|There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in. - Graham Greene|
No. 27, 10 February 1993
RUSSIA YELTSIN MAY DROP REFERENDUM PLAN, HOLD EARLY ELECTIONS. Russian President Boris Yeltsin suggested on 9 February that he may be willing to abandon the referendum of the principles on a new Russian Constitution, scheduled for 11 April. In a speech to the parliamentary Constitutional Commission, carried in full by ITAR-TASS on 9 February, Yeltsin said "the referendum is not an aim in itself. If an effective means can be found by any branch of power or the Constitutional Commission to resolve the problems facing Russia, then...it will be possible to abandon the referendum." Yeltsin also suggested holding early presidential and parliamentary elections in 1995 and 1994, respectively, thus reducing their mandates equally by one year. Parliamentary speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov has called for presidential and parliamentary elections in 1994. Yeltsin also reiterated the offer that he made earlier that same day to hold negotiations with Khasbulatov and Constitutional Court chairman Valerii Zorkin over the constitutional division of powers in Russia. Yeltsin's speech came after expressions of opposition to the referendum by some heads of the Russian Federation's constituent republics, and Valierii Zorkin. -Wendy Slater REPUBLIC LEADERS FAIL TO AGREE ON REFERENDUM. The leaders of the republics of the Russian Federation failed to agree on a joint policy towards the proposed referendum on the Russian constitution, when the Council of the Heads of Republics met in Moscow on 9 February, ITAR-TASS and Izvestiya reported. Yeltsin's press spokesman Vyacheslav Kostikov said the majority of republics were very cautious about the referendum, and were concerned that holding the referendum would inevitably lead to the politicization of society and distract people from economic problems. The meeting of the Council, which was a routine one, also heard reports on the main principles of state structure by the president of Sakha, M. Nikolaev, on the implementation of the federal treaty by the chairman of the Komi parliament Yu. Spiridonov, and on the principles of the formation of Russia's foreign policy, by the secretary of the Council, Yu. Skokov. -Ann Sheehy TATARSTAN PRESIDENT CRITICAL OF RUSSIAN LEADERSHIP. Tatarstan president Mintimer Shaimiev said he saw no need for the referendum since there was a legally elected parliament and a government proposed by the president and approved by the Congress and People's Deputies, and they should work together to carry out reforms, ITAR-TASS and Izvestiya reported. As regards the criticism of the presidential structures by the chairman of the Russian parliament, Ruslan Khasbulatov, Shaimiev said that such remarks should not be made, and people should rise above their personal ambitions and serve Russia. -Ann Sheehy MINERS' DISPUTE SETTLED. Miners in Vorkuta were threatening to go on a 24 hour strike on 10 February, if the government failed to meet their demands by that date. According to ITAR-TASS on 9 February, a last minute agreement was reached, which met the miners' demands, and the strike was averted. The agreement was signed by government representatives, including Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Shumeiko and the Minister of Labor, Gennadii Melikyan, and the chairman of the Russian Independent Miners' Union, Vitalii Budko. Wage rates will almost double in 1993, and the increases will be calculated from 1 January. Agreement was also reached on higher compensation payments for those injured in mining accidents and their dependents. In the meantime, miners in the Kuzbass regions have put forward 20 demands to the government, and miners are due to be polled on the issue of strike action on 19-20 February. -Sheila Marnie REORGANIZATION OF RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT, DENIAL OF PRESIDENTIAL INTERFERENCE. ITARTASS reported on 9 February that Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin had signed an order reorganizing government departments with the aim of achieving greater flexibility and efficiency. Several new departments will be created, including one to liaise with the Russian parliament. According to the head of the Russian government administration,Vladimir Kvasov, this department will monitor parliamentary decisions affecting the government and prepare draft laws for submission to parliament. Chernomyrdin himself said in an interview reported by RFE/RL that claims made on 8 February by parliamentary speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov to the effect that the cabinet faced interference from President Yeltsin were groundless. -Wendy Slater GERASHECHENKO ATTACKS GOVERNMENT. Russian Central Bank chairman Viktor Gerashchenko speaking a a joint session of the parliamentary committee on industry and the political group "Industrial Union" made a wide ranging attack on government policy past and present. He said the price liberalization of last year had failed its intended purpose of ending price distortion in the economy. More significantly, he said that the government's proposed budget deficit of 3.5 trillion rubles was off-base, and that the likely outcome was more on the order of six trillion rubles. He hinted that the lower figure was fabricated to please the International Monetary Fund which has made deficit reduction a precondition for more loans. -Erik Whitlock GLAZIEV EVALUATES FOREIGN TRADE POLICIES. Despite Russian President Yeltsin's recent criticism of the work of the Ministry of Foreign Economic Relations, its head, Sergei Glaziev, was optimistic at a press-conference on 9 February, ITAR-TASS reported. He said he was satisfied with the current limited use of export tariffs and controls, given the unstable ruble. He also expressed satisfaction with the fact that trade with countries of the Commonwealth of Indepedent States (CIS) was now carried out largely on the same basis as with other countries in the world. Western news agencies report that Glaziev also had some sharp words for Western trade policies. He complained that the US government was blocking deals between Russian and American businesses, and that Russia was not being allowed to enter the General Agreements on Trade and Tariffs (GATT). Membership in the latter would lower the tariffs on Russian exports to other GATT members. -Erik Whitlock UKRAINE AND RUSSIA APPROACH DEBT DEAL. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Shokhin said on 8 February that Ukraine and Russia are again close to an agreement on dividing up foreign debt obligations and assets of the former Soviet Union, Reuters reported. The two have been trying for months to work out a scheme by which Russia might assume responsibility for all of the $80 billion debt to work out, in turn, a rescheduling deal with Western creditors. Shokhin has also hinted that if a rescheduling agreement cannot be reached soon, Russia will be forced to increase fuel exports to the West, which would imply reduced fuel exports to Ukraine. Thus Ukraine's dependence on Russian fuel imports and negotiations between Ukraine and Russia on the terms of trade for energy products are now being linked to negotiations on Russia's right to assume all responsibility for the former Soviet debt. -Erik Whitlock UKRAINE PROTESTS RUSSIAN CLAIM TO ASSETS ABROAD. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry issued a strong protest on 9 February against a Russian presidential decree of the previous day that Russia is assuming "all the rights to the real estate and movable property of the former USSR" abroad, Ukrainian TV reports. The protest states that such unilateral claims violate international legal norms, the rights of the other Soviet successor states, and agreements on this matter reached by the members of the CIS; they also "complicate the development of political dialogue" between Ukraine and Russia. The issue of dividing up former Soviet property and other assets abroad (especially embassies), has been a major source of disagreement between the two states and has blocked agreement on payment of the former USSR's debt. -Bohdan Nahaylo KOZYREV, CHRISTOPHER DISCUSS BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA. US Secretary of State Warren Christopher telephoned Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev on 9 February, ITAR-TASS reported. The conversation concerned the situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina; no details were given. Western media are reporting that the US government will soon announce a new policy on the former Yugoslavia that could involve rejection or renegotiation of the Vance-Owen peace plan that Russia has strongly supported. John Lepingwell MOSCOW DEFENDS DIPLOMAT'S VISIT TO IRAQ. In an article published in the 10 February issue of Izvestiya, a Russian Foreign Ministry representative defended the decision to send diplomat Igor Melekhov on a visit to Baghdad. Viktor Posuvalyuk, head of the Foreign Ministry's North Africa and Middle East Department, claimed that Melekhov's statement calling for stronger Russian-Iraqi relations had been taken out of context, and that Russia's position on Iraq had not changed. Posuvalyk went on to note that Russian diplomacy during and after the Gulf war had exercised a positive influence on Iraq and suggested that there were areas of cooperation between the two countries that could be developed. He confirmed that Iraqi debts to Russia would be discussed, and hinted that Russia would prefer that Melekhov not meet with Saddam Hussein. -John Lepingwell ARMY OFFICERS MOVING TO MVD. The Russian Internal Affairs Ministry press service told ITAR-TASS on 9 February that some 5,000 Russian officers have transferred to the MVD over the past few months. The press service said that the transfers were being overseen jointly by the MVD and the Defense Ministry. The policy was said to be a reflection of Russia's growing crime problem. It also comes as significant manpower cuts are being implemented in the armed forces and thousands of officers are preparing to resign their commissions. -Stephen Foye TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA ATTACK ANTICIPATED ON RUSSIAN BASES IN ADZHARIA. In a statement carried by ITAR-TASS on 9-February, the Chief of Staff of the Russian Armed Forces characterized the situation at Russian military facilities in Adzharia as "calm on the whole," but added that measures were being taken to increase security, including the mining of approaches to stores of weapons and ammunition. The statement was issued in response to media claims that armed formations were planning an attack on Russian military facilities in Adzharia; there have been numerous such attacks on Russian bases elsewhere in Georgia in recent months. Latest reports indicated that there was still a Russian division stationed in the strategically important port city of Batum, the largest city in Adzharia. -Liz Fuller RESISTANCE CONTINUES IN TAJIKISTAN. Government troops and opposition fighters are continuing to exchange fire in the Ramit Gorge some fifty kilometers east of Dushanbe, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 February. National Security Committee Chairman Saidamir Zukhurov told correspondents that there are about 300-opposition fighters, including around 70 Afghan citizens, resisting government troops and refusing to surrender their weapons. Negotiations between the two sides had been broken off the previous day. According to Zukhurov, local authorities in Gorno-Badakhshan and other regions that had been strongholds of anti-Communist and pro-Islamic forces now say that they support the government in Dushanbe. -Bess Brown CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE MAZOWIECKI URGES ACTION AGAINST ETHNIC CLEANSING. International media on 10 February quoted UN human rights envoy and former Polish Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki as calling for action "in the shortest possible time" to achieve "a minimum of respect for life and dignity" in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The normally soft-spoken politician added: "just offering sympathy to people whose rights have been so brutally trodden underfoot while condemning the perpetrators-.-.-. only in words, would be an avowal of impotence." Mazowiecki stressed that the bulk of the crimes are committed by Serbs against Muslims, and placed blame on the Serbian government as well. "We are increasingly faced with the evidence that (Bosnian) Serb leaders are most responsible for the policy of ethnic cleansing of which the Muslims are the main victims. It is hard to imagine that this policy was possible without the active support of the government of Serbia." He added that "nationalist trends" in Croatia pose a threat to Serbs living there. -Patrick Moore UPDATE ON YUGOSLAV AREA. Reuters on 9 February reported that the UN will resume relief flights from Zagreb to Sarajevo on the 10th, but using a route that avoids the Karlovac area, where Serbian forces fired on a German relief plane on 6 February. Other missions take off from Split and from US bases in Germany, and an Italian airport may replace Zagreb in the relief effort. Meanwhile in Washington, an RFE/RL correspondent said that the State Department has repeated a warning to the Serbian authorities to refrain from using force against Albanians in Kosovo. The Albanians make up over 90% of the population in the Serbian-run province, but enjoy virtually no civil rights according to a wide range of international monitors. On a recent visit to the US, Turkish President Turgut Özal said that Albanian president Sali Berisha is concerned about signs of increased repression in Kosovo. Finally, international media report on renewed fighting on a variety of fronts, including in Sarajevo. Serbian forces intensified shelling of the besieged town of Gradacac in northern Bosnia astride Serbia's strategic corridor to Croatia and western Bosnia, and other Serbs were repulsed in an attempt to force back some recent Croatian gains in the Krajina area. -Patrick Moore SERBIAN PLANES IN BULGARIAN AIR SPACE. On 9-February two fighter planes of the rump Yugoslav Federal Army violated Bulgarian air space, BTA reports. According to a statement released by the government press center, the planes penetrated two kilometers into Bulgarian air space before turning back. Although the Bulgarian government assumes the violation was not intentional but resulted from a miscalculation of "the irregular border" in the area, it will nevertheless request an explanation from the Belgrade authorities. -Kjell Engelbrekt BULGARIA, ROMANIA DISCUSS UN SANCTIONS. On 9 February top officials of the Bulgarian and Romanian foreign ministries held consultations on recent infringements of UN sanctions against rump Yugoslavia, BTA reports from Sofia. According to a joint communique issued after the discussions, the two countries agree that Resolution 787 does not explicitly provide for the use of military force and, consequently, both countries have applied "all possible means" to enforce UN sanctions. The heads of the two delegations, Bulgarian Deputy Foreign Minister Valentin Dobrev and Romanian Secretary of State at the Foreign Ministry Constantin Ene, told a press conference they are committed to strict adherence to the embargo but that more international observers on the spot are needed. In the meantime, Dobrev and Ene said the two countries intend to coordinate more of their actions both on the Danube and in their relations with the UN Committee on Sanctions. -Kjell Engelbrekt BOSNIANS THREATEN TO USE CHEMICAL WEAPONS. Radios Bosnia and Serbia reported on 7 and 8 that in separate statements the local government of the town of Tuzla and the Bosnian military command in the region have warned that if ethnic cleansing against Muslims and Croats continues, they will be "forced to place containers of chlorine and other chemical agents in strategic places." Tuzla officials promised that civilians would be evacuated before the chemicals were unleashed. UN officials stated that so far there is no proof that chemical weapons have been deployed or toxic substances dumped in rivers in the region. On 9-February Radio Bosnia said that Serbian shelling of civilian areas around the northern Bosnian town of Brcko is threatening "tanks containing liquid chlorine" and poses a risk of "ecological disaster." -Milan Andrejevich KONTIC NOMINATED AS YUGOSLAV FEDERAL PREMIER. Radio Serbia reported on 9 February that Dobrica Cosic, president of the rump federal Yugoslavia, has nominated deputy prime minister Radoje Kontic as prime minister. Kontic was a former prime minister of Montenegro and member of Montenegro's ruling Democratic Socialist Party. He will replace Milan Panic, who was given a vote of no-confidence in the federal assembly in late December. Kontic has been acting prime minister since then. The nomination requires approval of the Federal Assembly. Kontic told reporters that he is preparing an economic recovery program and will appoint "a universally acceptable cabinet" of experts, scholars and politicians. Kontic has the support of five of the six federal parliamentary groups; the DEPOS coalition opposes the nomination. A spokesman for Cosic said the president has proposed the formation of a democratic unity government, but that in view of conflicting opinions Kontic will have the final say. -Milan Andrejevich ONLY ONE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE IN SLOVAKIA. Slovak Radio reported on 9 February that Michal Kovac, the former chairman of the Czechoslovak parliament, will run unopposed for the post of Slovak president in the Slovak presidential elections on 15-February. On 8 February Slovak media reported that Ivan Gasparovic, who had been officially nominated by some deputies, would be another presidential candidate. However, media reports from Slovakia say that Gasparovic turned down his nomination. Both Gasparovic and Kovac are members of the ruling Movement for a Democratic Slovakia. Some opposition parties have demanded that the president be without a party affiliation. The Movement for a Democratic Slovakia and the Slovak National Party, which have expressed tentative support for Kovac, do not have enough seats in the parliament to elect him. Slovak media report that the Party of the Democratic Left, the second strongest party in Slovakia, has said that it will support Kovac if he gives up his party membership. -Jiri Pehe WALESA: NO BUDGET, NO PARLIAMENT. President Lech Walesa put his support fully behind the governing coalition on 9 February with the announcement that he would dissolve parliament if it fails to adopt the 1993 budget. The president has the right to dissolve parliament if it fails to approve a budget within three months of its submission; this time runs out on 20 February. The budget vote, scheduled for 12 February, will be a major showdown, as the government is asking the Sejm to suspend laws it has already adopted in order to keep the deficit down. Full attendance by the coalition will be required to assure the budget's passage. "I very much want this parliament to continue to exist because we have so much to do," Walesa told reporters, "but we cannot continue to waste time. Society wants concrete and quick results. I have no choice but to proceed as the law dictates." The coalition meets on 10 February to decide whether to link the budget vote with a confidence vote in the government. -Louisa Vinton POLISH CULTURE MINISTER APPOINTED. Walesa also acted to paper over the conflict he provoked with the governing coalition by refusing to name the prime minister's original candidate as culture minister. During the meeting with Hanna Suchocka on 9 February, Walesa appointed Jerzy Goral, the Christian National Union's second candidate, as culture minister. Goral is a legal expert specializing in publishing and authorship issues. He told reporters that his membership in the Christian National Union would influence his running of the culture ministry, but predicted that "Christian values" would cease to divide Poland's artistic and cultural elite. -Louisa Vinton POLISH-GERMAN ASYLUM TALKS. Negotiators for the two sides differed in their assessments of the second round of talks on Germany's plan to expel would-be political refugees arriving from "safe" countries. The talks were held in Bonn on 8-9 February. Polish officials said the talks were inconclusive, and objected strenuously to Germany's apparent plan to expel to Poland the huge number of asylum-seekers already rejected but still residing in Germany. Deputy Internal Affairs Minister Jerzy Zimowski told PAP on 9 February that Poland considers these people to be exclusively a "domestic German problem." German officials, in contrast, said the talks were a "substantial step forward." They stressed that the Polish side had acknowledged that the existing open-border treaty required Poland to take back people who illegally entered Germany from Poland. Talks are to continue in the near future in Warsaw. -Louisa Vinton NATO COMMANDER TO VISIT HUNGARY. NATO Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, Gen. John-M. Shalikashvili will pay a three-day official visit to Hungary on 14-16 February at the invitation of Defense Minister Lajos Fur, MTI reported on 9 February. His talks with Defense Ministry officials and army command leaders will focus on the overall situation in East Central Europe and military cooperation between NATO and Hungary. Shalikashvili will also meet Premier Jozsef Antall and Foreign Minister Geza Jeszenszky. -Alfred Reisch ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT ON FUNAR. According to an 8 February report from Radio Budapest, the Romanian government has confirmed that Cluj Mayor Gheorghe Funar acted outside the law in replacing the plaque on the statue of King Mathias on the main square of the city with a nationalistic Romanian inscription. The statue has a strong symbolic value for Hungarians living in Romanian Transylvania. According to a 1945 agreement the statue was to bear only a plaque reading "Mathias Rex." The head of the department in charge of local governments said that Funar put up the sign over the opposition of the Committee for the Protection of Monuments. The official said further that his department has instructed Cluj County authorities to take steps to assure that Funar obeys the law on the protection of monuments. These public statements, apparently unreported in the Romanian media, suggest that tensions between Cluj's nationalistic mayor and the central government might be growing. -Judith Pataki ROMANIAN PREMIER MEETS UNION LEADERS. In a statement broadcast by Radio Bucharest on 9 February, leaders of 15 union confederations announced that Prime Minister Nicolae Vacaroiu has agreed to meet union and employers' representatives to seek a country-wide collective work contract for 1993. The meeting, scheduled for 10 February, will be attended by the ministers for labor and social protection, finance, health, and education, as well as by the head of the National Statistical Board. The main bone of contention appears to be the minimum monthly wage level. The unions demand a nearly three-fold increase to compensate for soaring inflation, while employers and the government see such claims as unrealistic under current economic conditions. -Dan Ionescu KRAVCHUK VISITS BRITAIN. On 9 February, Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk began a four-day visits to Britain, Ukrainian and British media report. He is due to meet with, among others, Prime Minister John Major and the EBRD President Jacques Attali. The questions of Western aid and security guarantees for Ukraine are expected to dominate the talks. -Bohdan Nahaylo EC APPROVES BALTIC LOAN. On 9 February the European Community parliament approved a loan of $236 million to help the three Baltic States convert to market economies, Western agencies report. The loan will be made available through the European Investment Bank and paid over three years. EC Commissioner Jočo Deus de Pinheiro noted that the EC Executive Commission would urge maintenance of human rights, especially of minorities, in its contacts with the Baltic governments. -Saulius Girnius ESTONIA PASSES 1993 BUDGET. The Estonian parliament on 9 February finally passed the state budget for the 1993 fiscal year, the RFE/RL Estonian Service reports. The bulk of the 2.9-billion-kroon budget, passed in a 65 to 17 vote, with 7 abstentions, will go to state-level institutions, but local budgets will receive nearly 400 million kroon in support. The months-long debate produced a few special programs, including a 10-million-kroon student loan plan, a 69-million reserve fund for economic stabilization and 125 million for farm credits. The 17 deputies who voted against the budget represented the bulk of the leftist opposition parties, including the Coalition Party, the Rural Union, and the Centrist faction. The vote represents the most clear-cut and significant parliamentary victory for the ruling coalition since it took power last October. For months, the coalition has battled opposition efforts to stall passage of a budget until March, when the constitution would have mandated new elections. -Riina Kionka CONTROVERSY OVER POSSIBLE NEW RECRUITS IN ESTONIA. The controversy continues to escalate over whether some 200 new Russian recruits recently entered Estonia and whether the Estonian government approved the move. Last week the opposition charged the government with having violated earlier agreements with Russia by having approved the entry of three groups of recruits, totaling about 200. So far the Defense Ministry has responded with mixed signals. On 9 February, however, Minister Juri Luik, Estonia's chief negotiator for talks with Russia, denied the entry of any additional troops. According to BNS of that day, Luik said the government has concluded no such agreements, even though the Russian side has repeatedly argued for the entry of additional soldiers to help dismantle bases. "Thousands of proposals are made at the negotiations, but this doesn't mean that we agree to them," Luik told reporters. -Riina Kionka LITHUANIA BUYS FIRST MILITARY JETS. On 6-February four almost new Albatross L-39 jet planes, made in Czechoslovakia and bought for $21,000 each in Kyrgyzstan, arrived in Lithuania, BNS reports. The L-39 is a training plane first produced in 1968 that has a maximum speed of 900-km/h, can reach an altitude of 11,500-m, and has a normal maximum flying range of 850-km. -Saulius Girnius DECLINE IN LATVIAN INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION. On 9 February Gunars Baltins, chairman of the state statistics office, told Diena that industrial production in January 1993 was 8% lower than in December and 45.6% lower than in January 1992, BNS reports. Of the 616 industrial enterprises employing more than 50-workers, 51 had not starting operating this year, 441 were producing less, and only 124 were operating on the same level or better than in December. Of the companies 416 were state or municipal enterprises, 37 were joint stock companies, 158 had mixed ownership, and 5 were run by public organizations. -Saulius Girnius [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Hal Kosiba and Charles TrumbullTHE RFE/RL DAILY REPORT IS PRODUCED BY THE RFE/RL RESEARCH INSTITUTE (A DIVISION OF RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY, INC.) with the assistance of the RFE/RL News and Current Affairs Division (NCA). The report is available by electronic mail via LISTSERV (RFERL-L@UBVM.CC.BUFFALO.EDU), on the Sovset' computer bulletin board, by fax, and by postal mail. For inquiries about specific news items, subscriptions, or additional copies, please contact: in USA: Mr. Jon Lodeesen or Mr. Brian Reed, RFE/RL, Inc., 1201 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, DC-20036 Telephone: (202) 457-6912 or -6900; fax: (202) 457-6992 or -202-828-8783; Internet: RIDC@RFERL.ORG or in Europe: Ms. Helga Hofer, Publications Department, RFE/RL Research Institute, Oettingenstrasse 67, 8000 Munich 22; Telephone: (+49 89) 2102-2631 or -2642; fax: (+49 89) 2102-2648, Internet: PD@RFERL.ORG 1992, RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. RFE/RL Daily Report
write to us
with your comments and suggestions.