-------------------- News from Abkhazia --------------------

 EU envoy meets with senior Abkhazian officials


Sukhum, As Abkhazia calls more attention than ever to itself from the West through its efforts to follow in the footsteps of Kosovo in earning international recognition, an envoy of European Union (EU) began on Friday a trip to Sukhum, capital of Abkhazia.


Before an envoy of ambassadors from 15 EU countries made their way through Sukhum, Abkhazia’s President Sergei Bagapsh issued a statement of gratefulness for care by foreign countries to know about the stance of Abkhazia from the Abkhazian officials, and added that Sukhum would remain steadfast in its policies on independence. The EU would not be able to persuade Abkhazia to appreciate the territorial totality of and to become part of it again, said Bagapsh.


“All diplomats, envoys and journalists who happen to come to Abkhazia are looking for a way to have inside information about the attitude of Abkhazia towards negotiations between Georgia and Abkhazia. People do know about our attitude and we will not deviate from it,” said Bagapsh. “We will try to convey to the EU envoy information about what the administration of Abkhazia regards as the right thing to do, about whom it will establish relations with, about how it will continue to exist, and about what it will demand to happen. We are resolutely determined to found an independent state and nothing can force us to give up this idea of ours.”


The administration of Abkhazia would try to convey to the EU envoy the message that Abkhazia does not pursue an aggressive line of policies and it will be willing to negotiate with if the Georgian administration fulfils the requisites of the Moscow Armistice, said the president. “In order for the negotiations to resume, must withdraw its troops from Upper Kodor and sign a peace accord as a promise not to resort to military force again,” he added.


When asked to comment on ’s pursuance of NATO membership, Bagapsh said that it was entirely left up to to decide whom to align with; “however,” he added, “it is left to us to decide how we will exist and what kind of military, economic and political existence we will adopt.”


In his address on May 12 to reporters, President Mikheil Saakashvili of called the EU on to have an on-the-spot observation of what had recently been doing in Abkhazia.


Negotiations between Georgia and Abkhazia broke off in July 2006 when located some of its troops in Upper Kodor.


Abkhazia will host on June 6 Javier Solana, High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and the Secretary-General of both the Council of the European Union (EU).


05.31.2008  Agency Caucasus


 Abkhaz Foreign Minister to come to Turkey


Istanbul, Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba of Abkhazia will be in Turkey on June 2 as a guest of the Caucasus-Abkhaz Solidarity Committee.


Shamba will attend some meetings both in Istanbul and Ankara to convey his country's efforts to gain international recognition and he will later meet with members of the Abkhaz diaspora as well.


Abkhazia's President Sergei Bagapsh's trip to Turkey last October was cancelled when the Georgian diaspora placed pressure on the Turkish Foreign Ministry not to let him in the country. This is the first time since then that an Abkhazian senior official will be in Turkey.


According to information that the Chairman Irfan Argun of Caucasus-Abkhaz Solidarity Committee provided, Shamba will be in Istanbul on June 2. He will meet at 9 p.m. on the same day with representatives of the Abkhaz Diaspora in the building of the Caucasus-Abkhaz Cultural Association. He will respond to questions about what is going on around Abkhazia.


While Shamba will be en route to Ankara on June 3, he will stop by the villages that host the Abkhaz people. On June 4, Shamba will have a breakfast with journalists. He will also have a meeting with some academicians and think-tank institutions later in the day. Shamba will attend the Night of Abkhazia celebrations to be held at Hilton, Ankara, at 8 p.m. While he will be en route back to Istanbul on June 5, he will again stop by the villages that host the Abkhaz population. The Abkhazian Foreign Minister will return to his country on June 6.


05.30.2008  Agency Caucasus


 Georgia likely to lose Abkhazia


Ambassadors from 15 countries of the European Union will come to Sukhum, capital of the Republic of Abkhazia, on Friday to discuss means of resuming Abkhazian-Georgian dialogue.


However, the diplomats' main goal will be to lure Abkhazia away from Russia's influence. Analysts say Georgia, which is eager to join NATO, will have to make major concessions to the republic of Abkhazia.


Igor Akhba, Abkhazia's representative in Moscow, said: "The EU diplomats want to push Russia away from the negotiations, although Russia is successfully fulfilling its tasks, above all peacekeeping ones."


The three-way talks between Abkhazia, Georgia and Russia are proceeding under the auspices of the UN Coordinating Council in Geneva. "We think it would be inefficient to change the format," Akhba said.


Alexei Malashenko, a researcher at the Carnegie Moscow Center, said the EU diplomats would be unable to immediately split Abkhazia from Russia.


"However, this is a serious move showing that the EU is beginning talks with Abkhazia," Malashenko said.


"The triangle may become a square. If Europe acts maximally energetically, Georgia, which is eager to join NATO, will have to make major concessions to Abkhazia."


Malashenko admits that Abkhazia may accept some of the EU's proposals.


"Abkhazia will have quite a few issues to consider, unless it wants to world to see it as merely a Russian protectorate," the expert said. "The EU could tempt Abkhazia with the Kosovo scenario, which promises territorial autonomy under the EU protection, if not full independence. This scenario is quite probable, but in this case Abkhazia will have to cede the Gal District or turn it into an autonomous district within the republic."


"In any case, the EU has apparently decided to deal with Abkhazia, and Georgia is coming to see that it will have to part with Abkhazia," Malashenko said. "It no longer can stamp its feet and shout 'No independence'."


05.30.2008  RIA Novosti


 Russia has no relation to Georgian spy planes downing in Abkhazia - Bagapsh


Sukhum, All seven Israeli-made planes in Georgia’s Air Force have been shot down by Abkhazian air defence systems, the president of the republic of Abkhazia, Sergei Bagapsh, said on Monday.


“Russia has nothing to do with any of the Georgian spy planes shot down over Abkhazia,” eh said, adding that seven planes had been downed since March 18.


The Russian Defence Ministry has also denied a U.N. Observer Mission in Georgia (UNMIG) report on the April 20 air incident in the zone of the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict.


The report claimed that a Russian aircraft had shot down a Georgian unmanned reconnaissance plane over Abkhazia.


“There can be no question of violation of the state border with Georgia, let alone the shooting down of an unmanned aircraft,” the ministry’s spokesman Alexander Drobyshevsky said.


“On April 20, Russian Air Force planes made no flights near Georgia,” he said.


The U.N. Observer Mission said in its report that the Georgian spy plane was shot down by a Russian plane over Abkhazia on April 20.


Referring to radar data, the mission said that an unmanned reconnaissance aircraft had been shot down by a MiG-29 or a Su-27 jet plane that then turned north and entered Russian’s airspace.


“Absent compelling evidence to the contrary, this leads to the conclusion that the aircraft belonged to the Russian air force,” the mission’s report posted on its website said.


“The Mission reiterates its position stated to the Georgian Minister of Defence on 7 April 2008 that the overflight of the zone of conflict by surveillance aircraft constitutes a breach of the Moscow Agreement,” the report said.


05.26.2008  Itarr-Tass


 Dancing the fast Caucasian dance


Istanbul, Turkey’s policy toward Georgia, seen by Turkey as key to becoming an energy corridor to Caucasian and Central Asian energy resources, is fundamentally flawed because it is based on NATO and US policies and contradicts its own regional strategy, experts say.


Burgeoning trade relations and joint energy projects undertaken with Georgia has not taken Turkey, which usually prefers to follow NATO's and United States lead in dealing with its northeastern neighbor, toward an independent foreign policy.


Despite the fact that Georgia once again re-elected pro-Western Mikhail Saakashvili as its president in elections last week, the ex-soviet country is far from stability, with the opposition contesting the results and tensions with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, threatening to engulf the whole region.


The tensions with Russia over Abkhazia reached a new crescendo before the elections, with Saakashvili who came to power after the so-called "Rose Revolution” in 2004, utilizing it to his own benefit and bringing the two countries close to war.


Abkhazia declared independence from Georgia in 1994, but Tbilisi continues to regard it as a breakaway region, as the international community does.


Georgia is crucial in Turkey's efforts to channel Azerbaijani and Central Asian energy resources to the rest of the world. The tension in Georgia, however, does not bid well for the plans. Despite the country's key problems, Turkey does not follow an independent policy toward Georgia and seeks to counterbalance Russian influence through proxies like the United States and NATO.


Turkey has three priorities for the Caucasus: To improve independence of South Caucasian republics, to defend their territorial integrity and to play an active role in the transfer of Caspian Sea energy resources, Hasan Kanbolat, Caucus expert of Center for Eurasia Studies, or ASAM, said.


Kanbolat told the Turkish Daily News that Turkey's relation with Georgia has “both pluses and minuses.” From a trade point of view, he said, “Turkey's foreign trade capacity has grown in five years from $240 million to $800 million. And also, the two countries have signed a Free Trade Agreement and are cooperating militarily. Turkey supports Georgia with military equipment and some Georgian military personnel are educated in Turkey.”


“Turkey, which advocates territorial integrity for all South Caucasus, puts special emphasis on the integrity of Georgia.”


A Central Asia expert at the Ankara-based think tank Global Strategy, Aslan Yavuzşir agreed and added, “We know that Turkey's peace and stability mission in the Caucasus is supported by the Western nations.”


Still, Yavuzşir said the policy was flawed because the policy ignored the sentiments of its own Caucasian citizens. He asked, “Is this pro-Western strategy consistent with Turkey's own interests?”


Policy based on Turks:


Sezai Babakuş, a predominant figure in the Abkhazian community in Turkey and the founder of the Celebrity Speakers Association, or CSA, told the Turkish Daily News that Turkey's foreign policy toward Georgia was neither rational nor comprehensive.


“Turkey's foreign policy toward the Caucasus is influenced by nationalism and Turkic groups there, same as it is in northern Iraq,” he said.


In Iraq, Turkey is following the United States' lead and bases its stance on the fate of the Turkmen minority in northern Iraq, Babakuş argued. “In Iraq, Turkey ignores the Kurds to the detriment of its own Kurds. In the Caucasus, its policy is based on Azeris, Meskets, Karapapaks, Balkar and Karachai minorities while it ignores the Circassians. Consequently it hurts its citizens of Circassian extraction,” he added.


Babakuş, who also worked for Abkhazia's government between 1990-1996, said, “In fact, this is a reflection of an internal policy fundamentally based on Turkishness."


Global Strategy's Yavuzşir agreed, noting, “Turkey, in some instances, took decisions that could hamper its relations with its own Caucasus-rooted citizens. But it should handle the Caucasus in a bilateral way and develop pro-active policies. In brief Turkey has no long-term policies for the Caucasus.”


Relations with Abkhazia:


Babakuş claimed that Turkey was militarily supporting Georgia against Abkhazia. “In 1992, Georgia attacked Abkhazia with political support from Turkey. Today that support is growing with military means. Georgia is bolstering its forces near the Abkhazian border. Thus, Turkey may be indirectly responsible for a potential war between Georgia and Abkhazia."


"Turkey's support to Georgia angers its own Abkhazian community. The country closed direct travel to Abkhazia, and the Trabzon-Sukhum sea route was also closed in 1995," Babakuş said. "From 1992 to date, governments tried to bar our support to Abkhazia and as a result, they have lost the confidence of the Abkhazian community."


"For Abkhazians, there is only one way: To defend the motherland against aggressors," Babakuş said.


Yavuzşir said there was a humanitarian tragedy in Abkazia, “The region is isolated from the world and Turkey is impassive to this fact.”


Kanbolat said, “Turkey has the opportunity to develop relations with Abkhazia, which is isolated from the international community. At least it can develop a minimum relation with this region, as Georgia did. Georgia has had economic, commercial and cultural relations with Abkhazia. If Turkey's relation with Abkhazia improved, Russia would not be the only outside access for Abkhazia anymore.”


Current tension:


Just like Ukraine, Georgia is seen as a conflict zone between the West and Russia, Yauzşir believes. “Georgia may prefer to improve relations with Russia. But in that case, negotiation with Russia would damage his credibility back in Tbilisi. As a matter of fact, the Saakashvili government does not have the capacity for such a negotiation. A new government is needed,” he said.


On Abkhazia, there are two extreme scenarios, Kanbolat said. “Georgia could recognize the independence of breakaway regions, or declare war. Saakashvili should decide what to do. Tbilisi may reach an agreement or attack both Abkhazia and South Ossetia,” he said.


According to Kanbolat, in the light of recent developments, a conflict is more likely. “In Georgia people believe that "Russia is pushing Georgia into a war, because Moscow predicts defeat for Georgia and after that it'll create a new 'Russian style' administration in Georgia," he said.


“A possible conflict would affect Turkey directly, as we witnessed during the 1992 Abkhazia War. But in a new intervention, the impact on Turkey would be much worse, due to the Abkhazian diaspora in Turkey,” Kanbolat added.


Professor Özkan Açıkgöz from the Turkish Asian Center for Strategic Studies, or TASAM, said after Kosovo's declaration of independence, “Russia gambled with the destiny of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and sent a message to the world that the same may happen in Georgia.”


“But Russia understands that it's in a wrong path, and Moscow gave up its insistence on the independence of Abkhazia and S. Ossetia,” he claimed.


“Possible military unrest in the region would negatively affect Turkey's regional trade, it would irk Turkish Abkhazians and more importantly, would result in a new wave of migration to Turkey,” Açıkgöz said.


05.26.2008  Turkish Daily News


 Russia to rotate peacekeepers in Abkhazia by June 2


Moscow, A rotation of Russian peacekeepers in Abkhazia will be conducted between May 25 and June 2, the Defense Ministry said on Friday.


The command staff of the Collective CIS Peacekeeping Force had earlier said the rotation would be over on May 30.


The Peacekeeping Force Headquarters said that 500 Russian troops would be replaced in line with a May 1994 ceasefire agreement and a mandate on peacekeeping operations in the conflict zone.


Russian peacekeepers have been deployed in Abkhazia and South Ossetia since the 1990s. Moscow recently bolstered the number of its peacekeepers in Abkhazia in response to a Georgian troop build-up, but said the increase was still within previously agreed limits of 3,000 soldiers.


Relations between Moscow and Tbilisi have drastically deteriorated since Russia's former president Vladimir Putin called for closer ties between Moscow and the two republics (Abkhazia and South Ossetia) in mid-April.


Georgia has accused Russia of trying to annex Abkhazia and South Ossetia, while Moscow says Tbilisi is planning to invade Abkhazia.


05.23.2008  RIA Novosti


 Bagapsh: Russians don’t buy land from Abkhazia


Moscow, President Sergei Bagapsh of Abkhazia rejected that the recent rise in the real estate prices in Abkhazia resulted from purchases of land by Russian bureaucrats and businessmen prior to the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games.


“We don’t sell land,” Bagapsh told reporters in Moscow, capital of , “because we don’t sell land. The state organization controls as well as grants parliamentary approval to every privatization of real estates in Abkhazia.”


Bagapsh also rejected that Moscow ’s Mayor Yuri Lujkov purchased a huge area of Abkhazian land for building. “The fact is that Lujkov has not bought anything from Abkhazia. We allocated an area for the construction of Moscow House and offered another area for the construction of a sanatorium.”


The rise in the prices of Abkhazian real estates is a consequence of the improved national security as well as of the financial tendency, popular with Abkhazians nowadays, toward , according to Bagapsh.


05.23.2008  Agency Caucasus


 Bagapsh's visit to Moscow shadowed


Sukhum, President Sergei Bagapsh of Abkhazia's trip on May 20 to Moscow, capital of Russia, to make his first official contact with the newly appointed administration of Russia was cast a shadow over by a claim of Russian daily Kommersant that Bagapsh will have negotiations with Russian officials over a peace agreement with Georgia.


Sergei Shamba, Foreign Minister of Abkhazia, rejected Kommersant's claim and said with stress that Bagapsh would be in Russia to have meetings with Russian officials over what to do to improve the relations between his country and Russia. Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister of Russia, ordered that the Russian administration should make efforts to improve its relations with Abkhazia while he was holding his position as President.


Shamba also said that Bagapsh would meet with Sergei Lavrov, Foreign Minister of Russia, to discuss how to establish 'institutional' relations between the two countries. "The president will only be in Moscow to discuss what can be done to put into effect the order that Putin gave while he was the president," said Shamba to reject Kommersant's claim that Bagapsh would be in Moscow to seek approval from Russian officials for a peace accord between Georgia and Abkhazia.


According to Kommersant, Irakli Alasanya, Georgia's permanent representative at the United Nations, or UN, offered a wide-scale peace accord to the Abkhazian administration when he made a trip to Sukhum last week. The peace accord proposed that a non-agression agreement should be signed between the two countries in exchange for permission to be granted to Georgian refugees to return home who left Abkhazia during the war in 1992 and 1993. It also proposed that Georgian forces should withdraw from Upper Kodor. Bagapsh then defied rumors that Sukhum approached Tbilisi to sign a peace accord. "Abkhazia will never compromise its ideal of full independence," said Bagapsh. "We can only be willing to negotiate if Georgia withdraws from Kodor."


05.21.2008  Agency Caucasus


 Conflicting reports coming from Georgia-Abkhazia conflict zone


Tbilissi, Conflicting information is coming from the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict zone, following reports of gunfire along the border and bus explosions that left several people injured.


Georgia's Interior Minister accused Abkhazia Wednesday of blowing up two buses and being involved in a shootout along the border.


"We confirm that two buses were blown up in today's incident in the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict zone. There are no reports of fatalities, but there is information that the injured are being taken to Zugdidi hospital," a deputy Georgian interior minister told journalists.


But Abkhaz President Sergei Bagapsh dismissed the Georgian media reports: "No such thing happened," adding that according to his information, the incidents had occurred on Georgian rather than Abkhaz territory.


Other media sources said that the two buses had come under Abkhaz gunfire.


Tensions have escalated between Georgia and Abkhazia recently following the shooting down of a number of Georgian surveillance planes. Both sides have accused each other of preparing for armed conflict.


The Georgian ministry also said that the authorities in Abkhazia had prevented Georgians living in Abkhazia's Gal District from participating in Wednesday's parliamentary polls.


Sergei Bagapash denied the claims saying that Georgians living in the area had shown no interest in casting their vote.


Abkhazia said Russian peacekeepers had been sent to the border between Georgia and Abkhazia to prevent a further escalation in violence.


"Representatives of Russian peacekeepers and UN military observer missions have headed to the site to clarify the reports [of the shooting]," the Abkhaz presidential envoy in the Gal District told RIA Novosti.


Relations between Moscow and Tbilisi have drastically deteriorated since Russia's former president Vladimir Putin called for closer ties between Moscow and the two republics Abkhazia and South Ossetia in mid-April.


Georgia has accused Russia of trying to annex Abkhazia and South Ossetia, while Moscow says Tbilisi is planning to invade Abkhazia.


05.21.2008  RIA Novosti


 Russian, French foreign ministers discuss Abkhazia and South Ossetia


Moscow, Foreign ministers from Russia and France discussed the ongoing row surrounding republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia during their meeting in Moscow on Wednesday.


Georgia is looking to regain control over Abkhazia and South Ossetia, after they broke away in the early 1990s following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Russia's open support for the two republics has led to a rapid deterioration in relations between Moscow and Tbilisi.


Speaking with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, his French counterpart Bernard Kouchner said that a military solution for Abkhazia is 'impossible.'


The French diplomat said that Paris's position on the issue was unchanged and France still considers Abkhazia a part of Georgia.


The Russian Foreign Minister said in turn that further developments with Abkhazia depended solely on Tbilisi and the countries, which are pushing Georgia to join NATO.


"We fully understand that to prevent a military solution... the decision should be reached in Tbilisi and the capitals [of the countries], which are trying to drag Georgia into NATO," Lavrov said.


Georgia has been seeking NATO membership, backed by the U.S., ever since President Mikheil Saakashvili came to power in 2004 on the back of a bloodless revolution. At a NATO summit in early April, NATO powers voted against admitting Georgia to the alliance's Membership Plan, but said they would review the bid at the end of the year.


Located on a key Europe-bound route for Caspian oil and natural gas, Georgia has been at the center of a struggle for influence between the West and Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union.


05.21.2008  RIA Novosti


 Georgia promises not to attack Abkhazia


Moscow, Georgia's ambassador to Russia gave firm assurances on Tuesday that his country has no intention of resorting to military action to regain control over Abkhazia.


Georgia has accused Russia of trying to annex Abkhazia along with South Ossetia while Moscow says Tbilisi is planning to invade Abkhazia.


"I don't know how I can prove to you that we have no intention of making war. I swear by my mother that we are not going to war," Erosi Kitsmarishvili told reporters in Moscow.


However, he said that Georgian unmanned surveillance aircraft would continue to fly over Abkhaz territory, despite objections from Abkhazia.


"Both the president and the defense minister have said [drones] will continue to fly," the envoy said.


Abkhazia claims to have shot down several Georgian drones, while Tbilisi says only one aircraft has been lost.


Abkhazia and Russia accuse Georgia of violating a ceasefire agreement signed in Moscow in 1994 and UN Security Council resolution 1808 passed on April 15 this year, banning military activity in the conflict zone.


Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said earlier on Tuesday: "Contrary to the Moscow agreement, Georgia is concentrating its troops on the border with conflict zones, is buying more offensive armaments."


Earlier today, Taimuraz Mamsurov, the president of Russia's republic of North Ossetia, asked foreign ambassadors to Russia for assistance in the republic's unification with South Ossetia.


Between 10,000 and 30,000 people were killed in the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict that broke out after the collapse of the Soviet Union.


05.20.2008  RIA Novosti


 Bagapsh denies alleged plan to settle Georgia-Abkhazia conflict


Sukhum, Abkhazian leader Sergei Bagapsh has denied recent media reports that Tbilisi and Sukhum had allegedly “reached agreement on a plan to peacefully settle” the Georgia-Abkhazia conflict. “This information is not true,” he told Itar-Tass on Monday.


Abkhazia is continuing to insist on the complete withdrawal of Georgian military units from the upper part of the Kodor Gorge and on the situation being brought in line with the Moscow Ceasefire and Disengagement Agreement of May 14, 1994. “Precisely this gross violation of the said founding agreement had torpedoed the process of negotiations” between the sides involved in the conflict, the Abkhazian president noted.


As to the repatriation of refugees, Bagapsh said the world knows no analogue, comparable to Abkhazia, to which up to 60,000 refugees had returned after the armed conflict in the republic. Bagapsh said the recommendation resolution of the U.N. General Assembly on refugees from Abkhazia was not objective because the document was “approved without due account of the Abkhazian view and because it was based on materials submitted by only one party to the conflict – the Georgian side”.


Head of the Presidential Administration Valery Arshba told Itar-Tass that the president of Abkhazia would fly to Moscow for a working visit on Monday. “Bagapsh will spend the two days of his stay in Russia on the discussion of economic problems,” Arshba specified.


05.19.2008  Itar-Tass


 Georgia, Abkhazia agree peace plan


Moscow, Georgia and Abkhazia have drawn up a plan to resolve their long-running conflict, a Russian business daily reported on Monday.


Kommersant said the province's leader, Sergei Bagapsh, will be discussing the issue during his visit to Moscow on Monday.


Kommersant, citing sources in the Abkhazia's government, said that as a first step the sides intend, with Moscow's mediation, to sign an agreement on the non-use of force, the return of Georgian refugees to Abkhazia, and the withdrawal of Georgian troops from the upper part of Abkhazia's Kodor gorge.


"We have reached a basic agreement on the main issues on the bilateral level, but there are still a number of loose ends," the paper quoted Abkhaz Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba as saying.


However, Shamba later told RIA Novosti that the paper had misquoted him, and that the Abkhaz president's visit to Moscow was not related to the resumption of talks between Georgia and the rebel region, which were broken off after Tbilisi deployed troops in the Kodor gorge.


"This is not the purpose of Bagapsh's visit to Moscow. It is a working visit," he said.


The sides have not reached any accords on a peace settlement and have signed no agreements, the minister said.


During his three-day visit, Bagapsh is to meet with top Russian officials, including Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the diplomat said.


Speaking to RIA Novosti, President Bagapsh confirmed that no agreements with Georgia have yet been reached.


"There are no accords so far," he said.


South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another rebel province, broke away from Georgia in the early 1990s following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Between 10,000 and 30,000 people were killed in the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict and some 3,000 in Georgian-South Ossetian hostilities.


Georgia is looking to regain control over the two de facto independent republics, and accuses Russia of trying to annex them.


Relations between Moscow and Tbilisi have drastically deteriorated since the Kremlin called for closer ties with Abkhazia and South Ossetia in mid-April.


Russia recently increased the number of its peacekeepers in Abkhazia but said the rise was within the limits of agreements on troop numbers signed by the Georgian leadership.


05.19.2008  RIA Novosti


 Russia to obtain material from Abkhazia for use in Sochi


Gagra, Russia will obtain from Abkhazia material such as gravel and sand for use in rough construction work in Sochi for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.


The agreement of cooperation was signed on May 16 in Gagra. It was President Sergei Bagapsh from Abkhazia and Aleksandr Tkachev from Krasnodar Krai who put their signatures on the agreement.


It is estimated that the transportation of over 100mn tones of material will begin in two months or three.


"We are thinking of using natural sources available in Abkhazia when we obtain millions of tones of sand and gravel for use in infra-structural building," said Tkachev.


It was better to get the materials in question not from Russian sources 200 or 300 kilometers away but from Abkhazia ones 30 or 40 kilometers away, said Tkachev: "We will towards the realization of what we have set to do within the framework of an agreement. We will also work jointly to make it possible to move materials from Abkhazia to Sochi by sea or railway."


Tkachev said that it was better to have things done at a low cost to meet high standards of quality, and added that this agreement would help the Abkhazian economy to flourish. "Krasnodar Krai will be a reliable partner for the Abkhazian administration to enjoy working with."


05.19.2008  Agency Caucasus


 Let Abkhazia have freedom and openness, recommends Wall Street Journal


Abkhazia is now virtually lost to Georgia says one of the world's largest newspapers. In its latest editorial on Abkhazia, The Wall Street Journal recommends a policy of freedom and openness instead of blockades and isolation. Georgia should lift sanctions and allow Abkhazia to freely trade with all of its neighbors.


New York, In its latest editorial on the 'de facto' independent republic of Abkhazia, New York based The Wall Street Journal recommends freedom and openness for the new and emerging country.


The Wall Street Journal is one of the largest American newspapers and has a worldwide daily circulation of more than 2 million, along with 931,000 paying online subscribers.


The newspaper's recommendation comes less than two months after Kosovo declared independence, and at a time when Abkhaz-Georgian-Russian tensions have been putting peacekeepers in the region on high alert.


In its op-ed, The Wall Street Journal also admits that Abkhazia is probably not going to be part of Georgia ever again.
From the newspaper:

"Abkhazia is now virtually lost to Georgia — almost as lost as Kosovo is to Serbia. The only chance for Tbilisi to reverse this process and see Georgian refugees ever returning to their home is, paradoxically, to let go. Tbilisi should open up Abkhazia and free it from dependence on Russia. That means lifting sanctions and permitting a sea link to Turkey and the re-opening of a railway line connecting it with Western Georgia."

To slow down the nation building efforts of Abkhazia, Georgia and Russia have both had long-standing air, sea and transport blockades in place for years.


Russia recently lifted its blockade and is now allowing transport links with Abkhazia to function normally. However, Georgia still maintains its blockade and its policy of isolating the Abkhazian population. Ships attempting to reach the Black Sea ports of Abkhazia are also turned back at sea as a result of the military blockade imposed by Georgia.


Not part of Georgia


Abkhazia is today a de facto independent republic which has not yet gotten formal international recognition. It is located between Georgia and Russia on the eastern coast of the Black Sea. The capital is Sukhum.


Unlike Kosovo, which was Serbia's historical heartland, Abkhazia was never a traditional historical or ethnic part of Georgia. In the same way, Pridnestrovie (Transdniestria) has no historical or ethnic-majority ties to Moldova.


Following the fall of the Soviet Union in late 1991, Abkhazia declared independence from Georgia in 1992 and subsequently fought for independence from 1992 to 1993. The independence war resulted in Georgia's military defeat, with Georgians leaving Abkhazia, and subsequently the signing of a ceasefire accord in 1994 which is today monitored by military observers from the United Nations.


Abkhazia was once an independent kingdom, and in the early days of the Soviet Union it was a separate union republic with a status similar to that of Georgia before Stalin - himself a Georgian - eliminated Abkhazia's statehood and brought the republic into Georgia. This was done against the will of the ethnic Abkhazians who several times throughout the Soviet era demanded the restoration of their status as a full republic separate from rival Georgia.(With information from The Wall Street Journal)


05.18.2008  The Tiraspol Times


 Abkhazia and Russia’s Krasnodar territory signed a cooperation agreement


Sukhum, Abkhazia and Russia’s Krasnodar territory signed a cooperation agreement at the Gagra meeting of Abkhaz President Sergei Bagapsh and Krasnodar Governor Alexander Tkachyov.


The governor and OlympStroi head Viktor Kolodyazhny are now visiting Sukhum.


The sides discussed the economy of Abkhazia and preparations for the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi in 2014.


It is much more profitable to supply construction materials to Sochi from Abkhazia, which is only 30-40 kilometers away, than from Russian regions located at the distance of 200-300 kilometers, Tkachyov said. “We will gladly implement this agreement and concentrate on sea and railroad supplies from Abkhazia to Sochi,” he said.


In the governor’s words, the supplies will start two or three months from now and amount to about 100 million tonnes.


05.16.2008  Itar-Tass


 Boden now argues for recognition of Abkhazia


Sukhum, After Kosovo was granted the international recognition that it sought for its independence, the time has come for Abkhazia to get recognized the same way too, said Dieter Boden, former special envoy of the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General for Abkhazia, who had proposed a autonomy-based plan to solve the conflict between Abkhazia and Georgia.


"Is it legal to deny the Abkhazians what the Kosovans were granted?" asked Boden to make his support evident for Abkhazia's efforts to gain international recognition.


President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia received criticism from Boden for his promotion of an armed attack as a threat against Abkhazia.


Boden also accused the Russian administration of placing political pressure on its Abkhazian counterpart while it assumed an intermediary role to play at the same time.


Boden is a German diplomat and he was the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Abkhazia between 1998 and 2002. He also chaired while he was in Georgia from 1994 to 1997 the mission staff of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Boden studied the Russian literature extensively as well.


While he was the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Abkhazia, he proposed what later came to be known as the Boden Peace Plan, which suggested that Georgia should be federalized and negotiations should be held between Georgia and Abkhazia over separation of subjects of jurisdiction and constitutional authority. The Abkhazian administration, however, declined even to take a look at it.


In February, Sergei Shamba, Foreign Minister of Abkhazia, said that the Boden Peace Plan could no longer be relied on--a fact that required a search for new ways to solve the conflict between Georgia and Abkhazia. Shamba also stressed that negotiations could not be held within the framework of the Boden Peace Plan because it was basically meant to cover the interests of Georgia.


05.15.2008  Agency Caucasus


 General Assembly recognizes right of return of displaced to Abkhazia, Georgia


New York, The General Assembly today adopted a resolution in which it recognized the right of return of all refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs), regardless of their ethnicity, to Abkhazia, Georgia.


With 14 votes in favour, 11 against and 105 abstentions, the Assembly adopted a Georgian-sponsored text that recognizes the right of return for IDPs and refugees and also their descendants.


The resolution stresses the importance of preserving the property rights of the refugees and IDPs and underlines the urgent need for a timetable to ensure the prompt voluntary return of all refugees and IDPs.


Assembly members also requested that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon submit a comprehensive report at the Assembly’s next session on the implementation of today’s resolution.


05.15.2008  UN News Centre


 Sukhum hosts representative of Georgian government


Sukhum, Sukhum, capital of Abkhazia, hosted a government representative from Georgia for the first time since the tension between two countries has reached its peak because Georgia has reportedly been increasing its military presence along its border with Abkhazia.


Irakli Alasania, Georgia's Permanent Representative in the United Nations, or UN, met on Monday in Sukhum with Sergei Bagapsh, President of Abkhazia, as well as with Sergei Shamba, Foreign Minister of Abkhazia. The meeting was revolved mainly around the topic of how the two countries were recently brought to the verge of war.


Reporters were not allowed to be present while the meeting was taking place. After it was over, Shamba only told reporters that he and his guest discussed some security issues and he heard from his guest that he had been worried about the possibility of a further increase in the already high tension.


It was in July of 2006 when negotiations between Georgia and Abkhazia broke off because Georgia had put its troops in Upper Kodor, the region which should have remained freed from arms according to the Moscow Pact.


The Abkhazian administration made it clear over and over again that it would not resume its negotiations with Georgia unless the Georgian troops were withdrawn from Upper Kodor. Apart from the tension that rose over the placement of Georgian troops in Upper Kodor, a crisis was fueled when Georgia piled up its military equipment along its border with Abkhazia and furthermore it flied drones over Abkhazia. At this point, the Russian government decided to send in further peacekeeping troops to Abkhazia, a move that rang the bells for a likely war across the Caucasus.


Meanwhile, Abkhazia has shot down seven Georgian drones in the past three months. The first one was shot down on March 18, the second one on April 20, the third and fourth ones together on May 4, the fifth one on May 12 while they were flying over Ochamchira. The Georgian government, however, only admitted that the second one belonged to it.


05.13.2008  Agency Caucasus


 Abkhazian officials claim Georgian spy aircraft carried missile


Sukhum, The Abkhazian Ministry of Defense claimed on Saturday that the fifth Georgian spy aircraft that had been shot down while it was flying over Ochamchira after it entered Abkhazian airspace on May 8 was equipped with a specific kind missile.


The Abkhazian Ministry of Defense experts thought that the Georgian unmanned spy aircraft was meant to transport a missile through the air, said Garri Kupalba, Deputy Minister of Defense.


Kupalba let reporters see the parts that remained after the aircraft was shot down.


"The kind of explosive that was in the unmanned aircraft was a real threat both to the civilians and the peacekeeping troops. It is the United Nations (UN) military monitors and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) Peacekeeping Forces that located the place where the aircraft fell. The kind of material that was used in the production of the aircraft led to the total annihilation of it."


Kupalba accused Georgia of severely violating the ceasefire agreement, signed 14 May 1994 in Moscow, administrative capital of Russia, and the UN Security Council's Article 1808.


05.11.208  Agency Caucasus


 US diplomat says no military solution in Abkhazia


Sukhum, The level of political and military tensions in the zone of the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict is very high but there is no military solution to it, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza said on Saturday.


In his words, the way to go forward lies through talks that should be held in an atmosphere of mutual respect.


In his opinion, it is important that the people living in Abkhazia feel secure physically, economically and culturally, he said.


He stressed that there could be no military solution to the conflict and warned that armed actions would only accelerate the underlying fundamental disagreements.


Bryza and U.S. Ambassador to Georgia John Tefft met with Abkhazian President Sergei Bagapsh and Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba earlier in the day to discuss the situation in the region and ways to resolve it.


05.10.2008  Itar-Tass


 Abkhazia shows fragments of fifth downed Georgian drone


Sukhum, Republic of Abkhazia displayed on Friday fragments of a Georgian surveillance drone it allegedly downed on Thursday.


Abkhazia said it shot down the fifth Georgian surveillance drone since the beginning of the year over the village of Gudava in the Ochamchira district at about 17:10 Moscow time (13:10 GMT). Georgia has denied the report.


"Georgia has repeatedly ignored our warnings, and is deliberately continuing to make the situation worse by risking civilian lives. This is another proof of aggressiveness on the part of official Tbilisi and its reluctance to implement prior agreements," Garri Kupalba, Abkhazia's deputy defense minister, who showed the fragments, quoted from the ministry's statement.


Abkhazia earlier claimed its air defenses had shot down four Georgian surveillance drones this year, two on March 18 and April 20, and a further two on May 4.


The Georgian Foreign Ministry called Abkhazia's claims "absurd," and said they were aimed at escalating tensions in the region. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili also denied the report on Thursday.


"I have just spoken with the [Georgian] defense minister," Saakashvili told reporters. "No plane has been downed."


Abkhazia and South Ossetia broke away from Georgia in the early 1990s following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Between 10,000 and 30,000 people were killed in the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict and some 3,000 in Georgian-South Ossetian hostilities. Georgia is looking to regain control over the two de facto independent republics.


Earlier reports said Georgia had acquired a total of 40 drones, worth around $2 million each, from Israel between 2006 and 2008.


09.05.2008  RIA Novosti


 Abkhazia expects int'l recognition of its de-facto independence


Sukhum, The 'de facto' independence of the Republic of Abkhazia will be recognized sooner or later. That is the view of its president, Sergei Bagapsh. In a just-published interview he says "we want a lawful state, independent and democratic."


In an interview published Wednesday in Spain's El Pais newspaper, Sergei Bagapsh, the president of Abkhazia says that his unrecognized country will eventually achieve international recognition of its independence the same way that Kosovo did in February, when it unilaterally declared that it no longer wanted to be part of Serbia.


The ex-Soviet republic was originally a separate kingdom and then became the Abkhaz SSR in the Soviet Union before Georgia-born dictator Joseph Stalin forced it into the Georgian SSR.


Abkhazia and two other 'de facto' independent states, South Ossetia and Pridnestrovie, have stepped up their drive for freedom and independence since Kosovo's declaration of independence, requesting that Russia, the UN and other organizations recognize their sovereignty.


" - We want a lawful state, independent and democratic... If Kosovo can be independent then so can Abkhazia," Sergei Bagapsh said Wednesday.


Kosovo, with a 90% ethnic-Albanian majority, has been formally recognized as a sovereign state by 40 countries including the U.S., Taiwan and most EU members since it proclaimed its independence.


Russia and China both opposed Kosovo's independence because it was an unilateral decision which had not been negotiated in advance with Serbia. Nearly 160 states still consider Kosovo to be part of Serbia, or either don't care or have not yet made up their mind on the issue.


Already independent, just not recognized


Abkhazia, which has already been 'de facto' independent for nearly twenty years, believes that it has better grounds for independence than Kosovo.


" - We [Abkhazia] do not want Moscow to recognize us in defiance of the United States in order to take revenge for Kosovo. We want independence because we have a right to it. Because we have deserved it," said Bagapsh. He also added that if Abkhazia is granted international recognition of its independence, it would be a demilitarized country with no weapons or military units, but it would need security guarantees from other countries to achieve this. Bagapsh said that Georgia is "a very aggressive country armed to the teeth by Europe," adding that "Greek, Ukrainian, Turkish and American [military] instructors have equipped Georgia."


Like Pridnestrovie (also known as Transnistria), Abkhazia is already independent but just not diplomatically recognized as a state yet. Both of these new and emerging countries already meet the requirements for statehood under international law. (With information from El Pais, RIA Novosti)


05.08.2008  The Tiraspol Times


 RF peacekeepers reinforce positions in Georgia-Abkhazia conflict area


Moscow, Russian peacekeepers who have arrived in the area of the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict are reinforcing their operating areas and their observation posts, the Defence Ministry department for the press and public relations told Itar-Tass on Monday.


According to the press department, “commander of CIS Collective Peacekeeping Force in the conflict area Mayor-General Sergei Chaban conducted training with peacekeepers on the practical use of documents of the peacekeeping operation in the zone of the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict.”


Peacekeepers are reinforcing their positions in the settlements of Arasadzykh and Akaramara, the press department reported.


A total of 2,000 peacekeepers served in the zone of the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict. Last week the command of the CIS Collective Peacekeeping Force decided to increase the number of Russian peacekeepers in compliance with the recent resolution adopted by the CIS heads of state. Under the mandate, a total of 3,000 peacekeepers may be deployed in the area.


05.05.2008  Itar-Tass


 Gazeta.ru: Kremlin policy regarding Abkhazia contradicts Russia's interests


Strategically, Russia needs relative peace in and around Abkhazia, but it has no reliable plans for attaining it. Abkhazia is a specific problem, even compared with South Ossetia, because it directly affects Russia's interests.


Abkhazia has huge gravel deposits necessary for the construction of facilities for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, and Abkhazian workers will most likely become the core of workforce there.


Russia does not need a war or a near-war situation in Abkhazia in the last year or two before the Games, because the overwhelming majority of Abkhazians hold Russian passports and therefore Russia will have to become involved, one way or another.


Tensions in Abkhazia, let alone a war, would jeopardize safety at the Games, and the International Olympic Committee would be forced to move them to another country.


Russia needs peace in Abkhazia and around it at least in 2012-2014, but the Kremlin's policy of refusing to accept the current Georgian regime and protesting against its accession to NATO prevents it from helping Tbilisi's potential peaceful attempts at making up with republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.


Contradictions between Russia's foreign policy and its internal political interests, including those related to the Sochi Olympics, are creating additional political tensions.


The problem of Abkhazia, especially for Russia, is different from the problem of Kosovo. Russia will have to formulate a clear policy based on a combination of its real interests, rather than on the inflated geopolitical ambitions of the Russian elite garbed in populist slogans.


However, Russia cannot do this now because it has no time or patience for political debates, while measures proposed by officials, even if successful, cannot form the core of its policy. Crucial political decisions must be discussed publicly, for example in parliament.


05.05.2008  RIA Novosti


 Debris of second spy plane downed in Abkhazia found Fri before dusk


Sukhum, Debris of a second unmanned spy plane, shot down over the territory of Abkhazia on Friday, have been found, the chief of the Gal district police force, Laurens Koghonia, has said. The fragments were spotted in the area of the village of Rechkhi, the Tquarchal district.


“Several fragments have been found. The search had to be stopped as dusk set in. It will be continued tomorrow,” he said.


Earlier, the debris of the first intruder aircraft were found near the village of Achigvara, the Ochamchira district.


Abkhazia’s air defense shot down two unmanned spy planes of the Georgian Air Force over one hour (between 16:00 and 17:00 Moscow time) on Friday.


In the wake of soaring tensions along the disengagement line Abkhazia’ s armed forces have been alerted. The president of Abkhazia, Sergei Bagapsh, has issued orders to attack any air targets venturing into Abkhazia’s airspace.


05.05.2008  Itar-Tass


 Abkhazia places army on high alert after shooting dn Georgian drones


Sukhum, Following a sharp deterioration of tensions along the disengagement line that separates the Georgian and Abkhazian forces, the republic of Abkhazia has put its armed units on high alert, Kristian Bzhania, a special representative of the Abkhazian President told Itar-Tass.


Special focus is given to ensuring security of Abkhazia's air space.


President Sergei Bagapsh, who is the chief commander of the republic's Armed Forces, is in his office, Bzhania said, adding that the president has issued an order to bring down any aerial targets violating Abkhazian air space.


A total of two Georgian reconnaissance drones were shot down Sunday over Abkhazia's Gal district between 16:00 hours and 17:00 hours Moscow Daylight Saving Time /12:00 hours GMT and 13:00 hours GMT/. The first drone was destroyed over the village of Lizakhurga and the second one, over the village of Bagryam.


President Bagapsh invited Major General Sergei Chaban, the commander of the CIS Peacekeeping Force in the zone of Georgian-Abkhazian conflict, to his office and informed him about the situation.


Sunday's catch of drones bring the total number of pilotless reconnaissance aircraft destroyed in the skies over Abkhazia to four. The first of them was shot down March 18 and the second, April 20.


05.04.2008  Itar-Tass


 Fragments of Georgian spy drone found in Abkhazia - sources


Sukhum, Debris of one of the Georgian spy drones that were shot down Sunday in the skies over the much-troubled independence-seeking region of Abkhazia have been found near the village of Achigvara in the region's Ochamchira district, sources in the agencies of law and order of neighboring Gal district told Itar-Tass.


Identification of the debris was in progress at the time of reporting and a search for other pieces of debris of the two drones continued.


05.04.2008  Itar-Tass


 New Abkhazia Peacekeepers Settle In


The units of Russian peacekeepers sent to the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict zone, enlarging the Russian presence there by 50 percent, is setting up cooperative activities with local authorities and UN representatives for fulfilling their mission. Unit commanders report that their troops are ready to perform peacekeeping operations after having received instruction and assignments.


The Russian Defense Ministry announced on Tuesday that “the buildup by the Georgian side of military groupings in direct proximity to the conflict zone” necessitated enlarging the peacekeeping contingent in the Georgian-Abkhazian and Georgian-South Ossetian conflict zones to the upper limits set up international agreements made through the decisions of the Council of Heads of the CIS Member States.


05.02.2008  Kommersant


 Russian contingent in Abkhazia completes deployment


Moscow,  Additional units of the Russian peacekeeping troops, which arrived in the zone of the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict, have reported their readiness for fulfilling peacekeeping missions, Colonel Vyacheslav Sedov, head of the press service of the Russian Defence Ministry, told Itar-Tass on Friday.


“The peacekeeping units, which came to join the CIS Collective Peacekeeping Force, continue to set themselves up in the areas of provisional deployment. Measures were taken for establishing cooperation with local government bodies and representatives of the U.N. Observer Mission in Georgia. Classes were given to the personnel on the fulfilment of peacekeeping missions. Patrolling routes were outlined, and places for observation posts were chosen,” Colonel Sedov continued.


“The Russian units, which came to join the CIS Collective Peacekeeping Force, reported their readiness to fulfil peacekeeping missions,” he said. Colonel Sedov stressed that the overall numerical strength of the peacekeeping contingent did not exceed the parameters, set by the CIS Council of Heads of State.


Until recently the strength of the CIS Collective Peacekeeping Force was 2,000 men. In accordance with the mandate for the operation, it was increased to reach 3,000.


05.02.2008  Itar-Tass