more friction between Ukraine and Russia, Ukrainian leaders appear to have assessed the Kiev CIS summit as "the beginning of the end" of this association. President Kravchuk's advisor on legal and international affairs, Volodymyr Vasylenko, was quoted in The Washington Post of March 21 as saying: "I think this was the second-to-last meeting of the Commonwealth." Kravchuk himself publicly criticized Russia's leaders, especially for not budging on the crucial issue of dividing up the embassies and other foreign assets of the former USSR. According to The New York Times, he declared at a press conference that "Russia behaves as she does and cannot behave otherwise." "Ukraine will also behave as she is compelled to by objective circumstances. We will not bend." (Bohdan Nahaylo) RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT-LABOR-BUSINESS TALKS. Russian TV reported on 18 March that the Russian Tripartite Commission on the Regulation of Social-Labor Relations was meeting in Moscow. It groups representatives of government, trade unions and "entrepreneurs." Agenda items include the situation in Kemerovo (i.e., the miners' strike threats) and other labor issues. The commission was established following Yeltsin's edict of 15 November 1991 on social partnership. (Philip Hanson) KOMI STRIKERS STILL BARGAINING. On 21 March, according to ITAR-TASS of 22 March, the strike committee in Usinsk decided to continue its work stoppage until midnight on 23 March, and demanded that the tripartite (labor-business-government) commission of the Russian Federation visit the Komi Republic to consider their demands. This decision was taken despite a visit to Usinsk by a senior official of the Russian Ministry of Fuel and Energy, apparently with some concessions. The strike now extends to teachers and other service-sector workers in the area. The oil production affected by the strike is of the order of half a million tons a year. (Philip Hanson) VNESHEKONOMBANK'S INDEBTEDNESS. The deputy director of the Russian Central bank told Izvestiya on 21 March that Vneshekonombank owes $5.4 billion to foreign creditors. He was presumably alluding to arrears in its payments, rather than to the external indebtedness of the former USSR. Some 15-20% of the debt is held by commercial banks. The bank plans first to pay off its debts to private citizens and to commercial banks. Clients who deposited money after 1 January 1992 will have unrestricted access to their funds, but several hundreds of millions of dollars deposited by other clients remain frozen, including some $200 million belonging to diplomatic missions in Moscow. (Keith Bush) BELARUSIAN COUPONS SOON. Belarusian National Bank Administration Chairman Stanislau Bogdankevich told a Minsk news conference on 21 March that his republic will introduce coupons as an alternate currency "very soon," ITAR-TASS reported. Bogdankevich claimed that the Belarusian coupons "will be better" than those being used in Ukraine and that they will be "like real money," but did not elaborate. The issue of Belarusian coupons has been declared imminent for several months now--see TASS of 13 December 1991 and 27 January 1992--and assurances have been given that the rubles thereby displaced will be destroyed. (Keith Bush) KOZYREV COMPLETES ASIA TOUR. Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev held talks in Tokyo with his Japanese counterpart, Michio Watanabe, on 21 March. In a news conference following the meeting, Kozyrev said that Russia will approach the Kurile Islands dispute "on the principle of law and justice," adding that this approach was "unknown to the former communist government." But, Kozyrev also said that a new Russian draft constitution, which calls for a national referendum to settle territorial disputes, may hinder settlement of the Kurile question, Russian and Western agencies reported. (Suzanne Crow) ROGACHEV ON BORDER AGREEMENTS. Igor Rogachev, Russia's ambassador to China, said in an interview with Interfax published on 20 March that two sections of the Russo-Chinese border remain disputed despite the conclusion of a border agreement between the two countries in May 1990. (This agreement was ratified by Russia on 13 February 1992.) According to Rogachev, the areas in dispute include two small islands in the Amur River called Bolshoi Ussuriysky and Tarabarov, and the Bolshoi Island in the Argun River. Rogachev also said that there had been agreement in principle among Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan to continue talks with China on their respective borders with the PRC. Rogachev said Yeltsin is likely to visit China at the time of his trip to South Korea and Japan in September. (Suzanne Crow) CRIMEAN TATARS DEMONSTRATE IN KIEV. Radio Ukraine reported on 19 March that several hundred Crimean Tatars had been staging a protest action in Kiev for several days calling for the restoration of an autonomous Crimean Tatar state and urging the Ukrainian government to facilitate the resettlement of Crimean Tatars in the Crimea. The demonstrators, who were allowed to pitch tents in a central square, stressed in particular that the authorities in the Crimea are unsympathetic, if not hostile, to them. (Bohdan Nahaylo) CRIMEAN REFERENDUM ON SECESSION LOOKS LIKELY. On 20 March, Radio Ukraine reported that the predominantly Russian "Republican movement" in the Crimea, which is seeking the peninsula's secession from Ukraine, has now collected 178,000 of the necessary 180,000 signatures for a local referendum to be held on this issue. The movement has until 3 April to gather the remainder.(Bohdan Nahaylo) FIGHTING CONTINUES DESPITE NAGORNO-KARABAKH CEASEFIRE. Western agencies reported sporadic fighting and artillery fire in and around Nagorno-Karabakh on 20-22 March despite the Iranian-brokered cease-fire but an exchange of prisoners took place on 22 March as planned. Visiting the enclave on 20 March, UN special envoy Cyrus Vance expressed the hope that the cease-fire would lead to a lasting peace. On 21 March Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan welcomed the tentative agreement reached the previous day at the CIS summit in Kiev to create a volunteer peacekeeping force that could be deployed in Nagorno-Karabakh. (Liz Fuller) BALTIC STATES RUSSIANS DEMONSTRATE IN TALLINN. On 21 March a crowd of Russians estimated at 8-10,000 protested in Tallinn, Western agencies report. The rally, organized by the former hard-line Communist faction of the Estonian parliament, is the first large-scale protest since Estonia became independent. The demonstrators demanded that the government freeze prices and guarantee basic foodstuffs to the poor and called for talks on the new citizenship law, which grants immediate citizenship to ethnic Estonians but requires a waiting period for later immigrants. Speakers also condemned Russian President Boris Yeltsin and called for bringing Mikhail Gorbachev to trial for allowing the USSR to disintegrate. (Saulius Girnius) MERI WORRIED ABOUT CIS TROOPS. On 22 March in an interview with Deutschlandfunk Estonian Foreign Minister Lennart Meri said that he is worried about the possibility that former Soviet troops may stay on in the Baltic States. He noted that he has seen no signs the CIS forces are disbanding, but rather they are demonstrating increased discipline. Meri said he fears the generals might want to stage a coup. He advised the West to bear in mind that the Baltic States could well be the first--and definitely not the last--victims of "new imperial demands" by Russia. (Saulius Girnius) RUSSIA WANTS TO KEEP MILITARY "OBJECTS" IN LATVIA. Sergei Zotov, chief of the Russian delegation for talks on the withdrawal of ex-Soviet troops from Latvia, said on 19 March that although "we are not eager to leave our bases in Latvia, we are especially interested in maintaining certain objects [there] that would be of interest not only to Russia, but to global politics." Zotov said one of these objects would be the radar station in Skrunda, Diena reported on 19 March. He said the troop withdrawal timetable depends on how fast housing and technical facilities can be created in Russia. He added that if the armed forces were withdrawn momentarily, Latvia's roads would be paralyzed for over a year. Zotov said that currently there are 58,000 troops of the armed forces and border guard in Latvia, a figure that does not square with the estimate of 45,000 given earlier by Col. Gen. Valerii Mironov. (Dzintra Bungs) GORBUNOVS ON CITIZENSHIP REFERENDUM. Latvian Supreme Council Chairman Anatolijs Gorbunovs told Reuters on 20 March that the lack of clear legislation on citizenship is causing disputes over who can become citizens of Latvia and hindering vital economic reforms. Gorbunovs said he favors holding a referendum on the citizenship issue and that in view of Latvia's "unique demographic situation" participants should be restricted to those who were citizens of Latvia before it was annexed by the USSR in 1940 and their descendants. He explained that after waves of Soviet immigration to the republic in the postwar decades, the Latvian share of the population declined from 75% in 1940 to about 52% in 1989. Gorbunovs also said that he favors a 10-year residency requirement for prospective citizens, rather than the 16-year requirement adopted by the Supreme Council. (Dzintra Bungs) LANDSBERGIS ON THE BBC. For one hour on 22 March Lithuanian Supreme Council Chairman Vytautas Landsbergis answered telephoned questions on the BBC World Service. Landsbergis discussed the republic's political and economic situation, foreign investments, citizenship law, and rights of minorities, among other topics. He said that the happiest day in Lithuania will be when the last ex-Soviet troops leave the country. Landsbergis said he welcomed the opportunity to give the world audience a better understanding of Lithuania's situation. The BBC has had similar programs with the Czechoslovak, Romanian, and Polish Presidents, and Russian State Secretary Gennadii Burbulis. (Saulius Girnius) CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE POLISH PRESIDENT CONTRADICTS HIMSELF ON POWER. Lech Walesa told Die Welt on 23 March that as president he must keep many options open, including that of taking over as prime minister. He expressed confidence he would have a safe majority in Sejm if he runs as a candidate for that office. He added, however, that taking over as prime minister would only be the last resort in case Prime Minister Olszewski fails. Speaking at a press conference on 19 March, however, he denied he is seeking to concentrate political power into his own hands. Defending his draft presidential law on procedures relating to a new constitution, he said he believes the constitutional work was so important that large numbers of people need to be involved. He said the main aim of his approach is to stimulate discussion, stressing the draft does not represent an attempt to gather power into his own hands. Western and Polish media carried the story. (Wladyslaw Minkiewicz) SEJM TO CONSIDER BUDGET. The Polish government sends its proposed budget and economic reform plan to parliamentary deputies on 23 March. According to Western media, formal debate on the budget is expected to begin next month. The budget proposes to reduce public spending and raise taxes in order to trim Poland's deficit. If approved by parliament the budget will reopen Warsaw's access to IMF loans worth about $1.5 billion. Parliamentary approval, however, could be hindered by agricultural and trade union lobbies who are demanding an easing of Poland's economic austerity measures. (Wladyslaw Minkiewicz) OLSZEWSKI PROMISES STREAMLINED INVESTMENT PROCEDURE. Prime Minister Jan Olszewski said he plans to streamline government procedures in order to make foreign investments in Poland easier. He told French officials and businessmen in Paris on 19 March that he is determined to get around the "bureaucratic slowness" that has caused lengthy delays in discussion on investment projects in Poland. He said this administrative sluggishness is an unfortunate vestige of more than four decades of communist rule in Poland, Western media report. (Wladyslaw Minkiewicz) CZECHOSLOVAKIA, EFTA FREE TRADE AGREEMENT. On 21 March in Prague, Czechoslovakia became the first East European country to sign a free trade accord with the seven-member European Free Trade Association. An EFTA official said that the move is a significant step toward fully integrating Czechoslovakia into wider European economic cooperation. The agreement must be ratified by the Czechoslovak and EFTA countries' parliaments and is expected to become effective on 1 July. It calls for tariffs and quotas to be lifted immediately by the EFTA countries, while Czechoslovakia will be allowed to do so gradually over the next 10 years, Reuters reports. (Barbara Kroulik) CZECH FOREIGN MINISTRY. The Czech parliament on 20 March decided to set up a foreign ministry for the Czech Republic on 1 June. CSTK quotes Czech Premier Petr Pithart as saying that the Czech Republic needs representation with foreign partners but denying that the move was made in answer to the creation two years ago of the Slovak Ministry for International Relations. (Barbara Kroulik) DIENSTBIER MEETS BAKER. Czechoslovak Foreign Minister Jiri Dienstbier and US Secretary of State James Baker held talks in Washington on 20 March about the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. They also discussed this week's follow-up meeting in Helsinki of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. Dienstbier also met Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, who will lead the US delegation. Dienstbier said it was agreed that the role of the CSCE in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict should be to coordinate separate initiatives of various countries. The task of chief coordinator will fall to Dienstbier, as Czechoslovakia currently holds the rotating CSCE chairmanship, an RFE/RL correspondent reports. (Barbara Kroulik) HUNGARIAN OPPOSITION PARTIES CALL FOR MINISTER'S DISMISSAL. The steering committees of the Alliance of Young Democrats and the Alliance of Free Democrats called on Prime Minister Jozsef Antall to dismiss minister of justice Istvan Balsai, MTI reported on 20 March. The two parties accuse Balsai of "severely violating the law" by appointing several county chief justices who were not supported by judges' organizations and of seeking to appoint judges loyal to the government. The Association of Hungarian Judges also condemned the appointments as "a violation of the law" and called on Balsai to reach a compromise with judges' organizations. Balsai maintains that he strictly kept to the letter of the law on judicial appointments and points out that the legality of his appointments has been confirmed by the parliament's constitutional committee. (Edith Oltay) MOLDOVAN LEADERS IN ROMANIA. On 21 March Moldova's President Mircea Snegur, Prime Minister Valeriu Muravschi, and Parliament President Alexandru Mosanu paid a 7-hour, surprise visit to Bucharest. After meeting President Ion Iliescu, Snegur said that there is no other way to solve the Dniestr conflict except the rational peaceful way. On 22 March Iliescu said that the presidents of Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, and Romania plan to hold talks on the conflict at the CSCE meeting beginning on 23 March in Helsinki. (Mihai Sturdza) MINERS' LEADER AGAIN IN THE LIMELIGHT. Miron Cosma, who on 17 March again brought miners' and industrial unions' leaders to Bucharest, was described by the press as a "terrorist" jeopardizing the normalization of Romania's political life. Prime Minister Theodor Stolojan deplored Cosma's violent behavior during their meeting. The parliamentary commission in charge of inquiring into the four rampages by the miners in Bucharest in 1990 and 1991 decided to release its long-awaited report, which identified Cosma as having been an instigator of the disorders. The report requests the authorities to take legal steps against him. On 20 March the NSF deputies in parliament expressed their approval of Stolojan and his defense of legality in his encounter with Cosma. (Mihai Sturdza) BULGARIAN PRIME MINISTER ENDS VISIT TO ISRAEL. Filip Dimitrov returned on 20 March from his four-day official visit to Israel, where he met political leaders, representatives of business circles, and a number of the some 50,000 Bulgarian emigrants. Bulgarian media reported that agreement was reached on cooperation in various sectors of the economy, in part through Israeli investments. Bilateral agreements on protection of investments and on avoiding double taxation will be forthcoming. One subject of political tension is the proposed Bulgarian law canceling the sentences by the so-called people's courts in 1945. Dimitrov explained to the Israelis that the law would not mean rehabilitation of those few guilty of crimes against the Jewish population, but rather of innocent victims, among whom were precisely those people who worked to save Bulgarian Jews. (Rada Nikolaev) AMENDMENT OF LAND LAW PASSED. Following heated debates and controversies, the amended 1991 law on farmland, considered crucial for Bulgaria's economy, was finally passed on 20 March. It provides for return of collectivized land to the former owners and defines procedures for doing so, abolishes collective farms disguised as cooperative farms and enables free association in genuine cooperatives, abolishes the ceiling on the amount of land an individual may own, and permits joint companies with less than 50% foreign participation to own land. The law also permits land sales. The socialist opposition sharply attacked the law. (Rada Nikolaev) CONTINUED FIGHTING ACROSS CROATIA. Western and Yugoslav-area media reported continued fighting over the weekend, including in all three regions where UN peace-keeping troops are to be stationed. Croatian spokesmen repeated their charge that the federal army and Serbian irregulars are seeking to establish as many solidly Serbian enclaves as possible by driving out Croatian civilians, settling Serbian irregulars or refugees in their homes, and burning other Croatian settlements. The Serbs say they will not allow Croatian authorities to reestablish themselves in predominantly Serbian areas. Austrian TV carried a report on the problem on 21 March.(Patrick Moore) EXCHANGE OF PRISONERS, DEMOBILIZATION IN CROATIA. The 23 March Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports that the federal army and Croatian military have agreed on an plan to exchange prisoners of war. The swap is scheduled to start on 27 March and "in principle" could involve all prisoners taken to date in the conflict. Amnesty International and the international media have reported extensive maltreatment of prisoners on both sides. Meanwhile in Zagreb the 22 March Vjesnik says that President Franjo Tudjman has announced the demobilization of 20,000 draftees, 16,000 of whom have already gone home. In conjunction with this demobilization, men in uniform who are urgently needed to return to key jobs in the economy will be replaced in the ranks by new draftees. (Patrick Moore) [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Carla Thorson & 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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