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Georgians wounded in Abkhazia shootings

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, May 22
Georgian officials said Abkhaz militia were behind gunfire near breakaway Abkhazia yesterday which left several Georgians injured.

At least one bus was blown up and shooting broke out between Abkhaz militia and Georgian policemen, Georgian media sources reported.

The bus was apparently intended to shuttle ethnic Georgian voters from southern Abkhazia’s Gali district to polling stations across the administrative border.

Separatist officials denied Abkhaz forces were behind the incident.

Television station Rustavi 2 broadcast footage of a wounded woman being carried from the scene and dark plumes of smoke rising in the background. An Interior Ministry official said four Georgian women were wounded, one seriously.

“Naturally, [the separatists] are using various forms of provocations to intimidate [locals in Gali]. A shootout serves just this purpose,” deputy defense minister Batu Kutelia told reporters.

Foreign Minister Eka Tkeshelashvili said it was another example of Georgians’ rights being violated in the conflict zone.

But Abkhaz separatist leader Sergey Bagapsh said they had “no need to do these things.”

Ruslan Kishmaria, the separatist official in charge of Gali, said the incident occurred on Georgian-controlled territory and did not involve the Abkhaz side.

“Everything happened on Georgian territory near the Khurcha village,” he said, “there was a shooting there and our border officers can see that something is burning.”

Kishmaria also denied statements by the Tbilisi-backed Abkhaz government-in-exile that the bridge over the Enguri River on the administrative border had been closed by separatists, preventing Georgians from entering Zugdidi.

“It is nonsense, we have not forbidden anybody to participate in the elections. We do not hamper the people’s movement,” he said.

Former foreign minister Davit Bakradze, who tops the ruling party electoral list, called on political parties to unite over the incident.

“We, as a party, state that we are ready to stand alongside those who were wounded only because they were fulfilling their civic duty,” he said.