The office of Ajarian Supreme Soviet chairman Aslan Abashidze issued a special communiqué yesterday. It stated that the autonomous republic’s internal affairs and "other law enforcement organs" (presumably meaning its KGB) have taken under their control the length of Ajaria’s administrative border with the rest of Georgia, and are conducting "preventative exercises" in order to "stop armed groups wearing Georgian Internal Affairs Ministry uniforms from entering Abkhazia." The statement accused those groups of perpetrating acts of violence against local civilians along the administrative border, and charged that Tbilisi has ignored previous Abkhaz complaints on the issue. (Interfax, Itar-Tass, December 18)
Issuance of the communiqué coincides precisely with the arrival of a Russian delegation allegedly representing Stavropol krai and headed by the commander of Russian border troops in the Caucasus (see Monitor, December 18). In a similar fashion, the arrival three weeks ago of a senior-level delegation from the command of the Russian Federal Border Service coincided exactly with the publication of an unprecedented statement by Abashidze that challenged Tbilisi’s authority and demanded creation of a free economic zone in Ajaria’s capital city of Batumi, where Russian border troops and other military facilities are based. In the interim between these two incidents, those Russian border troops in Batumi seized the Ukrainian ship Almaz and its crew, coordinating their action with Ajaria but not with Georgia. This series of actions raises the question of whether Ajaria is being nudged by Russia along the path of secession from Georgia.
Tajik Summit in Moscow May Founder.