According to Russia's Foreign Ministry, on September 20th a Georgian special forces unit crossed the border into Abkhazia and attacked servicemen at a military base belonging to the anti-terrorist center of the Abkhazian Interior Ministry
Vitaly Churkin, Russian Ambasador to the UN , speaking at the UN in New York said it was an "unprovoked" attack on an "antiterrorist training" exercise. The incident took place in the Kodori Gorge, which straddles Georgian-controlled region which the Georgians have learnt to call call Upper Abkhazia and the pro-Russian breakaway region of Abkhazia which is controlled by the Sukhimi (principal port and airport on the Black Sea) based ethnic Abkhazi separatist government under President Bagapsh.
Churkin said the men were "instructors" and were killed with knives and gunshots to the head. Georgia, he said, has done everything to "aggravate tensions."
American educated and sometime lawyer with Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP in Washington (the new US Attoney general's firm) Georgian President Mikheil "Misha" Saakashvili, also in New York ,spoke at the UN on September 26, claiming that this was a "law-enforcement operation" aimed against illegitimate intruders.
"One has to wonder, what was a lieutenant-colonel of the Russian Army doing in the Georgian forest organizing and leading a group of armed insurgents in a
mission of subversion and violence. I want to ask our Russian friends: Is there not enough territory in Russia? Are there not enough forests in Russia for Russian officers not to die in Georgian territory, in Georgian forests? Whatever the explanation is, we regret the loss of life."
Last year, Russia cut transport and trade ties with Georgia, after Tbilisi arrested four Russian military officers it accused of spying.
In August this year, Georgia said a military jet illegally entered its airspace from Russia and dropped a missile before flying back to Russia. The missile landed in a field near Georgia's border with its breakaway region of South Ossetia, but did not explode. Russia denies the incident happened.
On August 29, Georgia detained three peacekeepers from the joint forces' North Ossetian battalion. Although one of them was released, two were sentenced later to two months imprisonment. Moscow has since constantly called on Tbilisi to release them.
Russia has been issuing passports to Abkhazians, the sunny coast is a popular tourist destination for Muscovites and they are developing extractive industry and tourism with Russian money.
One year ago on Septmber 27th 2006, President Saakashvilli visited the Kodori valley along with the Catholic Patriarch of all Georgia Ilia III with the parliamentary speaker Nino Burjanadze with members of the central government to officially change the name and designated the area as "Upper Abkhazia".
President Saakashvili addressed the nation during the opening of de jure Government headquarters in Chkhalta, Upper Abkhazia.
"We are here – Upper Abkhazia, very close to Sokhumi - and we are not going to leave this place. We will return to Abkhazia very soon, but only through peaceful means...We have told every foreign ambassador in Georgia that Abkhazia and Tbilisi are not separate entities...From now on the protocol of each foreign diplomat [visiting Abkhazia], apart from trips to Sokhumi, will also include the route to Abkhazia’s administrative center in the village of Chkhalta where the chairman of the Abkhaz government is Malkhaz Akishbaia."
President Saakashvilli (pic with his friend Dubya @ WH June 19th 2006 ***)has opened a new mountain road from Georgia to the Kodori valley yesterday and also confirmed he will seek re-election next year when his Saakashvili’s first term in office will expire.
On the domestic front President Saakashvilli faces froblems with the arrest of Irakli Okruashvili Once a close comrade , who was arrested on September 27, and is (ostensibly) charged with large-scale bribery through extortion, money laundering, misuse of power and negligence while serving as the Defense Minister.
There are however as Tina Khidasheli of the opposition Republican Party is reported saying ..... “The questions are simple: in Georgia nobody believes in official version of PM Zurab Zhvania’s death (said to be gas poisoning.. Ho.Ho.Ho); nobody believes in the official version of Sandro Girgvliani’s death.”
For more information Feb '05 "Caspian on the Cusp? Puzzling reports of death of Georgia PM " and also Nov '03 "Georgia, Velvet Underground in Overdrive " and the problems that caused Richard Miles the US Ambassador’s to express "concern" that Gazprom’s plans for piping gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz field to Erzurum, at the Georgian-Turkish border. would hamper the development of the Shah Deniz BP/Statoil pipeline.
For those who like this sort of thing there is a website dedicated to Sandro Girgvliani which starts ..."On 28 January 2006, Sandro Girgvliani was tortured and subsequently murdered in the woods near Tbilisi. The murder was ordered and executed by high-ranking officers of the Ministry of the Internal Affairs including Data Akhalaia, Vasil Sanodze, Oleg Melnikov, Guram Donadze and Tako Salakaia, wife of the Minister of Internal Affairs Vano Merabishvili." read on.
*** Dubya and Misha were due to chat that day according to the WH .."The President and President Saakashvili will discuss developments in consolidating Georgia’s democratic transition since the President’s May 9-10, 2005 visit to Georgia, efforts to promote a peaceful resolution to the separatist conflicts in South Ossetia and Abkhazia within a unified Georgia, cooperation in Energy Security and Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations and our common commitment to working together to advance freedom and security around the world."