An Abkhaz "coastal guard" boat on March 3 fired at several Georgian fishing vessels in the Black Sea near the Abkhaz-controlled coast. The trawlers withdrew without casualties. (Russian agencies, February 3) Last week, Abkhaz authorities had warned that they would use force to thwart Tbilisi’s intention to assign its coastal guard to control the Abkhaz coast. That control is currently being exercised by the naval component of Russia’s border forces. The Abkhaz, for their part, have improvised a "coastal guard" by arming some civilian ships.
The Abkhaz shooting seems timed precisely to Georgia’s receipt of a Turkish and a Greek coastal guard cutter. The handover ceremonies are scheduled for today in Batumi and for March 6 in Poti, respectively; and are to be followed by the handover of two U.S. cutters. These transfers, adding to earlier Ukrainian and U.S. donations, mark the formation of Georgia’s own coastal guard. Moscow managed to delay that process by withholding Georgia’s share of the ex-Soviet Black Sea Fleet.
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