Russian prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin yesterday signed a decision authorizing Russian border guards and customs services to allow Abkhaz fruit and other produce to be imported to Russia, based on certain quotas, from November, 1997, through March of next year. Russian government agencies are to cooperate in effecting the transit of the goods across the Abkhaz section of the Russian-Georgian border. The document uses the term "Abkhazia (Georgia)" in referring to the secessionist region. It says that the import decision is intended to provide economic assistance to the ethnic Russians in Abkhazia. (Russian agencies, November 11) In fact, however, Abkhazia’s ethnic Russian minority has nothing to do with farming. The parenthetical mention of Georgia underscores the essentially formal character of Moscow’s recognition of Georgia’s territorial integrity.
Chernomyrdin’s decision contravenes successive CIS summit resolutions and President Boris Yeltsin’s personal assurances to Georgia, most recently at the Chisinau summit, concerning Abkhazia. According to those resolutions and assurances, Moscow shall not deal directly with Abkhazia behind Tbilisi’s back and shall help enforce Tbilisi’s right to control Abkhazia’s external economic relations. Moscow is nevertheless keeping open Abkhazia’s lifeline to Russia, thanks mainly to the Russian border troops which control the Abkhaz section of the Russian-Georgian border.
On the preceding day, Moscow announced the resumption of electrical power deliveries to Georgia’s other secessionist region, South Ossetia. That decision was made by Russian deputy prime ministers Valery Serov and Ramazan Abdulatipov at a meeting in Russia with South Ossetian leader Lyudvig Chibirov. (Russian agencies, November 10) Moscow’s decisions appear timed to strengthen Abkhaz and South Ossetian negotiators during upcoming talks, scheduled for November 14 on South Ossetia and November 17-19 on Abkhazia.
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