|Absence makes the heart grow fonder. -|
No. 96, 20 May 1992
SUCCESSOR STATES TO THE USSR NAZARBAEV VOWS TO COMPLY WITH START. During his meeting with US President George Bush on 19 May, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev promised that Kazakhstan will adhere to the START treaty, Western and Moscow agencies reported. The two leaders issued a joint statement in which the Kazakh side undertook to remove all nuclear weapons from its territory, and the US promised to assist in eliminating the weapons. Several trade and invest-ment agreements were also signed between the two countries. The same day Nazarbaev met with Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney to discuss Kazakhstan's plans to create its own armed forces. (Bess Brown) RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY PRIORITIES. In his initial remarks following his surprise appointment as Russian defense minister on 18 May, Army General Pavel Grachev said that his primary task would be the improvement of living conditions of Russian servicemen. More concretely, he said that the structure of the new Defense Ministry would differ significantly from that of the old USSR Defense Ministry, that top posts would be filled on a competi-tive basis, and that the functions of the ministry and the Russian General Staff would be clearly delineated. Grachev reiterated that the size of the Russian army would be reduced to 1.5 million or less in two to four years, and that it would be based on the Western Group of Forces in Germany. (Stephen Foye) KHASBULATOV SUPPORTS ARMY. Ruslan Khasbulatov, chairman of the Russian parliament, in a clear attempt to win support within the armed forces, criticized government plans to reduce military expenditures in an interview with Krasnaya zvezda on 19 May. He argued for more social support for the military and called it an illusion to believe that economic problems can be solved at the expense of the army. The army, he added, remains a significant political tool and Russia must preserve its military potential. Khasbulatov also suggested that only the president and the parliament should deal with military matters and promised to defend the army from "non-parliamentary influence." (Alexander Rahr) CRIMEAN LEADERS ENDORSE RESCINDING OF INDEPENDENCE ACT. By a vote of 15 to 3, members of the Presidium of the Crimean parliament on 19 May endorsed a set of recommendations put forth by Chairman Nikolai Bagrov that the parliament rescind Crimea's act of independence of 7 May and change the purpose of this summer's scheduled referendum from approval of independence to approval of the Crimean constitution. (The constitution specifies that Crimea is a part of Ukraine.) The recommendations, which were intended for the session of parliament that begins on 20 May in Simferopil, also called on the "Referendum" Initiative Group to withdraw the question of Crimean independence. (Kathy Mihalisko) YELTSIN MEETS WITH UKRAINIAN PRIME MINISTER. In another indication that Russia and Ukraine are stepping away from confrontation, Ukrainian Prime Minister Vitold Fokin met in Moscow on 19 May with Russian President Boris Yeltsin to discuss a range of topics, including economic ties within the CIS, the situation in Moldova, and the Russian-Ukrainian border issue. ITAR-TASS quoted Yeltsin's press secretary, Vyacheslav Kostikov, as saying that as seen from an historical perspective, the sharp disputes that have been marring mutual relations are pointless. (Kathy Mihalisko) TRAVKIN ANNOUNCES FORMAL OPPOSITION TO YELTSIN. Nikolai Travkin, the head of Russia's largest political party, the Democratic Party of Russia, announced that his organization will become an opposition party to the Russian government. Speaking on 19 May, at a conference on economic issues in the Kremlin, Travkin said the Russian government has no social support. He argued that such support could have been provided by entrepreneurs, but small-scale businesses have no chance to develop in Russia today. ITAR-TASS also quoted Travkin as saying that another possible social base of support for the government could have been the peasantry, but the government has no definite program for helping the peasantry to get back on its feet. (Vera Tolz) RUSSIAN OFFICIAL SAYS NO "BRAIN DRAIN." Speaking during a three-day conference in Norway, Russian Minister of Atomic Energy, Viktor Mikhailov, said on 18 May that Russian nuclear scientists were not leaving the country to work abroad and that the feared "brain drain" had not occurred. At the conference which was devoted to a discussion of Russia's attempts to convert closed nuclear cities from military to civilian production, Mikhailov said many nuclear projects in Russia had stopped. He maintained, however, that all nuclear scientists were still being paid. The official said nuclear materials and weapons were safe within the ten closed cities. He also expressed hope that some of the cities with nuclear research and production facilities could be opened in five years, Reuters reported. (Vera Tolz) RUSSIAN INDUSTRIAL RESTRUCTURING PROGRAM. Russian Economics Minister Andrei Nechaev announced on 15 May that his government plans to spend at least 42 billion rubles in 1992 on restructuring industry, ITAR-TASS reported. Nechaev was addressing the heads of supreme soviets of the republics within the Russian Federation. The reconversion programs will focus on transportation, energy, and ecology. Nechaev stressed the need for "restructuring production above all." He was quoted as saying that "the government must change its priorities" and drop a policy based on "strictly financial concepts." (Keith Bush) PLANS FOR A RUBLE ZONE BANKING UNION. . . Kommersant of 18 May discussed progress towards payment arrangements among the ex-Soviet republics that might keep the ruble as a viable currency for the whole ruble zone (RZ). At a meeting of central bank heads in Bishkek (7-8 May) it was agreed to create an Inter-Bank Coordinating Council of Central Banks of the RZ States. The only non-signatories were Lithuania, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan. This council would coordinate monetary policies, agree to limits on budget deficits, and set the level of currency emission each quarter. Kommersant, citing unidentified "experts," said there was much doubt about the workability of the scheme. (Philip Hanson) . . . AND THE RUSSIAN CENTRAL BANK AS AN OBSTACLE. The IMF, according to Kommersant, got most RZ states to attempt a joint monetary policy by making this a condition of access to IMF funds. The Russian Central Bank is described as opposed to the scheme's success, since it would, under the scheme, lose its present monopoly on currency emission. According to Kommersant, it has used this so far to shift the percentage of currency emission allocated to Russia from 66% in 1990-91 to 80% in the first quarter of 1992. It has also refused to accept bills of exchange and checks from other RZ states. In short, it has shifted some of the burden of monetary stringency from Russia to other RZ states. (Philip Hanson) PLANS TO PRINT MORE RUBLES. In a Russian TV interview on 18 May, Egor Gaidar outlined plans to raise the rate of currency emission to counter the "cash shortage" that has led to wage and benefit payment delays, given the rapid rise of prices and incomes. By introducing 200 and 500 ruble notes in the near future, and then 5,000 ruble notes, the authorities will raise the rate of new currency emission from 64 billion rubles a month in April-May to 124-128 billion rubles a month in June-August, and then to a rate of 250 billion rubles from September. It appears from this and earlier sources that cash in circulation would rise during 1992 from 263.4 billion rubles to about 1.86 trillion rubles. (Philip Hanson) KAZAKH CURRENCY CONSIDERED? In an article that appeared in several Kazakh newspapers on 17 May, the Kazakh president is quoted as saying that his republic may have to introduce its own currency "without waiting for economic stabilization," Interfax reported. He reportedly argued that, in the medium term, preserving the ruble could jeopardize Kazakhstan's economic development, and that the behavior of "the countries in the ruble zone is hardly predictable and does not respect their partners' needs." He said that Kazakhstan needs 3 years to achieve stable market conditions, and may become one of the world's "new industrial countries" in about 15 years. (Keith Bush) SHUSHKEVICH ON THE BELARUSIAN RUBLE. Belarusian parliament Chairman Stanislau Shushkevich told visiting representatives of the Council of Europe that Russia is helping Belarus to introduce, at the end of June, a "Belarusian ruble," according to Belta-TASS 19 May. One Belarusian ruble will be equivalent to ten Soviet rubles. This is necessary, Shushkevich added, to protect the Belarusian market and because, at the present time, the country does not have the gold and precious metals to put its own currency into circulation immediately. Shushkevich also told the visitors that Belarus wants to join the European Community (EC) and will send all the necessary documents this week. (Kathy Mihalisko) NAKHICHEVAN ASKS TURKEY FOR ASSISTANCE. The foreign minister of the Nakhichevan Autonomous republic, Riza Abadov, appealed on 19 May to Turkey to send modern arms to Nakhichevan to repel Armenian aggression, and to permit those injured in recent fighting to be treated in Turkish hospitals, Azerbaijani and Western media reported. The Armenian Ministry of Defense denied that Armenian forces had seized the village of Sadarak in Nakhichevan and claimed that for three days Armenian villages had been subjected to artillery bombardment from Nakhichevan's territory, according to ITAR-TASS. On 20 May, Radio Rossii quoted the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry (citing a release by the Nakhichevan parliament press center) as asserting that it was CIS troops that spearheaded the attack on Sadarak on 18 May. (Liz Fuller) US, CSCE, IRAN CONDEMN FIGHTING. On 19 May the US State Department condemned the recent fighting in Azerbaijan and asserted that it would not condone changes in the status of any Azerbaijani territory on the basis of violence. The CSCE Council of Senior Officials, meeting in Helsinki, condemned the seizure of Lachin as a "totally unacceptable" act of aggression. (ITAR-TASS quoted Armenian Foreign Minister Raffi Hovanissian as informing his French counterpart Roland Dumas that Armenian self-defence units from Nagorno-Karabakh were not involved in the capture of Lachin but circumvented the town to secure the road linking it with Armenia.) Meanwhile, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mahmoud Vaezi denounced the recent assault on Azerbaijani territory as "flagrant aggression," Western agencies reported. Azerbaijan's envoy to the UN, Hasan Hasanov, has sent a formal complaint about Armenia's "aggression" to the UN Security Council President. A three-man UN fact-finding mission is due to travel to Nagorno-Karabakh on 20 May. (Liz Fuller) AZERBAIJAN'S ONE-PLANE AIR FORCE. CIS military authorities in the Transcaucasus military district have placed two MiG-23 fighters near Tbilisi on constant alert to try and intercept the lone Su-25 jet strike fighter in the hands of Azerbaijani militants, according to a Postfactum report of 19 May. An Azerbaijani pilot from a CIS unit near Baku had landed the Su-25--known to NATO as the Frogfoot--at the air base at Sangachiliy on 8 April. That field was in the hands of the militants. The recent report said the plane now is operating out of a civilian airfield at Yevlakh, some 220 kilometers west of Baku. It also indicated that the Azerbaijani air force might grow, as Czech-built L-29 jet trainers at Sangachiliy were being equipped with racks that would enable them to fire air-to-ground rockets. (Doug Clarke) KULYAB THREATENS TO SECEDE FROM TAJIKISTAN. The Kulyab City Council, which disapproved of the creation of a coalition government in Tajikistan last week, has threatened to make the city independent of Tajikistan, "Vesti" reported on 15 May. Inhabitants of Kulyab Oblast in southern Tajikistan took a prominent role in defending the Communist-dominated government against the opposition, reportedly because many members of the government are from Kulyab. Last week six people were reported to have been killed in fighting in Kulyab that reportedly began as a dispute between opposition factions and later involved government supporters. The city council's threat to vote for secession could result in further unrest in Tajikistan. (Bess Brown) DNIESTER FIGHTING INTENSIFIES. 16 combatants on both sides were killed and 55 were wounded on 18-19 May, Moldovan and Moscow media reported. The "Dniester" Russian forces failed in this latest attempt to dislodge the Moldovan police bridgeheads on the left bank of the Dniester north and south of Dubasari. The attacks are the most massive violation to date of the cease-fire concluded on 18 April, which never took full effect. The strongest attacks by "Dniester" forces have regularly been timed to meetings by President Mircea Snegur with foreign leaders--in this case the visit of the Romanian President. (Vladimir Socor) ROMANIAN PRESIDENT IN MOLDOVA. Romanian President Ion Iliescu completed on 19 May a two-day visit to Moldova. Both on the eve of and during the visit, President Mircea Snegur and other Moldovan leaders were at pains to emphasize the tenets of Moldovan independent statehood and two Romanian states (i.e. non-reunification). This first official visit by Iliescu to Moldova was long overdue, but Chisinau postponed it twice and refused a "treaty of fraternity" recently drafted by Bucharest. Instead, only nonpolitical documents were signed. While Iliescu and Foreign Minister Adrian Nastase accommodated Chisinau's stance, the Romanian opposition press attacked them and Snegur for not promoting reunification. (Vladimir Socor) CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE BOSNIA UPDATE. Radio Sarajevo reports on 19 and 20 May that fighting in the republic has slackened somewhat. According to a Bosnian government spokesman, five people were killed and 54 wounded, but he stressed that these are incomplete figures. The federal army is expected to complete its withdrawal of all non- Bosnian personnel from Sarajevo on the 20th. In all but four other towns, the army's withdrawal has been completed. In order to reassess its mission, the ICRC is temporarily withdrawing its representatives following the death of one delegate. On 20 May the UN Security Council is expected to recommend to the General Assembly that Bosnia-Herzegovina be given UN membership. (Milan Andrejevich) SERBS HOLD REFUGEES; MORE MASSACRE ALLEGATIONS. There are conflicting reports both in the Yugoslav-area and Western media about the holding of more than 1,000 refugees by Serbs in Sarajevo. Reports say that the mainly Muslim convoy of refugees, including many women, children, and elderly, was being held hostage by Serb militia. Several reports say the Serbs are demanding the safe evacuation of federal army personnel from Sarajevo, others say the militia are seeking to recover the bodies of relatives and friends killed in the fighting. The Bosnian Serb news agency SRNA reported on 19 May that the column of 3,200 refugees was forcibly stopped by parents and relatives of a large number of Serbs allegedly massacred by Muslims. The refugees were later released, but they remain in Sarajevo. The alleged massacre--as reported by Borba on 19 May--took place on 16 May in the Sarajevo suburb of Pofalici. Muslim "Green Beret" paramilitary units are supposed to have killed 200 Serbs, mostly women and children, with another 300 still missing. (Milan Andrejevich) BOSNIAN-CROATIAN CONFEDERATION? Radios Croatia and Sarajevo report on 19 May that leaders of Bosnia's ruling ethnic Muslim Party of Democratic Action and the Croatian Democratic Community have discussed a possible confederation with the republic of Croatia. According to Vjesnik, the talks were held in Split on 15 and 16 May. The representatives vow never negotiate with the extreme faction of Bosnia's Serbian Democratic Party and have agreed that the future political shape of the republic will be decided by referendum. They also agreed to join forces to combat Serb forces. Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic said there is no signed agreement. Vjesnik also reports that Izetbegovic and Croatian President Franjo Tudjman will shortly hold talks. Aleksa Buha, the foreign minister of the Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, told Radio Serbia that his government is not opposed to the proposed Muslim-Croat confederation. (Milan Andrejevich) HUNGARY CANCELS DAM TREATY. Hungarian Minister Without Portfolio Ferenc Madl announced on 19 May that the Hungarian government will cancel the 1977 interstate treaty with Czechoslovakia on building the Gabcikovo-Nagymaros hydroelectric power project. MTI quotes Madl as saying that the reason for the decision, effective 25 May, is that Czechoslovakia has continued construction work on its side of the project despite repeated appeals by Hungary. Hungary suspended construction in 1989 out of concern for environmental damage. Czechoslovak Prime Minister Marian Calfa said on 19 May that neither the agreement nor international law entitle the Hungarian government to take such a step. Slovak Prime Minister Jan Carnogursky vowed to continue construction, "adhering to the guidelines approved by the Slovak and federal governments," which see the opening of the Gabcikovo hydrological plant as the solution to a variety of problems in the country, Western agencies and Radio Bratislava report. (Edith Oltay & Peter Matuska) WESTERN FIRMS TO IMPROVE SAFETY AT KOZLODUY. On 19 May Nikita Shervashidze, president of the National Electric Company's control board, said two Western companies have been selected to raise safety standards at the Kozloduy nuclear power plant and that a contract will be signed soon. The project to improve the plant, which is widely regarded as unsafe, will be financed by $15 million from the EC. According to Reuters it was also the EC Commission that proposed the offer should go to two specific companies, Westinghouse of the US and Empresados Agrupados of Spain. (Kjell Engelbrekt) POLISH RADIO AND TV CHIEF FIRED. On 19 May Prime Minister Jan Olszewski dismissed Janusz Zaorski as Chairman of the State Radio and TV Committee. The move is seen as part of the disputes between the government and various political groups regarding TV management, Western and Polish media report. President Lech Walesa's spokesman Andrzej Drzycimski criticized the move, saying it proves that present government is a spent force. Committee Deputy Chairman Jan Mariusz Owsinski will temporarily exercise the duties of chairman. (Wladyslaw Minkiewicz) CONTROVERSY OVER DISMISSAL OF HUNGARIAN RADIO PRESIDENT. Hungarian President Arpad Goncz has refused to approve a motion by Prime Minister Jozsef Antall to dismiss Csaba Gombar, president of Hungarian Radio, on grounds of incompetence, MTI reported on 19 May. Goncz said that Gombar's dismissal would seriously disrupt the radio's democratic functioning, and that a new radio president should only be appointed after parliament passes a new media law. The opposition parties applauded Goncz's decision, fearing that the government seeks to gain control of the media by placing its own appointees in key positions. For its part the government expressed "astonishment" over Goncz's decision, and the parliamentary deputies of the government coalition issued a statement accusing Goncz of "violating the constitution." (Edith Oltay) ROMANIAN-BRITISH JOINT TV VENTURE. On 19 May the state-owned Romanian TV signed an agreement with British-based Atlantic Television to establish an independent commercial TV station in Bucharest. It will start operating at the end of 1992 to broadcast news, current affairs programs, and dramatic productions. The British will invest up to $25 million and own 80% of the venture. The agreement is valid for 15 years. The Romanians say it is the first large-scale TV privatization agreement to be concluded in Eastern Europe since the downfall of communism. (Mihai Sturdza) WARSAW APPROVES VAT. On 19 May the Polish government approved a draft law to impose a value-added tax (VAT) on goods and services. The draft also calls for an excise tax on luxury goods, alcohol, cigarettes, and cars. Under the proposal the VAT will have a basic rate of 22% and a preferential rate of 7%. According to Western and Polish media, the tax will apply to all goods and services, except for export goods. The draft law must be approved by the Sejm. Deputy Finance Minister Witold Modzelewski says the government is suggesting a six-month delay in implementing the measure to allow time for everyone to learn the new rules. (Wladyslaw Minkiewicz) NEW 1000-KORUNY BANKNOTE. On 18 May the governing council of the Czechoslovak State Bank approved a new design for a 1000-koruny banknote. The bank note, basically violet in color and bearing the likeness of Frantisek Palacky, will be put into circulation as of May 1993, CSTK reports. Palacky (1798-1876) was a Czech philosopher, historian, and politician and author of the most comprehensive review of Czech history. Czechoslovak banknotes now come in denominations of 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, and 1000 koruny. (Peter Matuska) ROMANIAN RAILWAY WORKERS STRIKE. On 19 May thousands of Romanian railway workers stopped a warning strike just a few hours after it began. The demonstrators belong to a federation of unions pressing the authorities to negotiate a new labor contract. The strike was suspended for at least 72 ¿days in response to a ruling from the High Court of Justice, which acceded to a request from the National Company of Romanian Railways. (Mihai Sturdza) HUNGARIAN-ROMANIAN TALKS. On 19 May Hungarian Foreign Minister Geza Jeszenszky and State Secretary Tamas Katona held talks with Romanian Secretary of State Teodor Melescanu in Budapest, MTI reports. The two sides discussed various bilateral issues including cultural exchanges, improving border facilities, the return of illegal emigrants, and the formulation of a basic treaty. Jeszenszky told Radio Budapest that no progress has been made regarding the treaty because of continued disagreement on the question of minority rights and borders. Hungary would like a statement on minority rights included in the treaty while Romania is seeking guarantees of the integrity of current borders. Melescanu assessed the two days of discussions as "positive," but some Romanian journalists complained about a "highly offensive" Hungarian TV program about Romania broadcast on 17 May. The next round of talks will be held in Bucharest. (Edith Oltay & Mihai Sturdza) KRAVCHUK FINDS POLISH-UKRAINIAN RELATIONS EXEMPLARY. On 19 May Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk ended his two-day official visit by praising Polish-Ukrainian ties as a good example of relations between two independent and equal states. Polish Foreign Minister Krzysztof Skubiszewski also said he was very satisfied with the result of talks with his Ukrainian counterpart, Anatolii Zlenko, on bilateral cooperation in East European security matters. Skubiszewski said that relations with Kiev are a high priority for Poland. Western and Polish wire services carried the story. (Wladyslaw Minkiewicz) LANDSBERGIS CONCLUDES SWEDISH VISIT. On 19 May Lithuanian Supreme Council Chairman Vytautas Landsbergis returned to Vilnius from a two-day visit in Stockholm, Radio Lithuania reports. On 18 May he had a meeting with King Carl Gustaf XVI and the following day held talks with the prime minister, head of parliament, and foreign ministry officials as well as with Social Democratic Party Chairman Ingvar Carlsson. (Saulius Girnius) RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR ARRIVES IN RIGA. Radio Riga reported on 19 May that Aleksandr Rannikh arrived in Riga that day. Rannikh previously held diplomatic positions in the CIS states and Finland. According to Komsomolskaya pravda, Rannikh is a fine athlete and an expert in judo and karate. He is to present his credentials to the Latvian Supreme Council on 21 May. (Dzintra Bungs) GRACHEV SAYS BALTIC DEMANDS UNFAIR. Russian Minister of Defense Pavel Grachev told Moskovskii komsomolets of 19 May that large units of ex-USSR troops will not leave the Baltic States until troops have been withdrawn from Eastern Europe. The withdrawal from East Germany is to be completed in 1994. He complained that "to demand from us an urgent pullout is unfair: we are not an occupying force. We shall withdraw in stages on the basis of treaties, as we are doing with troops based in Germany and Poland." Grachev also stressed that he would not bring people back if there is nowhere to house them. (Dzintra Bungs) UNEASY PARLIAMENT SESSION IN VILNIUS. A turbulent session of the Lithuanian parliament took place on 19 May, Radio Lithuania reports. A noisy crowd of supporters of the 23 May presidential referendum blocked the entrance, injuring one deputy and a reporter. Members of the Joint Sajudis, Conciliation, and National factions boycotted the meeting in order to prevent a rider on the 14 June referendum. The session also heard statements by six cabinet members on the government crisis and invited Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius to speak at the next session. (Saulius Girnius) FLAP OVER DEMOGRAPHIC DATA IN LATVIA. Maris Plavnieks, head of the Department of Citizen-ship and Migration Affairs, has been dismissed, Radio Riga reported on 19 May. Plavnieks' office was in charge of monitoring immigration/emigration procedures, registration of citizens, and issuance of residency permits. Recently it had found irregularities in permits issued to ex-USSR officers and their families stationed in Latvia. Minister of Justice Viktors Skudra told the Supreme Council on 18 May that he would be lodging a formal complaint with the State Prosecutor's office against Plavnieks for spreading slanderous information about the work of the ministry. Over the weekend Plavnieks had told the Riga TV that certain materials had been stolen from his department's files and that this had occurred after the ministry's chief notary public for the registry of enterprises had had access to them. (Dzintra Bungs) BULGARIANS AND RELIGION. According to a poll of 4,780 Bulgarians recently conducted by the National Statistical Institute (NSI), nearly half the population characterize themselves as believers, BTA reported on 19 May. At a press conference in Sofia, the public opinion experts said this represents a slight increase over earlier figures, but rejected suggestions that the change might be connected with the current economic crisis. The survey also found that 89.1% of the population traditionally belonged to the Christian faith, while 10.5% declared themselves as Muslims. (Kjell Engelbrekt) [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Carle Thorson and 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. 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