Abkhaz authorities yesterday released Ruzgen Gogokhia, a prominent Georgian commander in the 1992-93 war. The Abkhaz kidnapped Gogokhia in 1995 and sentenced him to death, but kept him in jail, apparently with a view to using him in an exchange of prisoners. The Georgian and Abkhaz Security Ministries negotiated the release. It was not immediately clear whether Tbilisi offered a quid pro quo.
Politically, the most significant aspect is the intercession of Shamil Basaev, the newly-appointed Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Chechen Armed Forces, in favor of the release. (Georgian TV, Russian agencies, July 19) Basaev commanded a highly effective Chechen detachment on the Abkhaz side with covert Russian support in the war against Georgia. After Russia’s anti-Chechen war, however, Chechen leaders have recognized their 1992-93 blunder and are seeking a rapprochement with Georgia.
PLAN TO STATION MORE RUSSIAN ARMS TO ARMENIA ALARMS AZERBAIJAN.