Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze’s Georgian adversaries resident in Moscow emerged yesterday in the self-appointed role of a "negotiating party," ostensibly to assist in the release of UN officers held hostage by "Zviadists" in western Georgia since February 19. The Moscow Georgians are led by Nemo Burchuladze, a vice-chairman of the Georgian parliament under the late President Zviad Gamsakhurdia. Burchuladze and several associates had fled to Russia following the unsuccessful Zviadist uprising against Shevardnadze in western Georgia and the suicide of Gamsakhurdia in 1993. The Georgian authorities had repeatedly requested their extradition since then, most recently after the February 9 assassination attempt against Shevardnadze.
Yesterday, the men wanted by Tbilisi stepped inside the Georgian embassy in Moscow for "negotiations" with Ambassador Vazha Lordkipanidze. The Zviadist abductors of the UN officers near Zugdidi had demanded that Tbilisi negotiate with the Moscow-based Zviadists as one precondition for the release of the captives. The abductors’ other conditions include the release of all "political prisoners" — including Zviadists sentenced for criminal offenses and the suspects arrested after the February 9 assassination attempt. The Burchuladze group, for its part, wants the political negotiations with the government to take place in Tbilisi.
In order to facilitate the start of negotiations, the 20-strong Zviadist group had on February 22 released one hostage — a Uruguayan — while keeping the other three — a Swede, a Czech, and another Uruguayan. Today, they released the Swedish officer while Burchuladze is reported en route to Tbilisi for political "negotiations".
The Zviadists describe themselves as legitimate authorities and the Tbilisi government as de facto authorities. The Burchuladze group and Gamsakhurdia’s widow Manana Archvadze, who heads a group of supporters in Tbilisi, have disavowed the seizure of hostages and "terrorist methods" in general, but apparently seek to reap their political fruits. (Iprinda, Prime-News, Russian and Western agencies, February 23-25)
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