|When in doubt, tell the truth. - Mark Twain|
No. 92, 14 May 1992
SUCCESSOR STATES TO THE USSR DRAFT AGENDA FOR TASHKENT SUMMIT. The draft agenda for the two-day meeting of CIS heads of states that starts in Tashkent on 15 May includes 15 items, the coordinator of the CIS working group Ivan Korotchenya told correspondents in Tashkent on 13 May. About 10 of the items are military, ITAR-TASS reported. The draft agenda for the simultaneous meeting of heads of government consists of 26 items, the most important of which are cooperation in external economic activity and avoiding double taxation. Korotchenya scotched rumors that Boris Yeltsin would not be attending the summit. Ukraine and Moldova will be represented by their premiers. Moldova was originally to be represented by its first deputy premier. It is not known who will represent Tajikistan, which is sending a delegation that will seek recognition of the new regime. (Ann Sheehy) PLEA FOR UNIFIED ARMED FORCES. Interfax on 13 May reported that a working group of the CIS defense ministers meeting in Tashkent prior to the 15 May summit has drafted an appeal to the heads of states to preserve the joint armed forces, at least during the transitional period needed to form national armed forces. It is still unclear, however, who signed the document and who only participated in its drafting. Moldova is the only CIS member not represented at the meeting, while a Georgian representative is participating. Marshal Evgenii Shaposhnikov, the CIS Joint Armed Forces commander in chief, is also taking part. (Doug Clarke) DUSHANBE NORMALIZING. ITAR-TASS reported on 13 May that the situation in Dushanbe is slowly returning to normal. Government and opposition have agreed on a plan to disarm persons possessing illegal firearms--according to opposition spokesmen, this applies primarily to the short-lived National Guard created by President Rakhman Nabiev to suppress the anti-government demonstration. Members of the Guard were given automatic weapons, which they are now reluctant to surrender to the authorities. According to the opposition, much of this weaponry has been taken out of Dushanbe, and because it is "floating around" somewhere, opposition supporters with weapons are unwilling to disarm either. The agreement to disarm both sides seems to have encouraged opposition demonstrators to finally go home. (Bess Brown) YELTSIN SUPPORTS SHAKHRAI'S CONSTITUTION. Russian President Boris Yeltsin wants to conduct a referendum not on the draft of the constitution which had been approved by the Congress last April but on the draft constitution written by his legal advisor, Sergei Shakhrai, Izvestiya reported on 13 May. Shakhrai's draft envisions a strong presidential executive. Yeltsin is supposed to ask the parliament to change the law on the referendum so that he could announce the plebiscite without organizing a time-consuming collection of one million signatures in the population for its support. (Alexander Rahr) EMBRYONIC CENTRIST PARTY GETS OFF THE GROUND IN RUSSIA. The creation of the "Renewal" (Obnovlenie)--a potentially powerful new centrist organization--was announced at a press conference in Moscow on 12 May. The event was given approving coverage by "Ostankino" TV's "Novosti" but pointedly ignored by Russian TV's "Vesti." The organization is already being nicknamed "Volsky's party" because of the key role played in its formation by Arkadii Volsky, president of Russia's Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, but Radio Liberty's Russian Service reported that such influential Russian politicians as Aleksandr Rutskoi, Nikolai Travkin and Vladimir Lysenko may add their weight to the organization if, as is expected, it declares itself to be a political party at its founding congress at the end of May. Also participating in the new grouping are the "Smena," "industrialists" and "workers' union" factions of the Russian parliament. (Julia Wishnevsky and Elizabeth Teague) GEORGIA TO ASSUME RESPONSIBILITY FOR SHARE OF SOVIET DEBT? The State Council of the former Soviet republic of Georgia has decided to accept responsibility for 1.62% of the external debt of the former USSR, Reuters reported on 13 May, citing Moscow journalists. It was not clear whether Georgia intended to assume "joint and several responsibility" for the debt. The total convertible currency debt of the former USSR at the end of 1991 has been estimated at around $65 billion. (Keith Bush) IMPORT TAXES PLANNED. Russia's Minister for Foreign Economic Relations, Petr Aven, was quoted by Interfax on 13 May as saying that the Russian Federation plans to introduce taxes of 5 or 10% on virtually all imports by August. Imported goods may also be subjected to the 28% value-added tax. Aven acknowledged that the imposition of import taxes would run counter to the transition to a market economy, but he thought that they were necessary after a 13% rise in first quarter imports which boosted the balance of payments deficit. (Keith Bush) CIVILIAN OUTPUT AT DEFENSE INDUSTRY PLANTS. Only 20% of the Russian defense industry's capacity is now engaged in manufacturing military hardware, while 80% is devoted to civilian output. That was the burden of a briefing given to Russian President Boris Yeltsin by representatives of the defense industry, as reported by ITAR-TASS on 13 May. (It is worth noting, though, that the output in the defense complex has plummeted in the last two years and very little conversion of defense production has taken place. The vast majority of weapon and military component production lines remain intact.) They said that 6.5 million people are currently employed by Russian defense plants. Yeltsin was quoted as repeating that arms exports should be one of the principal ways of "resolving problems" in the defense industry. (Keith Bush) NEW CURRENCIES SOON IN UKRAINE AND BELARUS? Ukrainian Prime Minister Vitold Fokin told the Ukrainian parliament on 12 May that "we have to leave the ruble zone as quickly as possible," Reuters reported on 13 May. Fokin predicted that an interim currency would be in circulation by the end of June--apparently referring to an extension in the use of the present coupon system. (Ukraine has agreements with both Canadian and Italian firms to assist in the printing and minting of currency, but it is not clear when the coupons will be replaced by the hryvna.) Reuters of 12 May quoted local journalists in Minsk to the effect that Belarus plans to introduce its own ruble from July 1 to supplement the Russian ruble. (Keith Bush) UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT ANNULS CRIMEAN INDEPENDENCE. The Ukrainian parliament on 13 May passed a resolution annulling the Crimea's recent declaration of independence, Radio Ukraine, ITAR-TASS, and Western agencies reported. The Ukrainian lawmakers ruled that the declaration and the referendum scheduled for 2 August are unconstitutional and gave the Crimean parliament until 20 May to rescind its decisions. The resolution was adopted by a large majority. During the discussion, deputies demanded that the Crimean parliament be dissolved, direct presidential rule be introduced in the Crimea, and that the chairman of the Crimean parliament, Nikolai Bagrov, be held criminally responsible. Kravchuk, who addressed the Ukrainian parliament, insisted that he would never allow the territorial integrity of Ukraine to be violated. (Roman Solchanyk) ARMY CHAPLAINS IN UKRAINE. Radio Ukraine on 13 May reported that the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense has asked the Kiev patriarchate of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Church to prepare the first group of priests to serve the spiritual needs of the military. The organization of chaplains has already been approved by Patriarch Mstyslav. The chaplains will be trained, among other places, in the Kiev Theological Seminary scheduled to open on 1 September. (Roman Solchanyk) POLISH NEWSPAPER IN KIEV. Kurier Wilenski on 1 May reported that the first Polish-language newspaper in Kiev, Dziennik Kijowski, began publication in March. After Lviv's Gazeta Lwowska, this is the second Polish publication in Ukraine. Dziennik Kijowski in fact renewed publication; it was published in Kiev in 1906-1918. The publisher is the Union of Poles in Ukraine. (Roman Solchanyk) MAMEDOV GIVES INTERVIEW, APPEALS TO UN. In an interview with Reuters on 13 May, acting Azerbaijani President Yagub Mamedov said he would not resign in the wake of the Armenian capture of the Karabakh town of Shusha, and that although Azerbaijan would prefer a peaceful settlement to the Karabakh conflict, it is prepared to use force to retake Shusha if necessary. Mamedov further said that he opposes holding presidential elections (scheduled for 7 June). In an appeal to the UN, Mamedov called for a Security Council debate on Armenia's "aggression," and for the UN to use its influence to bring about a cease-fire. Speaking at a press conference on 13 May, Armenia's Ambassador to the UN argued that the UN should open a "humanitarian corridor" linking Armenia with Nagorno-Karabakh to overcome the Azerbaijani blockade, and should deploy peacekeeping troops in Nagorno-Karabakh. (Liz Fuller) SHEVARDNADZE VISITS TSKHINVALI FOLLOWING RENEWED FIGHTING. Georgian State Council chairman Eduard Shevardnadze travelled to the South Ossetian capital Tskhinvali on 13 May following several days' renewed fighting between Georgians and Ossetians in which at least 40 people died, Interfax reported. A South Ossetian official told ITAR-TASS on 12 may that renewed artillery bombardments of Tskhinvali by Georgian forces were an attempt to sabotage upcoming tripartite peace talks between North and South Ossetia and Georgia. (Liz Fuller) BORDER TROOPS MEET WITH AFGHANS. Officers of the Central Asian Border Guard District met with representatives of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's party on 12 May to ask for the return of a group of young people who had slipped across the Tajik-Afghan border into Afghanistan, supposedly in order to obtain weapons, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 May. The Afghan side replied that the young people could be returned only if the political party which sent them requested their return. The report did not specify which party had sent them. Democratic Party chairman Shodmon Yusuf said during the recent disturbances that Tajiks had the right to ask Afghanistan for help if necessary. (Bess Brown) RETURN OF THE PAST? On 12 May, Russian TV's "Vesti" reported that Ilichev Raion in Uzbekistan's Syrdarya Oblast is to be renamed for former Uzbek Communist Party chief Sharaf Rashidov, if Uzbekistan's legislature approves. After Rashidov's death in 1983, details of widespread corruption during his rule were made public. In recent years, Rashidov has been seen in Uzbekistan as a leader who looked after the interests of his republic. He is not the only Brezhnev-era Central Asian leader to be making a comeback (posthumous, in Rashidov's case): Komsomolskaya pravda of 28 April noted that the discredited former Communist Party chief of Kyrgyzstan, Turdakun Usubaliev, has registered as a candidate in upcoming elections to the Kyrgyz legislature. (Bess Brown) MOLDOVA DEMANDS WITHDRAWAL OF RUSSIAN TROOPS. In a cable to Russian president Boris Yeltsin, carried by the Moldovan media on 11 xMay, Moldovan president Mirca Snegur demanded "in the name of the Moldovan people the immediate withdrawal of [Russia's] Fourteenth Army from the territory of independent Moldova." Snegur cited that army's role in arming, training, and staffing the Russian paramilitary forces engaged in the insurgency in eastern Moldova. The Moldovan leaders' previous messages to their Russian counterparts on the subject of the Fourteenth Army have mostly gone unanswered. (Vladimir Socor) MOLDOVA RENEWS INVITATION FOR HUMAN RIGHTS INSPECTION. In an interview with Western news agencies, carried also by Moldovapres on 11 May, Snegur again appealed to international organizations and human rights watch groups to send fact finding teams to Moldova and ascertain the situation of human and ethnic rights there. Moldova has repeatedly issued such invitations but they have usually gone unheeded. The few inspections that have been conducted (by a Russian parliamentary commission and by the International Helsinki Federation, both in 1991) have given Moldova a clean bill of health but have failed to issue any formal or comprehensive reports. (Vladimir Socor) CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE BOSNIA UPDATE. Radios Sarajevo and Serbia report on 14 and 15 May that the five-day cease-fire announced by Bosnia's Serb leadership for 13 May is largely holding, with only minor violations. Late on the 14th some shelling was reported around Sarajevo airport and two other outlying areas of the Bosnian capital. Politika (Belgrade) wrote on 13 May that the clashes between Bosnia Muslims and Croatian paramilitary units in central Bosnia on 10 May were over "the division of spoils" of the equipment and arms left behind by withdrawing units of the federal army. On 13 May the Bosnian deputy prime minister held a news conference in Turkey's parliament building, where he appealed for an immediate international military intervention to put an end to the "massacre of Muslims" in Bosnia. The Islamic center in Zagreb reported on 14 May that Serbian paramilitary units massacred some 500 Muslims in a stadium in northern Bosnia. Radio Croatia carried the report. (Milan Andrejevich) UN REDUCES STAFF IN SARAJEVO. In a report to the UN Security Council, Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali said he is ruling out a peacekeeping force in Bosnia and urged the temporary withdrawal of 200 of its 300-member staff at the UN peacekeeping headquarters in Sarajevo. He added that the 10,000-member force in Croatia is in jeopardy because of new disputes involving the Croatian government and the Serbian minority. (Milan Andrejevich) NEW BOSNIAN SERB GOVERNMENT. On 12 May the assembly of the "Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina," meeting in Banja Luka, announced the appointment of a government and a three-member presidency and established an army commanded by Gen. Ratko Mladic. The assembly stated that multiparty elections for the Bosnian Serb parliament and presidency would be held as soon as the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina is concluded. The assembly also appointed a commission to draw up the borders of the Serbian republic and adopted guidelines for talks with the leaders of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. On 13 May the Bosnian Serb Presidency told reporters that attempts to establish contacts with Bosnia's republican President Alija Izetbegovic have been unsuccessful. The Serbs want to establish a permanent cease-fire with the Muslims, and want to take part in the negotiations over the terms of the withdrawal of the federal army from Bosnia-Herzegovina. Radio Serbia carried the reports. (Milan Andrejevich) POLISH MERCENARIES IN YUGOSLAVIA. On 12 May Polish military prosecutors in Krakow began investigating reports that young Poles are being recruited as mercenaries to fight in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia. On 12 May Gazeta wyborcza reproduced a recruitment poster that has appeared in recent days. Krakow military prosecutor, Lt. Col. Stanislaw Wolicki, said it is still difficult to asses the scale of recruiting but that an investigation is being carried out. Responding to unconfirmed reports that 100-150 Poles have already been recruited to fight on behalf of Croatia, ombudsman Tadeusz Zielinski called for an investigation, as Polish law forbids citizens to serve in foreign armies. (Wladyslaw Minkiewicz) HUNGARIAN SPIED FOR YUGOSLAVIA. On 13 May the Budapest Military Court sentenced Rudolf Szanto, a Hungarian air force ensign, to 12 years in prison for spying for the former Yugoslavia, MTI and Western news agencies report. Szanto is accused of providing secret information to Yugoslav military intelligence about Hungarian and Soviet military units from 1979 until his arrest in January 1991. Szanto's lawyer said that his client has admitted passing information about Soviet troop movement and deployment in Hungary to Yugoslav agents, but said that he will appeal the sentence because the court failed to take changed circumstances into account. In an interview to Radio Budapest, Szanto denied that he was a spy and said that the information he passed on was not secret. (Edith Oltay) ELECTION CAMPAIGN BEGINS IN CZECHOSLOVAKIA. The 23-day general election campaign officially began in Czechoslovakia on 13 May. President Vaclav Havel said that the country is at a historic crossroads and warned that nationalist ambitions could split the country. The main issue in the elections are Slovak demands for sovereignty. Forty-two political parties are competing in the 5-6 June vote for 300 seats in the bicameral federal parliament, and 200 in the Czech and 150 in the Slovak regional parliaments. The new federal parliament, sitting for four years, elects the president and appoints federal government. Slovakia's leading party, the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), favors sovereignty and a new constitution. Leading in the Czech lands is the right-wing Civil Democratic Party, Western agencies report. (Barbara Kroulik) MITTERRAND IN VILNIUS. On 13 May French President Frans Mitterrand arrived in Vilnius and drove to the Antakalnis Cemetery to place a wreath at the graves of the Lithuanians killed in the attack of the Vilnius TV tower on 13 January 1991. He held talks with Lithuanian Supreme Council Chairman Vytautas Landsbergis for an hour while Foreign Minister Roland Dumas talked with his Lithuanian counterpart Algirdas Saudargas, Trade and Industry Minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn with Lithuanian International Economic Relations Minister Vytenis Aleskaitis, and a state secretary for defense with Lithuanian National Defense Minister Audrius Butkevicius. On 14 May Mitterrand met Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius and spoke at the parliament session broadcast live by Radio Lithuania. (Saulius Girnius) ESTONIA TIES KROON TO DM. Estonia will link the value of its new currency to the Deutsche Mark, BNS reported on 13 May. Estonian Bank President Siim Kallas told reporters that when he was in Frankfurt on an unofficial visit last week Deutsche Bundesbank officials approved a plan by which the kroon will match the value of the DM--by 0.3%. Kallas also said Estonia's stabilization fund for the kroon now holds some $120 million. (Riina Kionka) ESTONIAN CONSTITUTION ONE STEP CLOSER. The Supreme Council on 13 May passed enabling legislation for the constitution, the RFE/RL Estonian Service reports. The new law differs on two points from the draft passed by the Constituent Assembly. First, the new law says parliamentary elections must be held before 28 September 1992 (rather than linking elections to the constitutional referendum). Second, the new law puts the question of widening the franchise directly on the referendum ballot (rather than retaining it in the text of the enabling legislation). Because the Supreme Council retains authority to decide both how the franchise question will be put to the voters and who may vote in the constitutional referendum, the electorate problem is likely to come up again. (Riina Kionka) WALESA DEMANDS ANTICRIME MEASURES. On 13 May President Lech Walesa called for consistent measures against growing crime in Poland, Western and Polish media report. Walesa told Interior Minister Antoni Macierewicz to take steps aimed at ensuring "maximum security" for the population, especially in view of recent rash of violence, even banditry. The president said that in particular it is necessary to monitor the possession of firearms. (Wladyslaw Minkiewicz) POLISH OMBUDSMAN DEFENDS RIGHT TO ABORTION. On 13 May Ombudsman Tadeusz Zielinski vowed to defend the legal right of women to an abortion. Referring to a new code of ethics for physicians that imposes a near-total ban on abortions and which went into effect last week, Zielinski said "ethical norms cannot replace law." The new code allows a doctor to perform an abortion only if pregnancy threatens a mother's life or is the result of rape or incest. Western media report that Zielinski has previously said the doctor's code has no legal basis and urged physicians to ignore it. In January he asked the Constitutional Tribunal to rule on its legality. Zielinski told newsmen at a press conference in Warsaw that he has already asked state prosecutors to investigate a Warsaw hospital that turned away a woman seeking an abortion. (Wladyslaw Minkiewicz) ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS POURING INTO BULGARIA. On 13 May a spokesman for the border police told Reuters that the number of people trying to cross Bulgaria's borders has risen ten-fold since 1990. He said border police managed to catch 3,000 illegal immigrants in 1991 and 700 in the first four months of this year. They were then transported to a camp near Sofia. The majority were trying to reach West European countries. Currently most fugitives originate in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Iraq, and Iran, but the police fear an influx from the former USSR and Yugoslavia. (Kjell Engelbrekt) ROMANIAN FINANCIAL BRIEFS. A spokesman from the Ministry of Industry announced on 13 May that Romania will cease its contributions (amounting to some 782 million rubles) for cofinancing the metallurgical plant at Kryvoi Rog, Ukraine; no reason was given. Back from Washington on 12 May, Economy and Finance Minister George Danielescu said he negotiated a $400 million loan from the World Bank for restructuring the economy that he expects to be ratified at the end of May. He also negotiated a $100 million loan for the privatization of agriculture as well as a guarantee agreement for financing US investments. ExImBank will process a $100-million Japanese loan to finance Romanian exports. Industry Minister Dan Constantinescu said on 8 May that he discussed contracts worth $60 million in Argentina, Brazil, and Venezuela. Local media carried the stories. (Mihai Sturdza) ROMANIAN BANK OFFERS REGISTERED SHARES. During a 12 May press conference attended by the prime minister and other government figures, the mayor of Bucharest, opposition leaders, and parliamentarians, Mircea Teodor Vaida, president of the Romanian Bank, said that the bank is selling 100,000 registered shares at 20,000 lei each. Public subscription will be open until 15 October. Dividends will be paid according to profits and the number of shares held, local sources report. (Mihai Sturdza) CZECHOSLOVAKIA'S TEMELIN NUCLEAR POWER PLANT. Czech Premier Petr Pithart told reporters on 13 May that the future of the Temelin plant in Southern Bohemia is "more open than ever before" and that his government does not want to shift responsibility to a future government. Temelin was to have been completed by 1992 with four Soviet-made reactors. In 1990 it was decided that only the first two units would be completed. Pithart expects a decision on Temelin to be reached by the end of May. Temelin's proximity to the Austrian border has prompted Austrian fears about safety. Czech Deputy Premier Jan Strasky said that the US Westinghouse corporation and the Swedish-Swiss ABB have been identified as prospective partners if it is decided to complete the plant. (Barbara Kroulik) GORBUNOVS REQUESTS US HELP IN WITHDRAWAL OF TROOPS. Addressing the Hoover Institution on 13 May, Latvian Supreme Council Chairman Anatolijs Gorbunovs urged the United States to help facilitate the withdrawal of ex-USSR troops from his country by sending neutral observers to the Baltic States to oversee the troop pullout and to monitor bilateral talks with Russia. Moscow still has not set a timetable for the withdrawal. Gorbunovs also observed: "If one country, Russia, attempts to dictate and control policy for the others, and if the West devotes all its energies and support to one country, the result will not be order, but conflict and chaos. It may seem easier for Western countries to focus all their energies on only one country, but the easiest path is not always the correct path," Western agencies reported on 13 May. (Dzintra Bungs) RUSSIA CONFUSED ON WITHDRAWALS? In his remarks to a Russian parliamentary hearing on 12 May, a high CIS defense official said the Northwest Group of Forces (NWGF) would leave the Baltic States by 1995. Lt. Gen. Viktor Barynkin, deputy chief of operations for the CIS High Command, told BNS that day that the NWGF would begin the pullout in 1993 and finish two years later. Last week Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Fedor Shelov-Kovedyaev told Baltic officials that troops could not be withdrawn before 1998, and last month at the CSCE, the delegation from Russia proposed a pullout date of 2000. (Riina Kionka) RUSSIA DENIES BALTIC ACCUSATIONS OF BREAKING SANCTIONS AGAINST LIBYA. The Russian Foreign Ministry denied Baltic reports that Russia is violating UN Security Council sanctions against Libya, though it admitted that some military hardware and technical equipment belonging to Libya were found in ex-Soviet repair bases in the Baltics, ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported on 13 May. In April the Latvian Foreign Ministry complained that a Libyan submarine was being repaired at the ex-Soviet naval base in Bolderaja. Western agencies also report that since August 1991 10 MI-8 helicopters belonging to Libya were located at a repair facility near Kaunas, Lithuania. The Russian Foreign Ministry said the submarine and the helicopters would not be returned to Libya while the UN sanctions are in force. (Dzintra Bungs) VAHI BACK FROM CHINA. Estonia's Prime Minister Tiit Vahi concluded his four-day official visit to Beijing on 13 May by signing a trade and economic accord, BNS reports. The agreement includes provisions for mutual most-favored-nation trading status. Chinese media cited by Western agencies also report the two sides reached agreement for the PRC to provide Estonia with commercial loans. (Riina Kionka) POLAND OPENS CONSULATE IN HONG KONG. Speaking at a celebratory lunch on 13 May, Minister of Foreign Economic Cooperation Adam Glapinski said he hopes to tap Hong Kong's skills in export manufacturing and free-market economics: "For Poland Hong Kong is a symbol of free enterprise and the free market." Hong Kong exports to Poland last year stood at US$180 million, a little higher than to all the former Soviet republics combined, Reuters reports. (Wladyslaw Minkiewicz) [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by John Tedstrom & 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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