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19 Jun, 2008 15:25

Russia allows peacekeepers in Abkhazia to ‘use force if provoked’

Russia's Defence Ministry says its peacekeepers in the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict zone are allowed to use force in self-defence if provoked. The statement comes after four Russian servicemen and the weapons they were tr

Four Russian peacekeepers were arrested by an unknown armed group on the Georgian side of the border. They disarmed the officers before the cameras of Georgian TV.

The Russian Defence ministry commended the peacekeepers for their patience and called this arrest a criminal attack, and warned that the peacekeepers may act differently in the future.

The situation escalated further on Wednesday, when two explosions hit a railroad platform in the suburbs of the Abkhazian capital Sukhumi.

No one was injured. A Russian railroad battalion was recently deployed in the breakaway republic to assist in the reconstruction of the region's infrastructure.

“This has been a well-prepared, professional diversion. Two explosions within five minutes – what does that mean? Usually, after the first blast, engineers and medics arrive at the scene. That's when the second explosion is set off. It targets the people and rescue workers who have come close,” said military expert Viktor Myasnikov.

Russian peacekeepers entered the Abkhazia area in the early 1990's to separate Georgian and Abkhazian troops following a conflict that claimed thousands of lives.

The peacekeepers remain in this republic along with UN observers.

There have been repeated incidents involving Georgian police and Russian peacekeepers. Tbilisi often blames Abkhazia's de-facto government for the incidents. And although Georgia continues to refuse to participate in talks, it considers the Russian peacekeepers and Abkhazian government responsible for the tensions. Georgia still considers Abkhazia part of its territory and supports its alternative Abkhazian government.

It's time not to look for excuses to pull out of all negotiation processes and not only the recent facts but also recent developments in upper Abkhazia. It seems to me that members of Abkhaz de-facto government are looking for excuses to pull out of all negotiation processes,” said Malkhaz Akishbaya, Head of Abkhazian Government in exile.