Jul 01, 2008

Abkhazia: Sukhumi Closes Georgian Border

Sample ImageAbkhazia has shut down its border with Georgia after explosions in Sukhumi and Gagra, which it alleges are the result of Georgian terrorism aimed at disrupting stability and the growing tourism industry in the de facto state.

Below is an article published by Reuters:

[…] Abkhazia […]said on Monday [30 June 2008] it was sealing itself off from Georgian-controlled territory after a series of explosions that it blamed on Tbilisi.

An official in the Georgian government denied any involvement in the explosions -- the latest of which injured a Russian holidaymaker on Monday [30 June 2008]  -- and said Abkhazia's allegations were "politically-motivated".

Abkhazia, a region on the Black Sea coast, has been the scene of mounting tensions between Tbilisi's Western-leaning government, which wants to restore its control, and the [Abkhaz government].

Russia's Interfax news agency quoted [Abkhaz] leader Sergei Bagapsh as saying the attacks were "terrorism pure and simple" and were the work of Georgian special forces.

"From Tuesday [1 July 2008], the border with Georgia will be shut, and any movement across the Inguri river will be halted," Interfax quoted him as saying. The river separates southern Abkhazia from Georgian-controlled territory.

Six people, including the Russian holiday-maker, were lightly wounded on Monday [30 June 2008] after two bombs went off at a minibus stop in the […] capital Sukhumi.

A local reporter told Reuters she saw a mangled rubbish bin and piles of broken glass at the scene.

Another six people -- all women -- were wounded in two blasts at a market in the nearby resort of Gagra on Sunday [29 June 2008]. One woman suffered an eye injury. Last Friday [27 June 2008], a bomb exploded near a local United Nations mission, causing no injuries or damage.

"Taking into account yesterday's explosions, and as our President Sergei Bagapsh has said, these are acts of terror aimed at rocking stability and disrupting the tourist season," Sukhumi Mayor Alias Labakhua told Reuters.

"It's definitely Georgia which is behind all this -- they see our republic developing, strengthening ties with Russia."

Georgia rejected the charges. "We consider these accusations by the Abkhaz side to be purely politically motivated," said Shota Utiashvili, a senior official in the Georgian Interior Ministry.

In the past, Georgian officials have blamed attacks and blasts inside Abkhazia on local organised crime groups.

A popular Soviet-era resort, Abkhazia threw off Tbilisi's rule in [the 1990’s]. It is not recognised by any state, but runs its own affairs.

Russia provides financial aid and has peacekeepers in the region, which it says are preventing further bloodshed. Georgia, an aspiring NATO member, accuses Moscow of trying to annexe Abkhazia.

Tensions escalated this year after Moscow established semi-official ties with Abkhazia and sent in extra troops. In one incident, the United Nations said a Russian jet shot down an unmanned Georgian spy plane, though Russia denied involvement.

Some observers say that if no solution is found, the conflict could jeopardise the 2014 Winter Olympics which Russia is hosting just a few kilometres from Abkhazia's border.