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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Shevardnadze Appeals to CIS for Help

TBILISI, Georgia - Georgian leader Eduard Shevardnadze said Monday that his republic's army was close to collapse and could not regain the western province of Abkhazia from rebel fighters without outside help.

Georgian radio quoted Shevardnadze as saying at a meeting of intellectuals that the government had no option but to turn for help to the Commonwealth of Independent States, which the country joined this month despite misgivings on the part of many Georgians.

"Our army has practically disintegrated", Shevardnadze said following a series of military defeats in western Georgia to troops loyal to ousted President Zviad Gamsakhurdia and to secessionists in the western Abkhazia province.

Referring to Abkhazia, he said: "Without Russia, Ukraine and other countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States, we will not be able to get it back".

Shevardnadze said the Defense Ministry was taking urgent measures to reorganize the army. He had said previously that government troops were fully capable of taking back territory they had lost in other parts of western Georgia.

Earlier, Shevardnadze, said he was "negotiating with the Russian government about possible cooperation" to end the fighting in western Georgia.

"The scale of support and type of force will be decided in the coming days", Shevardnadze said in a radio interview.

Troops loyal to Gamsakhurdia have advanced from the west to within 20 kilometers of Georgia's second city, Kutaisi, which has a population of 250, 000.

On Sunday, the "Zviadist" rebels took the key rail and road junction of Samtredia and the nearby town of Khoni.

After meeting with President Boris Yeltsin in Moscow earlier this month, Shevardnadze announced a plan to deploy Russian troops along the railways in western Georgia.

The former Soviet Foreign Minister said Monday, "I'm pinning my hopes on the Russia which defeated hardliners in Moscow earlier this month. If Gamsakhurdia returns to power", he added, "then Georgia will be thrown back into the Middle Ages".

The last rail link and the main road from the Black Sea ports to the Georgian capital and to Armenia have now been cut.

In a statement to the press Monday, the Zviadists denied that they were blocking the railway line. "The governments of Armenia or Azerbaijan are welcome to send their trains through our territory whenever they want", a spokeswoman said.

Gamsakhurdia's supporters are unlikely to make it to Tbilisi where he has little support, but if they can take Kutaisi, then it will be relatively easy to hold. A chain of mountains separates Kutaisi in the west, from Tbilisi in the east.

(Reuters, MT)