Seven Dead in Moldovan Violence; Clashes in Ossetia on Eve of Cease- Fire
KISHINEV, Moldova (AP) _ U.N. observers arrived Saturday as clashes between Slavic separatists and Moldovan forces in the Trans-Dniester region reportedly killed seven people and wounded more than 20.
Fighting was also reported in two other former Soviet republics, Azerbaijan and Georgia. A cease-fire was scheduled to take effect Sunday in Georgia’s separatist enclave of South Ossetia.
Both sides in the escalating conflict between Moldovans and ethnic Russians welcomed the three-man U.N. delegation and pledged cooperation to end the fighting.
According to reports, up to 300 people have been killed and hundreds more wounded in the past week in Trans-Dniester.
Gilberto Schittler, head of the U.N. delegation, said that during a three- day stay the group ″hopes to get in touch with all the parties concerned and listen to their views on all the aspects of the problem.″
Victor Puscas, deputy speaker of the Moldovan parliament, said six civilians were killed and eight wounded Friday night when shells fired by separatists across the Dniester River hit houses in the village of Mashcautsi.
The Trans-Dniester government press office said another civilian was killed and several others wounded in clashes with Moldovan forces.
The press office also said a shell fired by Moldovans hit the 14th Russian army garrison in the town of Dubossary, 25 miles northeast of Kishinev, and started a fire.
Moldovans have accused the Russian troops of aiding the separatists, but the Russian government said the soldiers were acting on their own.
Trans-Dniester’s 600,000 ethnic Russians and Ukrainians have declared independence from Moldova, for fear the former Soviet republic will reunite with Romania. Moldova has refused to relinquish Trans-Dniester, a region rich in farming and industry that once was part of Ukraine.
The U.N. team will work out a plan to deliver humanitarian aid to 60,000 to 70,000 refugees from Trans-Dniester.
In the South Ossetian region of Georgia, overnight artillery attacks destroyed several neighborhoods in the capital of Tskhinvali, the ITAR-Tass news agency said Saturday.
Georgian units and Ossetian troops traded fire in the nearby villages of Nikozi, Tamarasheni, Kekhvi, Erneti and Mevgrekisi, the news agency said.
″The impression is that the warring sides in the area of Tskhinvali are trying to spend all their ammunition before June 28,″ the news agency said in a commentary.
No casualty figures were immediately available.
Ossetian nationalists want to unite South Ossetia, which is part of Georgia, with North Ossetia in Russia. Fighting between South Ossetia and Georgia began in December 1990, and has claimed at least 700 lives. Hundreds have been wounded and thousands have fled their homes and widespread economic damage has been wrought.
Under an agreement between Georgian leader Eduard Shevardnadze and Russian President Boris Yeltsin, a cease-fire is scheduled to take effect Sunday. The two countries are to regulate the truce, and peacekeeping troops from both countries are to be deployed in South Ossetia.
In the Azerbaijani capital of Baku, the Defense Ministry said two women were killed and eight people were wounded in intense overnight shelling of the Agdam district.
The ministry’s press service said Armenia appeared to be ready to escalate the battle for control of Nagorno-Karabakh, the mainly Christian Armenian enclave inside predominantly Muslim Azerbaijan.
It said a column of armor, including four T-72 tanks, 12 armored personnel carriers and four multiple-grenade launchers, was seen on the Lachin road, a land corridor between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.
The Armenian Defense Ministry press center Saturday said several villages in Nagorno-Karabakh had come under heavy artillery fire Friday night and Saturday morning. No casualty figures were immediately available.
More than 1,500 people have been killed in four years of fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the enclave, which Azerbaijan has controlled since 1923.