Members of the Svan ethnic group kidnapped two unarmed United Nations observers in Abkhazia, the Russian-backed breakaway region in northeast Georgia. Georgian negotiators secured their release four days later. Georgian officials deny payment of ransom, as they did after similar incidents in October 1999 and June 2000, but they offer no alternative explanations. Ethnic Chechens in Georgia’s Pankisi gorge continue to hold five Georgians and two Spaniards. Georgia has ruled out using force, for fear of providing a pretext for Russian attacks against Chechens in Georgia.