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10 Aug, 2008 01:25

Abkhazia joins conflict

The situation is escalating in Georgia's second breakaway republic – Abkhazia. Its troops are on the move towards the security zone in the Gali region close to the border with Georgia.

The UN’s 15 military observers have been evacuated from the region after a request from the Abkhazian side.

Georgian media claim the Abkhazian army bombarded positions in the West of Georgia.

Abkhazia's army has launched a military operation to try to force Georgian troops out of the upper part of the Kodori Gorge. It started with the use of artillery and air strikes against Georgian forces.

The breakaway republic has provided a humanitarian corridor for residents of the disputed Kodori Gorge. However the breakaway republic’s officials say they don't know whether people will use this passageway to safety.
Earlier, Russia's Interfax news agency reported that Russian ships prevented Georgian military vessels from nearing Abkhazia.
Thousands of Russians are on holiday in the picturesque republic with a long coastline. They fear a conflict could result in innocent blood being spilled.
But RT correspondent Aleksandr Luchaninov says Russians are not ready to leave the area just yet.
“Those I spoke to said they are very concerned, and in case of trouble they are prepared to leave the region immediately,” he said.
For several days Georgian troops have been massing on the border. Abkhasia's president, Sergey Bagapsh, said the breakaway republic’s troops are in contact with peacekeeping forces in the region.

The atmosphere in the capital Sukhumi is tense, and officials are anticipating Georgian aggression.
“Today it's South Ossetia, tomorrow it might be Abkhasia,” said Bagapsh, explaining his decision to move the troops.

Meanwhile, the situation in South Ossetia is affecting neighbouring countries, according to reports from the Armenian-Georgian border.