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20 Jun, 2008 11:26

No invasion: Abkhazian repairs show Georgians were wrong

Russian troops are set to complete a massive repair job on railway lines in Abkhazia – debunking Georgian claims that the work was a front for a military invasion.

The repairs on over 50 kilometres of track are scheduled to finish in August after the servicemen arrived in the breakaway Georgian republic last month.

It followed a request for help by the Abkhazian leadership – although it sparked accusations from Tbilisi that Russia was plotting a military attack.

Georgia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze described the move as an act of aggression.

Up to 80% of the railways in the area were destroyed in the early 1990s following the conflict between Georgia and Abkhazia.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, Abkhazia declared its independence – but failed to gain international recognition.

Armed clashes with the Georgian side ended after a UN brokered ceasefire. Russian peacekeepers then moved in to maintain stability on a UN mandate, alongside international observers.

But with war over and a decade on, the Russian Corps of Engineers has almost finished mending the damage. 

At times, the problems are not of a military nature.
No one has looked after the track for around 15 years, so it has become overgrown with bushes and it is very difficult to work there.

And at other times, it is just plain dangerous, with hazards like an anti-tank mine once found in the area.

“We destroyed it. It seemed fairly new, it hadn't been there for more than a month, judging by its appearance and location,” said Sergeant Ruslan Sitdikov.

In all, 54 kilometres of railway will be completed. The area will also see the reconstruction of bridges, crossroads and tunnels.

Those in Abkhazia say that without the Russian specialists, the work would have taken years. But now they hope that train services will resume as early as this autumn.