MOSCOW XHC VLB — MOSCOW -- The confusion over the new Commonwealth of Independent States begins, but doesn't end, with its name.
The word in Russian is "sodruzhestvo," which can mean either community or commonwealth. In the context of the proclamation, it was evidently meant to mean something resembling the European Community, though the documents allowed a wide leeway in interpretation.
The confusion was compounded by the fact that the presidents of Russia, Ukraine and Byelarus declared Sunday that the old Soviet Union and all its "norms" ceased to exist as of the signing of the agreement. But since other republics still considered themselves members of the union, that in effect created two political entities in the same area.