WILL MOSCOW PLAY THE AJAR CARD IN GEORGIA?
Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 234
Ajaria’s Supreme Soviet chairman, Aslan Abashidze, declared via Russia’s official news agency yesterday that "Russian border guards and army troops stationed in Ajaria are the guarantors of regional stability… The Russian military presence in Ajaria helped the republic to avert a fratricidal civil war." Admonishing Tbilisi that "nationalism is doomed," Abashidze advised the central government that "friendship with Russia is very important to Georgia." (Itar-Tass, December 15)
Abashidze spoke in the immediate wake of Tbilisi’s indignant protests against the conduct of Russian border troops and other military elements in Georgia. Those protests were accompanied by warnings that Georgia might curtail Russian basing facilities. (See Monitor, December 5, 10, 12) Abashidze’s statement and its timing are meant to distance Ajaria from Tbilisi’s policy, and also to imply that Ajaria may be willing to continue hosting Russian troops even if Tbilisi is not. The Ajarian authorities also suddenly drew attention to the existence of "88,000 Russians" in Ajaria (Russian agencies, December 12) — a factor usually invoked to rationalize the presence of Russian troops in certain areas of newly independent countries.
According to Georgian parliament chairman Zurab Zhvania, the "artificially created tensions" between Ajaria and Tbilisi represent a form of retaliation against Georgia’s pro-Western orientation. Zhvania made this statement on December 12 at a special session of the Georgian parliament devoted to the topic of relations between the central government and Ajaria. The deputies reportedly were in consensus that those relations constitute a "keystone of the entire policy of the state" — apparently implying that Georgia risks unraveling if Ajar secession compounds already existing secessionist tendencies in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Zhvania announced the formation of a special parliamentary commission mandated to hold talks with Abashidze in Ajaria’s capital, Batumi. (Russian agencies, December 12) Abashidze refuses to travel to Tbilisi on the grounds that certain Georgian officials — Zhvania being named as one of them — are allegedly plotting to assassinate him. Last month, Abashidze assumed supplementary powers intended to strengthen his control in Ajaria.
Moscow Handing Huseinov’s Associates over to Baku.