|The business of art lies just in this--to make that understood and felt which, in the form of an argument, might be incomprehensible and inaccessible. - Leo Tolstoy|
No. 245, 23 December 1993
RUSSIA YELTSIN'S PRESS CONFERENCE. President Boris Yeltsin said at a press conference on 22-December, carried live on Russian TV, that he interprets the results of the parliamentary elections as a sign that the people, no matter for which political leaders they voted, want Russia to have a strong, powerful government which would establish law and order in the country, ITAR-TASS reported. He stated that he interprets the vote in favor of the constitution as a new mandate for him to strengthen his powers. Yeltsin criticized the democrats for their splits and personal ambitions, and expressed the hope that radicals and populists would tone down their slogans and promises given during the electoral campaign. He said that no early presidential elections would be held and he would serve until his term expires in June 1996. Yeltsin also announced his intention to create a presidential party. -Alexander Rahr YELTSIN ON ZHIRINOVSKY. While Yeltsin did not attack Vladimir Zhirinovsky by name in his statement presented at the press conference, he did note that during the electoral campaign "wide use was made of demagoguery, the preaching of primitive nationalism, outright lies and even dangerous provocations. Unfortunately, a substantial part of the electorate is still too trusting in regard to reckless promises." In response to a question from Radio Mayak, however, Yeltsin observed that, "You see, we have heard Zhirinovsky's words so far, what he has said during the election campaign. Let us wait for his and his party's deeds, their deeds in parliament, and only after that will we draw conclusions on how to cooperate with him. If he starts a constructive dialogue and works for the benefit of the country and the people who has elected him, then naturally we will cooperate and interact." Yeltsin also noted that he, not Zhirinovsky, would determine Russian foreign policy. -John Lepingwell GOVERNMENT TO SHRINK. Both the number of ministerial portfolios and the number of government bureaucrats are to be significantly reduced, according to Yeltsin's press conference remarks. No specifics were given, but Yeltsin said that Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin would be drawing up proposals for the reorganization with a week to 10 days. -John Lepingwell SECURITY MINISTRY DENOUNCED. Referring to his decree dissolving the Ministry of Security and creating a new security service, Yeltsin denounced the old ministry, calling it the "last bulwark of the former Soviet totalitarian system," and insisted that it was to be "disbanded, not reorganized." He implied that only its counterintelligence functions would remain. -John Lepingwell GAIDAR STAYING? ASKED TO COMMENT ON A POSSIBLE CHANGE IN THE PACE AND DIRECTION OF REFORMS, AND WHETHER EGOR GAIDAR WOULD REMAIN IN HIS POSITION, YELTSIN RESPONDED, "GAIDAR STAYS. So does the policy which he is pursuing." Nevertheless, other comments made during the press conference suggested that there could be a slowing of the pace of reforms. -John Lepingwell YELTSIN ON MILITARY VOTE. In response to a question at his press conference, Yeltsin noted that "one third" of the military had voted in favor of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and that "We are worried about this and appropriate measures have been taken." His statement is puzzling, for most reports indicate that military personnel voted at polling stations together with civilians, so that there is no way of getting a vote count for the military as a whole. Nevertheless, the Ministry of Defense has claimed that 95% of the military voted, and that 75% of them supported the constitution. How these figures were derived is thus a mystery. Furthermore, in the 21-December edition of Sovetskaya Rossiya, an article cites statistics published in Moscow Times claiming that the Strategic Rocket Forces voted 72% for the LDP, while in the Moscow military district the LDP carried 46% of the military vote, with even higher proportions in the key Taman and Kantemir Guards divisions. Again, however, the origin and veracity of these figures is doubtful. -John Lepingwell SHUMEIKO SAYS NEW MEDIA BODIES PROPOSED. Russian First Deputy Prime Minister and acting Information Minister Vladimir Shumeiko said President Yeltsin was currently considering signing decrees stipulating the creation of three new bodies to supervise the Russian media. Shumeiko told ITARTASS on 22-December that draft decrees submitted to Yeltsin envisage the creation of a mass media department at the office of the president, a federal radio and television service, and a press committee that would replace both the Information Ministry and the Federal Information Center. Shumeiko said that Aleksandr Yakovlev, who was recently appointed to head the Ostankino TV company, had been nominated to head the radio and television service, whereas Boris Mironov, director of the "Rossiya" publishing house, had been nominated to head the press committee. The proposal to create the committees follows the president's criticism of the performance of the media during the election campaign. -Vera Tolz SHUMEIKO HOPES TO BECOME SPEAKER OF COUNCIL OF FEDERATION. Shumeiko said at a press conference on 22 December that he would like to become the chairman of the upper parliamentary chamber, the Council of the Federation, if President Boris Yeltsin supports his candidacy, ITAR-TASS reported. Shumeiko stated that 67% of the newly elected deputies to the Council of the Federation are local politicians who already have real power and that 20% of the other deputies are professionals directly involved in industry and production. He said that the time of "pioneers" in conducting reform has passed and that the new government should be not a coalition cabinet, but rather should consist only of professionals. -Alexander Rahr ZHIRINOVSKY SPEAKS OF RUSSIAN SECRET WEAPON. Russian ultra-nationalist leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky was quoted by Western agencies as saying at a news conference on 22-December in Reichenfals (Austria) that Russia possesses secret weapons which are far more dangerous than nuclear war heads. There is no evidence to support Zhirinovsky's odd claim, nor is it clear why even more destructive weapons might be needed. Zhirinovsky also said that "certain Western circles" wanted to provoke civil war in Russia. He added that if there was a civil war in Russia, its chemical and nuclear weapons could get out of central control. Zhirinovsky is staying in Austria with a former Waffen-SS officer, and is apparently to meet with representatives of Austrian and German right-wing organizations. The same day, Zhirinovsky canceled a live interview with the German RTL private TV station. No reason was given for the cancellation. -Vera Tolz RUSSIAN OFFICER SENTENCED FOR ESPIONAGE. An officer of the GRU (Main Intelligence Directorate) of the Russian military has been convicted of treason and sentenced to six years of hard labor for spying on behalf of the US, Reuters reported on 20 December. Vyacheslav Baranov, apparently started working for the US in the late 1980s. According to Reuters the sentence cannot be appealed. -John Lepingwell IMF DEFENDS ITS POLICIES. The IMF has come under increased pressure to ease its conditions for approving credit to Russia in the wake of the success of the extreme right in elections there and recent criticism of Fund policies by high-level US government officials. However, Ernesto Hernandez-Cata, a Fund deputy director, has asserted that the IMF was not considering a change in its conditions, Western news agencies reported on 22 December. "We will move as rapidly as we can, but if it means signing off on a bad program that will make things worse, that we will not do," he said. Hernandez-Cata also defended Fund policy against accusations that it paid little attention to social needs citing its past and continuing advise to the Russian government on improving its social safety net. -Erik Whitlock JAPAN TO ASSIST WITH RADIOACTIVE WASTE? WESTERN PRESS AGENCIES AND INTERFAX REPORTED ON 22-DECEMBER THAT THE JAPANESE GOVERNMENT HAS OFFERED TO PROVIDE RUSSIA WITH AN ADDITIONAL TANKER IN WHICH TO STORE LIQUID RADIOACTIVE WASTE SO THAT IT WILL NOT BE DUMPED IN THE SEA OF JAPAN. The move is apparently an interim one until a more permanent solution can be found. Russian reports have indicated that the Ministry of Defense is running out of storage space and wants to resume dumping in order to free space for new waste. -John Lepingwell CIS CIS DEFENSE MINISTERS MEET IN ASHGABAT. The CIS defense ministers, meeting in Ashgabat on 22-December, decided to formally transform the CIS Joint Military Command into the CIS Joint Staff Committee, according to Interfax and Reuters. The new body will be smaller and will execute coordinating tasks assigned to it by the Council of CIS Defense Ministers. The new body, which was informally created in June 1993, will continue to be headed by Colonel General Viktor Samsonov. -John Lepingwell DIVISION IN UKRAINE OVER COOPERATION WITH CIS MILITARY BODIES. According to ITAR-TASS of 22 December, the new Ukrainian Minister of Defense, Vitalii Radetsky, told the heads of CIS defense ministries that Ukraine is now prepared to contribute to the work of the Council of Defense Ministers, and plans to have permanent representatives at the headquarters of the CIS joint forces. According to the report, Radetsky said that Ukraine is now interested in promoting close cooperation with other CIS states and is ready to conduct a constructive dialogue with the Russian defense ministry and other CIS states to resolve the issues of the Black Sea Fleet and nuclear armaments. This would mean a revision of Ukraine's attitude towards CIS military bodies and the statement was criticized by a number of Ukrainian deputies. Interfax reported on 22 December that Radetsky's comments came as a surprise to Ukrainian parliamentarians. Serhii Semenets, a member of the Ukrainian parliament's defense and security commission, said Radetsky's statements reflected only the defense minister's own opinion , and that the minister did not "dictate Ukraine's military policy." The deputy chairman of the commission, Oleksandr Tarasenko, noted that Radetsky had not intended to make any statements before leaving for the Ashgabat meeting. -Ustina Markus CIS REPRESENTATIVES TO MEET. Full members and nations holding observer status in the Commonwealth of Independent States will be meeting in Ashgabat on 24 December to discuss and sign agreements on a number of economic and political issues. Among the items on the agenda, Interfax of 22 December reports, are the application of various articles of the treaty on Economic Union (signed in September) before its ratification by the signatories' national parliaments, agreements on transnational investments and joint investment projects, coordination of anti-monopoly policy, a treaty on minority rights, cooperation and confidence-building measures in intra-CIS relations, and various issues related to the operation of CIS multilateral agencies. -Erik Whitlock PYANKOV: NO NEED FOR REINFORCEMENTS. Russian General Boris Pyankov, commander of CIS peacekeeping forces in Tajikistan, said on 22 December that further reinforcements for that operation were not needed. At the same time, Pyankov said that earlier CIS resolutions on Tajikistan have yet to be implemented, including the dispatch of peacekeeping contingents from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. In addition, the question of funding Russia's contingents there has yet to be resolved. There has been discussion of putting Russia's troops in Tajikistan under the control of the UN or CSCE, but the United States raised questions about Russia's ability to remain neutral as a peacekeeping force, Pyankov said. In addition, the fact that Russia's peacekeeping contingents are also guarding Tajikistan's border also raises obstacles to putting the force under control of the CSCE or UN, Interfax reported. -Suzanne Crow STRATEGIC MISSILES WITHDRAWN FROM BELARUS. The Belarusian defense ministry said on 22-December that 27 of its 81 strategic SS-25 missiles have been withdrawn to Russia, AFP reported. These were withdrawn from the Postavi division in the northern part of the republic (this may be the Lida site listed in the START-1 treaty). The remaining 54 missiles are based with two other divisions and must be withdrawn by the end of 1996 in accordance with bilateral agreements between Russia and Belarus. According to an Izvestiya report of November 1992, some of the SS25 missiles being withdrawn from Belarus will be restationed at a base in the Valdai region of Russia, rather than dismantled -Ustina Markus RUSSIA TO PROPOSE LEASE FOR BAIKONUR. Interfax reported on 22 December that a Russian delegation is to travel to Almaty to propose a long-term Russian lease for the Baikonur space launch center. The delegation will be headed by Yurii Koptev, General Director of the Russian Space Agency, who will be presenting for discussion a draft agreement and memorandum approved by the Russian government. While the center has remained operational since the collapse of the USSR, conditions there are deteriorating and tensions over its disposition are growing. One difficulty has been that Russia wants to continue military launches and space support operations there, whereas Kazakhstan's constitution forbids the stationing of foreign troops on its territory. -John Lepingwell CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE SOCIALIST PARTY OF SERBIA FALLS JUST SHORT OF MAJORITY. According to official election results announced by election commission officials on 22-December, the ruling Socialist Party of Serbia fell just short of a parliamentary majority in elections held on 19-December. On 22 December Politika reports that the SPS has won 123 seats in the Serbian parliament, while the main opposition coalition Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DEPOS) has garnered 45 seats. The Serbian Radical Party, led by the ultra-nationalist Vojislav Seselj, has won 39 seats, while the Democratic Party, led by Zoran Djindjic, has received 29-seats. According to Reuters, voting irregularities will force new elections, to be held as early as next week, at about 50-polling stations. The new voting is not likely to change the seat distribution in parliament, since the total number of ballots affected represents no more than 0.5% of the total number cast. Disagreements between the various parties may cause haggling and force delays in the formation of a government. At present, it does not seem that the opposition parties will be able to unite to force the Socialists out of power. Politika quotes Djindjic as remarking that "there is no possibility of the opposition forming a government that can function." -Stan Markotich TRUCE REACHED IN BOSNIA, BUT FIGHTING CONTINUES. According to international media, representatives from the three warring factions in Bosnia and European Community foreign ministers emerged from meetings in Brussels on 22 December and reported that a truce in the fighting had been negotiated. AFP notes that the truce is to extend over the Christmas season, and includes a promise from the Bosnian Serb side to refrain from bombing Sarajevo during the holiday period. Nevertheless, the worst fighting in Bosnia in months was reported on the day the truce was reached. According to Reuters, only hours after the truce was negotiated news that 68 people in Bosnia had been killed began circulating. Conference participants do not appear to be close to reaching any agreement on such issues as territories that will be assigned to Bosnia's ethnic Croat, Serb, and Muslim groups. -Stan Markotich BULGARIA TO HAVE TRANSIT RIGHTS THROUGH SERBIA. According to Reuters on 22-December, Marin Todorov, an official with Bulgaria's sanctions commission, has stated that the UN will permit 15 Bulgarian trucks per day to pass through Serbian territory. The trucks will be transporting mainly agricultural and medical products, and will be heading for destinations in Western Europe. The first trucks to pass through Serbia should travel sometime in January 1994. Rump Yugoslavia is under UN sanctions for its role in fomenting the war in Bosnia. Bulgaria has pledged to continue to honor the UN embargo when trucks begin their passage through Serbia; all vehicles will be monitored while on rump Yugoslav territory. -Stan Markotich BOROSS ENDORSES CONTINUITY AND STABILITY. Hungary's new Prime Minister Peter Boross told an international press conference on 22 December that "continuity, stability, and progress" were the key words which best characterized his political views and intentions as the head of government, MTI reports. Boross denied charges by the opposition that he stood to the right of Jozsef Antall, stressing that "I have always stood behind Antall." According to MTI, Boross characterized himself as a "predictable, thoughtful, and tranquil" person who represents Hungarian interests in a resolute way and dislikes hesitation. Turning to foreign policy issues, Boross stated that it was in Hungary's basic interest to be admitted to NATO as soon as possible and warned that a security vacuum in the middle of Europe was against the interests of all countries in the region. -Edith Oltay CZECH GOVERNMENT APPROVES RAISE OF PENSIONS. The Czech government approved an increase in the basic pension payment and some other social allowances, CTK reports on 22 December. Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus said in an interview that pensions will be increased by 10% beginning in February 1994. The measures have to be adopted by the Czech parliament first, however. -Jan Obrman SLOVAK PARLIAMENT PASSES 1994 BUDGET. On 22 December the parliament unexpectedly passed the state budget. Out of 147 votes, 77 voted in favor, 37-voted against, and 33 abstained, TASR reports. The ruling coalition, made up of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia and the Slovak National Party, had approved the budget proposal on 2 December, but since then many had speculated that some SNP deputies would not support the proposal. Before the budget law was passed, the deputies adopted 37 of 117 proposed amendments. Following the final vote, the Party of the Democratic Left Chairman Peter Weiss said he had mistakenly pressed the "yes" button and that this could not be corrected later. He apologized to his party and to the public and said he was willing to step down as chairman. Ladislav Pittner of the Christian Democratic Movement also said it was only by "an unfortunate accident" that he had pushed the "yes" button. Besides Weiss and Pittner, the other budget supporters, according to PDL member Milan Ftacnik, included 64 deputies from the MDS, 9 from the SNP, and 2 independent deputies. Premier Vladimir Meciar said the passing of the budget sends "a signal of domestic stability" to the outside world and opens doors for immediate talks with international financial institutions. He expects negotiations involving loans worth $200 million during the last week of December. -Sharon Fisher SLOVAKIA, SLOVENIA SIGN FREE TRADE AGREEMENT. On 22 December Slovak Economy Minister Jan Ducky and Davorin Kracun, Slovene deputy premier and minister for economic relations and development, signed a free trade agreement in Bratislava. The agreement will mean the gradual removal of import tariffs during the next two years. Duties will fall by 50% in the first year of the agreement's validity, by 25% in the second year and will reach zero in the third year. Of industrial products, the only exception to the reductions is automobiles; here the removal of duties will be extended to six years. Ducky told TASR that the agreement creates conditions for Slovak businessmen to establish themselves in the Slovenian market. It should also increase the two countries' trade turnover, which was 1.3 billion koruny during the first nine months of 1993. -Sharon Fisher BATTLE OVER POLISH BUDGET BEGINS. The Polish cabinet convened on 22 December to conclude work on the draft budget for 1994. The finance ministry has proposed a budget deficit of 83 trillion zloty ($3.9 billion), or 4.1% of GDP. Various "needy" ministries-health, defense, labor, agriculture, internal affairs, and justice-have demanded funds well in excess of this target. Gazeta Wyborcza reports that these ministers spent the cabinet session attempting to persuade Finance Minister Marek Borowski that a larger deficit will not mean higher inflation. Borowski told reporters earlier, however, that "if the ministers raise next year's deficit, I will consider it a no-confidence vote." Borowski stressed the dramatic state of public finances. Domestic debt financing alone consumed 12% of the budget in 1993; another 24.7% had to be spent to cover shortfalls in the pension, social insurance, and unemployment funds. For this reason, despite expected economic growth of 4.5% in 1994, Borowski has proposed merely to maintain spending at the same level, in real terms, as 1993. National Bank chief Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz told Polish TV on 22-December that she is standing by her earlier refusal to fund any more than 30 trillion zloty of the deficit, to prevent inflation from rising beyond the target of 23% for the calendar year (or 27% on average). The cabinet is expected to complete the draft on 24 December; the deadline for submission to the Sejm is 29-December. -Louisa Vinton ROMANIAN CURRENCY PLUNGES AGAINST DOLLAR. Romania's National Bank reported on 22 December a record low exchange rate for the national currency, the leu, at 1,304 lei to the dollar, a plunge of nearly 19-percent compared to the rate on 21 December. The move does not come as a surprise, since an accelerated depreciation of the leu was expected after the government reached an agreement with the International Monetary Fund in early December to further liberalize the exchange rate system. -Michael Shafir POLL SHOWS LEFT-NATIONAL PARTIES STILL IN THE LEAD. According to the Romanian Institute for Public Opinion Survey (IRSOP), the left-nationalist parties would still garner the highest percentage of votes if elections were to be held now. The results of the survey were reported by Radio Bucharest and Reuters on 22 December. Some 47% would vote for the Left-Nationalist parties, while 44% would favor the opposition. Nonetheless, the popularity of the present leadership is declining. Some 68% said they were "dissatisfied" or "very dissatisfied" with Prime Minister Nicolae Vacaroiu and 54% judged negatively the performance of President Ion Iliescu. 75% of the respondents favored a rapid liberalization of the currency exchange system and 74% backed fast privatization. 68% said they supported closing down unprofitable factories, but in what seems to be a constant contradiction in survey returns since they were reintroduced after the ouster of the former regime, 82% said at the same time that they were opposed to increased unemployment. -Michael Shafir LITTLE CONFIDENCE IN BALTIC PREMIERS. The results of opinion polls taken in the Baltic States in November showed a low level of trust in the republics' prime ministers, BNS reported on 22 December. According to the poll, 39% of Lithuanian citizens expressed trust in Adolfas Slezevicius while 40% did not trust him. The corresponding figures for Estonian Premier Mart Laar were 34% and 52%, and 27% and 43% for his Latvian counterpart Valdis Birkavs. -Saulius Girnius REGISTRATION OF LATVIA'S RESIDENTS. Ints Zitars, the head of Latvia's Citizenship and Immigration Department, said that as of 26 November 1,720,302 people had been registered as Latvian citizens and 690,461 as noncitizens, Baltfax reported on 22 December. According to unofficial information, 165,237 residents had not yet registered. 71.9% of the registered people are citizens and their share would decline to 67.3% if all those not registered were noncitizens. Zitars also noted that as of 8 December 1,377,294 ethnic Latvians, 722,501 Russians, 103,305 Belarusians, 63,782 Ukrainians, 62,403 Poles, and 14,714 Jews lived in Latvia. -Saulius Girnius LITHUANIA'S FOREIGN POLICY. On 22 December the discussion in the parliament (Seimas) on foreign policy was broadcast live by Radio Lithuania. President Algirdas Brazauskas noted three priorities: 1.-increasing cooperation between the Baltic States and the Nordic Council members, 2. closer integration into the economic, political, cultural, and defense structures of Europe, and 3. normal relations with neighboring states. He said there was no tension in Lithuanian-Russian relations and suggested that foreign experts be invited to work out draft agreements with Russia on military transit through Lithuania to and from Kaliningrad which he hoped would be demilitarized. Foreign Minister Povilas Gylys said that Lithuania should have the same international status as the Visegrad Group countries. He declared as unacceptable Russia's attempts to gain a mandate for peacekeeping in former Soviet republics that Russian officials call the "near abroad." Lithuania, Gylys stressed, had never legally been part of the USSR. -Saulius Girnius NUCLEAR SMUGGLERS ARRESTED IN UKRAINE. Ukrainian Radio reported on 22-December that authorities have arrested six people involved in a plot to smuggle a "highly radioactive material" from the country. Sixty sealed glass ampules, together with 100-kilograms of mercury and weapons had apparently been seized in an operation involving an elite anti-terrorist unit from Odessa and Interior Ministry officials. -Bohdan Nahaylo NOTICE: The RFE/RL Daily Report will not appear Friday, 24 December. Happy Holidays! [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by John Lepingwell and Edith Oltay 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). 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 North America: Mr. Brian Reed, RFE/RL, Inc., 1201 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, DC-20036 Telephone: (202) 457-6912 or -6907; Fax: (202) 457-6992 or 828-8783; Internet: RIDC@RFERL.ORG or Elsewhere: Ms. Helga Hofer, Publications Department, RFE/RL Research Institute, Oettingenstrasse 67, 80538 Munich, Germany;.Telephone: (+49 89) 2102-2631 or -2624; Fax: (+49 89) 2102-2648, Internet: PD@RFERL.ORG 1993, RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved.RFE/RL Daily Report
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