|Every individual has a place to fill in the world, and is important, in some respect, whether he chooses to be so or not. - Nathaniel Hawthorne|
No. 242, 17 December 1992
SUCCESSOR STATES TO THE USSR YELTSIN IN CHINA. Russian President Boris Yeltsin started an official visit to China on 17-December. Upon arrival in Beijing, Yeltsin said, "We should develop a new epoch in relations with China." Yeltsin reported that a number of draft agreements had been prepared for signing during the visit, including accords on scientific and technical cooperation. Yeltsin characterized this visit, the second to Asia in recent weeks, as evidence that Russia's foreign policy is not biased in favor of developing close ties with the United States and the West. ITAR-TASS quoted the Russian president as saying: "This [visit] balances our foreign policy." (Suzanne Crow) YELTSIN STRESSES IMPORTANCE OF RUSSIAN-GERMAN RELATIONS. Speaking at a press conference on 16 December after two days of talks with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, President Yeltsin expressed Russia's satisfaction with the visit. Addressing the prospects for Russo-German relations, Yeltsin said: "Peace has reigned in Europe whenever Germany and Russia were not engaged in conflict, and there was war whenever Germany and Russia were not in agreement. Today we can underline that the prospects are very good. No one wants expansion. The barriers of ideology have been broken down. We have European civilization and culture," German TV reported. Referring to "my friend Helmut," Yeltsin praised Kohl for visiting during a time of political ferment in Moscow. (Suzanne Crow) CIVIC UNION SPLIT ON CHERNOMYRDIN. Two leaders of the Civic Union, Arkadii Volsky and Aleksandr Rutskoi, have, in separate statements, praised the new prime minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin, as a highly competent politician who will succeed in improving the economy, Western news agencies reported on 16 December. However, another Civic Union leader, Nikolai Travkin, charged that the centrists had made a "serious mistake" by approving Chernomyrdin's nomination. Travkin described Chernomyrdin as a man who could be easily manipulated by President Yeltsin. Travkin asserted that the majority of the Civic Union had favored Deputy Prime Minister Georgii Khizha for the prime minister post; however, Yeltsin had dropped Khizha from the list of candidates at the last moment. (Alexander Rahr) KRAVCHUK ON CHERNOMYRDIN. Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk told workers at a Kharkiv machine-building plant that the appointment of Viktor Chernomyrdin as the new Russian prime minister inspires hope for Ukrainian-Russian bilateral relations, Interfax reported on 16 December. The Ukrainian leader characterized the Russian prime minister as a practical and sober politician who was well versed in various aspects of economic cooperation. (Roman Solchanyk) GEORGIA SUSPENDS TALKS WITH RUSSIA. The Georgian Defense Ministry claimed on 16-December that the bodies of 20 Abkhaz and North Caucasian commandos were discovered among the wreckage of the Russian military helicopter shot down over Abkhazia on 14-December, Interfax reported, but Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev, told a news conference in Moscow that 36 civilians and three crew members were killed. The Russian Defense Ministry further rejected Georgian media claims that quantities of arms and explosive were found in the wreckage. Georgian parliament speaker Vakhtang Goguadze announced on 16 December that Georgia was suspending a second round of Georgian-Russian talks in Moscow because of what he termed "Russian interference into Georgian affairs," Interfax reported. (Liz Fuller) CABINET CHANGES UNCLEAR. The ministers of economics and foreign economic relations, Andrei Nechaev and Petr Aven, respectively, have not been asked by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to remain in their positions, Western news agencies reported on 16 December quoting presidential spokesman Vyacheslav Kostikov. But ITAR-TASS reported the same day that President Yeltsin personally had asked Nechaev to stay. Kostikov stated that three other leading cabinet members, Vladimir Shumeiko, Aleksandr Shokhin, and Anatolii Chubais will stay. He added that Ex-Prime Minister Egor Gaidar will return to his old job as director of the Institute of Economic Policy and will continue providing advice to Yeltsin. (Alexander Rahr) BURBULIS LOSES ANOTHER POST. Gennadii Burbulis, President Yeltsin's right-hand man, has been sacked as co-chairman of the Russian-Indian commission for trade cooperation, economic affairs, and science, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 December. He was replaced by first deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Shumeiko. According to ITAR-TASS, Burbulis's dismissal was signed by then Acting Prime Minister Egor Gaidar on 11 December, i.e., the same day Yeltsin agreed to remove Burbulis from the position of chief presidential adviser. The removal of Burbulis, who is unpopular not only with conservatives but with many liberals as well, was at the top of the list of demands presented to Yeltsin by the overwhelming majority of Russian lawmakers as a condition for a compromise with the president. (Julia Wishnevsky) WORLD BANK ESTIMATE OF FORMER SOVIET UNION'S DEBT. In its annual report on world debt published on 17 December, the World Bank estimates the external debt of the former Soviet Union to have been $75.4 billion at mid-1992. Repayment arrears at that time amounted to $9.4 billion. Nearly 52% of the total debt is due for repayment within the next three years. (Russia has assumed responsibility for repayment of the debt of the former Soviet Union, but has been able to repay only about $2 billion in 1992 and has warned that it can pay no more than $3 billion in 1993). According to Reuters of 17 December, the G-7 nations have offered to reschedule $15 billion of the debt due in late 1992 and in 1993 over ten years, with only interest payments required during the first five years. (Keith Bush/Robert Lyle). MB GENERAL ON NEW METHODS OF WORKING WITH MASS MEDIA. In the present open information environment, there is no practical reason to place secret agents in the mass media, wrote the chief of public relations in the Ministry of Security, Andrei Chernenko, in Literaturnaya gazeta, (no. 51). Chernenko said that his agency prefers not to use journalist covers; instead, the MB (the former KGB) sends its officers overtly to the media when it needs to conduct research leading to articles. Publications written by these officers enables his ministry to initiate various operations aimed at countering corruption, smuggling, and terrorism. Chernenko added that his ministry is no longer responsible for classifying information; it merely monitors the legal enforcement of regulations related to state security. (Victor Yasmann) CRIMINAL CASE AGAINST GORBACHEV REPORTEDLY REOPENED. Radio Echo Moskvy and the newspaper Moskovskii komsomolets reported on 9 December that the office of the Russian Prosecutor General has decided again to conduct a criminal investigation of Mikhail Gorbachev. According to these sources, Gorbachev is suspected of having exceeded his authority while serving as the CPSU General Secretary. Initially, the inquiry was handled secretly by the Investigation Administration of the Russian Ministry of Security (the MB), the sources report, but the MB declined to request that the Prosecutor General's office press charges against Gorbachev. The Prosecutor General's office has recently disputed this MB decision; hence the new investigation. The aforementioned sources did not provide information on the "excesses" allegedly committed by Gorbachev. (Julia Wishnevsky) RUSSIAN TROOP WITHDRAWAL SHORTENED BY ONLY THREE MONTHS. Whereas the German government wanted Russia to withdraw its remaining military forces from Germany by mid-1994, ITAR-TASS on 16 December indicated that Russian Defense Minister General Pavel Grachev told his president that the best he could do was to trim three months from the schedule. As a result, Germany agreed to pay an addition DM 550,000,000 ($350,000,000) to ensure that the last of the 340,000 military personnel presently in Germany (200,000 troops and 140,000 dependents) will be out of the country by the end of August 1994. In a related development, Russia agreed that Germany would not have to pay anything for the facilities evacuated by the withdrawing troops. (Doug Clarke) GRACHEV ON THE ARMED FORCES. Russian Defense Minister General Pavel Grachev told a Moscow press conference on 16 December that the military had succeeded in "stopping the fall in combat readiness and discipline in the armed forces...[and] in restoring reliable control over troops...." As quoted by ITAR-TASS he indicated that the transition from the old division structure to the new corps/brigade organization had begun. He also said that hiring of contract servicemen had yielded positive initial results, saying that "hundreds" of young people had expressed a wish to sign contracts. (Doug Clarke) US TO PURCHASE NON-WEAPONS GRADE PLUTONIUM FROM RUSSIA. According to Reuters, the US Department of Energy on 16 December announced that it will purchase up to 40 kilograms (88 pounds) of plutonium from Russia over the next five years to be used in nuclear reactors for deep-space probes. The isotope used for space-based reactors (plutonium-238) is not suitable for weapons production, and is not extracted from dismantled nuclear weapons. The financial details of the deal were not revealed. Some of the material may even be used to fuel a Russian-built "Topaz" nuclear reactor which the US Strategic Defense Initiative Office wants to test in orbit. The US bought two unfuelled Topaz reactors from Russia in May 1992 for testing purposes. (John Lepingwell) CIVIC CONGRESS OF UKRAINE. Organizers of the Civic Congress of Ukraine concluded their meeting in Kharkiv where they drafted an appeal to the population, Ostankino TV reported on 15 December. The Civic Congress of Ukraine was formed in the fall and supports a federated structure for Ukraine, official status for the Russian language, and closer ties with Russia and within the CIS. (Roman Solchanyk) BELARUS CONFIRMS NUCLEAR WITHDRAWAL, REJECTS COLLECTIVE SECURITY AGREEMENT. The Belarusian parliament voted by an overwhelming majority on 16 December not to join the Tashkent Treaty on Collective Security, according to Reuters. Belarus is pursuing a policy of neutrality, and thus refrained from signing the treaty in May, although it expressed support for the concept of collective security. The parliament did pass a resolution calling for Belarus to become non-nuclear in two and a half years, confirming earlier statements by parliamentary chairman Shushkevich that Belarus will pursue a rapid withdrawal of strategic nuclear weapons located on its territory. (John Lepingwell) LEADING AZERBAIJANI OPPOSITION FIGURE INJURED IN ASSAULT. Murtuz Aleskerov, deputy chairman of the "New Azerbaijan" opposition party headed by Nakhichevan parliament chairman Geidar Aliev, has been hospitalized with knife wounds and leg injuries following an assault near his home in Baku on 15 December, according to an RFE/RL correspondent. A professor of law at Baku University, Aleskerov had recently published an article critical of the Azerbaijani leadership. (Liz Fuller) TURKISH ISLAMIC FUNDAMENTALIST WELFARE PARTY LEADER VISITS BAKU. A delegation of some 150 Islamic politicians, scholars and businessmen headed by Professor Necmettin Erbakan, leader of the Turkish Islamic fundamentalist Welfare Party, has held talks with Azerbaijani President Abulfaz Elchibey in Baku, ITAR-TASS reported on 16-December. Erbakan's party won some 25% of the vote in local Turkish elections in October, and advocates Turkish military intervention in Nagorno-Karabakh. Meeting with the delegation, Elchibey stressed that Azerbaijan will give priority in its foreign trade activities to developing ties with Muslim countries. (Liz Fuller) RUSSIAN-SPEAKERS TAKEN HOSTAGE IN DUSHANBE. Interfax reported on 16 December a statement by Russia's ambassador in Tajikistan that more than ten Russian-speaking inhabitants of Dushanbe had been taken hostage the previous night. The agency said it had received information that an anti-government group in Kofarnihon Raion, an opposition stronghold near Dushanbe, was responsible for the kidnapping. A representative of the Russian 201st Motorized Division stationed in Tajikistan told Interfax the same day that a search was continuing for four Russian soldiers abducted four days earlier, and the Russian division was considering an armored attack on both sides of the Tajik conflict as a warning not to engage in violence against Russian forces. (Bess Brown) TAJIK OFFICIAL DENIES RUMORS THAT PAMIRIS SHOT. Abdumadzhid Dostiev, Deputy Chairman of Tajikistan's parliament, appeared on Dushanbe TV on 16 December to deny a story that Pamiri inhabitants of the Tajik capital had been summarily executed by the new pro-Communist government, ITAR-TASS reported. The story of the executions had been picked up by Western correspondents in Dushanbe. Dostiev claimed that with the exception of a few regions, the country was quiet and that negotiations with opposition military commanders are continuing. He also appealed for Russian-speakers who have fled the country to return. (Bess Brown) CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE EAGLEBURGER NAMES WAR CRIMINALS. Speaking at the 29-country Geneva conference on Yugoslavia on 17 December, US Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger argued for bringing those responsible for war crimes to trial. Those named include a mixture of Serbs and Croats. He also specifically mentioned Slododan Milosevic, Radovan Karadzic, and Gen. Ratko Mladic, saying that these Serbian leaders must also be held accountable if they fail to stop atrocities. Since August Eagleburger has repeatedly insisted that those responsible for war crimes must know that they will be brought to account. Eagleburger also called for enforcing the no-fly zone in Bosnia, as well as for considering lifting the arms embargo against the Bosnian government. (Patrick Moore) OTHER DEVELOPMENTS IN THE YUGOSLAV CRISIS. Reuters reported on 16 December that Bosnian forces began an offensive against the Serb-held town of Bratunac in eastern Bosnia, forcing many Serbs to flee across the nearby Serbian border. UN relief operations in the area will probably be halted, but the surprise offensive suggests that if adequately armed the Bosnian forces are quite capable of retaking territory. Elsewhere, for the second time this week Bosnian Serbs turned over more than 1,000 Muslim and Croat prisoners to the Red Cross in Croatia. All prisoners were supposed to have been released by 14 December, but the scheduled hand-overs have often failed to take place. Meanwhile in Brussels, Albanian President Sali Berisha called on NATO to send troops to Kosovo to prevent the spread of war to that Serbian province with a more than 90% Albanian majority. Albania has paid particular attention in recent months to cultivating close ties to NATO. (Patrick Moore) SERBIAN ELECTION CAMPAIGN. In an interview with the Belgrade magazine Duga, Milan Panic, prime minister of rump Yugoslavia and candidate for the Serbian presidency, stated that he plans to resign the post of president just as soon as he solves Serbia's problems. Both Panic and federal President Dobrica Cosic have urged abolishing the presidencies of Serbia and Montenegro, maintaining that the federal presidency is sufficient. Latest polls now show that incumbent Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic trails Panic by less than 2% and that the ruling Socialist Party of Serbia is leading in six of Serbia's nine electoral districts. On 16-December Belgrade TV reported on Milosevic's campaign stops in central Serbia. He said that Serbia knows it is under a lot of pressure, and reiterated that "there is no adversity that cannot be overcome through the common efforts of a united people." He added that the international community is telling Serbia how to behave, but warned that Serbs "shall act upon our will as free people, and not upon the dictates of politicians throughout the world." Panic also spoke about foreign policy issues; on 14 December he warned international leaders to stop "intimidating" Serbia and criticized Turkey for thinking of sending troops to Bosnia, saying "God help Turkish soldiers if they ever set foot on Yugoslav soil." Politika carried the report. (Milan Andrejevich) SEJM REVERSES "TWO-FISTED" VOTE. Amid consternation over Polish TV's airing of footage showing a deputy voting "with both hands" (for himself and an absent colleague), the Sejm opted on 16 December to ballot again on an issue decided by a three-vote margin on 12-December. The original vote had invalidated one of the measures accompanying next year's proposed budget, a government proposal to limit pension increases in 1993. This outcome was reversed the second time round; the Sejm voted 203 to 192 against rejecting the draft bill and then sent it on to committee. An opposition motion to retake other votes connected with the 1993 budget-those originally won by the government coalition-was rejected, by a margin of 201 to 194. (Louisa Vinton) GOVERNMENT REASONS WITH STRIKING MINERS. By the morning of 17 December, 57-coal mines had joined in the general strike called "to save Polish mining." Union leaders say more than 250,000 miners are taking part. Industry Minister Waclaw Niewiarowski cut short a foreign visit to deal with the crisis and issued the government's first official response to the strike. In a letter to Waclaw Marszewski, the chief of Solidarity's mining branch and the strike committee chairman, Niewiarowski reviewed the extensive talks on mining restructuring held since July and disputed the strikers' contention that the government's efforts were a "masquerade." He urged the unions to return to the negotiating table. Niewiarowski is to address the Sejm on 17 December. (Louisa Vinton) RADICAL FARMERS PREPARE PROTEST. The former official farmers' organization and the radical Self-Defense union announced that their national protest against foreign food imports will begin on 17-December. Meanwhile, police deterred Self-Defense activists from occupying government offices in three voivodships on 16 December. Self-Defense's threats to blockade Polish border crossings led Rural Solidarity to withdraw from the joint protest committee on 15 December. "We will not work together with collaborators and terrorists," a Rural Solidarity activist explained. An official spokesman warned on 16-December that "the government will not tolerate violations of the law." (Louisa Vinton) PARLIAMENT APPROVES CZECH CONSTITUTION. The Czech National Council overwhelmingly approved a draft Czech constitution on 16 December, Czechoslovak radio reports. While it was widely expected that the draft would be approved, many observers believed that it might be a close vote as many opposition deputies expressed uneasiness about the document. In the end, 172 out of 200 Czech National Council deputies supported the draft, while it was rejected by 16. The constitution provides for a two-chamber parliament and will go into effect on 1-January 1993, the first day of the Czech Republic's independence. Slovakia adopted its new constitution in September. (Jan Obrman) SLOVAK PARLIAMENT CREATES ARMY, DEFENSE MINISTRY. On 16 December the National Council of the Slovak Republic approved the creation of the Armed Forces of the Slovak Republic and of a Defense Ministry, Czechoslovak TV reports. All Slovaks who are now members of the Czechoslovak armed forces will have to swear a new oath by 31 January 1993 or leave the Slovak army. Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar told legislators that the law on the creation of the Slovak army is a temporary measure that may be changed or supplemented next year. Meciar also announced that the first Slovak Defense Minister will be an army general, while his deputy (in the post of state secretary) will be a civilian. It was also disclosed that the Slovak army will number about 35,000. (Jan Obrman) ROMANIAN PRINTERS' STRIKE. A printers' union call for members to stay off the job was widely followed across Romania on 16 December. Western agencies quoted union leaders as saying that the strike halted publication of nearly 200 dailies and weeklies. Printers in state-owned publishing houses demand that their monthly pay be doubled. But the government already rejected the claim as "aberrant from an economic point of view," and offered a 50% pay rise instead. Meanwhile, journalists expressed support for the strike; and the management of the mass circulation daily Evenimentul zilei announced that the paper is suspending operations in sympathy with the printers. The strikers, who vowed to continue until their demands are met, pledged to print, free of charge, a special issue of a daily in Timisoara to mark the anniversary of the 1989 uprising. (Dan Ionescu) TIMISOARA COMMEMORATES DECEMBER 1989 UPRISING. Thousands of people marched through Timisoara in the evening of 16 December to mark the third anniversary of the start of the anticommunist uprising that eventually led to the end of Nicolae Ceausescu's regime. George Serban, a main leader of the 1989 revolt in Timisoara, said that the hopes of the people there have been betrayed by Romania's current regime. He called a recent report by military prosecutors on the killings in December 1989 "a masquerade" and accused the authorities of trying to conceal the truth about the 1989 events. Radio Bucharest broadcast a message by Romania's former king Michael hailing Timisoara for "having broken the circle of communist terror" in Romania. (Dan Ionescu) KOZLODUY TO START UP ANOTHER REACTOR. One of the smaller, older reactor units at the Kozloduy nuclear power plant will soon be put back on line, the chairman of the Bulgarian Atomic Energy Committee announced on 15 December. Yanko Yanev told Reuters that the 440-megawatt second unit would be restarted in a matter of days, following approval by foreign experts who recently visited the plant. International Atomic Energy Agency spokesman David Kyd told RFE/RL that agency experts are not entirely satisfied with the safety of the reactor but that they feel Bulgarians have acted "to the best of their ability." Kyd said the IAEA recognizes Bulgaria's need to resume operation of the unit in order to limit power shortages during the winter. (Kjell Engelbrekt) EBRD LOAN TO ALBANIA. In London on 16 December, Jacques Attali, president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, announced to the press that his organization has awarded Albania a $10-million loan to repair and develop its telecommunications. Improving Albania's communications, said Attali, will serve as a catalyst for general economic development and reform. In addition it was announced that the EBRD has been invited to send financial advisors to assist Albchrome, the state-owned chromium industry, in financial analysis and planning. Albania is the world's third largest producer of chromium. (Charles Trumbull) HUNGARIAN, ROMANIAN FOREIGN MINISTERS MEET. Hungarian Foreign Minister Geza Jeszenszky met with his Romanian counterpart Teodor Melescanu at the CSCE foreign ministers conference in Stockholm on 15 December. Talking to a reporter from Hungarian Radio, Jeszenszky said he has never seen the Romanians as forthcoming and apparently ready to make commitments. The two ministers agreed on increasing the number of border crossing points and on reducing the waiting time and other complications currently encountered at the border. (Judith Pataki) BRAZAUSKAS ON BALTIC COOPERATION. After visiting Riga and Tallinn during the past week, Lithuania's acting president, Algirdas Brazauskas, urged greater cooperation between the three Baltic States, especially in transportation, fuel and energy. In Estonia he discussed with President Lennart Meri a common Baltic appeal to CSCE countries for economic assistance to facilitate the pullout of Russian troops. Brazauskas is expected to pay an official visit to Belarus on 17 December, Baltfax and BNS reported on 16 December. (Dzintra Bungs) LATVIA PASSES LAWS ON POLITICAL PARTIES, LEGAL REFORMS. The Supreme Council adopted laws on social and political organizations, legal reforms, and surveying and land registration, Diena reported on 15 December. The adoption of the law on social and political organizations, first discussed over a year ago, helps pave the way for holding national elections next year. (Dzintra Bungs) LATVIA: IMMIGRANT TRANSIT STOP? BNS reported on 16 December that Latvian border guards had stopped 6 Mongolians and 1 Sudanese from attempting to enter the country illegally from Russia. Ten Bangladeshis, also traveling from Russia, were turned back at the Latvian border last week. Last week a group of Kurds arrived illegally in Sweden via Latvia. The Latvian authorities believe that immigrants from poor African and Asian countries are increasingly using Latvia as a gateway to Western Europe, particularly Scandinavia. (Dzintra Bungs) LITHUANIAN PREMIER ON FOREIGN INVESTMENT. Prime Minister Bronislavas Lubys told the press that his cabinet's priority will be to stimulate foreign investment, Baltfax and BNS reported on 16-December. The system of licensing, he said, should be replaced with export and import duties. While advocating a market economy, Lubys noted that state control over prices of "first-necessity goods" should be established and called for the new Lithuanian currency, the litas, to be introduced promptly. (Dzintra Bungs) UNEMPLOYMENT, CRIME RISE IN ESTONIA. Indirect unemployment is on the rise in Estonia. According to data from the Central Council of Trade Unions, 32 enterprises have not paid wages promptly to their 30,000 employees while others have sent about 20,000 industrial workers on unpaid vacations; moreover, some 4,500 employees are working reduced hours, Baltfax reported on 11 December. BNS reported that same day that 31.5% more crimes have been committed in Estonia during the first 11 months of this year than during the same period last year. The greatest increases have been noted in the number of robberies (440 versus 260), burglaries 7,261 versus 5,327), and murders (190 versus 104). (Dzintra Bungs) CRIME RISES IN LATVIA. Baltfax reported on 13-December that during the first 11 months of this year crime rose by 49% compared with the same period last year; the respective numbers of crimes are 55,000 versus 36,000. Fraud has increased by 96%, murders were up 30%, and theft rose by 63%. (Dzintra Bungs) LATVIAN ENTERPRISES OWE BILLIONS FOR ENERGY. Juris Stals of Latvenergo told Baltfax on 11-December that republican enterprises in Latvia owe about 4 billion Latvian rubles for heating and electricity. Supplies to the most indebted enterprises have already been cut off and the cases have been sent to court. (Dzintra Bungs) [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Hal Kosiba & Charles Trumbull
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