Moscow Foresees Need Through Spring : Food: The Soviet capital’s milk supply remains worrisome, but the deputy mayor discounts fears of mass hunger.
The Soviet capital will need foreign food aid at least until spring, and its milk supplies are currently so bad that dairy-based baby foods can be provided only for sick children, Moscow officials said Saturday.
Deputy Mayor Sergei B. Stankevich, asserting that “this help is very necessary,” said that Moscow had received 14 shipments of aid totaling 200 tons as of Friday and that a special committee for distributing the foreign food and medicine has been working around the clock for three days.
Western food aid is turning from a trickle into a stream into the Soviet Union, with Germany beginning to send in massive reserves from Berlin, and country after country joining the move to save the Soviet population from possible hunger this winter.
On Friday, six U.S. congressmen, among them Rep. Leon E. Panetta (D-Carmel Valley), urged President Bush to add American help to the emergency food aid.
“We would remind you that the United States remains the richest agricultural producer in the world,” a letter to Bush from the congressmen said.
Stankevich, asked whether he expected there to be “hungry spots” in Moscow this winter, said such predictions tend to become self-fulfilling, but he denied that there is any basis for Soviet newspaper stories warning of “mass hunger, rebellions and civil wars.”
“We have the strength and the means” to get through the winter, he said.
Still, Moscow officials say the city’s reduced supplies of meat, eggs and milk remain especially worrisome.
Nine nearby regions have virtually stopped their milk deliveries to Moscow, cutting the city’s supplies by 100,000 tons in the past month, Stankevich said. This has forced a key baby food factory that must process real milk, rather than the powdered variety, to curtail production.
“Only weak or ill children can get baby food now,” he said. “This is a situation that cannot be allowed.”
Foreign donations are being targeted at 1.2 million Moscow residents--about one-seventh of the population--who are considered low-income, and at a subgroup of about 500,000 people considered “acutely needy,” according to Alexander Perelygin, a member of the team that distributes the aid.
The Russian Orthodox Church announced Saturday that it too has set up a distribution system for aid, including foreign donations.
Moscow officials said they are willing to cooperate with religious and other organizations able to help the goods reach those who need them most.
Some problems have arisen over packages that were not clearly marked and shipments that were unexpected, Stankevich said, appealing to foreign charity groups to coordinate their moves with Soviet authorities.
But no shipments have disappeared since they began arriving last week, Perelygin said, and no one has been caught trying to steal or divert any of the aid.
There have been many media reports recently about the success of the KGB security police in their fight against theft and corruption in the food sector, but Stankevich said he could not reveal their methods or give any figures on their activities.
The deputy mayor said that volunteer brigades are forming throughout Moscow to oversee distribution of the foreign food but that they will not be “worker” brigades, as President Mikhail S. Gorbachev decreed, because that smacks of Communist class dogma. Rather, Stankevich said, they will simply be “public” watchdog committees, made up of all classes, not only workers.