|We are all apt to believe what the world believes about us. - George Eliot|
No. 101, 28 May 1993
RUSSIA COUNCIL OF MINISTERS APPROVES PRIVATIZATION DRAFT. The Presidium of the Council of Ministers has approved the latest draft of the much delayed 1993 privatization program, ITAR-TASS reported on 27-May. President Yeltsin recalled the draft program from parliament in late February in order to incorporate changes aimed at giving regional authorities a greater role in the privatization process. Deputy Chairman of the State Property Committee Dmitrii Vasiliev told a press conference that the program now envisages that questions regarding the privatization of 22,000, presumably federally owned, enterprises will be referred to regional authorities. The draft will also include further amendments put forward by the ministers. Reuters reported that Yeltsin took the opportunity of the ministerial gathering to criticize the government for not taking advantage of the popular mandate for reform represented by the results of the 25 April referendum and to move forward aggressively with reform policies. -Erik Whitlock CONSTITUTIONAL COURT UPHOLDS CONGRESS OVER MASS MEDIA. The Constitutional Court has ruled that the resolution establishing parliamentary control over the broadcast media, which was passed at the ninth session of the Congress of People's Deputies in late March, is in accord with the Constitution, various Western and Russian agencies reported on 27-May. The ruling also upheld the Congress' decision to abolish the Federal Information Center (FIC), the body established by Yeltsin to oversee the Russian media and considered by many to be largely responsible for his victory in the referendum. Responding to the ruling, FIC chairman Mikhail Poltoranin claimed that the court was "a political tool of the parliament in the fight with the president and his policies," and the pro-Yeltsin daily, Izvestiya, whose independence was recently upheld by the Constitutional Court, said that the ruling would end the "semi-freedom of speech that journalists enjoyed." However, the ruling may not apply immediately, since the court also requested clarification of technical irregularities in the Congress resolution. -Wendy Slater RUTSKOI CLAIMS HIS CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS INFRINGED. Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi issued a statement on 27 May claiming that a campaign aimed at critics of the Russian leadership is also attempting to remove him from power, Russian agencies reported. His statement described the alleged campaign as "an unbridled attack against those who . . . protest against the madness of the crisis and Russia's breakup." Rutskoi linked the campaign to his recent accusations of top-level corruption in the Russian government. He also said that he will fight the restrictions being imposed on his constitutional rights as vice president, and may challenge them on constitutional grounds. Rutskoi's statement follows President Yeltsin's apparent refusal on 26 May to allow his deputy to use a Kremlin meeting hall for a press conference. -Wendy Slater FILATOV CRITICIZES PRESS REPORTS OF STATEMENT BY REPUBLICS. Sergei Filatov, the head of Yeltsin's administration told Izvestiya by telephone that the publication in Rossiiskaya gazeta and Nezavisimaya gazeta of a political statement by the heads of 16-republics allegedly adopted by them on the eve of the session of the Council of the Heads of Republics on 26 May, was a gross falsification, Izvestiya reported on 28 May. Filatov said it was aimed at discrediting the president's initiative on the eve of the constitutional conference scheduled for 5 July. Filatov claimed that the real statement of the Council differed radically from that published in the press and had nothing in common with its threatening tone. -Ann Sheehy WESTERN LOANS FOR OIL SECTOR. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has decided to lend Russia $174 million to modernize 300 oil wells, an RFE/RL correspondent reported on 25 May. The project will be accompanied by technical assistance in the areas of financial and operations management. According to the Financial Times on 26-May, the United States government has provided a $50-million loan to a Russian-American joint venture to help develop an oil field in Russia's polar region. Erik Whitlock and Jon Henderson OIL JOINT VENTURE SHOWDOWN. A confrontation was expected to take place on 27 May in Raduzhnii between the state-owned oil company Varyeganneftegas and its Western partners in the leading oil joint venture, the Financial Times reported on that date. Philbro, the principal Western partner, has already invested about $115 million in the project but is now complaining that the Russian side has threatened to stop payment of contracts, to halt payment of locally employed US workers, to confiscate half of the output and to stop efforts to obtain the necessary licenses and export tax exemptions. The outcome of the negotiations is seen as indicative for future Western investment in the vital energy sector. -Keith Bush OIL AND GAS PRICES TO RISE. The price of normal grade gasoline and fuel oil are expected to be doubled today, Russian and Western news agencies reported on 27 May. The price hike follows a presidential decree reversing a pre-referendum freeze on energy prices until the end of the year at their March level. -Erik Whitlock RUBLE FALLS. At the 27 May session of the Moscow Interbank Currency Exchange, the ruble fell to 994 to the dollar. -Keith Bush RUSSIA-TATARSTAN TALKS. Yeltsin's press office said on 27 May that Yeltsin and Tatarstan president Mintimer Shaimiev had reached mutual understanding in their talks that day, ITAR-TASS reported. However, no progress seems to have been made on the crucial issue of Tatarstan's status vis-a-vis the Russian Federation. The talks are to be resumed in June. While progress on the key draft treaty on the mutual delegation of powers seems to be stalled, subsidiary agreements on environmental protection, higher education, the transport of oil, and property were reported to be ready for signature by the heads of government, and work on other agreements to be in hand. -Ann Sheehy KHASBULATOV CALLS ON DUDAEV TO RESIGN. Ruslan Khasbulatov, the Chechen chairman of the Russian parliament, has issued an appeal to the inhabitants of the Chechen republic to take part in the referendum on 5 June which the Chechen opposition is holding to decide the fate of the Chechen presidency. The appeal, which was published in Rossiiskaya gazeta of 28 May, says the population must take this opportunity to get rid peacefully of the criminal and bankrupt regime of Chechen president Dzhokhar Dudaev. At the end of his appeal, Khasbulatov calls on Dudaev to resign voluntarily to avoid the danger of the blood feud which is still practiced in Chechnya. -Ann Sheehy COMMOWEALTH OF INDEPENDENT STATES CIS DEFENSE PROPOSALS. Although his proposals for reforming the CIS armed forces were rejected at the last meeting of CIS Defense Ministers, CIS Commander in Chief Evgenii Shaposhnikov is quoted in the latest issue of Moskovskie novosti as saying that he will continue to lobby for greater security cooperation among CIS states. As reported by ITAR-TASS on 27-May, Shaposhnikov called especially for the creation of the following integrated commands: a "Yug" (South) air defense system that would include assets from Russia, Kazakhstan, and the states of Central Asia; a "Kavkaz" air defense system that would include Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia; and a single unified command of anti-missile and air defense assets under the name "Zapad" (West). Shaposhnikov also warned that failure to increase defense cooperation in the CIS could lead to instability and the creation of security blocs in the former Soviet Union, as countries on Russia's periphery gravitated toward their non-CIS neighbor states. -Stephen Foye BLACK SEA FLEET DISPUTES WORSENS; OFFICERS UNIONS GETS INVOLVED. Ukrainian Defense Minister Konstantin Morozov warned on 27 May that ships from the Black Sea Fleet raising the Russian flag might be expelled from Ukrainian territorial waters and their crews deprived of any chance of receiving Ukrainian citizenship, Ukrinform-TASS reported. On the same day, according to ITAR-TASS, the militant and influential Union of Ukrainian Officers sent an appeal to Ukrainian political leaders criticizing the "imperial provocations" being perpetrated by Moscow through the fleet. It also criticized the government for not reacting decisively and warned that the Union might appeal to Ukrainian servicemen to oppose the provocations. According to the same report, a similarly strident appeal was sent to Russian political leaders by various pro-Moscow groups in the Crimea. -Stephen Foye TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA FORMER VICE PRESIDENT ON TRIAL IN UZBEKISTAN. Uzbekistan's former Vice President Shukrulla Mirsaidov went on trial in Tashkent on 27 May charged with nepotism and failing to carry out government projects, the defendant told RL's Uzbek Service the same day. Mirsaidov says that the charges are politically motivated; he was removed from the vice presidency last year after clashing with Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov. According to some sources the dispute between the two concerned the rate of economic reform in Uzbekistan; others said that the clash was personal. Mirsaidov said that he persuaded the court to permit journalists to attend the trial, but that the judge had ordered several people to be removed from the courtroom, including the political officer of the US Embassy. -Bess Brown KYRGYZ AND UZBEK PRESIDENTS MEET OVER CURRENCY REFORM. Kyrgyzstan's President Askar Akaev has met with Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov to put an end to the friction between the two countries over Kyrgyzstan's introduction of its own currency and departure from the ruble zone, ITAR-TASS reported on 27 May. Akaev was reported to have apologized for not having notified Uzbekistan's leadership in advance of his country's decision to leave the ruble zone. At a press conference after their meeting, the two presidents announced that a mechanism for regulating economic issues between the two countries has been devised. Uzbekistan had apparently feared that Kyrgyzstan would not honor its debts to its CIS partners. -Bess Brown CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE POLISH GOVERNMENT FALLS-BY A SINGLE VOTE. The Sejm voted early on 28 May to dismiss the government of Prime Minister Hanna Suchocka. The government lost by a single vote: 223 voted for the no-confidence motion, 198 against, and 24 abstained (abstentions count as "no" votes). As government ministers had predicted, the outcome was "accidental:" PAP reports that one coalition deputy, former justice minister Zbigniew Dyka, arrived late and missed the balloting. The vote followed a day of debate and a night of negotiations aimed at winning support from individual opposition deputies. In the debate, Solidarity condemned the government for building "capitalism with an inhuman face" while the former communists blamed three years of "Solidarity governments" for Poland's problems. Democratic Left leader Aleksander Kwasniewski charged that "all that remains of Solidarity's grand 'ethos' is the mustache." No one proposed an alternative to the current government, however. Several parties called for new elections. The government's chances took a turn for the worse when Polish Peasant Party (PSL) leader and former prime minister Waldemar Pawlak refused an eleventh-hour offer to join the coalition, despite the coalition's willingness to "rebuild" the cabinet. President Lech Walesa received Suchocka warmly in the Sejm on 27 May but reportedly refused a meeting with Pawlak. Walesa called Suchocka "the best prime minister so far," prompting speculation that he may reappoint her to the post. -Louisa Vinton CONSEQUENCES AND IMPLICATIONS. Confusion prevailed after the no-confidence vote about who now has the initiative: the Sejm or the president. The constitution stipulates that, unless the Sejm adopts a "constructive" no-confidence vote and chooses a new prime minister "simultaneously" with the vote to dismiss the existing government, the president has the next move. He can either dissolve parliament and call new elections or accept the government's dismissal and name a new prime minister. The Sejm's interpretation of "simultaneously" differs from the president's, however. The president has argued that Solidarity's no-confidence motion was "unconstructive" from the start because it contained no replacement candidate for prime minister. The Sejm leadership has suggested, however, that the Sejm has until the end of its current session to select a new prime minister, and only then can the president take action. The radical Confederation for an Independent Poland (KPN) nominated its own candidate, Andrzej Ostoja-Owsiany, to replace Suchocka immediately after the no-confidence vote, but further parliamentary action was suspended to give the leadership time to ponder the constitutional implications of "simultaneity." It is unlikely in any case that the fractious opposition parties will agree on a single candidate, and Poland may again face a long interregnum of uncertainty. -Louisa Vinton BEROV SURVIVES NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE. On 27-May the cabinet of Bulgarian Prime Minister Lyuben Berov survived a vote of no confidence, Western agencies report. Although the ballot was secret, the government was apparently backed by the Bulgarian Socialist Party and the predominantly Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms. No more than 76-legislators voted against Berov; 140 supported him. The no-confidence motion was introduced by the UDF after an incident on 13 May in which its group leader Stefan Savov was struck to the ground during scuffles between demonstrators and police. The UDF claims Berov is ultimately responsible and should resign. Prior to the vote, the premier accused the anticommunist coalition of using street demonstrations to destabilize the country. Outside the National Assembly, thousands of UDF sympathizers rallied against the government. -Kjell Engelbrekt HUNGARIAN DEMOCRATIC FORUM CONSIDERS "PEACEFUL SEPARATION." Tamas Katona, state secretary in the prime minister's office, says a special committee made up of three members from the HDF presidium and the right-wing faction led by Istvan Csurka will meet on 31 May to discuss the "peaceful separation" of the latter from the forum, MTI and Radio Budapest reported on 27 May. This separation must be done so as not to endanger Hungary's stability and to enable the government to complete its four-year mandate, Katona said. At a separate press conference, the HDF's two leading liberal deputies, Jozsef Debreczeni and Istvan Elek, rejected the charge that the liberals were responsible for the party's current crisis and the resignation on 26 May of HDF executive chairman Lajos Fur. The main conflict, they say, is between the party's centrist forces led by premier Jozsef Antall and the national populist faction led by Csurka. The prompt departure of Csurka is necessary so that the HDF can regain its image as a modern center-right, Western-type conservative government before the l994 elections. -Alfred Reisch KOSOVO HUNGER STRIKE. ATA and Radio Croatia reported on 27 May that journalists and intellectuals are staging a hunger strike in Pristina to protest the "elimination" of the Albanian-language daily Rilindja by the Serbian government. Most prominent among the protesters is human rights activist Adem Demaci. The strike is taking place in the building where Rilindja was published. Serbian Information Minister Milivoje Pavlovic recently explained that the daily will now be completely under Serbian control and will reappear at newsstands, but not as "a tribune of the Albanians." Meanwhile, Serbian parliamentarian and paramilitary leader Zeljko Raznjatovic, alias Arkan, has called for a state of emergency in the Serbian province and the expulsion of Ibrahim Rugova, president of the self-declared Republic of Kosovo. -Milan Andrejevich RUMP YUGOSLAV ECONOMY FACES TOTAL BREAKDOWN. Experts and government officials in Belgrade warn that the rump Yugoslav economy might be faced with a complete economic breakdown within six to twelve months. After a year of UN sanctions, it is estimated that Yugoslavia has lost some $25 billion in revenue. Federal Foreign Trade Minister Milorad Unkovic told Tanjug that the UN sanctions have had disastrous consequences: the country's gross domestic product dropped $12 billion in the past year and the total value of foreign trade fell by $9 billion. Unkovic added that collecting the $4 billion of debts owed to Belgrade, mainly by developing countries, has also been hampered by sanctions. Half the employable population is out of work, he said. Government statistics show that industrial output fell 40% in the first five months of 1993 compared with the same period in 1992. Already crippled by two years of war, inflation continues to skyrocket-in May it rose 205%. On 26 May the National Bank issued a 5-million-dinar note, worth about $10 on the black market. Radio Serbia and Reuters carried the reports on 27 May. -Milan Andrejevich CATHOLIC CHURCH-BOSNIAN CROAT ROW. Radio Croatia and Western agencies report on 27 May that disagreements have erupted between Croatia's Catholic Church hierarchy and Bosnian Croat leader Mate Boban over an appeal issued earlier in the week by Cardinal Franjo Kuharic for "peaceful coexistence" between Croats and Muslims. Kuharic also condemned Bosnian Croats for actions against Muslims, telling Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic that Croats bear at least some responsibility for the conflicts in Bosnia. In a letter published by Hina on 26 May, Boban replied, "This is not a time of coexistence [with Muslims]. It is time for something else, otherwise we will all perish." He continued, "Don't lecture us about Christian principles, Your Eminence, because we imbibed them with our mother's milk." Ivan Zvonimir Cicak, head of the Croatian Helsinki Committee, remarked that Boban's letter is "unprecedented" and cautioned that the clout of the Catholic Church in Bosnia-Herzegovina should not be underestimated. -Milan Andrejevich IMPASSE ON NAME FOR MACEDONIAN REPUBLIC CONTINUES. Greek officials on 27-May rejected a confidence-building package proposed by UN mediators Vance and Owen that includes a proposed new name for the Republic of Macedonia, according to AFP and Reuters. Greek Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis at the same time noted that progress has been made and called for a continuation of UN mediation. He indicated a willingness to engage in direct talks with authorities in Skopje. The UN admitted the new republic using the temporary designation "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia," pending agreement between Greece and Macedonia on a new name. Reportedly, the name proposed by the UN team was "New Macedonia." -Duncan Perry MONTENEGRIN ECONOMY NEAR COLLAPSE. Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic warned on 26 May that Montenegro's economy is also facing collapse because of UN sanctions, which also directly threaten all other vital political, social, and security functions in the country. The situation is critical: Montenegro has 68,000 unemployed workers, 70,000 pensioners, and 65,000 refugees-this in a state with a working population of just 400,000. Sanctions have cost Montenegro $277-million in revenue; businesses have lost $130 million in exports, $90-million from tourism, and $57 million from shipping. Seeking ways to ease the situation, Montenegrin Foreign Minister Miodrag Lekic told his Italian counterpart in Rome on 27 May that his republic would accept UN monitors along its border with Bosnia-Herzegovina. Radio Serbia carried the reports. -Milan Andrejevich MECIAR RESPONDS TO CZECH NOTE. On 26 May the Slovak ambassador to Prague delivered an official diplomatic note to the Czech government explaining recent remarks by Premier Vladimir Meciar that seemed to imply a threat to Czech oil supplies. Czech officials protested in mid-May after Meciar was quoted in a German magazine suggesting that because Czech oil pipelines run through his country, Slovakia would have extra leverage in negotiations aimed at dividing former Czechoslovak assets. The note explains that Meciar did not mean to imply any threat to Czech oil supplies and considers the issue a misunderstanding. CTK reports that the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs accepted the explanation. -Jiri Pehe KLAUS IN BONN. On 27 May Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus met in Bonn with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. CTK reports that the two politicians examined the possibilities for Czech membership in the European Community. They also discussed an intermediate stage in the Czech Republic relations with the EC that would precede full membership. Klaus was in Bonn to receive the Ludwig Erhardt Prize for his economic writings. Jiri Pehe CZECH BROADCAST CHAIRMAN RESIGNS. Daniel Korte, head of the Czech Board for Radio and Television Broadcasting, resigned from his post on 27 May in protest against what he described as a growing tendency among some Czech politicians to reduce the board's powers and strip it of its independence. He also gave up his membership in the board. The board was established in April 1992 as an independent body to issue radio and TV licenses and ensure compliance with media laws. In February 1993 it came under attack from some leading politicians after it had issued a license to CET-21, a Czech television company with strong US backing. Opponents felt the decision was "politically dangerous," citing not only the company's foreign backing but also the fact that some of CET 21's founders were Slovaks or politicians who had lost the June 1992 elections. In his letter of resignation, carried by CTK, Korte writes that "it has become clear that Prime Minister Klaus and some parliamentary deputies favor greater government control of the content of Czech broadcasting." This would be a step backward, Korte said, and "I am not going to participate." -Jiri Pehe TV STRIKE IN ROMANIA. Romanian television employees went on strike on 27 May, demanding an 80% pay increase and changes in the way broadcasting is funded and administered. The Council for Radio and Television filed a request for an injunction, claiming that the Free Trade Union of Romanian Radio and Television had violated the law regulating strikes and asking the Supreme Court to order an end to the action. Radio Bucharest announced that the hearing will be held on 30 May. -Michael Shafir HUNGARIAN PUBLIC EMPLOYEES PLAN DEMONSTRATION. The Cooperation Forum of Trade Unions, comprising unions representing over 550,000 public employees, plans to hold a peaceful demonstration on 1 June in Budapest, MTI announced. The action is in protest against the government's decision to postpone the introduction of a new wage system for public employees from 1 January 1994 to 1 January 1995 on the grounds that the state cannot afford the necessary 45-billion forint. -Alfred Reisch BULGARIA FIGHTS HOOF-AND-MOUTH VIRUS. On 27 May the Bulgarian government ordered local authorities to take all precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the highly contagious hoof-and-mouth disease, BTA reports. The cabinet called for the immediate destruction of infected animals and the sealing off of the Simeonovgrad region in south central Bulgaria where the virus was discovered earlier this week. Although the FAO and other international agencies were notified immediately, government officials fear that the news could prompt the European Community to prohibit import of Bulgarian livestock, meat, and dairy products. -Kjell Engelbrekt RUSSIA WILL NOT CUT OIL TO BELARUS. Leonid Smirnov, head of the Russian Fuel and Energy Administration, has denied that Russia intends to cut supplies of oil to Belarus, Radiefakt reported on 27 May. Rumors that Russia would cut deliveries began after Russia decided to increase the price of its oil to former Soviet republics to world levels and remove subsidies at home. Smirnov categorically denied reports that Russian plans to cut supplies of oil to Belarus by two-thirds; he said that Russia will adhere fully to the schedule of deliveries agreed upon for 1993, which include 16-million tons of crude oil, 50,000 tons of gasoline, 750,000 tons of diesel, and 400,000 tons of fuel oil. -Ustina Markus LITHUANIAN RELATIONS WITH KALININGRAD. On 27 May Seimas deputy Romualdas Ozolas, a member of the Lithuanian negotiating delegation with Russia, criticized his country's policy toward Kaliningrad as "vague," Radio Lithuania reports. Ozolas, the chairman of the Center Movement and deputy prime minister in 1990-91, said that Lithuania's efforts to pressure Russia to demilitarize Kaliningrad had failed and the region could become a serious stumbling block in negotiations with Moscow. He noted that Lithuania has failed to designate a consul to Kaliningrad, although an agreement on exchanging consuls had been reached. -Saulius Girnius SAJUDIS CALLS FOR SUSPENSION OF SEIMAS DEPUTY. On 26 May the council of the Sajudis parliament appealed to President Algirdas Brazauskas, the Supreme Court, and the Main Election Commission to suspend Seimas deputy Kazys Bobelis on the grounds that he had been elected illegally, Radio Lithuania reports. Article 56 of the Constitution explicitly states that a deputy cannot be bound by an oath or pledge to a foreign state. The Sajudis group says that the United States still considers Bobelis a citizen despite his many avowals that he renounced his US citizenship. It is unclear if the appeal will be heeded, for Bobelis appears to have the backing of the Lithuanian Democratic Labor Party, which helped elect him chairman of the Seimas Foreign Relations Committee. Saulius Girnius LATVIA SUBMITS TWO PROTEST NOTES TO RUSSIA. On 27 May the Latvian Foreign Ministry submitted protest notes to the Russian embassy concerning the continuing violations of Latvian airspace by Russian planes; 314 violations have been registered since the first of January 1993. The second note complains about continuing delays in ratifying an accord on trade and economic cooperation initialed by the two sides in October 1992. -Dzintra Bungs BALTIC ASSEMBLY, ECONOMISTS MEET IN RIGA. Baltic parliamentarians met in Riga on 27 May to discuss future modes of cooperation, the formation of a Baltic council of ministers along the lines of the Nordic model, and the current situation in the Baltics, Diena reports. The participants agreed to stress topics such as the need for collective security and cleaning up hazardous war materials dumped in the Baltic Sea when the Baltic Sea states meet in Warsaw on 2-5 June. A two-day conference of leading Baltic, Polish, and US economists started in Riga on 27 May. They focused on ways to ease the transition to a market economy in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, but especially on privatization, government subsidies, and monetary policies. -Dzintra Bungs [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Sheila Marnie and Charles Trumbull THE 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). 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