|The person who knows how to laugh at himself will never cease to be amused. - Shirley MacLaine|
No. 235, 08 December 1992
SUCCESSOR STATES TO THE USSR HARDLINERS AGAIN FAIL TO CURTAIL YELTSIN'S POWERS. Hardliners have failed for a second time to get the Congress to approve a constitutional amendment which would require President Boris Yeltsin to obtain parliamentary approval of his cabinet members before they could begin their official duties, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 December. Congress had rejected that amendment on 5 December, but parliamentary speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov told Congress that the vote had to be repeated due to "technical errors" which occurred during the first vote. Khasbulatov complained that Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shakhrai had improperly participated in the voting because he previously had announced his resignation from parliament. But the measure failed again to garner the two thirds majority; this time the proposed amendment failed by a much wider margin than on 5 December. (Alexander Rahr) CONGRESS PASSES AMENDMENT ON LAND OWNERSHIP. On 7 December, the Congress of People's Deputies approved a final version of a constitutional amendment regulating the private ownership of land, Interfax reported. The existing constitution contains no provision for private land ownership, but there is a Russian law that permits private persons to buy and sell land-but only if they do so with the state. The final version of the amendment passed on 7-December reportedly allows land owners to mortgage their property and to sell to individuals and corporations provided that there is no change in the use of the land. None of the other amendments, including one imposing a ban on the sale of land to foreigners, was passed. (Keith Bush) RUSSIAN SPEAKERS DEMONSTRATE IN KAZAKHSTAN. Interfax reported on 7 December that some 15,000 demonstrators in Ust-Kamenogorsk demanded that Russian be recognized as a state language in Kazakhstan alongside Kazakh and that dual citizenship be recognized in the country. The demonstrators also demanded East Kazakhstan Oblast to be granted self-determination rights in language, culture and exploitation of natural resources. A resolution adopted by the demonstrators threatened the recall of East Kazakhstan's deputies in the Supreme Soviet in Alma-Ata if their demands are not met. This appears to be the first instance of major Russian dissatisfaction since Kazakhstan became independent. (Bess Brown) CONGRESS CALLS FOR EXAMINATION OF SEVASTOPOL'S STATUS. The Congress of People's Deputies on 7 December called upon the Supreme Soviet to examine the status of Sevastopol, according to Interfax. Supporters of the resolution claimed that Sevastopol, home port of the Black Sea Fleet, should have a distinct status, in accord with a Russian parliament decree of October 29, 1948, which granted it special administrative status. The Ukrainian foreign ministry criticized the resolution the same day, pointing out that it would not help Russian-Ukrainian relations and was not consistent with CSCE and UN principles on the integrity and inviolability of borders. (John Lepingwell) UKRAINE TO GET TWO MORE WARSHIPS. The commander in chief of the Ukrainian Navy, Vice Admiral Boris Kozhin, has revealed that his service will soon acquire two more warships. According to Interfax on 4 December these will be an escort destroyer and a landing ship, both built in shipyards on the Crimean Peninsula. The Ukrainian Navy currently has but one ship of its own. The admiral revealed that in the longer term, it would have 100-ships, including a missile cruiser. (Doug Clarke) GRACHEV ADDRESSES CONGRESS ON RUSSIAN SECURITY POLICY. In a closed session on 5 December, the Congress of People's Deputies heard reports from Defense Minister Grachev and Foreign Minister Kozyrev. Interfax on 7 December reported that Grachev called for "a moratorium on the army's involvement in politics for the sake of stabilization and Russia's revival." Responding to doubts about the military's political orientation, Grachev went on to note that "The army has been and will be on the side of the people, law and the Constitution. The army serves the motherland and that says everything." On more concrete topics, Grachev reiterated his call for a new doctrine that would incorporate nuclear weapons to deter war, as well as rapid-response mobile formations to fight in conventional conflicts. Grachev also expressed concern over the lack of planning in the Russian government for the withdrawal of Russian troops from the Baltic States. He argued that either the troops should be pulled out immediately, or firm social guarantees should be provided during a more protracted withdrawal period. (John Lepingwell) CONGRESS PASSES RESOLUTION ON SECURITY POLICY. On Monday, 7 December the Congress of People's Deputies debated and passed a resolution on Russian security policy. The resolution reportedly embodied many of the new doctrinal concepts endorsed by Grachev, but also criticized the slow progress in reaching military and withdrawal agreements with the former Soviet republics. The plan is to include details of the new Russian doctrine, as well as projected force levels and specifics on methods of recruiting and assigning troops, according to Interfax and AFP reports of 6 and 7 December. (John Lepingwell) CONGRESS DEADLINE ON CONVERSION. The Congress of People's Deputies on 7 December gave the government until 31 March 1993 to submit a program for conversion of the defense industry to the Russian parliament, AFP reported. Since December 1988, several programs have been published dealing with the conversion of the Soviet and Russian defense industry. These have all been flawed, and little progress has been recorded. The latest one, contained in the draft "Program for Deepening the Economic Reforms" of June 1992, has not been approved by the parliament. (Keith Bush) GAIDAR TO BE NOMINATED TODAY. The Congress of People's Deputies postponed its vote on the prime minister until today, ITAR-TASS reported on 7-December. Andrei Fedorov, an aide to Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi, told Western news agencies on 7 December that the Civic Union would accept Egor Gaidar as prime minister if other reformist cabinet members, like Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev, were sacrificed. But many deputies believe that even if the Congress rejects Gaidar, President Yeltsin would retain him as acting prime minister for up to three months, buying time for a possible referendum on disbanding the Congress. Ostankino TV on 6 December cited an opinion poll which showed that 40% of those Russians questioned thought that Gaidar's cabinet should resign. (Alexander Rahr) RUSSIA ASKS WESTERN GOVERNMENTS FOR RESCHEDULING OF DEBTS. Russian Foreign Economics Minister Petr Aven disclosed on 7 December that Russia has formally asked Western governments for a rescheduling over the next 10 years of a large part of the debt of the former USSR, Interfax reported. The request was made in response to a proposal by the creditor governments at the Club of Paris session in November. The external debt of the former USSR at the end of 1991 is estimated to have been $65.3 billion. This had risen to $70.7 billion by May 1992. Russia has assumed responsibility for the entire debt of the former USSR. (Keith Bush) KURIL ENTERPRISE ZONE. On 30 November, just before the expiration of special presidential powers granted to him by the Congress of People's Deputies in 1991, President Yeltsin signed a decree creating a special economic zone on the Kuril island group. According to ITAR-TASS and Radio Rossii, the decree effective as of 7 December, allows local authorities to lease land to foreign investors for up to 99 years. It also creates special import-export privileges for enterprises within the zone. The decree does not alter the administrative status of the islands. (Keith Bush) INDICTMENT ON AUGUST 1991 COUP CASE READY. The indictment of 14 former top Soviet officials who allegedly took part in the failed coup attempt of August 1991 was presented to Russia's prosecutor general on 7 December, according to Western agencies. By Soviet law, within 14 days after an indictment is signed, a "regulatory" court hearing must determine whether the available evidence warrants a trial, and if so, where and when the trial will take place. Aleksandr Frolov, the chief investigator in the case, said on "Itogi," a program on Ostankino TV, that Anatolii Lukyanov, the speaker of the Soviet Parliament, was not the leader of the coup; rather, the chief organizer was a relatively unknown industrialist, Aleksandr Tizyakov. During the TV program, Frolov read from a memorandum written by Tizyakov, in which the latter advised fellow-plotters to use the Soviet Union's economic problems to discredit Russia's democratically-elected officials. (Julia Wishnevsky) PROPOSAL FOR RUSSIANS TO SERVE IN OTHER ARMIES. The Congress of People's Deputies on 7-December passed a decree calling on the President to quickly negotiate agreements with the other republics of the former USSR on the status of Russian military forces on their territories. It would also allow Russian officers and enlisted men to serve in the national military forces of other former-Soviet republics on a contract basis, Interfax reported. These arrangements would last until the end of 1999 provided the other republics come to bilateral agreements with Russia. The government was given until 31 March 1993 to submit a program to the parliament on the development of the armed forces and the conversion of the defense industry to civilian production. (Doug Clarke) SHEVARDNADZE FOR MILITARY SOLUTION IN ABKHAZIA? On 7 December ITAR-TASS quoted Georgian parliament chairman Eduard Shevardnadze as stating on Georgian radio that all political means for resolving that Abkhaz crisis have been exhausted, and therefore "extreme measures" are needed to bring about a solution in the shortest possible time, after which Georgia is prepared to provide "real autonomy" for Abkhazia. Russian Deputy Defense Minister Georgii Kondratev denied claims by the Press Center of the Georgian Military Command that Russian SU-25 military aircraft attacked Sukhumi in the early morning of 7-December, according to Interfax. Kondratev went on to deny that Russian troops had intervened at any point, on either side in the ongoing Abkhaz conflict. (Liz Fuller) NEW ISLAMIC PARTY FOUNDED IN AZERBAIJAN. The Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran (i.e. the international service of Tehran Radio) reported on 6-December the official founding of the Islamic Party of the Republic of Azerbaijan, which according to its head has a membership of 50,000. The aims of the new Islamic party are said to be the revival of Islam and national culture and the maintenance of the independence and unity of the Republic of Azerbaijan. (Liz Fuller) FIGHTING CONTINUES NEAR DUSHANBE. ITAR-TASS reported on 7 December that fighting between pro-Communist forces from Gissar and the Islamic-democratic "Popular Democratic Army" defending Dushanbe was continuing near the Tajik capital. Both sides accused each other of breaking the ceasefire agreement reached during the Supreme Soviet session in Khudzhand. An appeal by the Military Council of the defenders of Dushanbe to the new Chairman of Tajikistan's Supreme Soviet and to Presidents Boris Yeltsin and George Bush was read on Tajik TV on 6-December; it warned of the danger that pro-Communist fighters will seize Dushanbe, and asked the new government to start working in the capital. (Bess Brown) DISPUTE OVER CONSTITUTION IN KYRGYZSTAN. The current session of Kyrgyzstan's Supreme Soviet is debating a draft of a post-independence constitution for the country. President Askar Akaev describes the draft under discussion as corresponding more closely with democratic principles than did an earlier version that was rejected after the president and legislature failed to agree on it. Interfax reported on 7-December that instead of proclaiming adherence to universal moral values, the wording should read "adherence to the moral values of Islam and other religions." KirTAG-TASS reported that some legislators want a phrase inserted stating that no one's civil rights will be limited because of lack of knowledge of the state language. (Bess Brown) MOLDOVA NOT TO SIGN CIS CHARTER. Moldovan President Mircea Snegur told journalists in Chisinau on 7 December, according to Interfax, that "with every passing day, from one meeting of the heads of [CIS member] states to the next, the desire of certain state leaders to return to the organization of the former USSR is becoming increasingly apparent." Chisinau sees the charter as potentially turning the CIS into a new state structure, Snegur said, adding: "Moldova can not have anything in common with such theories and will not sign the CIS charter." (Vladimir Socor) MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT CRITICIZES ROMANIAN CALLS FOR UNIFICATION. Moldovan President Mircea Snegur told journalists in Chisinau of his concern over recent statements by Romanian officials anticipating unification with Moldova, Interfax reported on 7 December. "Such statements only lead to the destabilization of the situation in the republic . . . Unification, if it ever takes place, can only be decided by the people of Moldova," Snegur said. He particularly criticized Romanian Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs Adrian Dohotaru's statement to Reuters predicting unification within 8 years. However, Snegur's decision to go public appeared to have been precipitated by the more recent statements of Romania's new Foreign Minister, Teodor Melescanu, who on 28 November and 5 December criticized Moldova's lack of enthusiasm for unification. (Vladimir Socor) REFUGEES ON TAJIK-AFGHAN BORDER. Around 80,000 refugees from the fighting in Tajikistan have gathered near the Afghan border in a series of camps along the Amu Darya, ITAR-TASS reported on 7 December, quoting Western reports based on International Red Cross information. The camps lack food and medical supplies; Red Cross efforts to bring supplies, apparently from Afghanistan, are complicated by the continuing fighting in Tajikistan. It is unclear if the refugees are those who were forced back across the Tajik border about two weeks earlier. (Bess Brown) CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE COALITION BUILDING BEGINS IN SLOVENIA. Radio Slovenia and international media report on 7 December that with some 80% of the vote counted seven parties will be represented in Slovenia's 130-seat two-chamber parliament. They are the Liberal Democratic Party, the Christian Democrats, the Unity List, the National Party, the People's Party, the Democratic Party, and the Greens. Milan Kucan was reelected as president, winning some 64% of the vote. The task of creating a coalition government has started. Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek, head of the Liberal Democrats, held talks with leaders of the parliamentary parties. Zmago Jelincic, head of the ultranationalist Slovenian National Party, said that while he would join any coalition, he would have trouble cooperating with the Liberal Democrats and especially with the United List because of their former communist background. The elections held on 6-December were Slovenia's first since gaining independence in June 1991.(Milan Andrejevich) PANIC CAMPAIGNING IN SERBIA. Radio Serbia and Radio B92 reported on 7 December that Serbia's Supreme Court, considering an appeal from federal Prime Minister Milan Panic after he was twice rejected by the electoral commission for not being a resident of the republic for one year, has referred the question to the Serbian parliament, which is dominated by Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's excommunist Socialist Party (SPS). According to Radio B92, Parliament only needs to amend part of the law on residential restrictions in order to enable Panic to run. But if the entire law is stricken, hundreds of thousands of Serb refugees from Croatia and Bosnia would gain the right to vote-which could benefit Milosevic. Ironically, such an amendment was first proposed by the opposition in September. The SPS has said publicly that Panic should be allowed to run "in order to shatter his illusions that he has the backing of the Serbian people." Opposition parties have stepped up pressure on the authorities, warning they will boycott the elections and organize demonstrations throughout Serbia if Panic is not allowed to run. (Milan Andrejevich) MORE TALK ABOUT INTERNATIONAL INTERVENTION IN EX-YUGOSLAVIA. Western agencies on 7 December reported from Brussels that NATO officials are studying means of sending "a signal that we are serious about Kosovo." An alliance official told newsmen that the US and other NATO countries are looking for ways to prevent the ongoing conflict from spilling over into the Serbian-controlled area, which has a more than 90% Albanian majority. Also in Brussels, Dutch representatives told a meeting of EC ministers that UN-authorized intervention in Bosnia is becoming "inescapable" and that the price of inaction "gets higher by the week." A minimum program for intervention seems to be enforcing the no-fly zone over the republic and setting up "safe havens" for refugees and victims of ethnic cleansing. (Patrick Moore) US "DISMAYED" BY BUGGING IN BRATISLAVA CONSULATE. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told journalists on 7 December that the "US government is dismayed to find listening devices in the Consulate General in Bratislava" and added that "this kind of activity cannot be helpful to the bilateral relationship," various news agencies reported. Boucher said that it is not clear whether the devices were planted before or after the toppling of the communist regime in Czechoslovakia and made it clear that the Czechoslovak and Slovak governments have been urged to provide Washington with full details. He also said that the US government expects assurances that such activities will not continue. Boucher also said that he hoped the relations between the US and the new Slovak state would not suffer because of the incident. (Jan Obrman) FORMER INTERIOR MINISTER SAYS US KNEW OF DEVICES. In an interview with RFE/RL on 7-December, former Czechoslovak Interior Minister Jan Langos said that his ministry informed US diplomats of all listening installations planted by the former communist State Security Agency in buildings used by US diplomats in Czechoslovakia. Langos said that the US Embassy was informed "in detail" of all measures undertaken since the toppling of the communists to dismantle the devices. He added that it was "virtually impossible that US staff members could recently have discovered any active bugs." His statements did not rule out the theoretical possibility that new devices had been planted after November 1989, however. (Jan Obrman) CHURKIN ON RELATIONS WITH CZECH REPUBLIC, SLOVAKIA. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Vitalii Churkin said on 7 December that Russia will help Czechoslovakia's successor states join the international community, ITAR-TASS reports. Churkin said that Russia is ready to give a "quick and positive" answer to the expected request for establishing diplomatic relations with the Czech Republic and Slovakia. He also said, however, that Russia hopes for understanding and some patience on the matter of its debt to Czechoslovakia. (Jan Obrman) POLAND'S "LITTLE CONSTITUTION" TAKES EFFECT. The package of constitutional amendments designed to clarify the balance of power among president, parliament, and government took force on 8 December. The "little constitution" allows the government to request the right to impose decrees with the force of law; creates a new five-step procedure for forming the government, with the first move clearly the president's prerogative; protects the government from frivolous votes of no confidence; and replaces the formerly supreme position of the parliament with a tripartite balance of power among the executive, legislative and judicial branches. President Lech Walesa signed the bill into law on 17 November, despite complaints that the "little constitution" deprives him of the right to move for the dismissal of the government. (Louisa Vinton) STRIKE AT POLAND'S "STAR" TRUCK PLANT. The Solidarity local at the Starachowice truck factory declared an occupation strike on 7 December after the government opted not to grant the firm 15 billion zloty ($1 million) in credit. Bankruptcy has long threatened the Star plant, which has debts of 800-billion zloty ($52 million); plant officials say there is only enough cash either for the payroll or for parts necessary for production. The strike has the management's implicit support. The plant is the only major employer in a town of 60,000. Visiting another industrial trouble spot, the Jelcz bus factory in Wroclaw, Deputy Prime Minister Henryk Goryszewski criticized Poland's public transportation firms for making 80% of their purchases abroad in 1991. "Where the chance to build a modern product exists, the state has an obligation to support domestic production," Goryszewski said. (Louisa Vinton) ATTACKS ON ETHNIC ROMANIAN INSTITUTIONS IN HUNGARY REPORTED. On 7-December the Romanian press devoted a great deal of space to two incidents last week regarding Hungary's Romanian minority. On 4 December Radio Bucharest reported that the Romanian Greek-Catholic church in Magyarcsanad had been vandalized and the Romanian high school in Gyula had several windows broken. Adevarul described the incidents on 7-December as "a serious challenge to Romanian-Hungarian ties" and accused the Hungarian media of having reacted slowly to them. Another Bucharest daily, Curierul romanesc, published the protest of Vatra Romaneasca, the extreme nationalist organization, against a statement by Reformed Bishop Laszlo Tokes, who had suggested that the incidents might have been a "well-devised provocation." Both Hungary's President Arpad Goncz and Prime Minister Joszef Antall issued statements on 4 December deploring the incidents. (Dan Ionescu) US TO SELL MILITARY TECHNOLOGY TO HUNGARY. Hungarian Defense Minister Lajos Fur and US Ambassador in Budapest Charles Thomas told a press conference on 7 December that Hungary will be the first former Warsaw Pact country to receive military technology from the US, MTI and Western agencies report. The US will sell Hungary aircraft identification systems valued at $12.9 million to equip 118 military aircraft. The sale was made possible through a bilateral military agreement concluded about a year ago. (Edith Oltay) HUNGARY TO SEND AID TO SOMALIA. Prime Minister Jozsef Antall told parliament on 7-December that President George Bush has asked Hungary to participate in the humanitarian aid program in Somalia, MTI reports. Antall said that Hungary is ready to help with health and transportation related tasks and also to take over some limited military tasks if parliament approves. While stressing the special significance for Hungary of participating in such humanitarian efforts, Antall said that any aid to neighboring countries would be handled with extreme caution and Hungary would never participate in an aid action involving Yugoslavia. (Edith Oltay) FIRST DAYS OF BULGARIAN CENSUS. BTA reports on 7 December that the first four days of a nation-wide census of population and housing has proceeded relatively well. Although the last such poll was held in 1985, it is the first time since 1965 that minorities are being asked to identify themselves. Bulgarian nationalists have opposed the census on the grounds that questions about ethnicity, religion, and mother tongue could prompt unrest among minorities and eventually threaten the unity of the state. So far the 52,000 pollsters seem to have had most problems in regions with mixed population of Christians and Bulgarian Muslims (Pomaks), where young Muslims have been learning Turkish to assert their religious identity. One incident has been reported from Pirin Macedonia, where police on 4-December arrested an activist of Ilinden, the illegal pro-Macedonian organization, as he put up a poster calling on Bulgarian Macedonians to recognize themselves as an ethnic unit distinct from Bulgarians. The census is scheduled to end on 14 December. (Kjell Engelbrekt) FOREIGN EXPERTS INSPECT KOZLODUY. On 7-December a group of 40 international and Bulgarian experts made an inspection tour of the Kozloduy nuclear power plant. Yanko Yanev, chairman of the Bulgarian Atomic Energy Committee, told Reuters that the team is expected to approve the restart of Kozloduy's second reactor unit, which until recently was undergoing repair. Two weeks ago the experts delivered a report that Yanev says is "generally positive" about the plant's safety. Other BAEC officials said that over 140 improvements had been carried out over the past year at a cost of $21 million. On 8-December the New York Times said a US engineering company estimates that the safety level at the four oldest reactors could be brought to a "reasonable" level for $30 million each. (Kjell Engelbrekt) ESTONIAN-RUSSIAN ECONOMIC TALKS STOPPED. Vello Kaarlup of Estonia's Trade Ministry told ETA on 4 December that the Estonian-Russian trade and economic cooperation talks have stopped for the time being and that Estonia is waiting for reply to a memorandum sent by its Economics Minister Ants Saarmann to Russia's Economics and Foreign Trade Ministries. An Estonian-Russian free trade accord was concluded on 7 September and appendices to the agreement were sent to Russia on 20-September. (Dzintra Bungs) RUSSIAN CONGRESS ON TROOP WITHDRAWAL FROM THE BALTICS. BNS reported on 7-December that the Congress of People's Deputies has adopted a resolution recommending that the President quickly complete negotiations with the former Soviet republics-the Baltic States in particular-and conclude agreements on the withdrawal or temporary presence of Russian troops. The resolution also states that Russia may, with appropriate agreements, contribute to the formation of national military forces of the former Soviet republics and that the Russian military may serve in those armies. (Dzintra Bungs) AMBARTSUMOV ON TROOP WITHDRAWAL FROM LITHUANIA. Evgenii Ambartsumov, head of the International Affairs and Foreign Economic Relations Committee of the Russian Supreme Soviet, told a closed session of the Congress of People's Deputies that some agreements on the pullout of Russian troops from Lithuania have not been endorsed by the Defense and Foreign Ministries. He said that as a result, serious matters concerning the protection of the interests and safety of servicemen had been overlooked. Noting that "moderates" now hold power in Lithuania, Ambartsumov said that a different approach to the Baltic States concerning military matters must be found, Baltfax reported on 7 December. (Dzintra Bungs) CONTROVERSY OVER RUSSIAN EMBASSY IN RIGA CONTINUES. Russian Foreign Ministry official Aleksandr Udaltsev said that if the Latvian authorities do not turn over the former USSR embassy in Riga without delay, appropriate measures will be taken with Latvian diplomats in Moscow, BNS reported on 4 December. The Russians proposed that Latvia and Russia conclude an agreement effective 1-January 1993 on the rental of the Latvian embassy in Moscow that is similar to agreements with other foreign missions. Latvia still has not relinquished the former Soviet embassy building in Riga which is currently occupied by Ministry of Culture. The Russian diplomats had hoped to start work in the building on 1-October. (Dzintra Bungs) [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Hal Kosiba & Charles Trumbull
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