|When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece. - John Ruskin|
No. 235, 14 December 1994
RUSSIA CHECHNYA: FIGHTING, TALKS CONTINUE. Russian troops clashed with defending Chechen forces on 13 December as they continued their advance on Grozny from three directions, agencies reported. By nightfall one Russian armored column had reached the northern suburbs of Grozny, two others were between 15 and 40 kilometers east of the town. Russian casualties since the invasion began were variously estimated at nine or ten killed. At their second day of talks in Vladikavkaz, Russian and Chechen government representatives agreed to disarm illegal armed groups but failed to come to agreement on whether this should take place before or after the withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya, Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. In Moscow, First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets stated that Russia will allocate $300 million in aid to Chechnya once the conflict is resolved, according to ITAR-TASS. Russian Fuel and Energy Minister Yuri Shafranik was quoted by Interfax as saying that this amount is needed to restore the Chechen oil sector alone. -- Liz Fuller, RFE/RL, Inc. HARDLINE GENERALS SOFT ON CHECHNYA. Lt.-General Aleksandr Lebed, commander of Russia's 14th Army, renewed his criticism of the military intervention in Chechnya. He called via Interfax on 13 December for a peaceful settlement of the situation and "categorically opposed any military crusade against the Muslim world." Lebed also criticized the military leadership for sending raw conscripts who were getting captured in North Caucasus. Deputy Defense Minister Col.-General Boris Gromov warned on Radio Ekho Moskvy on 10 December that "a provocation in the mass media is being prepared against him in order to discredit him and his family." Gromov has vocally opposed the invasion of Chechnya and has recently been stripped of some major duties by President Boris Yeltsin and Defense Minister Pavel Grachev. Ekho Moskvy is one of several media outlets sharply critical of the military intervention in Chechnya and associated with the MOST financial group, which was recently the object of a violent raid by a security service loyal to Yeltsin. -- Vladimir Socor, RFE/RL, Inc. DUMA: GOVERNMENTAL PERFORMANCES IN CHECHNYA "UNSATISFACTORY." On 13 December the State Duma passed a resolution, branding the performance of Russian government bodies during the Chechen invasion "unsatisfactory," Russian TV newscasts reported. The resolution was approved by an overwhelming majority. The resolution urged the government to "use all measures and means [at their disposal] to resolve the Chechen crisis through political and legal channels," rather than by force. -- Julia Wishnevsky, RFE/RL, Inc. REGIONAL REVERBERATIONS. Boris Yeltsin's ethnic affairs adviser Emil Pain said at a Moscow briefing on 13 December that the situation in the North Caucasus outside Chechnya was "quiet on the whole;" that there have been no "mass protests" in Kabardino-Balkharia in response to Russian actions; Karachai-Cherkessia "favors the introduction of Russian forces;" and Dagestan "maintains neutrality." On the other hand, First Deputy Prime Minister and chairman of the Russian government's special commission on Chechnya, Oleg Soskovets at his briefing on the same day cited Federal Counterintelligence Service claims that "several thousand mercenaries with modern weapons" were fighting on the side of Chechen forces, Interfax reported. In Nazran, Ingush President Ruslan Aushev continued his sharp criticism of Russia's policy. At a press briefing, he termed "immoral" the choice of Vladikavkaz, capital of North Ossetia--"the republic across which troops moved on Chechnya"--as the site of Russian-Chechen talks. Accusing Russian troops en route to Chechnya of committing "crimes" on Ingush territory, Aushev said that he had cabled Yeltsin and other Russian leaders demanding yet again the repatriation of the Ingush forcibly expelled from North Ossetia in 1992, whose number he put at 70,000. Ingush Vice-President Boris Agapov added that tens of thousands of refugees from Chechnya, home to some 40,000 Ingush, were now fleeing Russian troops into Ingushetia, Independent Television and Ekho Moskvy reported on 13 December. -- Vladimir Socor, RFE/RL, Inc. MORE FROM THE REGION. In Vladikavkaz, a delegation of the Confederation of the Peoples of the Caucasus, led by the confederation's parliament chairman Ali Aliev, informed Russia's chief delegate to the talks with Chechnya, Vyacheslav Mikhailov, that the confederation is considering setting up a headquarters in Grozny to provide direct aid to Chechnya. The delegation handed a message to Russia's Duma asking that Russia "stop the bloodshed and withdraw its troops from Chechnya," Interfax and ITAR-TASS reported. The confederation had received a resolution from the Chechen People's Congress in Grozny calling for the formation of a regional alliance "from the Caspian to the Black Sea" to resist Russian military intervention. In Dagestan, volunteer detachments were being formed in settlements of various ethnic groups of that republic, under the slogan "Chechnya and Dagestan are one," according to Chechenpress quoted by ITAR-TASS. However, the official leadership of Dagestan saw to it that most of the 59 Russian soldiers captured by villagers there on 11 and 12 December were released by 14 December. An assembly of Cossack atamans of all levels from the Don Host issued an appeal to Yeltsin, the Duma, and the Defense and Internal Affairs ministries to "stop the genocide against Russia's citizens" in North Caucasus. Kalmyk President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov told Interfax that his republic, "situated too closely to the region," may also be engulfed in the conflict. "Categorically opposing the introduction of Russian forces in Chechnya," Ilyumzhinov said that he had just telephoned Dudaev who renewed his long-standing offer to meet with Yeltsin. Ilyumzhinov appealed to Yeltsin to take up the offer. -- Vladimir Socor, RFE/RL, Inc. KOVALEV'S TEAM BARRED FROM FLYING TO CHECHNYA. A group of Russian legislators were stoppped in a Moscow airport and prevented from flying to Chechnya, where they were to open negotiations with Dzhokhar Dudaev on behalf of the State Duma, Russian TV program "Vesti" and news agencies reported on 13 December. Led by the widely respected Sergei Kovalev, chairman of Yeltsin's human rights committee that is supposed to observe human rights from inside Yeltsin's administration, the parliamentary delegation included former political prisoner Mikhail Molostvov, who represented the liberal Russia's Choice faction, Valerii Borshchov of the Yabloko bloc and Leonid Petrovsky of the Communist Party; the delegation also included Oleg Orlov, the head of the human rights section of the Moscow anti-Stalinist "Memorial." Kovalev's team planned to fly to Mozdok in North Ossetia by military plane and then proceed to Grozny, where they were to enter negotiations with Chechen President Dudaev. -- Julia Wishnevsky, RFE/RL, Inc. CHERNOMYRDIN IMPLIES CENSORSHIP, CRITICIZES DEPUTIES. Ostankino TV broadcast an unexpected interview with Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin on 13 December, aimed at justifying Russian military intervention in Chechnya. Chernomyrdin attacked the democratic politicians who oppose the use of force against the breakaway republic and the media, in particular television, for their critical coverage of the conflict. Chernomyrdin admitted that the government put pressure on TV in order to force it to report on the events from the government's point of view, saying: "We had warned Aleksandr Nikolaevich Yakovlev and Oleg Poptsov in the strongest possible terms." (Yakovlev is the director of Ostankino TV which is supposed to have become "public" as of 30 November, and Poptsov is the head of the Russian [state-owned] Television and Radio company.) Chernomyrdin went on alleging that "democrats" are neither selfless nor sincere when condemning the invasion. He claimed that they oppose the use of force against Chechnya only in public but "when they talk with each other on the telephone" the same people approve of the government's actions in Chechnya. -- Julia Wishnevsky, RFE/RL, Inc. KOZYREV RESIGNS FROM DEMOCRATIC CHOICE FACTION. ITAR-TASS reported on a 11 December statement from Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev stating that he is resigning from the Russia's Choice political faction and will start acting as an independent in the State Duma because of the strong language used by Russia's Choice leader Egor Gaidar and faction member Sergei Yushenkov at a rally protesting the Russian invasion of Chechnya (see 13 December Daily Report). Democracy does not rule out the use of force in order to maintain law and order, the agencies quoted Kozyrev as saying. The next day, both Russian TV channels broadcast an interview with Kozyrev, who branded the 11 and 12 December rallies a "blasphemy" because they were held on the Pushkin Square that, according to Kozyrev, was the site where Russian human rights activists protested the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 (the 25 August 1968 demonstration he was referring to was in fact held at Red Square). -- Julia Wishnevsky, RFE/RL, Inc. NEW STRATEGIC MISSILE TO BE TESTED. Colonel-General Igor Sergeev, the commander-in-chief of the Strategic Missile Forces, told journalists on 9 December in Moscow that a new strategic missile would be tested later in the month. As reported on Germany's N-TV, he called the new missile the Topol-M and indicated that it was a modification of the missile known in the West as the SS-25. The general hinted that the new version would be silo-based, unlike the present SS-25, which is a mobile missile carried on a wheeled transporter. -- Doug Clarke, RFE/RL, Inc. RUSSIA DEFENDS ARMS SALES TO IRAN. On 13 December Interfax quoted an unidentified Russian diplomat as affirming that it was not appropriate for Russia "as a great power" to renege on its contractual obligations to sell arms to Iran, and that existing contracts will be honored over the next few years. He further stated that Iran's military doctrine is purely defensive, and suggested that US misgivings over Russian-Iranian military cooperation were to be be explained in terms of "the strategic line aimed against Iran and against Moscow's economic interests in the region." -- Liz Fuller, RFE/RL, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA REACTION IN KAZAKHSTAN TO SITUATION IN CHECHNYA. On 13 December, Kazakhstan's parliament adopted a proposal for an appeal to the Russian State Duma and Federation Council to stop the deployment of Russian troops in Chechnya and to resolve the conflict in the Caucasian republic by means of negotiations, Interfax reported. The Kazakh legislature then set up a commission to draft the appeal. The same day RL's Kazakh Service learned that representatives of Kazakhstan's Chechen community and members of the Kazakh nationalist Azat Movement demonstrated in front of the Russian Embassy in Almaty against the Russian troop deployment in Chechnya and handed a protest letter to the embassy staff. Nearly 50,000 Chechens were counted in Kazakhstan in the 1989 census; since the country gained its independence, there have been occasional reports of friction between Chechens and Kazakhs, but these seem to have been forgotten in the face of Russian actions in Chechnya. -- Bess Brown, RFE/RL, Inc. CIS TALKS ON BLACK SEA FLEET "SATISFACTORY." Interfax on 13 December quoted the heads of the two delegations to talks on the Black Sea Fleet--Ukrainian First Deputy Prime Minister Yevgenii Marchuk and Russian Ambassador-at-Large Yuri Dubinin--as saying the first day of their talks had been satisfactory. Marchuk indicated that Ukraine was going to allow Russia to keep naval bases on Ukrainian territory when he said that one of the three specific issues experts from the two sides would tackle the following day was that of the form of payment for the use of these bases. As recently as 30 November he had insisted Ukraine would not allow foreign bases on its territory. -- Doug Clarke, RFE/RL, Inc. CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE UN EXPRESSES FURTHER "OUTRAGE" OVER SERB CONDUCT. International media on 13 December said the Security Council has condemned a Serb missile attack on a UN vehicle near Bihac. The incident led to the death of a wounded Bangladeshi soldier, whose evacuation by helicopter had been vetoed by the Serbs. Meanwhile, Reuters reported from Zagreb that the presence of Serb surface-to-air missiles has deterred the UN from calling for NATO airstrikes in the wake of repeated Serb provocations against UNPROFOR. But it has not been explained why the Serb batteries could not be taken out of action by NATO, which has considerably better weaponry at its disposal than do the Bosnian and Krajina Serbs. -- Patrick Moore, RFE/RL, Inc. MACEDONIA BANS PROPOSED ALBANIAN UNIVERSITY. News agencies reported from Skopje on 13 December that the Macedonian authorities have said they will not permit "the promotion" of a proposed private Albanian-language university slated for 17 December. University-level instruction in their native language is a long-standing demand of Macedonian Albanians, and spokesmen said they intend to go ahead with plans to launch their own institution. The school would be located in Tetovo, a center of Albanian nationalism, and include teachers from Macedonia, Kosovo, and Albania. Meanwhile in Kosovo, Borba on 14 December reports how Serbs, including some of the staff of the leading Serb newspaper, are cashing in on privatization and selling state property and housing to Albanians. Finally, Hina reports from Zagreb that Albania and Croatia have signed a military agreement, but the two parties stressed that it is not aimed "at any third country." -- Patrick Moore, RFE/RL, Inc. MILOSEVIC'S WIFE BECOMES MEMBER OF RUSSIAN ACADEMY OF SCIENCES. Borba on 14 December reports that Mirjana Markovic, the wife of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, has become a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Markovic, a professor of sociology at Belgrade University, is reportedly the first woman non-national to be granted membership in the academy. Elsewhere, Reuters reported on 13 December that Goran Vukovic, one of the kingpins of the Belgrade underworld, was gunned down in a gangland slaying. Vukovic killed a Serbian don in a German courtroom in 1986 and more recently was a leading figure in the underworld fed by war booty and profits from sanctions-busting. -- Stan Markotich, RFE/RL, Inc. SOUTH KOREA'S DAEWOO TO INVEST IN POLAND. According to Gazeta Wyborcza on 14 December, the South Korean conglomerate Daewoo intends to invest about $130 million in the production of electronic equipment in Poland. Daewoo is reported to be planning a major expansion of its plant in Pruszkow, near Warsaw, where it currently makes television sets and eventually intends to set up the industrial and administrative hub of its European operations. The Warsaw newspaper further reports that Daewoo's spokesman in Seoul said the decision to invest in Poland was prompted by that country's well-trained and inexpensive work force, its political stability, and its location in the center of Europe. -- Jan de Weydenthal, RFE/RL, Inc. CZECH PREMIER ON PLANNED STRIKE. Vaclav Klaus said on 13 December that "it was unbelievable" that the Czech-Moravian Chamber of Trade Unions, the biggest trade union alliance in the country, was threatening to stage a 15-minute warning strike on 21 December to protest the government's draft law on pensions. The bill introduces changes in the system of payments into the social security system and age limits. Klaus told CTK that pensions are a civic, not a labor, issue and as such should not be a concern of the unions. The Christian Trade Union Coalition on 13 December announced it would support the strike. The union's president, Alois Anton, complained of "the arrogant attitude" of government officials--in particular, Labor Minister Jindrich Vodicka. The minister told TV Nova on 13 December that "no pressure actions can change the draft law." -- Jiri Pehe, RFE/RL, Inc. CZECHS SKEPTICAL ABOUT CORRUPTION INVESTIGATION. According to the results of an opinion poll published by the Institute for Public Opinion Research on 14 December, 72 percent of Czechs followed the recent corruption affair in which police arrested the director of the Czech Center for Voucher Privatization for accepting bribes. About 40 percent of the respondents said their opinion of the voucher privatization program has deteriorated as a result. Only 16 percent thought that the public would ever learn the complete truth about the scandal. Previous opinion polls have suggested that a majority of Czechs believe that corruption is widespread but that little can be done about it. -- Jiri Pehe, RFE/RL, Inc. NEW SLOVAK GOVERNMENT SWORN IN. Vladimir Meciar became the prime minister of Slovakia for a third time on 13 December. Meciar and his cabinet were sworn in by President Michal Kovac at Bratislava Castle, more than 10 weeks after Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia won the fall parliamentary elections. The 18-member government consists of 12 MDS members, four members of the left-wing Association of Slovak Workers, and two members of the right-wing Slovak National Party. During the ceremony, Meciar called for reconciliation and shook hands with the president, whom he has sought to oust from his post. Kovac called for stability, tolerance, and reconciliation in Slovakia, international media reported. -- Jiri Pehe, RFE/RL, Inc. MECIAR PLANS PRIVATIZATION DELAY, POLITICAL CHANGES. Following his swearing in as Slovak prime minister on 13 December, Vladimir Meciar said he would delay the start of the second wave of voucher privatization initiated by the previous government of Jozef Moravcik. Some 3 million Slovaks (more than 90% of those eligible to participate) registered for the second wave between September and November. Meciar has argued that the privatization program has been ill-prepared. Privatization Minister Peter Bisak of the Association of Slovak Workers told the media on 13 December that the privatization process "must be clean" but he refused to specify how it would continue. In an interview with CTK, Meciar called for "fundamental changes in the country's political system," arguing that such changes should be aimed at greater parliamentary stability. He said his objective was the reconstruction of the entire political system, which, he stressed, "will remain democratic but must have internal mechanisms at its disposal that protect it from abuse by anarchists and various corrupt groups and lobbies." The prime minister also said he had decided to abolish the "lustration law," which bars former collaborators of the communist secret police from holding government posts. -- Jiri Pehe, RFE/RL, Inc. NEW SLOVAK FOREIGN MINISTER PROMISES CONTINUITY. Juraj Schenk told journalists on 13 December that Slovakia will continue its pro-Western orientation and that the country's objective to gain membership in NATO and the European Union will not change. Schenk stressed the special importance of relations with the Czech Republic and said that "historical burdens in relations with Hungary need to be overcome." He pointed out, however, that such developments depend on concluding a treaty with Hungary. He also acknowledged that questions related to ethnic minorities and the Gabcikovo dam project may need to be solved first. Born in 1948, Schenk received a degree in sociology from Comenius University, Bratislava, in 1971 and worked as researcher. From 1975 until his appointment, the new foreign minister taught sociology at Comenius University. He was named professor in 1994. Schenk has no first-hand experience in foreign policymaking. -- Jiri Pehe, RFE/RL, Inc. SLOVENE PRESIDENT ON SLOVAKIA. In an interview with Bratislava's Hospodarske Noviny on 14 December, Slovene President Milan Kucan said Slovakia "is a traditional friend of Slovenia." He noted that both countries faced similar problems and that cooperation between the two countries could be expanded on many levels. The Slovene president said Slovenia was a country that had neither enemies nor internal or external problems. Slovenia's efforts to become part of the European Union originate partly in "its fear of dividing Europe into blocs again," Kucan said. He argued that former communist states must overcome the period during which "the illusions about Marxism were replaced with frustration, fundamentalism, unemployment, and other social problems." Kucan is to arrive in Bratislava on 14 December for a two-day official visit. -- Jiri Pehe, RFE/RL, Inc. HUNGARIAN RAIL STRIKE OVER. A strike by Hungarian railroad workers that began on 12 December was called off 18 hours later after an agreement was reached with government and employer representatives, MTI reported on 13 December. The rail employees will receive a 10 percent wage increase in 1995, plus a 4 percent performance premium guaranteed by the management of Hungarian State Railroads. The rail workers had originally asked for a 20 percent pay hike. The strike is estimated to have cost the national economy some 1.2 billion forint. -- Alfred Reisch, RFE/RL, Inc. HUNGARY'S ROMAS ELECT SELF-GOVERNING BODIES. Roma Assembly Chairman Aladar Horvath told MTI on 13 December that Hungary's Romas on Sunday elected 264 self-governing bodies, 163 of them in localities with less than 10,000 inhabitants. These figures demonstrate the Gypsies' resolve to have a say in determining their own affairs. At the same time, Horvath expressed the fear that, owing to insufficient financial resources, the new bodies would become mere interest groups influenced by the state. -- Alfred Reisch, RFE/RL, Inc. HUNGARIAN LIBERAL PARTY ON LOCAL ELECTIONS. At a press conference on 13 December, the leadership of the Alliance of Free Democrats, a member of Hungary's coalition government, rejected opposition claims that the AFD's poor showing in the 11 December local elections proved that the Hungarian political scene was divided into a socialist, liberal left-wing and a conservative, national right-wing, MTI reports. The AFD fared considerably better in the 1990 local elections, when it gained a majority of local government seats in numerous towns and cities. In the December 1994 elections, the AFD's coalition partner, the Hungarian Socialists, was the party that won the largest number of seats in the county parliaments and in the Budapest assembly. AFD campaign chief Balint Magyar argued that there was nothing remarkable about this, since in 1990 the HSP still had not emerged from its political isolation. -- Edith Oltay, RFE/RL, Inc. EUROPEAN UNION TO GIVE ENVIRONMENTAL AID TO HUNGARY. Under the terms of an accord signed on 13 December, Hungary is to receive over the next few years another 14.5 million ecu (nearly 2 billion forint) for environmental protection purposes, MTI announced. This sum is to be granted within the framework of the EU's PHARE Program. The EU granted Hungary 25 million ecu in 1990, 10 million in 1991, and 10 million in 1992 for the same purpose. -- Alfred Reisch, RFE/RL, Inc. ROMANIAN PREMIER MEETS PROTESTING WORKERS. Romanian Prime Minister Nicolae Vacaroiu on 13 December flew to Resita to discuss with local unions and management how to end the week-long protest by workers at the town's steel mill and heavy equipment plant. Some 20,000 workers continued to demonstrate outside the Resita prefecture for the eighth consecutive day. Radio Bucharest reported that the local prefect resigned under pressure from demonstrators. Thousands of people gathered in Resita's main square at night to chant for Vacaroiu's removal. There are signs that the protest could spread throughout the country, with workers in the industrial towns of Hunedoara, Braila, and Timisoara expressing solidarity with the strikers. Meanwhile, the opposition Democratic Party has gathered enough support to table a vote of no confidence in the cabinet. The vote, which will be the sixth since the government took office in November 1992, could come as soon as next week. -- Dan Ionescu, RFE/RL, Inc. TURMOIL IN ROMANIAN EXTREME NATIONALIST PARTY. Cornel Brahas, deputy chairman of the Party of Romanian National Unity, has been suspended from his post following his public criticism of the party's president, Gheorghe Funar, and two of Funar's deputies, Ioan Gavra and Valer Suian. The independent news agency Arpress reported on 13 December that the Permanent Bureau of the PRNU also decided to prohibit Brahas from making statements on behalf of the party. The Bucharest branch of the PRNU, to which Brahas belongs, will discuss at its next meeting the possible expulsion of Brahas from the party. Brahas was recently replaced as chairman of the Bucharest branch. Another prominent member of the party, Senator Viorel Salagean, who has been sharply critical of Funar and Gavra, was censured by the party earlier this year. Salagean said in late November that the PRNU may split if Funar and Gavra are not removed from office. -- Michael Shafir, RFE/RL, Inc. SOARING INFLATION IN UKRAINE. Interfax reports that inflation in Ukraine last month reached its highest level of the year, soaring to 72 percent, compared with 22 percent the previous month. Deputy Economy Minister Viktar Kalnik was quoted as saying that the steep increase resulted from the government's decision to slash subsidies at the beginning of November. Energy, rent, and transportation prices soared, and wages and pensions were doubled to compensate for the cut in subsidies. According to Kalnik, the government expects inflation in December to reach 35-40 percent. -- Jan Cleave, RFE/RL, Inc. BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT ACCEPTS VICE PREMIER'S RESIGNATION. Alyaksandr Lukashenka officially accepted Viktar Hanchar's resignation, Interfax reported on 13 December. Hanchar resigned last week citing what he called the "unhealthy atmosphere in the president's team" and "the absence of clear organizational principles in the cabinet's work." Lukashenka has already appointed parliament deputy speaker Vladimir Rusakevich as Hanchar's replacement. The president commented that Hanchar's resignation was a "dishonest retreat" at a time when serious work needed to be done in the social sphere, which was Hanchar's area of responsibility as a cabinet member. -- Jan Cleave, RFE/RL, Inc. BELARUSIAN PREMIER IN LITHUANIA. Mikhail Chyhir and his Lithuanian counterpart, Adolfas Slezevicius, said in Vilnius on 13 December that there were no more problems about determining the border between the two countries, BNS reports. The Belarusian and Lithuanian presidents are likely to meet and sign a friendship and cooperation treaty within several weeks. The export of Belarusian goods through Klaipeda has increased significantly this year, but Lithuania is unhappy about the higher costs of transit through Belarus, which are largely due to the latter's joint tariff agreement with Russia. -- Saulius Girnius, RFE/RL, Inc. LITHUANIAN PROSECUTOR-GENERAL OFFER REFUSED. Seimas Deputy Chairman and Center Union leader Egidijus Bickauskas said on 13 December that he had decided not to accept President Algirdas Brazauskas's offer to become prosecutor-general, RFE/RL's Lithuanian Service reports. If he had accepted the offer, Bickauskas--one of the country's most popular political figures, sometimes even mentioned as a future presidential candidate--would have been forced to give up his parliament seat. This would probably have meant the end of his political career, since the prosecutor-general appointment is for seven years. -- Saulius Girnius, RFE/RL, Inc. ESTONIA DEFENDS RUBLE SALE. The Estonian Foreign Ministry explained on 13 December that Estonia, despite repeated efforts, had been unable in 1992 to reach an agreement with Russia on the terms and conditions for handing over rubles withdrawn from circulation during monetary reform, Interfax reports. The statement was in response to the 6 December demand by the Russian Foreign Ministry to explain why the rubles had not been returned to Moscow within the period agreed upon. Estonia later decided to sell the 2.2 billion rubles not as waste paper but to an unknown buyer, rumored to be Chechnya. Estonia believes that Russia's request for an explanation only two years later suggests that Estonia complied with the stipulation in the 20 June 1992 agreement that "the parties will not apply actions which could cause economic damage to one of them." The disclosure of the sale of the rubles was a major factor in the resignation of Prime Minister Mart Laar on 26 September. -- Saulius Girnius, RFE/RL, Inc. [As of 1200 CET] (Compiled by Jan Cleave and Pete Baumgartner) The RFE/RL DAILY REPORT, 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, is available through electronic mail by subscribing to RFERL-L at LISTSERV@UBVM.CC.BUFFALO.EDU Inquiries about specific news items should be directed as follows (please include your full postal address when inquiring about subscriptions): Mr. Brian Reed RFE/RL, Inc. 1201 Connecticut Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20036 Telephone: (202) 457-6912 Fax: (202) 457-6992 Internet: REEDB@RFERL.ORG Copyright 1994, RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved.
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