According to Russian defense minister Pavel Grachev, Russia and Georgia will shortly sign an agreement on guarding the section of the railroad between the two countries which passes through Abkhazia. The latter’s leader Vladislav Ardzinba "will have to agree," Grachev said. (13)
That railroad is the main artery for Russian-Georgian trade and for supplying Russian troops in Georgia, which now enjoy basing rights under the bilateral treaty signed September 15. The disruption of traffic on that railroad due to Abkhaz-Georgian hostilities since 1992 has seriously damaged Georgia’s economy. Joint Russian-Georgian protection of the railroad’s Abkhaz stretch would in practice enable Georgia to reintroduce some troops in Abkhazia under Russian protection. Grachev’s announcement shows Russia’s growing tilt toward Georgia in the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict.
Caucasus Unofficial Body Reemerges, Backs Abkhazia.