|If you wish to live wisely, ignore sayings--including this one. - Heywood Broun|
No. 93, 15 May 1992
SUCCESSOR STATES TO THE USSR TASHKENT SUMMIT OPENS. The CIS heads of state summit opened in Tashkent on 15 May with Kazakhstan president Nursultan Nazarbaev in the chair, ITAR-TASS reported. Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Belorussia, and Armenia are represented by their heads of state, the other five states by their premiers. Tengiz Sigua, a member of the presidium of the Georgian State Council, is attending as an observer. Interviewed before the start of the meeting, Yeltsin said that he would insist on the signing of a treaty on collective security. Ukrainian premier Vitold Fokin said he thought the agenda was too full and there were no easy topics. In his view, discussion of the financial collapse of the CIS should have priority. He said that whether or not Ukraine would sign a collective security treaty would be decided in the course of the discussions. (Ann Sheehy) CRISIS IN AZERBAIJAN. The Azerbaijani Popular Front took control of Baku airport on 15 May to prevent recently reinstated president Ayaz Mutalibov from flying to Tashkent for the CIS summit, Western sources and Radio Liberty reported. Over 50,000 people rallied outside the Azerbaijan Populart Front headquarters in Baku. Popular Front leaders have issued an ultimatum to Mutalibov to resign by this evening. Nakhichevan parliament chairman Geidar Aliev has issued a statement condemning Mutalibov's reinstatement as illegal and calling on the Popular Front to cooperate in establishing a lawful leadership in Azerbaijan. (See below for background on the political situation in Azerbaijan.) (Elizabeth Carlson) KOMSOMOLSKAYA PRAVDA PESSIMISTIC ON OUTCOME. In a commentary on the summit, Komsomolskaya pravda of 15 May noted that the meeting of the CIS defense ministers on the eve of the summit had failed to reach agreement on two major issues, namely a single defense budget for the joint armed forces and reducing the armed forces of the former USSR, ITAR-TASS reported. The newspaper was pessimistic about the possibility of agreement on other matters too, but stated that the CIS would not collapse for the time being because all the property of the former USSR had not yet been divided up. (Ann Sheehy) FATE OF CONGRESS TO BE DECIDED. The speaker of the Russian parliament Ruslan Khasbulatov has said that the dissolution of the Congress should not be decided by a referendum, according to ITAR-TASS on 14 May. He added that the Congress has "in principle" adopted the draft of the new constitution which does not foresee its preservation. Meanwhile the Russian Movement for Democratic Reform and the movement "Democratic Russia" have called upon Russian President Boris Yeltsin to bring into parliament an amendment to the present law on the referendum which would allow him to conduct plebiscites on his personal initiative. According to recent opinion polls, over 50% of Russians would today participate in a referendum. (Alexander Rahr) REFERENDUM ON LAND OWNERSHIP PLANNED. According to Izvestiya of 13 May, President Boris Yeltsin has "almost definitely decided" to hold a referendum not only on a new Russian constitution but also on the issue of land ownership. The Russian parliament approved private ownership of land last year but hedged it with so many restrictions regarding resale that all possibility of the development of a market in land was precluded. This is hindering progress of the reform process in agriculture. (Elizabeth Teague) ANOTHER NEW BUSINESS PARTY? Izvestiya of 13 May also reported that Konstantin Borovoi, who in 1990 founded the Moscow-based Russian Commodities and Raw Materials Exchange, plans to devote all his energy in coming months to the creation of a new "businessmen's party"--the Party of Economic Freedom. Borovoi said several financial groups have expressed interest such a party and offered to put up 80 million rubles for its creation but a further 150 to 200 million rubles will still be needed. (Elizabeth Teague) NEW PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SECRETARY. Vyacheslav Kostikov is to be Boris Yeltsin's new press secretary, Interfax reported on 13 May, replacing Pavel Voshchanov, who returned to journalism earlier this year. Born in 1940, Kostikov graduated from the journalism faculty of Moscow State University and worked for many years as a political commentator for "Novosti." His writing was distinguished by several rather liberal statements. In August 1980, for example, he said the lesson of the current topics of popular attention--the Olympic Games and the Helsinki process--was that "You must trust the other side if you want them to trust you." In a 1989 article for Ogonek, Kostikov was highly critical of press censorship as practised by Lenin and the Bolsheviks. (Elizabeth Teague) RUSSIAN KGB CONTINUES TO RELY ON SECRET INFORMERS. The spokesman of the KGB successor organization--the Russian Ministry of Security--Andrei Chernenko, said that his agency will continue to rely on its network of secret informers inside the country, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 May. He asserted that when the media attacks on the agency started, many secret informers rejected further cooperation. He added that now these "destructive processes" have been stopped and the secret agents have resumed their work. He denied that the agency continues spying on dissidents. Chernenko rejected demands from the Baltic states to reveal the KGB's former network on their territory. (Alexander Rahr) NEW PARLIAMENTARY GROUP SET UP. The creation of a new parliamentary faction called "Reform" (Reforma) was announced on 14 May, ITAR-TASS reported. The new faction unites representatives of various Russian political parties who are Russian people's deputies and members of other parliamentary groups. Members of "Reform" come from the Democratic Russia movement, Social Democratic and Republican Parties and the parliamentary group of Radical Democrats. The announced aim of the "Reform" faction is to cooperate with the Russian government in finding new ways of implementing and broadening economic reforms. ITAR-TASS quoted one of the organizers of the group, people's deputy Viktor Sheinis, as saying the new faction supports the current economic reforms in general, but believes there is a necessity to modify some aspects of them. (Vera Tolz) ZHIRINOVSKY IN BELGOROD. The ultra-nationalist leader of the Liberal-Democratic Party Vladimir Zhirinovsky told a crowd of 2,000 people who gathered to meet him in Belgorod that he wants to collect the needed one million signatures in the population in order to conduct a referendum for the ouster of Russian President Boris Yeltsin, Radio Rossii reported on 14 May. Zhirinovsky said that in the new presidential elections, 60 Million Russians will vote for him. He welcomed Yeltsin's plea for a strong presidential republic but criticized his economic reform program. He stated that if he comes to power he will immediately execute ten of the most corrupt businessmen. (Alexander Rahr) TATARSTAN PREMIER ON WORLD CONGRESS OF TATARS. In an appeal to the peoples of Tatarstan, the CIS, and the world in connection with the World Congress of Tatars to be held in Kazan on 19-21 June, Tatarstan premier Mukhammat Sabirov stressed the importance of the conference in view of the fact that Tatars are scattered throughout the world. Sabirov noted that the holding of the conference was expensive and appealed for assistance to all those related by blood and faith and who were not indifferent to the future of the land of their ancestors. (Ann Sheehy) PACIFIC FLEET AMMO DUMP EXPLODES. ITAR-TASS on 14 May reported that a "mighty explosion" in an ammunition dump of the CIS Navy's Pacific Fleet had rocked the Far Eastern city of Vladivostok. Russian and Western agencies reported that local residents had been advised to evacuate the area--said to be some 10 kilometers from the center of the city-- while explosions and fires were said to be continuing more than 12 hours after the original blast. ITAR-TASS on 15 May carried an interview with Major General Boris Lupko, a navy prosecutor, who said that sabotage might have been involved. Lupko reported that four servicemen had been injured fighting the fires and another four were still missing. According to the agency, Navy commander in chief Admiral Vladimir Chernavin broke off a tour of the Kamchatka region to visit the scene. (Doug Clarke) DRAFT LAW ON RUSSIAN MONETARY SYSTEM. On 13 May ITAR-TASS reported that a Law on the Monetary System of the Russian Federation had passed its first reading in parliament. The report suggests that the law will set the legal framework for the monetary system after the ruble is made internally convertible. It specifies that the ruble will be the only legal tender on Russian territory, that the general circulation of other currencies is forbidden, that there is no connection between the currency and gold, and that the Russian central bank has the monopoly of currency emission. By implication, the policymakers have ruled out a gold standard, a currency board and the parallel use of (e.g.) dollars. (Philip Hanson) AZERBAIJANI PARLIAMENT REINSTATES MUTALIBOV AS PRESIDENT . . . At an extraordinary session of the Azerbaijani parliament on 14 May, 240 of the 300 deputies voted to restore Ayaz Mutalibov to the post of president from which he had been removed on 6 March. Opposition deputies from the Democratic Azerbaijan bloc boycotted the session, and called for a campaign of civil disobedience to protest Mutalibov's reinstatement, which they termed "a constitutional coup." Yagub Mamedov, the former Baku Medical Institute rector who served as acting president following Mutalibov's ouster, was blamed by deputies for the capture of Shusha, the last Azerbaijani town within Nagorno-Karabakh, by Armenian forces on 9-10 May; Mamedov will, however, continue to hold the post of parliament chairman, Western agencies reported. (Liz Fuller) PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS CANCELLED; MUTALIBOV DECLARES STATE OF EMERGENCY. The Azerbaijani parliament also cancelled the presidential elections scheduled for 7 June in which Azerbaijan Popular Front candidate Abulfaz El'chibey was clear favorite, and voted to disband the National Council, a 50-man body set up last October at the insistence of the opposition, on which conservative and opposition deputies were equally represented. Mutalibov further declared a state of emergency in Baku for an initial period of two months that comprises the suspension of the activities of all political parties, a nightly curfew, and a ban on political meetings and strikes, ITAR-TASS reported. Mutalibov was quoted by the Turan news agency as affirming that all Azerbaijani lands lost to Armenia would be retaken, and that he would not hesitate to set up " a dictatorship" in order to reestablish order within the country. (Liz Fuller) CEASE-FIRE AGREED IN SOUTH OSSETIA. Following talks on 13 May between Georgian State Council chairman Eduard Shevardnadze and South Ossetian parliament chairman Torez Kulumbegov a cease-fire went into force at noon local time on 14 May, ITAR-TASS reported. Agreement was also reached on lifting the transport and economic blockade of Tskhinvali and creating conditions for refugees from the past two years' fighting to return home. Further talks between Georgian and South Ossetian officials were continuing on 14 May. (Liz Fuller) COALITION GOVERNMENT MEETS IN TAJIKISTAN. The first meeting of the Tajik coalition government was held on 14 May, newly-appointed Deputy Premier Dovlat Usmon, a member of the Islamic Renaissance Party, told ITAR-TASS. He promised that the meeting would be shown on local television later in the day. Central TV's "Novosti" commented that opposition demonstrators have agreed to end their two-month-long demonstration, but say that they still distrust Tajik president Rakhman Nabiev, who retains his job under the agreement reached by the government and opposition leaders. The Presidential Palace, seized last week by the opposition, has been handed over to the ministry of internal affairs, which is headed by an opposition sympathizer. (Bess Brown) ETHNIC ELEMENTS IN TAJIKISTAN'S TROUBLES. The midnight (15 May) installment of Central TV's "Novosti" reported having learned that the former chairman of Tajikistan's Supreme Soviet, Safarali Kenzhaev, has fled to Uzbekistan and three other officials who lost their jobs as part of the government's concessions to the opposition have taken refuge in Khuzhand, the capital of northern Tajikistan's Leninabad Oblast. Their action lends credence to suggestions that there has been an ethnic element in the recent disturbances in Tajikistan: Leninabad has a large Uzbek population, and Tajiks in the south often claim that many Tajiks from Leninabad, including President Nabiev, are actually Uzbeks. Significantly, Leninabad officials threatened earlier in the week to detach the oblast from Tajikistan and join it to Uzbekistan. (Bess Brown) AKAEV IN CHINA. Kyrgyz president Askar Akaev, on a five-day official visit to China that precludes his participation in the CIS summit in Tashkent, has signed an agreement with his hosts that will provide credits to Kyrgyzstan to buy food and consumer goods, Western agencies reported on 14 May. (Bess Brown) CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE BOSNIA FIGHTING UPDATE. Radio Croatia reports at dawn on 15 May that Sarajevo spent a relatively calm night after a day of heavy shelling and street combat described as the most violent to date. Radio Sarajevo said 15 people may have been killed. Two cease-fires were arranged by UNPROFOR officials stationed in Sarajevo, and both were broken on 14 May. The UN said that the Bosnian Muslims broke the first when they attacked a Serb position near the airport in an attempt to break out of a Serb encirclement of the city; this provoked further heavy shelling of Sarajevo by the federal army. UNPROFOR headquarters was hit and the villa housing UNPROFOR commander Gen. Satish Nambiar also came under fire. (Milan Andrejevich) UN TO DISCUSS RESOLUTION ON BOSNIA. The UN Security Council meets today to consider a resolution calling for the immediate end of all outside interference in Bosnia-Herzegovina, either through the withdrawal of the Yugoslav and Croatian armies from Bosnia-Herzegovina or by subjecting them to the republic's government under effective international monitoring. (Milan Andrejevich) SERBS TO RETURN SEIZED TERRITORY? Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic told Radio Serbia on 14 May that the Serbs are willing to discuss giving back some areas to the Muslims and Croats seized by Serb militia and federal army. He said the actions were taken to "liberate villages where the Serb population is a minority . . . but we have no intention of keeping Muslim and Croat towns." If Karadzic is sincere, can he persuade the Serb militia? He also called on the EC to resume its sponsorship of negotiations between Bosnia's Muslims, Serbs, and Croats over the reorganization of the republic. (Milan Andrejevich) SLOVENIA'S NEW GOVERNMENT CONFIRMED. The new coalition government of Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek was confirmed on 14 May by Slovenia's national assembly. The cabinet is made up of members of six moderate and left-wing parties. Twelve of the 27 ministers were retained from the former moderate-right coalition government of Lojze Peterle. Drnovsek told the national assembly that his government's priority is to rebuild the economy and reestablish trade links with the former Yugoslav republics. He said new elections should take place in the fall. (Milan Andrejevich) BULGARIAN MINISTER OF INDUSTRY AND TRADE STEPS DOWN. Having lost a vote of confidence in the UDF parliamentary faction, Ivan Pushkarov, Bulgaria's minister of industry and trade announced on 14 May he will resign, Reuters reports. Pushkarov headed the country's major economic ministry for a year and a half, carrying out several important reforms, such as an ambitious demonopolization program. Although his overall performance is viewed favorably, Pushkarov has lately came under pressure to step down, especially from the free market-oriented Podkrepa trade union. (Kjell Engelbrekt) MECIAR ON THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. Vladimir Meciar, chairman of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), Slovakia's strongest party, said his party would not enter the federal government if "all questions of Slovakia's economic and social development and of state setup are not answered," after the June 1992 elections. Meciar added his party would not support the federal cabinet if the posts of interior minister and deputy minister continue to be held by Jan Langos and Jan Ruml. Asked whether he would accept a federal government post, Meciar said "by no means would I go to Prague," CSTK reported on 13 May. (Peter Matuska) WALESA WANTS TO TIGHTEN GUN LAW . . . Following an incident on 12 May in which three car thieves killed a taxi driver and wounded four other people, including two policemen, President Lech Walesa has called for tighter controls on firearms. According to Western and Polish media, he told Interior Minister Antoni Macierewicz that more effective measures must be taken to protect society. Saying that Poland must find out where the arms are coming from, he added "if it is from the (former) Soviet army, the matter must be taken up at the highest level." Interior Ministry spokesman Tomasz Tywonek said most of the unauthorized weapons in Poland came from the former Soviet army which still has an estimated 40,000 troops stationed in the country. On 14 May the police announced they had arrested three suspects, armed with Kalashnikov rifles, in the taxi driver shooting. (Wladyslaw Minkiewicz) . . . MEETS OLSZEWSKI, GOES TO EGYPT. On 14 May the Polish president met with Premier Jan Olszewski to discuss a range of pressing matters. An interim "small constitution" might help creating an efficient legal system, he said, also emphasizing the need for constant cooperation between the president and the government in order to avoid possible misunderstandings slowing down the reform process. Walesa begins an official three-day visit to Egypt on 15 May. He will hold talks with President Hosni Mubarak and Prime Minister Atef Sedky. He will also visit the Egyptian Parliament and the secretariat of the Arab League, PAP reports. (Wladyslaw Minkiewicz) MITTERRAND IN VILNIUS, TALLINN. On 14 May French President Frans Mitterrand told the Lithuanian parliament that the continued presence of former USSR troops in the Baltic States as "abnormal and shocking," noting "It is not natural if Lithuania cannot use its own territory the way it wants, and that Lithuania should keep the Soviet Army longer than it likes." He said that the withdrawal should be agreed through "friendly negotiations" and that the CSCE should be pressed to intervene on the Balts' behalf. He and Lithuanian parliament chairman Vytautas Landsbergis signed a friendship and cooperation treaty, but he stopped short of promising French financial support, expressing hope that the EC would help. That evening at a dinner in Tallinn with Arnold Ruutel, chairman of the Estonian Supreme Council, Mitterrand called for a strengthened CSCE process, saying "more has to be done to reinforce the international order, the principles and mechanisms [of the CSCE]." Mitterrand specifically called for stronger arbitration and crisis resolution mechanisms in order to establish "a real code of conduct." (Saulius Girnius & Riina Kionka) LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT REFUSES TO COMBINE REFERENDUM DAYS. After Mitterrand's speech, the parliament fruitlessly discussed the upcoming referendums. A proposal that the referendums scheduled for 23 May and 14 June be held on 7 June was not approved. A compromise proposal that voters in the referendum on the president should choose either the Sajudis-backed proposal or the one made by the parliament commission on the new constitution was also not accepted. Sajudis announced that it would hold a rally on 17 May to protest the parliament's inability to make needed decisions. (Saulius Girnius) HUNGARIAN STATE DEBT. Data released by the State Audit Office on 14 May indicate that Hungary's domestic state debt currently amounts to 1,750 billion forint, MTI reports. Audit Office head Istvan Hagelmayer says that although the state began to run into debt in 1968, indebtedness only began taking on significant proportions in 1973. Most of the debt resulted from decisions by the government and party apparatus, and the debt burden was significantly increased through large investments such as the building of the Jamburg pipeline and the Gabcikovo-Nagymaros dam project--the latter costing some 120 billion forint. Hagelmayer warns that the annual interest charges are increasingly burdening the budget, and that only economic growth can offer relief. (Edith Oltay) CZECHOSLOVAKIA TO CONTINUE DAM CONSTRUCTION. In an interview with CSTK on 14 May, Slovak Prime Minister Jan Carnogursky said construction would continue on the controversial Gabcikovo dam despite Hungary's unilateral withdrawal from the joint project in 1989 and the country's warning that it plans to cancel the 1977 interstate treaty. Carnogursky said that continued work at Gabcikovo should not concern Hungary and assured his country was always ready for talks to resolve the problem. He concluded that the only way for the dam not to go into service would be if a second commission of experts supports an EC opinion that the dam should not be put into operation. (Peter Matuska) BANKRUPTCY LAW DOOMS HUNGARIAN COMPANIES. Deputy State Secretary in the Ministry of Industry and Trade, Balazs Botos, says that 102 state-owned companies have gone bankrupt since a new bankruptcy law came into effect on 1 January, MTI and Western news agencies report. He says that as many as 30% of the state-owned companies under the ministry's jurisdiction may file for bankruptcy protection by the end of the year. These companies account for about 33% of the industrial production and employ some 130,000 people. Botos criticized the new law for its failure to distinguish between bankruptcies due to bad management and those brought about by huge outstanding claims. He also announced that the ministry has set up committees to predict new bankruptcies and work out crisis-handling programs for companies near bankruptcy. (Edith Oltay) UNEMPLOYMENT IN CZECHOSLOVAKIA. Federal Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Petr Miller said the steep rise in unemployment--by almost 450,000 people--in 1991 was caused by privatization of industries and by the fact that a large number of people born in the 1970s achieved working age, CSTK reported on 13 May. Miller expressed concern about the economic situation facing the additional 400,000 people who are not working but who are not registered as unemployed. Miller quoted his ministry's report saying that "our researchers fear some of the people might form the nucleus of a certain kind of mafias--a new situation for Czechoslovakia." (Peter Matuska) MORE JOBLESS IN ESTONIA. Unemployment continues to climb steadily in Estonia. According to Rahva Haal on 14 May, 3,800 people were registered as jobless by the beginning of the month. Most are in Narva (1050) and Kohtla-Jarve (860). Unemployed persons receive benefits of 1000 rubles/month for six months if they have not been given appropriate jobs. (Riina Kionka) RUSSIA TO RETURN MILLIONS TO ESTONIA. Russia will return some $14.5 million deposited in the Soviet Foreign Trade Bank, BNS reported on 13 May. The agreement came after a meeting between Estonian Bank President Siim Kallas and Russian Central Bank President Georgii Matyukhin that day in Moscow. (Riina Kionka) TALKS ABOUT ROMANIA'S ETHNIC GERMANS, . . . A German-Romanian government commission is meeting in Bonn from 13 to 15 May to discuss Bonn's proposals concerning the welfare of the 100,000 ethnic Germans living in Romania. Franz Koppenstedt, State Secretary of the German Interior Ministry, said on 14 May that his government is making available almost 20 million Deutsche Marks this year for the Germans in Romania but it also expects measures from the Romanian side to ease their situation such that fewer of them will emigrate. The Romanian delegation is headed by Teodor Melescan, Foreign Ministry state secretary, and includes representatives of the German Forum, a group of the ethnic Germans, among others. (Mihai Sturdza) . . . HUNGARIANS, JEWS, AND CZECHS. Melescan is expected to start a three-day visit to Budapest on 15 May to meet his Hungarian counterpart, Tamas Katona, and other officials. The agenda includes measures to improve bilateral relations as well as Hungary's insistence that a forthcoming agreement include a comprehensive provision on minority rights. Meanwhile, on 13 May in Washington Romania's chief rabbi Moses Rosen met with Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, who said that Romania needs to increase efforts to combat anti-Semitism. Also, Viktorie Hradska, Deputy Chairwoman of the Czech Committee for International Relations, arrived in Romania the same day for a five-day visit. She visited villages inhabited by Romania's 8,000 ethnic Czechs, met President Ion Iliescu on 14 May, and will discuss bilateral relations with Foreign Minister Adrian Nastase. Local media carried the stories. (Mihai Sturdza) TROOPS IN LATVIA OBSTRUCT TV CREW. On 13 May ex-Soviet troops detained two members of a German TV crew trying to film a military airport near Daugavpils. The two were reprimanded by the base commander and released over an hour later. The rest of the crew was able to film a part of the incident. The Germans were doing a story about the work of Latvian customs officials and the lack of cooperation of the ex-Soviet military, who are apparently using the airport to ship large amounts of goods and equipment out of Latvia, BNS reported on 14 May. (Dzintra Bungs) CORRECTION. The Estonian kroon will be linked to the Deutsche Mark in a relationship of plus or minus 3%, not plus or minues 0.3% as reported in yesterday's RFE/RL daily Report. [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). 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