|If you are not allowed to laugh in heaven, I don't want to go there. - Martin Luther|
No. 179, 17 September 1993
RUSSIA THE RETURN OF GAIDAR. During one of his now regular visits to military formations, President Boris Yeltsin on 16 September disclosed to journalists that Egor Gaidar will be returning to the cabinet, ITAR-TASS and other agencies reported. The president announced that he would sign an edict on 18 September appointing Gaidar to the post of First Deputy Prime Minister, and indicated that First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Lobov would be shifted to other duties. In this way, Yeltsin remarked, "the conflict between Lobov and Fedorov will be settled." Yeltsin mentioned that Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin was in favor of the shift. Gaidar has agreed to accept the appointment which does not, it is reported, have to be confirmed by parliament. Keith Bush, RFE/RL, Inc. CONGRESS OF PEOPLES OF THE USSR. On 20 September, a Congress of Peoples of the USSR will open in Moscow, one of its organizers announced at a news conference on 16 September. Yurii Izyumov, editor of the pro-communist weekly Glasnost, said that the congress "will not be extremist," and that it will produce "a manifesto to the peoples of Russia which will lay out the tactics for resurrecting the former Union." Izyumov claimed that groups ranging from communist to religious organizations from all the former Soviet republics will attend the conference. Among the participants, according to Russian news sources, will be former chairman of the Security Council Yurii Skokov, industrialists' leader Arkadii Volsky, Gennadii Seleznev and Aleksandr Prokhanov, the editors respectively of Pravda and Den, Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi, parliamentary chairman Ruslan Khasbulatov, and Constitutional Court Chairman Valerii Zorkin. Wendy Slater, RFE/RL, Inc. YELTSIN TO MEET HEADS OF REPUBLICS AND REGIONS. President Yeltsin is scheduled to meet the heads of the republics and regions in the Kremlin on 18 September for the possible signing of the agreement setting up the Federation Council, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 September. The creation of the council is in doubt because, according to a member of the presidential council, Leonid Smirnyagin, the leaders of some republics and regions have advanced unacceptable demands, whose essence is that the council can function without the president and the prime minister. In Smirnyagin's view, this would destroy the purpose of the council. Khasbulatov has also planned a meeting of the heads of the soviets of all levels for 18 September, ITAR-TASS added, and the agency surmised that it would attract some of the potential participants of the Kremlin get-together. Khasbulatov has said that he sees no need for the creation of the Federation Council. Ann Sheehy, RFE/RL, Inc. YELTSIN STILL POPULAR IN RUSSIA. President Yeltsin remains the most popular Russian politician with a 48% approval rating, according to the latest opinion poll conducted by Mnenie, and independent research organization, in Moscow and 24 regions, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 September. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin was backed by 46% of the respondents--more than his government which received only 42% of support. The popularity of Yeltsin's rivals has declined. Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi received 39%, and parliamentary speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov only 19% approval. In the summer of 1992, 31% of the respondents who took part in the opinion poll organized by Mnenie had still favored Khasbulatov and 53% said they trusted Rutskoi. Now 65% of those questioned said that they wished Khasbulatov would resign. Alexander Rahr, RFE/RL, Inc. KRASNODAR KRAI WANTS TO RETAIN PROPISKA. The leaders of Krasnodar krai, like the authorities in Moscow, want to retain the propiska (residence permit) system which is due to be abolished in October. Krasnodar has been overwhelmed by refugees fleeing from conflicts in the neighboring north Caucasus region, and propiska regulations have been strictly imposed in an effort to discourage further immigration. The head of administration, Nikolai Egorov, was quoted by Ostankino TV on 16 September as saying that the abolition of the propiska system would infringe the rights of local residents, presumably by encouraging competition for scarce housing between refugees and local residents. Another local leader, V. Savva, warned of an "unpredictable" reaction on the part of the population of Krasnodar Krai were the propiska to be abolished. Wendy Slater, RFE/RL, Inc. SOLZHENITSYN ON RUSSIA. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn plans to return to Russia in May 1994, according to an official statement issued by his wife and carried by ITAR-TASS on 16 September. On 14 September, Solzhenitsyn received an honorary doctorate from the International Academy for Philosophy in the Principality of Liechtenstein, where he said that Russia has not yet rid itself of communism. He criticized Russia's transition to "wild capitalism," and called for economic, political, and individual self-restraint. Solzhenitsyn told journalists that Russia's political institution are still weak. He described the huge bureaucracy of the executive as being "worse than under communism," attacked the parliament for not being a true legislative body and stated that the Constitutional Court has made itself ridiculous by re-legalizing the Communist Party. Alexander Rahr, RFE/RL, Inc. GOLD SALES TO FINANCE BUDGET DEFICIT. Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Aleksashenko told The Financial Times of 15 September that the government plans to sell gold to the value of $1 billion to Russian commercial banks in order to help cover the gaping budget deficit. It would issue certificates, at prices based on the international gold futures market, guaranteeing to deliver up to 100 tons of gold in a year's time. Keith Bush, RFE/RL, Inc. OSTANKINO MANAGEMENT CONCERNED ABOUT THE COMMERCIALIZATION OF FOURTH TV CHANNEL. The board of directors of the Ostankino TV company has sent a letter to President Yeltsin urging him to prevent the transfer of the fourth channel of the state-run Russian television to the "Most" (Bridge) commercial firm. The directors were quoted by ITAR-TASS on 16 September as saying they supported the reduction of state financing of Russian television as well as the creation of independent TV channels. But they claimed that, in view of recent developments, the danger existed that state control over television would be replaced by that of a few big commercial associations--a situation which would yield even less freedom of broadcast journalism than existed today. Vera Tolz, RFE/RL, Inc. KGB SUPPORTED PERESTROIKA IN GDR. In the mid-1980s, the KGB set up a secret intelligence service in the GDR to support perestroika there. These and other revelations on KGB activities in Germany are reported in the book "Gruppe Ljutsch ["The Beam of Light' Group"]" written by two German authors, Andreas Boente and Ralf Georg Reuth. A book review appeared in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on 16 September. The revelations indicate that the KGB had initiated political changes in the GDR and had worked against the leadership of GDR leader Erich Honecker. The book says that this secret structure continues to function in today's Germany and was taken over by the Russian foreign intelligence service led by Evgenii Primakov. Alexander Rahr, RFE/RL, Inc. CIS RUMYANTSEV ON SEVASTOPOL. Oleg Rumyantsev, one of the leading parliamentarians involved in the constitutional process, has stated that the new Russian constitution must recognize Sevastopol as a Russian city with special federal status. Segodnya on 16 September reported Rumyantsev's recent visit to the Crimea, noting that he formed a poor impression of the head of the Crimean Supreme Soviet and was told by representatives of pro-Russian movements that 90% of Crimeans regret their "separation" from Russia. Rumyantsev reportedly stated that he would do "all possible" to recognize Crimea as a part of the Russian Federation. He suggested that Russia take over full financing of the Black Sea Fleet and denounced the Massandra agreement on the fleet, noting that Ukraine had no right to any part of the fleet and therefore could not sell part of it to Russia. Speaking on the Russian parliament's TV program on 15 September, Rumyantsev warned of a "Croatian scenario" in the Crimea and claimed that Ukraine was building up military forces in the region. John Lepingwell, RFE/RL, Inc. RUSSIAN-UKRAINIAN NEGOTIATIONS OVER THE "VARYAG". Russian and Ukrainian officials are still negotiating the fate of the aircraft carrier "Varyag" in Mykolaiiv, Ukrinform reported on 15 September. The carrier was three-quarters complete when the Soviet Union broke up. Since then its construction has been halted while Russia and Ukraine dispute its ownership. The "Varyag" was being built in the Ukrainian shipyard, but its electronics came from Russia. The latest proposals give Russia ownership of the carrier in exchange for reducing Ukraine's energy debt to Russia, and contracting Ukraine to complete its construction. The "Varyag" is only the second aircraft carrier of its class in the former Soviet navy and may be sold once it is completed, possibly to China. Ustina Markus, RFE/RL, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA RENEWED FIGHTING IN ABKHAZIA. In the early morning of 16 September Abkhaz forces broke the 7-week-old ceasefire, claiming that they had acted after Georgia had failed to withdraw its heavy armor and troops from the region and lift the blockade of Tkvarcheli, as required by the ceasefire agreement, Russian and Western media reported. The Abkhaz forces broke through the blockade of Tkvarcheli, and attacked both Sukhumi and Ochamchira. Shevardnadze flew to Sukhumi, telling Yeltsin that he would fight off rebel forces with his "bare hands." Shevardnadze accused the Abkhaz of using the ceasefire to trick his forces into surrendering their arms. Reports differ as to whether the Abkhaz have entered Sukhumi. ITAR-TASS reported on 17 September that, according to the Russian section of the joint commission for regulating the situation in Abkhazia, the Abkhaz were shelling the outskirts of the town, but a spokesman of the Abkhaz Supreme Soviet claimed that Sukhumi was under Abkhaz control. Ann Sheehy, RFE/RL, Inc. REACTION TO ABKHAZ DEVELOPMENTS. Russia called on Abkhaz separatists to halt all military activities or face unspecified consequences, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 September. Reports say that Russian defense minister Pavel Grachev plans to travel to Sukhumi on 17 September after meeting Abkhaz separatist leaders in Gudauta on 16 September. The United National Security Council has also called for a halt to the fighting and condemned the separatists for violating the ceasefire. UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, who personally condemned the Abkhaz action, discussed the situation with Russian ambassador to the UN Yulii Vorontsov. Ann Sheehy, RFE/RL, Inc. MITTERAND IN KAZAKHSTAN. French president Francois Mitterand announced at a dinner in his honor in Alma-Ata on 16 September that France was extending a term credit of 300 million francs to Kazakhstan to finance French investments in the republic, AFP reported. A spokesman for Mitterand, Jean Musitelli, said French companies were competing for projects in oil, air-traffic control construction, telecommunications, and food-processing. Mitterand also promised to help Kazakhstan save the Aral Sea. In a brief interview on local television, Mitterand, who is on a 24-hour visit to Kazakhstan, praised Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev's domestic and foreign policy and his efforts to restore ties between the CIS states. Ann Sheehy, RFE/RL, Inc. CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE UN CALLS FOR INVESTIGATION OF MASSACRE OF CROATS. Reuters reported on 16 September that UN civilian affairs chief Cedric Thornberry demanded an investigation of the killing of at least 34 Croats, mostly civilians, in the hamlet of Kriz in the village of Uzdol near Prozor the previous day. An UNPROFOR statement said that Muslims killed the Croats "with firearms, knives, and axes, and set fire to some houses." Croatian military spokesmen said that they had found papers on the bodies of Muslim fighters killed in the area identifying them as members of the Bosnian police. The BBC also quoted Thornberry as saying that there continued to be "quite heavy fighting going on" between Croats and Muslims in that republic. Meanwhile, Borba on 17 September continues its reporting on the "September 93" movement, as the Banja Luka mutineers call themselves. Finally, international media in recent days have noted that the embattled Sarajevo daily Oslobodjenje celebrates its 50th anniversary of uninterrupted publishing this week. Patrick Moore, RFE/RL, Inc. IS TUDJMAN STEPPING BACK FROM THE BRINK? NEDJELJNA DALMACIJA ON 16 SEPTEMBER RUNS AN EXTENSIVE INTERVIEW WITH PRESIDENT FRANJO TUDJMAN. The upshot is that "the heart does not determine state policy," and that Croats will have to accept that they will not be able to recapture the Serb-held territory of their republic as soon as they might wish, although he ruled out "letting the problem solve itself . . . like Germany that waited 40 years for reunification." He was relatively conciliatory in his remarks regarding UNPROFOR, while repeating that Croatia needs guarantees that the UN forces will truly execute their mandate if Croatia is to extend it. Tudjman indicated that Croatia's 12 September offensive near Gospic was an exception to a very patient policy, and that his government would not allow "Serb extremists to drag Croatia into a total war," because, among other reasons, it cannot afford to bring sanctions down upon itself. Meanwhile, Globus on 17 September runs a poll showing that 55% of the respondents feel that Croatia must act now militarily to free the Serb-held lands, while only 43% feel that a war will break out or that the Croatian army is strong enough to do the job. Patrick Moore, RFE/RL, Inc. SERBIAN GOVERNMENT FACES NO CONFIDENCE VOTE. Vojislav Seselj, head of the Serbian Radical Party, announced on 16 September that his party would call for a vote of no confidence in the Socialist-dominated Serbian government. Seselj explained the government of Prime Minister Nikola Sainovic was incompetent and did nothing to improve the republic's economic situation. Seselj, whose party is the second largest party in parliament, said his motion will receive enough votes in parliament to place it on the agenda when the parliament reconvenes in early October. He also expressed confidence that several other opposition parties would support the his initiative: 126 votes are needed to pass the measure and the Radicals have 73 deputies. Seselj added that his party's initiative would not raise any questions regarding President Slobodan Milosevic. After the December 1992 elections, Seselj had pledged that his party would never raise the issue of a vote of no confidence in Milosevic. Radio and Television Serbia carried the report. Milan Andrejevich, RFE/RL, Inc. BOSNIAN MUSLIMS AND SERBS REACH AGREEMENT IN GENEVA. Bosnia's three warring parties are preparing to sign an agreement on 21 September to end all hostilities, ensure the unimpeded delivery of humanitarian aid supplies throughout the country, and open all prison camps, international media report on 17 September. After the conclusion of a secret meeting between Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic and the head of the self-proclaimed Bosnian Serb parliament Momcilo Krajisnik on 16 September, mediator Lord Owen said: "we have made progress." He also noted that Bosnia is "closer to a settlement than it has ever been," the BBC said. The new dimension is that two years after agreement is reached, a referendum would be held in each of the autonomous republics as to whether they wish to remain in the Union of Bosnia-Herzegovina. This would allow the Serb republic to join Serbia and the Croats to join Croatia. The remaining Muslim republic would retain the Union's seat at the UN in this case. The New York Times on 17 September quotes experts as saying that this concession might be the price that Izetbegovic, who long opposed a partition of Bosnia-Herzegovina, must pay to obtain more Serbian-controlled land in eastern and northwestern Bosnia and an access to the sea from the Croats. Returning back to Sarajevo Izetbegovic said: "I want to state once more that we will not give up our demands" and expressed doubt that the mediators' work would be completed by Tuesday. Fabian Schmidt, RFE/RL, Inc. BULGARIAN LABOR CAMP TRIAL RESUMES. Reuters reports that a trial against three Bulgarians involved in running the notorious Lovech and Skravena labor camps between 1959 and 1962 was resumed on 16 September. A few weeks after the trial had opened in June the death of a defendant--former Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Mircho Spasov--forced a postponement. The other three defendants are accused of being directly responsible for the deaths of at least 14 of the 1,501 inmates of the camps. Investigations show that more than 100 prisoners died while in the camps and several hundred due to the after-effects of brutal treatment. In June the court declared it will rule on the question of guilt before it decides on whether the statute of limitations--which in Bulgaria normally expires after 20 years--precludes punishment or if the actions qualify as "crimes against humanity." Kjell Engelbrekt, RFE/RL, Inc. VOLKSWAGEN SCALES BACK INVESTMENT IN CZECH REPUBLIC. The Volkswagen AG, Germany's largest automaker, announced that it will scale down its commitments in the Czech Republic, the International Herald Tribune reports on 17 September. The announcement came one day before Volkswagen was to sign a $880 million credit line for Skoda with an international consortium of banks. The German company initially planned to invest 7 billion DM in the Czech Republic over a decade, but observers believe that the amount will now be closer to 4 or 5 billion DM. While Volkswagen and its subsidiaries Audi and Seat (Spain) suffered heavy losses in the first half of 1993, Skoda, the Czech automaker, has produced a moderate profit; its sales were up 15% in the first eight months of 1993. More than 60% of Skoda's shares are still owned by the Czech government, but Volkswagen will become majority owner by 1996. Jan Obrman, RFE/RL, Inc. KOCARNIK ON THE RESULTS OF ECONOMIC REFORM. Czech Finance Minister Ivan Kocarnik informed the parliament on 16 September that the impact of Czechoslovakia's disintegration on the Czech economy was greater than initially anticipated. He said that the recession in Western countries and the beginning of the "massive" privatization that is now in full swing also influenced the Czech economy. The GNP dropped by 0.5%; unemployment decreased to 2.6%; prices increased by 12% (which is mainly due to the introduction of the VAT); the Czech currency was further stabilized in comparison to major Western currencies and its exchange rate remains almost unchanged; the foreign currency reserves have increased sharply this year; and the state budget is balanced. Kocarnik warned, however, that the considerable increase of incomes does not correspond to the increase of productivity. The Czech parliament increased pensions for the second time in 1993. Jan Obrman, RFE/RL, Inc. HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN ROMANIA. The Foreign Ministers of Romania and Hungary, Teodor Melescanu and Geza Jeszenszky, signed on 16 September two agreements on investment protection and the prevention of double taxation; they also agreed to open two new border crossing points this year. Statements by both sides reported on Radio Bucharest, reflected continuing disagreements, however, with Romania insisting on recognition of existing borders and Hungary emphasizing the need for a commitment to observe the rights of ethnic minorities. According to Melescanu, both countries agreed to hold seminars on the subject of ethnic minorities, while Hungarians said that the talks were "useful." Jeszenszky is visiting Transylvania today and tomorrow and returns to Bucharest on Sunday. Vladimir Socor and Alfred Reisch, RFE/RL, Inc. IMF APPROVES LOAN PACKAGE FOR HUNGARY. The International Fund and Hungary signed on 16 September an agreement providing Budapest with a $340 million ready credit, $56.7 million of which will become available this month and the rest in five successive quarterly installments. According to Finance Minister Ivan Szabo, the accord will considerably improve Hungary's position on the international money markets and help obtain additional loans worth $200 million from the World Bank and Japan's Eximbank to help reduce Hungary's $23 billion foreign debt. To obtain the loan, Hungary agreed to keep its 1994 budget deficit under 250 billion forint or 5.3% of the country's Gross Domestic Product, compared to 7% last year, MTI reports. Alfred Reisch, RFE/RL, Inc. POLISH PAPER PUBLISHES FINAL POLL, DESPITE BAN. In defiance of a legal ban, the daily Super Express published the results of a final public opinion poll on voter preferences on 17 September. The election law forbids the publication of polling results fewer than twelve days before the elections. Grzegorz Lindenberg, the paper's editor-in-chief, told reporters that the poll, conducted by Demoskop, suggests that six parties will clear the threshold and win seats in the Sejm: the Polish Peasant Party, the Democratic Left Alliance, the Democratic Union (UD), the Union of Labor, Solidarity, and the Confederation for an Independent Poland. If accurate, this would mean that only one party--the UD--would stand for continuity in economic policy. Lindenberg argued that the publication ban is a violation of freedom of speech and the public's right to full information. All election campaigning and advertising is to end by law at midnight on 17 September. Louisa Vinton, RFE/RL, Inc. WALESA CHOREOGRAPHS RUSSIAN TROOP EXIT. The withdrawal of Russian troops from Polish soil will conclude officially on 18 September, PAP reports. Ceremonies to mark the occasion are scheduled for 17 September--the 54th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939. Russian President Boris Yeltsin had pledged during his recent visit to Poland to complete the withdrawal by 1 October, but the scheduling appears to have been revised with the parliamentary elections in mind. In fact, Gazeta Wyborcza reported on 15 September that President Lech Walesa had arranged with Russian officials to receive notice of the withdrawal's completion personally from Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev during a ceremony at Belweder. Grachev called off the visit, however, citing a kidney ailment. Polish and Russian military negotiators signed two pacts on 16 September signaling the conclusion of the Russian military presence. No agreement was reached, however, on the status of the Russian military mission that is to oversee the troop withdrawal from Germany. Russian forces chief General Leonid Kovalev told reporters his troops are leaving with the sense of a mission fulfilled, having "liberated" Poland and guarded its security for fifty years. Also scheduled for 17 September is the state funeral of General Wladyslaw Sikorski, Poland's wartime commander in chief, who died in a mysterious plane crash at Gibraltar in 1943. Sikorski will be buried at Cracow's Wawel castle; his body was returned from England earlier in the week. Some politicians have turned down invitations to take part in the funeral, on the grounds that Walesa has politicized it. Louisa Vinton, RFE/RL, Inc. SUCHOCKA SUMS UP GOVERNMENT'S WORK. At a final preelection press conference on 16 September, Polish Prime Minister Hanna Suchocka presented an initial balance of her fourteen months in office but steered away from questions related to the upcoming elections. Poland is the first country in the region to emerge from recession, she noted, and is likely to post the highest rate of economic growth in all of Europe this year. On the other hand, unemployment is high, some industrial branches are in crisis, and many people yearn for the security of the old system. She suggested, however, that there is no turning back. Suchocka praised the six-party coalition for loyalty and said the cabinet had been able to reach collective decisions to the end. She nonetheless had words of criticism for both the internal affairs and justice ministers. The "timing and manner" of the firing of Gdansk security chief Adam Hodysz were improper, she said, admitting that they appeared to reflect "political infighting." Hodysz, an undercover ally of Solidarity in the communist secret police, was dismissed on 3 September at the instigation of President Lech Walesa. Suchocka also indicated disapproval at Justice Minister Jan Piatkowski's announcement that Poland was opening its own "sovereign" investigation into the Katyn massacre. Piatkowski did not inform the rest of the government before taking this step. Louisa Vinton, RFE/RL, Inc. POLISH GROWTH TO REACH 4.5% IN 1993? Central planning chief Jerzy Kropiwnicki told a press conference on 16 September that Poland's GDP could grow by as much as 4.5% in 1993, PAP reports. Industrial production was 7.8% higher than in the analogous eight-month period of 1992; labor productivity was up by 11%; the financial health of enterprises continued to improve; and the situation in agriculture was less gloomy than earlier thought, despite the effects of the 1992 drought. Kropiwnicki's major worry was Poland's negative trade balance, which grew to over $1.4 billion in August. Louisa Vinton, RFE/RL, Inc. INSURRECTION OF LITHUANIAN VOLUNTEER UNIT. On 16 September Prime Minister Adolfas Slezevicius told a news conference that about 140 members of the Volunteer Home Guard Service in Kaunas had withdrawn to the forests with their weapons, Radio Lithuania reports. The action appears to have been prompted by fears that the government was planning to dissolve the service. The parliament formed a special commission to deal with the situation. Leaders of the major 8 political parties issued a statement expressing their disapproval of the action and calling on the insurrectionists and the authorities to settle the matter peacefully. Saulius Girnius, RFE/RL, Inc. SHUSHKEVICH ON ECONOMIC CRISIS. At the 15 September session of the Supreme Soviet, the chairman, Stanislau Shushkevich, stated that Belarus was in such a deep economic crisis that nothing could help the country, Belarusian television reported. The main problems were the republic's finances. Production has fallen by 15% from last year, and the country's finances are completely dependent on the price of Russian energy. Shushkevich also admitted that the Supreme Soviet had no control over government agencies. Ustina Markus, RFE/RL, Inc. KUCHMA ON ECONOMIC UNION. Ukrainian Prime Minister Leonid Kuchma is quoted as telling Ukrainian television viewers that Ukrainian-Russian ties are so interwoven that an economic union between the two countries is the only way out of the economic crisis, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 September. How to prevent such a union from impinging negatively on Ukrainian independence, he argued, is a task for the politicians. Every treaty and every union, said Kuchma, to some degree restricts one's rights, and the Ukrainian parliament must find an "optimal solution," that is, one that does not infringe upon Ukraine's state interests. Roman Solchanyk, RFE/RL, Inc. [As of 1200 CET]Compiled by Keith Bush and Jan B. de Weydenthal RFE/RL Daily Report
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