Russian border guard forces ceased patrolling the central and northern sectors of Georgia’s maritime border as of yesterday. Both land-based troops and the naval component of Russian border forces relocated southward to Batumi in Ajaria.
Moscow’s reluctant decision follows a September 6 incident, when Georgian border guards seized the Russian border troops’ station at Poti, the main Georgian-administered civilian and military port on the Black Sea. The Georgians evicted the Russian unit stationed there and seized the station’s equipment. A senior Russian commander, who rushed from the Batumi headquarters to clarify the situation, was met with warning shots by another Georgian unit outside Poti. The commander of Georgian border troops, Major-General Valery Chkheidze, stated that the Georgian units were acting in accordance with his orders. (Russian agencies, September 7 and 8)
Under an agreement forced on Tbilisi by Moscow in 1994, Russian border forces took control of Georgia’s maritime border, its land border with Turkey and the Abkhaz sector of the Georgian-Russian border. Georgia is now trying hard to change that situation with Western, Turkish and Ukrainian support. On June 27, Moscow and Tbilisi initialed an agreement on the gradual transfer of control over maritime and land borders from Russian to Georgian troops. However, Moscow seems to encourage Abkhazia, Ajaria, and Javakhetia–the regions where most Russian troops are based–to resist such a transfer. The Moscow-oriented leaderships of those regions have signaled that they are prepared to go to the brink in order to keep Georgian border guards out and the Russian ones in.
Russian Foreign Minister Vladimir Rakhmanin pointedly remarked yesterday that it would take a long time before the agreement to withdraw the Russian border troops is ultimately signed and ratified “under Russia’s internal procedures.” (Russian agencies, September 7 and 8) Moscow has similarly invoked those “internal procedures” as a pretext for not executing the agreement signed in 1994 on the withdrawal of its troops from Moldova.
PORK BARREL PROJECTS FOR TAJIK PRESIDENT’S NATIVE AREA.