Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 72

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Demurin told a Moscow briefing yesterday that Russia deems "any economic blockade of Abkhazia out of the question," and that its Federal Border Service neither was nor will be ordered to enforce the sanctions declared against Abkhazia at the last CIS summit. Demurin cited in justification "concern for Abkhazia’s multiethnic population, primarily its ethnic Russians," and reluctance to risk lives of Russian border troops in enforcement actions. The announcement in effect spurned Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze’s public insistence April 8 that "we demand the implementation of CIS decisions on Abkhazia." In a small sop to Tbilisi, Moscow this week required Abkhazia to use Georgian telephone exchanges for communicating with Russia.

Russia’s repudiation of sanctions coincided with a visit to Abkhazia by a Duma delegation headed by ultranationalist Duma Deputy Chairman Sergei Baburin. He described Abkhazia as an ally of Russia in the Caucasus, while Abkhaz parliamentary leaders said in their speeches that Abkhazia "gravitates toward Russia." (Itar-Tass, Interfax, April 10 & 11)

Economic sanctions against Abkhazia had been announced at the January 19 CIS summit as a highly publicized initiative of Presidents Boris Yeltsin and Eduard Shevardnadze under the rubric of "combating aggressive separatism." Limited to Georgian checks of cargoes bound for Abkhazia and enforceable by Russian border troops and coastal guard, the sanctions were never actually implemented. Moscow’s formal disavowal of the sanctions will encourage Abkhaz intransigence and thus a continuing deadlock in the Russian-mediated Georgian-Abkhaz negotiations.

Kazakhstan to Sell More Metallurgical Plants to Western Firms.