Sep 15, 2005

Abkhazia: Visit of Georgian Defense Minister

Russian Foreign Ministry expressed concern with active participation of NATO countries in process of arming Georgia. According to Moscow, this fact can push Tbilisi to use a force against Abkhazia. Moreover, Georgian Defense Minister Irakly Okruashvi
Yesterday Russian Foreign Ministry expressed concern with active participation of NATO countries in process of arming Georgia. According to Moscow, this fact can push Tbilisi to use a force against Abkhazia and South Osetia, thus destabilizing the situation on Caucus region. Moreover, Georgian Defense Minister Irakly Okruashvili together with the soldiers from elite troops recently maid the reconnaissance raid on Abkhazian territory.
When Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili was appointing Okruashvili as Minister of Defense, he stated that "new minister will remain in this position as long as it takes to keep the territorial integrity of the country and bring Abkhazia back into the womb of Mother Georgia." Responding to this statement, the Abkhazian Foreign Minister Sergey Shamba said: "It looks like Irakli Okruashvili will remain as defense minister forever."

On Sunday, while giving speech on the congress of "patriots" (Georgian boy scouts), Okrushvili mentioned his secret visit to Abkhazia and promised that he will do everything to not let any Georgian to move within his own country like a guerilla. The source in Abkhazian Supreme Council (in exile) confirmed to Kommersant that Georgian defense minister spent several days in Galsky region of Abkhazia, which is under the jurisdiction of Abkhazian militia and controlled by Russian peace keeping forces.

Okruashvili went to Abkhazia with several dozens of Georgian elite soldiers prepared for missions behind the enemy lines. All that time the minister was moving in Abkhazia together with the soldiers, with whom he shared food, bedding and did not use
radio in order not to reveal the group location.

It looks like Abkhazian military and Russian peace keepers had general information about the group infiltrated in the republic from Georgia. President of Abkhazia Sergey Bagapsh confirmed:"We knew about the infiltration of the fairly small group of bandits, but we did not know if Georgian Minister of Defense Irakly Okruashvili was with this group."

It is interesting, that while Georgian soldiers were hiding in Abkhazian Galsky region, the local forces did not perform any large scale "search and destroy" operations. There are lots of Georgians live in this border region, and it is possible that Abkhazian and Russian military did not want to escalate to new war.

President Saakashvili in the same congress of boy scouts sharply criticized Russian peace keepers. Georgian leader said that recently he visited the zone of Georgian-Abkhazian conflict in the village Anaklia. According to the president, when he entered the village without his security entourage, the Russian soldiers sounded alarm, took a cover in trenches. Saakashvili considers the situation as abnormal when somebody enters the Georgian village the foreign soldiers sound alarm and aim the weapons at the guest. This statement shows that if in the nearest future the situation in the zone of Georgian -Abkhazian conflict will not be settled, Tbilisi would possibly ask Russian peace keepers to leave the conflict zone.

Moscow considers this scenario as a possible one. In the same time, Russia thinks that partial blame for this type of events development might lay on NATO countries. Yesterday, Russian Foreign Ministry expressed a concern with the fact that Czech Republic sent a free shipment of ammunition to Georgia. "The weapons supplies are being made on the background of rapid escalation of Georgian military spending. In the same time, the social economic situation in Georgia is the hardest. All these factors might increase Georgia temptation to use a force against Sukhumi and Tskhinvali, which would
seriously destabilize the situation not only in Georgia, but in whole Caucus region," Moscow warns.

Source: Kommersant