|When in doubt, tell the truth. - Mark Twain|
No. 80, 27 April 1992
SUCCESSOR STATES TO THE USSR RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT MEETS. On 24 April, the Russian government held its first meeting since the tumultuous Sixth Congress of People's Deputies at which the Yeltsin team fought off attempts to reverse their economic reform program. The cabinet met a day later than originally scheduled, the official explanation being that the agenda was long and complicated and extra time was needed to prepare the documents. President Yeltsin himself did not attend the meeting, which was chaired by First Deputy Prime Minister Egor Gaidar, Russian media reported. (Elizabeth Teague) NO CABINET RESHUFFLE YET. In Yeltsin's absence, the anticipated cabinet reshuffle did not take place. However, both Gaidar and cabinet spokesman Aleksei Ulyukaev were quoted by ITAR-TASS as confirming that it is still planned to reorganize Russia's four departments and bringing one or more experienced industrialists in to oversee the new sectors. Gaidar was quoted as saying the decision on how to reorganize the ministry will be made within the next two to three weeks. (Elizabeth Teague) EUROPEAN COMMISSION VIEWS ON RUSSIAN REFORMS. Izvestiya of 25 April carried an interview with the EC representative in Moscow, Michael Emerson. Among other things, he said that adjusting domestic raw materials and energy prices in rubles to world levels would, at the present "market" exchange rates, be very damaging. It would cause extensive bankruptcies and job losses. The controlled energy price rises announced on 24 April by the Russian government (Financial Times 25/26 April) for "mid-year" implementation seem to meet this point. They should please the IMF by reducing subsidies but leave the price per ton around 2,000 rubles. At 150 rubles = $1, the ruble equivalent of the world price would be about 20,000 rubles. (Philip Hanson) GOSKOMSTAT: MORE BAD ECONOMIC NEWS FOR RUSSIA. The Russian State Statistical Office issued a bleak report on the Russian economy in 1991 on 23 April. According to ITAR-TASS, national income fell by 14% and industrial production fell by 13%, compared with the same period last year. Oil, ferrous metals, machine building, and food production were hardest hit. Inter-enterprise debt had expanded to 800 billion rubles, indicating that many insolvent enterprises were able to frustrate the spirit of tight monetary and credit policies by not paying (and extracting interest-free loans from) their suppliers. According to a Reuters report on the Goskomstat figures, 50 million people are now living below the poverty line, with unemployment having risen to 118,000 from 70,000 three months ago. (Ben Slay) CIS SUMMIT. The next summit meeting of CIS leaders, which Kazakh leader Nursultan Nazarbaev has said could make or break the Commonwealth, is scheduled to take place in Tashkent on 15-16 May, Central TV confirmed on 24 April The agenda is already massive, containing 40 items divided into three main topics: (1) defense, (2) economy, and (3) ecology. (Elizabeth Teague) CENTRAL ASIAN LEADERS ON SECURITY. Krasnaya zvezda on 25 April carried an interview with the presidents of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan on the results of the 23 April Bishkek conference. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev and Uzbek President Islam Karimov spoke of the need for each CIS state to build its own army, but to maintain dual national and CIS control over these forces. Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov was less clear, however, arguing that the CIS hardly exists and therefore fails to provide firm political control over the CIS armed forces. He also said that the Turkestan Military District ought to be disbanded, but suggested that the republic would be willing to negotiate with Russia over sharing the costs of funding the large troop contingent in Turkmenistan. (Stephen Foye) PACIFIC FLEET EXERCISES. The newspaper of the Pacific Fleet, Boevaya vakhta, claimed on 24 April that a series of naval exercises launched by the fleet only days before had caught both American and Japanese naval forces entirely by surprise. ITAR-TASS, quoting a deputy commander of the fleet, suggested that the exercises proved that earlier comments by US Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney--to the effect that the CIS fleet no longer constituted a serious threat to the American navy--were premature. (Stephen Foye) RUSSIAN INTERNAL TROOPS WITHDRAWN FROM SOUTH OSSETIA. Russian MVD troops withdrew on 25 April from South Ossetia, where they had been deployed since tensions between Georgians and Ossetians escalated with the abolition by the Georgian parliament of the oblast's autonomous status in December, 1990, ITAR-TASS reported. "Vesti" on 26 April quoted local Ossetians as arguing that the situation was unlikely to improve given that the capital of Tskhinvali was still under siege by supporters of ousted Georgian President Zviad Gamsakhurdia. (Liz Fuller) AZERBAIJAN AGREES TO DEPLOYMENT OF CSCE OBSERVERS. ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported on 26 April that the Azerbaijani government had agreed to the deployment of some 150-200 CSCE observers in Nagorno-Karabakh and on the Armenian-Azerbaijani frontier. Fighting has continued in Nagorno-Karabakh over the past few days. Armenia has rejected allegations by Azerbaijan that Armenian fighters fired shells containing cyanide in an attack on the town of Shusha earlier this month, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 April. (Liz Fuller) COMMUNISTS TO RALLY IN RED SQUARE ON 1 MAY. The Moscow city authorities have given permission to a number of neocommunist groups to rally in Red Square on 1 May, Interfax reported on 22 April. Organizations granted permits are the "Working Moscow" movement, the Russian Communist Workers' Party, the United Front of Workers, and the "Lenin and Motherland" movement. Russia's official trade unions, however, are not planning to rally in Red Square this year. Instead, the Moscow Federation of Trade Unions plans to meet in Gorky Park. Meanwhile, the AP reports (23 April) that the city authorities are offering to sell advertising space in Red Square to Western businesses. The only space said to be off limits is Lenin's Tomb. (Elizabeth Teague) STRIKES IN RUSSIA NOT INCREASING SIGNIFICANTLY. ITAR-TASS reported on 23 April that over 260,000 man-days were lost in the Russian economy in the first three months of 1992. According to Goskomstat, strikes are most common in the non-productive sectors, as borne out by current press reports of strikes by Moscow busdrivers, schoolteachers in Samara, and medical doctors throughout Russia. Such reports notwithstanding, there is no sign that Yeltsin's leadership has provoked more strikes than the latter years of the Gorbachev leadership. In 1990 as a whole, the RFSFR lost 1.2 million man-days through strikes, a figure roughly comparable to the present figure of 260,000 for the first three months of 1992. Meanwhile, the official Russian trade union federation reports that 8,000 people died in industrial accidents in Russia in 1991, (Interfax, 23 April). (Elizabeth Teague) UNEMPLOYMENT ON THE RISE. ITAR-TASS on 23 April quoted Goskomstat as saying that, out of a total workforce of 73.4 million, there were 118,000 registered jobless in Russia in April, compared with 70,000 at the beginning of this year. At 0.16% of the workforce, registered unemployment is still very low. However, the requirement that employers must pay dismissed workers three months' severance pay makes for a delay before sackings show up in the statistics; so too does the woefully underdeveloped state of Russia's network of employment bureaus. Interviewed in The Economist of 25 April, Egor Gaidar noted that unemployment is still low in Russia but predicted it would become "a really serious problem" around the end of the year. At that time, Gaidar, said, social pressures connected with employment may become "politically dangerous." (Elizabeth Teague) DEFENSE INDUSTRY DIVIDED ON REFORM, GAIDAR SAYS. Gaidar told The Economist that, contrary to general opinion, Russia's military-industrial complex is divided and "not strongly opposed" to economic reform. This, he said, is because the workforce is "intelligent and highly qualified" and some (though not all) are eager to seize the new opportunities provided by marketization. (Elizabeth Teague) CHUBAIS: "FULFILL THE PRIVATIZATION PLAN OR ELSE." According to the Financial Times of 23 April, Anatolii Chubais, Director of Russia's State Committee on Privatization, has threatened to dismiss regional governors who "fail to meet targets" for privatizing state enterprises. As part of an acceleration in Russia's privatization program, specific percentage targets have been set for privatizing individual sectors by the end of the year. The details of the voucher scheme (based on the Czechoslovak model) for privatizing state firms and shops are to be finalized by mid-May, and the distribution of vouchers is to begin by autumn. According to another Financial Times article on 22 April, state enterprises will have to transform themselves into state-owned joint-stock companies by 1 September; and procedures for ESOPs, management buyouts, and joint ventures are to be simplified. (Ben Slay) RUSSIA CONTINUES SPYING ON THE WEST. Despite the assurances of Boris Yeltsin and other Russian politicians that the cold war is over, Western politicians are becoming increasingly worried about continuing Russian spying on the West. Three Russian KGB agents who worked under the cover of ITAR-TASS and Komsomolskaya pravda have recently been expelled from the Netherlands, according to Western agencies on 23 April. The three had operated with the knowledge of the Russian ambassador in The Hague. Several other Russian KGB agents were recently expelled from Belgium and a KGB-sponsored spy ring has been uncovered in France. (Alexander Rahr) RUSSIAN LEGAL SAFEGUARDS FOR VICTIMS OF PSYCHIATRIC ABUSE? In addition to reviewing laws on bankruptcy and on the liquidation of bankrupt enterprises, the Supreme Soviet Presidium, on 23 April, discussed new legislation on psychiatric aid which could provide unprecedented legal safeguards for citizens in psychiatric wards. The Russian parliament is scheduled to debate and adopt these laws in mid-May. (Julia Wishnevsky) CENSORSHIP IN RUSSIAN TV. On 24 April, Russian TV's second channel broadcast a statement by the famous director, Nikita Mikhalkov, proclaiming his intention to sever all ties with the first channel ("Ostankino") because of political censorship. "Ostankino's" management cancelled Mikhalkov's show, Crossroads, which had been highly publicized and was scheduled to air on 22 April. Mikhalkov attributed the ban to two segments: an interview with Metropolitan Pitirim in which journalist Tatyana Mitkova accused the metropolitan of being a KGB spy; and a film comparing the current activities of First Deputy Prime Minister Gennadii Burbulis with those of 1981 when he taught Marxism in Sverdlovsk. Within one hour of Mikhalkov's statement, "Ostankino" announced its intention to broadcast the program on 29 April. (Julia Wishnevsky) UKRAINIAN-IRANIAN RELATIONS. Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk concluded a two-day visit to Iran on 26 April where he held talks with Iranian President Rafsanjani and reached agreements on political, economic, cultural, and technical cooperation between the two countries, Western agencies reported. Iranian media reported that the two sides agreed to set up a committee to explore ways of broadening ties and that Iran had agreed to supply Ukraine with gas. Specifically, Iran, Ukraine, and Azerbaijan are to organize a joint company to supply gas to Ukraine and Europe. (Roman Solchanyk) CHERNOBYL COMMEMORATED IN UKRAINE. Ukraine marked the sixth anniversary of the Chernobyl catastrophe on 26 April. The anniversary was officially commemorated on 24 April in order not to interfere with the Orthodox Easter Sunday celebrations. In the meantime, Izvestiya documented that the Soviet government and the Communist Party leadership falsified the consequences of the explosion to the outside world and to its own citizens. The newspaper cited previously secret KGB and Politburo documents. (Roman Solchanyk) NEW UKRAINIAN CONSTITUTION DISCUSSED. The Constitutional Commission of the Ukrainian Supreme Council has held a regular session to discuss the country's new constitution, Radio Ukraine reported on 26 April. The Commission is reported to be in agreement that there should be a single citizenship in Ukraine and that the National Assembly is to be constituted as a bicameral body elected for a four-year period. (Roman Solchanyk) CRIMEA EXAMINES POWER-SHARING PLAN. The Presidium of Crimea's Supreme Council has once again examined the draft of a law delineating power between the autonomous republic and Kiev, the "Novosti" reported on 25 April. Earlier, the draft law had been approved by the Crimean parliament but was met with opposition in the Ukrainian parliament. The document was ultimately approved, but is being looked at again by the Crimeans. (Roman Solchanyk) CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE BOSNIAN PRESIDENT, FEDERAL ARMY TALK. Radio Sarajevo reported on 26 April that talks between Bosnia's President Alija Izetbegovic and federal officials over the future status of the Serbian-dominated federal army in Bosnia-Herzegovina show signs of progress. After several hours of talks in Skopje, Izetbegovic told reporters that he asked federal Defense Minister Gen. Blagoje Adzic and Vice President Branko Kostic to decide as soon as possible whether the federal army should either leave Bosnia-Herzegovina or accept a radical transformation into a Bosnian army. There are "no sensational developments" to report, he said, but the leaders have agreed to continue negotiations. Izetbegovic added that he did not ask the army to withdraw because the vast majority of army personnel are Serbs who would likely desert to join local Serb paramilitary groups. Adzic said that any future decision on the status of the army must be agreed upon by the legitimate representatives of the republic's Muslims, Serbs, and Croats. Meanwhile most fronts in Bosnia-Herzegovina remained relatively quiet with some heavy fighting reported in Mostar and areas of northern Bosnia. (Milan Andrejevich) A THIRD, SMALLER YUGOSLAVIA. Radio Serbia reports on 27 April that deputies from the parliaments of the republics of Serbia and Montenegro are to gather today in Belgrade to proclaim a third and smaller Yugoslavia. The deputies are scheduled to adopt a new constitution joining the two republics in a federation based on parliamentary democracy and a free-market economy. Federal parliamentary elections for a new bicameral parliament are planned for 30 June. In late December both republics began talks on creating the new smaller federation, but the action is viewed by Western diplomats as a last minute face-saving attempt by Serbia to avoid not being recognized as the successor state by the EC and US. The proposed constitution would enable the federal army to withdraw from Bosnia-Herzegovina on a legal basis, according to Radio Croatia. Austrian Foreign Minister Alois Mock told Austrian TV on 23 April that the new Yugoslavia which the two republics are to proclaim will not be recognized as a legitimate successor of the former Yugoslavia because the state is not being founded by "a democratic parliament." (Milan Andrejevich) MACEDONIA'S NEW CURRENCY. Radio Skopje reports that the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia will begin introducing the "denar," a substitute for the Yugoslav dinar today. Prime Minister Nikola Kljusev told reporters on 26 April that citizens will have three days to exchange their dinars. The denar will be issued as a coupon initially but is expected to become a regular currency sometime next year. The government says the denar promissory note is valued at 350 to the German mark. (Milan Andrejevich) HUNGARY CONCERNED ABOUT ETHNIC HUNGARIANS IN VOJVODINA. The Hungarian government has called on the US government, the EC, and the UN to use their influence to prevent possible violence against the Hungarian minority in the Serbian province of Vojvodina, MTI reported on 24 April. The government expressed concern about the increasing number of threats against ethnic Hungarians by Serbian nationalists. Hungarian UN Ambassador Andre Erdos told Radio Budapest the same day that the Hungarian government is very concerned about the fighting in Bosnia and is of the opinion that UN peacekeeping forces should be sent there as soon as possible. (Edith Oltay) ANTI-GOVERNMENT DEMONSTRATION IN HUNGARY. An estimated 15,000 farmers demonstrated outside the parliament building in Budapest on 25 April demanding the resignation of the government, MTI reports. The rally was organized by Smallholders' Party president Jozsef Torgyan, who criticized the government for leading the country into economic misery and for failing to remove communists from leading positions. He demanded that a government of experts and technocrats be installed to run the country until the next parliamentary elections. Torgyan recently took his party out of the governing coalition but a majority of the Smallholder parliamentary deputies defied him and remained loyal to the government. This was the largest antigovernment demonstration since the multiparty elections in 1990. (Edith Oltay) FORMER BULGARIAN PRIME MINISTER ARRESTED. Georgi Atanasov, Bulgaria's communist prime minister from 1986 to early 1990, was arrested on 24 April on a warrant issued by Chief Prosecutor Ivan Tatarchev. According to 24 chasa, former Minister of the Economy Stoyan Ovcharov was arrested the same day. On 23 April Demokratsiya said Atanasov and Ovcharov would be the first two out of 47 former top officials to be tried for their complicity in the country's economic disaster. Atanasov and Ovcharov are accused specifically of misappropriating 203,000 leva from an orphans' fund and distributing it among children of communist resistance fighters--none of whom was younger than 40. Tatarchev said this is a particularly grave case punishable by 15-30 years' imprisonment. (Rada Nikolaev) EX-KING WELCOMED IN BUCHAREST. Tens of thousands of Romanians poured into the streets of Bucharest to welcome former King Michael I during an emotional Easter visit after 45 years of exile, local and foreign media report. Cheering crowds waving monarchist banners and national flags, chanted "Long Live the King," "King in the Country--Iliescu Out," and "Stay--Don't Leave Us." The ex-king and his wife, accompanied by their second daughter and grandson, celebrated Orthodox Easter at the Putna Monastery, near the Moldovan border, on 24 April, and also attended services at St. George's Church in Bucharest on 25 April. Authorities issued visas valid for only four days and emphasized the private nature of the visit; the opposition hailed the occasion as "historic." (Crisula Stefanescu) MAYORS OPPOSE DAM PROJECT. Some 180 mayors and members of local governments from the Danube region of Slovakia and Hungary and experts from several countries met in Dunajska Streda on 25 April to discuss the Gabcikovo-Nagymaros dam. They noted the danger of a loss of drinking water reserves for almost five million people and other environmental problems linked to the dam's completion. In a statement to the Czecho-slovak government they demanded that work be halted immediately and that an effort be made to restore the section of the Danube already damaged. In a separate statement the World Wide Fund for Nature said in Vienna that it will warn international banks not to finance the project, an RFE/RL correspondent reports. (Barbara Kroulik) SLOVAK JOURNALISTS WHO COLLABORATED. Slovak Premier Jan Carnogursky says he received from federal police a list of Slovak journalists who collaborated with the STB, the former communist se-cret police. CSTK quotes him as saying that on 27 April the government will discuss whether to make the list public. Last week Czech Premier Petr Pithart was given a similar list of Czech journalists. No decision has been made on what to do with that list. (Barbara Kroulik) SOLIDARITY MARCHES IN WARSAW. Tens of thousands of Solidarity Trade Union members marched in Warsaw on 24 April to protest the government's economic policies and the country's political instability, Polish and Western media report. Solidarity leader Marian Krzaklewski described the march as "the penultimate warning" before a general strike, "the last warning." President Lech Walesa told the marchers "I would march with you if I weren't president; I'm dissatisfied as well." Asked by a Gdansk TV reporter on 26 April on the future of Olszewski government and his possible part in its reconstruction, Walesa said that "the only solution for Poland is an supraparty government that we shall form with experts who gained experience in the three [postcommunist] governments." (Roman Stefanowski) BRZEZINSKI FINDS POLITICAL SITUATION "INTRIGUING." In Poland for the Polish-American Enterprise Fund's directors meeting, former US National Security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski told PAP on 24 April that he finds the Polish political situation intriguing because it is not functioning in the way it should, due to the lack of a modern and democratic constitution. In order to break the resulting paralysis and create a framework for a democratic state, Brzezinski said, Poland should quickly adopt a new constitution and a new election law, as France did after 1958. (Roman Stefanowski) STRATEGIC DIALOGUE IN BERGERAC. Andrzej Towpik, Director of the European Institutions Department in the Polish Foreign Ministry, told journalists on 25 April that the conference in Bergerac, France, of the foreign ministers of France, Germany, and Poland was a dialogue of strategic importance for the development of Polish-French and Polish-German relations. According to Towpik, both France and Germany promised to support Poland's application for full EC membership and have undertaken "to do everything in their power to facilitate the process of Polish reforms." (Roman Stefanowski) NEW CREDITS FOR BULGARIA. Minister of Finance Ivan Kostov returned on 25 April from talks in Brussels with the G-24 group of industrialized countries and international financial circles. BTA and Western agencies said this year Bulgaria can expect loans and grants to pay off its $1.1 billion balance of trade deficit after the rescheduling of its debt payments for 1992. The European Community and the IMF will extend a loan of $440 million and another $340 million is expected from the World Bank and the G-24 group. Kostov told BTA and Bulgarian TV that the loans would be granted at the normal market rate, which is not unsatisfactory since Bulgaria would not be able to obtain anything better. (Rada Nikolaev) JAPAN-CZECHOSLOVAK TRADE AGREEMENT. On 24 April Japan and Czechoslovakia signed an agreement giving each other most-favored-nation trading status. The agreement was signed in Tokyo by Japanese Foreign Minister Michio Watanabe and Czechoslovak Foreign Trade Minister Jozef Baksay, who is accompanying President Vaclav Havel on a visit; it goes into effect on 17 October. On 26 April Havel flew to Seoul, South Korea to meet with President Roh Tae Woo, Western agencies report. (Barbara Kroulik) FORMER ROMANIAN POLITBURO MEMBER SUFFERS STROKE. A former top Romanian communist official, ex-Industry Minister Lina Ciobanu, reportedly suffered a crippling stroke two days after being sentenced to 14 years in prison. Romanian news reports say Ciobanu lies paralyzed in a Bucharest hospital. She was one of 21 former top communist officials sentenced on 20 April to long prison terms for complicity in efforts to suppress the December 1989 revolution. Former Foreign Minister Ion Totu, sentenced to 16 years in prison, committed suicide the day after sentencing. (Crisula Stefanescu) LATVIA CUTS OFF CIS BALTIC PORT. On 25 April Latvian authorities cut off road access to the port of Liepaja, where a CIS fleet is located, ITAR-TASS reports. Acting under the republic's laws, armed Latvian soldiers set up a customs zone around the port to check all goods. Negotiations are underway to lift the blockade, but it was not reported who was taking part in the talks. (Saulius Girnius) ARENS TO VISIT LATVIA AND LITHUANIA. On 26 April Israeli defense minister Moshe Arens left for Finland from where he will proceed to the first official Israeli visit to Riga and Vilnius, Western agencies report. The week-long trip will include a Holocaust memorial ceremony on 30 April in Riga, where Arens lived as a child. (Saulius Girnius) ANOTHER REFERENDUM IN LITHUANIA? On 27 April the Lithuanian Supreme Council will hold an afternoon session to continue the discussion on a referendum asking whether the former USSR army should leave Lithuania immediately, Radio Lithuania reports. All deputies agree that the army should leave, but some question the advisability of holding a referendum on the question, viewing the matter as a political ploy to increase participation in the presidential referendum on 23 May. The parliament held a long and bitter debate on 23 April that focused on technical questions including whether the two referendums should be held the same day. (Saulius Girnius) BISHOP BRIZGYS DIES. On 23 April retired Bishop Vincentas Brizgys died in Chicago at the age of 88, Radio Lithuania reports. Brizgys was ordained as a priest on 5 June 1927 and as the auxiliary bishop of Kaunas on 17 May 1940. He withdrew to Germany during World War II and settled in Chicago in 1951. From 1960 until his retirement in 1984 he was charged with the care of Lithuanian Catholics in North America, but also ministered to Lithuanians living elsewhere in the West. His career was clouded by Soviet charges that he had collaborated with the Nazis in the extermination of the Jews in Lithuania. Joseph Cardinal Bernadin of Chicago will conduct the requiem Mass on 29 April. (Saulius Girnius) [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Carla Thorson & 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. 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. Troyanek or Ms. Helga Hofer Publications Department, RFE/RL Research Institute Oettingenstrasse 67 8000 Munich 22 Telephone: (-49 89) 2102-2631 or -2642 fax: (-49 89) 2102-2648
write to us
with your comments and suggestions.