Military exercises underway in Abkhazia
General Anatoly Zaitsev, a first deputy Abkhaz defense minister, told journalists that the command post exercises would last until March 28. Although the area where the exercises are being held is not in the CIS peacekeepers' 'responsibility zone', both they and the UN mission were informed of the exercise in advance. The CIS is an alliance of former Soviet republics. On March 5, Abkhazia's armed forces completed large-scale five-day artillery and aviation exercises. The military exercise comes as tensions between Georgia and Abkhazia increase. In further developments on Monday, the Abkhaz parliamentary speaker said that his countrymen were ready to take up arms to defend Abkhazia from any hostile forces. "We are not afraid of anyone - not NATO, or anyone else. If we need to defend our homeland we will do so," Nugzar Ashuba said, just days after lawmakers in Abkhazia had signed a statement accusing Tbilisi of military aggression, and warning that war could break out in the Caucasus. In the statement, they called for urgent action from Russia, the United Nations, the OSCE and PACE to "influence the Georgian leadership so that it renounces military force or terrorist activity as means of solving political issues." Abkhazia's leadership earlier said its Air Force brought down an Israeli-made Georgian unmanned combat reconnaissance plane over its territory on March 18, and accused Georgia of repeatedly violating its airspace. Tbilisi has denied the reports. Russia's lower house of parliament adopted a statement a few days ago that recommended that Moscow speed up the recognition of Abkhazia and another Georgian de facto independent republic, South Ossetia. Peacekeeping in the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict zone is currently carried out by collective CIS forces staffed with Russian service personnel. Both Abkhazia and South Ossetia were involved in bloody conflicts with Georgia after proclaiming independence following the split-up of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Nugzar Ashuba: Georgian and Abkhaz peoples cannot live in one country
“We have once tried to live in one state with Georgia, and are not going to try again,” speaker of Abkhazian parliament Nugzar Ashuba stated at a press conference in Moscow on March 24. Commenting on a REGNUM correspondent's question on how he views plans of a number of Georgian opposition politicians to create a confederation comprising Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Georgia, Ashuba said: “I congratulate Georgia if it is going to build a normal democratic state, but what does it have to do with Abkhazia? We were annexed to Georgia as late as in the Soviet times, by decision of Stalin and Beria. Abkhazia has nothing to do with Georgia,” Ashuba emphasized. “You Europeans can forgive your enemies, and we in the Caucasus are hot people, and we have the blood vengeance tradition largely preserved. And blood was spilled between us, several thousands of Abkhaz lads were killed. For this reason, we, unfortunately, are going to remain foes for the century to come,” the Abkhazian parliament speaker noted. “I think, if Georgia recognizes independence of our country, it will influence the situation of the Georgian and Abkhaz ethnicities positively. We have failed to live in one country. We have tried once and are not going to try again,” Ashuba stated.
In related news:
Georgia unleashes terror against South Ossetia: Chochiyev
Terrorist act near the South Ossetian Okona village is nothing else than a terrorist aggression against South Ossetia, South Ossetian JCC co-chair Boris Chochiev told REGNUM correspondent while qualifying the incident of March 23. Chochiyev said that the terrorist act had been expected in South Ossetia. “A special program has been developed in Georgia to execute a whole series of terrorist acts targeted against the population of South Ossetia and peacekeepers. On March 21, our law-enforcement agencies found a cache full of weapons for maintaining terrorist activities in the republic's territory.” “I am sure that there are many such cashes, and the Georgian intelligence will not stop at that,” Chochiyev commented. He said that this time, “peacekeepers were targeted, to discredit the peacekeeping operation and destabilize the situation in the Georgian-Ossetian conflict zone.” To remind, a remotely-controlled land mind was detonated at about 11:30 Moscow time on March 23 near the South Ossetian Okona village. Two people were heavily injured in the terrorist act.
Sukhumi: Reconnaissance aircraft shot down in Abkhazia belonged to Georgia
Officers of Abkhazian defense ministry showed to journalists wreckage of aircraft found in the Black sea, REGNUM correspondent has reported. It consisted of a plane wing and fuselage fragments. It has been established that the aircraft was Israeli-made and belonged to Georgian Air Force, Abkhazia's deputy minister of defense Garri Kupalba informed. In his words, unmanned reconnaissance aircraft of Georgian Air Force started to fly over the territory of Abkhazia since last summer. He said that Abkhazian officials have repeatedly informed Collective Peace-Keeping Forces and UN Mission in Georgia about the flights. He reminded that in August 2007, an aircraft detected in the republic's airspace was shot down at Nagvalou, Abkhazia. On March 18, Abkhazian Air Force shot down an unmanned reconnaissance aircraft “that had come from the territory of Georgia.” Secretary of Abkhazia's Security Council Stanislav Lakoba told journalists that “the flying object was noticed in Abkhazian airspace at midday.” The plane was shot down by an Abkhazian Air Force jet fighter near the Primorskoye village at the border of Ochamchir and Gal regions and fell in the sea.