The level of violence is rising in the northern province of Abkhazia on the Russian border. The ethnic Abkhaz population drove ethnic Georgians from their homes in the mid-1990’s and held unauthorized elections in 1996. The Abkhaz secessionists have found tacit support from Russia, which maintains “peacekeeping” troops in the region under an arrangement that the Georgian government lacks the power to alter. In recent months, an ethnic Georgian guerrilla movement called the Forest Brothers has stepped up attacks across the Inguri river that divides Abkhazia from the rest of Georgia. Government sources in Tbilisi say the guerrillas killed 35 Abkhaz troopers May 18-21, while losing only three of their own men. Abkhaz sources dispute the numbers but not the fact of heavy fighting. Russia’s 1,600 peacekeepers have been passive throughout, although the Russian command issued a statement supporting Abkhaz efforts to “clean the territory of bandit detachments and criminal elements.” The Georgian government of President Eduard Shevardnadze, once foreign minister in the Soviet government of Mikhail Gorbachev, denies any connection to the Forest Brothers but does nothing to discourage them. The United Nations maintains a small Military Observer Mission, of which four members have recently been kidnapped. Late last week, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan proposed sending a 300-man UN force to protect the UN observers, and perhaps provide a stabilizing element that the Russian peacekeepers obviously do not.