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The Week in Brief

Friday, August 1
Foreign diplomats are pushing the Abkhaz and Georgians to sit down for peace talks in Berlin. The long-frozen separatist conflict has been hit by a ‘worrying new level of violence’ in the last few months, according to a UN report which also warned that the region came close to war in April.

A contingent of Russian military engineers left Abkhazia after patching up the breakaway region’s dilapidated railways. Georgian officials fiercely criticized the unilateral deployment two months ago, accusing the engineers of paving the way for bigger Russian deployments.

A defrocked priest known for his violent campaign against religious minorities was freed after four years in jail. Father Basili was sentenced to six years for attacking Georgian Jehovah’s Witnesses and Baptists and burning their religious literature. He is reportedly in poor health.

Georgian troops and South Ossetia separatist forces exchanged heavy fire over a strategic hill in the region. Both sides accused each other of attacking first. There were no injuries reported.

Three high-level Economic Development Ministry officials and a real estate mogul were arrested for their roles in a crooked land deal.

An 18-year-old Tbilisi student became Miss Georgia 2008 in a two-hour televised competition in the seaside resort town of Batumi. She took home a new car and will travel to Ukraine represent the country in the Miss World competition.