Abkhazia’s self-styled prime minister, the defense minister and the envoy in Moscow warned in separate statements on June 30 and July 1 that Abkhaz forces would resist any attempt by Georgia’s coastal guard to assume control of “Abkhazia’s maritime border.” The would-be defense minister, Vladimir Mikanba, added that an Abkhaz “naval squadron” begins exercises in “Abkhaz waters” as of today.
The warnings respond to the agreement, just reached by Moscow and Tbilisi, on transferring control over Georgia’s borders from Russian to Georgian troops (see the Monitor, June 30) The Abkhaz “fleet” is known to consist mostly of civilian vessels mounted with low-caliber guns. However, during the 1992-93 war against Georgia, minuscule Abkhazia deployed and used a real naval force. It consisted of Russian Black Sea Fleet ships with skeleton Russian crews on loan. Abkhazia celebrates this July 2 as the sixth anniversary of the “Abkhaz fleet.”
In Ajaria, the commander of Russian army troops stationed along the Georgian-Turkish border declared that “Russian soldiers and the Ajar leadership cooperate closely indeed. Some in Tbilisi would dearly like to see our soldiers pulled out from Ajaria. However, local people regard the Russian forces as the only reliable guarantor of peace and stability,” Major General V. Sobolev said.
In Tbilisi, parliamentary defense and security commission chairman Revaz Adamia stated that Georgia’s coastal guard and land border troops are fully capable of taking over the maritime and land border sections. Adamia publicly thanked the USA for contributing some US$20 million this year alone toward equipping and training Georgia’s coastal guard and land border troops. (Russian agencies, June 30 and July 1; Krasnaya zvezda, June 27)
ASTANA’S FIRST CONFERENCE.