Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze yesterday told the country on radio that the lack of progress toward resolving the Abkhazia problem was cause for "concern and indignation." Shevardnadze gave Russia until May at the latest to act in its capacity as mediator and peacekeeper and to show "tangible progress" toward a settlement. Failing that, he said, he would ask the UN and the OSCE to take over the initiative in settling the conflict. The preceding day Shevardnadze’s spokesman had complained that Abkhazia continues receiving food and fuel, including Russian, by sea and by land notwithstanding the sanctions declared by the CIS summit back in January. The commander of Russian "peacekeeping" troops, Lt. General Vasily Yakushev, in turn warned that "if we leave, war will start again." (14)
Following its hard-won successes on paper at the CIS summit in January, Tbilisi expected decisive progress on three fronts: sanctions enforcement, agreement on Georgia’s federalization at the Moscow-mediated Georgian-Abkhaz negotiations, and the Georgian refugees’ return to Abkhazia under Russian military protection. None of those hopes materialized as Moscow promptly backtracked on the sanctions, the negotiations collapsed while the Duma’s Communist leaders encouraged Abkhaz intransigence, and Russia’s Defense Ministry declined to task its "peacekeeping" troops to repatriate the Georgian refugees. Georgia accepted a three-month extension of the peacekeeping troops’ mandate until April 19, provided they are empowered to exercise police functions in Abkhazia and repatriate the Georgian refugees.
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