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2 May, 2008 02:51

Russia sends more peacekeepers to Abkhazia

Moscow is sending more peacekeeping forces to the de-facto border between Georgia and its breakaway republic of Abkhazia in response to Tbilisi's build-up of troops. Dozens of heavy-duty trucks, armoured personnel carriers and support vehicles are on thei

Abkhazia proclaimed independence from Tbilisi in the 90s, which led to a year-long war. The ensuing violent conflict claimed thousands of lives and forced people to flee their homes.

Several months later Russian peacekeepers along with UN forces managed to stop the bloodshed. They’ve remain stationed in Abkhazia ever since.

However, several days ago Russia decided to increase its peacekeeping forces in the region – a move that has angered Georgia.

“This is open aggression. Russia is annexing Georgian territory. The more support Georgia has, the more aggressive Russia acts because their plans have no legal base behind them. They are waiting for the moment when their peacekeeping forces become illegal and Georgia will have the right to use any measures. They just want to generate tension ahead of election,” said Shota Malashkhia from Georgian Parliamentary Committee on Territorial Integrity.

Georgia has demanded that Russia withdraw its additional peacekeeping forces from the region, but Russia insists its military presence does not exceed the maximum allowed under an international treaty.

Meanwhile Abkhazian politicians have thanked Russia for the increase in troop numbers. They say everything is being done in accordance with previous agreements.

“Georgia is making the situation very tense. If Georgia raises concerns about peace and stability in the region, it is the obligation of Russian peacekeepers to come and make sure the sides are separated,” said Maksim Gunzhia, Abkhazian Deputy Foreign Minister.

Now all checkpoints around Gali are controlled by the peacekeeping forces.

So far there have been no incidents at the border but the observers are keeping a close eye on the situation.