|Every custom was once an eccentricity; every idea was once an absurdity. - Holbrook Jackson|
No. 244, 21 December 1992
SUCCESSOR STATES TO THE USSR YELTSIN AND CHERNOMYRDIN AGREE: CORE OF REFORMERS WILL STAY. Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin agreed that the core of former Prime Minister Egor Gaidar's team will remain in the cabinet, Interfax reported on 20-December. Deputy Prime Minister Anatolii Chubais told a conference of Democratic Russia, which was attended by leading reformers, that Gaidar would remain an influential political figure behind the scenes. Economics Minister Andrei Nechaev said that it would be a mistake to "slam the door" and quit the government. He added that if reformers stay, Gaidar could continue to conduct reforms directly through them. Former presidential advisor Gennadii Burbulis stated that democrats "will not surrender the reforms to anyone." (Alexander Rahr) POWER STRUGGLE IN MOSCOW SHORTENS YELTSIN'S CHINA TRIP. Parliamentary speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov said that former Prime Minister Egor Gaidar's advisors might try to undermine support for Chernomyrdin,and hinted that they should be replaced soon, Interfax reported on 19 December. In a related move, Khasbulatov urged his personal economic advisors to assist Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. He said that Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi stated that he hopes the new government will cooperate with the Civic Union "on a permanent basis." President Yeltsin cut short his visit to China after learning of the power struggle in Moscow. He told reporters before leaving Beijing that "someone has started fighting for [cabinet] portfolios too soon." (Alexander Rahr) DEMOCRATIC RUSSIA ATTACKS YELTSIN. The Third Congress of Democratic Russia, a political movement that played a crucial role in Yeltsin's rise to power, opened in Moscow on 19 December, Russian TV newscasts reported. In the course of the past year, Democratic Russia has suffered a number of factional splits as well as defections by many of its leaders. Nonetheless, the Congress was attended by numerous prominent Russian politicians, including Gennadii Burbulis, President Yeltsin's former right-hand man, Galina Starovoitova, the former presidential adviser on nationalities issues, and former Moscow police chief Arkadii Murashov. At the Congress, speaker after speaker criticized Yeltsin's allegedly "anti-reform" personnel policy. The speakers also stated their intention to protest what they called the "anti-reform" nature of the newly-appointed Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. (Julia Wishnevsky) HARDLINERS PLAN REESTABLISHMENT OF USSR. More than 300 of former deputies of the USSR Congress of People's Deputies have met in Moscow to discuss possibilities for reestablishing the Soviet Union, Radio Rossii reported on 20 December. The head of the "Permanent Presidium of the USSR Congress," Sazhi Umalatova, stated, however, that the revival of the Soviet state will take years. The meeting issued a resolution in support of the new prime minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin, but called for the departure of Egor Gaidar's remaining supporters from the cabinet. Former dissident Roy Medvedev called for a boycott of the referendum on the Russian constitution on 11 April. (Alexander Rahr) NEW CHIEF OF OSTANKINO TV SQUEEZES OUT DEMOCRATIC JOURNALISTS. The moderator of the popular political talk show, "New Studio," Kira Proshutinskaya, said that acting director of Ostankino TV, Igor Malashenko, had announced at a board of directors' meeting that her show would receive substantially less air time, and that it would lose its prime time scheduling, Ekho Moskvy and Izvestiya reported on 15 and 18 December, respectively. Proshutinskaya accused Malashenko of using formal bureaucratic methods to "strangle" her show, which remains one of the few Ostankino TV programs permitting free expression of a variety of political ideas. However, Malashenko asserted that he has received policy guidelines (he did not say from whom) to avoid airing unauthorized material in programs. He also accused Proshutinskaya of offending the good taste of her viewers. Before joining the management of Ostankino in 1991, Malashenko worked for the International Department of the CPSU Central Committee. (Victor Yasmann) CHERNOMYRDIN IN KAZAKHSTAN. During his visit to Alma-Ata on 19 December, Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin reached agreement with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev on having delegations of government officials of the two states meet in Moscow on 24 December to draw up an accord on payments and deliveries of oil, non-ferrous metals and timber, Interfax reported. The two leaders also agreed to call a meeting of managers in the oil and gas industries of the former Soviet republics to create an OPEC-like organization of CIS states. The trip was Chernomyrdin's first to another CIS state since becoming head of the Russian government. (Bess Brown) RUSSIA AND WESTERN CREDITORS APPROACH DEBT DEAL. Negotiations between Russia and her creditors continued last week. Representatives of the G-7 offered Russia a package rescheduling the $15-billion of overdue payments on its sovereign debt to Western creditors and requiring Russia to pay only $2.75 billion next year. However, the total owed western creditors when Russian commercial debt is added amounts to over $5 billion, according to various Western news agencies on 18 December. Russian Minister of Foreign Economic Relations Pyotr Aven, among others, has claimed that Russia's maximum capacity to service debt to the West will be $3-billion next year. The date for the next round of negotiations has not yet been determined. (Erik Whitlock) RUSSIAN PARLIAMENT APPROVES HIGHER BUDGET DEFICIT. The Russian parliament approved additional spending for 1992 which will push the state budget deficit to 1.16 trillion rubles, the Financial Times reported on 19 December. The action will lift the year-end ratio of deficit to GNP to 6.5%. Some have noted that if, according to IMF methodology, import subsidies and other "hidden" expenditures are thrown into the calculation, the figure is in the area of 11-12%. Russia promised the IMF a 5% deficit-to-GNP ratio in early spring in return for the Fund giving its blessing to the Russian reform effort. (Erik Whitlock) MORE SUPPORT FOR RUSSIAN ENERGY INDUSTRY. According to Western and Russian news agencies on 18 and 19 December, more assistance for the Russian gas and oil industry is on its way. President Yeltsin signed a decree last week providing the industry an exemption from mandatory sales of its hard currency earnings to the state. The industry receives the privilege by contributing such earnings to a special fund for paying debt obligations to foreign creditors. On 18 December, Prime Minister Chernomyrdin came out in favor of an additional $200-billion rubles of soft credits for investment in the sector. Finally, Russia and the US Export-Import Bank are reportedly very close to finalizing a $2 billion loan for the purchase of much needed gas and oil equipment. (Erik Whitlock) YELTSIN ON BORDER PLEDGE TO CHINA. Russian President Boris Yeltsin and his Chinese counterpart, Yang Shangkun, signed a memorandum of understanding on 18-December regarding their mutual border region during his shortened visit to Beijing. As published by ITAR-TASS, the agreement committed the two sides to accelerate the joint border talks, which also include Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan with the aim of reaching a formal agreement by the end of 1994. Until that agreement comes into force, Russia and China pledged to reduce their troops along the border to a "minimum level" and to remove "the most destabilizing weapons systems" from the border region. (Doug Clarke) YELTSIN ON 1992 ARMS SALES TO CHINA. Yeltsin also told Russian journalists that Russia had provided China with $1.8 billion worth of arms in 1992 according to the Ostankino "Novosti" news broadcast on 18 December. The Russian president was quoted as saying that some wanted to keep this figure secret but he had decided to reveal it. In addition, he said that the two governments had decided to conclude an agreement on military and technical cooperation. (Doug Clarke) YELTSIN AND BUSH DISCUSS STRATEGIC ARMS. President Yeltsin called President George Bush on 20-December to discuss the possibility of signing a new nuclear arms reduction treaty, ITAR-TASS announced. Western agencies quoted Bush as saying the two had "not agreed totally, but we made progress" on the so-called START-2 treaty. Yeltsin surprised the Americans when he announced in Beijing on 18-December that the two countries had agreed on the new treaty, which would cut strategic nuclear weapons by two-thirds, and would sign it in January before Bush left office. American officials immediately denied that all the problems with the new treaty had been solved. (Doug Clarke) RUSSIAN SHIPMENT OF HEAVY WEAPONS TO CUBA DENIED. A "high-ranking official" of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs told Interfax on 18-December that recent reports that Russia had sold Cuba two modern submarines and a number of advanced jet fighters was "sheer misinformation." The official, who was not identified, was quoted as saying that Russia had sharply reduced the volume of military supplies provided to Cuba and henceforth would provide only spare parts and equipment meant for civilian use. (Doug Clarke) GERMAN TROOP WITHDRAWAL DETAILED. ITAR-TASS and Interfax on 18 December reported details of the withdrawal of the Western Group of Forces from Germany during Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev's visit to the forces. The reports indicated that 60% of personnel and 72% of their equipment have been withdrawn from Germany. According to Interfax, the Commander of Russian forces, General Burlakov, claimed that 147,000 servicemen and their dependents had left Germany this year and that 442 military sites are ready to be sold or turned over to the German government. Burlakov also stated that all Russian troops will leave Germany almost a month earlier than the revised deadline of 31-August, 1994. (John Lepingwell) UKRAINIAN-RUSSIAN COOPERATION. The speakers of the Ukrainian and Russian parliaments, Ivan Plyushch and Ruslan Khasbulatov, stressed the importance of bilateral relations between the two countries during a televised hookup on 20 December, Interfax reported. Khasbulatov expressed the hope that Ukraine and Russia would "never embark on the path of permanent confrontation" and that all disputes would be settled at the negotiating table. During the broadcast, Sergei Kovalev, chairman of the Russian parliament's human rights committee, announced a Ukrainian-Russian initiative calling on the East European states and the former republics of the USSR to sign a human rights convention. (Roman Solchanyk) KRAVCHUK CONFIDENT UKRAINE WILL RATIFY START, BUT . . . Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk on 18 December told Hans Blix, the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that he was confident the Ukrainian parliament would ratify the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) and that his republic would sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). However, Interfax reported Kravchuk stating that to realize these plans Ukraine must have a security guarantee and there must be agreements to a number of legal, technical, and financial problems. The president was quoted as saying that Ukraine "is and will be a peaceful and non-aligned state, strictly pursuing the course of achieving a non-nuclear status." (Doug Clarke) KRAVCHUK TO EGYPT. Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk will fly to Egypt on 21-December for a three-day visit to discuss bilateral relations between the two countries, Western news agencies reported. Ukraine and Egypt will sign a treaty mapping out future relations as well as several economic, cultural, and scientific agreements. (Roman Solchanyk) CRIMEAN PARLIAMENT ON DUAL CITIZENSHIP. Before ending its current session, the Crimean parliament decided to appeal to the national parliament and to the Ukrainian president to resolve the question of dual citizenship for Crimeans, Radio Ukraine reported on 18 December. Commissions of the Crimean parliament were also charged with preparing a proposal on Crimean citizenship. The Ukrainian citizenship law provides for dual citizenship only on the basis of separate agreements with foreign countries. (Roman Solchanyk) NEW TAJIK ARMS SURRENDER DEADLINE; PLAN TO CENTRALIZE ECONOMY. The chairman of Tajikistan's Supreme Soviet, Imomali Rakhmonov, signed a decree extending the deadline for illegal armed groups to surrender their weapons to the government until 28-December, Interfax reported on 18 December. The previous deadline, 17 December, seems to have been largely ignored by anti-Communist forces fighting supporters of the new government. Also on 18 December the new government announced its intention to restore centralized control of the economy. A state monopoly on the export of cotton was introduced, along with a requirement that government permission be obtained for export of aluminum, one of Tajikistan's major export items. (Bess Brown) CORRECTION: In the 18 December RFE/RL Daily Report, it was incorrectly reported that Belarus had ratified the START treaty. Although the Belarusian parliament will soon consider the treaty, it has not yet ratified it. The Russian parliament has ratified the treaty, but has stated that it will not consider it valid, nor exchange instruments of ratification, until all the other CIS parties have ratified the treaty. CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE SERBIA-MONTENEGRO ELECTIONS. An unofficial exit poll in the 20 December election forecasts a tie in Serbia's presidential duel between hard-line Slobodan Milosevic and his rival Milan Panic-but Milosevic's Socialist Party claims it is well ahead. Panic supporters commissioned the Partner Agency to conduct the survey in 60 polling stations. Milosevic and Panic each reportedly won 47% of the vote. If this poll turns out to be correct, the election will go to a second round on 4 January. The Socialists claim Milosevic is well in front in his southern Serbian strongholds and winning in 25 out of 31 polling stations in Belgrade. DEPOS, the largest opposition bloc, which has backed Panic's candidacy, claims Panic is winning 55% of votes in Belgrade versus 40% for Milosevic. In the parliamentary elections the exit poll shows DEPOS with 36%, the Socialists-31%, the ultranationalist Radical Party-17%, and the Democratic Party-12%. Opposition parties are expressing concern about the strong showing of the Radical Party in economically depressed areas where Panic and DEPOS anticipated strong support. There is no word yet from Montenegro, where the ruling Democratic Socialists are expected to retain power. First results from Serbia's and Montenegro's election commission are not expected until noon CET today. Radio Serbia and independent TV Studio B carried the reports. (Milan Andrejevich) ELECTION IRREGULARITIES REPORTED. All parties complained of attempts to stuff ballot boxes and of people being omitted from voter registration lists. Initial reports from international monitors gave no evidence of systematic fraud, however. One observer said that aside from the minor irregularities, such as unsealed ballot boxes and lack of voter secrecy, "one must remember that there were grave irregularities before polling day," particularly the pro-Milosevic bias in state media. Panic told reporters "If I lose, it will only be because of a massive fraud, a lie by the authorities and primarily by the criminals lies spewed out by state television," but he added that, if defeated, he will stay in Belgrade and press for another election within 90 days. Democratic Party Vice President Zoran Djindjic remarked that the opposition might contest the election results because nearly 5% of the electorate was excluded from the voter registration lists. Belgrade Radio B92 carried the report. (Milan Andrejevich) BOSNIA ROUNDUP. International media report on 20 December that President George Bush and British Prime Minister John Major, meeting in Washington, agreed to work on a UN resolution to enforce a no-fly zone over Bosnia. The two politicians warned Serbia it might face strong measures, including the cutting of telecommunications and postal links and the sealing of its borders, which could inflict "complete diplomatic isolation for years to come." Meanwhile in Sarajevo, Lord Owen is continuing with negotiations among Muslims, Croats, and Serbs on demilitarizing the besieged city, vowing to stay in Sarajevo as long as he sees a chance for a peace settlement. On 18-December the UN General Assembly passed a nonbinding resolution initiated by Islamic countries that the Security Council drop its arms embargo against Bosnia. (Milan Andrejevich) CZECHOSLOVAK GOVERNMENT HOLDS ITS LAST SESSION. The Czechoslovak government, which will officially cease to exist on 1 January together with the Czechoslovak federation, met for the last time on 19-December. CTK reports Deputy Prime Minister Antonin Baudys as saying that the government has fulfilled its main goals, namely, "keeping the federation going, preparing the split, and drafting the law on the division of federal property." (Jiri Pehe) CZECH PARLIAMENT REJECTS PROVISIONAL SENATE. On 19 December the Czech National Council failed to pass a constitutional amendment providing for the transfer of the Federal Assembly's Czech deputies to the Senate of the Czech National Council. The Federal Assembly will cease to exist on 1 January 1993 when Czechoslovakia splits into two states. CTK reports that only 98 deputies in the 200-member Czech parliament voted for the bill; 120-votes were needed. Deputies opposed to the bill argued that transferring federal deputies to the Senate, which is to be established after the new Czech Constitution goes into effect on 1-January, is unconstitutional. Under the proposed law, all 174 Czech deputies in the Federal Assembly were to be transferred to the upper chamber of the Czech parliament, but only 81 of them, selected by their parties, would be acting as senators; the rest would hold only honorary, unpaid posts. The Czech government parties said they will submit a revised version of the bill. (Jiri Pehe) CZECH PARLIAMENT APPROVES BUDGET. On 19-December the Czech National Council approved the Czech Republic's budget for 1993. According to CTK, the budget law calls for both income and expenditures to reach 342 billion koruny in 1993. Inflation is not expected to exceed 17% and the rate of unemployment is to be between 4 and 5%. (Jiri Pehe) ROMANIA RECOGNIZES CZECH, SLOVAK REPUBLICS. On 18 December Romania announced its decision to recognize the Czech and Slovak Republics as distinct entities beginning 1 January 1993. In a message broadcast by Radio Bucharest the Foreign Ministry expressed willingness to establish diplomatic relations with the new states, successors to the Republic of Czechoslovakia, and to appoint ambassadors to both Prague and Bratislava. CTK has reported that Poland and Ukraine plan to recognize the two states on 1 January. (Dan Ionescu) FORMER KING TO VISIT ROMANIA. Ex-King Michael of Romania will visit his homeland over Christmas. Western agencies reported on 18 December that Michael's four-day visit will include attending a church service in the city of Timisoara on Christmas Day. The former king, whom the communists forced to abdicate on 30 December 1948, has lived in Swiss exile for 30 years. He first returned to Romania in April this year, when he celebrated Easter in Bucharest and Bukovina. An attempt to visit Timisoara and Brasov in August failed, after Romania's government denied him a visa for fear that the visit would affect the 27 September presidential and general elections. (Dan Ionescu) ROMANIAN PRINTERS RETURN TO WORK. Radio Bucharest announced on 18 December that striking printers will resume work beginning 19 December. The Printers Union decided to suspend a stoppage over pay that had idled state-owned printing shops for three consecutive days. The decision comes after a three-part agreement with the government was concluded providing for a 50% pay rise as of 1-January 1993, and a further 50% increment by the end of 1993. The cabinet also agreed that there will be no layoffs and pledged to support programs for improving equipment and retraining workers. Only three newspapers, printed in privately-owned shops, were published during the stoppage. (Dan Ionescu) SILESIAN STRIKE UPDATE. PAP reported on 20-December that almost all the coal mines in Upper Silesia are on strike and freight trains in the region are blocked by the industrial action. In a letter of 18-December to the Sejm and the government, the dissident Network of Solidarity organizations from the largest industrial plants blamed the government and Solidarity's leadership for the strike and demanded systemic economic changes to save Polish industry and agriculture, failing which it would continue preparations for a nationwide general strike. President Lech Walesa met with Network representatives that same day. On 19-December, answering a message from the Wujek mine, Walesa appealed to the miners to give the government's restructuring program a chance and not to destabilize the country. (Anna Sabbat-Swidlicka) GOVERNMENT READY TO NEGOTIATE. On 19-December the Sejm rejected the government's report on what it had done to restructure the Silesian mining industry and demanded that the government begin negotiations with the strikers' representatives. After a meeting with Solidarity leader Marian Krzaklewski, Prime Minister Hanna Suchocka announced that the government will begin "working negotiations" with Solidarity representatives on a "restoration program" for Silesia on 21 December. Representatives of Solidarity 80 and Kontra called for the establishment of one joint labor delegation for talks with the government. Speaking later on Polish TV, Suchocka said that the government would not take any decisions that would undermine the sense of three years of reform and public sacrifice. At a meeting with Sejm deputies from Silesia, she pointed to the fact that the government had consulted with the miners step by step on its restructuring program. (Anna Sabbat-Swidlicka) SEJM PASSES DEBT RELIEF LAW. The Sejm passed the Law on the Financial Restructuring of Enterprises and Banks, PAP reported on 19 December. The law, aimed at restoring the creditworthiness of enterprises that have been caught in the debt trap, gives banks the possibility of concluding agreements with enterprises that are joint-stock companies by transforming their debts into stocks or shares. The government will provide some 22 billion zloty in the form of bonds for the scheme. The law has been described as one of the most important pieces of economic legislation that will contribute to regulating the economy. (Anna Sabbat-Swidlicka) POLISH-CZECH-SLOVAK-HUNGARIAN FREE TRADE ZONE. Hungarian Prime Minister Jozsef Antall told parliament on 17 December that the so-called Visegrad Triangle countries will sign a free trade zone agreement on 21 December 1992 in Cracow, Hungarian Radio reports. The agreement, reached after a year of hard negotiations, will reduce customs duties by the year 2001 in three stages. The new trading bloc embracing 64.2 million people is aimed at reversing years of declining trade between the members. The agreement to reduce protective customs duties means that present tariffs among the four countries will be matched to duties imposed on trade between the member states and the EC. (Karoly Okolicsanyi) UDF SELECTS NEW CANDIDATE FOR PRIME MINISTER. On 20 December the National Coordinating Council of the UDF nominated Yordan Sokolov for prime minister, BTA reports. Sokolov, acting Minister of Internal Affairs, was selected over two other members of Filip Dimitrov's government who were in contention, Justice Minister Svetoslav Luchnikov and Deputy Premier Ilko Eskenazi. In a first comment UDF deputy and parliament chairman Aleksandar Yordanov said ironically that the nonaffiliated Sokolov represents the most appropriate choice at a time when UDF member organizations are "outbidding each other to show their loyalty" toward the coalition. Sokolov told BTA he hesitated to accept the candidacy. UDF sympathizers demanding new elections gathered in front of the UDF building in central Sofia. (Kjell Engelbrekt) BULGARIAN-RUSSIAN ECONOMIC TIES. Beginning next month Bulgaria and Russia will begin trading in national currencies, the deputy director of the Bulgarian National Bank told Reuters on 18-December. Emil Harsev said Bulgaria and Russia have struck a bilateral agreement to revoke the 1991 decision of all former members of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA) to trade exclusively in convertible currencies, a move which was followed by a dramatic drop in bilateral trade. According to a report in Pari the previous day, Sofia has also asked Russia to assume most of Bulgaria's $650-million debt to the International Bank for Economic Cooperation and the International Investment Bank, both established to deal with the economic legacy of the CMEA. The former Soviet republics are estimated to have accumulated a $500-million trade deficit with Bulgaria, twice as much as in mid-1991. In another report on 21 December, a Reuters correspondent described the growing problems of organized crime and illegal peddling caused by Russians, Ukrainians, Moldovans, and others in major Bulgarian cities on the Black Sea coast. Local authorities are complaining that the influx of racketeers has increased rapidly but could get much worse when the CIS lifts visa restrictions in January. (Kjell Engelbrekt) BRAZAUSKAS IN BELARUS. On 18 December Acting President Algirdas Brazauskas of Lithuania traveled by car to Minsk, Baltfax reports. After talks with Prime Minister Vyacheslau Kebich, agreements on diplomatic relations were reached and several interstate agreements were signed. They discussed the demarcation of their borders and the future of the Belarusian health resort Belarus in Druskininkai. Brazauskas addressed the Supreme Soviet and spoke with its chairman Stanislau Shushkevich. Brazauskas said that Lithuania will not join the CIS. (Saulius Girnius) ESTONIAN, LATVIAN NAVAL COMMANDERS MEET. According to Baltfax on 18 December, the commanders of the Estonian and Latvian navies met in Tallinn on 16-17 December to discuss their future cooperation in the Gulf of Riga and "some other issues of mutual interest." While a Lithuanian naval delegation did not participate in this meeting, the report said that all three Baltic States will be represented at a meeting in Riga in January. There they are expected to conclude a tripartite agreement on cooperation in the Gulf of Riga. (Doug Clarke) [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Hal Kosiba & Charles Trumbull
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