Russia’s war-torn Chechnya region borders Georgia, and the Georgian side is becoming a battleground as well. Recent Russian claims, unsupported by any evidence, that Afghanistan’s Taliban uses Georgian territory to supply and reinforce Chechen rebels seem intended as a pretext for Russian military moves. Russian airborne forces took the Georgian border village of Pichkhvi last April.
To forestall further Russian incursions, President Eduard Shevardnadze wants to engage international organizations in peacemaking and peacekeeping. The lack of security in the region makes that difficult.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) now has two monitoring posts on the Georgian side of the Georgia-Chechnya border, and more installations are planned. The United Nations also has observers in the region. An armed band abducted five UN observers last October. They were later released, possibly after payment of a ransom. Two Danish UN officers and their Abkhaz interpreter were kidnapped June 1, along with two British citizens working with HALO Trust, a land-mine-removal organization. The interpreter was released and conveyed the kidnappers’ demand for a $500,000 ransom.
Despite these problems, the OSCE has agreed to a Georgian request to become involved in the next round of talks between Georgian officials and separatists from the breakaway province of South Ossetia. Those talks, however, will take place in Vienna.