Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 96

Fighting spread yesterday as government troops sought to halt opposition gains in the district of Tajikabad, located in the strategic corridor linking the western and eastern parts of the country. A delegation of the Russian Defense Ministry headed by Lt. General Aleksandr Sokolov, deputy commander in chief of Russia’s ground forces, is in Dushanbe consulting with the local Russian and Tajik commands following the defeat of government forces in Tavildara. Sokolov said yesterday in Dushanbe, as did the commander in chief of Russia’s ground forces, Col. General Vladimir Semyonov, in Moscow, that Russia’s 201st "peacekeeping" division would protect key installations jointly with Tajik government troops, but would not engage in combat operations. Minister of Defense Pavel Grachev, however, had said three days earlier that the division’s armor, artillery, and aviation units might be used to support Russian border troops against Tajik opposition units. The latter are reported to be arriving from winter quarters in Afghanistan. (Russian agencies, May 16)

In the Leninabad region, the protest movement spread yesterday to the towns of Shahristan and Isfar, where crowds endorsed the demands of demonstrators in the region’s capital Khojent and the town of Ura-Tyube to replace southern officials with natives of the northern region at all levels, as well as to withdraw presidential guard and special police units sent to the region earlier from Dushanbe. The Khojent rally — held nonstop since May 12 — grew yesterday to more than 10,000 participants. A tent camp has been erected in the town’s central square. Dushanbe media and leaders maintain silence on these developments.