|Comedy is an escape, not from truth but from despair; a narrow escape into faith. - Christopher Fry|
No. 76, 21 April 1992
SUCCESSOR STATES TO THE USSR CIS AGREEMENT RATIFIED, BUT THE USSR STILL EXISTS IN RUSSIA. On 20 April, the Russian Congress of People's Deputies ratified the Minsk agreement on the establishment of the Commonwealth of Independent States, according to Russian TV. After an emotional debate, the Congress voted 548 in favor of the CIS agreement with 158 against. A few days earlier, however, the Congress' leadership failed to persuade the necessary two-thirds majority to eliminate references to the USSR from the Russian Constitution. The Soviet Union therefore still exists de jure as far as the Russian Federation is concerned; and some conservative speakers told the Congress that the references to the USSR could enable Russia to claim Russian-populated enclaves in other former union republics. (Julia Wishnevsky) CONCEPT OF THE DRAFT RUSSIAN CONSTITUTION APPROVED. On 18 April, the Congress voted to approve "the general concept and basic proposals" of the new Russian Constitution drafted by the parliamentary commission chaired by Russian President Boris Yeltsin. Attempts to get the Congress to approve the project "in principle" failed. However, the Congress rejected the alternative drafts: two drafts prepared by various Communist factions and that of St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak and a group of leading jurists. Instead of offering yet another draft Constitution, Yeltsin's legal adviser, Sergei Shakhrai, proposed amendments to the official draft aimed at strengthening the power of the Russian president at the expense of parliament. If the Congress fails to adopt the new Constitution at its next session this fall, "Vesti" predicted, Yeltsin's supporters may call for a referendum to adopt a Constitution transforming Russia into a presidential republic. (Julia Wishnevsky) YELTSIN PLANS TO RESHUFFLE HIS CABINET. At a meeting with representatives of 13 factions in the Congress held on 20 April, Yeltsin said that, unlike his supporters, he had never intended to urge that the Congress be disbanded. Yeltsin added that he plans changes in the government to get rid of the "most odious members" of his entourage. (Later that day, the Congress agreed to view a statement signed by 305 deputies which attacked Yeltsin advisers Gennadii Burbulis, Galina Starovoitova and Gavriil Popov.) Yeltsin also noted his intention to remove the majority of his counsellors and to concentrate more power in the government. "Vesti" cited Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Shokhin as saying that Vladimir Shumeiko (now Russian parliamentary deputy chairman) will be appointed as first deputy Prime Minister, in addition to Gaidar. (Julia Wishnevsky) RUSSIA GETS TWO NAMES. Russia retained its name "Russia" for 24 hours. On 16 April, following several days of argument, the Congress opted for "Russia," as the country's official name, and this decision was met with a standing ovation [see Daily Report, 16 April]. Representatives of non-Russian republics protested the lack of any reference to Russia's federal status, however. As a result, the deputies spent the entire morning on 17 April discussing the President's suggestion to adopt two names for the state--Russian Federation and Russia. After a number of unsuccessful attempts, the Congress agreed that these two names would have equal status according to the Constitution. (Julia Wishnevsky) CONGRESS REJECTS FREE SALE OF LAND. On 17 April, the Congress failed to adopt a Constitutional amendment aimed at allowing the peasants to buy and sell land. Later that day, a group of Yeltsin supporters--"Coalition for Reform"--held a news conference, at which they called for a referendum to approve the free sale of land. Yeltsin and his team of reformers have been trying to push this proposal through the Congress' conservative agricultural lobby since its second session held in late-1990; then it was decided that local soviets could lease land for ten years and thereupon decide whether to sell it to the tenant. This year, Yeltsin issued a decree permitting the free sale of land, but, as one conservative deputy pointed out, such sales violate the Constitution and therefore would be ruled illegal by any court. (Julia Wishnevsky) MUSCOVITES RALLY FOR AND AGAINST YELTSIN. Supporters of the Yeltsin government rallied on 19 April in Moscow to urge that the Russian Congress be disbanded. The organizers argued that the current Russian deputies were elected in 1990, under communist rule, and consist of Party diehards who oppose market-oriented reforms. Estimates of the number of participants varied from 20,000 (Western agencies) to 70,000 (Russian TV). Among other demands, the protesters called for almost unlimited powers to be given to President Yeltsin, the right to buy and sell land, and the election of a constituent assembly to adopt a new Russian constitution. A few thousand communists, "Novosti" noted, also met on the other side of Red Square with "diametrically opposed slogans" marking the 122th anniversary of Lenin's birth. (Julia Wishnevsky) ENTREPRENEURS URGE POPOV'S RESIGNATION. On 18 April, Russian TV broadcast reports on a rally held by the Moscow Convention of Entrepreneurs and some radical politicians who oppose Mayor Gavriil Popov. The participants argued that the Popov administration consists of representatives from the old Party nomenklatura and is thoroughly corrupt. The speakers, led by prominent businessman Konstantin Borovoi, urged that Popov and his deputy, Yurii Luzhkov, resign and be put on trial. Some newscasts quoted Borovoi as saying that Russian President Boris Yeltsin would meet the same fate as the [ousted Georgian President Zviad] Gamsakhurdia unless he breaks his ties with "the corrupt" Moscow leadership. One broadcast also cited a letter by thirteen Moscow entrepreneurs to a city newspaper which protested against the rally. (Julia Wishnevsky) KOMSOMOL REVIVED. About hundred delegates from various parts of the former Soviet Union met on 18 April in a village near the Moscow suburb of Zelenograd to revive the young communist league that was dissolved by the last Komsomol congress last fall, according to Russian TV. The participants termed their gathering "The Twenty-Third Restoration Congress" and voted to preserve the organization's tradition name--"The All-Union Leninist Communist Union of Youth." Former Politburo conservative Egor Ligachev attended the congress as a guest of honor. (Julia Wishnevsky) SOUTH OSSETIA CALLS FOR RUSSIAN SOVEREIGNTY. ITAR-TASS reported on 17 April that the South Ossetian parliament had called on the Russian Congress to extend Russian sovereignty to South Ossetia and grant its population Russian citizenship. On 20 April South Ossetian parliament chairman Torez Kulumbegov reiterated the appeal and said that South Ossetia has called for the dispatch of a UN peacekeeping force to the disputed region, where 500 people have died in armed clashes. On 18 April the Georgian provisional government had proposed the withdrawal of Russian MVD troops from South Ossetia, according to ITAR-TASS. (Liz Fuller) RUSSIA, AZERBAIJAN CALL FOR NEW TALKS ON NAGORNO-KARABAKH. Foreign Minister Sergei Kozyrev met in Moscow on 20 April with his Azerbaijani counterpart, Hussein-Aga Sadykhov, and called for new multilateral peace talks on Nagorno-Karabakh within the next few days, ITAR-TASS reported. Kozyrev indicated that Azerbaijan would drop its objections to the participation of a delegation from Karabakh. ITAR-TASS quoted an Armenian parliament spokesman as stating that the preliminary investigation into the circumstances of the death of Nagorno-Karabakh parliament chairman Artur Mkrtchyan pointed to "careless handling of weapons" and rejected Azerbaijani allegations of internal political feuding within the Nagorno-Karabakh parliament. (Liz Fuller) FOREIGN MINISTERS' MEETING IN CHISINAU. The foreign ministers of Moldova, Russia, Ukraine, and Romania conferred on 17 April in Chisinau on the conflict in eastern Moldova, following up on their meeting of 6 April also in Chisinau. The ministers adopted recommendations on the disengagement of the forces in conflict; the disarming of irregular formations; and "maintaining the neutrality" and "defining the status" of Russia's 14th Army deployed in the area. The ministers further resolved to set up three quadripartite bodies: a "group of military observers" to monitor the cease-fire; a "group of human rights rapporteurs" (demanded particularly by Moldova); and a "mission of conciliation and mediation" to work out political solutions to the conflict. (Vladimir Socor) RUSSIA DIFFERS ON MOLDOVA SETTLEMENT TERMS. The foreign ministers' recommendations are unlikely to lead to a settlement of the Moldovan conflict. Russia urges the use of the 14th Army as a peacekeeping force, the inclusion of the self-styled "Dniester republic" in the negotiations, and the granting of "political status" to the Dniester area in Moldova as prerequisites to any settlement, all of which is unacceptable to the other three countries. Given the 14th Army's open support for the "Dniester" insurgents, Chisinau supported by Romania and Ukraine demands its withdrawal from Moldova. The proposed quadripartite bodies seem likely to be paralyzed in major decisions by the differing interests of Russia on one side and Moldova, Ukraine, and Romania on the other. The "separation of forces" is already being interpreted by the "Dniester" insurgents and their supporters in Russia as meaning the withdrawal of Moldovan police from areas on both banks of the Dniester held by the insurgents. (Vladimir Socor) FIVE MOLDOVAN POLICE KILLED IN CEASE-FIRE VIOLATIONS. Five Moldovan policemen were killed and at least as many wounded on 18 April, the day after the foreign ministers' meeting, in two attacks on the right bank of the Dniester by Russian insurgents who lost one killed and two wounded. The major attack occurred in the city of Bendery where Moldovan police have been under siege in their headquarters since December. The attacks illustrate the recent tendency of "Dniester" forces to extend their operations from the left bank, where they are based, onto the right bank. (Vladimir Socor) KRAVCHUK WARNS AGAINST CRIMEAN REFERENDUM. On 20 April, Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk issued an appeal to lawmakers and residents of Crimea not to support a local referendum on secession from Ukraine, which he claimed was being promoted by "separatists" intent on "destabilizing the situation and sowing discord between Crimea and Ukraine," and "those who to set Russia against Ukraine by playing the Crimean card." According to Radio Ukraine, Kravchuk assured the Crimeans that they would enjoy broad autonomy and the economic benefits of remaining with Ukraine, and that there would be no forced Ukrainization. On the other hand, he stressed that the rights of Crimea's Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar minorities would have to be respected and that Ukraine was committed to helping the Crimean Tatars return to their Crimean homeland. (Bohdan Nahaylo) UKRAINIAN RECESSION AND BUDGETARY CRISIS. Ukraine's national income during the first quarter of 1992 was 20% lower than during the corresponding period of 1991, according to official data cited by Reuters of 17 April. Industrial output was down by 15% and food output declined by 34%. On 16 April, the Ukrainian parliament's economics commission refused to approve the fifth draft budget of 1992, reportedly because the punitive tax levels it prescribed would stifle enterprise while leaving a budget deficit of nearly 70 billion rubles. (Keith Bush) TRANSFER OF NUKES FROM UKRAINE RESUMED. Nykola Mykhailchenko, an advisor to Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk, told Reuters on 17 April that the transfer of tactical nuclear weapons to Russia for disposal was being resumed that day. On 14 April AFP quoted Ukrainian Foreign Minister Anatoly Zlenko as saying that some 2,000 short-range weapons remained in Ukraine. Ukraine's defense minister, Konstantin Morozov, told a Washington press conference on 14 April that Ukraine was still insisting on international control of the destruction of these weapons. The acting Belarusian defense minister, Petr Chaus, was reported by ITAR-TASS on 18 April to have said that experts from his republic should also take part in monitoring the elimination of nuclear weapons withdrawn from Belarus. (Doug Clarke) KRASNOYARSK RADAR DEMOLITION HALTED. Radio Rossii on 17 April reported that Arkadii Vetrev, the head of the Krasnoyarsk Krai administration, had ordered that the demolition of the former Krasnoyarsk radar station be halted. In 1989, the then Soviet Union had agreed to dismantle this radar since it contravened the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. The report said that all the radar equipment had been dismantled and 70% of the building had been destroyed. However, some 60,000 square meters remained, which the local government wished to see turned into a furniture manufacturing plant. (Doug Clarke) MILITARY REACTORS TO BE SHUTDOWN. Reuters, on 20 April, reported that the Russian government had told the military to shut down two underground nuclear reactors at a plant near Krasnoyarsk. There are three reactors at the plant, which produces plutonium for nuclear warheads. A spokesman for the Russian state committee charged with inspecting nuclear facilities cited a new environ-mental protection law and the declining demand for plutonium as the reason for the shutdown order. One reactor is to close down by 1 June and the second by 1 September. (Doug Clarke) GAIDAR TO HEAD ARMS SALES COMMISSION. In a decree signed on 11 April and published by Rossiiskaya gazeta on 16 April, Boris Yeltsin ordered the creation of a Russian Federation Export Control Commission to oversee and coordinate the sale to foreign countries of weaponry and military-related materials, technology, and expertise. The commission, to be headed by Deputy Prime Minister Egor Gaidar, will include deputy leaders of the Russian Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Defense, Econo-mics, Science, Industry, and others. Gaidar was given a month to prepare a draft statute on the activities and personnel of the new commission. The decree clearly seems to be aimed at establishing state control over the increasingly chaotic export of Russian arms and military technologies. (Stephen Foye) GEIDAR ALIEV TO RUN FOR AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT. Nakhichevan parliament Chairman and former Azerbaijani CP First Secretary Geidar Aliev has been nominated as a candidate for the Azer-baijani presidential elections in June, although at the age of 69 he is technically not eligible given the age limit of 65, Interfax reported on 18 April. Clashes were reported last week by Russian Radio on the border between Nakhichevan and Armenia, and on 20 April ITAR-TASS reported that CIS soldiers detained four out of eight persons trying illegally to cross the border from Nakhichevan to Iran. (Liz Fuller) CENTRAL ASIAN REACTION TO AFGHANISTAN EVENTS. Speaking in New Delhi on 19 April while on an official visit to India, Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov affirmed that his republic would abide by a policy of noninterference in Afghanistan's internal affairs, and called for a peaceful political solution to the crisis there, ITAR-TASS reported on 19 April. A statement by the Uzbek Foreign Ministry issued on 20 April and carried by Radio Mayak expressed concern over the situation in Afghanistan and said there was no alternative to a political solution to the Afghan conflict. (Liz Fuller) TAJIK DEMONSTRATORS ISSUE ULTIMATUM. On 17 April the Tajik parliament acceded to opposition demands for a new constitution and new elections in return for a three-week moratorium on demonstrations, ITAR-TASS reported. The parliament convened on 20 April and agreed to hold talks with opposition leaders, but rejected their demands to fire its chairman, Safarali Kendzhaev, whereupon thousands of protesters gathered outside the parliament building issued an ultimatum for his removal by midday local time on 21 April. (Liz Fuller) CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE US MAY BREAK RELATIONS WITH BELGRADE. Austrian TV said on 20 April that Washington is considering suspending diplomatic ties to Serbia in protest against Belgrade's aggression in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Western news agencies quoted a State Department spokesman as saying that Serbian forces are apparently trying to overrun much of that troubled republic. He also criticized Serbia for its anti-Western propaganda. On 18 April USAF C-130 transport aircraft launched a relief mission to Sarajevo, despite shelling of the airport area by Serbian forces. US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Ralph Johnson was aboard the first plane and began a diplomatic mission by meeting with President Alija Izetbegovic in the Bosnian capital. On 20 April Austrian TV reported that Serbian forces, including the federal army, were shelling the old town of Mostar. (Patrick Moore) CENTRAL EUROPEAN COOPERATION COM-MITTEE SET UP. The ministers of international economic relations of Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Poland on 17 April in Budapest signed the founding document of the Central European Cooperation Committee. The major task of the committee is to eliminate economic and trade barriers between the three countries, and to speed up their entry into the EC. The three countries are expected to sign a free trade agreement this year, eliminating over a period of ten years tariffs on all their industrial and agricultural products. (Edith Oltay) BULGARIAN UNIONS JOIN IN PROTEST AGAINST GOVERNMENT. The formerly official Confederation of Independent Trade Unions (CITUB) and the formerly oppositional Confederation of Labor Podkrepa put aside their differences and on 16 April issued a joint statement, saying that they would discontinue contacts with "the present" government. They complained that the government offered to discuss the liberalization of prices and compensation for the population only after it had already decided its policies. According to BTA reports, the unions accepted the liberalization of prices but insisted on adequate compensation and demanded regular consultations on social and economic policies. (Rada Nikolaev) GOVERNMENT CHANGES FORTHCOMING. According to BTA reports, Prime Minister Filip Dimitrov said on 20 April that he would continue during this week consultations about changes in the structure of the government. Among likely changes, BTA has mentioned the appointment of Minister of the Interior Yordan Sokolov to a new post of a Deputy Prime Minister and the splitting of the Ministry of Industry and Trade into two or three. (Rada Nikolaev) IMF CREDIT FOR BULGARIA. On 20 April Western agencies reported from Washington that the International Monetary Fund had granted Bulgaria $212 million credit to support its economic reform program. The credit was subject to conditions set by the fund that involved the freeing of prices and the beginning of a privatization of the economy. The prices have been freed and the voting on the final chapters of the privatization law is set for 21 April. (Rada Nikolaev) PROPERTY TO BE RETURNED TO ETHNIC GERMANS. Despite government objections, the Czech parliament approved on 15 April a law which would return some property seized from ethnic Germans after World War II. The measure applies to Czechoslovak citizens of German origin who still live in Czechoslovakia, Reuter reports. The post-war seizure was ordered to punish ethnic Germans for their support of Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia. The new law does not recognize property rights of some three million ethnic Germans who were moved out of the country after the war and also excludes people who collaborated with the Nazis. For the first time, property confiscated before 1948 will be returned. (Barbara Kroulik) MANY JOURNALISTS SAID TO HAVE COLLABORATED WITH COMMUNISTS. Federal authorities drew up a list of 262 alleged former secret police (STB) agents working as journalists, following the screening of members of the Journalist's Guild, the Mlada fronta daily reported. The list was handed over by the Federal Security and Information Service to Czech Premier Petr Pithart. The daily quoted officials in the Federal Information Service as saying that although the journalists stopped being agents with the advent of democracy and the collapse of the STB, some still "try to misinform and negatively influence public opinion." According to legislation passed in 1991, publishers have the right to screen their staff for possible STB links, to boost the credibility of their paper. (Barbara Kroulik) INCIDENTS AT NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS. In the past year a total of 327 incidents are reported to have occurred in Czechoslovakia's four Soviet-made nuclear power plants. Zdenek Kriz, Chief of the Czechoslovak Atomic Authority, told journalists on 17 April that of these 320 would not have represented a threat to people and the environment. Six were described as "deviations from normal operations." Only at one plant, Jaslovske Bohunice, radioactive water leaked within the compound. (Barbara Kroulik) PRIME MINISTER ASSERTS CONTROL OVER THE MILITARY. Interviewed on Warsaw TV on 18 April Polish Prime Minister Jan Olszewski said that although the president has the overall command of the military, "it is the Defense Ministry and its civilian minister who are responsible for the day-to-day operations of the army ." Olszewski also said that the government needs support from both the public and the parliament to implement effectively its economic policies. (Roman Stefanowski) ECONOMIC STATISTICS. On 17 April PAP reported that at the end of March the number of unemployed in Poland reached 2,238,400, or 12.2% of the total workforce. The agency said that the figures released by the Main Statistical Office (GUS) showed a slight improvement in industrial production: in March it was 91% of the 1991 monthly average, compared with 77.9% in February and 82% in January. The average salary in March was 2,309,000 zloty, only a fraction above the December 1991 figure. (Roman Stefanowski) AGRICULTURAL PROTESTS CONTINUE. The Polish Farmers' Trade Union "Self-Defense" continues its two-week long sit-in strike at the Ministry of Agriculture and the Food Industry. According to PAP reports, by 20 April the demonstration involved some 400 persons, 11 of whom were on a hunger strike. They demanded that the government cancel their investment debts and create cheap credits. They also demanded the dismissal of the Agriculture Minister Gabriel Janowski. (Roman Stefanowski) FORMER COMMUNIST OFFICIALS SENTENCED TO PRISON. The Romanian Supreme Court sentenced 21 high-ranking officials of the Ceausescu regime to prison terms ranging from 8 to 16 years, local and foreign media reported on 20 April. They were convicted of "complicity in extremely grave murder" for their support of the attempt to suppress the anti-Ceausescu revolution in December 1989. The sentences cannot be appealed. (Crisula Stefanescu) OPPOSITION WANTS LOCAL OBSERVERS TO MONITOR THE GENERAL ELECTIONS. Several thousand opposition supporters, demonstrated in Bucharest on 17 April, demanding that the local observers be allowed to monitor upcoming general elections to prevent vote fraud. The elections are expected in June or July, although a date has not yet been set. (Crisula Stefanescu) ESTONIAN PROTEST TO RUSSIA. The Estonian Foreign Ministry has sent a note to Russia protesting recent border intrusions, BNS reported that day. The 16 April note asks for explanations on two specific incidents from last week--one in which four Russian planes crossed unannounced into Estonian airspace, the other in which four military vehicles tried to enter southern Estonia without authorization. There has been no reported reaction in Moscow yet to the note. (Riina Kionka) ESTONIAN PRIVATIZATION LAW. The Estonian Supreme Council passed a law on 16 April governing the privatization of state and municipal residential properties, BNS reported that day. The law grants citizens with permanent residence state capital certificates in which one square meter in a modern apartment house is equivalent to one year in the labor market. Work status will be counted starting January 1, 1945. The certificates may be passed on to relatives who have lived in Estonia for 5 years, and may be cashed in--allowing residents to buy their own apartments--in four years time. The government will outline procedures for implementing the new privatization law in subsequent directives. (Riina Kionka) LATVIA FORMS NAVY? Latvia is forming a navy of about 11 ships and 1,000 sailors out of its former coast guard and commercial fishing fleet, according to Krasnaya Zvezda on 17 April. The new Latvian Navy will reportedly patrol the coastline and combat drug trafficking and other smuggling. (Riina Kionka) LITHUANIAN MINISTERS TENDER RESIG-NATIONS. On 20 April Lithuanian Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius told the RFE/RL Lithuanian Service that several members of his cabinet have tendered their resignations or intend to do so. Deputy Prime Minister Vytautas Pakalniskis and government secretary Kestutis Cilinskas had submitted their resignations while Deputy Prime Minister Algirdas Dobravolskas and Finance Minister Elvyra Kuneviciene are intending to do so. The four were among the most active supporters of a decree by Vagnorius slashing the staff of ministries and other government agencies by 30-50% that the parliament subsequently revoked. Vagnorius has not signed any of the resignation applications by the ministers who said that they supported Vagnorius's reform efforts, but did not see any opportunity to "work fruitfully." (Saulius Girnius) US SENATOR HURT IN AUTOMOBILE ACCIDENT IN VILNIUS. On 19 April US Senator Robert Kerrey arrived in Vilnius as part of a Senate Intelligence Committee delegation that also included Senator Bill Bradley, Radio Lithuania reported. While traveling from the airport, the automobile in which he was riding collided with a taxi. Kerrey's left leg was cut and he was flown to a US military hospital in Germany from which he returned to his home state of Nebraska on 20 April. (Saulius Girnius) [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by: Carla Thorson & Jan DeWeydenthal (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. Telephone: (202) 457-6912 or -6900 fax: (202) 457-6992 or -202-828-8783; or in Europe: Mr. David L. 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