South-98, the first-ever joint military exercise of Ukraine and Moldova, began yesterday at Shiroky Lan testing grounds near Mikolayiv in Ukraine. The troops practice common actions to capture a “band of armed extremists” and to localize an ethnic conflict. A Ukrainian paratroop company from the airborne division based at Bolhrad (near the Moldovan border) and a Moldovan motorized infantry company are participating in the exercise. These troops form the nucleus of a planned Ukrainian-Moldovan joint peacekeeping force.
Coincidentally or not, Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi yesterday appointed Colonel Ion Coropcean to the post of chief of staff of the Moldovan army. Coropcean, 38, is fluent in Ukrainian and graduated from Ukrainian military schools (the Poltava air defense school and the Kyiv air defense academy). (Ukrainian agencies, Flux, Basapress, June 16)
SHEVARDNADZE ANNOUNCES DIPLOMATIC INITIATIVE ON ABKHAZIA.