Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 5

Two Abkhaz “coastal guard” boats yesterday seized a Turkish fishing vessel and escorted it to the Abkhaz military base at Ochamchira. According to Abkhazia’s announcement, its “border forces” acted when the Turkish vessel had crossed the “Georgian-Abkhaz maritime border” (Russian agencies, January 7).

The Abkhaz move constitutes a signal to Georgia, rather than Turkey. It substantiates Abkhazia’s warnings that it would use force to protect its “borders” and to prevent Georgian coastal guard and border troops from taking control. Last fall, the Georgians took over the control of Georgia’s seaboard, minus the Abkhaz coast, from Russian forces. Abkhazia took over the Ochamchira base from the departing Russians.

During the night of January 6-7, Russian “peacekeeping” forces in Abkhazia machine-gunned Georgian interior troops across the Abkhaz-Georgian demarcation line. The firing, from the Gali district into the Zugdidi district, lasted twelve hours and forty minutes. Although it did not result in casualties, the incident also seemed to signal a readiness to use force in cementing separation de facto (Russian agencies, January 7).

Georgian border troops are supposed to complete the takeover of the country’s borders from Russian troops by next June. Although the transfer is fully legitimate and indeed overdue, the incidents in Abkhazia suggest–as predicted (see the Monitor, December 23)–that the process will be difficult and susceptible to Russian manipulation.

In another incident, the service car of Georgia’s Defense Minister Davit Tevzadze came under fire from unidentified perpetrators in Tbilisi on January 5. Tevzadze, who was not in the car at the time, confirmed the incident yesterday (Russian agencies, January 7).