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22 Sep, 2007 13:46

Georgia to put Abhazian soldiers on trial

Seven Abkhazian servicemen have been sentenced to pre-trial detention by the Tbilisi city court in Georgia. They have been accused of attacking Georgian troops on Thursday.

According to the court's decision, Abkhazian servicemen will be held for two months in custody until the trial formally begins. They were detained after a firefight between Georgia and its breakaway republic of Abkhazia on Thursday.

The Georgians say their troops were attacked by Abkhazian Special Forces servicemen in the upper Kodori Gorge, a gateway to Abkhazia, which has been enjoying de facto independence from Tbilisi since 1993.

The Abkhazian side says it was Georgian troops who opened fire at its frontier guards at the border post dividing that territory.

Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili said the Abkhazian servicemen tried to sabotage the construction of a strategically important road that is being built to connect the Kodori Gorge with Georgia.

“Georgia will not allow the conflict to escalate, but state bodies are prepared well enough to give a tough response to any kind of provocation. I charge the Interior Ministry to act against terrorists and saboteurs and respond with weapons if necessary,” stated Mikhail Saakashvili.

Abkhazia strongly denies that saying Georgian troops attacked its training ground on the territory it controls. 

“An anti-terrorist centre is training its young recruits there, to prepare them to serve in mountainous regions. And they were to check, whether reports about Georgia's troops crossing the border controlled by Tbilisi were correct,” commented Sergey Shamba, Abkhazian Foreign Minister.

Tbilisi lost control of its breakaway region after the war in 1993 and the conflict has never been fully resolved.

Abkhazia is looking for support from both Russia and the UN, regarding the latest incident.

The area where the shootout took place is not patrolled by peacekeepers who say they are ready to enter the area to prevent any conflict.

“I can officially say that the incident occurred outside our jurisdiction zone, but we are ready to be brought in,” said Aleksandr Diordiev from Committee for Peace in Abkhazia.

The UN’s and Russian peacekeeping missions in the conflict zone are investigating the incident that is likely to increase tensions in the countries' already unstable relationship.