|Every custom was once an eccentricity; every idea was once an absurdity. - Holbrook Jackson|
No. 238, 11 December 1992
SUCCESSOR STATES TO THE USSR CONGRESS REJECTS REFERENDUM; GAIDAR WELCOMES IT. The Congress rejected President Yeltsin's proposal for a referendum, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 December. Deputies adopted a resolution saying that they are not in principle against a referendum as such, but that the referendum should be about early elections for the legislature and the presidency. Yeltsin had suggested that depending on the results of the referendum on 24 January, there should be presidential or legislative elections on 27-March. Acting Prime Minister Egor Gaidar called Yeltsin's proposals "normal, legal and democratic," and stated that the government will support Yeltsin's idea of a referendum. Meanwhile, Yeltsin met factory workers in Moscow and urged them to collect signatures for the referendum on 24 January. Yeltsin said he expected over five million signatures to be collected. (Alexander Rahr) FURTHER RESPONSE TO REFERENDUM PROPOSAL. A number of people's deputies have started collecting signatures in support of a referendum proposed by President Yeltsin, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 October. The same day, an editorial in Izvestiya supported Yeltsin's call for the referendum and said Congress had given Yeltsin no other choice. First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Shumeiko and Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Shokhin also supported the idea of the referendum, ITAR-TASS reported. Shumeiko said a referendum was the only way to take power away from the Congress. Meanwhile, supporters and opponents of the referendum held separate demonstrations in Moscow. An RFE/RL correspondent said that several thousand people participated in both demonstrations. Special police units were deployed in the area to ensure public order. (Vera Tolz) ZORKIN OFFERS TO MEDIATE AND ISSUES WARNING. Valerii Zorkin, chairman of the Constitutional Court, addressed the afternoon session of the Congress on 10 December. Zorkin suggested that a round-table discussion be held, at which he, President Yeltsin, and parliamentary speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov would reach a compromise between the executive and legislative branches. If a compromise is not reached, Zorkin said that the Court would begin impeachment proceedings of the "responsible officials." The Congress subsequently adopted a resolution voicing support for Zorkin's offer to arrange such a meeting, ITAR-TASS reported. (According to the law, the Constitutional Court is empowered to impeach the president but it cannot dissolve the parliament.) Zorkin also urged the Congress to refrain both from calling the referendum and from agitating for or against it until the Court reviews the referendum questions to ensure that they are in accordance with the Russian Constitution. (Julia Wishnevsky) KHASBULATOV CALLS FOR NEW PARLIAMENTARY AND PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS. In an interview with Russian TV on 10 December, Khasbulatov called for new elections for the Russian parliament and president. He said the elections were necessary because both were elected during the Communist period. He said both elections should be held at the same time. (Vera Tolz) GRACHEV DECLARES THAT MILITARY WILL REMAIN OUT OF POLITICS. Shortly after Yeltsin's speech to the Congress on 10 December, Defense Minister Pavel Grachev briefly addressed the Congress, promising that the military supported the constitution and would not become involved in politics. Interfax also reported on 10 December that Grachev has postponed a planned trip to Germany to visit the Western Group of Forces. (John Lepingwell) CONGRESS REESTABLISHES PARLIAMENTARY SECURITY FORCE. Meeting in a closed session in the evening of 10 December, the Congress passed a resolution subordinating security forces around the parliament (presumably meaning both the Congress and subsequently the Supreme Soviet) to a new parliamentary security department. The resolution appears to reflect the concerns of some deputies that the Congress is threatened with dissolution. The resolution also calls for new laws on federal security that would establish three independent security structures for the legislative, judicial, and executive branches. Parliamentary committees were also instructed to prepare a bill establishing a parliamentary militia. The Congress' move reflects a reversal of the November decision to resubordinate the Supreme Soviet's militia to the Interior Ministry. The decisions were reported by Interfax. (John Lepingwell) CONGRESS DEFENDS KHASBULATOV AND ITSELF. The Congress refused to discuss the offer of resignation which parliamentary speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov made after being criticized by President Yeltsin, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 December. Khasbulatov told deputies not to panic since "no coups would succeed today." He noted that "each person who violates the Constitution must . . . be removed from his post." He also suggested that "in the next five years" all executive state structures, including the office of the President, should be moved out of the Kremlin. He added that the Kremlin should become a museum. A Congressional resolution, adopted by a vote of 740 to 51, stated that Yeltsin had made unjustified accusations against the Congress and Khasbulatov. (Alexander Rahr) RUTSKOI, OTHER LEADERS, SIDE WITH CONGRESS. Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi called for a change of the government's economic reform program at the Congress, ITAR-TASS reported on 10-December. Rutskoi stated that criminal charges should be brought against those officials who advised Yeltsin to adopt a confrontational approach to the Congress. Rutskoi stressed that he remains loyal to the Constitution, the law, the Congress and the people. He said he was against Yeltsin's idea of a referendum because it would lead to social upheavals. Meanwhile, following the lead of Minister of Security Vladimir Barannikov, Minister of Internal Affairs Viktor Erin told Congress that his ministry will refrain from taking any unconstitutional action. (Alexander Rahr) NIKOLAI TRAVKIN: YELTSIN SHOULD RESIGN. In an address to the Congress, Nikolai Travkin, one of the founders of a pro-democracy movement in Russia and a leader of the centrist Civic Union, said that the current constitutional crisis is a sign of the emergence of a civil society in Russia, and he noted the contribution toward its development by "our two first presidents"-i.e., former USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev and Russian President Boris Yeltsin. According to Travkin, both eventually exhausted their ability to implement reforms. Travkin said that Gorbachev had grasped this and resigned with dignity; it was now time for Yeltsin to do the same. He also reminded the Congress that should Yeltsin's failure to reach a compromise with the opposition lead to the president's impeachment, Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi would serve as acting president for three months, a period during which parliament would be able to adopt a new election law. New presidential and legislative elections could then follow. (Julia Wishnevsky) RUSSIAN OFFICIALS SUGGEST WAY OUT OF CRISIS. Vladimir Lysenko, a member of the democratic faction "Consent for the Sake of Progress" said on 10 December that he and his supporters would try to convince parliamentary speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov to hold another vote on Egor Gaidar on 11 December, Interfax and Reuters reported. Lysenko said he thought it would be possible to convince enough deputies to change their minds to reverse the Congress' rejection of Gaidar. Another official, secretary of the Russian Constitutional Commission Oleg Rumyantsev told Interfax the same day that Yeltsin should give more executive power to Vice President Rutskoi and remain head of state with far fewer powers than he has today. Rumyantsev said this move would end the deadlock between the Congress and the president. (Vera Tolz) PUBLICATION OF MAJOR RUSSIAN NEWSPAPERS THREATENED? In the course of the 10-December session of the Congress, which was broadcast live by Russian radio and TV, a deputy reported that the director of the Pressa publishing house had informed the editors of Pravda, Sovetskaya Rossiya, Selskaya zhizn, Rabochaya tribuna, and Komsomolskaya pravda that none of their papers would be published on 11 December because they had failed to pay Pressa for previous services. The Congress passed a resolution calling for Pressa to print the aforementioned papers while also promising to pay the newspapers' debts. Three of these papers support the hardline opposition, one (Rabochaya tribuna) sides with the centrist Civic Union, and one (Komsomolskaya pravda) supports the Yeltsin administration. (Julia Wishnevsky) RUSSIAN CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS ON LAND OWNERSHIP. On 7 December the Congress of People's Deputies introduced two amendments to article 12 of the Constitution on private land ownership. According to an article in Izvestiya on 9 December, the amendments are a half measure, which does not meet the demands being made before the Congress by those calling for a referendum on land ownership. Article 12 already allowed private property, but the owner could not sell until 10 years after acquiring the land. The amendments removed the 10-year moratorium, but only for private plots which can be used for garden produce or construction of private housing. In all other cases the plots can be sold after 10 years if they were acquired without payment, and after 5 years if they had been bought for payment. According to Izvestiya, the Congress has only put in legal form the practice of selling garden plots which has existed since the Brezhnev period. It has not made the purchase of land for commercial farming any easier, and it has hindered the creation of a land market. (Sheila Marnie) RUSSIAN CONGRESS ENDORSES LAW ON INGUSH REPUBLIC. The Congress of People's Deputies reviewed the situation in the North Ossetian-Ingush conflict zone at a closed session in the evening of 10-December, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. The Congress endorsed the Russian Federation law on the formation of an Ingush republic, passed by the Russian parliament on 4 June 1922, and adopted a resolution calling on the Russian parliament and executive branch to set up the necessary legislative and executive structures for the Ingush republic. The reports make no mention of the frontiers of the Ingush republic, lack of agreement on which has hitherto prevented the holding of elections to a republican legislature. (Ann Sheehy) CENSORSHIP OF RUSSIAN MEDIA ON INGUSH-OSSETIAN CONFLICT. A formal political censorship of the Russian media has been introduced in its coverage of the Ingush-Ossetian conflict. All written, video and audio materials must first be screened by censors, Komsomolskaya pravda reported on 9 December. (The Russian press has already complained about censorship of its coverage of the conflict, but now the already existing practice seems to have been formalized.) Vladimir Solodin, deputy chairman of the press center at the Temporary Administration of North Ossetia and Ingushetia, is in charge of the media censorship. Until 1991, Solodin was a top official in the Soviet main censorship body, Glavlit. (Vera Tolz) BALLISTIC MISSILE USED FOR MEDICAL EXPERIMENT. On 9 December a Russian nuclear submarine off the coast of the Kamchatka Peninsula fired an RSM-25 ballistic missile carrying a unique medical experiment. (The RSM-25 is known in the West as the SS-N-6 "Serb." This obsolete 3,000-kilometer range missile is carried by Yankee I submarines.) According to Russian Information Agency (RIA) on 10 December, the missile carried a "Meduza" module in its warhead section. Scientists hope to develop medicines by electrophoresis during the short period of weightlessness during the missile's flight. On 6-November the "Novosti" TV program said that purpose of the mission was to develop "super-pure interferon," a substance which could aid in the fight against cancer and AIDS. The RIA account said that retired naval missiles would be launched on a commercial basis in the future. (Doug Clarke) PRO-COMMUNIST FORCES MOVE INTO DUSHANBE. Western agencies with correspondents in Dushanbe and Radio Rossii reported on 11 December that pro-Communist forces loyal to the new government of Tajikistan have moved into the Tajik capital, formerly under the control of sympathizers of democratic and Islamic parties. The forces were led by newly appointed Minister of Internal Affairs Yakub Salimov from Gissar, a staging area west of Dushanbe. According to one Western report, Salimov was holding talks with leaders of the anti-Communist opposition. The commander of Russian border guards stationed in Dushanbe told a Western correspondent that fighting was going on in many parts of the city. (Bess Brown) UZBEK SUPREME SOVIET VOTES TO BAN BIRLIK. Interfax and Western news agencies reported on 10-December that Uzbekistan's legislature had voted to revoke the registration of the Popular Front movement Birlik, the largest Uzbek nationalist political organization. The Supreme Soviet also revoked the mandate of deputy Marat Zakhidov, a leader of the Uzbek Human Rights Association; Zakhidov said he believed the action was taken because of his opposition sympathies. The legislature also instructed the Ministry of Justice to investigate what opposition deputies described as illegal methods used against Birlik leaders. (Bess Brown) CORRECTION: The official of the Uzbek Popular Front movement Birlik who was abducted on a Bishkek street on 8 December by Uzbek Interior Ministry officers was incorrectly identified in the 10-December 1992 RFE/RL Daily Report as Abdurakhim Pulatov, chairman of Birlik. Sources in Tashkent have reported that it was Abdumanap Pulatov, younger brother of Abdurakhim, who was seized. Abdumanap is head of Uzbekistan's Human Rights Association in addition to his role in Birlik; in Bishkek he had been chosen to head a Central Asian Human Rights Association. CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE MACEDONIA CHANGES NAME. The parliament of the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia voted late on 10 December to change its name to the Republic of Macedonia (Skopje). Radio Serbia said Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov had asked parliament to adopt the name in a bid to win international recognition and "a sign of our goodwill." The proposal won support of all assembly deputies apart from some opposition parties and a few independents. Greece has blocked EC recognition of Macedonia saying that the use of the name implies a claim to the northern Greek territory also called Macedonia. International media report that more than a million people demonstrated in Athens on 10-December supporting the Greek government's position and against any change in the EC's wavering stance on recognition. UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali has urged the Security Council to send 800 peace-keeping troops to Macedonia. They would be deployed along Macedonia's border with Serbia and Albania to monitor the situation and stand between hostile forces. An EC summit begins today in Edinburgh and Macedonia is on the agenda.(Milan Andrejevich) NATO PLANS FOR YUGOSLAV AREA. German TV reported on 10 December that NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels have drawn up contingency plans for action in the former Yugoslavia. Options include enforcing the no-fly zone over Bosnia with warplanes, creation of "safe havens" for civilians, and the deployment of peacekeepers to trouble spots such as Kosovo. The ministers stressed that plans would only be used if the UN decides that further measures are needed. Almost all NATO allies have ruled out the possibility of full military intervention with ground forces. (Milan Andrejevich) BOSNIAN SERBS WANT SARAJEVO CIVILIANS EVACUATED. On 10 December Radios Croatia and Serbia quote Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic as saying that evacuating Sarajevo is the only way to save the civilian population. Karadzic made the point in a letter to international organizations and the cochairmen of the Geneva Conference on the Former Yugoslavia. Earlier in the week Karadzic offered safe passage out of the city for all Sarajevo residents, but no evacuation has taken place. Another Bosnian Serb leader, Nikola Koljevic, said that Bosnian Serb forces will evacuate all civilians themselves if there is no other way to remove them. In Geneva Bosnian Foreign Minister Haris Silajdzic dismissed the evacuation order, calling it cruel and cynical. (Milan Andrejevich) NEW LITHUANIAN CABINET. On 10 December Prime Minister Bronislavas Lubys announced the members of his cabinet. The following also served as ministers in the Abisala government: Leonas Asmantas-energy, Audrius Butkevicius-defense, Jonas Birziskis-transport, Gintautas Zintelis-communications, and Teodoras Medaiskis-social security. New ministers are: Povilas Gilys-foreign affairs, Julius Veselka-economics, Eduardas Vilkelis-finance, Dainius Trinkunas-culture and education, Vytautas Kreuza-health, Jonas Prapiestis-justice, Romasis Vaitekunas-interior, Rimantas Karazija- agriculture, Albertas Sinevicius-industry and trade, and Algirdas Vapsys-construction and city planning. The government will start work after the Seimas approves its program and the ministers take the oath of office, possibly on 15 December, BNS reported on 10 December. (Dzintra Bungs) CZECH PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION SET FOR JANUARY. On 10 December the parties of the governing coalition in the Czech National Council agreed that the Czech Republic will elect its president in mid-January, less than two weeks after the division of the Czechoslovak federation. There are currently two candidates for the position, former federal president Vaclav Havel and Jiri V. Kotas, a little-known former emigre who unsuccessfully sought the Czechoslovak presidency after Havel's resignation. Kotas is given virtually no chance, as all major Czech parties have pledged to support Havel. According to the Czech draft constitution, the president will be elected by Czech parliament deputies. Meanwhile, a dispute seems to have broken out among Slovak leaders about candidates for the Slovak presidency. While Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar indicated that the president should be chosen from among his Movement for a Democratic Slovakia, Foreign Minister Milan Knazko, also a leading MDS official, called for the election of a nonpartisan candidate who could garner the broadest possible support. (Jan Obrman) HAVEL CONDEMNS ANTI-SEMITISM. Former Czechoslovak President Vaclav Havel spoke out against a rising tide of anti-Semitism, following the publication last week of an article in a right-wing publication purporting to list Jews active in the Czech Republic's cultural sphere. In a press conference in Prague on 10 December, Havel said that the list in Politika is the type of prose written in the early period of Nazi Germany that "led to concentration camps." Meanwhile, Josef Tomas, editor-in-chief of the weekly, announced that he is suspending publication for the time being. He told CTK on 10 December that Politika will not be published until criminal proceedings against it are completed. Tomas and the owner of the publication, Martin Savel, face charges of inciting racial hatred and national, racial, and religious defamation. (Jan Obrman) DUBCEK'S SONS TO SERVE IN THE US. Two of former CPCS First Secretary Alexander Dubcek's three sons will serve as Slovak diplomats. On 10-December Slovak Foreign Minister Milan Knazko announced that Pavol Dubcek will be posted to the new Slovak Embassy in Washington but did not say what position he will hold or when he is expected to arrive. Pavol's brother Milan will arrive next week to join the Czechoslovak Mission to the UN, Czechoslovakia's UN Ambassador Eduard Kukan told RFE/RL. He will later transfer to the Slovak Mission, concentrating on economic issues. Alexander Dubcek died on 7 November following a car crash. (Jan Obrman) BUDGET DEBATE BEGINS IN POLAND. Finance Minister Jerzy Osiatynski submitted the government's proposed budget for 1993 to the Sejm on 10 December. The budget attempts to shift funds from social benefits to spending on restructuring and economic growth. GDP is expected to grow by 2%; prices are to rise 32%; interest rates are to drop; and the deficit for the year is estimated at 81 trillion zloty, or 5% of GDP. Labor Minister Jacek Kuron submitted a related bill that would reduce the indexing of pensions from 100% to 91% of the average wage; otherwise, he warned, pensions would amount to 33% of the budget. The government's proposal to raise taxes on the highest incomes from 40% to 50% raised objections from some coalition parties. Debate on the budget was unexpectedly cut short by an opposition motion submitted when only 66 deputies were present, prompting shouts of "Anarchy!" from the government coalition. Debate resumed on 11 December. (Louisa Vinton) POLAND REJECTS "BUFFER ZONE" STATUS. The Polish ambassador to Germany, Janusz Reiter, told German radio on 10 December that Poland should gain full membership in the European Community if it is to be expected to cope with asylum-seekers rejected by Germany. Reiter was responding to Germany's decision to refuse admission to asylum-seekers attempting to enter the country from neighboring states. In remarks reported by Reuters, Reiter said that Poland and Czechoslovakia are being forced to share the constraints faced by EC members without reaping any of the benefits. Poland should not be treated as a "buffer zone" between asylum-seekers and Germany, Reiter said. (Louisa Vinton) "SELF-DEFENSE" AGAIN OCCUPIES AGRICULTURE MINISTRY. Some 30 activists from the radical Self-Defense farmers' union burst in on a meeting of the agricultural restructuring and debt-relief fund at the agriculture ministry on 10 December. Demanding a moratorium on interest payments on old loans for farmers and new credits at 5% interest, the protesters blocked the exits and refused to allow those present to leave the building. Marek Lech, a Self-Defense deputy chairman, claimed that the protesters were armed with grenades. When attempts at persuasion failed, a force of 90 policemen escorted the protesters from the building and took them into custody. (Louisa Vinton) DEVELOPMENTS IN HUNGARIAN "MEDIA WAR." Hungary's chief prosecutor banned Elemer Hankiss, head of Hungarian TV, from entering his office, Hungarian Radio reported on 10 December. Hankiss was suspended by the government a day earlier on charges of financial mismanagement. The government also announced that Finance Minister Mihaly Kupa, Labor Minister Gyula Kiss, and Minister without Portfolio Tibor Fuzessy will be the members of the investigating committee charged to rule on Hankiss's case. In addition, two high ranking television executives were also charged with fiduciary misconduct. Hankiss has requested a hearing with President Arpad Goncz, whom Hankiss considers his only employer. (Karoly Okolicsanyi) HUNGARIAN SOCIALIST PARTY PROPOSES CONFERENCE. The Hungarian Socialist Party (HSP) is proposing a conference to find ways to stabilize the country, MTI reported on 10-December. The suggestion was enclosed in a letter written by HSP Chairman Gyula Horn to the leaders of the other five parliamentary parties. Horn said the conference is needed because of the bad atmosphere in the country, increasing tensions, and the growing impatience of the population with political infighting. Specifically, five major topics were suggested: economic policy, unemployment, protection of the poor, law and order, and the protection of Hungarian minorities in neighboring countries. (Karoly Okolicsanyi) HUNGARIAN DEMOCRATIC FORUM OFFICIAL VISITS US. Sandor Lezsak, one of the six vice presidents of the ruling HDF, paid a two-day visit to Washington, MTI reported on 10-December. He was invited by the Democratic Leadership Council. Lezsak met congressional leaders and was a dinner guest of Sen. Joseph Lieberman and main Democratic fund raisers. Lezsak also met Vice President-elect Al Gore and was introduced to President-elect Bill Clinton. (Karoly Okolicsanyi) FIRST TRANSACTIONS ON ROMANIAN COMMODITIES EXCHANGE. The Romanian Commodities Exchange reopened in Bucharest on 10 December after a 63-year break, Rompres and Western agencies report. The only transaction recorded was that of calf leather. Offers of aluminum, cocoa, coffee, and photocopy paper went unsold. The exchange has 88-founding members, who invested some $2.2 million. About half of the shares are owned by state-run companies and the rest by private firms and banks. (Michael Shafir) ROMANIAN-US ECONOMIC COUNCIL MEETS. After the 18th session of the Romanian-US Economic Council in Bucharest on 9 December, Rompres quoted several figures released by the Romanian side. Romania registered a deficit of $103 million in its trade with the US in the first 10 months of 1992 (the deficit was $66.6 million in 1991 and $64.1 million in 1990). In the first ten months of 1992, bilateral trade amounted to $252.2 million, of which $74.6-million was Romanian exports and $177.6 million was imports. Trade in both directions declined from $741.4 million in 1990 to $301.6 million in 1991. American investments in Romania now amount to $64 million, and US companies are the fourth biggest foreign investors in the country. (Michael Shafir) PROGRESS ON TROOP WITHDRAWAL ISSUES IN LITHUANIA. At a meeting on 8 December in Vilnius, Russian military leaders and Lithuanian authorities reached understanding on arrangements for paying the troops salaries in Lithuanian provisional money from the Russian Defense Ministry funds. Lithuanian Defense Minister Audrius Butkevicius indicated also that it may be possible for the Russian officers in Lithuania to sell their apartments and use the money to purchase housing elsewhere. BNS also reported on 10 December that currently there are 15,000 Russian troops in Lithuania, whereas at the beginning of this year there were about 36,000. (Dzintra Bungs) EX-SOVIET EMBASSY IN RIGA TO BE TURNED OVER TO RUSSIA. Baltfax reported on 10-December that Latvian Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis has announced that the former Soviet embassy in Riga, currently housing Latvia's Ministry of Culture, will be turned over to Russia after mid-December, once the ministry has moved out. This decision is expected to put an end to the ongoing dispute and stop Russia's threatened retaliatory measures against the Latvian embassy in Moscow. (Dzintra Bungs) BULGARIA AT BLACK SEA MEETING. At a conference of the foreign ministers of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation group in Antalya, Turkey, on 10-December, Bulgarian chief delegate, Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitar Ikonomov, confirmed Bulgaria's support for coordinated regional efforts, although he said cooperation should not be allowed to interfere with the "foreign economic or foreign political priorities" of the 11 participating countries. According to the BTA report, Ikonomov reiterated Bulgaria's position that the Black Sea states must avoid becoming a closed group. Bulgaria accepted chairmanship of the group for the second half of 1993 and proposed hosting an international research conference on economic aspects of Black Sea cooperation. (Kjell Engelbrekt) [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Hal Kosiba & Charles Trumbull
write to us
with your comments and suggestions.