|Words that open our eyes to the world are always the easiest to remember. - Ryszard Kapuscinski|
No. 243, 18 December 1992
SUCCESSOR STATES TO THE USSR YELTSIN ARRIVES IN CHINA. Russian President Boris Yeltsin arrived in China on 17-December. According to Western press agencies he will sign a number of economic agreements, as well as a treaty placing relations between Russian and China on a new, post-Soviet basis. The two sides will also discuss a planned pullback of troops from their mutual border. Included in the agreements to be signed is Russian construction of a 2 Gigawatt nuclear reactor (Interfax had earlier reported that it was to be a 2-Megawatt reactor). Arms sales are also on the agenda, with Deputy Prime Minister Shokhin representing arms industry and defense ministry interests. The Russian Defense Minister is not a member of the delegation, but he will visit China in the new year to further discuss military sales and agreements. (John Lepingwell) YELTSIN SEES OPPORTUNITIES FOR SINO-RUSSIAN MILITARY COOPERATION. On the first day of his visit to China, President Yeltsin told reporters that he foresaw large opportunities for military cooperation between Russia and China. Western agencies quoted him as noting that much Chinese military equipment and technology came from the former Soviet Union. "To develop this sector," he said, " China needs spare parts and technology for all kinds of weapons." The previous day Igor Rogachev, the Russian ambassador to China, said that an agreement would be signed during Yeltsin's visit concerning the modernization of 256-Chinese arms plants built in the 1950s by the Soviet Union. (Doug Clarke) RUSSIAN PARLIAMENT RESOLUTION FAVORS SERBIA. The Russian parliament has passed a resolution calling on the Yeltsin administration to use its UN Security Council veto to prevent military intervention in former Yugoslavia, Interfax reported on 17 December. The resolution maintains that sanctions must be applied evenly to all sides in the conflict, opposes the lifting of the arms embargo, and calls for humanitarian aid to be delivered to all sides. In an address to the Parliament, First Deputy Foreign Minister Adamishin noted that the government supports "a more balanced approach . . . and rejects the attempts to lay the blame on the Serbs alone." Adamishin also claimed that he opposed any proposal to lift the arms embargo and suggested that sanctions against Serbia be loosened. Russian conservatives, including some factions of the Civic Union, have been advocating a more pro-Serbian policy, and they appear to be gaining influence in the decision making process. (John Lepingwell) SKOKOV MADE HEAD OF NEW FOREIGN POLICY COMMISSION. Russian President Boris Yeltsin has established an interdepartmental Foreign Policy Commission under the powerful Russian Security Council, ITAR-TASS reported on 17-December. The head of the Security Council, Yurii Skokov, was appointed chairman of the commission. The task of the commission will be to coordinate the drafting of foreign policy decisions. Skokov has been asked to nominate new prospective members of the commission. The creation of the commission is apparently an attempt by Yeltsin to enhance his personal control of foreign policy. It is likely that the commission will deprive the foreign ministry of some of its power. (Alexander Rahr) RUSSIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES BREAD SUBSIDIES. The Russian parliament passed a resolution on 17 December increasing state control over the price of bread, according to an Interfax report on the same day. The government has been asked to present to parliament befor 1 January a proposal on tax privileges for enterprises involved in bread production, and there is to be a review of the level of profitability permissable for such enterprises. The 1993 budget is to allow for subsidies which make bread prices "affordable to the people." According to the chairman of the parliamentary commission, Aleksandr Pochinok, state subsidies limiting bread prices to 31-48 rubles per kilogram, would cost 1.5-trillion rubles in 1993, and budget resources could only cover such expenditure for a maximum of three months. (Sheila Marnie) RUSSIA AND GERMANY RESOLVE DEBT DISPUTE. German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Russian President Boris Yeltsin concluded a deal resolving a major debt disagreement between the two countries, various Western news agencies reported on 17-December. Germany has agreed to defer Russian debt owed to the former German Democratic Republic (some $11-billion) for eight years. In addition, the German government will contribute some $350-million for housing Russian soldiers returning home. For their part, the Russians have withdrawn a demand that they be compensated for Soviet military assets that will remain in Eastern Germany. (Erik Whitlock) PAYMENTS SYSTEM SET UP FOR FORMER SOVIET BLOC. A consortium of ten banks from Russia, Hungary, Poland and Bulgaria signed an agreement on 16 December creating an arrangement for clearing trade payments, the Financial Times and Wall Street Journal reported. Trade fell sharply in the region after the collapse of the Soviet trading bloc in 1989-1990. As their own national currencies remain largely inconvertible, commerce between these countries is conducted on the basis of awkward bilateral bartering. Signatories hope that a multilateral clearing transacted in ECUs will add more flexibility to financing trade and halt the ever declining trade volumes. Some initial support has been provided by major West European banks. (Erik Whitlock) RUBLE APPRECIATES SLIGHTLY. The ruble exchange rate dropped to 416 rubles to the dollar on the Moscow Interbank Currency Exchange on 17 December, according the Biznes-TASS. This is a fall of two rubles from the previous trading session. Trade volume was $54.95 million. (Erik Whitlock) NUCLEAR DISMANTLEMENT AGREEMENT EXAMINED. Russian parliamentarians and US experts met on 17 December to discuss the June agreement signed between Presidents Yeltsin and Bush detailing the terms for US assistance to Russia for nuclear warhead transportation and dismantling. According to an Interfax report, the US side included General William Burns, who participated in the drafting. Burns defended the agreement by pointing to the importance of providing US expertise and equipment to safeguard and speed the dismantling process. According to Evgenii Ambartsumov, chairman of the International Affairs and Economic Relations Committee, the agreement will have to be submitted to the Russian parliament for ratification. (John Lepingwell) BUILDER PLEADS FOR "PETER THE GREAT." The director of the Baltic Shipyards in St. Petersburg appeared on the Ostankino TV evening news program on 17 December urging the Russian government to provide the funds to complete a nuclear-powered warship lying idle at his enterprise. He said that he had sent a letter to President Yeltsin. The ship was once known as the Yuri Andropov, and is the fourth and last of the unique, heavily armed, Kirov-class battle-cruisers built for the former Soviet Navy. It was laid down in 1986 and is 70% complete, but work on the vessel has been stopped due to a lack of funds. In May, Yeltsin decreed that the ship's name be changed to Petr Veliki (Peter the Great). (Doug Clarke) MISSILE BUILDER TO SWITCH TO SATELLITE LAUNCHERS. In one of his first decrees, Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin was said by Interfax on 17 December to have ordered the Khrunichev Machine Construction Works in Moscow to build launch vehicles for commercial space missions rather than ballistic missiles. The Khrunichev Works manufactured the SS-19 intercontinental ballistic missile. The report said that Khrunichev had been permitted to conclude a contract with the US firm Motorola for the launch of three communications satellites, and was also setting up a joint enterprise with Lockheed for marketing its space-launch services on the international market. (Doug Clarke) KRAVCHUK ON THE CIS. Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk is quoted by Interfax on 17-December as saying that the CIS has proved to be an effective organization. Repeating his often stated view that the CIS was established in order to dismantle the USSR in a civilized fashion, the Ukrainian leader said that the former Soviet republics should agree to help one another instead of adhering to the principle that might makes right. Kravchuk spoke with reporters after talks with Belarusian Prime Minister Vyacheslau Kebich. (Roman Solchanyk) CRIMEAN PARLIAMENT IGNORES RUSSIAN CLAIM TO SEVASTOPOL. The Crimean parliament, which opened its Tenth Session on 16 December, rejected the proposal to place the question of the status of Sevastopol on its agenda, Russian TV's "Vesti" reported. The question of reviewing the Crimean city's status was raised in a resolution adopted by the recently concluded Congress of Russian People's Deputies. (Roman Solchanyk) US WARNS UKRAINE TO STOP DELAYING START. On 17 December Acting US Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger warned Ukraine that continued delay in ratifying the START treaty and the Lisbon Protocol would harm US-Ukrainian relations, Reuters reported. He also called for Ukraine to hasten the process of acceding to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. In December President Kravchuk stated that the treaty would be ratified by the end of December or early January, but in the past week the parliament has requested more time to study it. The Chairman of the Supreme Soviet, Ivan Pilushch claimed that he was not delaying the treaty, but that copies of the 700-page document were not delivered to the parliament until last week, Interfax reported. The treaty was signed in July 1991 and the Lisbon Protocol was signed in May 1992. Belarus and Kazakhstan have ratified the treaty, but Russia has stated that it will not consider the treaty before Ukraine ratifies it. (John Lepingwell) UKRAINE CONFIRMS STRATEGIC MISSILES OFF ALERT. Interfax reported on 17-December that Ivan Gnidenko, the deputy chief of the operations department of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, confirmed that strategic nuclear missiles located in Ukraine are not on alert. CIS Joint Armed Forces Command representatives had made similar comments, but this appears to be the first statement by Ukrainian sources. Decisions concerning alert level of the forces are presumably taken by the CIS leadership under current command procedures. (John Lepingwell) UKRAINIAN REFERENDUM CAMPAIGN FIZZLES OUT. "Rukh" leader Vyacheslav Chornovil told a press conference in Kiev on 16 December that the drive to gather three million signatures by 21 December in order to hold a referendum on early parliamentary elections was not successful, DR-Press reported. Chornovil blamed the failure on the referendum law and the split in the "Rukh" organization in Lviv Oblast, specifically the ultranationalist "Rukh" faction there led by former political prisoner Valentyn Moroz. (Roman Solchanyk) AZERBAIJAN ACCUSES RUSSIA OF SUPPORTING ARMENIA. Azerbaijan's deputy defense minister, Major-General Baba Nazarli, told journalists in Baku that Russian commanders of the Transcaucasus Military District are supplying Armenian forces with combat equipment and fuel, and that Armenian commanders in the region do not carry out a single operation against Azerbaijan without Russian consent, Interfax reported on 17 December. (Liz Fuller) ABKHAZ JEWS FLEE TO ISRAEL. Some 500 Abkhaz Jews have been discreetly evacuated from Abkhazia to Israel in recent weeks, AFP reported from Tbilisi on 17 December; a further 500 may follow if fighting in Abkhazia continues. The evacuation was apparently organized by the Georgian and Israeli foreign ministries. Members of the 25,000-strong Jewish community elsewhere in Georgia are said to be disquieted by the volatile political situation there and also considering the possibility of leaving. (Liz Fuller) TAJIK GOVERNMENT BEGINS OPERATIONS AGAINST RESISTANCE. Tajikistan's new Minister of Internal Affairs Yakub Salimov told Interfax on 17-December that the deadline for anti-Communist groups to end their fight against government supporters had passed, and that government forces had begun a large-scale offensive against the resistance in their Kofarnihon Raion stronghold. Salimov blamed Tajikistan's top Muslim clergyman, Supreme Judge Akbar Turadzhonzoda, for the conflict, and complained that 500 Afghans are fighting on the side of the anti-government forces. The same day, the first deputy commander of Russian border troops in Tajikistan told Interfax that anti-government forces in Pyandzh Raion have offered to surrender their weapons if their safety is guaranteed. (Bess Brown) CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE PANIC RALLY IN BELGRADE. Belgrade's independent broadcast media report that between 100-200,000 people attended a rally in central Belgrade on 17 December to support federal Prime Minister Milan Panic in his challenge to incumbent Slobodan Milosevic for the Serbian presidency. The rally was organized by the main opposition coalition, DEPOS (Democratic Movement of Serbia), and marked the end of the coalition's campaign. Panic told the crowd, "The elections are an introduction to democratic changes by peaceful means rather than by guns and graves." He added that the world is not against Serbia per se, and urged voters to replace the current regime in order to end Serbia's isolation. Vuk Draskovic, leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement, the biggest party within DEPOS, described the elections as "a matter of life and death." He went on to say that on election day "Serbia has the chance to turn defeat into victory, disgrace into honor, war into peace and destruction into reconstruction." Because of the enormous crowds, independent radio B92, Politika Radio and TV, and Studio B TV provided live coverage. Panic's press office has released a statement saying that Russia's President Boris Yeltsin supports Panic's policies. At a news conference, US President-elect Bill Clinton said of the 20 December elections that the people of Serbia have an opportunity to stop the "mindless violence" in Bosnia and the looming catastrophe" in the Balkans. (Milan Andrejevich) MILOSEVIC IN KOSOVO AND NIS. Radio Serbia reports on 17 December that Milosevic finished up his campaign with appearances in Kosovo and the southeastern city of Nis. He spoke at a rally attended by about 20,000 people in Kosovo Polje and repeated a pledge he made in 1987 that Serbia "will never give away Kosovo." He reiterated his offer for reconciliation with Albanians who will recognize Serbia. Addressing 50,000 people in Nis, he repeated his claim that the isolation of Serbia is part of an international conspiracy, which he vowed to resist at any cost. Serbia will never become a colony of any foreign country, he vowed, calling the elections a choice between enslavement or freedom. He added that Serbia has shown great solidarity with the Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia "at the moment when they needed it and when they could not have survived without it." The pro- Milosevic Belgrade TV reported that a small gathering of opposition sympathizers tried to provoke disorder, but Politika TV called the claims absurd and unfounded. (Milan Andrejevich) VOJVODINA HUNGARIANS PROTEST. According to a 17 December MTI report, the Democratic Community of Hungarians from Vojvodina has organized a march in Szeged protesting the Serbian leadership decision not to allow emigre ethnic Hungarians to participate in the 20 December elections. The Serbian leadership did not make it possible for the Vojvodina Hungarians to return safely to vote in Vojvodina and has refused to set up polling places in Hungary. Several Hungarian parties and organizations supported the protest. (Judith Pataki) NATO READY TO ENFORCE NO-FLY ZONE OVER BOSNIA. The 18 December Washington Post reports from Brussels that NATO agreed the previous day to make forces available to enforce the no-fly zone if the UN Security Council gives its authorization. The US took the lead in the move and American aircraft would be the main ones involved. Britain had been concerned that such intervention could jeopardize the safety of international relief workers already in Bosnia, including British troops, but a compromise formula acceptable to all seems to have been reached late in the talks. Outgoing Dutch Foreign Minister Hans van den Broek said that "we feel that the time of talking can always continue but not the time of non-compliance" with the flight ban, Western agencies reported on 17 December. Meanwhile, an RFE/RL correspondent writes from Munich that Russia and France, perhaps together with Britain and Greece, will try to block any moves aimed at lifting the arms embargo on the Bosnian government. The 18 December Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung says that a convoy of 529 Bosnian prisoners being released from a Serbian camp has been missing since 13 December. Red Cross authorities are investigating. (Patrick Moore) ROMANIAN, YUGOSLAV TRANSPORT MINISTERS MEET. Paul Teodoru of Romania and Milan Vujicic of rump Yugoslavia held talks in Bucharest on 17-December. Rompres quoted Teodoru as saying that Romania is determined to observe strictly the trade embargo imposed by the UN Security Council on Serbia and Montenegro. He put the number of Yugoslav ships detained so far in Romanian ports at six, and added that Romania is waiting for the UN Sanctions Committee to take a decision on them before the Danube freezes. Vujicic said that Belgrade is allowing Romanian ships to travel on the Yugoslav stretch of the Danube but suggested that local authorities occasionally operate outside central control. Serbian custom officers detained a Romanian tugboat and six barges between 28 November and 8-December. (Dan Ionescu) BULGARIA HURT BY SANCTIONS. While Bulgaria continues to support the trade sanctions imposed upon rump Yugoslavia, adherence to the UN enforced embargo is costing Bulgaria the equivalent of $1.2-billion according to a memorandum issued at UN headquarters in New York. An RFE/RL correspondent noted on 17 December that Bulgaria has requested the UN to seek ways of aiding countries adversely affected by enforcement of the sanctions. The memorandum reportedly notes that the amount of loss sustained by Bulgaria could threaten the country's democratization processes. (Duncan Perry) DJILAS REHABILITATED. Radio Serbia and international media report on 17 December that the Justice Ministry of the rump Yugoslavia have agreed to rehabilitate Milovan Djilas, Yugoslavia's best-known dissident. Tanjug reports that several retired generals requested that the 82-year old Djilas be rehabilitated. Djilas helped Josip Broz Tito establish communist Yugoslavia and became one of the country's three State Vice Presidents. In 1953 he began to criticize the communist system publicly and was purged from the Central Committee in 1953. He quit the party of his own accord in 1954. His first major work "The New Class", published in New York in 1957, became an internationally recognized classic of communist studies. He was given several prison terms and served nine years for his dissident publications. In 1987 he was granted a passport and was able again to travel abroad. (Milan Andrejevich) CZECHOSLOVAK PARLIAMENT HOLDS LAST SITTING. The Czechoslovak Federal Assembly held its last session on 17 December, two weeks before the dissolution of the 74 year-old republic. Parliament Chairman Michal Kovac said in his farewell address to deputies that the new Czech and Slovak republics are not rising out of the ruins of Czechoslovakia; rather their evolution has been proceeding for a long time. Deputies closed the session by singing the Czechoslovak national anthem. (Jan Obrman) CZECH PARLIAMENT ADOPTS FEDERAL FLAG AS ITS OWN. At a session on 17 December the Czech National Council adopted the soon-defunct Czechoslovak federal flag as the flag of the Czech Republic. The vote in favor of the flag was unanimous among the 151 deputies who were present at the sitting. According to a federal law on the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, however, neither of the two republics is entitled to use the federation's symbols after the split. The decision was immediately criticized by Slovak officials. Slovak Parliament Chairman Ivan Gasparovic told Reuters that the Czech parliament's vote is not a good start for bilateral relations, sending a bad signal to Slovakia and the world. Former Czechoslovak President Vaclav Havel defended the decision saying that "Czech society identified much more with the Czechoslovak state than did Slovak society." (Jan Obrman) HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT VOTES ON BUDGET AND ABORTION. On 17 December Parliament passed the 1993 budget, MTI reports. This was the Antall government's third budget, but the first to be accepted well before the end of the year. Parliament has also voted on the controversial abortion issue. Of two versions, Parliament opted for the more liberal draft law giving women freedom of choice. The version that passed gives a woman the right to have an abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy if her life is in danger, the fetus is unhealthy, the pregnancy was a result of a criminal act, or if the woman is in a crisis situation. The latter provision can be interpreted very broadly, and the law, which does not significanly change the decree on abortions currently in force, seems unlikely to decrease the unusually high Hungarian abortion rate. The issue came before Parliament because the Constitutional Court had ruled that abortion must be regulated by law and not decree. (Judith Pataki) SEJM POSTPONES ABORTION VOTE. The Sejm decided on 17 December to put off a final vote on the long-debated bill that would ban abortions except when necessary to save a pregnant woman's life. The margin was close: 164 to 155, with 54 abstentions. The motion for delay, submitted by left-wing deputies, argued that the economic situation is too tense for a divisive debate; the vote should wait until "the most urgent social and economic matters are solved." The postponement brought howls of protest from the Catholic parties, as the abortion ban has been under consideration, in various forms, since 1989. Charging the other coalition parties with disloyalty, the Christian Nation Union demanded an abortion debate before year's end. The seven-party government coalition held a hasty meeting and agreed to propose a special Sejm session on the issue before the New Year. (Louisa Vinton) GOVERNMENT URGES MINERS TO NEGOTIATE. As strikes hit virtually all of Silesia's coal mines and some railway workers joined in, the Polish government maintained its low-key approach to the crisis. Appearing before the Sejm, Industry Ministry Waclaw Niewiarowski urged the miners' unions to continue negotiations on restructuring Polish mining. He suggested that miners are exaggerating the government's neglect of their plight: while only 4 of 70 mines run in the black, he said, miners regularly receive a wage that is far higher than the national average and no mass layoffs are planned. "Neither the country nor Silesia can afford this strike," Niewiarowski concluded. A Solidarity spokesman announced that Prime Minister Hanna Suchocka will meet with union chairman Marian Krzaklewski on 18 December. (Louisa Vinton) GORBUNOVS IN POLAND. Latvian Supreme Council Chairman Anatolijs Gorbunovs arrived in Poland for a three-day official visit on 17 December. He met privately with President Lech Walesa. Afterward, the two heads of state looked on as the Latvian and Polish foreign ministers exchanged ratification documents for the bilateral friendship and cooperation treaty signed on 1 July. A consular agreement and an agreement on visa-free travel were also signed. (Louisa Vinton) LATVIAN ELECTIONS BEFORE JUNE 1993? Diena reported on 16 December that the three principal factions of the Latvian Supreme Council have agreed to propose holding parliamentary elections in Latvia no later than 6 June 1993; the proposal is expected to be voted upon before the Supreme Council adjourns for Christmas. (Dzintra Bungs) LITHUANIA CLAIMS RUSSIA MAKING NEW DEMANDS. The Lithuanian delegation for negotiations with Russia has issued a statement indicating that Russia is proposing to address again issues which were decided in September but not covered by any signed agreements. The document states that Russia is trying to alter one agreement on indemnity for the seizure of Lithuanian military gear by the Red Army in 1940 and another on compensation for environmental and other damages done by the Russian military in Lithuania, as well as advancing new demands concerning the welfare of servicemen, Baltfax and BNS reported on 17 December. (Dzintra Bungs) ESTONIAN-RUSSIAN TALKS. At the seventh round of Estonian-Russian talks, which ended on 17 December, agreements were initialed on pensions, assistance to persons resettling from Estonia to Russia and Russia to Estonia, customs controls, and the transfer of some Russian naval property to Estonia's hydrographic service. The parties also started a systematic discussion of a draft agreement on social protection of Russian servicemen and military pensioners in Estonia. No agreement was reached on the final date of the withdrawal of Russian troops from Estonia, Baltfax reports. (Dzintra Bungs) COMMEMORATION OF 1989 ROMANIAN UPRISING CONTINUES. Radio Bucharest reported that 17-December has been declared a day of mourning throughout Timis County. Nearly one hundred people were killed at Timisoara on 17 December 1989 in an anti- communist uprising that erupted a day earlier. In Bucharest both the National Salvation Front and the Democratic National Salvation Front commemorated the "Days of the Romanian Revolution." Adrian Severin, a leading NSF figure, was quoted as saying that "we are now witnessing the end of the revolution and the beginning of a menacing restoration." DNSF representatives, on the other hand, painted an optimistic picture of Romania's future at a symposium dedicated to the same event. The DNSF, which broke away from the NSF in April 1992, is generally seen as a haven for former communists loyal to President Ion Iliescu. It emerged as the strongest political force in Romania from general elections in September. (Dan Ionescu) ROMANIA MARKS 20TH ANNIVERSARY OF JOINING IMF, IBRD. Radio Bucharest reported on 15-and 16 December on a series of events in Washington to mark the 20th anniversary of Romania's joining the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. On 15-December former Prime Minister Theodor Stolojan presided over a seminar on Romania's transition to a market economy, and a second seminar, on prospects of economic reforms in Romania, was held on 16 December. Both gatherings were attended by a high-ranking Romanian delegation, including Finance Minister Florin Georgescu and National Bank Governor Mugur Isarescu. Romania officially joined the IMF and the IBRD under Nicolae Ceausescu, on 16 December 1992. (Dan Ionescu) [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Hal Kosiba & Charles Trumbull
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