|When in doubt, tell the truth. - Mark Twain|
No. 73, 14 April 1992
SUCCESSOR STATES TO THE USSR KHASBULATOV REBUKES GOVERNMENT MEMBERS. Members of the government left the Congress after they had been rebuked by Parliament Chairman Ruslan Khasbulatov. According to ITAR-TASS on 13 April, Khasbulatov, for several minutes, publicly ridiculed the government--supported by strong laughter from the deputies. He called the ministers "inexperienced boys" who don't know how to behave in the parliament and stressed that he himself knows the economy as well as government members. He rejected the government's threats that the West will stop assisting reforms, adding that he will send parliamentarians to inform the West that the Congress is in favor of radical reforms. (Alexander Rahr) GOVERNMENT DEFENDS ITSELF. Russian State Secretary Gennadii Burbulis said that the government will not tolerate being publicly ridiculed, according to ITAR-TASS on 13 April. Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Shokhin stressed that Khasbulatov's sole aim was to bring the executive branch under his personal control and thus take over power in the country. In its resignation statement, the government warned that the Congress' actions are directed towards making the president a purely symbolic figure. (Alexander Rahr) GAIDAR'S WARNING ON ECONOMIC REFORM. After storming out of the Congress of People's Deputies, Egor Gaidar told reporters that the restrictions proposed by the Congress on his economic reform program would bring down on Russia "hyperinflation, famine, social collisions, and chaos." He was referring to the decree approved on 11 April which would, inter alia, provide full indexation for pensions, bringing public sector workers' pay up to the private sector levels, and the restoration of massive subsidies for agriculture. The Gaidar team has calculated that the additional demands placed by the Congress would add 1.2 trillion rubles to a budget deficit already projected at 0.3 trillion rubles, bringing the deficit up to 1.5 trillion rubles, or 23% of the GDP at current prices. (Keith Bush) YELTSIN CONSPICUOUSLY ABSENT FROM CONGRESS. Russian President Boris Yeltsin has been conspicuously absent from almost all sessions of the Congress and has left the task of defending the government to First Deputy Prime Minister Egor Gaidar. At the press conference on 13 April, Gaidar issued a strong appeal to Yeltsin to be more decisive in defending reform. The fact that Yeltsin is completely invisible at the Congress and in politics in general during this crisis may indicate the president's weakness. But Yeltsin may also be at work on a major speech in defense of his policies which he intends to give during the closing stages of the Congress. (Alexander Rahr) KHASBULATOV SETS HIS CONDITIONS FOR WESTERN AID. The chairman of the parliament, Ruslan Khasbulatov told Russian TV on 13 April that the government is too dependent on Western financial institutions. He proposed issuing some "demands" to the West noting that Russian reforms are being conducted under "specific circumstances" and that the West should stop pressing Russia. He said Russia wants to enter the world economy but under different conditions from those envisioned by the World Bank and the IMF. Khasbulatov said that if the government complains that it has no money, it should cut its own bureaucracy. He emphasized that the Congress will not allow the government to slip out of its control. (Alexander Rahr) CONGRESS DISCUSSES CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS. The Congress of People's Deputies continued to debate amendments to the current constitution on 13 April, ITAR-TASS reported. Deputies voted on four variants of a new name for the state, including "Russian Soviet Federative Republic," but none received the necessary two-thirds majority and the question was passed to a conciliation commission. Deputies also failed to reach a final decision on excluding from the constitution all references to the status of the republic as a Union republic of the USSR. While conservatives have clearly still not abandoned the struggle to resurrect the USSR, Yeltsin's supporters see the amendments as an attempt by Russian Parliament Chairman Ruslan Khasbulatov to turn the state into a parliamentary republic, and there is likely to be fierce debate on other amendments. (Ann Sheehy) COMMUNISTS PREPARED TO FORM GOVERNMENT. The leader of the Communist faction in the Congress, Sergei Baburin, told Central TV on 13 April that if the president agrees, the Communist-led opposition in the Congress is prepared "without hesitation" to form a new government. He called upon the Congress to refrain from asking the government to return. He stressed that a Communist-led government will proceed with radical economic reform but will not follow the "adventurous path" of the present government. (Alexander Rahr) VOLSKY OR SHUMEIKO AS PRIME MINISTER? Yeltsin promised before the Congress of People's Deputies to reshuffle his cabinet and bring in experienced professionals from the industrial sector. Since then, the entire government has tendered its resignation. "Vesti," on 13 April, said two names were being discussed by Congress deputies as possible prime ministers. One is Arkadii Volsky (60), president of Russia's employers' association who represents the interests of state-owned enterprises--specifically, the defense sector. The second is Vladimir Shumeiko (47), a former enterprise director turned parliamentarian. The left-of-center Shumeiko is less likely to appeal to the disgruntled industrial lobby than Volsky, who has sharply criticized Gaidar's reforms, and "Vesti" quoted Shumeiko as saying he did not want the job. Volsky, believed by insiders already to be one of the 5 or 6 most influential men in Russia, may not want it either. (Elizabeth Teague) IZVESTIYA IN CONFLICT WITH PARLIAMENTARY LEADER. The chairman of the Russian parliament, Ruslan Khasbulatov, suggested on 13 April that the newspaper Izvestiya, which is now independent, should become the organ of parliament and of local soviets in the Russian Federation, "Ostankino" TV reported. Khasbulatov also claimed that Izvestiya has a debt of 1 billion rubles. In response, the chief editor of Izvestiya said that Khasbulatov had no right to propose a change in the status of an independent periodical. He also rejected the assertion about the newspaper's debt as a "straightforward lie." According to the chief editor, Izvestiya does not owe a kopeck to the government. (Indeed, Izvestiya seemed to be the only newspaper which refused a loan offered recently by the Russian government to various periodicals.) The chief editor said that the newspaper would probably file suit against Khasbulatov. (Vera Tolz) USE OF DEATH PENALTY DROPS IN RUSSIA. The number of those sentenced to death in Russia has fallen for the second consecutive year, Izvestiya and Interfax reported on 10 April, quoting Russia's Justice Ministry. Whereas in 1990, 223 people were sentenced to death in Russia, in 1991 the number fell to 147. This is attributable to more humane sentencing, the ministry said, since the number of capital crimes rose by nearly 20%. The death sentence was also the subject of sharp discussion on 13 April when the Congress of People's Deputies debated the draft constitution. Last year, the USSR Supreme Soviet abolished the death penalty for non-violent crimes, but the appropriate changes were not made in the Russian Federation's Criminal Code before the USSR ceased to exist. Until 1991, the USSR was said to have the world's highest execution rate. (Elizabeth Teague) RUSSIAN COMMUNISTS FOUND NEW PARTY. A group of Communists met on 12 April in the town of Zheleznodorozhnyi just outside Moscow to recreate the defunct Russian Communist Party, disbanded on Yeltsin's orders in the wake of the failed coup of August 1991. Reporting the event, Russian TV said the new party will be called the United Communist Party of Russia. It seeks to revive the USSR Supreme Soviet, maintain a unified army, and put a stop to privatization. (Elizabeth Teague) CONSTITUENT CONGRESS OF JEWISH ORGANIZATIONS OF RUSSIA. The constituent congress of Jewish organizations and communities of the Russian Federation, which opened in Nizhnyi Novgorod on 12 April, planned to discuss questions of the development of national culture and preservation of historical traditions as well as repatriation and emigration, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 April. The congress was also scheduled to discuss political, economic, youth and other questions concerning Russian Jews, and adopt a charter and program. (Ann Sheehy) REGIONAL CONGRESS OF ISLAMIC "REBIRTH" PARTY IN SARATOV. The representatives of four CIS states (unnamed) and of various regions of Russia have taken part in a regional conference of the Islamic "Rebirth" party, "Vesti" reported on 13 April. The party claims to bring together more than 70,000 Muslims in the CIS. The main topic of the conference was the unification of Muslims of various nationalities into a single Islamic structure, as well as international concerns. (Ann Sheehy) RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPERS FROM EASTERN GERMANY. Russia's contribution to the UN peacekeeping force in Yugoslavia includes a substantial number of units and equipment from eastern Germany. According to a report in Die Presse (11 April), 214 train cars carrying military equipment and soldiers stationed in eastern Germany will transit through Austria on 14 April. Transport costs are expected to be covered by Germany, the report said. (Suzanne Crow) BELARUSIAN REFERENDUM CAMPAIGN. The campaign in Belarus to hold a referendum on new elections to state organs has ended in apparent success. The TV news program "Novosti" reported on 13 April that, according to supporters of the referendum, the necessary 350,000 signatures have been gathered in time. The results will be examined by the central electoral commission, but it is up to the supreme council to set a date for the vote. (Roman Solchanyk) U.S. GOVERNMENT DELEGATION IN KIEV. A senior delegation from the U.S. State Department is to arrive in Kiev on 14 April to prepare for the forthcoming visit of Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk to Washington. Kravchuk is scheduled to visit the U.S. on 6 May. (Roman Solchanyk) GERMANY ESTABLISHES DIPLOMATIC TIES WITH GEORGIA, OFFERS AID. On 13 April Germany became the first European country to establish diplomatic relations with Georgia. Speaking in Tbilisi at the end of a two-day visit, German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher said Germany would give Georgia DM 10 million in humanitarian aid as soon as democratic elections, scheduled for the autumn, are held, and that Germany will advise Georgia on applying for membership of the EC, IMF and World Bank. (Liz Fuller) IRANIAN DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER ON KARABAKH CONFLICT. After one month of shuttle diplomacy between Baku and Erevan, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mahmoud Vaezi told Iranian media on his return to Tehran that the Karabakh issue is "too complex" to be resolved soon, and that the main obstacles to peace are "internal political rivalries in both countries, the presence of armed people not controlled by the military, and historic hatreds." Vaezi said Iran's next priority is to find ways of making the ceasefire he brokered permanent and monitoring it, Western agencies reported on 13 April. (Liz Fuller) KAZAKHSTAN ESTABLISHES TIES WITH ISRAEL. Israel's ambassador to Russia visited Alma-Ata on 10 April and agreed to the establishment of diplomatic relations between his country and Kazakhstan, Western agencies, quoting the Israeli foreign ministry, reported on 13 April. The ambassador's visit was followed by that of World Jewish Congress President Simcha Dinitz, who met with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev on 13 April to discuss ties between Kazakhstan and Israeli business and banking circles. The meeting was reported by KazTAG-TASS. (Bess Brown) KYRGYZ MUSLIMS PROTEST FOREIGN MISSIONARIES. Muslim believers in Bishkek have gathered 150,000 signatures on a protest to President Askar Akaev against the activities of foreign missionaries, KyrgyzTAG-TASS reported on 9 April. Muslims say that Christian and Buddhist missionaries are luring potential converts with money, and are collecting funds to build a Buddhist temple and a Presbyterian church; their efforts represent a threat to ethnic harmony in the country. (Bess Brown) EASTERN EUROPE CEASE-FIRE STILL-BORN IN BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA. Austrian TV reported on 13 April that the truce brokered by the EC the previous day never really took hold. The federal army shelled Citluk, Mostar, and Foca. Especially heavy fighting was reported in the residential areas of southern Sarajevo near the airport. The army took over the airport and began an airlift of local Serbs to Belgrade and Montenegro. The US State Department called on all parties to observe the cease-fire and criticized the Serbian government and the federal military for apparently backing Serbian irregulars in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the BBC said on 14 April. That broadcast also quoted Serbian leaders in that troubled republic as claiming that there had never been a cease-fire and that the only solution was to fight. (Patrick Moore) FLOOD GATES OPENED ON THE DRINA RIVER. Radio Sarajevo said on 13 April that unknown persons had opened some of the sluices on a dam on the river forming part of the traditional boundary between Bosnia and Serbia. Muslim militants had earlier threatened such action if Serbian irregulars did not stop military activity in the area. Thousands fled Visegrad and neighboring villages in panic, but the flood gates have since been closed and the waters have begun to recede. Visegrad is a largely Muslim town of 21,000 and was made famous by Nobel-Prize winner Ivo Andric in his novel Bridge on the Drina. The picturesque Ottoman-era bridge was flooded during yesterday's incident. (Patrick Moore) ANTALL ON EBRD'S ROLE IN EASTERN EUROPE. Speaking at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development's first annual meeting in Budapest on 13 April, Hungarian Prime Minister Jozsef Antall said that the EBRD embodied a source of international solidarity for the East European region that was similar to the Marshall Plan for Western Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War. He said that Western Europe had been able to rebuild its economy very quickly because it had the necessary economic discipline and the burdens of reconstruction were shared jointly. Antall called on East European countries to follow Western Europe's example and warned that international help could not substitute for the countries' own efforts at economic reform. (Edith Oltay) MOTION TO DEBATE NATO MEMBERSHIP REQUEST TURNED DOWN. Hungary's parliament turned down (with 36% of the deputies for and 49 abstentions) last week's motion by Socialist Party Chairman and former foreign minister Gyula Horn to put on its agenda a debate aimed at requesting NATO membership for Hungary, MTI reported on 13 April. According to Prime Minister Jozsef Antall, the overall political, international, and security policy situation was "not yet ripe" for such a request, which should also be made jointly with the other two members of the Visegrad Triangle, Czechoslovakia and Poland. Antall suggested that parliament's foreign affairs committee debate the issue first and then submit a recommendation. (Alfred Reisch) WALESA IMPATIENT WITH COALITION TALKS. Speaking to journalists in Warsaw on 13 April, Polish President Lech Walesa warned that if no progress was made "in the next few days," he would himself join in the process of building the government coalition, Polish and Western media report. Walesa said he would promote his own election program: special powers for the government and forceful, dramatically swift privatization. Confirming that his staff had discussed contingency plans for a state of emergency, Walesa explained these as routine in any normal state and condemned as irresponsible rumors that plans were afoot to impose martial law. Referring to the current upheaval in the defense ministry, he added that he was prepared to take full responsibility for the army "if things became difficult." Returning to his "EC-2" and "NATO-2" metaphors, Walesa also used the occasion to advocate intensified regional cooperation in Eastern and Central Europe. (Roman Stefanowski) OLSZEWSKI IN WASHINGTON. Polish Prime Minister Jan Olszewski reaffirmed in Washington his commitment to a free-market economy despite the difficulties experienced. According to an RFE/RL correspondent, US President George Bush told Olszewski that the United States "is determined to do all it can to help Poland's economic reforms succeed." After meeting with Olszewski on 13 April, Bush announced that he would send a delegation of US businessmen to Poland to facilitate private investment there. Olszewski also met with US Secretary of State James Baker. They discussed Polish efforts to convert Poland's economy to a free-market system, regional security issues, and relations with the NATO alliance. (Roman Stefanowski) TENSIONS HIGH AT TOOMPEA. Several hundred Congress of Estonia demonstrators gathered before the Supreme Council building on 13 April to protest recent actions by that body and former Prime Minister Edgar Savisaar's Peoples' Center Party. According to an RFE/RL Estonian Service interview, the demonstrators rallied against a number of recent Supreme Council decisions, including the election law (which excludes those living outside Estonia from voting) and the Council's plan to administer a referendum on the constitution without Congress participation. The protest signals a new peak in tensions between the Congress of Estonia and the Popular Front-led Supreme Council in the period since independence was reinstated last August. (Riina Kionka) SLOVENIAN GOVERNMENT CRISIS. Radio Slovenia reported on 13 April that Deputy Prime Minister Andrej Ocvirk, who is responsible for economic policy, had resigned, rather than accept responsibility for Slovenian's worsening economic situation. In the preceding week, Vice Deputy Prime Minister Leo Seserko, who was responsible for regional development, Health Minister Bozidar Voljc, and Science, Research and Technology Minister Peter Tancig had all submitted their resignations. Radio Slovenia said there was speculation that seven other ministers would resign. Prime Minister Lojze Peterle told reporters he would quickly fill the vacancies. But a spokesman for the republic's information ministry told RFE/RL that deep divisions in the national assembly would likely impede the confirmation of new ministers proposed by Peterle. In mid-February, Peterle received a vote of confidence from the assembly deputies, but since then much of his support has eroded. The assembly is expected to take another vote of confidence on 22 April. (Milan Andrejevich) FINLAND'S PRESIDENT VISITS LATVIA. On 13 April Finland's president Mauno Koivisto was greeted at the Riga airport by Latvian Supreme Council Chairman Anatolijs Gorbunovs, BNS reported that day. Subsequently Koivisto met with Prime Minister Godmanis, and parliamentary leaders. Koivisto is the highest ranking foreign leader to visit Latvia since it regained its independence. He stressed to the press the importance of good neighborly relations with Russia and pointed out that Finland would not demand the return of territories that it lost to Russia during World War II. Noting that Finland favors political stability in the Baltic States, he expressed the hope that the problems of withdrawing ex-USSR troops from Latvia would be resolved quickly and that there would soon be a cooperation accord between Latvia and Russia. (Dzintra Bungs) ESTONIA TO MONITOR TROOP MOVEMENTS. The Estonian government will begin routine border checks at ports and airports belonging to the former Soviet armed forces, ETA reported on 13 April. Toomas Puura, head of the State Defense and Border Authority, told ETA the move came after several attempts by former Soviet military authorities to secretly bring replacement troops into Estonia in violation of agreements with Russian and CIS officials. "Until now we have had no effective control over former Soviet military trade and movement of staff, therefore in the near future we will send customs and border officials to the military ports and airports," Puura said. (Riina Kionka) CIS MILITARY WITHDRAWS THREAT TO KLAIPEDA AUTHORITIES. Western agencies reported on 13 April that the CIS naval infantry division from the Klaipeda garrison in Lithuania withdrew its threat to blockade the offices of local authorities and returned to its barracks. The decision was made after about 160 officers met with Klaipeda mayor Vytautas Cepas. The officers wanted to discuss the detention last week of CIS Col. Ivan Chernykh and demanded an apology from Lithuania's leadership. Chernykh, who was arrested on 7 April and released on bail on 8 April in Kaliningrad, is accused by Lithuanian officials of complicity in attempts to overthrow the government of Lithuania during the failed August 1991 coup. (Dzintra Bungs) MILITARY EMPLOYEES LOSE JOBS IN ESTONIA Some 200 workers are due to lose their jobs with the closure of a Tallinn plant belonging to the former Soviet armed forces, ETA reported on 13 April. The building materials manufacturing plant, located adjacent to the Baltic Sea coast, is a big local polluter. Virtually all those employed by the former Soviet military forces throughout Estonia are non-Estonians. (Riina Kionka) ROMANIA TO FIGHT INFLATION. Mugur Isarescu, Governor of the National Bank of Romania, said in an interview with the daily Adevarul (summarized by Rompres on 13 April), that measures would be taken to reduce the annual inflation rate from 100-200% (as predicted using data from the first quarter of 1992) to 20% (or a monthly rate of about 1.5%) in December 1992. According to Isarescu, inflation can be reduced, but only at a price. Lower inflation, he said necessarily "entails a rapid rise in unemployment." "The inflation or unemployment option cannot be avoided," Isarescu concluded. (Crisula Stefanescu) CZECHOSLOVAK INVESTMENT DEVELOPMENTS. The German battery manufacturer Varta Batterie AG is taking over Akucel, a Czechoslovak maker of truck batteries. Akucel currently employs 250 people in Ceska Lipa. Varta spokesman said on 13 April that his company plans to invest DM 5,000,000 (about $3,200,000) in Akucel over the next two years, expand Akucel's production line and hire new employees to double production by the end of 1992. In another development, the Czech agriculture and privatization ministers reversed a decision to exclude foreign participation in the privatization of the Pilsner Urquell breweries and now support a plan proposed by local officials, brewery middle management, and the Dutch de Groen family. Pilsner's unions have threatened to strike to force the ministers to explain their sudden reversal; and Nomura International, hired to prepare a privatization plan, also warned against selling without an open bidding process, Western media report. (Barbara Kroulik) ROMANIA'S POPULATION DROPS... A commentary on demographic changes in Romania after 1989, published on 10 April by the daily Realitatea romaneasca and carried by Rompres, shows that the country's population is decreasing. Among the factors contributing to the substantial decline are: the low birth rate, which declined from 16 per 1000 before 1989 to 11.9 per 1000 in 1991; the high infant mortality rate, which stands at 23 per 1000; the low average life expectancy, which is four to eight years shorter than in Western countries; and high emigration. A clearer demographic picture will be provided by the results of the census carried out in January 1992. (Crisula Stefanescu) ...AS DOES BULGARIA'S. On 13 April BTA quoted figures from the National Statistical Institute that corroborate the widespread impression of negative trends in Bulgaria's demographic situation. The total population, which grew slowly to reach almost 9,000,000 by the end of 1989, dropped to 8,628,700 by the end of 1991. The reduction was attributed to several factors: the emigration of 346,000 in the last three years; the very low birth rate (BTA quoted no figure); and increased mortality, which reached 12.3 per 1000 in 1991. Most alarming was the infant mortality rate: 16.9 per 1000 live born, an increase of almost 25% over 1990. (Rada Nikolaev) UNEMPLOYMENT IN BULGARIA. The National Statistical Institute was quoted by BTA on 13 April as estimating the total number of unemployed at about 452,000. Those employed outside agriculture totalled 2,369,000. The state budget passed by parliament last week predicted, perhaps rather optimistically, an unemployment rate of 12% in 1992. BTA also said that some 1,000,000 had left their jobs; this figure included people who retired or emigrated, but also those who set up private businesses, a sector on which statistics are not readily available. BTA also reported that the government on 13 April had set up a fund for professional training and unemployment to replace an earlier one for retraining. Payments into the new fund, amounting to 7% of the wage fund, will be made by employers. (Rada Nikolaev) HUNGARIAN-ARMENIAN TRADE AGREEMENT. On 13 April in Budapest, Hungary's International Economic Relations Ministry Deputy State Secretary Lajos Berenyi and Armenian Finance Minister Djanik Djandjan signed an interstate agreement regulating bilateral economic relations and trade, MTI reported. According to the agreement, Hungarian-Armenian trade will be conducted under world market conditions and convertible currency will be used to settle accounts between companies. A spokesman for the International Economic Relations Ministry said that Hungary expects the agreement to boost bilateral trade. Last year, trade with Armenia made up less than 1% of Hungary's total trade with the former Soviet Union. (Edith Oltay) [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Carla Thorson and Louisa Vinton (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. For inquiries about specific news items, subscriptions, or additional copies, please contact: In USA: Mr. Jon Lodeesen or Mr. Brian Reed RFE/RL, Inc., 1201 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20036. 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