|The only certainty is that nothing is certain. - Pliny the Elder|
No. 216, 09 November 1992
SUCCESSOR STATES TO THE USSR YELTSIN TO LONDON, ADDRESSES BALTIC ISSUES. Russian President Boris Yeltsin left for London on 9 November for an official visit. Speaking to journalists prior to his departure, the Russian president said that he would definitely raise the issue of protecting the Russian-speaking population in the Baltic States during his talks with British officials. Yeltsin also said he will insist that the same question be raised at the UN Security Council, Mayak radio reported. On 7 November, Yeltsin sent a letter via Russian UN representative Yurii Vorontsov to UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali in an attempt to defend Moscow's stance on troop withdrawals from the Baltic states, ITAR-TASS reported. (Suzanne Crow) KOZYREV CONFIRMS RUSSIAN INTEREST IN TAJIKISTAN. In a trip to Dushanbe that included a meeting with representatives of the Russian population and officers of the 201st Motorized Rifle Division, Russian Foreign Minister Kozyrev reaffirmed Russia's commitment to "stabilize" the situation in Tajikistan. While noting that the Russian military was to remain impartial, Kozyrev also stated that acting Tajik President Iskandarov was the most legitimate authority in Tajikistan. Kozyrev also warned that if there was any threat to the Russian population in Tajikistan, Russia would adopt "a very decisive position." The meetings were reported by Interfax on 6 November. (John Lepingwell) NORTH OSSETIAN-INGUSH CONFLICT. Two Russian soldiers were killed and an officer wounded by snipers in North Ossetia on the night of 7 November, and isolated shooting between the numerous groups of irregulars was continuing in the zone of the Ossetian-Ingush conflict, ITAR-TASS reported on 8-November. The official death toll so far is 154, with 376 wounded, including 19 servicemen, but these figures are said to be far from complete. The Ossetian side has so far handed over 40 Ingush hostages, and the Ingush side 520 Ossetians. The Russian temporary administration has demanded that the hostage exchange be completed by 12 November. Large numbers of Ingush are reported to have sought refuge in military camps. (Ann Sheehy) RUSSIAN FORCES IN NORTH OSSETIA DETAILED. According to an Interfax report of 6-November, Russian forces in Ossetia now number over 10,000 troops. According to Russian Deputy Interior Minister Evgenii Abramov, there are 5,954 defense ministry troops, 4,536 interior ministry troops, and 745-Russian and North Ossetian policemen in the area. (John Lepingwell) TATARSTAN ADOPTS NEW CONSTITUTION. After heated debates, the Tatarstan parliament adopted a new constitution on 6 November which states that the republic is a "sovereign state, a subject of international law, associated with the Russian Federation-Russia on the basis of a treaty on the mutual delegation of powers," ITAR-TASS reported. This is a compromise formula which will not satisfy the Russian authorities who tried to insist that the constitution clearly state that Tatarstan is part of Russia. The deputies also approved a controversial article on citizenship, Interfax reported, according to which Tatarstan will introduce its own citizenship, at the same time allowing dual citizenship. (Ann Sheehy) KHASBULATOV ON RUSSIAN OVERCENTRALIZATION. In an article in Rossiiskaya gazeta reported by ITAR-TASS on 7 November, the speaker of the Russian parliament Ruslan Khasbulatov said that the center in the Russian Federation was trying to control everything and thus impeding reform. According to Khasbulatov, in 1991, the last year of the USSR's existence, the share of the Union budget in the overall budget was only 40% whereas today the share of the federal budget in the Russian Federation amounts to 75%. The budget of the federation's subjects accounts for only 25%. (Ann Sheehy) CIVIC UNION DRAWS UP LIST OF NAMES FOR NEW CABINET. Nikolai Travkin, a leader of the Civic Union opposition group, announced on 8 November that the organization had drawn up a list of politicians it wishes to see receive seats in a new Russian cabinet, according to Western agencies on 8 November. Travkin, who is chairman of the Russian Democratic Party, said that the Civic Union wants most of all the resignation of Russian State Secretary Gennadii Burbulis, since, according to Travkin, Burbulis is "the one that bothers us the most." The Union also favors the resignation of Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev. Travkin said that the list was not an ultimatum to President Yelstin; rather, it was "a piece of information for contemplation." A meeting is planned for next week between Civic Union leaders and President Yeltsin. (Hal Kosiba) CHERNOBYL-MODEL REACTORS TO STAY IN SERVICE? The head of Ukraine's nuclear power industry told a news conference on 3 November that the Chernobyl nuclear power plant should continue in operation until the turn of the century, Western agencies reported. Mikhail Umanets, the president of Ukratomenergoprom, was director of the Chernobyl station when the disaster occurred in 1986. Last week, senior Russian nuclear officials told a Vienna meeting sponsored by the UN International Atomic Energy Agency that the 15 RBMK reactors remaining in the former Soviet Union-the type in use at Chernobyl-will go on operating indefinitely, The New York Times reported on 8 November. (Keith Bush) NEW REGULATIONS TO AFFECT RUSSIAN ENERGY PRICES. According to a new Russian government resolution issued on 5 November, new tax and profitability regulations will be established for oil and gas refineries, Interfax reported on 7 November. The resolution simultaneously imposes a 5 to 30% excise tax on oil and gas sales and boosts the upper profitability level from 10-20% for most refineries. In addition to raising revenue for the state and improving the financial position of refiners, the resolution may be a quiet way to increase energy prices charged to Russian consumers. Refineries enjoying foreign ownership will be exempt from the excise tax. (Erik Whitlock) TRADE UNIONS AND GOVERNMENT FAIL TO AGREE ON MINIMUM WAGE. At a third meeting of the conciliatory commission set up to reach a compromise between government and the Federation of Russian Independent Trade Unions on reform-related problems, the two sides failed to reach an agreement on the level of the minimum wage to be established for Russia, according to Interfax on 7-November. The trade unions are insisting that it should be between 3375 and 4000 rubles per month, and that this new level should be introduced starting in December. The government had proposed to raise the minimum wage from 900 to 2250 rubles in the first quarter of 1993, and at the meeting put forward an interim level of 1800 rubles. Another Interfax report of 7 November indicates that the two parties agreed to set the current minimum wage at 2250 rubles, and that the trade unions want this to be revised in December. (Sheila Marnie) TURKEY SIGNS ARMS DEAL WITH RUSSIA. Russian and Turkish TV announced on 8-November that the two countries had signed an agreement calling for Turkey to buy $75-million worth of arms from Russia. According to the Reuters account, the purchase will include seventeen Mi-17 "Hip" helicopters, armored vehicles, and rifles. The two sides had been discussing such a deal since August when it was announced that Turkey was interested in purchasing as much as $300 million worth of Russian arms. The Anatolian news agency quoted Russian Foreign Economic Relations Minister Peter Aven, in Istanbul to sign the agreement, as saying it was the first sale of Russian military equipment to a member of NATO. (Doug Clarke) LITHUANIA BUYS TWO RUSSIAN FRIGATES. Interfax and the Baltic News Service reported on 6-November that Lithuania had purchased two frigates to patrol the country's coast. The warships, acquired from the Russian Baltic Fleet, were described as Albatros- type vessels of 1,000 tons, built eleven years ago. The description matches that of what are known in the West as Grisha III light, anti-submarine frigates. The agencies reported that the sale had been contingent on the Lithuanians agreeing to build apartments in the Kaliningrad oblast for Russian military personnel leaving the Baltic States. The sales, agreed to in September, were with the private construction firm "Selma" and not the Lithuanian authorities. (Doug Clarke & Saulius Girnius) TACTICAL NUKES REMOVED FROM FLEET. Russian military sources announced on 5-November that all tactical nuclear weapons had been removed from the former Soviet Pacific Fleet. The report was carried by the Japanese Kyodo news agency, which said that the removal had been completed at the end of September. On 20 October, a similar announcement was made concerning the Northern Fleet. In late 1991 both the United States and the Soviet Union made unilateral pledges to take tactical nuclear weapons off their warships. (Doug Clarke) RUSSIA, GERMANY READY FOR INTELLIGENCE COOPERATION. The Russian foreign intelligence service (SVR) is prepared to cooperate with the Bundesnachrichtendienst (German foreign intelligence agency) in countering international terrorism, the smuggling of weapons and radioactive materials, and illegal drug trafficking, according to a high-ranking officer of the SVR, Vladimir Karpov, Bild Am Sonntag reported on 8 November. In what appears to be a generous offer, Karpov mentioned the readiness of the Russian side to share information about drug trafficking routes from the so-called "golden triangle" in South East Asia to Europe. Karpov repeated the proposal of the SVR director, Evgenii Primakov, for a reciprocal moratorium on intelligence activities between Western and Russian services, and for a reciprocal bilateral moratorium on Russian and German intelligence activities. Primakov's previous offer was received by Western intelligence experts with scepticism. (Victor Yasmann) RUSSIA MIGHT RETURN NUCLEAR MATERIAL TO UKRAINE. General Valerii Manilov, spokesman for the CIS joint military command, was quoted by ITAR-TASS on 6 November as saying that Russia might be willing to return to Ukraine some of the nuclear material from strategic nuclear warheads given up by Ukraine for destruction. Some Ukrainian officials have been balking at turning warheads over to Russia, saying that Ukraine should be given some compensation in return, or should keep the nuclear materiel for eventual use as fuel in atomic power plants. (Doug Clarke) REFERENDUM CAMPAIGN IN UKRAINE. The "Rukh" press agency reported that an additional thirteen initiative groups for gathering signatures in support of a referendum on the dissolution of the parliament have been officially registered, DR-Press reported on 6-November. At the moment, 115 such groups have been registered in twenty-three oblasts and the Crimean republic. According to the main opposition leader Vyacheslav Chornovil, about one and a half million signatures are ready. The law requires three million signatures to hold a referendum. (Roman Solchanyk) BELARUS TO EXPAND USE OF COUPONS. The director of the Belarusian Economy Department told Interfax on 6 November that, starting 10 November, all food, tobacco, and alcoholic beverages may be purchased only with coupons throughout Belarus. Coupons were introduced in October in the areas of Belarus near the Lithuanian and Ukrainian borders. Anatolii Dremov explained that the expanded use of coupons is intended to protect the nation's economy from an influx of rubles from neighboring CIS members. He stated further that the Belarusian government has no immediate plans to introduce a new national currency because of the economic upheaval it would cause. (Keith Bush) KAZAKHSTAN TO SELL LESS GRAIN TO RUSSIA. Kazakhstan's Minister of Agriculture and Deputy Prime Minister Boltash Tursunbaev was quoted by Interfax on 6 November as stating that Russian acting Prime Minister Egor Gaidar's assertion that Kazakhstan will sell Russia seven or eight million tons of grain in 1992 is mistaken. Tursunbaev said that Kazakhstan can sell Russia three million tons, but the country's export balance dose not permit the sale of a larger quantity. One million tons of grain is to be sold for hard currency, with which Kazakhstan intends to buy agricultural equipment. (Bess Brown) LEFT-BANK MOLDOVANS APPEAL TO WORLD. In an appeal to international human rights bodies, the CSCE, and the US government, forwarded on 4-November, hundreds of parents of Moldovan school children on the left bank of the Dniester called attention to the "Dniester republic"'s recent measures imposing the Cyrillic script in place of the Latin for the "Moldovan" language, reducing instruction in that language, replacing Moldovan textbooks with Russian-language textbooks from the communist era, and closing down all local Moldovan newspapers and radio programs. The appeal further noted that the "Dniester republic" is taking these measures under the protection of Russia's 14th Army based there and "under the pretext of defending the Russian-speaking population." The parents appealed for the sending of fact-finding missions to the scene and for international action to restore legitimate authority in the area. (Vladimir Socor) WESTERN MISSIONS IN CHISINAU. Germany, which earlier this year established diplomatic relations with Moldova at embassy level, opened its mission in Chisinau on 5-November, the Moldovan media reported. On the same day Israel opened in Chisinau an Information and Cultural Center. On 3-November, Sweden's ambassador to Moldova presented his letters of accreditation to President Mircea Snegur, Moldovapres reported. Snegur appealed to Sweden, whose Foreign Minister is due shortly to assume the chairmanship of the CSCE Council of Ministers, to help involve the CSCE in peacekeeping operations on the Dniester and in the political settlement of the conflict and also in monitoring the stalled Moldovan-Russian negotiations on the withdrawal of Russia's 14th Army from Moldova. (Vladimir Socor) CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE DUBCEK IS DEAD. Alexander Dubcek, the symbol of "communism with a human face," died of multiple organ failure on 7 November in a Prague hospital, where he spent the final nine weeks of his life. The 70-year-old former First Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia suffered chest and spinal injuries in a car crash on 1 September and subsequently underwent several operations. Several leading Czech and Slovak officials praised him for his achievements. Former Czechoslovak President Vaclav Havel said that he was "deeply moved" by Dubcek's death, Reuters reported. He said that he knew Dubcek as a "kind, open, and modest human being," and added that he was an "important personality of modern Czechoslovak history." A spokesman for the Slovak government said that Dubcek left his mark on Slovak politics which "helped Slovakia to be seen by the world." (Jan Obrman) BOSNIAN UPDATE. Western news agencies on 6-November said that UN relief workers had given up their efforts to reach besieged Muslims in Srebrenica after Serb civilians had blocked the convoy's path. On the weekend of 7-8 November, Serbian forces continued to shell Gradacac, Maglaj, and other towns in northern Bosnia, as well as Sarajevo. British UN troops were caught in the fighting near Tuzla and made use of their right to self-defense by returning the fire. On 7 November, Iran's foreign minister again criticized the West for failing to intervene to prevent the killing of Bosnian Muslims, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference's secretary general also repeated his group's call on the UN to intervene. Iran has provided some aid to the Bosnians, but its role has largely centered on rhetoric; the burden of any concrete intervention under UN sponsorship would probably fall to Turkey rather to Iran. Finally, the 7-November Washington Post reported that the US had given the UN its third report on Balkan atrocities, noting that "by far the largest number of offenses have been committed by Bosnian Serbs." (Patrick Moore) UNREST IN MACEDONIA. Radio Serbia and international media reported on 6 November that four people were killed and 36 injured in rioting in Skopje. The violence erupted after police arrested a 19-year old Albanian youth in a working-class district. Interior Minister Ljubomir Frckovski told reporters on 7-November that the riot was planned in late October by Albanian "extremists" from Kosovo. The police arrested about 70 people during the riots, but most have been released. Tensions remain high and Macedonian officials fear an outbreak of renewed violence between Macedonians and ethnic Albanians, who make up between 20 and 40% of the republic's population, depending on whose figures are used. The coalition government includes Albanians. (Milan Andrejevich) RUSSIAN GENERAL IN BELGRADE, CRITICIZES KOZYREV. The visit of Russian General Viktor Filatov to Herzegovina and Belgrade has received considerable attention in the Belgrade media. On 6 November Belgrade TV showed the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party President Vojislav Seselj and his wife hosting a formal dinner for the general. Filatov, who wants Russian intervention in Herzegovina on Serbia's behalf, said during the dinner that Russia understands Serbia's difficulties well, arguing that Moscow's leadership is conducting a policy that is contrary to Russian interests. He said: "neither the army, nor the Cossacks, nor the foreign ministry trust Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev," adding that the Russian army "knows the National Salvation Front is the solution for Russia." (Milan Andrejevich) YELTSIN TO VISIT IMRE NAGY'S GRAVE. Before his visits to England and Hungary next week, Russian President Boris Yeltsin gave an interview to the Russian correspondent of Radio Budapest. In the interview, broadcast on 5 November, Yeltsin said that Russia was lagging behind in the reestablishment of relations with the countries of Eastern Europe. Hungary was an exception insofar as a comprehensive agreement had already been reached on 3 December 1991 and followed by a basic treaty. Yeltsin admitted that many questions remained open and that he would try to settle some of them during his visit to Hungary on 10-November. Yeltsin said that all the documents kept in Russian archives about the 1956 revolution would be returned to Hungary. He pledged to visit what he called "three 1956 cemeteries", among them the grave of Imre Nagy and those of the Russian soldiers. He said that he would try to settle questions of the countries' mutual debts. He called for more agricultural cooperation and said that the West could help by buying Hungarian agricultural products for Russia. (Judith Pataki) POLITICAL STALEMATE OVER HUNGARIAN MEDIA CONTINUES. Prime Minister Jozsef Antall's attempt to appoint new vice presidents to head Hungarian Television and Hungarian Radio was defeated on 6 November, MTI reported. Parliament's Cultural Committee failed to endorse the two new appointees by a two-thirds majority and President Arpad Goncz refused to back the appointments. The main opposition party, the Association of Free Democrats, supported the President's refusal. (Karoly Okolicsanyi) HUNGARY SENTENCES YUGOSLAV SPY TO TEN YEARS. The Metropolitan Court's Military Council in Budapest sentenced ensign Rudolf Szanto to ten years in jail for spying for Yugoslavia in the 1980s, MTI said on 6-November. Szanto sent military information about the Soviet and Hungarian military to Belgrade in exchange for small amounts of hard currency and free vacations. He was arrested in January 1991. (Karoly Okolicsanyi) HUNGARY TO STRESS RESERVE MILITARY FORCE. Defense Minister Lajos Fur said at a Budapest conference of the European Military Press Association that Hungary will emphasize the organization and training of reserve forces in conjunction with its overall force reduction, MTI reported on 6 November. Fur said that in the next couple of years, 12 to 14-territorial army units will be established, based on Swiss and Austrian militia models. The first reserve unit started its military training last week. (Karoly Okolicsanyi) KENNAN ASKS US TO BUILD HOUSING. In a commentary in the 9 November Washington Post, retired American diplomat George Kennan called on the US government to "take on itself the greater part of the burden" of building suitable housing in Russia for all professional officers and NCOs currently stationed in the Baltic states. Noting other European offers of the same, Kennan said the US would not be alone in making a move he saw "as a gesture of goodwill toward the Russian and Baltic peoples and as a contribution to the stability of the Baltic region." (Riina Kionka) YELTSIN APPEALS TO UN ON ALLEGED RIGHTS VIOLATIONS. In the latest escalation in a war of words between Russia and the Baltic states, Russian President Yeltsin on 6 November called on the UN "to take all measures" within its power to help stop what he said were human rights violations against Russians living in the Baltic states. In a letter to UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali reported by Western agencies, Yeltsin reiterated Russia's intention of withdrawing its troops, and noted Russia's role in the Baltic states' achievement of independence. Without citing evidence of human rights abuses, Yeltsin said that "discriminatory policies and practices of...Latvia and Estonia toward Russians run "contrary to the fundamental principles of the United Nations." Estonia and Latvia have repeatedly denied any allegations of human rights violations. (Riina Kionka) ESTONIA'S RUSSIANS POINT TO OUTSIDE INTERFERENCE, WANT COOPERATION WITH TALLINN. Some 2,000 people gathered in Sillamae on 7 November to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the October Revolution and to call for cooperation with Tallinn, BNS reports. Rallying under the banner "For the Right to Live Humanely," the demonstrators called on politicians to pay more attention to the economy. In a clear reference to manipulation by political forces outside Estonia, the meeting adopted a resolution stating: "we are ready to work for the benefit of Estonia...but we are under the pressure of economic incompetence and political intrigues directed against the Russian population." The rally featured city council member Lydia Dolmachova, who said in her reconciliatory speech that "We must think in terms of cooperation with the State Assembly and the government. It is important that Estonian authorities not consider us enemies." Similar demonstrations were reported in Narva and other cities in the northeast. (Riina Kionka) PROBLEMS WITH RUSSIAN MILITARY IN LITHUANIA. Lithuanian defense officials expressed regret that the Russian military continues to violate Lithuanian laws and disregard the agreements signed on 8 September regarding their withdrawal, BNS reported on 6-November. On 5 November Lithuania held talks in Vilnius with deputy commander of the Russian Air Force 15th Army Dmitrii Lomako about almost 1,700 unsanctioned flights that violate the Lithuanian border law passed on 20 July, requiring advance permission from the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry for military flights. The Russians agreed to hand over the Lithuanian demands to their commanders, but said that the flights would continue as they were needed to maintain a "fighting trim." Lithuanians were also not allowed to inspect a military base in Marijampole whose commander said that he had received orders from his commander in Kaunas not to allow any inspection of the base that he considers to be the property of Russia. (Saulius Girnius) LITHUANIA REGRETS OIL NEGOTIATION STRATEGY. Deputy Energy Minister Robertas Tamosiunas told a press conference in Vilnius after returning from Moscow where agreements for oil and gas were signed that Lithuania made a mistake by dealing with the Russian authorities and not directly with the oil producers, Radio Lithuania reported on 6 November. Russia only agreed to seek possibilities of providing Lithuania with 600,000-650,00 tons of oil (at $110 per ton) and 1.2-1.3 billion cubic meters of natural gas (at $85 per thousand cubic meters) for 1992 and 1.5 million tons of oil and 4 billion cubic meters of gas for 1993. Lithuania will also get about 20% of the oil refined for Russia at its refinery in Mazeikiai. In the talks Lithuania was also forced to acknowledge debts of 2.6 billion rubles for gas and 1.6-billion rubles for oil for products received earlier in the year. (Saulius Girnius) EC CALLS ON CZECHOSLOVAKIA TO TEMPORARILY HALT CONSTRUCTION AT GABCIKOVO. The European Community called on Czechoslovakia to temporarily stop construction on the controversial hydroelectric dam project on the Danube, Reuters reported on 6 November. The EC Commission, which has been mediating the dispute over the dam between Hungary and Czechoslovakia, said that work should go on for now to avert the risk of flooding, but should stop on 21 November. Czechoslovakia will respect the EC's decision, Czechoslovak Deputy Foreign Minister Zdenko Pirek told reporters in Brussels. The EC Commission is sponsoring a thorough study of the project's environmental and sociological impact and specialists of several countries are to meet in Brussels on 15 November to discuss the its findings. (Jan Obrman) POLISH BUDGET PASSED. On 6 November the Sejm approved a revised national budget for 1992 that widened the deficit from 5% to nearly 7.5%, raised sales taxes by an average of 3%, and cut government spending. The revision was necessary to make Poland eligible for World Bank loans, IMF credits, and the continuation of debt reductions negotiated with the Paris club of creditor governments. The revised budget foresees total spending of about $25,900,000,000 and revenues of about $20,400,000,000, PAP said. The vote of 224-to 171-with 10 abstentions was a major political victory for the current coalition government, suggesting increasing political stability in the country. (Jan-de Weydenthal) BULGARIAN AGRARIANS UNITE. At a congress held in Sofia on 7 and 8 November 1,300 Agrarians voted to restore the Bulgarian Agrarian National Union (BANU), BTA reported. As chief secretary the delegates elected Anastasia Dimitrova-Moser, daughter of the former Agrarian leader in exile Georgi M. Dimitrov. The congress also adopted a new platform according to which the BANU committed itself to thoroughly reforming the country. Bulgarian President Zhelyu Zhelev welcomed the merger as a "bold step toward national understanding." Since early 1990 the BANU-United and BANU-Nikola Petkov had both been claiming the legacy of the original party, established in 1899. It was broken by the communist regime as an independent force in 1947 but continued as a docile "front" party. (Kjell Engelbrekt) ROMANIAN PRIME MINISTER DESIGNATE WANTS STABLE GOVERNMENT. Nicolae Vacaroiu told Adevarul on 6 November that he intended to form a government "to last four years, even if one or another of its members may change." Vacaroiu, who is a non-affiliated financial expert, suggested that his top priority would be the economy. He said that his main targets were to ensure monetary stability and tighten control over state-owned enterprises without impeding privatization. Vacaroiu pledged to present his cabinet's short-term program to the parliament by the end of the week. (Dan Ionescu) [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Hal Kosiba & Patrick Moore
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