In a statement issued yesterday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry denounced a "mounting wave of subversion and terrorism, directed against local residents and Russian peacekeepers" in Abkhazia. Charging that "Georgian authorities well know the bandit groups engaged in this activity," the statement warned that Russian forces "have been ordered to cut short the terrorist and subversive actions, and do so jointly with the local bodies of power"–that is, with the Abkhaz authorities. "Terrorist acts against Russian peacekeepers will not remain unpunished," the statement concluded.
Also yesterday, Russia’s First Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Pastukhov charged that "some Georgian officials and mass media support those so-called patriots, the bandit White Legion." Pastukhov claimed that Russian "peacekeeping troops" can only be removed from the area if the CIS Council of Heads of State so decides, or if both sides to the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict agree to the removal. Pastukhov furthermore rejected the view that the Russian-mediated negotiations between Tbilisi and Sukhumi are deadlocked. Moscow wants a solution acceptable to both parties, Pastukhov insisted. (Russian agencies, April 15)
The warning follows, somewhat belatedly, a spate of guerrilla incursions in Abkhazia earlier this month by the elusive White Legion. (See Monitor, April 14) Tbilisi disclaims responsibility and attributes such raids to local Georgians acting on their own initiative. The Russian Foreign Ministry’s warning appears designed to torpedo the proposals that Georgia is expected to submit at the April 29 CIS summit regarding the "peacekeeping" operation in Abkhazia. Pastukhov’s statement for its part would seem to imply that Moscow considers its troop presence in Abkhazia as open-ended, potentially permanent, and ultimately not subject to Georgian consent. Russia or a friendly president can always prevent a decision by the CIS Heads of State on removing those troops, and Abkhazia is certain to veto such a decision in the course of Russian-mediated negotiations with Tbilisi. Those negotiations mark time since 1993.
Language Day Celebration Highlights Shevardnadze’s Role.