|The universe is full of magical things, patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper. - Eden Phillpotts|
No. 236, 09 December 1992
SUCCESSOR STATES TO THE USSR PRIVATE PROPERTY RECOGNIZED IN RUSSIA. Two amendments were approved by the Congress of People's Deputies on 7 December that incorporate for the first time the concept of property owned by corporations and private citizens into the Russian constitution, Interfax and AFP reported. Under the amendments, private property is given the same status and protection under the constitution as collective, state, and city property and that owned by public groups. One of the amendments says that natural resources may be privately owned. (Keith Bush) YELTSIN NOMINATES GAIDAR, OFFERS CONCESSION TO CONGRESS. President Boris Yeltsin has asked Congress to approve Egor Gaidar as prime minister, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 December. He described Gaidar as an economic specialist who started the reforms as an academic but now understands real life economic problems as well. Yeltsin noted that he had considered also other candidates before he selected Gaidar. He added that he will make personnel changes in the cabinet and a "purge"of the government's bureaucracy. In a concession to the Congress, Yeltsin said that he was willing to submit his ministerial nominees for security, foreign affairs, interior affairs, and defense to parliament for confirmation. A proposed constitutional amendment to that effect had previously failed to pass at the Congress. Presidential advisor Sergei Stankevich said this concession may win Yeltsin 50-60 more votes. (Alexander Rahr) MIXED RESPONSE TO YELTSIN'S CABINET CONCESSION. On December 8, deputies were divided in their reaction to President Yeltsin's proposal to submit his nominees for foreign, defense, interior and security ministers for parliamentary approval. Vasilii Lipitsky of the Civic Union told an RFE/RL correspondent that he was pleased with Yeltsin's proposal. But a leader of the "Smena" faction in the Congress, Andrei Golovin, said that the Congress should press for enlarging the list of cabinet posts requiring parliamentary approval-it should include the economic and finance ministers and the deputy prime ministers. The RFE/RL correspondent also quoted a member of the Democratic Russia faction, Father Gleb Yakunin, as criticizing Yeltsin from the opposite point of view, namely, for conceding too much to Congress. Yakunin and other democratic deputies expressed their fear that foreign minister Andrei Kozyrev, who has been constantly attacked by the parliament, would be the first victim of Yeltsin's conciliatory attitude. (Vera Tolz) POLITICAL DRAW ON CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS. At the afternoon session of the Congress on 8 December, deputies discussed those constitutional amendments that were suggested by President Yeltsin. All but one of them failed to win the necessary two-thirds of the vote. Among those that failed was an amendment empowering the president to call for a national referendum. Currently, a referendum can be initiated only by the parliament, a third or more of the deputies in the Congress, or by one million citizens together. On the other hand, the hardline opposition failed to gain passage of an amendment stating that the president would automatically lose his position if he disbanded Congress, parliament, the constitutional court, or any other constitutionally elected body. Yeltsin's supporters successfully argued against the adoption of this amendment, arguing that the Constitution already forbids the president from taking any of the aforementioned steps. (Julia Wishnevsky) RUSSIA TO BUILD NUCLEAR PLANT IN CHINA; ALSO IN IRAN, PAKISTAN? According to an Interfax report of 7 December, President Yeltsin is to sign an agreement with China for the construction of a 2-Megawatt nuclear power plant during his visit to Beijing from 17-19 December. Construction of the plant will apparently be financed by a $2 billion credit from Russia to China, to be paid over 15 years at a 4% interest rate. According to a department chief in the Russian Foreign Economics Ministry, Russia is also exploring similar arrangements to finance the construction of 1 Megawatt plants in Iran and Pakistan. China has been criticized by the West for its arms and nuclear technology sales, including those to Iran and Pakistan, and the projected deals are likely to meet with strong Western objections. (John Lepingwell) GAIDAR'S LATEST PROJECTIONS. Speaking to deputies and journalists during a break at the Congress on 8 December, Gaidar offered some projections for the Russian economy, Interfax and Western agencies reported. He reckoned that the recession would continue through 1993, but by 1995 output would surpass the 1991 level. Gaidar criticized the Congress's proposal immediately to index savings, saying that this would raise prices by a factor of 20. Noting that the price of natural gas was too low, he announced that this would increase after 1 January. He seems to have said that oil prices would not be adjusted upwards for some time, although these are about 7% of the world price at the current rate of exchange and thus distort the entire price structure. (Keith Bush) UKRAINE RESELLING RUSSIAN OIL? Gaidar also referred to the reselling by other former Soviet republics for hard currency of Russian oil that, for the most part, they purchase for rubles at advantageous rates. He cited the "normalization" of customs controls on Russia's border with Ukraine as having saved over $2-billion in lost income this year. In this connection, Interfax on 8 December mentioned a check on Ukrainian petroleum products firms that uncovered the resale of Russian oil and irregularities in accounting for it. (Keith Bush) RUSSIA DEFAULTS AGAIN ON FOOD LOAN REPAYMENTS. Russia has failed to repay another $3.7-million due to cover its US government-backed food loans, meaning that the total in arrears now amounts to $24.4 million dollars, according to Reuters on 8-December. Russia has been suspended from the credit program since late November due to late payments to lending institutions. The credit is used mainly to finance the import of US grain. The US Agricultural Department considers this to be a temporary problem, but the suspension has already held up further credits of $171 million, and is putting the $275 million due to be released in January in jeopardy. A US banking source is quoted as saying that the Russians are looking for an agreement on debt relief before embarking on further purchases of foreign food and grain. (Sheila Marnie) CIS YEAR-END AGRICULTURAL FIGURES RELEASED. The Statistical Committee for the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) released preliminary 1992 results for the region's agricultural sector in Izvestiya on 7 December. Although most CIS republics only managed to match last year's numbers, total grain production was up 18% for the CIS as a whole boosted by Kazakhstan's record harvest. Other agricultural branches did not fair as well in general. State procurement of potatoes and processed sugar, for example, are down from last year's levels. Worse still was the performance of livestock and livestock products: meat production fell 14%; milk, 12%. Finally, CIS komstat reports that private production in agriculture increased somewhat relative to the state, but that the shift was as yet insignificant. (Erik Whitlock) RUBLE FALLS. On the Moscow Interbank Currency Exchange on 8 December, the ruble fell to 419 rubles to the dollar, against 398 rubles on 4 December. Volume was $58 million. (Keith Bush) RUSSIAN COAL MINERS HOLD CONGRESS. The Independent Union of Miners is holding a congress in the Siberian town of Vorkuta, Reuters reported on 8-December. The union was created last year, and it represents approximately one quarter of Russia's 200,000 underground miners. Miners in the Kuzbass coalfields earn 45,000 rubles a month, about six times the national average, but they are demanding higher pensions as well as better health insurance, which they say is necessary due to dangerous work conditions caused by decades of under investment. According to leaders of the union, the mining industry still has basic problems which were not solved by the strikes of 1989 and 1991. The chairman is quoted as saying that the union supports the Russian president, but not the current economic reforms. He claims that the Russian people are being "experimented on," and that they do not have enough say in government policy. Strike action is not being considered for the moment. (Sheila Marnie) KOZYREV ON CIS ANNIVERSARY. Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev acknowledged the first anniversary of the founding of the CIS in an interview with Nezavisimaya gazeta on 8 December. He said the creation of the CIS had saved the former Soviet Union from the type of war raging in former Yugoslavia. Admitting that many things could have been done better in terms of the Commonwealth's development, Kozyrev said that the situation was urgent and required immediate decisions. (Suzanne Crow) RUSSIAN NAVY AGAINST RAISING SUNKEN SUBMARINE. A spokesman for the Russian Navy on 8-December said that the navy "categorically" objects to the raising of the nuclear-powered submarine Komsomolets which sank in the Norwegian Sea in April 1989. Interfax quoted Captain Valerii Bulatov, deputy chief of the navy staff's department for radiological and chemical security, as saying that it might be possible to lift only the forward section of the boat containing two nuclear-armed torpedoes. Recently, environmentalists have been worried that the sunken submarine, with its nuclear reactor and torpedoes, could become an ecological disaster. In 1991 the Soviets commissioned a Dutch salvage company to lift the submarine to the surface, but the project was soon postponed until at least 1993 because of a lack of funds. (Doug Clarke) TURKISH ELECTRICITY SUPPLIES TO ARMENIA DEPENDENT ON TROOP WITHDRAWAL? Turkish Foreign Minister and vice premier Erdal Inonu, on a one-day visit to Baku on 8 December, implied that Turkey would implement an agreement to supply electricity to Armenia only if what he termed "occupying forces" were withdrawn from Nagorno-Karabakh. Inonu also told the Azerbaijani parliament that Azerbaijan and Armenia should aim for a negotiated settlement of the Karabakh conflict, Interfax reported. In Erevan, a spokesman for President Levon Ter-Petrossyan told the RFE/RL Russian Service that the Armenian President has addressed an appeal for humanitarian aid, specifically food, fuel and medical supplies, to CIS states and the UN. (Liz Fuller) RUSSIA APPEALS TO UN ON ABKHAZIA. Russia is circulating an appeal at the UN calling for a resolution on Abkhazia on the grounds that the number of victims of the conflict there is increasing and the economy is on the verge of collapse, ITAR-TASS reported on 8 December. The appeal also calls on all parties in the conflict to honor the 3 September ceasefire agreement. In a letter to President Yeltsin cited by Interfax on 8 December, Abkhaz parliament chairman Vladislav Ardzinba complained that Abkhazia's future is being decided by Russian-Georgian talks from which Abkhazia has been excluded; Ardzinba also charged that Moscow is supporting Georgia by supplying weapons. (Liz Fuller) UN SAYS TAJIK REFUGEES DROWNED. On 8-December a spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees told correspondents in Geneva that about 200 refugees from Tajikistan are reported to have drowned while trying to cross the Amu Darya into Afghanistan to escape the fighting in their homeland. Western correspondents said that the UN official gave a figure of 5,000 refugees from Tajikistan who crossed into Afghanistan on 6-December. She added that communication with the area where thousands of refugees are massed on the Tajik-Afghan border is very poor, but temperatures in the region are known to have fallen below zero; a Russian border official said earlier that the refugees were out of food. (Bess Brown) DUSHANBE PREPARES FOR ATTACK. Western agencies and Radio Rossii reported on 8-December that Islamic and democratic defenders of Dushanbe have begun handing out arms to the city's population in anticipation of an attack by pro-Communist forces in the Gissar Valley west of the Tajik capital. An attack from Gissar was stopped earlier in the week when Russian troops intervened. Dushanbe TV reported that a group of some 400 women from Dushanbe, including a number of refugees, met with commanders of the pro- Communist forces and demanded a ceasefire. According to a spokesman for Tajikistan's National Security Committee, the women obtained a promise from the pro-Communists to meet with commanders of the anti-Communist defenders of the city. (Bess Brown) UZBEKISTAN ADOPTS CONSTITUTION. Uzbekistan's Supreme Soviet adopted the country's first post-independence constitution on 8 December, Western and Moscow news agencies reported. The draft included guarantees of freedom of conscience and travel, and a statement that Uzbekistan should be a pluralist democracy, ideals which members of the Uzbek opposition complain are not being observed. The new constitution codifies the president's right to appoint regional and town governors who answer directly to him. (Bess Brown) DRUGS FROM CENTRAL ASIA. Increasing production of opium in Central Asia could mean a new source of illegal drugs for the West and Asia, according to a Reuters report of 8-December. Although there are no accurate figures on opium production, one western analyst quotes an estimate of 121,400 hectares, which would make the former Central Asian republics the biggest opium producer after Burma. Drug trafficking is supposedly flourishing in the chaos following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the relaxation of border controls. The economic incentive for the local population to get involved in the production and trafficking of opium are great because of the concomitant opportunities to earn hard currency. (Sheila Marnie) MOLDOVA REACTS TO 14TH ARMY EQUIPMENT TRANSFERS TO "DNIESTER" FORCES. Commenting on the new round of transfers of equipment from Russia's 14th Army to "Dniester" insurgent forces in eastern Moldova, and on impending transfers of personnel, Colonel Nicolae Chirtoaca, President Mircea Snegur's military adviser, told an RFE/RL correspondent that the transfers may render any future agreement on the withdrawal of the 14th Army from Moldova "symbolic and purely formal," since the Army would simply have changed names from Russian to "Dniester" to stay in Moldova. Chirtoaca reiterated Chisinau's position that the involvement of international organizations is required if the Moldovan-Russian troop negotiations are to lead to any results. Moldova's Defense Minister, Lt. General Pavel Creanga, in turn told journalists in Chisinau, as cited by Basapress on 3-December, that the presence of UN and CSCE observers on the Dniester and at the Moldovan-Russian troop negotiations is necessary in order to help bring about the Russian troops' withdrawal from Moldova and thus "to secure peace in this part of Europe". (Vladimir Socor) CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE SERBS LAUNCHING MAJOR OFFENSIVE AGAINST SARAJEVO? International media reported on 8 December that Serb forces have sealed off all of Sarajevo and placed tanks on the main road leading to the now closed airport. Massive shelling of the Olympic Village and other residential areas was shown on German TV. In a major policy reversal, Serb authorities said that all persons, regardless of nationality or age, who want to leave the city should prepare to do so, and that their safety will be guaranteed. Until now it has been very difficult to leave Sarajevo, although the Serbs have practiced ethnic cleansing on certain neighborhoods. The latest announcement could be an attempt at ethnic cleansing of the entire city of 380,000 prior to a "final" assault. (Patrick Moore) NEW EVIDENCE OF SERBIAN ATROCITIES IN BOSNIA. On 8 December the Washington Post said that the State Department released to the UN the previous day its fourth report this year on atrocities in the former Yugoslavia. Most cases involve actions by Serbs against Muslims and Croats. Reuters said that the French medical charity Doctors Without Borders has prepared testimony for the UN and Red Cross based on 60 interviews with refugees. In addition to reports of murder, rape, and torture, the study includes the names of ten previously unreported Serbian concentration camps. On 9 December the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung says that Rupert Neudeck of the human rights charity Kap Anamur told the Women's and Youth Affairs Committee of the German parliament about evidence he observed in Bosnia, Croatia, and Vojvodina of Serbian crimes against Muslim women. He cited the existence of one bordello near Vukovar with at least 200 Muslim women as well as other specific cases, including ones of traffic in human beings. Neudeck said that what he saw reminded him of what he had seen as a boy at the hands of Soviet troops in eastern Germany in 1945. The Frankfurt daily added that a Bosnian human rights group claims that it has the names of 500-Serbian "war criminals." (Patrick Moore) GREECE ACCUSED OF "SYSTEMATIC VIOLATIONS" OF SANCTIONS. On 8 December Reuters reported that the European Community Executive Commission has told Athens to stop private distributors from breaking the UN-imposed sanctions. One diplomat said that, in particular, "the Greeks [are] pouring oil into Serbia by road, rail, and sea." Greece alone of the EC countries enjoys close relations with Serbia, and there has been widespread speculation in the European media that Athens and Belgrade would like to partition Macedonia between them. At the EC summit later this week Greece is expected to come under pressure to stop blocking EC recognition of Macedonia. (Patrick Moore) ROMANIA AND THE EMBARGO ON THE DANUBE. Radio Bucharest announced on 8-December that authorities in rump Yugoslavia have released a Romanian tugboat and six barges held for about a week in retaliation for Romania's enforcement of the UN blockade. On the same day, Romanian TV said that, in addition to the six vessels detained between 21-November and 6 December, three more Danube ships were detained in Romanian ports on 8-December. One, a Yugoslav ship, will be detained indefinitely, while one Hungarian and one Bulgarian vessel will be allowed to sail after verification of their documents. The three vessels had been transporting crude oil, coal, ore, and aluminum from Ukraine to Austria and Bulgaria. (Michael Shafir). LIVE BUGS IN CONSULATE. Czechoslovak Interior Minister Petr Cermak said on 8-December that the electronic listening devices found at the US consulate in Bratislava last week were active, Reuters reports. Cermak said that this was confirmed to him by CIA officials who investigated the incident. Cermak's statement contradicts those of Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar and other Slovak officials, who implied that the devices had been planted by the State Security agency before the toppling of the communist regime in November 1989 and had not been in use since then. (Jan Obrman) BRAZAUSKAS CHOOSES HIS TEAM. On 8 December the Lithuanian press recorded the appointment of several advisers to Acting President Algirdas Brazauskas, BNS and Baltfax report. Four consultants comprise the core of his Center for Political Analysis: economist Eugenijus Maldeikis, sociologist Arvydas Matulionis, and politicians Algimantas Norvilas and Petras Vaitiekunas. Former Tiesa correspondent R. Gelezevicius is adviser for internal policy. R. Bogdanis will advise on Western policy and D.-Trinkunas on Eastern policy. Z. Vaigauskas will serve as adviser on legal matters. The officials belong to various political parties and some also served previous Supreme Council Chairman Vytautas Landsbergis. (Dzintra Bungs) POLAND'S PRIVATIZATION PLANS FOR 1993. Meeting on 8 December, the Polish government approved the gist of the "privatization guidelines" for 1993 proposed by the Ministry of Ownership Transformations. According to Gazeta Wyborcza of 8 December, ownership changes will be accelerated in 1993: 8-10 large firms will be privatized through the public sale of shares; 600 firms will be subject to mass privatization, provided parliament approves pending legislation; and 400-600 firms will be dissolved and their assets leased to companies formed by employees. Revenues from privatization are expected to amount to 8.8-trillion zloty; privatization costs are estimated at 600 billion zloty. Between 1500 and 2000 state firms are to be "commercialized" in the next two years. The Sejm is also expected to pass a long-awaited reprivatization bill; the government anticipates that compensation will take the symbolic form of coupons rather than the more costly restoration of property. (Louisa Vinton) SOLIDARITY UNSWAYED IN STRIKE RESOLVE. Solidarity unionists announced on 8-December that talks with the government on the cost of living have yielded no results, and that a two-hour warning strike scheduled for 14 December will go ahead as planned. The union demands measures to reverse this year's decline in real income, including relaxed wage controls, increases in the minimum wage and pensions, and increased housing supports for the poor. Labor Minister Jacek Kuron agreed on 8 December only to discuss the minimum wage. A union spokesman complained to Gazeta Wyborcza of 9-October that the government is offering only "sweat and tears," but Kuron argued that the government's hands are tied by the 1992 budget. (Louisa Vinton) FUNAR BANS HUNGARIAN-LANGUAGE PLACARDS. Gheorghe Funar, the Romanian nationalist mayor of Cluj, banned posters for a Hungarian minority festival on 8 December. Funar told Reuters that he did so because the posters are not in Romanian, the country's official language, and they call the city by its Hungarian name, Kolozsvar. The festival celebrates 200 years of Hungarian-language theater in the city. Funar said he intends to bring to court participants in an ethnic Hungarian protest rally held on 7 December for not observing his ban on the demonstration. The rally was held to protest Funar's decision to place a Romanian-language plaque on the statue of Hungarian King Mathias in Cluj. (Michael Shafir) ROMANIA SAYS HUNGARY REFUSES TO EXTRADITE DRAGHICI. Radio Bucharest reported on 8-December that the Ministry of Justice said Hungary refuses to extradite Alexandru Draghici, Romanian interior minister between 1952 and 1968, who is wanted for murder. The radio said Hungary rejects the extradition request on grounds of the statute of limitations, pointing out that the crimes of which Draghici is accused were committed more than 30-years ago. On the other hand, Tamas Ban, a Hungarian Ministry of Justice official, told Reuters the same day that Hungary has not yet rejected the request and is seeking additional information before making its decision. The Romanian Ministry of Justice said it plans to renew the extradition request. Draghici fled Romania in 1991 to avoid trial. (Michael Shafir) NEW HUNGARIAN DRAFT LAW ON 1956 CRIMES. Justice Minister Istvan Balsai submitted to parliament a bill that attempts to address the crimes committed during the 1956 Hungarian revolution, Hungarian Radio reported on 8 December. A similar law was passed by parliament in November 1992 but was overturned by the Constitutional Court in March 1992. Balsai said that the 1956 actions will be considered war crimes and crimes against humanity and as such they will be exempt from the statute of limitations. The expiration of the statute of limitations was the legal point on which the first law was declared unconstitutional. The bloody events in the aftermath of 1956, said Balsai, were crimes even according to laws then in effect. (Karoly Okolicsanyi) NEW ELECTIONS IN HUNGARY? The Association of People Living Below the Minimum Standard of Living, a loose association that recently conducted hunger strikes to protest new taxes, said they will start a signature-collection drive for a referendum on new elections, local media reported on 8 December. To call for a referendum, which would be binding on parliament, requires 100,000 signatures. Legal experts differ, however, on the question of whether parliament can be dismissed by means of a referendum. The opposition Young Democrats say the body cannot be dissolved from outside, but a legal expert of the Constitutional Court has held that a legally binding call for new elections can be made through a referendum. (Karoly Okolicsanyi) RUSSIAN-ESTONIAN TROOP AGREEMENTS? Vasilii Svirin, Russia's chief negotiator with Estonia, told BNS on 8 December that a number of draft agreements on troop withdrawals will be submitted to Estonia during the next round of talks scheduled for 15- 16 December. Svirin said draft agreements on citizenship, the terms of temporary troop presence in Estonia, and the withdrawal itself are ready for consideration and signing, whereas a number of other related agreements are set to be initialed. (Riina Kionka) BRAZAUSKAS MEETS MAYOROV. On 8 December, Col. Gen. Leonid Mayorov, commander of Russia's Northwestern Group of Forces, paid a formal introductory visit to head of state Algirdas Brazauskas in Vilnius, BNS reports. Issues related to the withdrawal of troops from Lithuania were discussed. Mayorov also asked if some arrangement could be made for the Russian military to receive their salaries in Lithuanian provisional money from the accounts of the Russian Defense Ministry. (Dzintra Bungs) VENTSPILS TO AUCTION RUSSIAN MILITARY FACILITIES. BNS reported on 8 December that the regional administration council of this Latvian seaport plans to sell all Russian military facilities at an auction tentatively scheduled for 1 January 1993. Currently the facilities are guarded by both border guards and special security guards, and the costs are being paid by local authorities. On 8-December BNS also reported that a Russian tank regiment is scheduled to leave Ventspils on 26 December and most of its 50 servicemen will be discharged by that date. It is not yet clear who will take over the base. (Dzintra Bungs) WORLD BANK GRANT TO LATVIA. The World Bank has decided to allocate $339,000 to Latvia to be used for coordinating foreign aid and investments, to conduct economic analysis, and to promote the operation of state and local governments. That sum is only a part of a larger grant to be allocated for the same purposes, BNS reported on 8 December. (Dzintra Bungs) ROMANIAN UNEMPLOYMENT. Rompres reported on 7 December that unemployment in Romania topped one million (9% of the labor force). The Labor Ministry communique said that November unemployment figures are 180,000 higher than the previous month's. (Dan Ionescu) TYMINSKI'S "CYBERNETIC ALGORITHM." Stanislaw Tyminski, the "candidate from outer space" who finished second in the 1990 presidential elections, told reporters on 8-December that Poland has been victim to three years of "econometric robbery," suffering losses of $60 billion. Mathematical equations from Canada proved that Poland would experience financial collapse in exactly two years, Tyminski added. He claims that his Party X has discovered a "cybernetic algorithm" to identify the agents still occupying high office. Hailing "nationalist-socialist" views, Tyminski said Party X will not hesitate to stand at the head of a national uprising against starvation. (Louisa Vinton) [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Hal Kosiba & Charles Trumbull
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