Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 5

Russian coastal guard ships off Abkhazia’s main city and seaport Sukhumi reimposed January 5 a partial blockade on Abkhaz-owned ships bound for Turkey. The Abkhaz Supreme Soviet urged the following day that the blockade be lifted and that Georgia’s proposals for Russian economic and military pressure against Abkhazia be rejected. The legislative body’s appeal warned that acceptance of Georgia’s demand to have Russian peacekeeping troops secure the repatriation of Georgian refugees to Abkhazia could lead to a generalized "Balkan-style" war. According to high-ranking Abkhazian officials, the Supreme Soviet discussed plans to mobilize reservists and issue "additional" arms to Abkhaz civilians in the event that Russian troops support Georgian measures to impose a land blockade or repatriate refugees. It is unlikely that the Russian military would act against Abkhazia, given the Russian military’s role in making Abkhazian secession possible. Russia’s Foreign Ministry, seen by the Abkhaz as pro-Georgian, has in fact deferred some of the Abkhaz objections to the federal arrangement proposed by Tbilisi.

The Abkhaz Supreme Soviet called last week for legislative elections in early 1996. The current Supreme Soviet was elected in 1991 for a five-year term. Its chairman, Sokrat Jinjolia, said in a press interview that only current residents of Abkhazia would be eligible to vote, effectively barring the great majority of Georgian refugees (who formed a plurality of Abkhazia’s population before the 1992-93 war) from voting. The proposed election is meant to create a fait accompli in advance of any Georgian attempt to recover Abkhazia. Legislative elections would also furnish an argument for supporters of Abkhaz secession in the new Russian State Duma. In Tbilisi, the Georgian foreign minister and national security adviser said in separate statements last week that Georgia would officially ask Russia to live up to earlier CIS-mandated measures against "aggressive separatism" at the upcoming January CIS summit. (20). And yesterday, Georgian president Shevardnadze protested the killing of eight Georgian civilians by Abkhaz irregulars in a border settlement. (21).

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