|Comedy is an escape, not from truth but from despair; a narrow escape into faith. - Christopher Fry|
No. 66, 03 April 1992
SUCCESSOR STATES TO THE USSR GAIDAR REPLACED AS FINANCE MINISTER, RETAINS FIRST DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER POST. Russian President Boris Yeltsin moved to consolidate his government's position on 2 April by raising yet another reformist economist, Vasilii Barchuk, to a ministerial post, Western and Soviet agencies reported. In the cabinet shuffle, Egor Gaidar stepped aside as Minister of Finance, but retained his post as First Deputy Prime Minister, and will continue to have overall responsibility for economic reform. (John Tedstrom) VASILII BARCHUK, NEW MINISTER OF FINANCE. The new finance minister, Vasilii Barchuk, is characterized by Moscow insiders as both a "technocrat" and a committed reformer as well as a loyal associate of Gaidar's. Barchuk served as Gaidar's first deputy in the Ministry of Economics and Finance from February of this year. Prior to that he was a deputy minister at the USSR Ministry of Finance. Still, relatively little is known about him in the West although he has been involved in various aspects of developing the reform program, and has been considered part of the Yeltsin- Gaidar team. His publication record is slight though, and his economic thinking is still somewhat of a mystery. (John Tedstrom) MORE ON BARCHUK. Barchuk was "known as the main specialist on the budget in both the Pavlov cabinet and the Yeltsin cabinet," according to Irina Demchenko (Izvestiya, 12 March 1992). In early March he told the cabinet that the first quarter Russian budget deficit would be 10% of GNP, but that a deficit/GNP figure of 4% was possible over the year as a whole. It is possible that he was the source of Izvestiya's revelations earlier in March that the budget balance was worse than the government was officially admitting. (Philip Hanson) REFORMIST LINE LIKELY TO BE MAINTAINED. Early reports of the cabinet shuffle were based on an exceedingly brief statement issued by Yeltsin's office, and indicated that Gaidar had been "fired." Subsequently, good sources have reported that Gaidar was involved in the planning of the shuffle and may well have asked to be relieved of his Ministry of Finance responsibilities to focus on economic questions generally. It is highly unlikely that Yeltsin will back off his reform program so soon after receiving the $24 billion in Western aid. In fact, this move may in part be a way of shielding Gaidar from the criticism of the reforms expected next week at the Congress of People's Deputies. Despite the fact that both Aleksandr Rutskoi and Ruslan Khasbulatov have recently come out in support of the government, there is no guarantee of what will happen at the Congress. (John Tedstrom) CRIMEA AGREES TO POWER SHARING PLAN. The Supreme Council of the Crimean Republic has approved the draft Ukrainian law delineating power between Crimea and Ukraine, Radio Ukraine reported on 2 April. Article 1 of the draft law stipulates that Crimea is a constituent part of Ukraine, which was opposed by deputies who support the separatist Republican Movement of Crimea. Russian TV's Novosti program reported on 3 April that Crimea will have the right to amend its constitution, control its land and resources, deal independently with other states, and appoint local military commanders. (Roman Solchanyk) RUSSIAN SECURITY MINISTRY OFFICIAL GIVES NEW FIGURES FOR STALIN'S REPRESSIONS. In an interview with RFE/RL, the head of the Russian Federation's commission for the rehabilitation of victims of unjust repressions, Nikolai Grashchoven, gave entirely new figures of those arrested and shot under Stalin compared to what had been reported earlier by KGB officials. Grashchoven was a KGB officer and now is an official at the Russian Ministry of Security. Grashchoven said that, according to the material in the KGB archives, 18 million people were "repressed" in the period from 1935 to 1945--about 7 million of them were shot. These figures are extremely important. Although similar figures have been suggested by some Western scholars for many years, even during the perestroika era, the KGB continued to insist that the number of those shot over the entire period 1921-1954 was less than one million. (Vera Tolz) TATARSTAN AND RUSSIA FAIL TO SIGN BILATERAL TREATY. Interfax of 2 April reported that Tatarstan and Russian delegates signed a protocol on results of their consultations in Moscow but failed to sign a bilateral treaty as was expected (see Daily Report of 1 April). It was decided that talks would resume after the 6th Congress of People's Deputies. (Charles Carlson) YAKUT PARLIAMENT APPROVES FEDERAL TREATY. The Yakut parliament approved the signing of the Federal Treaty on Thursday, Interfax of 2 April reported. In addition, Yakut deputies have indicated their intention to adopt a new constitution for Yakutia, despite opposition from Yakut President Mikhail Nikolaev, who considers it "impolite" to ratify a constitution before Russia. (Charles Carlson) FOURTEENTH ARMY ULTIMATUM IN MOLDOVA. An officers' council of the Fourteenth Army, reportedly chaired by the army's commander, Major General Yurii Netkachev, threatened to go on alert at 16:00 on 2 April if hostilities did not cease in Moldova. According to Interfax on 2 April, the officers voiced their readiness to oversee a withdrawal of the armed formations that have clashed in recent days. Reuters reported on 2 April that the army suspended its threat pending the outcome of negotiations to be held at Chisinau's military airport. Reports on the army's actions were contradictory, and the roles played by Netkachev and the central military leadership in the threatened alert remain unclear. (Stephen Foye) MORE FIGHTING IN WESTERN GEORGIA. At least 13 people, including 11 government troops were killed on 1 April in fighting between Georgian government forces and supporters of ousted president Zviad Gamsakhurdia in the Black Sea port of Poti, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported on 2 April. Gamsakhurdia's supporters reportedly occupied the town but were subsequently driven out by government forces, which then retreated after running out of ammunition. (Liz Fuller) ONGOING DIPLOMATIC INITIATIVES ON NAGORNO-KARABAKH. The CSCE fact-finding mission headed by Czechoslovak Foreign Minister Jiri Dienstbier held talks in Erevan on 2 April. Dienstbier said agreement had been reached with Azerbaijan on the participation of Nagorno-Karabakh representatives in the CSCE Minsk peace conference, and that the CSCE is prepared to set up ceasefire monitoring posts in Nagorno-Karabakh, CSTK reported. Talks mediated by Russia and Iran between Armenian and Azerbaijani representatives on 1 April in Armenia's Idzhevan raion resulted in agreements on a ceasefire for the duration of spring sowing, on rail safety and on lifting of the Azerbaijani blockade of gas supplies to Armenia, Interfax reported on 2 April. Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev discussed Karabakh with Georgian State Council chairman Eduard Shevardnadze in Tbilisi on 2 April, ITAR-TASS reported. Kozyrev will also travel to Armenia and Azerbaijan. (Liz Fuller) MORE REQUESTS TO DELAY FUEL PRICE RISE. Six republics of the CIS asked Russia on 2 April to delay the adjustment of crude and petroleum products prices until October 1, KAZTAG-TASS reported. The joint appeal was drafted by the Kazakh Council of Ministers and was endorsed by the governments of Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Uzbekistan, and Ukraine (see the RFE/RL Daily Report for 2 April). The appeal said that wages, pensions, and social benefits must be increased before fuel prices are allowed to rise. A meeting of Russian mayors in Novosibirsk on the same day urged President Yeltsin to keep the prices of fuel and raw materials under control until the end of 1992, Interfax reported. (Keith Bush) STABILIZATION FUND TO SUPPORT A RATE OF FIFTY RUBLES TO THE DOLLAR? In an interview with Radio Rossii on 2 April, Russian government adviser Sergei Vasilev said "it is proposed" that the $6 billion stabilization fund to be financed by the West be used to support a "fixed" rate of 50 rubles to the US dollar. He also said the aid package was a "100%" success, since the amount was what the government had discussed with "foreign experts" three months earlier. In January Petr Aven, the minister responsible for economic relations, referred to a target rate, similarly supported, in the range of R15-35 = $1 (Rossiiskaya gazeta, 1 January). Higher than expected inflation since then could explain the difference. (Philip Hanson) TATARSTAN BEGINS PRIVATIZATION. Interfax of 2 April reports that Tatarstan's law on privatization came into force on 1 April. Under the law, employees will have priority rights in choosing modes and procedures for privatization. Modes will include auctions, free distribution through privatization checks, and transformation into joint stock companies. However, the law does not imply restoration of property rights of former owners, their heirs or legal successors for nationalized or confiscated property. (Charles Carlson) RUSSIAN POPULATION GROWTH SLOWING. Goskomstat reported on 2 April that the Russian population grew by 130,000 in 1991, an increase 60% lower than in 1990, according to ITAR-TASS. During the last part of 1991, deaths exceeded births by 12,000 a month; in January 1992, this margin increased to 20,000. A population specialist, Evgenii Krasinets, attributed the decline of the birth rate largely to the critical economic situation and to falling living standards. (Keith Bush) OZONE LAYER OVER RUSSIA DEPLETED. Vyacheslav Khattarov, the head of a group of Russian scientists taking part in an international team studying ozone levels over the northern hemisphere, told ITAR-TASS on 1 April that the ozone level over most of Russia is depleted. Ozone levels were 10% to 20% below normal in January and February this year, and on some days dropped to nearly one half of their normal amount. Damage to the ozone layer was particularly serious over industrialized regions of northern European Russia, Siberia, and Yakutia, according to Khattarov. (Keith Bush) NEW HEAD OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE. Evgenii Ambartsumov was elected head of the Committee for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Economic Ties on 1 April, ITAR-TASS reported. He had previously been deputy chairman of the committee, replacing Vladimir Lukin, now serving as ambassador to the United States. (Suzanne Crow) SOLDIERS LIKE RUTSKOI BEST. According to the most recent survey of the Military-Sociological Research Center, Russian Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi is the most popular politician among servicemen throughout the CIS. "Vesti," which reported the results of the survey on 1 April, did not give the percentage of those supporting Rutskoi, but said that Boris Yeltsin was second with support from 34% of the respondents. Grigorii Yavlinsky and Ruslan Khasbulatov were reportedly next, with 21%. (Stephen Foye) NEW NAVY DEPUTY COMMANDER. Interfax reported on 2 April that Admiral Felix Gromov, formerly commander of the Northern Fleet, has been appointed First Deputy Commander-in-Chief of CIS Naval Forces. He replaces Admiral Ivan Kapitanets, who reportedly has retired. (Stephen Foye) JAPAN LINKS AID TO DEFENSE CUTS? Japanese Foreign Minister Michio Watanabe told newsmen on 3 April that Japan intends to press for reductions in Russian defense spending as a condition for economic aid, Kyodo reported. He said that Japan could not agree to providing large-scale financial aid so long as Russia maintains its present level of military spending. (Stephen Foye) UKRAINE TO GET US CREDIT. US President George Bush has said that Ukraine's request for a 300 million dollar credit line will be approved in full, Radio Ukraine reported on 2 April. President Bush is said to have made the statement in the course of his recent telephone conversation with Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk, which focused on US aid to the CIS states. The Ukrainian leader, in turn, informed President Bush on preparations for his forthcoming visit to the United States. (Roman Solchanyk) TAJIKISTAN POLITICAL OPPOSITION RALLIES. Opposition leaders of the week-long rally in Dushanbe have dropped their demand for parliament's resignation as a whole, according to Interfax of 2 April. However, they still insist on convening an extraordinary session of parliament, the immediate drafting of a new constitution, and the election of a new, multi-party parliament. The Islamic Revival Party has said that if Tajik leaders fail to implement the oppositions' demands, a national congress of Tajiks, consisting of all opposition forces, might be formed as an alternative to official bodies. (Charles Carlson) CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE WARSAW TO BROADEN GOVERNMENT COALITION. On 2 April Poland's government parties and proreform opposition groups reached general agreement to broaden the ruling coalition, Western and Polish media report. After meeting with offcials of the opposition Democratic Union, Liberal-Democratic Congress and Polish Economic Program, Prime Minister Olszewski said the talks were "very concrete." Tadeusz Mazowiecki, leader of the UD wants to form a "grand coalition," saying it is "a political, not an ideological accord." The new coalition would give the government additional strength to push through economic reform. In another development, the government's budget and economic reform plan gets its first reading in the Sejm on 3 April. (Wladyslaw Minkiewicz) WALESA CONCLUDES GERMAN VISIT. On 2 April President Lech Walesa admitted his trip to Germany had been "difficult and complicated" but also called it "the most fruitful" he had ever undertaken. Speaking at a press conference in Berlin he said that Western business leaders still have reservations towards the reform process Poland launched 15 months ago. "Obstacles are going to be lifted. Our difficulties are big, but we have set off down the course of reform." Later, joined by German president Richard von Weizsaecker, Walesa went to Frankfurt/Oder on the border with Poland. After walking on the "Bridge of Friendship" linking Frankfurt with the Polish town of Slubice, he said "my dream is that in the year 2000 you will not notice the border between Poland and Germany. I think this dream will come true." Western and Polish media carried the story. (Wladyslaw Minkiewicz) POLAND WANTS SHARE OF GUARANTEED CIS TRADE. Accompanying Lech Walesa on his visit to Germany, Finance Minister Andrzej Olechowski told Reuters in Berlin on 2 April that Western aid to the former Soviet republics should include credit guarantees to maintain trade with Eastern Europe. He said Western industrialized nations should use credit guarantees to CIS republics to support trade with former communist countries in Eastern Europe.This should be decided when the G-7 heads of states meet in Munich in July. Olechowski also said Poland is dependent on energy supplies from Russia, adding "we are horrified at the prospect of an economic conflict between Russia and Ukraine that could stop supplies." (Wladyslaw Minkiewicz) SOVIET MILITARY PROPERTY IN CZECHOSLOVAKIA. According to an agreement signed in Moscow on 1 April ending two years of bitter talks, all former Soviet military property in Czechoslovakia will be turned over to the Prague government. The facilities will be sold and the proceeds used to settle citizens' claims against Soviet forces. However, Czechoslovak Environment Minister Josef Vavrousek said on 2 April that the damage done by the Soviets exceeds the value of the property they left behind. The total damage to health, property and the environment was more than 2 billion koruny (about $67 million), he said. CSTK did not give the value of the Soviet property now owned by Czechoslovakia. (Barbara Kroulik) CZECHOSLOVAK DEFENSE MINISTER IN FRANCE. Czechoslovak Defense Minister Lubos Dobrovsky met with his French counterpart Pierre Joxe on 2 April and visited the French War College and the headquarters of the Strategic Air Force near Paris. Dobrovsky's visit is the first in a series by defense ministers from Eastern Europe and CIS. He is scheduled to visit the headquarters of the French Tactical Air Command at Metz today, an RFE/RL correspondent reports. (Barbara Kroulik) FIGHTING CONTINUES IN BOSNIA. The 3 April Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports that fighting continued at several flashpoints in that troubled republic. The paper suggests that the various sides are trying to consolidate their positions before the boundaries of the planned new "cantons" are set down, but the BBC quotes President Alija Izetbegovic as blaming the violence on those who want to delay international recognition of the republic's independence. Finally, Vjesnik cites Austrian Foreign Minister Alois Mock as calling for "earliest possible" recognition of the republic as a means to stabilize the situation and discourage the spread of violence. (Patrick Moore) IZETBEGOVIC ON BOSNIA'S CURRENT SITUATION. Radio Sarajevo on 2 April reports that Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic met with top republican security officials and the commander of the 2nd Military District of the Yugoslav army, Gen. Milutin Kukanjac, to discuss ways of stabilizing the situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina. He told reporters after the meeting that the violence over the past month "is not a question of war, but of staged conflicts." He explained that various paramilitary units from Croatia and Serbia continue to cross over to Bosnia-Herzegovina to engage in terrorist activities. He also announced that there would be a government reshuffle in the near future, a reorganization of the territorial defense system, and a purge in the Ministry of Internal Affairs. He also criticized Irfan Ajanovic, the spokesman of the Party of the Democratic Action (SDA), who told reporters earlier that the Yugoslav Army in Bosnia is "an occupying army." Izetbegovic, who is chairman of the SDA, said that Ajanovic overstepped his position, and that this was not the SDA's official stand. (Milan Andrejevich) DISPUTE OVER GABCIKOVO DAM CONTINUES. On 2 April Hungarian official Adriene Hajosy told Reuter that if Czechoslovakia does not suspend construction work on its side of hydroelectric project by 30 April, Hungary will take the matter to the International Court of Justice in the Hague. Czechoslovak officials told a press conference in Budapest the same day that Czechoslovakia will adhere to its plan to put the Gabcikovo dam into operation in the autumn by deflecting the river Danube to Czechoslovak territory. Hungary says that Prague's plans would change state borders, create grave environmental damage, and violate several international agreements. Czechoslovak official Julius Binder rejected Hungary's charges as unfounded, and said that a suspension of construction work would result in severe financial losses for his country. (Edith Oltay) ROMANIAN PRESS ON ILIESCU-ROMAN RIFT. Last week's NSF convention was still making headlines in the Romanian dailies of 2 April. The opposition Cotidianul argues that Petre Roman's victory was primarily due to his more coherent program while the rival faction appears to express Iliescu's personal interests. Alluding to anticommunist statements by Roman, Iliescu told the Timisoara daily Renasterea banateana that his suggestion that communism should be put on trial is demagogic and undemocratic. The opposition daily Dreptatea criticizes what they saw as vulgar language against Roman used by Iliescu's supporters during a session of the senate after the convention. And Romania libera quotes Roman, speaking on Radio Free Europe on 31 March, deploring the behavior of the senate leadership during that session. (Mihai Sturdza) AGREEMENT WITH UKRAINE SIGNED IN BUCHAREST. On 2 April Ukrainian and Romanian parliament leaders signed a cooperation agreement to extend economic, political, cultural, and other bilateral links. Local media report the delegations were headed by Leonid Plyushch, chairman of Ukraine's Supreme Council, and Alexandru Barladeanu and Dan Martian, chairmen of Romania's two chambers of parliament. The delegations spoke in friendly and conciliatory terms about their countries position on the conflict in Moldova. (Mihai Sturdza) UNEMPLOYMENT ON THE RISE IN ROMANIA. According to figures released on 31 March by the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection, 420,000 people were chronically unemployed during the period from 22 to 29 March, 60% of them women. These figures do not include more than 67,000 other people looking for a job who do not meet the official criteria for unemployment. Only 3,233 jobs are currently available. (Mihai Sturdza) BULGARIAN PRIVATIZATION BILL PASSES FIRST READING. The draft law on privatization of state and municipal enterprises was approved on first reading on 2 April after only three days of parliamentary debates. BTA said that of 182 deputies present at the session 169 had voted for the bill, showing a nonpartisan desire for an effective law in this key area of modernizing the economy. (Rada Nikolaev) MAIL, TELEPHONE RATE HIKE IN BULGARIA. On 2 April the Council of Ministers approved a proposal by the Chairman of the Committee on Communications, Stefan Sofianski, for a sharp increase of the prices of mail and telephone services as of 1 May. The changes were originally proposed in late January to take effect early in the year, but the government refused to approve them. BTA said that the prices of telephone calls will increase by 50% and mail by an average of 200%. (Rada Nikolaev) BULGARIANS TO REWRITE HISTORY. Minister of Education and Science Nikolay Vassilev has banned the use in schools of all history and other textbooks dealing with Bulgaria, BTA reported on 2 April. The decision was necessitated by continuing concerns over distortions in the teaching of Bulgarian history. A joint commission of experts from Sofia and Veliko Tarnovo universities will prepare interim materials to be used until new textbooks can be published. A national conference of history teachers will be held on 7-9 April and teacher requalification courses are also planned. (Rada Nikolaev) RUSSIA PROTESTS ESTONIAN CITIZENSHIP LAW. Russia has protested Estonia's new law on citizenship, according to an RFE/RL correspondent on 2 April. In a statement circulated by the Russian delegation at the CSCE conference in Helsinki, Russia says the new law "may infringe on the rights of the non-Estonian population." The statement also said Russia "reserves the right to use relevant international mechanisms to draw the world's attention to the human rights situation in Estonia following the law on citizenship." Earlier this week, Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev told CSCE representatives that Russia would use force if necessary to protect the rights of Russians living in non-Russian areas of the former Soviet Union. (Riina Kionka) BRITAIN REPAYS GOLD TO ESTONIA, LITHUANIA. On 2 April Great Britain repaid gold to Estonia and Lithuania that was deposited in the Bank of England when the Baltic States were annexed by the USSR in 1940, Reuters reported that day. A settlement with Latvia is still being negotiated. Before 1940 the Baltic States had about 14 tons of gold deposited in the Bank of England. In 1967 Britain sold the Baltic gold for 10 million dollars and used most of the proceeds to meets claims by Britons for assets lost when the Baltic States were taken over by the USSR. (Dzintra Bungs) PLO TO OPEN BALTIC OFFICES. The Palestine Liberation Organization says it will soon open offices in the Baltic States. According to PLO spokesman Zuheir al-Wazir, who spoke to Western reporters in Helsinki on 2 April, the group hopes to establish full diplomatic relations with the three Baltic States within the next three months. Al-Wazir said PLO chairman Yasser Arafat is "very keen" to establish ties similar to hose with Russia and other former USSR republics. (Riina Kionka) LITHUANIA ALL0WS EX-SOVIET SOLDIERS TO SELL HOMES. Lithuania's Minister of Defense Audrius Butkevicius told the Western European Union Forum in Berlin on 31 March that his country will let ex-USSR army officers sell their apartments in Lithuania in order to speed up their departure, Western news agencies report. Butkevicius said that there are about 8,000 former Soviet officers and noncommissioned officers in Lithuania and that about 5,000 have private housing. Butkevicius added that as a sign of good will, Lithuania would allow the sale of apartments to help the officers start new lives in Russia. (Dzintra Bungs) EX-SOVIET TROOPS IN LATVIA TRAIN FOR POSSIBLE ATTACK. BNS reported about early morning weapons training session on 2 April by ex-USSR troops stationed in Cekule, a village near Riga. When Latvian Defense Ministry officials asked about those activities, Col. Kostikov explained that the purpose of this previously planned shooting session was to train the participants in resistance to a possible attack. There is a large ammunitions depot in Cekule. Radio Riga reported on 2 April about troops movements around Riga and Adazi. Col. Sergei Anishin said that the movements have to do with the transfer of troops outside the Northwestern district and essentially constitute troop departure from the Baltic area. From his explanation, it was not clear if new arrivals to the Northwestern district are not also processed at Adazi. (Dzintra Bungs) INFLATION RAISES MINIMUM INCOME ESTIMATE. The Free Trade Union Association has updated its estimate of minimum monthly income for those living in Latvia. As of 26 March, their estimate for a working person was 2507 rubles, while for a pensioner the sum was 1850 rubles. Realizing that Latvia does not have the resources to guarantee such incomes, the association scaled down its estimate for a monthly subsistence level income per person during a time of economic crisis to an average of 1204 rubles (1342 rubles for those working and 1232 for the retired), BNS reported on 1 April. (Dzintra Bungs) [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Carla Thorson and Charles Trumbull (END) 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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