|The burnt child shuns the fire until the next day. - Mark Twain|
No. 11, 18 January 1994
RUSSIA YELTSIN ACCEPTS GAIDAR'S RESIGNATION. On 17 January, President Boris Yeltsin formally accepted First Deputy Prime Minister Egor Gaidar's resignation from the Russian government. ITAR-TASS quoted the president as saying that although he had accepted the resignation, he wanted nevertheless to stress the president's and the government's commitment to the course of market-oriented reforms in the economy and democratic reforms in the political sphere. Whereas the majority of members of the Russia's Choice parliamentary bloc, led by Gaidar, said his departure means a slowdown of reforms, at least two members of the bloc, Anatolii Shabad and Georgii Satarov, supported Yeltsin's acceptance of Gaidar's resignation. They said that if Gaidar had continued as First Deputy Prime Minister Yeltsin would have found it almost impossible to reach any agreement with the parliament on the course of reform. "The separation between Gaidar and Yeltsin could be better for the reform cause," Satarov told journalists, stressing that Gaidar has been an easy target for those who feel disenfranchised by the vast changes in Russia. Vera Tolz RUSSIA'S CHOICE ON GAIDAR'S RESIGNATION. In a statement issued on 17 January, the Russia's Choice faction in the State Duma said that the resignation from government of Russia's Choice members Egor Gaidar and Ella Pamfilova was inevitable, Interfax reported. The statement said that the government was abandoning its policy of reforms and stabilization, despite assurances to the contrary, and was taking decisions without consultation with the reformist wing. Russia's Choice had no plans to form an opposition group to the government and would continue to work for reform from within the parliament. In an interview with Interfax, Mikhail Poltoranin, a member of the parliamentary faction, said that Gaidar and other reformers should not have to act as cover for "the degradation of the economy." Wendy Slater FEDOROV CONSIDERS RESIGNATION. Finance Minister Boris Fedorov has announced that he will remain in the government only if Central Bank chairman Viktor Gerashchenko and Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Zaveryukha leave office, various Western and Russian news agencies reported on 17 January. Fedorov has criticized the two officials on numerous occasions in the past for what he considers their efforts to undermine macroeconomic stabilization through authorizing excessive credits and subsidies to industry and agriculture. Fedorov's resignation would follow that of Gaidar on 16 January. Grigorii Yavlinsky, leader of the YABLOKO faction and a potential candidate for Gaidar's slot, has publicly expressed his hope that Fedorov would stay on. Erik Whitlock LDP FAILS TO WIN TOP POSTS. Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party failed to win the chairmanships of three key committees of the lower house of parliament, the State Duma. Zhirinovsky had said he wanted to chair the Committee on Foreign Affairs, but that post went to Vladimir Lukin, who held the same post in the Supreme Soviet and who says he intends to leave his present post of ambassador to the USA. Viktor Ilyukhin of the Communist Party was elected to chair the Security Committee and Sergei Yushenkov of the reformist Russia's Choice will chair the Defense Committee. The LDP, which is the third largest group in parliament, secured the chairmanships of five committees considered to be less sensitive--labor and social welfare, ecology, industry, agriculture, and natural resources. In addition, the Duma agreed to create a new Committee on Geopolitics; Interfax quoted parliamentarian Arkadii Murashev as saying that the committee, which Zhirinovsky will chair, was set up so that Zhirinovsky would not claim the Foreign Affairs chairmanship. The LDP has, as a result, the largest number of committees. Finally, the LDP's deputy chairman, Aleksandr Vengerovsky, was on 17 January elected deputy speaker of the Duma, Interfax and Reuters reported. Elizabeth Teague. GORBACHEV REBUFFS SOBCHAK ON CREATION OF ZHIRINOVSKY'S PARTY. In a 13 January Izvestiya interview, former USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev categorically denied allegations that the Politburo was involved in the creation of Zhirinovsky's Liberal- Democratic Party in 1990 as part of a plan to set up "democratic" front organizations. Gorbachev said that St. Petersburg's mayor Anatolii Sobchak, who made the accusations last week, had been misled by disinformation. Gorbachev stated that former Politburo's members Aleksandr Yakovlev and Nikolai Ryzhkov could confirm his version of events. Gorbachev said that he could not comment on Zhirinovsky's alleged KGB connections. He also opined that it was the pro-Yeltsin "Russia's Choice" which had actually, and unwittingly, contributed to Zhirinovsky's political prominence. "Russia's Choice" had miscalculated both its own popularity and the strength of Zhirinovsky, Gorbachev concluded. Victor Yasmann KUZBASS AND ALTAI PULL OUT OF "SIBERIAN AGREEMENT." Officials in Western Siberia's Kemerovo Oblast are preparing to remove their region from "Siberian Agreement," Izvestiya and Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on 14 January. Officials in Altai Krai had made a similar announcement the day before. Administrators in both regions complained that "Siberian Agreement," originally set up as an economic organization, had become overly politicized. During Yeltsin's stand-off with the Supreme Soviet last fall, radical leaders of the Novosibirsk-based association sided with parliament and threatened to set up a Siberian Republic and to blockade the Trans-Siberian railway. Elizabeth Teague KARELIAN DEPUTIES WANT TO STAY FULL TERM. Deputies of the Karelian Supreme Soviet voted on 13 January to include on the agenda of the routine session of parliament that opened that day the question of how long the present deputies should retain their powers, ITAR-TASS reported. A number said that their mandates should run their full term, that is until March 1995, and called for a review of the resolution they adopted two months ago that fixed elections to a new legislative assembly for 17 April 1994. They argued that they had been forced to adopt this resolution under pressure from Moscow. Under the impact of the storming of the Russian parliament most of the republican parliaments fell in with Yeltsin's "recommendation" in fall 1993 that they reorganize themselves and call early elections. Evidently the shock is now wearing off. Ann Sheehy GALAZOV ELECTED PRESIDENT OF NORTH OSSETIA. Akhsarbek Galazov, hitherto chairman of the North Ossetian Supreme Soviet, was elected to the new post of president of North Ossetia on 16 January with over 66 percent of the votes cast, the Russian media reported on 17 January. Originally there were seven candidates for the presidency, but by polling day Galazov was opposed only by Prime Minister Sergei Khetagurov, who resigned his post on 17 January on the grounds that the president is head of the executive power in North Ossetia and there cannot be two heads of the executive. Ingush president Ruslan Aushev sent telegrams to Yeltsin and the chairmen of the two chambers of the Russian Federal Assembly on 17 January saying that the election could not be regarded as valid because the thousands of Ingush forced to flee their homes in the Prigorodnyi raion on North Ossetia more than a year ago had been unable to take part, Interfax reported. Ann Sheehy STRIKE WAVE THREATENED. Russian trade unions are predicting a strike wave in the coming weeks. Some coalminers in Vorkuta, in the far northern Komi Republic, are already on strike in demand of unpaid wages for December, and a union leader told Interfax on 14 January that miners throughout the region are ready to join them. Agricultural workers in Komi have halted milk deliveries to the state since they, too, have not received their wages. Meanwhile, coalminers in Karaganda (Kazakhstan) have also threatened to stage a general strike starting on 1 February, Interfax reported. And the biggest arms producer in southern Siberia, the Sibrpribormash Amalgamation, came to a standstill on 17 January. The plant, which employs thousands of workers, was forced to close when the local power station cut off electricity supplies because the factory had not paid its bills, Reuters reported. Elizabeth Teague TOURISTS TO PAY FEE TO VISIT MOSCOW. ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported on 17 January that tourists from non-CIS countries who want to visit Moscow will soon have to pay a fee of one US dollar, in hard currency, for each day they stay in the Russian capital. Elizabeth Teague KURIL ISLANDS TALKS POSTPONED. Talks between Japan and Russia on resolving the long-standing Kuril Islands territorial dispute, originally scheduled for late January, have been postponed. Quoting Japanese government and news agency sources, Reuter and AFP on 13 January attributed the postponement to political uncertainty and confusion in Russia in the wake of last month's parliamentary elections. The January date had originally been set during Boris Yeltsin's visit to Japan in October of 1993. Stephen Foye SALE OF RUSSIAN SUBS TO NORTH KOREA. Confusion continues to surround reports of a sale of submarines by Russia to North Korea. On 12 January reports first surfaced that Russia would sell four Foxtrot class diesel submarines from its Pacific Fleet to North Korea; the subs would be cut up for scrap. Since then, however, conflicting stories have appeared in the Russian, Japanese, and South Korean press concerning the actual size of the sale, the type of submarines involved, and their intended final use. On 15 January, for example, Interfax quoted the Russian Navy's press office as denying Japanese press reports that suggested that North Korea had purchased four Foxtrot class diesel submarines that would be refit for use by the North Korean Navy; the press office said that Russia had in fact sold twelve such subs to a Japanese firm which would scrap them in North Korea. Meanwhile, South Korea's YONHAP, also using a Japanese source, on 18 January quoted a Russian Pacific Fleet representative as saying that Russia would sell ten Golf II subs to North Korea. The report was unclear over whether the subs were to be scrapped. Izvestiya of the same day repeated the contention that only four Foxtrot subs had been sold to North Korea, and that all would be used for scrap. Stephen Foye MINISTRY OF DEFENSE CAN'T PAY. The Ministry of Defense has announced that its 1994 procurement order cannot be filled because of lack of funding, according to ITAR-TASS reported on 17 January. Despite the fact that the president and government have officially committed themselves to paying off the state's backlog of overdue payments to the defense industry, sufficient funds have not yet been allocated. Some 70% of the industry's production lines have reportedly been made idle as a result. Erik Whitlock RUSSIAN SHIP-BUILDING TO CONTINUE. Russian First Deputy Defense Minister Andrei Kokoshin was quoted by Interfax on 17 January as saying that Russia does not intend to abandon its naval presence on the world's oceans and that, despite financial difficulties, ship-building in Russia would continue, albeit at a slower pace. Kokoshin, who said that Russian naval doctrine is still being worked out, singled out the start of construction of a new multi-purpose nuclear submarine and said that several large vessels, including the Kirov-class battle cruiser Petr Velikii, would become operational in 1994. He said that the Sevmash construction works in the northern city of Severodvinsk would receive priority funding in the ship-building program. Stephen Foye CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE HAS IZETBEGOVIC OPTED FOR PROTRACTED WAR? The latest round in the Geneva peace talks on Bosnia opens on 18 January amid expressions of pessimism by the mediators, international media report. Bosnian Vice President Ejup Ganic, moreover, has already called the discussions "a lie," and Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic has told his people to get ready for "a long, bloody war." Politika quotes him as saying that "nothing will be the same after Geneva." Borba, for its part, notes that the Muslims have rejected the comprehensive package deal the Croats offered them last week, on the grounds that Zagreb's representing the self-styled Croatian Republic of Herceg-Bosna is incompatible with the sovereignty and territorial unity of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Croats, in turn, have rejected the Muslim counter-proposals as a ploy behind which the Muslims can continue to fight, Vecernji list adds. In fact, Borba on 17 January and some Western observers have noted that the Muslims, long the military underdogs in the conflict, have recently sent the Croats reeling in central Bosnia and are now saying they intend to retake Muslim-majority areas lost to the Serbs. President Alija Izetbegovic, according to this line of thought, has given up on the Geneva talks or any other negotiated settlement, as well as on the possibility of Western intervention, and is now determined to win on the battlefield. Patrick Moore LOCAL SERBIAN RADIO STATION BANNED. According to a decision of the district parliament of Gnjiljan, from 10 January the further work of Radio Gnjiljan is suspended because the staff has not complied with certain unspecified conditions the assembly set down on 5 January, Borba reported on 14 January. Program director Predrag Cekic and several other employees have been told to leave their offices under the threat of force. On 5 and 6 January a group of journalists broadcast without the permission of the radio's director, Radomir Ristic. Borba alleged that the decision to shut the radio down came because of the station's opposition to President Slobodan Milosevic's ruling party, not because of any "illegal program," adding that attempts to close the radio date back to January 1992. Fabian Schmidt STRIKES IN SERBIA. Doctors in the Serbian heartland of Sumadija have been on strike since 9 January, Borba reported on 14 January. The strike committee in Kragujevac made contact with the rump Yugoslav federal government, but has not yet met with ranking representatives of the state. The unions want to talk with federal Prime Minister Nikola Sainovic or his deputy. The doctors feel they cannot back down because "the health care situation in Sumadija is catastrophic since we have not had food and the most basic medicines for month." Elsewhere, the leadership of Serbia's union for the electric industries will discuss the results of December's negotiations on 18 January. The unionists will then decide about whether a general strike should begin then. Fabian Schmidt CROATS STAKE PARTIAL CLAIM TO SLOVENIAN NUCLEAR POWER PLANT. Following the decision of the Slovenian economics ministry not to continue supplying power from the Krsko nuclear power plant to Croatia, the Croatian government claimed property rights to the plant. Slovenian authorities decided to cut the supply because Croatia did not pay its debts of DM 41 million, Politika reported on 14 January. Meanwhile, Croatia has repaid DM 30 million and acknowledged the remaining DM 11 million debt. But Minister for the Economy Nadan Vidosevic refuses to pay back that DM 11 million "as long as Croatia does not get the property rights to half of the power plant, which is worth about $1 billion ." The Krsko plant is located in Slovenia close to the Croatian border and was partly built with Croatian support. It was the only completed nuclear power facility in the former Yugoslavia. Fabian Schmidt PAPANDREOU SETS CONDITIONS FOR TALKS WITH MACEDONIA. On 17 January Greek Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou declared that he does not intend to open a dialogue with Skopje on the controversial issue of the republic's name and recognition until two conditions are met, Western agencies report. Following a meeting with President Constantine Karamanlis, Papandreou said bilateral talks are unthinkable before Macedonia removes the Vergina star--in Greece regarded as a Hellenic symbol--from its flag, and drops from the constitution a reference to the "caring for" Macedonians outside the republic's borders. He also urged leaders in Skopje to end their "aggressiveness" against Greece. While stressing that Athens has not altered its basic position on the name issue, the Greek premier nevertheless said he hoped negotiations eventually would bring about an acceptable solution. Following the election victory of his Panhellenic Socialist Party last October, Papandreou unilaterally suspended talks with Macedonia initiated by the United Nations, saying that Greece could never recognize a state named Macedonia and that negotiations disregarding that fact are pointless. Kjell Engelbrekt FINAL ELECTION RESULTS IN CRIMEA. The Central Electoral Commission of the Crimean republic released the final results of the presidential election held on 16 January, UNIAN reported. According to the report, pro-Russian candidate Yurii Meshkov, head of the Republican Party of Crimea, won 38.5 percent of the vote. The runner up in the voting was parliamentary speaker Mykola Bahrov, who gained 17.5 percent. Because no candidate received more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff election between Meshkov and Bahrov will be held on 30 January. Another pro-Russian candidate, Sergei Shuvainikov, finished third with 13.6 percent, followed by communist leader Leonid Hrach with 12.2 percent; presidential representative in Sevastopol Ivan Yermakov with 6.2 percent; and businessman Volodymyr Verkoshansky with less than 1 percent. Meshkov, who ran on a platform of Crimean independence and support for a Crimean referendum on the peninsula's state status, is quoted as saying that he will not press for Crimea's separation from Ukraine. Roman Solchanyk CZECH MINISTER OF CULTURE RESIGNS. Czech Minister of Culture Jindrich Kabat has left office, Czech TV reported on 17 January. While government officials said that Kabat resigned for "personal reasons," there have been reports over the past few weeks about major disputes between the ministry and various cultural institutions, such as the National Theater, and within the ministry itself. Virtually all opposition parties welcomed his decision and demanded further resignations. A spokesman for the Christian Democratic Union, Kabat's party, announced that a new candidate for the position will be announced within two days. Jan Obrman DID CZECHS OFFER WEAPONS TO IRAN? According to a report published in the Czech weekly Respekt on 17 January, a Czech business delegation, headed by the General Director of Skoda Plzen Lubomir Soudek, offered arms to Iranian officials during a visit to Teheran last November. Respekt says that it managed to obtain copies of Skoda's documents dealing with the talks. The report said that Iran expressed particular interest in new generation anti-aircraft missiles, in an upgraded version of the T-72 tank, and in a radar system called Tamara, which is allegedly capable of detecting aircraft protected by stealth technology. Earlier negotiations between Skoda Plzen and Iran about the delivery of a nuclear reactor for civilian use caused an international outcry. Jan Obrman COUNCIL OF EUROPE EXPERTS IN BRATISLAVA. On 17 January CE experts began a two-day visit to Slovakia to assist with preparations for the creation of the country's new territorial divisions. Deputy Premier Roman Kovac opened the meeting, saying that the cabinet "supports decentralizing the state administration, strengthening the local administration and establishing regional administrations." The government's 1993 proposal for redrawing the new regional boundaries sparked controversy among ethnic Hungarians, leading to their 8 January gathering in the south Slovak town of Komarno. It is hoped that the CE's presence will help the two sides to reach a mutually agreeable solution. Sharon Fisher EXECUTIVE CHANGES AT THE HUNGARIAN STATE HOLDING INC. Hungarian Radio on 17 January reported that Privatization Minister Tamas Szabo announced that State Property Agency (SPA) chief Lajos Csepi will take over as chairman at the State Holding Inc. (SHI), which is responsible for running and partially privatizing Hungary's state-owned enterprises. The SHI's leading post became vacant after the former chairman, Szabolcs Szekeres, was fired over policy differences with the cabinet. He was the second Hungarian-American in this post asked to leave since June 1993. Szabo said that he wanted to see faster privatization in the energy and banking sectors. Opposition parties and a growing number of government officials advocated the merging of the SPA and the SHI. Csepi's post at the privatization agency was filled by Janos Szabo Hatvani. Karoly Okolicsanyi ABORTION NUMBERS DECLINED IN HUNGARY IN 1993. The Social Welfare Ministry announced that abortions declined by about 20% in 1993 from the 87,065 in 1992, MTI reported on 17 January. A new law making abortions slightly more complicated, taking effect in 1993, was cited as the main reason for the decline. About five percent of the pregnant women wanting abortion in 1993 were persuaded by heath officials not to go ahead. Karoly Okolicsanyi BULGARIAN INTERIOR MINISTER KEEPS JOB, SLAMS POLICE. The Bulgarian government on 17 January refused to accept the resignation of Interior Minister Viktor Mihaylov, tendered the previous day. Government spokesman Raycho Raykov told journalists that all 13 cabinet members taking part in the meeting had voted to keep Mihaylov despite his indirect responsibility for an incident in which six policemen shot three officers of an interior ministry anti-terrorist squad, killing two. Although the minister admitted having dispatched the unit, an official ministry statement put the blame on the "amateur performance" by the six police officers. Mihaylov told a press conference on 17 January that the Bulgarian police corps suffers heavily from corruption and incompetence, saying that "both [phenomena] are equally fearful." Following two previous shoot-outs in Sofia during January, both apparently involving rival private security firms, law enforcement agencies have been under considerable pressure to stem the surge of violence and organized crime. Kjell Engelbrekt POLAND HOLDS HEARINGS ON PRIVATE TV CHANNEL. Poland's National Broadcasting Council on 17 January concluded three days of public hearings on the allocation of the single national TV channel available for private broadcasting. Ten firms have applied for the license, to be granted for from three to ten years; only three applicants are relying on domestic capital alone. The broadcasting council has until May to grant the license but has said it will decide by early February. The contenders are: PolSat, which already broadcasts legally into Poland by satellite from Holland; TV-7, with ties to RTL and Reuter; Top Channel, one of the first "pirate" broadcasters to go on the air in Poland; OTP, a proposal for "family programming" sponsored by the German Bertelsmann concern; Antena 1, staffed by RFE journalists with pledges of financial support from Time-Warner, ABC, and CNN; Antena Polska, a firm based by choice exclusively on Polish capital and tied to the daily Superexpress; Canal Plus, a French-sponsored pay-TV proposal; Polonia 1, set up by the Italian businessman Nicola Grauso; Independent TV Plus, run by former dissident Miroslaw Chojecki; and the Franciscan fathers, who propose a full day of Catholic programming without commercial interruption. Gazeta Wyborcza reports that PolSat and TV-7 are the front-runners. Louisa Vinton RIGA DISTRICT COUNCIL TAKES ISSUE WITH THE COUNCIL OF MINISTERS. Meeting on 17 January, Riga's Vidzeme district council of people's deputies issued appeals to the parliament to consider the legality of some of the decisions of Latvia's Council of Ministers concerning their council Chairman Andrejs Rucs, who issued orders to detain two Russian generals. They also asked the Saeima to examine those decisions of the Council of Ministers that restrict the rights and authority of local councils and local deputies; the Vidzeme district council believes them to be unconstitutional. Thus, the meeting of the Vidzeme district council did not fulfill the expectations of government of Prime Minister Valdis Birkavs which had hoped that a new chairman to replace Rucs would be elected, Diena reported on 17 January. Dzintra Bungs CZECH DEFENSE MINISTER VISITS LITHUANIA. On 17 January Antonin Baudys began a three day visit to Lithuania by holding talks with his Lithuanian counterpart Linas Linkevicius on NATO's Partnership for Peace program, CTK reports. He also met with armed forces commander Jonas Andriskevicius, President Algirdas Brazauskas, and Seimas chairman Ceslovas Jursenas. On 18 January he will visit the Zokniai military airport near Siauliai and a motorized regiment in Kaunas. The main aims of his visit are to discuss greater military cooperation and the purchase by Lithuania of Czech military equipment. Saulius Girnius ESTONIA WANTS DETAILED TIMETABLE FOR RUSSIAN TROOP WITHDRAWAL. Vaino Reinart, the recently appointed head of the Estonian delegation on negotiations with Russia, said that he expects Russia to present a detailed withdrawal timetable in the next round of talks, BNS reported on 17 January. He noted that since Estonia had agreed in principle to Russia's offer to withdraw its troops by 31 August, this deadline should remain fixed, but Estonia cannot give its opinion on the acceptability of a withdrawal timetable before seeing it. The next round of talks, scheduled to begin near Moscow on 18 December, was postponed due to the illness of Russia's top negotiator, Vasilii Svirin, and a new date should be set within a week. Saulius Girnius KEBICH, MYASNIKOVICH ON MONETARY UNION. Following a statement by Russia's first deputy prime minister, Yegor Gaidar, that one of the main reasons for his resignation was his opposition to the planned economic merger of Russia and Belarus, the Belarusian prime minister and the first deputy prime minister both made statements defending the proposed monetary union between Russia and Belarus, Reuters and Belinform reported on 17 January. According to Prime Minister Vyacheslau Kebich, Belarus's entry into the ruble zone will not cause the ruble to lose value against other currencies. On the contrary, in the long run it will lead to the stabilization of the ruble. The first deputy prime minister, Mikhail Myasnikovich, reaffirmed the Belarusian government's support for monetary union with Russia and said the details of the agreement have now been worked out. According to Myasnikovich, Gaidar's opposition to the union is not the position of the Russian government, but only the opinion of an individual government member. Ustina Markus MOLDOVA INSISTS ON ONE CITIZENSHIP AND ON TIMELY RUSSIAN TROOP WITHDRAWAL. After meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev in Moscow on 14 January, Moldova's Acting Foreign Minister Ion Botnaru told Basapress on 17 January that he opposed Russian-Moldovan dual citizenship "which Moscow regards as the uniform solution to the issue of 'Russian-speaking' minorities." He told Kozyrev that dual citizenship may have a stabilizing effect in Turkmenistan but may boomerang elsewhere; and urged that "statements by Moscow officials on the problems of Russians outside Russia be specific, not inflammatory." Reaffirming Moldova's demand for Russia's troops to withdraw by July 1994, Botnaru rejected as "artificial" the Russian Foreign Ministry's claims that the Russian railroads could not handle the evacuation. Moldova will insist on internationalizing the troop talks and the negotiations on settling the Dniester conflict if the deadlock persists, Botnaru said. Vladimir Socor [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Stephen Foye & Patrick Moore
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