Reports: Moscow is planning to boost its military presence in Abkhazia
By Mzia Kupunia
Wednesday, June 22Russia is planning to increase the number of its troops deployed in Georgia’s breakaway region of Abkhazia more than twofold by 2013, lifenews.ru reported citing an unnamed Russian Defence Ministry official. According to the Russian news agency, the decision made at a closed-door meeting of the de facto Abkhazian Defence Ministry officials and Russian Defence Ministry authorities in Sochi. Additional troops will be deployed at “Russian-Abkhazian” and “Abkhazian-Georgian” borders, lifenews.ru reported.
“Currently the Georgian side is still continuing partisan war in Gali region,” anonymous Russian official told lifenews.ru “The sides have agreed to prevent Georgian special services’ actions in advance in order to avoid military conflicts. In relation to this Sukhumi and Moscow have confirmed an agreement on increasing peacekeeping forces in this region,” the source told the news agency.
According to Russian officials currently there are 1500 Russian military servicemen deployed in Georgia’s breakaway region of Abkhazia. The number will increase to 3500 by 2013, according to lifenews.ru’s anonymous source. “This number does not exceed the parameters defined by the agreements in frames of CIS states leaders' council,” the source told the agency.
De facto Abkhazian officials have said “nobody should have any doubts that Russia and Abkhazia are able to ensure the security of the citizens of both countries in the region.” De facto Defence Minister Merab Kishmaria said “we have everything under control”. “During the period of Sochi Olympiad in 2014 full security will be ensured at the borders, as well as on the territory of Abkhazia,” Kishmaria told reporters.
Tbilisi has slammed reports about plans of increasing Russian troops presence in Abkhazia, with some Parliamentary opposition politicians suggesting Georgian officials to “revise” Tbilisi’s participation in Geneva talks. Leader of the Parliamentary minority group, Christian-Democratic Movement, Giorgi Targamadze accused Russia of “artificially escalating tensions” in Georgia’s breakaway regions “in order to justify” its plans on increasing the number of troops deployed in the occupied regions. “This is very important information, which bears huge threat,” Targamadze told lawmakers on Tuesday’s Plenary Session, referring to statements on boosting Russian troops number in Abkhazia “especially against the background of what has been happening on the Georgian territory, conflict zones and its adjacent territories in the last several months,” he added. He called on the Georgian authorities to revise the issue of participation in Geneva negotiations and to inform the international community about the latest information about Russian troops in Abkhazia.
Responding to Targamadze’s suggestion, Georgian Parliament Speaker, Davit Bakradze told Foreign Relations Parliamentary Committee to verify the information reported by lifenews.ru. “This is a very important and serious issue related to Georgia’s national security. This information has not been officially confirmed so far, however we should watch it carefully and in case of confirmation we should think what kind of response steps the Georgian side should take,” Bakradze noted. However, when commenting on CDM’s proposal to stop participating in Geneva talks, he said that officials should refrain from making any specific statements on needed steps so far.
Meanwhile, Georgian Troup’s MP, Jondi Baghaturia has criticized CDM’s proposal on withdrawing from Geneva negotiations, calling on the opposition lawmakers “not to encourage the authorities to make a provocative step and stop participating in Geneva format talks.” Baghaturia said that thwarting Geneva negotiations is in the interests of Moscow.