|Comedy is an escape, not from truth but from despair; a narrow escape into faith. - Christopher Fry|
No. 156, 17 August 1992
SUCCESSOR STATES TO THE USSR GEORGIAN NATIONAL GUARD CLASHES WITH ABKHAZ FORCES: SOME HOSTAGES RELEASED. Up to 19 people were killed on 14 August when Georgian National Guard troops sent to Abkhazia to hunt for security officials abducted by supporters of ousted Georgian President Zviad Gamsakhurdia came under fire from Abkhaz MVD troops in the Abkhaz capital of Sukhumi, Western agencies reported. The Abkhaz government protested that the sending of Georgian troops constituted an "occupation" and denied that the abducted officials were on Abkhaz territory; all but three of the hostages were released later that day. On 15 August Georgian Prime Minister Tengiz Sigua and State Council deputy chairman Dzhaba Ioseliani traveled to Sukhumi and negotiated an agreement with Abkhaz officials on a cease-fire and withdrawal of all troops from the town; sporadic gunfire persisted, however, on 16 August, and each side accused the other of violating the cease-fire agreement. Sigua threatened that "unconstitutional units" in Abkhazia would be neutralized if they failed to surrender their arms. (Liz Fuller) RUSSIAN MILITARY CONCERNED OVER EVENTS IN ABKHAZIA. On 15 August Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev sent a telegram to the Georgian and Abkhaz leadership calling on them to guarantee the safety of Russian troops stationed in Abkhazia. On 16 August a Russian paratroop regiment was sent from Gyandzha in Azerbaijan to Sukhumi to protect Russian military facilities and help evacuate Russian vacationers and the families of Russian troops stationed there, Russian TV reported. (Liz Fuller) BLACK SEA FLEET TO EVACUATE RUSSIANS FROM GEORGIA. Ships from the ex-Soviet Black Sea Fleet will be used to evacuate some 1,700 Russian citizens from Sukhumia Black Sea vacation spot in Georgia that is now at the center of fighting between Georgian troops and rebel soldiers loyal to the breakaway Abkhazian region. General Sufiyan Beppaev told ITAR-TASS on 16 August that the ships would take the tourists up the Black Sea coast to the southern Russian port of Novorossiisk. Two tourists in Sukhumi were killed in the crossfire between Georgian and rebel soldiers. UPI reported that Russian paratroopers landed in the area on 16 August to protect CIS/Russian military installations and to help evacuate Russian citizens. (Doug Clarke) DUDAEV REACTS TO EVENTS IN ABKHAZIA. Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev has signed an order saying that the actions of the Georgian State Council against Abkhazia constitute a threat to Chechnya and all the republics of the Caucasus, and ordering the republic's armed forces to be ready to repel aggression, ITAR-TASS reported. Dudaev also gave instructions for military units of the Confederation of Mountain Peoples of the Caucasus to be received and accommodated in Chechnya. The Assembly of Mountain Peoples of the Caucasus, which created the confederation, came into being in 1989 largely at the urging of the Abkhaz who were seeking allies against the Georgians. It has never been clear just how much support the confederation enjoys and what its military units amount to. (Ann Sheehy) NAGORNO-KARABAKH GOVERNMENT RESIGNS, REPLACED BY DEFENSE COMMITTEE. On 15 August an emergency session of the parliament of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic accepted the resignation, tendered on 10 August, of Prime Minister Oleg Esayan and his government, Radio Mayak reported. The session named Karen Baguryan acting parliament chairman in place of Georgy Petrosyan and created a Defense Committee to be headed by Robert Kocharyan, a member of the board of the Armenian Pan-National Movement and a close associate of Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan. The Defense Committee is intended to manage all aspects of government including defense; a state of emergency was declared in Nagorno-Karabakh on 13 August in response to recent Azerbaijani military successes. (Liz Fuller) ARMENIAN PARLIAMENT TO DEBATE VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE IN PRESIDENT? Following a rally in Erevan on 14 August by three thousand people calling for his resignation, on 15 August Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan acceded to demands by the opposition "National Unity" coalition and convened an emergency parliament session for 17 August which will consider Ter-Petrossyan's suggestion that a referendum be held to determine whether he should resign, ITAR-TASS reported. Ter-Petrossyan has come under increasing pressure in recent months over his refusal to grant recognition to the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. (Liz Fuller) MOLDOVAN-RUSSIAN TROOP TALKS LINKED TO "MILITARY COOPERATION." Redefining the agenda of the talks on the future of Russia's troops in Moldova, Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced in a press release that they covered in their first round "not only the status of Russian troops and their stage-by-stage withdrawal," but also "the prospects of military cooperation among the two states." Such cooperation was allegedly necessitated by "the fundamental changes to the defense system of the former USSR that would result from the withdrawal of troops in that sector." The Ministry's reference to the defense system of the former USSR reflects the growing tendency of Russian officials to identify Russia's security interests with those of the former Soviet Union in certain areas not contiguous to Russia. This linkage would place Moldova in a different situation from that of the Baltic States and Ukraine, and it also contravenes both Moldova's neutral status and the country's refusal to join any CIS military structure. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs described the first round of the talks as "preliminary and exploratory" and held "in a warm atmosphere with both sides being satisfied with the results." They agreed on 14 August to adjourn the talks and resume them in Chisinau as soon as possible. Chisinau has made no comment on the negotiations as yet. (Vladimir Socor) CIS MEETING ON VISA-FREE TRAVEL. High-ranking CIS consular officials are to meet in Minsk on 17 and 18 August to discuss visa-free travel for CIS citizens within the commonwealth, Interfax reported on 16 August. Interfax says that the Slavic and Central Asian republics are expected to make the strongest appeals for visa-free travel, but, while Russia wants a multilateral agreement, Ukraine has insisted on concluding bilateral agreements on the issue. When the CIS was created, member-states committed themselves to open frontiers, but this principle has been under threat recently. Russia and Ukraine signed an agreement on visa-free travel at the recent meeting between Yeltsin and Kravchuk in Yalta. (Ann Sheehy) YELTSIN APPOINTS COUNSELORS. As a result of the reorganization of the presidential apparatus, President Boris Yeltsin has reappointed five of his former "state counselors" as ordinary "counselors," Rossiiskie vesti reported on 13 August. Yulii Vorontsov was appointed counselor for foreign political questions, Aleksandr Granberg for economic and social problems of the CIS, Mikhail Malei for problems of conversion, Nikolai Malyshev for questions of science and higher education, and Aleksei Yablokov for questions of ecology and health. (Alexander Rahr) RUSSIA'S "RED DIRECTORS" END CONFERENCE. The All-Russian Conference of Manufacturers closed on 14 August after tabling several demands, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. The organizer, Yurii Gekht of the Industrial Union, was elected chairman of the manufacturers' coordinating council which will prepare a congress to be held during the final quarter of 1992. The conference proposed, inter alia, a guaranteed and indexed minimum wage and the removal of VAT from certain staple foodstuffs and goods. It asked its supporters in parliament to appeal to the constitutional court to determine the legality of presidential and government decrees on privatization and other issues. (Keith Bush) CONFERENCE URGES RESIGNATION OF GOVERNMENT. Yurii Gekht said that he would inform the Russian parliament of the documents drafted during the conference, and he would try to ensure that the government discusses the drafted program with the manufacturers. If the government refuses to accept the program, the manufacturers may seek its resignation. Gekht deplored the boycotting of the conference by Gaidar and other cabinet ministers. The Times of 14 August reported that the ministers were ordered to stay away by President Yeltsin. (Keith Bush) ANTI-YELTSIN REFERENDUM: SIGNATURE CAMPAIGN CONTINUES. The report, issued at the end of July, that Yeltsin's opponents had collected the necessary one million signatures to demand a referendum on the Russian president's ouster, was inaccurate. Pravda reported on 11 August that the necessary number of signatures has not yet been collected but that the leaders of the anti-Yeltsin campaign are continuing their efforts. (Elizabeth Teague) CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATS OPPOSE YELTSIN. The leader of the Russian Christian democrats, Viktor Aksyuchits, said in an interview with Moskovskie novosti (no 33) that the Christian democrats want to organize the removal of President Boris Yeltsin using pressure from workers' strikes. Aksyuchits said he would run for the post of Russian president. He distanced himself from ultra-rightist forces and noted that his movement seeks to recreate Russia in accordance with its pre-revolutionary traditions. He emphasized that the former Soviet Union could be reestablished under a different banner. (Alexander Rahr) RUSSIAN IMPORT DUTIES TO BE RAISED. Citing a Russian presidential decree, Interfax on 13 August reported that import duties will be raised on 1 September. The minimum rate will be raised from 5% to 15%. Import duties on cars and electronics will be 25% and the duty on alcohol will be 50%. Import duties will not be levied on most staple foodstuffs, including meat and fish products, flour, fats, and vegetable oils. Duties will be waived on products from certain unnamed less-developed nations. Among the grounds given for the higher rates are the need to raise more money to service the country's foreign debt and, in the case of alcohol, to meet demands from domestic producers who have been suffering from cheap imports. (Keith Bush) AZERBAIJAN INTRODUCES NEW CURRENCY. On 15 August Azerbaijan introduced its own currency, the "manat," which for the time being will be used in tandem with the ruble. One manat is worth ten rubles; denominations of one, ten and twenty manats have been issued. According to first deputy prime minister, Vahid Akhmedov, the decision to introduce the manat was prompted by the fact that the National Bank owed over 4 billion rubles in back salaries following massive salary increases to many state employees in early July. (Liz Fuller) GERMAN DEVELOPMENT MINISTER IN CENTRAL ASIA. Carl-Dieter Spranger, the German Minister for Development, began a ten-day visit to Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Mongolia on 15 August, according to an RFE/RL correspondent report. Spranger will be assessing opportunities for Germany to support market and democratic reforms in the region.(Cassandra Cavanaugh) KARIMOV CUTS SHORT VISIT TO PAKISTAN. Uzbek President Islam Karimov left Pakistan two days ahead of schedule, cutting short a planned visit to Karachi where he was to meet with Pakistani businessmen to discuss possible joint ventures, AFP reported on 14 August. Heavy rains have caused flooding and deaths in that city and have brought the city's administration to a halt. Karimov left Islamabad for Tashkent on 14 August, after meeting for 90 minutes with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and attending Pakistani Independence Day celebrations. (Cassandra Cavanaugh) ANOTHER INCIDENT ON TAJIK-AFGHAN BORDER. On 14 August, an armed group of Tajiks demanded that border guards allow them to return to Tajikistan from Afghanistan; in the resulting firefight, one border guard was wounded, Khovar-TASS reported on 15 August. This and similar stories of clashes between border guards and Tajiks bringing weaponry from Afghanistan give substance to a report in Nezavisimaya gazeta of 15 August (summarized by ITAR-TASS), that guards on the Tajik-Afghan border are exasperated by the lack of support from Tajikistan and Russia. The guards remain under a Tajik-Russian agreement of 21 July, but the Tajik opposition wants them replaced by units of the Tajik army. (Bess Brown) RUSSIAN DIPLOMAT DEFECTS TO BRITAIN. On 24 July, Viktor Oshchenko, a diplomat in Russia's Paris embassy, requested political asylum in Great Britain. A spokesman for the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, Yurii Kobaladze, told Komsomolskaya pravda on 14 August that Oshchenko had been "under suspicion" for a considerable period of time. According to the newspaper, Oshchenko worked for the former KGB administration "T" for scientific and technological intelligence. (Victor Yasmann) TURKEY TO BUY RUSSIAN ARMS. Turkey has decided to buy $300 million worth of arms from Russia, according to Ismet Sezgin, the Turkish minister of the interior. The announcement was made in an interview in the 13 August issue of the newspaper Milliyet, according to ITAR-TASS. Sezgin was quoted as saying that Turkey would buy helicopters and armored troop carriers. Russia was said to have consented to the deal with the proviso that the arms not be transferred to a third party. Turkey is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. (Doug Clarke) NEW AIRLINER HIT OF MOSCOW AIRSHOW. ITAR-TASS on 14 August reported that the medium-range Tupolov Tu-204 airliner was the highlight of the fourth day of the "Mosaeroshow-92." The plane is built in Ulyanovsk in Russia and is powered by British-made jet engines and has some American-made avionics. A stock company called "Bravia" has been formed to market the aircraft abroad, and the report said that Iran, India, and China had shown an interest. (Doug Clarke) CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE NO GROUND TROOPS FOR BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA? On 14 August NATO representatives meeting in Brussels voted to rule out massive use of land forces in the conflict. The WEU had taken a similar decision the day before, perhaps guided by the fact that few countries are willing to commit soldiers. France on 14 August joined Turkey in offering just over 1,000 men to help protect relief shipments, while Spain the next day pledged 20 officers and an unspecified number of volunteer soldiers, the BBC reported. (Patrick Moore) UN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION NAMES MAZOWIECKI AS SPECIAL INVESTIGATOR FOR BOSNIA. The Los Angeles Times on 15 August said that the UNHCR meeting in Geneva the previous day had asked former Polish Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki to look into human rights abuses in Bosnia and file a report on 28 August. The session had been characterized by clashes between American and Serbian representatives, but the US-sponsored final document was not tough enough for some Islamic delegates, who wanted Belgrade singled out as the aggressor. (Patrick Moore) HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES IN CROATIAN CAMPS. The Guardian on 15 August and news agencies carried extensive reports on Croatian-run camps in Herzegovina, at which women, children, and old people are held in addition to soldiers. Croat officials gave journalists permission to visit the area and claimed that the civilians had come there voluntarily in hopes of being included in a prisoner exchange, but the Guardian account describes a lawless and dangerous frontier-type society in Croatian-controlled areas of Herzegovina. One military man warned inquisitive reporters: "A journalist is like a soldier, the less you know, the longer you live." Some western newsmen fresh from Herzegovina told the RFE/RL Research Institute on 14 August that they had the distinct impression that the Croats were trying to keep them out of certain areas of Mostar. (Patrick Moore) UN CONVOY REACHES GORAZDE. A UN convoy carrying 48 tons of relief supplies reached the besieged Bosnian city of Gorazde on 15 August. Gorazde has been surrounded by Serbian forces for four months, and hunger and disease are reported to be widespread. On its return journey to Sarajevo, the convoy's progress was stopped when it encountered a mined bridge. Both the Muslims and Serbs in the area blamed the other side for the mining. The convoy managed to reach Sarajevo safely early on 17 August. (Gordon Bardos). BOSNIA TO ISSUE OWN CURRENCY. On 16 August, Sarajevo Radio reported that the Bosnian government was planning to issue its own currency. Until now, Bosnia had been using the Yugoslav dinar. Bosnia's Serbs, who control over 60% of the territory of the former Yugoslav republic, have already issued a currency for their "Serbian Republic," which is the only legal tender in those areas. (Gordon Bardos). BULGARIAN MOTORISTS BREAK UN EMBARGO. BTA reported on 14 August that Bulgarian motorists are breaking the UN embargo imposed on Serbia by filling up their gasoline tanks and driving across the country's northwestern border. As they enter Serbia, BTA said, the smugglers sell the gasoline for some $35 per tank. Reportedly, some 3,000 cars every day pass the border crossing near the city of Vidin, in northern Bulgaria, and a customs official suggested that Bulgarian motorists applying this method alone in July could have provided Serbia with 3,000 tons of fuel. (Kjell Engelbrekt) BULGARIA TO CANCEL FORMER SOVIET CONTRACTS. Bulgaria is contemplating the cancellation of more than 12 joint industrial plant construction contracts with the former USSR. Reportedly most of the sites have been abandoned and the equipment and building materials have been stolen. Bulgarian officials are having some difficulty, however, in identifying the appropriate authorities with whom to negotiate in the former Soviet republics. Bulgaria hopes to negotiate for deliveries of coal, power and metals in repayment according to Reuter. (Duncan M. Perry) KLAUSPROPOSES CHANGES TO CZECHOSLOVAK UKRAINIAN TREATY. According to CSTK, Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus proposed an amendment to the Czechoslovak-Ukrainian treaty which is currently under preparation. At a meeting with Ukrainian Ambassador to Czechoslovakia Roman Lubkivsky on 14 August, Klaus said the treaty should be worded in a way that would still make it applicable in the case of Czechoslovakia's disintegration. Lubkivsky reportedly said that his government was interested in close economic cooperation with the Czech Republic and in the participation in the activities of the "Visegrad Troika."(Jan Obrman) KLAUS TO HUNGARY TODAY. Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus told MTI before his departure for Hungary on 17 August that he was alarmed by the collapse of bilateral economic ties between the two countries. He said that Czechoslovakia's share of Hungary's foreign trade amounted to only 2% and that he would seek to improve the conditions for economic exchange between the two neighbours.(Jan Obrman) HUNGARIAN PRIME MINISTER WANTS TO REPRESENT ALL HUNGARIANS. Prime Minister Jozsef Antall said that he is wishing to be, "in spirit", the Prime Minister of 15 million Hungarians inside and outside Hungary, reported MTI. Antall also said that although he had been criticized for a similar remark made in his inagural speech in May 1990, he still maintains that there is no need to differenciate between the history and literature inside and outside of Hungary's borders. . "We all have to return to the common root", he said. Antall made his remarks during a meeting of Hungarian doctors gathered for the III World Congress of Hungarians. (Karoly Okolicsanyi) THE NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC UNION (NDU) CHANGES INTO A PARTY. The NDU, which was created as a political movement in May 1991, announced that it will turn into a registered political party on 20 August 1992, reported MTI. The change will be announced by the former reform communist Imre Pozsgay, a leading figure during Hungary's peaceful transfer of power from one-party system into multiparty democracy during 1987-1990. Pozsgay is the head of NDU and an independent parliamentary deputy. The NDU intends to be a party of the center and will run in the 1994 general elections. (Karoly Okolicsanyi) BALTIC LEADERS IN BORNHOLM. The three Baltic prime ministers will join their five Nordic counterparts in an informal summit set to start today (17 August) on the Danish island of Bornholm, AFP reports. The traditional summer gathering of the Nordic heads of government was expanded to include Estonia's Tiit Vahi, Latvia's Ivars Godmanis and Lithuania's Alexsandras Abisala at Danish Prime Minister Poul Schlueter's suggestion. The leaders are expected to discussion Nordic cooperation but may also touch upon the crisis in the former Yugoslavia and the withdrawal of Russian troops from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. (Riina Kionka) IMF CHIEF TOURS BALTIC STATES. The IMF plans to suppport Estonia's balance of payments with credits of $40 million, BNS reports. The Bank of Estonia and the government presented IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus with the memorandum on economic policy necessary to begin receiving credit. Camdessus told reporters on 14 August that the IMF is committed to supporting the Estonian economy "as long as necessary," remarking that that "the fear of foreign investment is a legacy of national socialism," Rahva Haal reports. Camdessus will travel to Riga on 17 August and to Vilnius on 19 August. (Riina Kionka) ESTONIAN, LATVIAN EXCHANGE RATES. The Estonian Credit Bank will begin quoting the Russian ruble in relation to the Estonian kroon on 17 August, BNS reports. The kroon will be worth 12 rubles initially, down from the earlier exchange rate of 10 rubles. Meanwhile, the Bank of Latvia announced that it would begin trading CIS rubles starting on 17 August. A spokesman for the bank said there would be no restrictions on the amounts of CIS currencies that may be bought or sol by Latvian commercial banks. (Riina Kionka) RUSSIAN MFA CONCLUDES HUMAN RIGHTS VISIT. A Russian Foreign Ministry delegation concluded a one-day fact-finding visit to Riga on 14 August, BNS reports. Delegation chief Vyaceslav Bahmin, of the MFA International Culture and Humanitarian Cooperation Department, said the situation was satisfactory on the whole, but that Russia is concerned about some aspects of interethnic relations, for instance the implementation of Latvia's langauge law. The Latvian government has not yet commented on the visit. (Riina Kionka) ESTONIA BORDERS DATE FROM 1920. The Estonian government on 15 August declared that the Russian-Estonian border is fixed by the 1920 Tartu Peace Treaty, and that all other attempts to regulate the border "should be seen as provocations," BNS reports. The declaration is the latest in a recent wave of posturing by both sides over the border issue. Russia maintains that the frontier runs along those borders established after the war, whereas Estonia says it has never recognized Russia's postwar takeover of territories in the northeast and southeast. (Riina Kionka) POLISH STRIKERS SHARPEN RHETORIC...The national strike committee formed by six radical unions with an eye to staging a confrontation with the government announced it would organize strikes in selected enterprises beginning 18 August. The committee also issued an appeal to "Poles in uniform" not to "turn their arms on society." Andrzej Lepper, the demagogic leader of the radical Self-Defense farmers' union, charged that army units were converging on Lublin to forestall a protest there. The government dismissed these charges as nonsensical and hysterical, and a spokesman for the Polish military told PAP that "you don't use a cannon to shoot a sparrow." A government spokesman also expressed dismay that some trade unions had joined forces with Self-Defense, and the internal affairs ministry said it would publish a list of unlawful acts committed by Lepper's followers. (Louisa Vinton) ...AS SOLIDAIRITY CLOSES RANKS. As the strikers' tone became more extreme, Solidarity moved to restore unified support for the union's more moderate commitment to negotiations. In a statement issued on 14 August, the union's national leadership emphasized both the importance of the Network (grouping Solidarity locals from Poland's largest enterprises) and the need for unity in the face of a resurgence by organizations geared to the restoration of the communist system. Accepting this logic, the Network opted against forming a threatened national strike committee, settling instead for strike committees at individual enterprises. President Lech Walesa met with Solidarity chairman Marian Krzaklewski on 15 August to offer "close institutional cooperation" with the union. Meanwhile, Walesa on 14 August named former finance minister Andrzej Olechowski to serve as presidential adviser on economic matters. (Louisa Vinton) POLAND CELEBRATES "MIRACLE ON THE VISTULA." Thousands of World War II soldiers converged on Warsaw to mark the anniversary of Poland's defeat of the Red Army in 1920 and take part in the first world congress of Polish combatants. Celebrations took place nationwide as the national military holiday was held on 15 August for the first time since the war. In the company of the defense minister, President Walesa visited the communications unit in which he performed military service in 1963-64. Meanwhile, 150,000 people took part in the traditional pilgrimage to Czestochowa on the occasion of Assumption Day. (Louisa Vinton) US CONGRESSMEN SEND LETTER TO ROMANIAN PRESIDENT. A group of 62 congressmen sent a letter to president Ion Iliescu in connection with presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for 27 September. According to RFE correspondent in Washington, the letter urged Iliescu to show "renewed commitment" to democracy during the campaign. It also expressed congressional support for more independent media in Romania; adequate civilian control over the Romanian Intelligence Service; and respect of basic human rights, especially for minorities. The US lawmakers added that they were waiting to see how the elections were conducted before taking a final decision on restoring most-favored-nation trading status to Romania. (Dan Ionescu) ILIESCU REPORTEDLY ASSAULTS ROMANIAN JOURNALIST. According to Romanian reporters, quoted by an RFE correspondent in Bucharest, President Iliescu jostled a journalist during his visit on 15 August to the Black sea port of Constanta when the newsman said that exiled Romanian King Michael should be allowed into the country and then joined others in heckling Iliescu. Eight other journalists were allegedly beaten up by plainclothes policemen after Iliescu left the scene. Iliescu could not be reached for comment on the alleged incident. The Romanian Journalists' Association protested the incident. (Dan Ionescu)
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