Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 127

Russian border troops are in the process of giving up control of some key sectors of Georgia’s borders, though not necessarily into the right hands. In the Ajaria sector of the Georgian-Turkish border, the transfer is proceeding smoothly and in a manner consistent with Georgia’s title to sovereignty. Under informal arrangements between Tbilisi and Ajaria’s Supreme Soviet Chairman Aslan Abashidze, the Georgian border troop units in Ajaria are to be composed mostly of local residents. Those units are to form an integral part of Georgia’s border troops and will be directly subordinated to the Tbilisi headquarters of those troops. The commander of Georgian border troops in Ajaria has been nominated by Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze and approved by Abashidze. Implementation of these arrangements is underway, relieving earlier concerns that the Russian-oriented Abashidze might thwart them. The Russian troops are being withdrawn–and repatriated–from the land border only. The Russian naval base in Ajaria’s capital Batumi is not, for the time being, affected.

In Abkhazia, on the other hand, Russian border troops are handing over their installations and the control over border sectors to Abkhaz forces. Those forces–and the secessionist republic itself–owe their existence to Russian military support in the first place. The Abkhaz have taken over at least seven installations on the Black Sea coast including the Ochamchira base they had coveted. As a result, Georgian control over the country’s Black Sea coast is limited de facto to the middle section, situated between the Abkhaz and Ajar sectors and centered on Poti and Supsa.

Georgian troops will be solely in charge of the Chechen sector of the Georgian-Russian border. Under a bilateral agreement with Moscow, Tbilisi will not enter into direct relations with the Chechen republic without Moscow’s consent. According to the Russian side, Georgia has agreed to withhold permission for the construction of a road which could link the Chechen capital Djohar with the Black Sea across Georgia.

Meanwhile, Turkey is actively seconding the United States in an effort to strengthen Georgia’s border troops. A first batch of twenty-two Georgian border guards have completed a training course offered by Turkish officers at the Lilo training center outside Tbilisi. The group is proceeding this week to Turkey for the second stage of the training. In all, 300 Georgian border troop officers and warrant officers will undergo the three-month Turkish training under this program. The program also covers Turkish logistical and technical assistance to the land and naval components of Georgian border troops.

Ankara has, furthermore, officially agreed that Turkish commercial vessels sailing to or from Abkhaz ports will undergo Georgian customs checks at Poti. Turkey is also expected to continue exercising a restraining influence on Abashidze. The Ajar ruling circles primarily, and the populace secondarily, profit from the lively–official and unofficial–cross-border trade with Turkey and have a vested interest in its continuation (Kavkazia-Press, Prime-News, June 22-28).

The Monitor is a publication of the Jamestown Foundation. It is researched and written under the direction of senior analysts Jonas Bernstein, Vladimir Socor, Stephen Foye, and analysts Ilya Malyakin, Oleg Varfolomeyev and Ilias Bogatyrev. If you have any questions regarding the content of the Monitor, please contact the foundation. If you would like information on subscribing to the Monitor, or have any comments, suggestions or questions, please contact us by e-mail at, by fax at 301-562-8021, or by postal mail at The Jamestown Foundation, 4516 43rd Street NW, Washington DC 20016. Unauthorized reproduction or redistribution of the Monitor is strictly prohibited by law. Copyright (c) 1983-2002 The Jamestown Foundation Site Maintenance by Johnny Flash Productions