|Life, within doors, has few pleasanter prospects than a neatly arranged and well-provisioned breakfast-table. - Nathaniel Hawthorne|
No. 163, 26 August 1992
SUCCESSOR STATES TO THE USSR ABKHAZ PARLIAMENT CHAIRMAN FACED WITH NEW ULTIMATUM. At least 40 Georgian troops and five Abkhaz were killed in overnight fighting near Sukhumi and Gagra on 24-25 August; two further Georgians were killed when Abkhaz irregulars opened fire during an exchange of prisoners on 24 August, Western agencies reported. The Commander of the Georgian National Guard troops in Abkhazia, Colonel Giorgi Karkarashvili, issued an ultimatum to Abkhaz Parliament Chairman Vladislav Ardzinba to resign by 1100 CEST on 26 August or face an attack on his headquarters in Gudauta. The ultimatum also calls for the withdrawal from Abkhazia of all irregular units from the North Caucasus. ITAR-TASS quotes Ardzinba as stating that he is ready to participate in the upcoming talks in Moscow between Yeltsin and Shevardnadze on condition that representatives from Abkhazia and from the North Caucasus are also invited to attend. (Liz Fuller) NEW DIPLOMATIC INITIATIVES ON NAGORNO-KARABAKH. Mario Raffaelli, the Italian chairman of the CSCE sponsored preparatory Karabakh peace talks, submitted a written proposal for a 60-day ceasefire in Karabakh to Azerbaijani President Abulfaz Elchibey during a meeting in Baku on 25 August. Raffaelli told ITAR-TASS that such a ceasefire would allow a delegation of military observers to visit the disputed enclave. Raffaelli then travelled to Erevan to submit the same proposal to Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossyan. On 24 August, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev telephoned his Armenian and Azerbaijani counterparts and offered to broker a settlement in the conflict; the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers will meet in Alma-Ata on 27 August to discuss a ceasefire, ITAR-TASS and AzerINFORM reported. (Liz Fuller) ACTIONS OF MOUNTAIN PEOPLES' CONFEDERATION PLACE IT "OUTSIDE THE LAW." A statement issued by the Russian Ministry of Justice on 25 August states that the actions of the Confederation of Mountain Peoples of the Caucasus are a gross violation of the Russian constitution, and that there are grounds for the Russian public prosecutor to investigate its activities and those of its leaders, ITAR-TASS reported. The statement says that the confederation, which has despatched armed volunteers to Abkhazia, is claiming to be a substitute for the legal bodies of state power and calling for the confederation was signed on 15 November 1991 by representatives of 13 peoples of the North Caucasus and the Abkhaz. (Ann Sheehy) RUSSIAN AND CHINESE DEFENSE MINISTERS MEET. Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev met in Moscow on 25 August with his Chinese counterpart, Qin Jiwei, Interfax reported. The two discussed further force reductions in Eastern Asia and the Pacific. Grachev later characterized the meeting as "successful and fruitful," but admitted that the two had failed to reach a compromise on a key issue; namely, the distance that the two country's respective armed forces should be moved back from the border. The Chinese reportedly insist on a distance of 300 km, while the Russians refuse to withdraw their forces farther than the Transsiberian Railroad main line. The two also discussed arms sales, and Grachev said that Moscow had sold China twelve SU-27 "Flanker" aircraft earlier this month, and plans to sell China another twelve in November. (Stephen Foye) RUSSIAN PARLIAMENT RECOMMENDATIONS TO YELTSIN ON KURILE DISPUTE. The Russian parliament has recommended that Russian President Boris Yeltsin limit himself to the recognition of unresolved problems in Russian-Japanese relations during his forthcoming visit to Japan and not to recognize Japanese claims to sovereignty over the disputed Kurile islands, Interfax reported on 25 August. Deputy Sergei Mikhailov said that in accordance with the declaration of Russia's sovereignty, territorial changes may be only accomplished as a result of a referendum. He noted that according to opinion polls, 25 percent of the residents of the Kurile islands said they would hide in the mountains and start a guerilla war if the islands were returned to Japan. (Alexander Rahr) PETROV ON KURILE ISLANDS. President Yeltsin's chief of staff, Yurii Petrov, told Japanese officials that he does not believe a breakthrough in the Kurile islands dispute will be possible when Yeltsin visits Tokyo next month, according to Reuters on 24 August. Petrov claimed that the political situation in Russia will not allow Yeltsin to hand the islands over to Japan. Petrov is the third high-ranking politician after State Secretary Gennadii Burbulis and Deputy Prime Minister Mikhail Poltoranin, who is closely studying the issue in preparation for Yeltsin's visit. (Alexander Rahr) KOZYREV'S FOREIGN POLICY ATTACKED. The Russian conservatives' foreign policy expert and historian, Natalia Narochnitskaya, has attacked Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev's pro-Western foreign policy in a lengthy interview with Literaturnaya Rossiya (no.34). She claimed that while all other industrial states are protecting their national self-interests, Russian foreign policy makers have abandoned theirs. She deplored the fact that Russia has lost territories which it possessed for more than 300 years and is now abandoning one of its closest historical allies: Serbia. She asserted that a new Russian government must reverse the treaty on the CIS as unconstitutional and seek to reunify the former republics of the USSR. (Alexander Rahr) RUSSIAN MONEY MATTERS. Acting Russian Prime Minister Egor Gaidar told Russian TV on 25 August that inflation fell to 7% in July. If true, this would be the lowest monthly rate in 1992. However, the economist Nikolai Petrakov and other critics have warned that Russia is moving into a period of hyperinflation. ITAR-TASS told of merchants at newspaper kiosks in Severomorsk giving out condoms to sailors in lieu of change because of a shortage of small-denomination notes and coins. And the same agency reported that a poultry factory in Ulan Ude is short of cash and has paid out each employee with three or four boxes of eggs. (Keith Bush) PETRAKOV SEES HIDDEN HYPERINFLATION. Well-known Russian economist Nikolai Petrakov told an audience at the World Congress of International Economic Association that the recent stability of the ruble and moderation of inflation was an illusion. He claimed that overdue wage and pension payments, "the most barbaric and cynical form of wage freeze," were an artificial constraint on inflation intentionally created by the government, Biznes-TASS reported on 25 August. He implied that as this constraint is broken, the ruble might lose half its value vis-a-vis the dollar over the second half of this year. (Erik Whitlock) CHANGES IN THE RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT FORECAST. Yosif Diskin, a leading "ideologist" of the Civic Union, told ITAR-TASS on 22 August that the Industrial Lobby will present its own economic program to the parliament. He indicated that if the parliament supports that program, the Civic Union will take over the government and replace acting Prime Minister Egor Gaidar with its leader, Arkadii Volsky. Diskin emphasized that Volsky will conduct an independent policy and halt the present confrontation between the executive and legislative branches. Meanwhile, representatives of the liberal parliamentary faction "Reforma," such as Viktor Sheinis, called for cooperation between the Democratic Russia Movement and the Civic Union, Rossiiskaya gazeta reported on 20 August. (Alexander Rahr) BURBULIS ON REFORM. Russian State Secretary Gennadii Burbulis has admitted in an interview with Izvestia on 20 August that the power balance in Russian politics has shifted towards the "industrial lobby" and indicated that he has lost most of his previous powers. He asserted, however, that democrats remain influential in politics, that democratization has almost reached the point of no return, and that a majority of Russians, although tired of politics, support reform. He said that he cannot forgive himself for believing for so long that society could be liberalized under the former Communist system. (Alexander Rahr) CORRUPTION IN OIL DISTRIBUTION GROWS. The Russian Interior Ministry has expressed alarm at increasing corruption and other illegalities in oil export transactions, Krim-Press reported on 25 August. Ministry officials gave no figures on the overall loss to the state from such criminality, but provided many suggestive examples, one of which is that corrupt state bureaucrats are charging foreign importers an additional $2 per ton of oil over the official selling price. This represents a mark-up of 15-20% over prices that producers receive for their oil on the Russian market. The Ministry predicted that corruption would worsen and more oil would be diverted from price-controlled domestic markets in the near future when privatization of the industry begins. (Erik Whitlock) NEW RUSSIAN AGENCY FOR FOREIGN INVESTMENT CREATED. The Russian government is establishing a new office for handling international financial affairs, including relations with international lending organizations, according to the Financial Times on 21 August. The "Agency for International Cooperation and Development," which Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Shokhin will oversee, apparently will replace the existing Foreign Investment Committee. No details were given as to why the government thought the switch was necessary. (Erik Whitlock) RUSSIAN ECONOMIC PRIORITIES FOR 1993. Russian First Deputy Economics Minister Andrei Shapovalyants told Interfax on 25 August that he is preparing a "program of priorities" for 1993. The program will be submitted to the government for consideration and it contains four areas of concentration. They are, in order of precedence: support for the fuel and energy complex and protection of the nation's export potential; providing sufficient food to the population; housing construction for servicemen returning from abroad; and the conversion of the military complex. (Keith Bush) RUSSIAN EMPLOYMENT FUND. According to Interfax of 25 August, Russian President Boris Yeltsin has signed a decree setting up a state employment fund. Enterprises are to contribute 1% of their wage and salary bills to this fund "to finance efforts to guarantee employment during the third quarter of this year." Public organizations composed of invalids and pensioners, and organizations where these make up more than half of the workforce are exempt from contributions. (Keith Bush) STRUGGLE OVER IZVESTIA CONTINUES. The struggle over control of the newspaper Izvestia is far from over. The Fund for Russian Federal Property, which is subordinate to the parliament, has claimed ownership of the former Soviet government newspaper, ITAR-TASS reported on 25 August. Russian President Boris Yeltsin decreed on 22 August that the newspaper would remain independent from the parliament as part of its own publishing company, Izvestia, which was created after the failed putsch. But the Russian State Procuracy decided that the creation of an independent publishing company was illegal, thus taking the side of the parliament against Yeltsin. (Alexander Rahr) SIGNING OF CIS CHARTER UNLIKELY TO BE ON SUMMIT AGENDA. In spite of earlier optimistic forecasts, it is unlikely that the signing of the CIS charter will on the agenda of the CIS summit in Bishkek on 25 September, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 August. A three-day meeting of experts in Minsk ran into problems, particularly as regards the economic court, which will require further consultations. A counsellor of the Russian Foreign Ministry said that the concept of a human rights commission did not meet universal understanding either. Ukraine had reservations about the economic court when its creation was proposed and agreed in principle at the 6 July summit. From the beginning, Ukraine has been the chief obstacle to the adoption of the charter. (Ann Sheehy) BASHKIRS SET UP OWN MUFTIATE. A congress of the Muslim clergy of Bashkortostan in Ufa on 21 August established a board of the Muslims of Bashkortostan with its center in Ufa, and elected the imam-hatib of the Ufa cathedral mosque Nurmukhamet Nigmatullin its chairman or mufti, Izvestiya reported. Delegates expressed their distrust of the chairman of the Muslim religious board for European Russia and Siberia, Talgat Tajiddin, whom they accused of squandering the board's property and abusing his position. The Muslim Religious Board for European Russia and Siberia is the third of the four official Muslim religious boards that existed under the Soviet regime to split into national units. Although the board has its residence in Ufa, it has been dominated by Tatars, by far the largest Muslim nationality in Russia. (Ann Sheehy) INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER EDITOR MURDERED IN BAKU. Journalist Rahbar Bashiroglu and his newly-wedded wife were murdered by two unidentified gunmen in their Baku apartment during the evening of 24 August, Interfax reported. The motive for the killing is not clear. Bashiroglu edited the newspaper "20th of January," which aimed to publicize human rights violations by the Soviet Army in Baku in January 1990. An Azerbaijani procuracy investigation recently established that former Soviet Defense Minister Yazov gave the order for troops to open fire on civilians; the procuracy is also considering bringing criminal charges against Gorbachev in connection with the killings. (Liz Fuller) TAJIK OPPOSITION DENIES INVOLVEMENT IN PROSECUTOR'S MURDER. The parties and movements making up Tajikistan's opposition coalition have issued a statement distancing themselves from the murder of the country's state prosecutor on 24 August, and demanding a thorough and objective investigation of the crime, ITAR-TASS reported on 25 August. The self-described democratic forces--the Democratic and Islamic Renaissance Parties and the nationalist Rastokhez and Lali Badakhshan movements--said that they feared the crime would be used by "certain forces" (certainly including the Communists who still dominate the government and legislature) as an excuse to attack the democrats. (Bess Brown) CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON YUGOSLAV CONFLICT OPENS TODAY. International media report the opening on 26 August in London of a three-day session dealing with the crisis in the former Yugoslavia. Some 400 delegates representing the international community and the local key players will attend, led by Co-Chairmen UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali and British Prime Minister John Major, representing the UN and EC as sponsors. American, Russian, and other leaders have stressed that no big developments are expected, just an increase in momentum by adopting a four-point "code of civilized behavior" and probably some other measures. A permanent international body to monitor the conflict may be set up. The Bosnian, Serbian, and Croatian parties show little sign of modifying their respective positions. (Patrick Moore) KOSOVO ALBANIANS TO ATTEND CONFERENCE. Radio Croatia reported on 25 August that a delegation representing Kosovo's Albanian majority will attend the London conference. Ibrahim Rugova, president of the self-proclaimed Republic of Kosovo, told reporters that he was invited by former mediator Lord Carrington. Serbia is opposed to Kosovo's independence moves and to Rugova's attendance. Rugova is supported by the Party for Democratic Action representing Albanians in the southern region of Serbia. The Assembly for Political-Territorial Autonomy of the Albanians in Macedonia sent a letter to Lord Carrington asking to be invited and stressing that efforts for full equality of Albanians with the Macedonians have been unsuccessful. The assembly accused the Macedonian parties of treating Albanians as second-class citizens. (Milan Andrejevich) UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY PASSES RESOLUTION ON BOSNIA. On 25 August the General Assembly urged the Security Council to take "further appropriate measures... to put an end to the fighting and to restore the unity and territorial integrity of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina." The delegates also condemned "ethnic cleansing" and demanded a stop to it. The vote was 136 to 1, with only Serbia-Montenegro voting against; Russia and four African countries abstained. Western news agencies said that the vote illustrates Belgrade's international isolation, but added that Turkey and some Islamic countries had wanted a tougher call for military action. (Patrick Moore) CARRINGTON RESIGNS AS MEDIATOR FOR THE FORMER YUGOSLAVIA. The 26 August Washington Post said that Lord Carrington announced he was stepping down the previous day, and added that he probably did so out of frustration. The decision took the diplomatic community by surprise. His replacement may be David Owen, who also is a former British foreign secretary. Meanwhile in Sarajevo, the BBC reported on 26 August that the city had experienced the heaviest artillery bombardment in weeks, with shells landing from Serbian positions every few seconds. On the eve of the London conference, the Bosnian forces have been trying to break the siege of the capital, and the Serbs have been responding in kind. (Patrick Moore) THE RUMP YUGOSLAV ECONOMY REPORTEDLY NEAR COLLAPSE. The 24 August edition of the Belgrade daily Vecernje novosti reported that the UN sanctions are not the only factors which is leading to an economic collapse in the rump Yugoslavia. Economists say that in addition to the sanctions, the reasons for the country's economic crisis are the absence of a macro-economic policy, the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina and a galloping inflation. The situation is further affected by an abundance of export products that are not in demand on the domestic market. The drop in the demand for domestic goods is nearly equal to the drop in real earnings, which fell by 50 percent during the first quarter of 1992. Most of the population survives by spending foreign currency savings which were not deposited at state-owned banks. The economic situation has also been aggravated by the uncertain situation in agriculture. This year's wheat yield is far below expected. More maize and industrial crops have been sown than last year, but the drought in late July and early August has affected production. (Milan Andrejevich) BULGARIA WANTS COUNCIL OF EUROPE TO DISCUSS EX-YUGOSLAVIA. Bulgaria has requested the Council of Europe, whose committee of ministers is scheduled to meet on September 10-11, to discuss the conflict in parts of former Yugoslavia, Western and Bulgarian media reported on 25 August. In a letter to the twenty-member strong international body, the Bulgarian government is warning against the regional implications of developments in ex-Yugoslavia. According to Bulgaria, "massive" human rights violations are occurring in Bosnia-Herzegovina and ethnic tensions threaten to spread over the Balkans. (Kjell Engelbrekt) TALKS RESUME TODAY BETWEEN MECIAR AND KLAUS. On 25 August, a day after Slovak prime minister Vladimir Meciar cancelled the scheduled parleys with Czech premier Vaclav Klaus on the breakup of Czechoslovakia, talks are set to resume. The sixth in a series of negotiations were scheduled for 27 August in Prague but were cancelled by Meciar, who claimed that Klaus' Civic Democratic Party (ODS) had failed to fulfill many of the political agreements reached thus far. The two leaders will instead meet today in Brno. CSTK reports that the meeting's agenda is unchanged. No reason for Meciar's change of mind has been offered, except that it followed telephone discussions with the ODS. (Paulina Bren) POLL: ROMANIAN OPPOSITION LEADING IN FORTHCOMING BALLOT.The Romanian Institute for Public Opinion Survey (IRSOP) released on 25 August the results of an opinion poll concerning the forthcoming presidential and general elections. The survey, which had been commissioned by Reuters, shows that Romania's opposition may lead a coalition government after elections scheduled for 27 September. According to the poll, the Democratic Convention, an alliance of 18 parties and organizations from the opposition, would win 28% in the vote for the parliament, ahead of the left-wing Democratic National Salvation Front (22%). The survey also indicates that President Ion Iliescu, faces a tight battle for re-election. Only 39% of the electorate appear to support him for a second mandate. In the 1990 elections, 85% voted for Iliescu. (Dan Ionescu) ROMANIA INVITES FOREIGN OBSERVERS TO MONITOR ELECTIONS. Romania's foreign ministry has sent invitations to foreign governments, political parties, and international human rights and labor organizations willing to send observers to monitor the 27 September ballot. In an interview with the Bucharest daily Adevarul, Gheorghe Tinca, an undersecretary of state at the foreign ministry, said that the observers would be free to travel where they wished and talk to anyone they liked. He added that his ministry would help them make travel arrangements and set up interviews but that Romania would not bear the costs of the visits. Tinca also said that the first invitation had been sent to the CSCE Bureau for Democratic Institutions in Warsaw. (Dan Ionescu) ROMANIA ASKS HUNGARY TO EXTRADITE FORMER INTERIOR MINISTER. Romania asked Hungary on 25 August to extradite retired general Alexandru Draghici, a former boss of the Securitate political police and an interior minister in the 1950s and 1960s. Radio Bucharest quoted a statement of the Ministry of Justice saying that Draghici and his wife were believed to hide in Budapest. The military prosecutor's office has started judicial procedures against Draghici on homicide charges on 5 August and issued a warrant for his arrest. (Dan Ionescu) LITHUANIA TO BUY ONE RUSSIAN NAVY SHIP. National defense minister Audrius Butkevicius confirmed on 25 August that Lithuania planned to buy one "coast guard" ship from the Russian Baltic fleet. According to ITAR-TASS the minister denied an earlier statement by a Baltic fleet official that more ships would be involved in the deal. Butkevicius said the ship would be paid for in rubles. Lithuania already has a small coastal defense service, with a rescue ship and three cutters. The Russian Baltic fleet has a naval base at Klaipeda, Lithuania, where a small squadron of five warships is based. (Doug Clarke) POLISH MASS PRIVATIZATION TO COMPENSATE STATE EMPLOYEES AND PENSIONERS. The Polish government decided on 25 August to use its proposed mass privatization program to compensate the 3.5 million pensioners and state employees whose lost benefits were ordered reinstated by the Constitutional Tribunal early in 1992. In upholding the tribunal's verdicts, the Sejm in May ordered the government to find a way to reinstate the benefits without burdening the budget. The government plans to set aside 18% of the shares in firms subject to mass privatization for affected pensioners and state employees. This reduces the portion of shares held by the state treasury to 12% of the total. To cover added costs, mass privatization will encompass 600 rather than 400 firms. Privatization officials estimate that shareholders will have to wait until 1994 for any gain. (Louisa Vinton) JAPAN HELPS FUND POLISH REGIONAL RESTRUCTURING. The Japanese government has made available 30 billion zloty (over 2 million US dollars) for use in creating new jobs in the troubled Mielec region, PAP reported on 25 August. Over 20,000 of the 60,000 area residents worked in the Mielec aircraft factory, the sole local employer, which went bust after the loss of the Soviet military market. A protest strike has been underway there for months. Jan Krzysztof Bielecki, minister for EC contacts, predicted that the EC will offer several hundred million dollars for similar projects in Poland, provided the trade unions understand that the money is for creating new jobs rather than saving old ones. The government is planning similar development programs for the depressed Walbrzych and Lodz regions. (Louisa Vinton) MEAT AND BAKERY PRODUCT PRICES RISE IN HUNGARY. Regional meat producers announced price increases of 6%, reported MTI. Procurement and transportation price increases were blamed. Meat prices belong to the so-called "free price" category, not set by central authorities, but the industry is controlled by state-owned monopoly producers. The price of bread was raised by 10-12% on 24 August, following flour price increases in July. The increases were partly caused by inflation, which is planned to reach 25% in 1992, or about 10% less than in 1991. (Karoly Okolicsanyi) NEW WORLD BANK LOAN FOR HUNGARY. The Hungarian ministry of industry and trade announced on 24 August that the World Bank has granted a loan of 100 million US dollars for the purpose of trade development, Radio Budapest reports. The loan, the first of its kind in Eastern Europe, will be distributed by two commercial banks and has a three year grace period with ten years maturity. It will be provided to private and state enterprise applicants to improve trade services, such as better storage facilities or better packaging. (Karoly Okolicsanyi) MEETING OF LITHUANIAN GOVERNMENT ON ENERGY. On 24 August the weekly meeting of the Lithuanian government focused on the energy situation, Radio Lithuania and BNS report. Russia has stopped sending crude oil to the refinery at Mazeikiai for more than two weeks demanding world prices. Estonia has promised to purchase crude oil from Russia that would be refined at Mazeikiai with Lithuania retaining 20%. Lithuanian deputy prime minister Bronislavas Lubys noted that energy prices could increase five fold and the government would have to provide a subsidy of 8.5 billion rubles even after more than doubling the prices consumers would have to pay. Without the subsidy the cost of heating homes would be almost as high as the current average wages in Lithuania. Prime minister Aleksandras Abisala charged minister of energy Leonas Asmantas to submit proposals on all major energy supply issues for the next meeting because the problem was not "getting ready for the winter," but the country's very survival through the winter. (Saulius Girnius) "THE WANDERING ESTONIAN" IS NOT RADIOACTIVE? Controversy continues over the "Heltermaa," an Estonian-registered ship said to be carrying radioactive waste. According to Toivo Ninnas, chairman of the board of the Estonian merchant marine, the "Heltermaa" is carrying only industrial scrap and zinc oxide. Ninnas is quoted in Paevaleht of 25 August as calling the disinformation by ITAR-TASS about the ship's cargo "a political game being played in order to harm the reputation of Estonian shipping and through that the economy of the young state." The "Heltermaa" has been seeking landing privileges in various Black Sea ports since early summer, an odyssey that has earned it the nickname "The Wandering Estonian" among local journalists. (Riina Kionka) POLAND'S CRIME RATE STABILIZES. Polish police officials announced on 25 August that the number of reported crimes in the first seven months of 1992 had dropped marginally in comparison with the same period in 1991. Economic crime rose dramatically, however, increasing 38%. Police also worry that many crimes go unreported, PAP said. Violent crime remained stable in the first half of 1992, but the number of robberies involving the use of firearms rose 80%. The number of attacks on policemen was also much higher. Polish police were able to solve 48% of committed crimes, an increase of 5% over 1991. (Louisa Vinton)
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