Incidents » Conflicts

Adzaria on alert: tanks on streets, reservists are preparing machine-guns

State of emergency has been introduced in Adzaria, autonomous territory formally being part of  Georgia, but in fact self-governed republic.
Curfew has been imposed for the entire autonomous territory by the authorities of Adzaria. Actions of opposition - supporters of Georgia - have been banned, the opposition was notified by the authorities about this.

Head of Adzaria Aslan Abashidze said that the republic is ready to protect itself, but did not elaborate if full mobilization to the Army will take place or not.

At 7:00 am Msk there was an explosion on the railroad 15 kilometers from Tbilisi. There are no victims, but the trains have been stopped in this area. “Law-enforcers believe this is a diversion”, said to reporters David Bashaleinshvili, the governor of Mtsheta-Mtianedsy District of Georgia where the explosion took place. Deputy Minister of State Security of Georgia Amiran Mesheli  has already accused the supporters of Adzarian Head Alsan Abashidze of organizing the explosion. 

There is information that two Georgian military ships are moving in the direction of sea-port Batumi, the capital of Adzaria. They are likely to intend to blocade Batumi sea-port from the Black Sea, said Interior Minister of Adzaria Djemal Gogitidze.

The conflict started on March 14.  Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili tried to arrive in Adzaria and to campaign for the Parliamentary elections (they will take place in Georgia on March 28), but his motorcade was stopped on the border between Georgia and Adzaria by representatives of Adzarian authorities and military (Mr. Saakashvili calls them “illegal militant units”). After an argument the motorcade returned to Georgian city Poti. The Head of Adzaria was visititing Moscow on that day. Aslan Abashidze said that in Moscow he “was informing the public about the chaos and turmoil happening in Georgia”.

Georgian President was unlikely to reconcile himself with the humiliation he had on Adzarian border. Being in Poti, Mikhail Saakashvili sent ultimatum to Adzarian authorities. He requested “to give the opportunity for Georgian President to go through Adzaria and meet its residents, to stop prosecuting people in Adzaria for their political beliefs and provide the conditions for conducting in Adzaria democratic elections in Georgian Parliament on March 28".

President Saakashvili requested from Mr. Abashidze “to dissolve his illegal military unit of 1,500 people and not prevent Georgian authorities from controlling the sea-port of Batumi and frontier post Sarpi on the border between Georgia and Turkey".

Mr. Abashidze considers the intention of Georgian President to arrive in Adzaria to campaign for elections as not legitimate.

Adzarian authorities started giving weapons to the people subject to the draft. After the command from Interior Ministry, such people will be required to arrive at the assembly points “to provide resistance to Georgian military”. Adzarian TV broadcast the images of preparations for defending the border with Georgia in the area of the river Choloki.

Georgian media reported that tanks and armored vehicles showed up on the streets of Batumi – the capital of Adzaria. 
 
Russian troops in the Russian military base in Batumi have been put on alert. However, Russian Army command ordered the military in Adzaria to stay neutral and not intervene in the conflict.

Official representative of Russian Foreign Ministry Alexander Yakovenko said that if military conflict takes place, it will be sole responsibility of Georgia. “There are reasons to expect that Georgia will use force (to Adzaria)”, said Russian diplomat. 
 
In the morning on March 16 Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov arrived in Adzaria and conducted long negotiations with Head of autonomous republic Aslan Abashidze.

Yury Luzhkov said to reporters he came to “support his friend at the critical moment”.  Representative of Russian Foreign Ministry said that this trip was solely Luzhkov’s initiative, but expressed the opinion that “if such a prominent politician arrived in Batumi, his visit must be used for settling the problem”.

However, Moscow mayor has not accepted the role of an intermediary for this conflict so far.

“Georgia, not Adzaria is escalating the conflict. I am very sorry that all is happening this way instead of negotiating”, said Yury Luzhkov.

The primary cause of the conflict may be economic, namely Batumi sea-port in Adzaria. Big amount of oil and cargo passes through this busy port.
In 2003 Batumi port shipped about 7 million tons of oil.

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili reported that the port had been blockaded along with blocking “the accounts of Adzarian authorities in Georgian central banks. All these measures are directed to depriving Adzarian authorities of their source of funding, and this will continue until they come to their mind and comply with Georgian Constitution”.

These measures will result in economic blockade for Adzaria.

Georgian Office of Public Prosecutor has brought accusations of criminal activity against 10 high-ranking officials of Adzarian authorities. The majority of these officials are relatives of Aslan Abashidze or his wife. General Prosecutor of Georgia Irakly Okruashvili said that all these persons would be announced on international wanted list, their bank accounts in Georgia and foreign countries would be terminated. Various charges have been brought against Adzarian officials, from dispersals of peaceful demonstrations to  organizing assassinations and supplying weapons to illegal military units, smuggling drugs and weapons.  
 
There is information on the reaction of the USA on the situation in Adzaria. "The USA is concerned, but sees no need to intervene”, said Georgian Ambassador in Russia Konstantin Kemulariya at press-conference on March 15.

Source: Information agencies

To see photos, go to http://www1.newsteam.ru/reports/index.html?1,84,5

To participate in the discussion on the conflict in Adzaria, go to PRAVDA Forum at http://engforum.pravda.ru/showthread.php3?threadid=66402

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