To the 10th anniversary of the beginning of military operations between Georgia and Abkhazia
The Georgian-Abkhazian relationship became aggravated in 1989, when a Gathering of the Abkhazian people asked the superior authority of the USSR to grant Abkhazia its former status of a Union Republic /the Abkhazian Soviet Socialist Republic was proclaimed in March of 1921. Ten years later, it became an autonomous member of the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic; in December of 1990, it was renamed the Abkhazian Autonomous Republic/.
In July of 1992, the Abkhazian Supreme Council proclaimed independence of Abkhazia; the decision was not recognized by the central authorities of Georgia. On August 14, 1992, Georgian national guards entered the territory of Abkhazia and occupied its capital, Sukhumi.
Military operations between Georgia and Abkhazia grew rapidly into a war involving aviation, artillery and other types of weapons. By the end of August, Georgian troops had established control over a major part of the Abkhazian territory. Abkhazia put up resistance, having accepted reinforcements made up of volunteers from the Confederation of Caucasian Mountain Dwellers. Georgia classified the sending of the volunteers as a proof of the fact that Russia sided with the separatists.
On September 3, 1992, Russian President Boris Yeltsin and then-Chairman of the State Council of Georgia Edward Shevardnadze met in Moscow to discuss the situation in the conflict zone. In the course of the meeting, they agreed that Georgia must preserve its territorial integrity and signed a document envisaging a ceasefire, withdrawal of Georgian troops from Abkhazia, and return of refugees. Since the conflicting parties failed to execute at least one clause of the agreement, military action carried on.
By the end of 1992, military action turned into trench warfare -- a war in which neither side could win. On December 15, 1992, Georgia and Abkhazia signed several documents on cessation of military action and withdrawal of all troops and military hardware from the conflict zone. There followed a period of relative calm, which was interrupted in the early 1993 after Abkhazia had launched an offensive on Sukhumi, which was still occupied by Georgian troops. In late September, 1993, control over Sukhumi was passed to the Abkhazian forces.
According to official estimates, military action between Georgia and Abkhazia claimed the lives of about 16,000 people, including 4,000 Abkhazians, 10,000 Georgians, and 2,000 volunteers from South Ossetia and various North Caucasian republics.
Damages that Abkhazia suffered during the war and its consequences are estimated at 10.7 billion dollars. The number of Abkhazian refugees amounts to 270,000 people.
The Georgian-Abkhazian peace process has been dragging on since 1993. In May of 1994, the sides signed an agreement on a ceasefire and disengagement of forces in the conflict zone. In accordance with the same agreement, Collective Peacekeeping Forces of the Commonwealth of Independent States were brought into the zone in June of the same year.
Settlement of the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict has been repeatedly discussed during the sessions of the Council of Presidents of the CIS. In 2000, the CIS set up a working group to control the execution of conflict-related decisions made during summit meetings of the CIS.
In 2002, the United Nations issued a document on division of power between Georgia and Abkhazia, which mostly concerned the status of Abkhazia as a member of a united Georgian state /the so-called Boden Plan, which was approved by Russia/.
Despite the effort of the world community, the problem remains unsolved. De jure Abkhazia is still part of Georgia; de facto it is an independent republic.
On August 13, on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the beginning of military operations between Georgia and Abkhazia, Georgia's State Minister Avtandil Dzhorbenadze and Abkhazia's Prime Minister Anri Dzhergeniya met in the village of Chuburkhindzhi in Abkhazia's Gali district. During the meeting, the Abkhazian side raised the "presence of Georgian combat helicopters and movement of Georgian military formations in the upper reaches of the Kodori Gorge." The meeting was cut short as the sides received the news of an armed clash near the Marukhsky Pass in the Kodori Gorge. Abkhazia claims that its positions were attacked by Georgian troops armed with heavy mortars, even though the Georgian side said earlier that it had withdrawn all hardware from the district in question.
Sukhumi officials believe the attack on Abkhazian positions was no accident. Upon hearing the news of the armed clash, the state minister of Georgia interrupted the meeting and headed for Zugdidi to learn more about the situation in the gorge.