Georgia to release Abkhazian soldiers held since last month

Georgia is due to free seven Abkhazian servicemen held captive since September, in what it says is an act of goodwill. Their arrests followed a shoot-out on the border of Georgia and the breakaway region of Abkazia where two soldiers died.

The decision to release the men follows a UN-sponsored meeting between senior Georgian and Abkhazian representatives in Sukhumi last week.

The seven Abkhazians were captured by Georgians after a armed attack on September 20th which killed two officers.

The breakaway republic of Abhazia, located on the Black Sea, has enjoyed de facto independence from Georgia since 1993.

The incident happened in upper Kodori Gorge at the Georgian-Abkhazian border.

The deadly clash triggered fresh tension between Tbilisi and Sokhumi. Each side accused the other of intruding on its territory.

The Georgians say their troops were attacked by an Abkhazian military group which was allegedly preparing to carry out a terrorist attack.

Georgia's Minister of Conflicts Settlement David Bakradze said an armed Abkhazian unit entered a Georgian-controlled area which connects the upper-Abkhazian Kodori Gorge with the rest of Georgia.

“The clear objective of that unit was to control part of the road and to attack the road,” Mr Bakradze said.

Abkhazia says Georgian anti-terrorist forces attacked its servicemen, killing two Russian nationals from a training centre in Abkhazian territory.

De facto Abkhazian Foreign Minister Sergey Shamba says the purpose of the anti-terrorist training centre is to prepare recruits “to check, whether reports about Georgia's troops crossing the border controlled by Tbilisi are correct.”

Abkhazia has been looking for support from both Russia and the United Nations, demanding the immediate release of the captured servicemen.

Russia says the preliminary conclusions of a UN report into the incident suggest Georgia is guilty of violations.

Russia's Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin points to the fact that the “attack” was carried out on territory controlled by Abkhazia.

“Georgian Special Forces had no business being there at all,” Mr Churkin said.

“The two officers who were killed were shot at point-blank. So that makes it clearly a gang-style execution, a crime which is certainly punishable,” he said.

In the past, peacekeepers haven't patrolled the area where the shoot-out took place. 

They now say they're ready to move in to prevent similar incidents in the future.