View Full Version : Spanning loopt op in Georgie

14 maart 2004, 16:24
Tensions rising between Georgia and Ajaria
Georgia has reportedly put its armed forces on alert after President Mikhail Saakashvili was barred from entering the troubled region of Ajaria. Georgian TV showed footage of troops loyal to Ajarian leader Aslan Abashidze blocking Mr Saakashvili’s convoy at a checkpoint on a road into the region. Meanwhile Russia warned Georgia not to send its troops into the region. Mr Abashidze opposed the events of December 2003 which led to the ousting of former leader Eduard Shevardnadze. Security Council chief Vano Merabishvili told the TV Mr Saakashvili’s convoy was met with warning shots as it approached the checkpoint near the town of Cholokhi. The president decided to turn round, leaving other senior officials to negotiate with the local authorities. Georgian TV reported tanks and armoured vehicles in the streets of the Ajarian capital Batumi, and said firearms were being distributed to civilians.

Mr Saakashvili had decided to visit the region to campaign for parliamentary elections set for late March, and is thought to have had no plans to meet regional leaders. On Saturday he warned the Ajarian leadership to abide by Georgian law after it briefly detained his finance minister. "If Abashidze intends to blackmail the Georgian president like a feudal lord from the Middle Ages, he is making a big mistake," he said. Mr Abashidze is currently in Moscow, where on Saturday he accused the new Georgian authorities of preparing to invade Ajaria. And the Russian foreign ministry said Georgia would be to blame for any use of force in the region. But Mr Saakashvili said he did not want to use force. Correspondents say there is a strong personal animosity between Aslan Abashidze and Mr Saakashvili. The Ajarian leadership wants to remain firmly under Russia’s influence, while the central Georgian authorities are strongly pro-Western.