The "alcohol war" on the Georgian-Russian border (see Monitor, September 9) is developing larger political dimensions and is also drawing attention to broader problems created by Russian border troops in Georgia.
The first deputy commander of Russia’s border troops, Col. Gen. Aleksandr Tymko, warned on September 8 that Russian border troops are prepared to use their weapons on Georgian territory in order to stop trucks carrying alcohol from crossing into Russia. A similar warning issued last week by the chief of Russia’s Federal Border Service, Gen. Andrei Nikolaev, caused president Eduard Shevardnadze to cancel a scheduled visit to Moscow. (See Monitor, September 8) Tymko’s unnecessary repetition of the threat therefore looks like a calculated affront to the Georgian president. Shevardnadze admonished Moscow on radio the same day "to negotiate instead of threatening to use force… The recent past has demonstrated that threats of force can lead to tragic consequences." (Russian agencies, September 8)
According to Georgian deputy foreign minister Malkhaz Kakabadze, Russian border troops "several weeks ago" pushed the border some 500 meters into Georgian territory in the Lars sector on the Georgian Military Highway. The action "grossly violated" an agreement reached last June to refrain from unilateral actions in that and other disputed sectors of the border, Kakabadze complained. Negotiations on border delimitation and demarcation are stalled. Today the Russian border troops reported that the Lars unit shot last night at "drunken intruders from Georgia." (Itar-Tass, September 10)
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