The Federation Council's Committee for security and defence is concerned about the uncertain status of Russian peace-makers in the area of the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict, chairman of the committee Viktor Ozerov told journalists on Friday. On December 31 the peace-makers' mandate on their mission lost validity. The address of Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze to the CIS presidents is needed in order to prolong the mandate but he has not issued such a statement yet, the deputy said. Commenting upon the statements of Georgian politicians on the necessity to replace the Russian peace-makers by NATO servicemen, he expressed his doubt "in their effective capability to restrain contradictions" between Tbilisi and Sukhumi. The Russian peace-makers have been stationed in the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict area since June 1994.
An explosion of household gas occurred in a nine-storeyed apartment building in the city of Shakhty, the Rostov region of Russia. The blast destroyed two storeys of the building