|Life is what happens to us while we're making other plans. - John Lennon|
No. 247, 28 December 1992
SUCCESSOR STATES TO THE USSR UKRAINE RAISES PRICES. As the result of a government decree on 22 December, Ukrainian consumers have found their cost of living sharply increased, Western news agencies reported on 26-December. For example, in Kiev, the price of bread rose six times, a subway ticket ten times. According to Interfax on 25 December, Ukrainians can expect further price hikes at the start of the new year, including a 50% rise in train tickets, a doubling of costs for communications services and a 60% increase in housing rents. (Erik Whitlock) PROTESTS IN KIEV AGAINST PRICE INCREASES. Several thousand people protested against price increases in Kiev on 26 December, CIS and Western agencies reported. In a televised speech shown that evening, the Ukrainian Prime Minister Leonid Kuchma defended what he described as "these unpopular measures," saying that the government had no choice. "We have spoken for a long time about the need for drastic economic reform in Ukraine, but instead of planned action we have been passively following catastrophes in the economy," he said. "We can wait no longer." That same afternoon, his deputy, Viktor Pynzenyk, announced that the minimum salaries for December would be increased from 2,300 Ukrainian karbovantsi per month to 3,400. On 27 December, according to INTERFAX, a Ukrainian delegation headed by energy minister Yulii Yoffe left for Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to try and ensure adequate fuel supplies in the coming year. (Bohdan Nahaylo) NEW RUSSIAN CABINET; OPPOSITION IS CRITICAL. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin selected a cabinet that is only slightly different from the old one, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 December. All key ministers, including Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev, remain. Two new deputy prime ministers-Boris Fedorov and Yurii Yarov- have been appointed. Fedorov will be responsible for reform strategy; Yarov for economic relations with other CIS states. Parliamentary speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov and the Civic Union leaders Vasilii Lipitsky and Aleksandr Vladislavlev complained that President Yeltsin had exerted too great an influence over the choices and that Chernomyrdin had been "deprived" of the opportunity to form his own government in order to implement a new economic reform program. (Alexander Rahr) FEDOROV: RUSSIA WILL CONTINUE REFORM POLICY. Russia's new deputy prime minister in charge of economic strategy, Boris Fedorov, said that he wants to continue pursuing the economic reform policy of former Acting Prime Minister Egor Gaidar. ITAR-TASS on 25 December quoted Fedorov as saying that there is no need to write a new economic program. He stated that he might seek cooperation with economist Grigorii Yavlinsky, who had some differences with Gaidar. Yavlinsky and Fedorov worked together on the famous "500 days program" for the transition to a market economy in 1990. Both had been members of the first Russian government under the leadership of Boris Yeltsin. Gaidar praised the appointment of Fedorov. Fedorov has served as Russia's executive director at the World Bank in Washington and managing director of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in London. (Alexander Rahr) BUT FEDOROV'S POSITION IS NOT ENTIRELY CLEAR. Although economics minister Boris Fedorov told ITAR-TASS on 25 December that the Chernomyrdin government should hold to the "general line" of Egor Gaidar's economic reform program, rather than coming up with one of its own, it was not clear exactly what he had in mind. While pointing to inflation as the leading problem in Russia, he called for "softening the blows" on the state sector in its transition to a market economy. He also urged an elimination of the dollarization of the Russian economy, but suggested that actions taken towards this end in the near future would not be effective. (Erik Whitlock) RUSSIAN FEDERAL INFORMATION CENTER CREATED. President Yeltsin has decreed the creation of a new Russian Federal Information Center to control Russia's state-financed mass media, ITAR-TASS reported on 26 December. Mikhail Poltoranin was appointed head of the center and given the status of a first deputy prime minister. Poltoranin resigned from his previous post as information minister last month to appease hardliners on the eve of the Congress. His comeback is a clear sign that Yeltsin is unwilling to surrender his power to the opposition. The center will be subordinated directly to the president and, according to Poltoranin, will ensure that the media provide accurate and truthful information concerning the reforms. (Alexander Rahr) RIGHT-WING POLITICIAN TO STAND FOR MOSCOW MAYOR. The extreme Russian nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky announced on 26 December that he would run for the post of Moscow mayor. Elections are expected in February 1993. In 1991, Zhirinovsky finished third in Russian presidential elections. ITAR-TASS reported that Zhirinovsky handed out free tea and cakes at a rally in Moscow, and urged Muscovites to elect him mayor and "in future, president of Russia." Zhirinovsky calls for the recreation of the Russian empire within its pre-February 1917 borders. (Vera Tolz) KOZYREV OPPOSES UN MILITARY ACTION VS. SERBS IN BOSNIA. Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev stated on 26 December that "there was no alternative to the peace process" in Bosnia, and that UN military action would "lead nowhere," Western agencies reported. Kozyrev said that the use of force would be counterproductive, have unpredictable consequences, and that it would increase human suffering in the region. (Hal Kosiba) CIS INTERPARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY MEETS IN ST. PETERSBURG. The CIS Interparliamentary Assembly is holding its second plenary meeting in St.-Petersburg on 28-December, ITAR-TASS reported. Among the participants are the heads of the Russian and Kyrgyz parliaments, Ruslan Khasbulatov and Medetkan Sherimkulov. Only seven of the CIS states (Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Armenia) signed the agreement last March on the establishment of this body, and they are regarded as the members that would be prepared to accept a greater measure of integration. On his arrival from Moscow on 27 December, Khasbulatov announced that from now on meetings of the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly would be held in St. Petersburg, the city designated to serve as its headquarters. (Bohdan Nahaylo) KRAVCHUK CONDEMNS INTEGRATIONIST PRESSURE ON CIS MEMBERS. On 23-December, on his return from an official visit to Egypt, Ukrainian president Leonid Kravchuk criticized the CIS as an ineffective organization and said that there had not been sufficient groundwork for the CIS summit scheduled for 24 December, but postponed until 22-January. According to Radio Ukraine, Kravchuk said that the CIS charter that was being proposed "is close to the [Union] treaty of 1922." With the "main problems" still not settled, he said, it is "impermissible to resolve all these things by pressure." Kravchuk contrasted this with the approach to European integration. He pointed out that the question of the entry of European states into a European community was being decided by referendums and the wishes of the respective states were being taken into account. In any case, he added, the CIS had "shown itself to be fully ineffective in resolving complex issues," and he doubted if it could be "reanimated." "If anything has been settled," the Ukrainian president stressed, "it is only in the framework of bilateral relations." (Bohdan Nahaylo) NIYAZOV WANTS CIS TO BE CONSULTATIVE BODY ONLY. Turkmenistan's President Saparmurad Niyazov told a plenum of the political council of his Democratic Party (formerly Communist Party) that Turkmenistan is interested in the Commonwealth of Independent States only as a consultative body, ITAR-TASS reported on 23 December. He rejected the proposals of other CIS leaders that the Commonwealth assume a larger coordinating role, at least in economic matters. Niyazov still wants relations between CIS member states to be bilateral, and has warned that his country might withdraw if central coordinating bodies are set up. (Bess Brown) GORBACHEV ON BREAKUP OF THE UNION, YELTSIN AND THE CONGRESS. In an interview on the Ostankino TV on 27 December, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev called the breakup of the Soviet Union a "tragic mistake." He claimed that "what happened was not dictated by necessity and had very hard consequences for the whole country, for all of the republics." He said the CIS failed to meet expectations as a successor to the USSR. Gorbachev denied accusations that he left behind a legacy that included a crumbling economy and ethnic conflicts. Instead, he blamed his successors for the trouble. His main criticism was leveled against President Yeltsin. The former Soviet leader praised the latest Russian Congress of People's Deputies and said it offered a welcome centrist alternative to the impulsive Yeltsin and the radicals on both sides. When his interviewer pointed out that the Congress is largely regarded as conservative, Gorbachev called such a description "dishonest." (Vera Tolz) RUSSIAN SOCIAL SECURITY: NEW LAW AND NEW FIGURES. The Russian parliament passed a law on 25 December defining contributions business are to make to the national social security fund, Interfax reported. State and non-state firms alike will be required to pay 5.4% of their wage bill to the fund. In a related story, the Chairman of the Russian Pension Fund, Aleksandr Kostin, said that 50 million Russians qualified for pensions, but only 35.5-million were receiving support. No explanation was given for the difference. In other socio-economic news, Trud reported on 23 December that the number of officially unemployed in December rose to 518,000. This is up from 61,900 at the beginning of the year and 367,000 in October. (Erik Whitlock) MB STAFF HEADQUARTERS WILL BE DIRECTED BY KGB VETERAN. President Yeltsin has appointed Nikolai Golushko chief of staff in the Ministry of Security (MB) and the first deputy of the Minister of Security, according to Krasnaya zvezda of 25 December. This is the first official mention of the existence of a staff unit within the structure of the MB (the former KGB) A similar unit was set up within the old KGB by General Filipp Bobkov in 1988; then it exercised operative command over the troops attached to the KGB. Newly appointed General Nikolai Golushko was the chairman of Ukrainian KGB during the perestroika period; he was also a member of the KGB's top administrative body, the Collegium. After the disbanding of the USSR in 1991, Golushko joined the MB as a deputy to its minister, Viktor Barannikov. Creation of the MB staff unit suggests that the ministry already has or will have paramilitary troops under its command. (Victor Yasmann) UKRAINE TO DESTROY SOME STRATEGIC MISSILES. Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk on 23-December said that the 130 Russian-built SS-19 missiles on Ukrainian territory would have to be dismantled with Russian assistance, but "if the situation aggravates" the 46 SS-24 missiles in Ukraine would be destroyed by the Ukrainians. (The solid-fueled SS-24s were built at Pervomaysk, Ukraine.) According to Interfax, Kravchuk repeated Ukraine's intention to become nuclear-free. He spoke with U.S. President George Bush on 24 December by telephone regarding Ukraine's ratification of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). Interfax reported that the two presidents "attached great importance" to Russia and Ukraine reaching an agreement allowing Russian experts to maintain the strategic weapons on Ukrainian territory. (Doug Clarke) REMINDER ON SURRENDER OF ANTI-GOVERNMENT TAJIK FORCES. The deadline of 28-December has been set by Tajikistan's government for anti-government fighters to surrender their weapons, pro-government military leader Sangak Safarov reminded the opposition on Tajik TV, Interfax reported on 27 December. Talks are also expected to begin between Tajik government representatives and Afghan officials on the fate of the thousands of Tajik refugees who have fled to Afghanistan. Tajik Prime Minister Abdumalik Abdullodzonov said in an interview published in Nezavisimaya gazeta on 23 December that there are some 800,000 refugees and homeless people in Tajikistan. Tajik Supreme Soviet Chairman Imomali Rakhmonov was quoted by Interfax on 25 December as saying that anti-government fighters were forcing people to go to Afghanistan, a claim denied by the refugees themselves. (Bess Brown) POLICE BEAT DEMONSTRATORS IN BAKU. Demonstrators who demanded suspension of a parliamentary decision to rename Azerbaijan's state language "Turkish" were beaten by police and some were arrested on 25 December in Baku, an RFE/RL correspondent reported. The demonstration was organized by Azerbaijan's Social Democratic Party. The following day, the chairman of the party, Araz Alizade, told an RFE/RL correspondent in an interview that state prosecutors are prosecuting him for slander because he allegedly called President Abulfaz Elchibey a fascist. Azerbaijan's foreign minister said on 23 December that the language name-change was unconstitutional. Some oppositionists have called for a referendum on the issue. (Bess Brown) MOLDOVAN BACKLASH AGAINST ROMANIAN CALLS FOR UNIFICATION. Addressing Moldova's Parliament on 24 December, President Mircea Snegur decried the recent statements of Romanian officials and of the opposition Moldovan Popular Front pressing for Romanian-Moldovan unification. Describing these statements as "a campaign against Moldovan statehood," Snegur implied that Moldova should hold a referendum over the question of independent statehood vs. unification with Romania. The parliament's Vice Chairman, Victor Puscasu, who is an organizer of the pro-Snegur, pro-independence and anti-unification Moldovan Republican Party, told Interfax on 27 December that a referendum should be held shortly. Such a referendum has long been advocated by anti-unification Moldovan groups and is being opposed by the pro-unification Popular Front. (Vladimir Socor) CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE MILOSEVIC REELECTION CONFIRMED. International media report that Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's reelection has been officially confirmed. New ballots are to be held in about 200 voting places in response to charges of irregularities, but even if challenger Milan Panic were to take all of the votes in those precincts, it would not be enough to affect the overall result of the election. Milosevic's Socialists lack an absolute majority in Parliament, but are expected to govern in an alliance with the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party of Vojislav Seselj, which made huge gains in the latest contest. The socialists went from 194 to 101 seats out of 250, while Seselj's party rose from one to 73 deputies to become the second largest group in the legislature. Five seats went to the party around the freebooter known as Arkan, who, together with Seselj and others, has been named by US Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger as a likely candidate for eventual war-crimes trials. DEPOS, the leading opposition party, won about 50 seats; in addition the Hungarian minority won 9 seats, and the Muslims 1, the 28-December Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports. The Socialists and Radicals are similarly the two largest Serbian delegations in the new rump Yugoslav parliament as well. The presidential election in Montenegro, however, will require a second round. (Patrick Moore) US WARNS SERBS OVER KOSOVO; OTHER DEVELOPMENTS. The 28 December New York Times reports that the American leadership has warned its Serbian counterparts both orally and in writing against extending the war to Kosovo. The written message said that "in the event of conflict in Kosovo caused by Serbian action, the United States will be prepared to employ military force against the Serbs in Kosovo and in Serbia proper." The paper added that rump Yugoslav President Dobrica Cosic is particularly upset by the American message. Meanwhile, Tanjug on 25 December said that rump Yugoslav Prime Minister Milan Panic has accepted an invitation to attend the inauguration of President- elect Bill Clinton on 20-January. Western news agencies on 26-December reported that $236,000-worth of equipment intended for the independent Serbian TV station Studio-B was hijacked. Station officials said that the theft was politically motivated since their broadcasts are critical of the Milosevic government. (Patrick-Moore) UPDATE FROM THE YUGOSLAV AREA. International media on Christmas day reported two mortar attacks on the UN headquarters in Sarajevo. UN officials said the shelling was deliberate and blamed Bosnian forces. On 27 December Croatian President Franjo Tudjman said that there has been progress in his Geneva talks with Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic on the future political shape of Bosnia and its frontiers. Tudjman is representing Bosnian and Herzegovinian Croats, while Izetbegovic's term as Bosnian president expired on 22 December. Elsewhere, Western news agencies quoted Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov as saying that the cost of nonrecognition has been "enormous" for his republic, which is now going to the UN rather than the EC in search of a diplomatic opening. Greek officials told reporters in Athens that Greece is sending representatives to key capitals abroad to present the case against recognition. Reuters on 24 December quoted Macedonia's interior minister as saying that his republic would close its border with Kosovo if war breaks out there. (Patrick Moore) SKUBISZEWSKI COMMENTS ON BALKAN CONFLICT. At a press conference on his return from the US and Belgium on 23 December, Polish Foreign Minister Krzysztof Skubiszewski said that he and the foreign ministers of Austria, Hungary, and Slovenia, members of the Central European Initiative, presented a joint stand on the Balkan conflict to the UN secretary-general, the chairman of the Security Council and the US President. PAP quoted Skubiszewski as saying that the four argued in favor of using force to implement Security Council resolutions in the region where CSCE standards are increasingly neglected. Skubiszewski said that warning measures should precede any direct use of force. He advocated preventive measures to avoid escalation of the conflict in Macedonia and Kosovo. (Anna Sabbat-Swidlicka) ROMANIA TO RELEASE EMPTY YUGOSLAV VESSELS. Radio Bucharest announced on 24-December that Romania will release all those vessels belonging to rump Yugoslavia which were sailing without cargoes and which were halted in Danube ports in the past month in observance of UN sanctions. The radio carried a statement by the Foreign Ministry saying the release of the vessels is in line with a decision adopted by the UN sanctions committee at Bucharest's request. Romania has been complaining that its Danube ports are jammed. The ministry statement said nothing about the fate of the rump Yugoslav and other vessels carrying goods and detained by Romania. (Michael Shafir). CZECH AND SLOVAK REPUBLICS AND INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS. The Czechoslovak Foreign Ministry expects no problems with the integration of Czechoslovakia's successor states into international organizations, CTK reported on 25 December. A majority of organizations, including the IMF, the CSCE, the World Bank, the EBRD, and the North Atlantic Council (uniting NATO members and nonmembers) have already decided to admit both republics on 1 January 1993. The UN is expected to admit the two new states in January and both will automatically become members of many of the UN's sub-organizations, including UNESCO. The Czech Republic is, moreover, a candidate for temporary membership on the UN Security Council (to be elected in September). The Council of Europe will decide about the admission of the two states at its May session. The association agreement between Czechoslovakia and the EC (which has been signed but not ratified by all EC members) will apparently not be automatically transferred to the two successor states, and some observers expect that individual EC members will insist on a renegotiation in order to lower the two new states' export quotas. (Jan Obrman) CZECHS, SLOVAKS AGREE ON GAS PIPELINE. On 23 December Czech Minister of Industry and Trade Vladimir Dlouhy and his Slovak counterpart, Ludovit Cermak, reached agreement on the controversial gas pipeline that has been providing natural gas from the former Soviet Union to both republics, agencies reported. The Czech and Slovak state- owned gas companies will jointly establish a subsidiary and each of the two partners will control 50% of its shares. The subsidiary will have the exclusive right to handle contracts with third parties involved in the transactions, namely Russia, which is delivering the gas, and Ukraine, through whose territory the pipeline runs. The ministers hailed the agreement as an important breakthrough that takes into consideration the strategic and economic interests of both republics. (Jan Obrman) KLAUS, MECIAR MEET IN BRATISLAVA. The prime ministers of the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Vaclav Klaus and Vladimir Meciar, met in Bratislava on 27-December, Czech Radio reports. They confirmed that the privatization methods applied in their republics will differ in the future. In the Czech Republic the system of voucher privatization will enter its second round, but it will be terminated in Slovakia after 1-January 1993. Klaus made it clear, however, that all property that remains in the hands of the Czech state after the second round of voucher privatization will be sold off by "standard methods of privatization." Klaus also said after the meeting that the position of the Czech ambassador to Slovakia will be more significant than that of a Czech minister. He announced a state visit to Slovakia for the first week of January. (Jan Obrman) SILESIAN STRIKES RESUME AFTER CHRISTMAS BREAK. On 28 December miners in the 65-Silesian coal mines resumed the industrial action that was begun on 14 December to protest delays in the restructuring of the mining industry and the Silesian region. Over Christmas the action had been transformed into an "absentee strike," with the miners staying at home and only essential service workers and representatives of the strike committees present in the mines. Reduced amounts of coal are being mined for the needs of heating plants, coke plants, and steelworks. The Silesian railway strike on the other hand was suspended on 24 December after talks among government, railway management, and unions led to the establishment of a mixed commission to determine means of settling the most important of the railway workers' 12 demands and agree upon deadlines. The next round of talks will take place on 29 December. (Anna Sabbat-Swidlicka) POLISH MINIMUM WAGE IN 1993. At a 23 December meeting between representatives of Solidarity and the National Trade Union Alliance on the one hand and the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy on the other, it was agreed that the minimum wage in the first three months of 1993 will be 1.5 million zloty, PAP reports. The government believes that in 1992 the minimum wage has risen faster than the average national income and has proposed talks on new methods of indexing the minimum wage. (Anna Sabbat-Swidlicka) MICHAEL CANCELS VISIT. In a press release on 23-December Romania's exiled King Michael announced that he has been forced "to postpone" his planned Christmas visit to Romania. The statement said the authorities in Bucharest imposed unacceptable conditions at the last minute. Among other things, they demanded that the king formally recognize the country's republican institutions and submit to a body search at the border; the statement called these "neo-Stalinist methods." Romanian TV carried the text of the message on 23-December. The following day the Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied that new conditions had been imposed for the king's visit, apart from insistence that it be "of a private character," but admitted that officials had discussed with a representative of the king what were called "problems concerning the regulation of the king's citizenship and his ties with the Romanian state." (Michael Shafir) LANGUAGE REGULATIONS FOR HUNGARIAN MINORITY IN UKRAINE. MTI reported on 23-December that Mykhailo Krayilo, the Ukrainian president's plenipoteniatry representative in the Transcarpathia region, has issued new regulations promoting widespread use of minority languages. The regulations implement the Ukraine's laws on language and minorities. Leaders of the Transcarpathian Hungarian minority, numbering more than 150,000, as well as the Hungarian government welcomed the news. The new regulations require street and office signs in minority languages in places where most of the population is not Ukrainian. In these areas state employees will be required to have facility in the minority language. (Karoly Okolicsanyi) FIVE CHARGED IN BULGARIAN LABOR CAMP KILLINGS. The prosecutor's office of the Bulgarian armed forces has charged five former communist officials with responsibility for a large number of deaths in two labor camps operating between 1959 and 1962, Standart wrote on 24 December. The defendants, former Interior Minister Mircho Spasov and four senior camp officials, could face 20 years imprisonment or death sentences. Bulgarian media broke the story of the brutal regime in the Lovech and Skravena camps in the spring of 1990, and later a government commission concluded that 147 of 1,235 inmates had died there. Despite efforts to prove the involvement of ex-dictator Todor Zhivkov, a court source told AFP there is "not enough evidence" to bring him to trial. (Kjell Engelbrekt) LATVIA APPROVES AMENDMENTS TO STATE BUDGET. On 23 December the Supreme Council approved amendments to the 1992 budget proposed by the Council of Ministers, Baltfax reports. The state budget deficit was increased to 3.8 billion Latvian rubles and the hard currency deficit to $16 million. The spending deficit is connected with rising energy prices and the need to pay state allowances of 1,500 rubles a month to enable less well-off residents to pay for heating. (Saulius Girnius) ELECTIONS IN LITHUANIA. On 22 December the Lithuanian Seimas adopted a law on the elections of a president to be held on 14 February, BNS reports. The opposition did not take part in the vote, accusing the majority of acting unconstitutionally since the law provides for creating a special commission for presidential elections to replace the existing Supreme Elections Commission. The Seimas also decided to change the date of local council elections in Vilnius, Salcininkai, and Visaginas (the former Snieckus) raions from 23 January to 14-February. (Saulius Girnius) LITHUANIAN MEMBERSHIP IN COUNCIL OF EUROPE. On 23 December Gret Haller, the head of a delegation of the Human Rights Subcommittee of the Legal Affairs and Human Rights Committee of the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe, told a press conference in Vilnius that the human rights situation in Lithuania is good enough for it to join the Council of Europe, Baltfax reports. She said that the Lithuanian authorities should ensure the full independence of the republic's judicial system, abolish the death penalty, improve conditions in Lithuanian prisons, and provide better opportunities for women to take part in political affairs. The Council of Europe plans to discuss granting its recommendations on Lithuania's membership on 5 February 1993. (Saulius Girnius) [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Hal Kosiba & Charles Trumbull
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