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RFE/RL Daily Report

No. 63, 02 April 1991



IN THE BALTIC STATES

RUUTEL, MERI MEET BUSH. Chairman of Estonia's Supreme Council
Arnold Ruutel and Foreign Minister Lennart Meri met with US President
George Bush on March 29 at the White House, RFE's Estonian Service
reported that day. During the 45-minute meeting, Ruutel told
Bush that Moscow is still not negotiating seriously with the
Baltic states. Ruutel also reiterated a recent all-Baltic request
for an international conference to discuss the status of the
Baltic states. Ruutel, who is visiting the US for the first time,
told RFE/RL that President Bush seemed genuinely concerned about
Estonia's problems. (Riina Kionka)

ESTONIAN, SOVIET TEAMS TALK. The Estonian and USSR negotiating
delegations met on March 28 for the first time since last Fall.
Estonian Supreme Council speaker and chief negotiator Ulo Nugis
told RFE/RL that day by telephone from Moscow that he hoped the
current consultations would lead to full negotiations. The two
sides have not met since last Fall, when talks broke down after
the Soviet team announced it could only talk about Estonia's
participation in the new Union treaty. (Riina Kionka)

LITHUANIAN-SOVIET TALKS TO START THIS WEEK? Radio Vilnius and
TASS reported on March 30 that Lithuanian Supreme Council chairman
Vytautas Landsbergis had accepted "with pleasure" USSR Deputy
Prime Minister Vitalii Doguzhiev's proposal to resume bilateral
talks on April 4 and 5. The agenda has not been announced. Working
groups are to meet on April 3. The first talks, scheduled for
March 26, did not take place--reportedly on account of Doguzhiev's
dissatisfaction that Landsbergis was not leading the Lithuanian
delegation and that the Lithuanian side had set preconditions
for the meeting. (Dzintra Bungs)

GORBUNOVS: BALTIC INDEPENDENCE TO BE SETTLED IN MOSCOW. Chairman
of the Latvian Supreme Council Anatolijs Gorbunovs told the press,
according to Radio Riga of March 28, that he believes the issue
of Baltic independence will be resolved in talks in Moscow. He
observed that though the search for European support for Estonian,
Latvian, and Lithuanian independence is strongly disliked by
the Soviet government, including USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev,
the Baltic governments have to resort to such activity because
of the lack of constructive action in this direction on the part
of the Kremlin. (Dzintra Bungs)

MORE PRICE INCREASES IN LATVIA. Latvia raised prices on a wide
variety of items in January but is now being forced to increase
the prices of many other items as a consequence of the Union-wide
price hikes ordered by Moscow. In Latvia the latest increases
involve those goods and services heretofore highly subsidized
by the government. Consequently the Latvian government plans
to increase the existing monthly compensation of 66 rubles to
adults (and 40-50 rubles for children). Although Latvia is already
compensating its population for the price increase, Moscow is
continuing to pressure Latvia to contribute also to the USSR
fund to compensate for the latest price hikes. (Dzintra Bungs)




ALL-UNION AFFAIRS

RETAIL PRICE RISES. Huge price increases go into effect today
(April 2) throughout the USSR. Prices will double for milk and
eggs, treble for meat, and quadruple for rye bread. Big increases
are also being posted for a wide range of other consumer goods
such as refrigerators, tv sets, shoes and clothing. In many cases,
these are the first price increases in 30 years. In Moscow, most
food stores and farmers' markets were closed April 1, as store
employees re-wrote price tags. Western agencies reported that
the deputy mayor of Moscow, Sergei Stankevich, told a press conference
that "some unrest is possible." (NCA)

PANIC BUYING REPORTED. Western news agencies reported widespread
panic buying of consumer goods prior to the retail price increases
averaging 60 percent that came into effect on April 2. Several
Soviet observers predicted an initial relative abundance of goods
on sale at the new prices. Stores have been withholding their
wares, waiting for the much bigger mark-ups, and consumers have
reportedly hoarded over 100 billion rubles' worth of foodstuffs
and an even larger volume of other staples. The retail price
increase is not of itself a step in the direction of the market,
but it does represent a necessary measure to reduce the huge
subsidy bill and a major contribution to the stabilization of
the consumer market. (Keith Bush)

GORBACHEV AND PAVLOV TO MEET MINERS. Soviet President Mikhail
Gorbachev and USSR Prime Minister Valentin Pavlov are scheduled
to meet today (April 2) with representatives of the country's
striking and non-striking miners. The meeting represents a concession
on Moscow's part; earlier, Soviet leaders said they would not
meet with the miners as long as they remained on strike. While
still not as massive as the 1989 miners' protest, the present
strike, which began with a one-day token protest in Ukraine's
Donbass on March 1, has gradually spread; the AP says it is now
affecting about a third of the country's major coal-producing
areas. (NCA/Elizabeth Teague)

KUZBASS MINERS THREATEN TO FLOOD THEIR MINES. Representatives
of striking coal miners in Siberia's Kuzbass region told the
RSFSR Congress of People's Deputies on March 31 that they would
sabotage their pits by flooding them if the government refuses
to meet their economic and political demands, TASS reported.
(NCA)

SVERDLOVSK BAUXITE MINERS JOIN STRIKE. Sympathy strikes have
also been declared in other industries. The latest report comes
from Sverdlovsk. Soviet TV reported April 1 that four out of
the five bauxite mines in the Sverdlovsk area (Boris Yeltsin's
power base) struck yesterday in support of the coal miners. (NCA/Elizabeth
Teague)



KGB DEPUTY CHAIRMAN WARNS OF THREAT TO USSR. KGB deputy chairman
Gennadii Titov, who heads KGB counterintelligence, told Rabochaya
tribuna on March 30 that the USSR is facing the worst threat
to its security since World War Two. Titov, whose remarks were
summarized by Radio Moscow that day, admitted that the threat
has its roots inside the Soviet Union, but alleged that the disintegration
of the USSR is also being encouraged by Western intelligence
services. (NCA)

NEW TRAVEL CURRENCY REGULATIONS. With effect from April 2, Soviet
tourists traveling abroad will be able to purchase only $200
a year or an equivalent sum in other hard currencies: for this
they will have to pay rubles at the current hard-currency auction
rate, TASS reported April 1. The latest auction rate was reported
to be around 27 rubles to the US dollar, which means that the
modest annual hard-currency allowance will cost more than one
year's average wage, even after the supplement to offset the
higher retail prices. For the past eighteen months, Soviet citizens
traveling abroad have been permitted to change a maximum of 2,000
rubles at the tourist rate of some 6 rubles to the dollar. (Keith
Bush)

UNION BUDGET SHORTFALL. USSR Finance Minister Vladimir Orlov
told Pravda March 29 that seven republics have failed to transfer
tax revenues to the central budget. The shortfall for the first
two months of 1991 was 43.5 billion rubles, including 38.6 billion
owed by the RSFSR; this is to be compared with a reported planned
budgetary income of 277 billion for the entire year. Orlov said
that the central government has had to borrow money for essential
services, and will have to begin cutting programs on April 1
if the money is not forthcoming. (Keith Bush)

WARSAW PACT MILITARY STRUCTURE DISSOLVED. The military structure
of the Warsaw Pact was officially dissolved March 31, ending
the Pact's function as a military alliance, TASS reported. Soviet
General Petr Lushev surrendered his powers as commander-in-chief
of the joint Warsaw Pact armed forces, while Soviet General Vladimir
Lobov gave up his post as chief of staff. The Warsaw Pact still
exists as a political alliance, but its Political Consultative
Committee plans to meet in Prague in June or July to discuss
dissolving the political organization as well. (NCA)

PRAVDA: WARSAW PACT WAS A "BASTION OF PEACE." In an editorial
marking the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact's military structures
on April 1, Pravda said the Pact was "one of the bastions of
peace and security in Europe." Pravda faulted the tendency to
emphasize the "dark pages" of the Pact's history and argued,
"you cannot exclude obvious facts from history... It was not
the USSR and its allies that launched the exhausting and senseless
arms race" and "the Pact arose six years after the NATO military
bloc was formed." Reuter quoted parts of the Pravda commentary
on April 1. (Suzanne Crow)

BESSMERTNYKH PRAISES "VITALITY" OF SINO-SOVIET RELATIONS. After
three hours of talks in Beijing on April 1, Soviet Foreign Minister
Aleksandr Bessmertnykh and his Chinese counterpart Qian Qichen
stressed the "progress" made in Sino-Soviet relations. They said
visit to Moscow by Chinese Communist Party General Secretary
Jiang Zemin planned for May 15-17 will strengthen the dialogue
between the two countries. Bessmertnykh stressed the "vitality"
of the countries' relations and said Moscow is "willing to continue
to develop and strengthen the relationship," AFP reported April
1. (Suzanne Crow)

GORBACHEV RESPONDS ON CFE. US President George Bush said Mikhail
Gorbachev had responded to the United States' request to look
into a dispute concerning the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty
(CFE), but Bush did not elaborate on Gorbachev's response, AFP
reported April 1. According to an unnamed US official quoted
in the same report, some progress in settling CFE disputes has
been made, but Gorbachev's response does not resolve the issue.
The United States is making Soviet compliance with CFE a precondition
for concluding language on the strategic arms treaty (START)
and the formal scheduling of a US-Soviet summit. (Suzanne Crow)


SHEVARDNADZE INTERVIEWED BY SOVIET TV. On March 29, Soviet TV's
"Before and After Midnight" broadcast a long interview with Eduard
Shevardnadze in which the former foreign minister criticized
the use of military and special MVD units in Moscow on March
28. The leadership, Shevardnadze said, should trust its own people.
On a personal note, Shevardnadze said his sensational resignation
last December was not unexpected to either his family or his
close associates. Last year, another popular TV show, "Vzglyad,"
was closed down when its moderators tried to screen a segment
on Shevardnadze. These days, the monthly "Before and After Midnight"
is virtually the only liberal program still appearing regularly
on Central TV's first channel. (Julia Wishnevsky)

SHEVARDNADZE ON US-SOVIET MARITIME ACCORD. In an interview with
the Los Angeles Times on March 31, Shevardnadze said attacks
on his foreign policy are "foolish." Reacting to recent criticism
of the US-Soviet Maritime Accord (see Daily Report, February
26), Shevardnadze said "negotiations were conducted at the highest
level of expertise--with the participation of the military, defense
ministry, the minister himself and even--I can reveal a small
secret--the KGB..." Shevardnadze also noted that while Gorbachev,
Ryzhkov and the Politburo approved the accord at the time, "everybody
is now silent. Funny that." (Suzanne Crow)

SHEVARDNADZE SAYS HE URGED GORBACHEV TO SUPPORT DEMOCRATS. Shevardnadze
went on in his interview with the Los Angeles Times to say that
Gorbachev fully understands the need for an alliance with the
democrats but hesitates to approach them since they lack a strong
political basis. The former foreign minister said he met recently
with Gorbachev for over two hours' discussion, during which he
urged Gorbachev to open a dialogue with the leaders of the republics,
including Boris Yeltsin. Shevardnadze said that, if Gorbachev
was able to deal with former US president Ronald Reagan, who
called the USSR an "evil empire," he should be able to find a
common language with Yeltsin. In an interview with the Polish
newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza March 29, Shevardnadze expressed "shock"
at Gorbachev's decision to deploy troops in Moscow last week.
(Alexander Rahr)

SHEVARDNADZE'S ASSOCIATION TO PUBLISH JOURNAL. Shevardnadze revealed
at the end of his interview with the Los Angeles Times on March
31 that his newly-created Foreign Policy Association will publish
a journal in addition to holding meetings and discussions. He
did not offer any details. (Suzanne Crow)

YAKOVLEV ON REFORM PROCESS. Former Politburo member Aleksandr
Yakovlev called in an interview with the French newspaper La
Tribune (March 28) for cooperation between Mikhail Gorbachev
and Boris Yeltsin. Yakovlev maintained that, conservative opposition
notwithstanding, the shift to a market economy is being implemented
and new economic infrastructures are being created. Yakovlev
said Baltic independence aspirations are unrealistic since, he
argued, the Baltic states could not survive economically outside
the Soviet Union. (Alexander Rahr)

TSIPKO EXPLAINS WHY USSR IS NOT EASTERN EUROPE. Interviewed by
The Guardian March 30, Soviet philosopher Aleksandr Tsipko gave
five reasons why a revolution like those that occurred in Eastern
Europe in 1989 is unlikely in the USSR. They are: (1) lack of
communication between the Moscow intelligentsia and the rest
of the population; (2) lack of a real opposition outside the
Soviet Union's old system; (3) stronger roots of Stalinism in
Soviet than other societies; (4) authoritarian attitudes in the
USSR favoring a "strong hand"; and (5) suppression of true patriotism
in Russia which could fill the ideological vacuum created after
the demise of communism. (Alexander Rahr)



IN THE REPUBLICS



GEORGIA VOTES FOR INDEPENDENCE. Georgian electoral commission
officials announced April 1 that 90.53 percent of the republic's
3.3 million eligible voters participated in the March 31 referendum
on the restoration of Georgian independence. Of these, 98.93
percent voted "yes." Even raions with a predominantly non-Georgian
population voted in favour of independence, presumably in response
to Supreme Soviet chairman Zviad Gamskahurdia's threat to extend
Georgian citizenship and the right to own land only to those
who voted "yes." Western observers expressed scepticism at the
results but registered no significant irregularities. (Liz Fuller)


ABKHAZIA, ADZHARIA SUPPORT INDEPENDENCE, SOUTH OSSETIA BOYCOTTS
REFERENDUM. Voter participation in Abkhazia was reportedly 60
percent, of whom 97 percent voted for independence--a figure
difficult to reconcile with the result of the all-Union referendum,
in which 52.4 percent of voters participated, of whom 98.4 percent
voted in favor of preserving the USSR. In Adzharia, participation
was so high that extra ballot papers had to be printed; in Batumi
participation was over 100 percent, indicating that non-residents
had traveled there to vote. In South Ossetia, the referendum
was boycotted in the districts of Tskhinvali, Dzhava and Kornisi;
no results for the remaining districts are available. (Liz Fuller)


RICHARD NIXON ON GEORGIAN INDEPENDENCE. Former US President Nixon,
on a private visit to the USSR, traveled to Tbilisi on March
29, and on March 31 accompanied Georgian Supreme Soviet chairman
Zviad Gamsakhurdia to the polls, AFP reports. Radio Tbilisi quotes
Nixon as characterizing Gamsakhurdia as "a strong leader who
wants to achieve freedom and independence for his country by
peaceful means." Nixon also affirmed that if he had the right,
he would gladly vote for Georgian independence. (Liz Fuller)


SOUTH OSSETIA ROUNDUP. On March 30 Soviet President Gorbachev
sent a message to Georgian Supreme Soviet chairman Zviad Gamsakhurdia
calling for immediate measures to halt bloodshed in South Ossetia
and begin negotiations. Gamsakhurdia responded that such measures
had been taken and that relative calm had been restored. At least
four people were killed in two clashes in the oblast on March
31; on the same day the RSFSR Congress of People's Deputies called
on Georgia to restore South Ossetia's autonomous status, lift
its blockade of Tskhinvali and allow refugees to return. On April
1 the USSR SupSov voted by 353 to 7 to recommend that Gorbachev
impose state of emergency in South Ossetia. (Liz Fuller)

RSFSR CONGRESS ENTERS SIXTH DAY. The RSFSR Congress of People's
Deputies ended its fifth day of work yesterday (April 1) without
deciding whether or not to vote on whether the Russian Federation
should have a directly-elected president. Supporters of RSFSR
Supreme Soviet chairman Boris Yeltsin--who has said he would
be a candidate for the post of president--want the Congress to
decide the issue, but they have not been able to muster enough
support in the Congress to bring the matter up for a vote, TASS
reported. TASS says the Congress will try again to settle the
presidential issue at today's session. Conservatives and liberals
are evenly matched among the Congress deputies and the result
so far has been stalemate. (NCA/Elizabeth Teague)

HEAD OF UKRAINIAN CATHOLIC CHURCH SPEAKS ON SOVEREIGNTY. Cardinal
Myroslav Lubachivsky, leader of the Ukrainian Catholic Church,
has vowed to work for the republic's spiritual revival and political
sovereignty. Lubachivsky was addressing a crowd of thousands
in Lvov on March 31, hours after celebrating his first Mass in
his homeland in 53 years. The cardinal, who is 76, returned to
Ukraine on March 30 from the Vatican, where he headed the church
in exile. (NCA)

REORGANIZATION OF RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH. Service Orthodoxe
de Presse reports (No. 156, March 1991) on the organizational
measures adopted by the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church
at its 29-31 January session. These measures are intended to
coordinate religious education and charitable work and to reactivate
diocesan and parish life. New dioceses have been created: the
diocese of Kazahkstan, where about 40 percent of the population
is Russian, has been divided into three new ones, while two new
dioceses have been created in the Soviet Far East. (Oxana Antic)


UZBEKISTAN REMOVES TAX ON SOME CONSUMER ITEMS. Radio Moscow reported
on March 29 that Uzbekistan's Cabinet of Ministers issued a resolution
removing the 5 percent sales tax on basic foodstuffs and certain
consumer goods. These included bread and pasta products, vegetable
oil and butter, milk, meat, eggs, sugar, special foods for children,
soap and washing powders and cotton fabrics. The reason given
for the removal of the sales tax was "social protection of the
population." (Bess Brown)

TAJIKISTAN LOWERS PRICES. Another Central Asian republic has
reportedly tampered with Moscow-ordained economic measures. According
to Radio Moscow on March 30, Tajikistan's Council of Ministers
set prices for some goods lower than those ordained for the Union
as a whole. Certain food items, including bread, sugar, and green
tea will cost less, as will consumer goods produced in Tajikistan.
Although the radio reports did not say so, presumably the two
republics feel they are exercising the sovereignty they proclaimed
last year. (Bess Brown)

CONGRESS OF SOVIET GREEKS DISCUSSES AUTONOMY. TASS reported on
March 31 that a 3-day Congress of Soviet Greeks in the south
Russian city of Gelendzhik has ended with the creation of an
All-Union Social Association of Greeks. Among the issues discussed
by the 247 delegates to the congress was the possibility of creating
an autonomous formation for Soviet Greeks; no agreement was reached
on this question. The Association will work for the rebirth and
development of the Greek language, customs and traditions, and
to strengthen ties with Greek communities abroad. (Liz Fuller)


YAVLINSKY FAVORS A STRONG CENTER. Grigorii Yavlinsky, co-author
of the "500 days program" and now advisor to Kazakh President
Nursultan Nazarbaev, told Izvestia March 16 that the republics
must agree on a single economic reform program and that individual
republican programs, like that which recently has been proposed
for Russia, are unrealistic. He stressed the importance of a
coordinating role of the center and urged the republics to exert
joint pressure on the center to force it to implement necessary
economic reforms for the entire Soviet Union. (Alexander Rahr)


[As of 1300 CET]

Compiled by Patrick Moore & Elizabeth Teague


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