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No. 158, 19 August 1992
SUCCESSOR STATES TO THE USSR GEORGIAN TROOPS STORM ABKHAZ PARLIAMENT. Georgian National Guard troops under Defense Minister Tengiz Kitovani reentered the Abkhaz capital of Sukhumi on 18 August and stormed the parliament building; an unconfirmed Interfax report said that five people were killed. The status of Abkhaz parliament Chairman Vladislav Ardzinba, whose resignation Kitovani had demanded, and who fled to Gudauta with other ethnic Abkhaz parliament deputies, is unclear. Georgia's Iprinda news agency denied a Georgian TV report that Ardzinba had resigned. It is also unclear whether the storming of the parliament was condoned by Georgian State Council Chairman Eduard Shevardnadze. Georgian Prime Minister Tengiz Sigua had announced previously that Georgian troops would remain in Abkhazia only to safeguard roads and railways as part of a joint Georgian-Abkhaz force. Shevardnadze was quoted as arguing that "every issue should be resolved by the way of dialogue and negotiations," during a closed meeting of the State Council on 18 August. (Liz Fuller) THE NORTH CAUCASUS AND EVENTS IN ABKHAZIA. The Russian government appealed to the peoples of the North Caucasus on 18 August to show restraint and "refrain from actions leading to a destabilization of the situation in the region," ITAR-TASS reported. The leadership of Karachaevo-Cherkessia said there could be no question of sending any volunteers to support the Abkhaz, and the president of Adigeya, Aslan Dzharimov, told Rossiiskaya gazeta of 18 August that Adigeya, Kabardino-Balkaria, Dagestan, Karachaevo-Cherkessia and Krasnodar krai had appealed to the leaders of Georgia, Abkhazia and Russia to put an immediate stop to military actions. In the Chechen capital of Groznyi, however, the president of the Confederation of Mountain Peoples of the Caucasus, Musa Shanibov, called on the peoples of the Caucasus to support the Abkhaz in their struggle for self-determination, and 4,000 volunteers reportedly had already signed up. (Ann Sheehy) CIS CHIEFS OF STAFF MEET. The Committee of the Chiefs of Staff of the CIS Armed Forces held its first meeting, in Moscow, on 18 August. According to ITAR-TASS the deputy defense ministers and chiefs of staff from all the CIS member states except Moldova were present. General Viktor Samsonov, the chief of the General Staff of the United CIS Armed Forces presided over the closed meeting, where the participants were said to have discussed "the exchange of information among the staff headquarters and other issues of coordination." (Doug Clarke) MORE DISSONANCE ON KURILE ISLANDS? Interfax reported on 18 August that, according to a source in the CIS Navy, an order has been issued to reinforce military units stationed on the disputed South Kurile Islands. The order reportedly came from the General Staff (presumably the Russian one). In particular, the report said, the coastal naval missile battalion stationed on Iterup Island will, by 1993, double both its manpower and the number of missiles it deploys. If true, the order contradicts President Yeltsin's clearly stated policy of withdrawing all Russian forces from the disputed islands by 1995. (Stephen Foye) NAZARBAEV TO PROPOSE CIS BANKING UNION. Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbaev told Rabochaya tribuna of 18 August that he would propose the creation of a normal banking union at the next session of the CIS heads of state. Nazarbaev said that a single ruble zone was an objective necessity, but the ruble should be not a Russian currency but a supranational one. He maintained that there was no ruble zone as long as the non-Russian republics had no say in the printing of rubles and the volume of credits. He added that, if the other CIS states did not support the banking union, then Kazakhstan would go ahead with Russia. The president of the US Federal Reserve Bank, Gerald Kerrigan, had come to Kazakhstan at Nazarbaev's invitation to help draw up the necessary documents. Earlier attempts to set up a CIS interstate bank floundered when Russia insisted on exercising control. (Ann Sheehy) KRAVCHUK ASSESSES UKRAINE'S FIRST YEAR OF INDEPENDENCE . . . In connection with the forthcoming first anniversary of Ukraine's declaration of independence (24 August), President Leonid Kravchuk gave a press conference in Kiev on 18 August. Kravchuk declared that, despite the problems facing the fledgling state, independence was the "only right way" and that there could be no return to the previous Union, CIS and Western agencies reported. Reviewing the last year, Kravchuk acknowledged the difficulties Ukraine has had in overcoming its economic crisis and raising the standard of living. However, he stressed that significant progress had been made toward consolidating the republic's statehood and "establishing the principles of democracy, freedom and justice." (Bohdan Nahaylo) . . . DISMISSES GORBACHEV'S CALL FOR A NEW UNION. Kravchuk also categorically rejected Mikhail Gorbachev's recent calls for the formation of a new Union (see RFE/RL Daily Report, 18 August). According to the Financial Times, Kravchuk said that: "To force upon the people this idea, which has compromised itself and which is responsible for the worst features of our society, would be unwise and tragic." (Bohdan Nahaylo) . . . INTERPRETS BLACK SEA FLEET AGREEMENT. Kravchuk also specified that, in his view, the Yalta agreement on the Black Sea Fleet signified that the fleet would be divided between the two countries by 1995. A number of commentators have interpreted the agreement to mean that the fleet would be divided only after the three-year transitional period that ends in 1995. Kravchuk nevertheless defended the agreement as a "necessary political compromise in a difficult period for both Ukraine and Russia." (Stephen Foye) . . . RULES OUT REINTRODUCTION OF RUBLE. Kravchuk openly rebuked his central bank chairman, arguing that "the national bank exists to carry out the will of the state, no more no less." Kravchuk rejected the proposal made on 15 August by Vadim Hetman that the ruble be reintroduced into the Ukrainian economy as a means of bailing out the coupon (described by the Financial Times of 19 August as "Ukraine's faltering pseudo-currency"). Kravchuk announced that, on 1 October, the coupon would assume all the functions of a true currency apart from convertibility. Currently, it accounts for 97% of cash transactions in Ukraine, but cannot be used in non-cash operations. (Keith Bush) BASHKORTOSTAN TO TAKE RUSSIA TO CONSTITUTIONAL COURT? The chairman of the Bashkir parliament, Murtaza Rakhimov, said that Bashkortostan will lodge a complaint with the Russian Constitutional Court, if upcoming talks with Russia on Russia's annulment of Bashkortostan's decision to add all local tax revenues to the republic's budget produce no results, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 18 August. Rakhimov was commenting on the joint declaration by Bashkortostan, Tatarstan, and Sakha (Yakutia) on this issue. He said Russia was blockading his republic by not giving it cash or credits, and pointed out that Bashkortostan was in a position to cut oil and gas supplies to Russia. Rakhimov maintained that Russia's actions violated the Bashkortostan protocol to the federal treaty. (Ann Sheehy) RUSSIAN WORKERS LOATH TO STRIKE. Russia's official unions, the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia (FNPR), have announced the results of a poll conducted among their members, Interfax reported on 14 August. Of 10 million workers polled by the FNPR, only 10% said they would support a strike to protest the Gaidar government's policies. This does not mean workers are happy with their lot: 86% of those polled said they were ready to take part in rallies and protest demonstrations. But the poll does cast doubt on the claims of the industrial lobby that there will be a "social explosion" unless the government relaxes its reforms, and it suggests that the unions have little authority with Russia's workers. (Elizabeth Teague) CANADA HALTS GRAIN SHIPMENTS TO RUSSIA. The Canadian Wheat Board has halted all shipments of grain to Russia because of unpaid bills, The Toronto Globe and Mail reported on 18 August. A spokesman for the Board said that the suspension would remain in effect until "they get their payment problems under some control, and provide us with a plan of action for dealing with their outstanding arrears." Russia reportedly requested a moratorium on its arrears in June, which was rejected. However, Russia has made no interest payments since then, and is now more than 100 days in arrears. It is not known how much of the Canadian $1.5 billion line of credit has already been drawn by Russia. (Keith Bush) CONFUSION OVER RUSSIAN GRAIN IMPORTS IN 1992. At a news conference in Moscow on 18 August, Russian Agricultural Minister Viktor Khlystun said that the domestic grain harvest is now expected to amount to 96-97 million tons and that 10 million tons more grain will be imported, Interfax reported. Khlystun's statement was misreported by some agencies who interpreted this to mean that the total amount of grain imported in 1992 would be around 10 million tons. In fact, according to ITAR-TASS of 17 August, 14.7 million tons of grain have already been imported by Russia during the first seven months of 1992. (Keith Bush) RUSSIAN FARM MANAGERS FINED. Khlystun also announced that some 1,500 directors of state-run farms have been fined for "criminal activities" linked with opposition to reform. He did not specify the nature of the crimes, but it is thought that he meant directors who have refused to allocate plots of land or who have given greatly inferior plots to would-be private farmers. The fines ranged up to 10,000 rubles. The minister also said that the full privatization of state-owned farms and food-processing plants would take 5-6 years, and he noted that the sale of privately-owned land is not possible for the time being because there are no government guidelines for regulating land transactions. (Keith Bush) TURKISH DIPLOMATIC DELEGATION TO VISIT ARMENIA. A high-ranking Turkish delegation will visit Armenia on 22 August to evaluate the relations between the two countries, Reuters reported, quoting the Anadolu News Agency. A senior Armenian diplomat said the discussions will include supplying Turkish power to Armenia; Turkey is concerned that Armenia may, with German help, reactivate the Medzamor nuclear power station near Erevan, which was suspected of leaking radiation in the early 1980s. Attempts by Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan over the past two years to improve Armenian relations with Turkey have been hindered by the ongoing conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. (Liz Fuller) UZBEKISTAN TO BUY TURKISH SUGAR. Uzbekistan will purchase 250,000 tons of sugar from Turkey with some of the $250 million in credits supplied to Uzbekistan through Turkey's Eximbank, Reuters reported on 15 August. The breakdown of inter-CIS trade has severely curtailed Uzbekistan's sugar imports. The consumer price for sugar has been maintained at eight rubles per kilo (with government subsidies of thirty-two rubles per kilo), while in Moscow the price rose to seventy rubles in April. (Cassandra Cavanaugh) KAZAKHSTAN FORMS OWN BORDER TROOPS. Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev has issued a decree creating border troops for the country on the basis of the existing border guard units stationed there, Kaztag-TASS reported on 18 August. The move is in accord with CIS agreements on protection of borders. Kazakhstan is also assuming jurisdiction over the former Dzerzhinski Higher School for Border Troops in Alma-Ata which, along with Kazakhstan's border troops, will be subordinate to the republic's National Security Committee (formerly KGB) rather than to its military establishment. (Bess Brown) TAJIKISTAN AGREEMENT HAS LITTLE EFFECT. An agreement signed in July between leaders of armed factions and political parties in Tajikistan to stop fighting and disarm has had little effect, Tajik Minister of Internal Affairs Mamadaez Navzhuvanov said on Dushanbe TV, as cited by ITAR-TASS on 18 August. The main reason for the failure of the Khorog Agreement has been the refusal of opposing groups to give up their weapons; more arrive constantly from Afghanistan, and some weapons are also being brought from other CIS states, according to Navzhuvanov. He blamed opposition leaders for having left the job of disarming their supporters to the law enforcement agencies, and said that the militia will not engage in bloodletting in order to take the weapons by force. (Bess Brown) ASIAN DEVELOPMENT BANK TO ACCEPT CENTRAL ASIANS. Membership in the Asian Development bank(ADB) for the former Soviet Central Asian Republics and Azerbaijan is close to confirmation, according to an article in the Japanese daily Mainiti, quoted by ITAR-TASS on 18 August. Using data collected during a recent three-week visit to the six countries, ADB experts are now calculating the membership dues for each state, to be set according to the per capita national product. Membership, which will allow the states to receive development assistance from the bank, is expected to be granted in about one year. (Cassandra Cavanaugh) CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE BRITAIN PLEDGES 1,800 TROOPS FOR BOSNIA. The BBC on 18 August interviewed Prime Minister John Major, who said that London would make the soldiers available to protect relief convoys and stressed that they would not be involved in fighting. He did not say what would happen if the troops were shot at or otherwise attacked. On 19 August, the Washington Post carries a story on a Senate staff report released the previous day. The document says that the Serbian policy of "ethnic cleansing" "has been so brutal that it probably has caused more deaths than the bombing and shelling of Bosnian cities."The report was prepared by two staffers who visited the area from 7-14 August. (Patrick Moore) NEW PRIME MINISTER NOMINATED FOR REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA. Kiro Gligorov, President of the Republic of Macedonia, named Branko Crvenkovski as the prime-minister designate on 17 August. The leader of the Social Democractic Alliance (the former communist party), Crvenkovski is a member of parliament. He follows a Petar Gotsev, also a member of the Social Democratic Alliance and an MP, nominated on 15 July for that same post. Gotsev was unable to secure the needed support for the coalition which he proposed to form, one which excluded the nationalist Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization- Democractic Party for National Unity, and included representatives of Albanian parties. Crvenkovski will have 20 days in which to form a government and present it to the legislature. (Duncan Perry) CZECHOSLOVAK FOREIGN MINISTER GOES TO BELGRADE Czechoslovak Foreign Minister Jozef Moravcik is leaving today for a fact-finding mission to Belgrade, Czechoslovak Radio reported. He will be heading a delegation of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe which will also include German and Swedish foreign ministry officials and the Director of the Prague-based CSCE Secretariat, Nils Eliasson. The group will hold talks with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and representatives of Serbs in Bosnia. (Jan Obrman) WORST TRAIN ACCIDENT IN BULGARIA IN FIFTY YEARS. By evening, 18 August, at least eight people were known dead and more than 60 injured in what has been characterized by authorities as Bulgaria's worst railroad accident in 50 years. Late in the day on 17 August, a westbound express passenger train coming from the resort city of Burgas, with reportedly about 520 people on board, slammed into a freight train in the Kazichene station, about 10 miles east of Sofia. Eight passenger cars were derailed. The engineers of the freight train had failed to heed a stop signal and the freight train moved onto the same track as the passenger train. Rescue workers, using primative equipment and lacking a crane, worked through the night to free passengers trapped in the wreckage. The engineers responsible have been arrested and 21 other railroad officials have been dismissed as a result of the accident. BTA reported that Minister of Transport, Alexander Alexandrov, will tender his resignation. (Duncan Perry) NEW PIPELINE TO BE READY BY 1995. The Czechoslovak daily Hospodarske Noviny reported on 18 August that a new oil pipeline connecting the Czech Republic with the Bavarian city of Ingolstadt is to be completed by 1995. The project will cost close to 600 million German Marks and will have an annual capacity of 2.7 million tons (about a third of the Czech Republic's needs). Czech officials have repeatedly warned that a dependence on Soviet deliveries of crude oil could create political and economic problems and expressed concern over the possibility of political blackmail by Slovakia as the only existing pipeline to the Czech Republic goes through Slovak territory. (Jan Obrman) EC DECISION ON CZECHOSLOVAK STEEL EXPORTS The European Community made public on 18 August the 1992 quotas for Czechoslovak steel tube exports to Germany and recommended quotas for other Czechoslovak steel exports to Germany, France, and Italy. The EC Commission cited complaints that the sudden cheap steel shipments from Czechoslovakia were threatening steel plants in West Europe. Germany claimed that the influx of cheap steel from Czechoslovakia was undercutting EC steel prices by 20 to 30%. The Commission said that in 1992 sales of Czechoslovak steel should rise only about 20% over last year. Actual sales rose up to 575% in the first months of this year. (Jan Obrman) HUNGARIAN AND AUSTRIAN PRESIDENTS MEET. Hungarian President Arpad Goncz and his Austrian counterpart Thomas Klestil met in Sopron on 18 August for unofficial talks, MTI reported. The talks focused on the crisis in former Yugoslavia and the the refugee question. The two presidents told an international press conference that their countries will not provide soldiers to participate in a possible UN military action in former Yugoslavia, and called on European countries to share the burden of caring for refugees. Goncz advocated the sending of UN observers to Voivodina, where the Hungarian minority in Serbia lives. (Edith Oltay) STATEMENT ON HUNGARIAN MINORITIES. The Hungarian government issued on 18 August a statement supporting Hungarian minorities' efforts to preserve their ethnic identity by achieving various forms of autonomy, MTI reported. The statement said that the Hungarian minorities anywhere do not question the borders of states in which they live but seek either cultural or, in regions where they form a majority, territorial autonomy. It condemned the "anachronistic idea of national exclusiveness," as the greatest obstacle to the democratic transformation of the region. Countries espousing this idea looked upon minorities' efforts to preserve their ethnic identity with suspicion, and even regarded them as an obstacle to the state order and unity. The statement urged the international community to adopt collective steps to put an end to "inciting of hatred against minorities," pointing to the "tragic conflict of the Southern Slav countries" as an example of the consequences of such a policy. (Edith Oltay) BORNHOLM MEETING ENDS. In an 18 August RFE/RL Estonian Service interview, Prime Minister Tiit Vahi said the Bornholm meeting of the five Nordic prime ministers and their three Baltic counterparts had discussed Nordic-Baltic cooperation and relations with Russia. Vahi said that the group talked at length about nationality problems, and that Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt noted that the Baltic states do not face "the classic problem of ethnic minorities" in that minorities comprise just a small percentage of the total population. Vahi added that Estonia does not differentiate between the political rights of ethnic Estonians and non-Estonians, but rather between the political rights of citizens and non-citizens. (Riina Kionka) LANDSBERGIS: RUSSIAN TV IS ANTI-BALTIC. Chairman of the Lithuanian Supreme Council Vytautas Landsbergis told reporters on 18 August that the Russian TV news program Vesti is conducting an anti-Baltic campaign. According to a Lithuanian Supreme Council press release of 18 August, the same day's Vesti announced in one of its news segments that the Baltic states are throwing non-local residents out of their homes and jobs, are not allowing them to learn the native languages and are driving them into separated ghettos. The press release quotes Landsbergis denying the allegations and saying "this is an especially gross and primitive provocation." (Riina Kionka) POLISH GOVERNMENT APPROVES MASS PRIVATIZATION, DEBT RELIEF. The first fruits of the new government's determination to deal with the problems of state industry emerged on 18 August, when the cabinet accepted draft legislation on mass privatization and debt relief for state firms. In planning since 1991, mass privatization had been persistently blocked by political upheaval. The government proposes establishing 20 national investment funds to manage 400 commercialized state enterprises. After paying 10% of the average monthly wage, each adult will receive a certificate entitling him to one share in each investment fund. Certificates will be negotiable. Workers in affected firms will receive 10% of the shares in their enterprise free of charge. Privatization officials estimated that each certificate will initially have a market value of one million zloty (about $75), but said this could increase tenfold in a few years. The government also approved legislation enabling banks to reduce the debts of state firms that have recovery prospects while abandoning hopeless bankrupts. (Louisa Vinton) SIX-UNION PROTEST BRINGS MORE STRIKES. The protest call of the six radical unions that are attempting to force the government's hand on economic policy brought a scattered response. Seven coal mines held strikes or protests under the aegis of Solidarity '80. Some 80 workers who tried to stage a strike at the Gdansk shipyard were promptly fired. The Self-Defense farmers' union blocked a highway between Poznan and Wroclaw; police did not intervene but warned the union it could face legal action. The OPZZ announced it would stage a national one-hour protest action on 21 August, but would not attempt a general strike. In the meantime, Solidarity's coal-mining section announced it would refrain from protests to allow the government a chance to present its restructuring plans. The prime minister's press adviser announced after the cabinet session on 18 August that current strikes are not political in nature and that the government is willing to negotiate with all law-abiding trade unions. While prepared to take measures necessary to ensure national security, the government feels the best answer to workers' protests is its legislative package on state firms. (Louisa Vinton) SELF-DEFENSE UNION TO BE BANNED? Responding to speculation in the press, Justice Ministry officials announced on 18 August that there are as yet no plans to ask the courts to ban the radical farmers' union Self-Defense. Ministry officials said, however, that the chief prosecutor's office has assumed supervision of the six criminal cases pending against Self-Defense in various parts of the country. The government also published a list of the union's unlawful acts, including an attack on a policeman, erecting roadblocks, arson threats, terrorizing bank and court officials, and interfering with the work of bailiffs. A government statement said that this list showed that Self-Defense members "engage in illegal acts, violating safety and public order." (Louisa Vinton) MOLDOVAN PRIME MINISTER VISITING ROMANIA. Prime Minister Andrei Sangheli arrived in Bucharest on 18 August for a two-day visit. He will sign several agreements to boost political, economic and cultural cooperation between Moldova and Romania. In an interview with Radio Bucharest, Sangheli said that bilateral economic ties would figure high on the visit's aggenda. He added that Moldova was facing serious economic problems, largely resulting from the transition to a market economy. (Dan Ionescu) JAPANESE ECONOMIC DELEGATION IN ROMANIA. On 18 August Romania's Prime Minister Theodor Stolojan received a Japanese delegation headed by Tsutomu Tanaka, president of Japan's Economic Planning Agency and deputy minister for international economic affairs. In an interview with Radio Bucharest after the meeting, Tanaka said that Romania would like to see more Japanese investments in its economy. Tanaka suggested that Japanese investors were waiting to see more political and economic stability in Romania, and expressed hopes that the forthcoming Romanian elections would bring clarificaton in that country's political and economic life. (Dan Ionescu)
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