|Life is what happens to us while we're making other plans. - John Lennon|
No. 166, 31 August 1992
SUCCESSOR STATES TO THE USSR FIGHTING CONTINUES DESPITE ABKHAZ CEASEFIRE AGREEMENT. Abkhaz Parliament Chairman Vladislav Ardzinba and Georgian Defense Minister Tengiz Kitovani signed a ceasefire agreement in Sochi on 29 August, which will go into effect on 31 August, Russian TV reported. The two men also discussed the possibility of establishing a Russian-Georgian peacekeeping force for the region, in which Armenia might also participate. Further fighting between Abkhaz and Georgian forces near Gagra on 30 August resulted in several dozen killed on both sides, Western agencies reported. (Liz Fuller, RFE/RL Inc.) UNIDENTIFIED WARSHIP SHELLS GEORGIAN TROOPS. On August 30, an unidentified warship shelled Georgian troops stationed in the Abkhazian city of Gagra, on the Black Sea coast some 50 kilometers southeast of Sochi. According to ITAR-TASS, the bombardment inflicted heavy casualties among the Georgian troops and severe damage to the city. Georgian Defense Minister Tengiz Kitovani, whose credibility is suspect, to say the least, told ITAR-TASS that the attack had been carried out by a Russian vessel, an accusation denied by the Russian navy headquarters. A duty officer there reportedly told TASS that "there were no Russian military vessels in the area." (Doug Clarke and Liz Fuller, RFE/RL Inc.) YELTSIN MAY APOLOGIZE TO JAPAN, RECOGNIZE SOVEREIGNTY. The Japanese Kyodo News Service on 29 August said that Russian President Boris Yeltsin may formally apologize for the Soviet seizure of 600,000 Japanese World War II prisoners of war when he visits Japan in mid-September. The agency, quoted by UPI, said that such an apology was in the draft joint communique. The document was also said to contain Russian recognition of Japanese sovereignty over the Southern Kuril islands. Japanese Foreign Minister Michio Watanabe, on his depature for Moscow on 29 August in preparation for Yeltsin's visit, said that Japan would be flexible on the timing and conditions for returning the disputed islands as long as Moscow recognized Japanese sovereignty over them. (Doug Clarke, RFE/RL Inc.) EMBASSY EVACUATIONS IN KABUL, BAGHDAD. The last group of Russian citizens was evacuated from Kabul on 29 August. The mission had been briefly halted when one Russian aircraft was destroyed by a rocket attack. Russian media reported one wounded; AFP said several were wounded and noted that evacuees had not been equipped with protective clothing for the rescue operation. In Baghdad, the evacuation of dependents of personnel working at Russian institutions has also begun. According to an unidentified Russian diplomat cited by Izvestiya on 29 August: "there is some nervousness [in Baghdad]... We do not want to repeat the Kabul situation." (Suzanne Crow, RFE/RL Inc.) LATEST ON RUSSIA'S FOREIGN DEBT. Acting Russian Prime Minister Egor Gaidar told a news conference on 28 August that Russia could not pay more than $2 billion in 1992 towards servicing its convertible currency debt, Reuters reported. On the same day, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Shokhin announced that Russia could pay no more than $2.5 billion annually "without damage to the economy," according to Interfax. Principal and interest payments originally due in 1992 amounted to about $20 billion, but this has been reduced by rescheduling to about $10 billion. However, to judge from the ITAR-TASS coverage, the G-7 meeting on 28 August that dealt, inter alia, with the Russian debt, ended inconclusively. (Keith Bush, RFE/RL Inc.) CENTRAL BANK PASSIVE TO RUBLE'S PLIGHT? The Russian Central Bank appears willing to let the ruble continue to float unsupported despite its recent 20% plunge and widespread expectation of further devaluation. Dmitrii Tulin, a deputy chairman of the monetary authority, rejected rumors (ITAR-TASS on 27 August) that the bank was about to put the ruble back on a fixed exchange rate with the dollar, Western sources reported on 28 August. Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko, who has criticized intervention to support the ruble in the past, brushed off last week's ruble drop as temporary. He implied that Russian export revenues in the coming months will bring enough dollars to the exchange market to push the ruble's value back up, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. (Erik Whitlock, RFE/RL Inc.) SHUMEIKO CRITICIZES WESTERN LACK OF INVESTMENT. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Shumeiko has criticized Western businessmen for not investing in the Russian economy. He told ITAR-TASS on 27 August that the West seems to be reluctant to let Russia enter the world market. He rejected charges that Western investments in Russia are not legally protected, and cited as an example the law on entrepreneurship. He also denied that the Russian government is only following the instructions of the IMF. He stated that he himself had negotiations with the IMF during which no conditions were set. (Alexander Rahr, RFE/RL Inc.) GOSSNAB TO BE ABOLISHED? Effective 1 January 1993, Russian enterprises will be responsible for finding and purchasing their own inputs without help from the Gossnab or state supply system. This was the essence of a decree signed by acting Russian Prime Minister Egor Gaidar, according to The Times of 31 August, which quoted Interfax of unspecified date. It was not made clear what will become of Gossnab and its employees. The Times suggested that the decree on the elimination of central distribution was one of several measures promulgated while the opposition was out of town. Another one was said to deprive so-called personal pensioners of their privileges. (Keith Bush, RFE/RL Inc.) TURKISH-RUSSIAN AGREEMENTS. Turkish radio reported on 28 August the initialling of a friendship declaration and other agreements with Russia. The accords consist of pledges to cooperate in the fields of transportation and defense, a protocol pledging to increase Russian natural gas supplies to Turkey, and cooperation between the two countries on the reconstruction and expansion of the gas pipeline over Turkish and Russian territories. The declaration also calls for agreement on investments, and notes that the first round of the Turkish-Russian economic cooperation committee meetings will be held in October. The declaration was initialed by State Minister Cavit Caglar and Russian State Secretary Gennadii Burbulis. It will go into effect after being signed by Prime Minister Suleyman Demirel and Russian President Boris Yeltsin. (Suzanne Crow, RFE/RL Inc.) VOLSKY: ANDROPOV'S TRUE HEIR? Writing in Den (no.34), Mikhail Morozov sheds new light on the roots of perestroika and the roles played by Mikhail Gorbachev and Arkadii Volsky, the leader of the "industrial lobby." According to the article, Mikhail Gorbachev was not a protege of Yurii Andropov, who attempted to oust Gorbachev from the Politburo because of the latter's failure to improve the performance of the agricultural sector. The article depicts Gorbachev's selection to become general secretary as the result of the intrigues of former Soviet foreign minister Andrei Gromyko. Moreover, Morozov indicates that the true heir of Andropov was not Gorbachev, but rather Volsky. At the same time, the article portrays Volsky as a party technocrat whose economic and managerial skills are being overestimated. (Alexander Rahr, RFE/RL Inc.) BURBULIS ON REFORM. In an interview with Novoe vemya (no.35), Russian State Secretary Gennadii Burbulis defended President Boris Yeltsin's political balancing act between the right and the left as absolutely necessary to retain social order. He noted that his present functions included the strategic planning of foreign and domestic policies, information policy, cooperation with other political parties and organizations, as well as control over personnel, science, education and culture. He indicated that he was not worried about his loss of power, since the present stage of reform requires that different politicians lead the government now that the reform process has advanced beyond its initial stages. He called upon democrats to become civil servants. (Alexander Rahr, RFE/RL Inc.) INDIA TO BUY TANK ENGINES FROM POLAND. Indian officials announced on 28 August that India had signed a $14.3 million contract to buy 200 T-72 tank engines from Poland. Both India and Poland build the Soviet-designed T-72 under license. India has depended heavily on factories in the former USSR to provide components for the many Soviet weapons systems it produces. It had been receiving T-72 engines from plants in Ukraine, and according to the UPI report, will have to pay Poland more than two times the price it had been paying for the engines. The agency indicated that the former states of the USSR had failed to honor their commitments under a two-year accord signed with India last January, according to which the continuation of supplies under the terms agreed with the Soviet Union would have been guaranteed. (Doug Clarke, RFE/RL Inc.) SHEVARDNADZE AND THE GEORGIAN ELECTIONS. Having stated on 25 August -- the final deadline -- that he intends to stand as a candidate for the Mshvidoba (Peace) bloc in the parliamentary elections scheduled for 11 October, Eduard Shevardnadze has been asked by several of the parties concerned to disassociate himself from this bloc and stand as an independent candidate for the post of parliament chairman, ITAR-TASS reported on 30 August. The Georgian State Council had amended the election law on 29 August to allow for the simultaneous election of a parliament chairman, who will be elected by secret ballot on a majority basis and who must receive a minimum of one third of all votes cast. The parliament chairman may not be a member of any political party or bloc. The rationale cited for asking Shevardnadze to stand as a separate candidate was that his alignment with Mshvidoba would give that bloc an unfair advantage; the fact that the main party within Mshvidoba is the successor to the Georgian CP was not mentioned. (Liz Fuller, RFE/RL Inc.) TATARSTAN AND RUSSIAN GOVERNMENTS REACH AGREEMENT ON FINANCES AND OIL. Tatarstan Prime Minister Muhammat Sabirov told a press conference in Kazan on 28 August that a recent agreement signed by the Tatarstan and Russian governments had settled disputed questions regarding finances and oil, and that Russia had lifted its budget blockade of Tatarstan, ITAR-TASS reported. It had been agreed that 2.1 million tons of Tatarstan oil would go towards paying off the external debt of the former Soviet Union, and that Tatarstan would be allowed to dispose of 5 million tons itself. As a matter of principle Tatarstan had been refusing to pay tax revenues into the Russian federal budget, insisting on only lump sum payments. The report does not indicate that Tatarstan has abandoned this principle. (Ann Sheehy, RFE/RL Inc.) MAJOR COAL AND NEW OIL DEPOSITS DISCOVERED IN TATARSTAN. "Vesti" reported on 27 August that coal deposits at least as vast as those of the Donetsk basin have been discovered in Tatarstan. New oil deposits were also discovered. If the report is true, it is likely to strengthen the determination of the Tatarstan authorities to assert their sovereignty vis-a-vis Russia. (Ann Sheehy, RFE/RL Inc.) MOLDOVAN-ROMANIAN PRESIDENTIAL MEETING. Romanian President Ion Ilescu met for four hours with Moldovan President Mircea Snegur in Husi on the Romanian side of the common border on 28 August. The two presidents informed the Romanian media afterwards that they had discussed economic issues, and that Snegur had also briefed Iliescu on current negotiations--from which Romania has since July been excluded--to settle the Dniester conflict. This meeting prompted most of the Romanian press to renew its attacks on the Snegur government for bowing to Russia's demand that Romania be excluded from the negotiations and for opposing unification with Romania. (Vladimir Socor, RFE/RL Inc. "DNIESTER REPUBLIC" TO REIMPOSE RUSSIAN SCRIPT ON "MOLDOVAN LANGUAGE." A draft "law on languages," currently before the "Dniester Republic Supreme Soviet," would reimpose the Russian alphabet for the "Moldovan language" (i.e. Romanian) in schools there, Radio Rossii reported on 24 August. Moldovan schools in that area switched to the Latin script following its reinstatement in Moldova in 1989, and have since resisted the "Dniester" authorities' orders to return the "Moldovan language" to the Russian alphabet. The proposed measure would give the "Dniester" Russian authorities a pseudo-legal basis for enforcing compliance. (Vladimir Socor, RFE/RL Inc.) CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE FIERCE FIGHTING IN SARAJEVO. International media from 28 to 31 August reported particularly intense combat as Bosnian forces tried to break the siege while Serb units replied with tank and artillery fire. On 30 August a tank shell hit a bread line and killed 15 in a suburban marketplace. On 31 August the BBC quoted a UN observer as saying that the shell had come from Serb positions and the market was deliberately targeted. The New York Times quoted the same UN spokesman as saying: "It would be nice if we could turn ourselves into a police force and run up into the hills and grab those people and arrest them and bring them to justice." (Patrick Moore, RFE/RL Inc.) UNCERTAINTY SURROUNDS GORAZDE. The BBC on 30 August reported that Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic announced that his troops are ending their siege of the mainly Muslim town, but the broadcast added that the Bosnian forces at the same time claimed they had broken the encirclement themselves. "Panic" was reported among the Serbian civilian population in the surrounding area. One Serbian woman said that Muslim soldiers burned down the local Serbian church in apparent retaliation for the Serbs' destruction of mosques. The situation remains unclear, however, and the UN has postponed sending in a relief convoy. (Patrick Moore, RFE/RL Inc.) MASS GRAVES FOUND AT MOSTAR. On 30 August Reuters reported the discovery near Mostar of mass graves of some 200 people, mainly Muslims but some Croats, a local pathologist said. Muslims and Croats claimed Serb irregulars killed the civilians in mid-June as part of an ethnic-cleansing operation, but Karadzic said it was the work of the Croats. The area was the scene of particularly vicious fighting and outright massacres between Croats and Muslims on the one hand and Serbs on the other during World War II. The discovery in question is the first evidence of mass killings in the current conflict, and Croat and Muslim officials in Mostar are continuing to look for more graves. (Patrick Moore, RFE/RL Inc.) PANIC MEETS RUGOVA. Belgrade's Politika TV reported on 27 August that Milan Panic, prime minister of the rump Yugoslavia, met in London with Ibrahim Rugova, leader of the Democratic Alliance of Kosovo (DSK) and president of the self-proclaimed Republic of Kosovo. It was the first official meeting between a top federal official and a DSK leader. Sources close to Panic told Politika TV that the leaders discussed the situation in the Serbian province and the measures the federal government intends to take to solve Kosovo's problems. According to Radio Croatia, Panic told Rugova that his government will restore self-government, which it lost in 1990. DSK vice president Fehmi Agani stated on 28 August that he welcomes the Panic-Rugova talks "irrespective of the outcome." He added that the London conference on the former Yugoslavia "has fulfilled our expectations" by having placed greater emphasis than ever before on the independence of Kosovo. (Milan Andrejevich, RFE/RL Inc.) SERBS QUARRELING OVER KOSOVO? Nonetheless, Serbian prime minister Radoman Bozovic told a group of businessmen in Serbia on 27 August that Serbia will not allow itself to be "dismembered at any cost under international pressure for an alleged protection of minority rights" in the provinces of Kosovo and Vojvodina or in the predominantly Muslim Sandzak region. On 28 August Belgrade's independent radio B-92 commented that Panic's Kosovo policy challenges the official line advanced by Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic and Dobrica Cosic, president of the rump Yugoslavia and chief of the federal army. Commenting on the London conference the radio said "while Slobodan fiddles, Milan threatens to light the fire under his feet by shouting to the world "I expect Mr. Milosevic to comply, or else." (Milan Andrejevich, RFE/RL Inc.) ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS SLOVENIA, CROATIA. Returning from the London conference, Adrian Nastase stopped over to visit Slovenia and Croatia on 28 and 29 August. Radio Bucharest said that Nastase was received by the presidents of the two countries and signed agreements for establishing diplomatic relations. In early August Romania offered to host a conference of the states born on the ruins of former Yugoslavia. (Dan Ionescu, RFE/RL Inc.) MORE TALK ABOUT GABCIKOVO-NAGYMAROS. On 28 August MTI reported that, prompted by informal information received by the Danube Commission from Czechoslovakia concerning the Gabcikovo-Nagymaros hydroelectric project, Hungarian Prime Minister Jozsef Antall wrote letters to Czechoslovak federal prime minister Jan Strasky and Slovak prime minister Vladimir Meciar Czechoslovakia reportedly is continuing its plans to put the plant into operation. The project will change the flow of the Danube river after 15 October and slightly alter the Hungarian-Slovak border. Strasky told CSTK on 28 August that, should the Czechoslovak-Hungarian border be changed, he would agree to turning to the International Court of Justice in the Hague for a decision but said both countries should resort first to political negotiations. Slovak deputy prime minister Roman Kovac echoed Strasky's statements, adding that Meciar's planned visit to Hungary on 9 September could help resolve the problem. MTI reports that Hungarian foreign minister Geza Jeszenszky will be in Prague on 2 September and will also hold talks with Meciar. (Judith Pataki & Jiri Pehe, RFE/RL Inc.) POLAND CELEBRATES SOLIDARITY'S FOUNDING. On 30 August government leaders, labor activists, and ordinary workers celebrated the 12th anniversary of the 1980 strikes that paved the way to the founding of the Solidarity labor union. According to a PAP report, President Lech Walesa told a gathering in Gdansk that Poland now "has to think how to use that great [historic] victory to better [current] effects." Solidarity chairman Marian Krzaklewski took part in ceremonies remembering workers killed by communist security forces in 1982 in the city of Lubin. Several other commemorative gatherings were held in cities throughout the country. Occasional meetings will be also held on 31 August, with Prime Minister Hanna Suchocka scheduled to attend a gathering in the industrial center of Stalowa Wola. (Jan de Weydenthal, RFE/RL Inc.) POLISH GOVERNMENT TO DISMISS STRIKERS. Striking workers in the car parts factory in Tychy and in the Silesian Rozbark coal mine have received dismissal notices from the plant management. These strikes are regarded by the government as illegal because they started before the conclusion of negotiations between the unions and the management. The notices are to take effect today. In the meantime, PAP reports that on 30 August fourteen striking Rozbark miners went on a hunger strike to protest the government's refusal to take part in direct negotiations on the situation in the mine. The government has refused to negotiate with the strikers, arguing that such talks should involve only workers and management and not state authorities. Even so, the decision to dismiss strikers has certainly been backed by the government itself. In a related development at the conclusion of a meeting held on 30 August the national leadership of Solidarity demanded that the labor leaders should meet with President Walesa and Prime Minister Suchocka to develop a new economic strategy to deal with current social problems. (Jan de Weydenthal, RFE/RL Inc.) ROMANIAN MINERS PROTEST LIVING STANDARDS. The miners called for a week of demonstrations to protest declining living standards and worsening conditions in the mining industry. Radio Bucharest reports that a first rally was held on 29 August in Deva, southern Transylvania. The protests, which are organized by the Mine Union Federation, the Alfa Trade Union Cartel, and other union associations, come amidst preparations for general and presidential elections, scheduled for 27 September. The unions threaten a nationwide strike if authorities do not take steps to protect jobs and guarantee social security. Meanwhile, Romania's coalition government has vowed to go ahead with new subsidy cuts on food, basic services, and energy despite threats of labor unrest. (Dan Ionescu, RFE/RL Inc.) SCREENING FOR LITHUANIAN PARLIAMENT CANDIDATES? On 28 August the Lithuanian chief elections commission adopted a 26-question application form for candidates in the Lithuanian parliamentary elections on 25 October. The candidates will have to state whether they have ever been employed by foreign secret services, been recruited by the KGB, or been a member or officer in the Lithuanian Communist Party. Vytautas Radzvila, chairman of the Lithuanian Liberal Union, told the RFE/RL Lithuanian Service that he feels that, in order to avoid any suggestion of political discrimination, it would have been preferable not to have singled out membership in the Communist Party but rather to inquire about membership in any political party. (Saulius Girnius, RFE/RL Inc.) LATVIAN BORDER GUARDS KILLED. Two Latvian border guards died of bullet and stab wounds on 26 August at the Yasenitsy post at the Russian-Latvian border. According to BNS of 29 August, quoting Diena, the Ministry of Internal Affairs' Criminal Records Department said that the four Latvian border guards stationed at the post had been drinking and quarreling that night. Latvian authorities refused further comment, but reports do not suggest a political motive. (Riina Kionka, RFE/RL Inc.) HAVEL PLANS RETURN TO PUBLIC LIFE. Speaking to reporters after dinner with Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus on 29 August, former Czechoslovak President Vaclav Havel said he was planning to return to public life soon. Havel said that he did not necessarily want to become the president of the Czech Republic when the post is created but that he would like to be active in public life in some capacity. Havel also said that he was satisfied with the 26 August talks between Klaus and Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar, which produced an agreement that Czechoslovakia will be divided into two states on 31 December 1992. Havel said that the talks helped to calm down the public. (Jiri Pehe, RFE/RL Inc.) ZHELEV SHARPLY CRITICIZES UDF. At a press conference in Sofia on 30 August, Bulgarian president Zhelyu Zhelev called on the ruling UDF to end its "policy of confrontation," or the coalition will soon face "isolation and new elections," BTA reports. Zhelev accused the UDF government of declaring "all-out war" against trade unions, the press, and the entire extraparliamentary democratic opposition, and for trying to provoke conflicts between different state institutions, including the presidency. Referring to a opinion poll which suggests that the Socialist Party is now ahead of the UDF, Zhelev warned the cabinet of the consequences of ignoring the end results of its acts. (Kjell Engelbrekt, RFE/RL Inc.) TOLGYESSY CRITICIZES GOVERNMENT. During a press conference on 28 August, Peter Tolgyessy, chairman of the opposition Alliance of Free Democrats (AFD), criticized the performance of the governing Hungarian Democratic Forum, MTI reports. Tolgyessy called that the situation in the country "critical" and said the government has no program to deal with the problems. Tolgyessy announced that the AFD will hold a conference on 13 November and said he expects the party will have a new leadership and a new program. (Judith Pataki, RFE/RL Inc.) COUNTER-OFFER ON BULGARIAN DEBT SETTLEMENT. Deutsche Bank, representing the more than 300 creditor banks to which Bulgaria owes a total of $12 billion, has delivered a proposal on resettlement, government spokeswoman Nadezhda Mihailova announced on 30 August. Mihailova told Reuters that no details could be given at present but that for the first time the possibility exists for an overall settlement. Bulgaria presented its plan to the creditors in early August. (Kjell Engelbrekt, RFE/RL Inc.) RUSSIA DECREASES GAS SUPPLIES TO LITHUANIA. On 29 August the Lentransgaz firm cut supplies of natural gas to Lithuania by 55%, Radio Lithuania reports. Lithuania normally receives 7 million cubic meters of gas a day from Russia. Lithuanian gas officials said that deliveries would be cut first to those enterprises that have accumulated large debts to Russian suppliers. Household users of gas should not expect any cuts in deliveries but may have to pay more for their gas. (Saulius Girnius, RFE/RL Inc.) ESTONIA'S INDUSTRIAL OUTPUT FALLS. Estonia's industrial output in July was 37% lower than for the same period last year, BNS reports. Production fell the most in the paper, lumber, and construction materials industries. BNS reports that production rose in some light industrial sectors such as clothing manufacturing, meat packing, and textiles. (Riina Kionka, RFE/RL Inc.) OPIC MISSION IN LITHUANIA. On 30 August, after completing visits to Tallinn and Riga, a delegation of US businessmen sponsored by the Overseas Private Investments Corporation (OPIC) arrived in Vilnius, Radio Lithuania reports. On 31 August Prime Minister Aleksandras Abisala and his deputy Bronislavas Lubys will participate in an OPIC conference in Vilnius on investment opportunities. Delegation head Fred Zeder told a news conference in Riga on 29 August that the first result of the trip will be the opening of an office of the US pharmaceutical firm Eli Lilly in Riga in September, BNS reports. (Saulius Girnius, RFE/RL Inc.)
write to us
with your comments and suggestions.