FOR THE RECORD:
TAJIK CEASEFIRE VIOLATED. The Tajik government and opposition accused each other over the weekend of violating the ceasefire agreement signed July 19 (see Perspective story below) as fresh fighting broke out in Tavildara and Khaburabad districts. The opposition's chief delegate to the inter-Tajik talks, Akbar Turajonzoda, conceded that opposition detachments had to withdraw from the crucial Tavildara town and said that the government's attacks in that area had "automatically invalidated" the ceasefire agreement if they took place after its signing. (Itar-Tass, Western agencies, July 21 and 22)
PRESIDENT SHAKES UP AZERBAIJANI GOVERNMENT. Chairing an extraordinary session of Azerbaijan's government on July 19, President Heydar Aliyev released Prime Minister Fuad Guliev "at his request;" dismissed eight ministers and subcabinet-level officials; and "seriously warned" others, including the chairman of Azerbaijani State Oil Company chairman Natig Aliyev. First Deputy Prime Minister Artur Rasizade was appointed acting prime minister. The measures follow Aliyev's recent, sharp criticism of the cabinet and individual ministers for poor management and, in some cases, corruption. (Interfax, July 19 and 20)
NEWS & PERSPECTIVE:
"REAL WAR" IN CHECHNYA AS DUMA VOICES CONCERN. Russian forces over the weekend airbombed and shelled Chechen positions and villages -- mainly in Shatoy, Vedeno, and Nozhay-Yurt districts. A Russian command spokesman in Grozny said that in Shatoy district a "real war" is underway. For the first time since the resumption of Russian military operations, Russian forces registered serious losses -- at least 15 soldiers killed over the weekend -- and also lost a helicopter. The losses would seem to indicate that Chechen forces are implementing their leadership's July 18 decisions to offer a limited response to Russian attacks.
In Moscow, the Duma voted by a large margin in favor of a resolution submitted by democratic deputies, criticizing the resumption of military operations and requiring Russia's Security Council to discuss the situation at a nationally televised session with the participation of Chechen resistance leaders. (Russian and western agencies, July 19 through 21)
MOSCOW REJECTS EU CRITICISM ON CHECHNYA. Russia's Foreign Ministry describes as "unacceptable" a resolution adopted on July 18 by the European Parliament that expressed concern over the continuation of combat in the Caucasus and that urged Russia to withdraw its troops from Chechnya. The resolution also said that the continued violation of human rights in Chechnya could pose a threat to relations between the European Union and Moscow. A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman said that Moscow was compelled to act against "aggressive, terrorist actions," and criticized the European Parliament for exhibiting "negative emotions" and a mistaken interpretation of events in Chechnya. (Interfax & Itar-Tass, July 19)
RUSSIAN PEACEKEEPING IN ABKHAZIA EXPIRES AS GEORGIA SETS CONDITIONS FOR RENEWAL. The mandate of Russian "peacekeeping" forces in Abkhazia expired July 19 as Tbilisi withheld consent to its renewal. On the same day Georgia's Security Council, chaired by President Eduard Shevardnadze, formulated the following conditions for renewal of the mandate: deploying the troops throughout Abkhazia, not just in the security zone; creating additional troop stations to secure the repatriation of Georgian refugees; using the troops also for securing freedom of movement to UN observers in Abkhazia; and dismantling Abkhaz fortifications. The Security Council decided to raise these issues in the impending round of talks in Moscow on Abkhaz settlement and also at the CIS summit due next month.
Meanwhile in Tbilisi and the western Georgian city Zugdidi near Abkhazia, Georgian refugees held rallies demanding the removal of Russian troops unless their mandate is changed as proposed. Pointing out that the Russian troops were in fact creating an Abkhaz border, participants in the rallies faulted the Georgian leadership for gambling on Russian goodwill instead of redoubling efforts to internationalize the issue. (Interfax, July 19)
Tbilisi has warned several times this year that it may withhold consent to renewing the troops' mandate in its original form. Moscow and the Abkhaz have rejected the conditions, and Tbilisi has compromised each time by consenting to brief extensions of the mandate. This time, however, the conditions are more specific than previously, and the Russian troops have now been left to operate in a legal vacuum.