|Upon the education of the people of this country the fate of this country depends. - Benjamin Disraeli 1804-1881|
No. 241, 16 December 1992
SUCCESSOR STATES TO THE USSR CHERNOMYRDIN'S FIRST NEWS CONFERENCE. Judging by Russian and Western agencies' coverage, Viktor Chernomyrdin's pronouncements at his first news conference as prime minister on 14 December were, as might have been expected, cautious, largely noncommittal, and mostly vague. He repeatedly pledged to pursue the path of reform, although his definition of reform and the speed with which he carries it out may differ from that of Egor Gaidar. In his rare specific utterances, Chernomyrdin adhered to Gaidar's policies on continuing to regulate energy prices, retaining kolkhozes and sovkhozes, eschewing wage and price freezes, pursuing privatization, and working with the published draft budget for 1993. His major departures from the Gaidar line appeared to be his declared emphasis on output recovery rather than curbing inflation and his support for heavy industry. (Keith Bush) YELTSIN REASSURES KOHL ON REFORM BUT CABINET CHANGES EXPECTED. President Boris Yeltsin told visiting German Chancellor Helmut Kohl that he had worked with the new Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin for "a long time" and that he is convinced that "there will be no departure from reforms," ITAR-TASS reported on 15-December. Commenting on the outcome of the Congress, Yeltsin said that "the main result was that we managed to maintain our reform course, despite great pressure from the conservative wing . . . " Reuters reported. Izvestiya, however, stated on the same day that at least four key reformist ministers would resign. The Boston Globe quoted presidential advisor Sergei Stankevich on the same day as saying that "[former Acting Prime Minister Egor] Gaidar will be part of the presidential team, as his main intellectual adviser." (Alexander Rahr & Suzanne Crow) RUSSIA STILL DEFAULTING ON FOOD LOAN REPAYMENTS. The US Department of Agriculture has reported that Russia failed to make another $10.9 million payment on loans from commercial banks to buy US grain and other farm products. Russia has been suspended from the credit guarantees program since November due to its failure to make repayments, and is now $40 million in arrears. The United States had made a total of $5,000 million available in the form of guarantees to American commercial banks to lend to Russia to buy farm products. (Sheila Marnie & Robert Lyle) BREAD PRICES TO RISE SHARPLY IN ST. PETERSBURG. Bread prices in St. Petersburg will increase by 150% starting on 16 December, according to Interfax on 15 December. The current price of a loaf is 20 rubles; this will rise to 35 rubles. The increase is due to the fact that the city budget cannot afford subsidies for bread and flour. The city currently has enough flour stocks to last five days. (Sheila Marnie) RUSSIA, GEORGIA TRADE ACCUSATIONS OVER HELICOPTER DOWNING. On 16-December representatives of the Russian and Georgian military commands inspected the site where a Russian military helicopter crashed two days earlier after being hit by a ground-to-air missile. The bodies of 38-women and children have been recovered; the death toll may reach 64, ITAR-TASS reported. Both the Georgian Defense Ministry and Georgian Parliament Chairman Eduard Shevardnadze have reiterated denials that Georgia was responsible for the incident, arguing that the missile was fired from Abkhaz-controlled territory. The Georgian Defense Ministry further claimed that the Russian military had rejected a Georgian request that Russian helicopters avoid overflying the area in which the helicopter was shot down, and that Russian military officials had replied to the Georgian request by stating that "Russian helicopters land on the territory of Russian military units, which is the territory of the Russian Federation." Whether the latter assertion has any basis in international law is doubtful. (Liz Fuller) KRAVCHUK ON RUSSIAN "IMPERIAL THINKING." Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk has once again raised the problem of "the disease that is called imperial thinking." Referring to the recent decision of the Russian Congress of People's Deputies to raise the question of the status of the Crimean city of Sevastopol, Kravchuk explained that the step was taken by people who still believe in the idea that "all of the peoples [of the former Soviet Union] live under the leadership of the great Russian people." The result, he continued, is that such people feel free to interfere in the internal affairs of others in order to "impose order." Kravchuk's remarks were made in an interview on 10 December with the Ukrainian National Information Agency and state television. (Roman Solchanyk) KRAVCHUK AND YELTSIN TO MEET. The presidents of Ukraine and Russia will meet on 24-December in Moscow, Radio Ukraine reported on 15-December. It is expected that the two leaders will sign a package of economic agreements that are currently being finalized. (Roman Solchanyk) UKRAINE NEEDS MORE TIME TO STUDY ARMS TREATY. Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk on 15 December said that the Ukrainian parliament was entitled to more time to examine the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) before ratifying it. He was quoted by Reuters as saying that the parliament had to safeguard the republic's economic and strategic interests. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Anatolii Zlenko gave U.S. Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger the same message when they met in Stockholm. He explained that the parliament would have to "resolve several complex issues" and would not have enough time in the one-week session planned for December. He added that the parliament would reconvene on 16-January. (Doug Clarke) RUSSIA TO SPEED TROOP WITHDRAWAL FROM GERMANY. During meetings in Moscow on 15 December, Chancellor Helmut Kohl and President Yeltsin agreed that all Russian forces will depart Germany by mid-1994, some six months ahead of schedule, Reuters reported. In a 15 December radio interview, German Finance Minister Theo Waigel suggested that Germany might offer Russia an additional DM-500,000,000 ($315,000,000) to hasten the withdrawal. On the same day ITAR-TASS reported that the first German-built housing project for the withdrawing troops, a 1,160-unit settlement in Vladikavkaz, would be officially turned over to the Russian ministry of defense on 16 December. (Doug Clarke and John Lepingwell) YELTSIN DECREE ON RUSSIAN-GERMAN FOUNDATION. On 15 December President Yeltsin expressed his support for the "Russian Germans" Foundation set up by Russian Germans to ensure their social, economic, and cultural development, ITAR-TASS reported. Yeltsin signed a decree providing for state financial and other assistance to the foundation. An accompanying press release said the decree was aimed at implementing the April 1991 Russian law "On the Rehabilitation of the Repressed Peoples" and the presidential decree on urgent measures to rehabilitate the Russian Germans. (Ann Sheehy) ITAR-TASS: CORRESPONDENTS NOT WORKING FOR INTELLIGENCE AGENCY. Vitalii Ignatenko, director-general of the main Russian government news agency ITAR-TASS, said in an interview with Literaturnaya gazeta on 16 December that the agency's foreign correspondents are prohibited from working for the Russian foreign intelligence service. But later in the same interview, Ignatenko added that he did not care if his staff members were sharing their information with the secret service, provided that they did excellent journalistic work. Ignatenko said the current situation is different from that of the past, when some Soviet KGB agents used their correspondent positions as cover for intelligence work. (Several Russian journalists have claimed in the Russian press, however, that the practice of intelligence officers working under journalistic cover continues.) (Vera Tolz) GORBACHEV ON THE CONGRESS. Mikhail Gorbachev gave high marks to the Congress of People's Deputies, which met in Moscow from 1 to 14-December. According to Russian TV, Gorbachev viewed the election of Chernomyrdin as a victory of healthy, centrist forces. Gorbachev stated that Chernomyrdin will continue the market-oriented reforms. Western agencies and an RFE/RL correspondent also reported that Gorbachev had criticized Yeltsin over his confrontation with the Congress, calling him "capricious," and accusing him of taking advice only "from a very narrow group of...personally devoted but rather incompetent people." Gorbachev also voiced contempt for Andrei Kozyrev's exercise in "shock diplomacy" at the Stockholm CSCE conference. (Julia Wishnevsky) RUBLE EXCHANGE RATE HOVERS. The ruble appreciated slightly vis-ˆ-vis the dollar on 15-December at the Moscow Interbank Currency Exchange, various Western and Russian sources reported. At the end of the session the dollar bought 418 rubles, down a ruble from previous trading. Trade volume was $57.6 million. (Erik Whitlock) RUSSIAN ARMED FORCES NEARLY ONE MILLION SHORT. The Russian defense ministry press service announced on 14 December that there was currently a shortfall of 960,000 people in the Russian armed forces. As quoted by Interfax, the ministry said that only about 20% of the 1,500,000 people potential draftees actually end up in the service. The others find various reasons for a waver. The ministry said that 41,581 young men failed to show up at their induction centers. (Doug Clarke) RUSSIAN FIGHTERS DELIVERED TO CHINA. Radio Vladivostok announced on 15-December that 20-Su-27 jet fighters had been flown to China from the Yurii Gagarin aircraft factory in Komsomolsk-on-the-Amur. The report said that it was the first time in the history of export deliveries from this plant that the aircraft had not been shipped by rail or ship. Interfax had announced the deal in August of this year, but in October had indicated that the transaction had been annulled by the Chinese. (Doug Clarke) RATINGS OF UKRAINIAN POLITICAL PARTIES. A survey conducted in four Ukrainian oblasts in November shows widespread public apathy towards political parties. Asked whom they would vote for among fifteen political parties if elections were held now, almost 76% responded that they could not say. But 31% of those questioned said that they would not vote at all. "Rukh" had the greatest number of sympathizers among those who had made their choice. The results were reported by Ukrainian TV on 8 December. (Roman Solchanyk) FIGHTING CONTINUES IN DUSHANBE. The new chairman of Tajikistan National Security Committee (formerly the Tajik KGB), Saidamir Zukhurov, said on 15 December that fighting between small opposition groups and units loyal to the new government was continuing in Dushanbe, but major armed opposition formations had been driven out of the city, ITAR-TASS reported. Government attempts to persuade opposition groupings outside Dushanbe to end their resistance were reported to have been unsuccessful. The deputy commander of the Pyandzh border guard unit told Interfax that weapons are still being brought into Tajikistan from Afghanistan, and one smuggler reportedly told the border guards who detained him that his group in Kurgan-Tyube's Kumsangir Raion, an opposition stronghold, has acquired two Stinger missiles. (Bess Brown) RUSSIAN BORDER GUARDS CLASH WITH TAJIK GOVERNMENT SUPPORTERS. The press center of the Russian border troops in Tajikistan told Interfax on 15 December that the pro-Communist Kulyab Popular Movement, a mainstay of the new government in Tajikistan, had besieged a border post the previous day, demanding that ten Russians who had sought refuge at the post from fighting between Tajik groups be handed over to the Kulyabis. The Russian refugees were evacuated to Dushanbe by helicopter and the Kulyabis were eventually persuaded to abandon the siege, but the attack indicates that the Russian military in Tajikistan remains in a tense position between factions-not an encouraging basis for initiating a peacekeeping mission. (Bess Brown) WESTERN FIRMS SHOW INTEREST IN KYRGYZSTAN'S MINERAL RESOURCES. Kyrgyzstan took the novel step earlier this year of employing a western businessman and former US ambassador as their agent in the United States, and empowered him to negotiate the sale of mineral and petroleum rights on its behalf, according to an article in the Journal of Commerce on 8 December. The man involved is Arnold Saltzman, president of the New York firm "Windsor Productions." Kyrgyzstan has undeveloped deposits of gold, silver, mercury, tin and petroleum, and several western companies are already involved in negotiations. According to Interfax on 9 December, the Canadian Cameco corporation has signed an agreement to develop the Kumtor gold deposit through the creation of a joint venture with the Kyrgyz state concern, "Kyrgyzzoloto." The joint venture plans to produce 16-tons of gold a year. (Sheila Marnie) CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE INTERNATIONAL MOVES ON THE BOSNIAN ISSUE. International media reported on 15-December that the CSCE foreign ministers' meeting in Stockholm urged the UN Security Council to "urgently consider" measures to enforce the no-fly zone over Bosnia. The session did not make similar recommendations on lifting the arms embargo on Bosnia, however, but merely urged the UN to discuss the matter. The 16-December Los Angeles Times quoted Bosnian Foreign Minister Haris Silajdzic as saying in response: "we were entitled to expect more as our people are dying, being killed, or frozen to death . . . . It is absurd to have our hands tied while we are being massacred." Elsewhere, on 15 December the BBC said that NATO was making contingency plans to enforce the no-fly zone and possibly take additional steps toward military intervention in the crisis. Some observers suggested that there was nothing unusual in drafting such contingency plans, while other analysts indicated that NATO was trying to put pressure on the Serbs. Austrian Foreign Minister Alois Mock told Austrian TV that "things are moving" in the direction of armed foreign intervention in Bosnia, although he again ruled out any direct role for Austria. (Patrick Moore) CROATIAN PRIME MINISTER VISITS HUNGARY. Croatian Prime Minister Hrvoje Sarinic will pay a one-day working visit to Hungary on 16 December at the invitation of Prime Minister Jozsef Antall, MTI reported on 15 December. Accompanied by his ministers in charge of foreign trade, agriculture, and communications, Sarinic will meet with President Arpad Goncz and Speaker of the Parliament Gyorgy Szabad. The two countries will sign a basic treaty governing their relationships. The two countries stressed that their increasingly warm ties are not directed against any states of former Yugoslavia. (Judith Pataki) EC OBSERVERS IN HUNGARY. In accordance with an agreement signed between Hungary and the European Community, eight members of an EC observation team have arrived in Szeged. The team will monitor problems on Hungary's southern border arising as a result of the civil war in rump Yugoslavia. The EC mission includes participants from Great Britain, Denmark, Portugal, and Italy; all are unarmed. They will cooperate with the Hungarian authorities including the police, the army and the border guards. Should the need arise, more observers would be called in, MTI reported on 15 December. (Judith Pataki) CSCE ADMITS CZECH REPUBLIC, SLOVAKIA. The Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe admitted the two successor states of Czechoslovakia as new members on 15 December, various news agencies reported. Foreign ministers of the CSCE member countries announced the decision in Stockholm; the measure will go into effect on 1-January 1993. In a separate development, Austria announced that it will establish full diplomatic relations with the Czech and Slovak republics after the split of Czechoslovakia. The Austrian consulate in Bratislava will be upgraded to an embassy. Austrian Chancellor Franz Vranitzky made a statement to this effect during Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus's visit to Vienna on 15 December. (Jan Obrman) CZECH PARLIAMENT TO VOTE ON CONSTITUTION TODAY. The Czech National Council is expected to vote on the Czech draft constitution on 16-December. The initial draft was amended following talks between the ruling coalition of Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus and the left opposition parties. The new draft proposes a three-fifths majority for constitutional changes (instead of a simple majority favored by the ruling coalition) and features references to environmental protection and fundamental human rights, and provides for the possibility of holding referendums. The new draft also gives the future Czech president the right to send back to parliament all laws for re-evaluation. It is widely expected that at least 15 opposition deputies will support the draft, which makes it likely that it will be approved. (Jan Obrman) KOVAC TO BECOME SLOVAK PRESIDENT? In an interview with the Czech communist daily Rude pravo published on 15 December, Michal Kovac, chairman of the Czechoslovak Federal Assembly (that will be dissolved before 1 January 1993), said that leading officials of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia offered him the presidency of the future independent Slovak state. Kovac, 62, also served as finance minister in the first postcommunist Slovak government and has been a supporter of Slovakia's independence. A former communist, he was expelled from the party in 1970 and is believed to enjoy the support of Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar, which makes his election by the Slovak parliament very likely. The Slovak president will probably be elected sometime in January 1993. (Jan Obrman) ZHELEV ASKS MRF TO FORM BULGARIAN CABINET. On 15 December Bulgarian President Zhelyu Zhelev asked the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, the predominantly Turkish party that makes up the third largest parliamentary caucus, to try to form a government, BTA reports. Spokeswoman Sherife Mustafa confirmed earlier statements that the MRF will negotiate with the UDF to create a coalition cabinet, but MRF Chairman Ahmed Dogan said there would also be consultations with the BSP and parties not represented in the present parliament. Dogan rejected the possibility of MRF forming a minority cabinet. In the meantime, Edvin Sugarev, deputy chairman of the UDF parliamentary group, announced his resignation in protest over renewed UDF attempts to negotiate with the MRF. (Kjell Engelbrekt) RESCHEDULING BULGARIA'S DEBT. According to a Paris Club press release on 15-December, an agreement has been reached between Bulgaria and its 14 creditor nations. Western agencies say that government creditors are satisfied with Bulgaria's economic reform program and have therefore agreed to rescheduling the debt payments over ten years, including a six-year grace period. The agreement covers Bulgaria's $2 billion debt to government creditors; another $8.5 billion is owed to private banks. (Kjell Engelbrekt) ROMANIAN PRINTERS BEGIN NATION-WIDE STRIKE. The Romanian Printers' Union, representing some 14,000 members, called a nation-wide strike at state-owned publishing houses to begin on 16 December. In interviews with Radio Bucharest and Western agencies, union leaders said that the strike will continue until the government meets the strikers' pay demands. The printers are asking that their pay be doubled. The government has offered a pay raise of up to 50%, warning, however, against raising printing rates, which could scare off customers and eventually lead to the elimination of jobs in the printing industry. Union spokesmen say the strike will stop publication of five national newspapers, 35 local dailies, and some 50 weeklies. (Dan Ionescu) 1989 UPRISING COMMEMORATED IN TIMISOARA. Official ceremonies begin on 16-December in the western Romanian city to mark the third anniversary of the events of 1989. The uprising, which eventually led to Nicolae Ceausescu's overthrow, erupted in Timisoara on 16 December 1989 when Romanian authorities tried to evict dissident ethnic Hungarian pastor Laszlo Tokes from his church. According to official reports, 97 persons were killed in that city alone. The number of people killed throughout Romania was put in a recent report by military prosecutors at 1,104. On 15 December, Radio Bucharest broadcast a message from President Ion Iliescu to the citizens of Timisoara hailing the "heroes and martyrs of Timisoara," but making no mention of Tokes's role. (Dan Ionescu) WALESA DEBATES MIODOWICZ, AGAIN. Polish President Lech Walesa sparred with former OPZZ federation chief Alfred Miodowicz for an hour on 15-December, four years after the two men met in the live televised debate that signaled the return of Solidarity to the public stage. In the 1988 debate, Walesa ran rings around Miodowicz-then also a Politburo member-foiling the authorities' plan to dilute the Solidarity leader's message of pluralism and freedom in a sauce of trade union issues. This time round, more attention was directed at Walesa's reasons for accepting Miodowicz's challenge than at the debate itself. Walesa admitted that all of his associates had urged against giving any new legitimacy to a figure from a bygone era (Miodowicz heads the marginal Working People's Movement), but stressed that open discussion is necessary. Miodowicz charged during the debate that market reforms had brought only poverty and despair; Walesa countered that the changes of 1988-89 have opened vast possibilities. Gazeta Wyborcza of 16 December called the debate "boring." (Louisa Vinton) STRIKES SPREAD IN SILESIA. PAP reports early on 16 December that 38 of Poland's 63-coal mines have joined the general mine strike proclaimed by Solidarity. Two former official unions and the Solidarity '80 splinter union endorsed the strike on 15 December, adding their own political demands-including new elections-to the initial list. Solidarity ruled out a joint strike with the other unions. The head of Solidarity's mine branch said the strike could last as long as two months, until coal reserves are exhausted. The miners are demanding that the government reverse declines in real wages and bail out indebted mines, but official concessions are unlikely. Only 22 mines turn a profit; 41 create losses. A government spokesman expressed concern that the miners' strike could endanger the signing of the "pact on state firms," which is expected by year's end. (Louisa Vinton) TIGHTER CONTROLS FOR POLAND'S BORDERS. Poland's Internal Affairs Ministry has approved measures designed to limit the influx of travelers from the countries of the former Soviet Union. Upwards of 10-million former Soviet citizens crossed Poland's eastern border in 1992, PAP reported on 15 December. New plans call for a system of police registration of invitations issued to visitors from Bulgaria, Romania, and all countries of the former Soviet Union except Lithuania. Poles issuing the invitations would have to pay a one-million-zloty fee to cover potential deportation and health-care costs. German border officials say that the number of crossings this year has doubled over last; some 18,000 people were caught trying to cross illegally. Finally, Polish and German government officials announced on 15 December that talks will be held within a month "to find a solution to the problem of asylum-seekers satisfactory to both sides." (Louisa Vinton) SAJUDIS TO REFORM, LATVIAN RADICALS ORGANIZE. BNS reported on 13 December that Vytautas Landsbergis, honorary chairman of Sajudis, has been authorized to form a committee to reorganize the Lithuanian popular movement. The movement failed to win a majority in the recent parliamentary elections in Lithuania. That same day in Riga, 133-delegates founded the Latvian National Association Tevzeme (Fatherland). The new organization draws its support mainly from the radical members of the People's Front of Latvia who split from the PFL after its last congress in October. (Dzintra Bungs) BALTS ON TROOP WITHDRAWAL. On 11 December Lithuania's Acting President Algirdas Brazauskas visited Latvia, his first official visit abroad since his Lithuanian Democratic Labor Party won the elections. Together with Latvia's head of state, Anatolijs Gorbunovs, Brazauskas appealed for financial aid to accelerate the withdrawal of Russian troops from the Baltic States. The appeal, subject to further coordination with Tallinn and Moscow, is addressed to CSCE member states, Baltfax reported on 11 December. Meanwhile, on 15-December in Stockholm, Estonian Foreign Minister Trivimi Velliste told the CSCE foreign ministers meeting that of all Estonian territory held by Russian troops, only 6% has been returned and that some 200-separate sites are still under Russian military control in and around Tallinn alone. While the number of Russian military personnel in Estonia is decreasing, he said, it is because Estonia has not permitted new conscripts to replace those who have completed their military service, an RFE/RL correspondent reports. (Dzintra Bungs) LITHUANIA, NORWAY AGREE ON NO-VISA ENTRY. On 15 December Lithuanian Foreign Minister Voldemaras Katkus and Norwegian Ambassador Per Gullik signed an agreement in Vilnius on visa-free travel between the two countries, Baltfax reports. (Dzintra Bungs) GORBUNOVS DENIES ALLEGATIONS OF ANTI-SEMITISM. Prompted by a recent article in Life magazine alleging anti-Semitism in Latvia, Supreme Council Chairman Anatolijs Gorbunovs assured the press on 15 December that in all its laws, official documents, and policies Latvia adheres strictly to the 19 September 1990 declaration "On the Condemnation and Impermissibility of Genocide and Anti-Semitism in Latvia." As reported by BNS on 15-December, Gorbunovs also invited anyone concerned about the status of the Jewish community to come to Latvia to see for themselves. (Dzintra Bungs) ROMANIA, MOLDOVA SIGN MILITARY AGREEMENT. Returning from an official visit to Moldova, on 15 December Romanian Defense Minister Lt. Gen. Nicolae Spiroiu provided details on a bilateral military agreement signed in Chisinau the day before. Radio Bucharest quoted Spiroiu as saying that the new agreement offers a legal framework for cooperation between the two armies. Romania will help train and arm the nascent Moldovan forces. The two sides also pledged to promote contacts between their armies in the field of culture, sports, and science. Spiroiu also held talks with his Moldovan counterpart Gen. Pavel Creanga, and was received by President Mircea Snegur and Premier Andrei Sangheli. (Dan Ionescu) POLAND-BELARUS MILITARY TALKS. PAP reported on 15 December that the Polish and Belarusian defense ministers had that day in Warsaw signed a "statement on establishing cooperation" between the two ministries. The document provides for establishing permanent contacts. The report said that an agreement on military cooperation will be signed when Polish Defense Minister Janusz Onyszkiewicz visits Belarus next year. (Doug Clarke) [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Hal Kosiba & Charles Trumbull
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