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3 Sep, 2009 13:55

Russia warns Georgia against seizing Abkhazia-bound ships

Russia’s Foreign Ministry has warned that the Georgian practice of arresting cargo ships in Abkhazian waters may lead to “serious armed incidents”.

The Georgian Navy often intercepts naval vessels delivering goods to Abkhazia. Several cargo ships have been sold and their crews fined. The Abkhazian leadership branded the practice as “piracy” and threatened to attack Georgian ships if it continues.

Speaking on Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister spokesman Andrey Nesterenko has warned Tbilisi that capturing Abkhazia-bound vessels may lead to violence. He said the practice was “nothing other than outrageous violation of the Law of the Sea Convention of 1982 and acts of international lawlessness”.

He said Georgia was trying to blockade Abkhazian naval trade and “may aggravate the military-political situation in the region and lead to serious armed incidents”. Seizing trade vessels show that the Georgian leadership “didn’t abandon its militaristic plans and wants to settle territorial conflicts through the use of force.”

Tbilisi treats Abkhazia as part of its territory and ordered that any ship sailing to Abkhazia without the permission of Georgian authorities should be arrested. Several ships from Turkey have already been seized.

Abkhazia on its part is dependent on fuel import, and may face shortages if its maritime trade routes are closed. President Bagapsh ordered on Wednesday to destroy any Georgian Navy ships trespassing on Abkhazian waters.

Abkhazia has been de facto independent from Georgia since 1993. In 2008, after the Georgian attack on South Ossetia and subsequent intervention by Russia, Abkhazia was acknowledged as an independent state by Moscow.

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