According to Avtandil Ioseliani, the head of Georgia's intelligence services, attacks may take place in the near future against Russia peacekeepers serving in Abkhazia. He stressed that 'Georgia is not responsible for organising these attacks, that can be ruled out.' Russian troops have been stationed in the conflict zone since 1994 under the aegis of the CIS.
On Monday, January 13, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze declared that he was currently unwilling to renew the mandate for the 'blue berets', which expired on December 31, 2002. According to Ioseliani, 'Sukhumi has declared that it is in favour of renewing the peacekeepers' mandate, but in private conversations representatives of the Abkhazian leadership often say that they would not be opposed to the withdrawal of the troops.' 'If the peacekeepers are withdrawn, there will not be a new wide-scale Georgian-Abkhazian conflict, but small-scale attacks in the conflict zone cannot be ruled out,' he said.