"This will be a military action meant to punish Adzharia the same way the republics of Abkhazia and Ossetia were punished"
A conflict between the authorities of the Adzharia autonomy and Tbilisi has become even more heated: both sides accuse each other of increasing the tension. On Wednesday, Adzharia leader Aslan Abashidze said "Tbilisi was scheming an armed intrusion in Adzharia." In his words, "this will be a military action meant to punish Adzharia the same way the republics of Abkhazia and Ossetia were punished. The measure will entail more blood and horrors."
Georgian Deputy Minister of State Security Amiran Meskheli told journalists it is not ruled out that a special operation might be conducted in Georgia if necessary. At that, he adds there is no need to conduct this sort of an operation right now.
The opposition between Adzharia and Tbilisi got tenser because of the clashes between followers of Aslan Abashidze and the opposition in Batumi on February 19-20. Following the clashes, offices of the movements Our Adzharia, Democratic Adzharia and Kmara were smashed. The movements aim at dismissing of authoritarian Aslan Abashidze. The opposition dated the protests for the visit of Council of Europe Secretary General Walter Schwimmer to Batumi. Main objective of the protests was to let the European delegation see that the present-day leadership of the autonomy is non-democratic. In fact, the opposition succeeded. Walter Schwimmer met not only with Aslan Abashidze, but also with the opposition leaders.
Georgia President Mikhail Saakashvili being on a visit to the US said after the events in Batumi he absolutely ruled out any large-scale operation in the Adzharia capital. However, he admitted that the Georgia Interior Ministry would conduct special operations to detain some separate groups of people. These groups, as the Georgia president says, terrorize the population, but the Adzharia authorities claim they have nothing to do with it. Meanwhile, it is unlikely that operations started by Georgia's military structures in Adzharia will not develop into a large-scale special operation. Aslan Abashidze will be quite naturally indignant at arrests of his followers. Arrests may make the gloomy forecasts of the autonomy leader a reality.
In fact, armed conflicts with Adzharia are absolutely unwelcome for Tbilisi. Mikhail Saakashvili wants to demonstrate he can establish order in the country within a very short period of time. With this purpose "the hunting for werewolves" from the Shevardnadze government and the family of the ex-president has been started. In any case, it would be reckless for the Georgia president to get involved into a large-scale conflict with Batumi.
But Aslan Abashidze will be hardly left alone, as the Adzharia leader demonstrates his independence rather aggressively. For example, he did not appear at the inauguration of Mikhail Saakashvili in Tbilisi, even though the president told the Adzharia leader it was his duty. For the time being, attempts are being made to dismiss Aslan Abashidze the same way it was done with the ex-president of Georgia, by initiating demonstrations of the opposition. As seen from the attitude of the Adzharia leader, this scenario may fail. Then, Mikhail Saakashvili will have to come to an agreement with the Adzharia leader, otherwise the situation may develop tragically.