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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Abkhazians Claim Cease-Fire Violation

TBILISI, Georgia - Georgian leader Eduard Shevardnadze flew to Abkhazia on Wednesday to check separatist claims that Georgian troops were violating a cease-fire that forms the first stage of an ambitious Russian peace plan for the region.


The Abkhazians accused Georgian troops of shelling their positions near the Gumista river front line, just to the north of the Georgian-held capital of Abkhazia, Sukhumi.


Georgian military authorities denied the Abkhazian claim. A spokesman said the disputed Black Sea region was "mostly quiet", adding that "three shells landed in Sukhumi after midday, but that's it".


The chief Georgian negotiator for Abkhazia, Sandro Kavsadze, admitted that, "Some Georgian paramilitaries are not under the control of the National Army, but we will do all we can to persuade them to stop shooting, and we will use force if necessary".


If the cease-fire does generally hold, then the next stage of the Russian peace plan will be to establish tripartite Russian-Georgian-Abkhazian cease-fire monitoring teams. Then, within 15 days of the beginning of the truce, international observers are to be introduced. These are to supervise the withdrawal of virtually all Georgian troops from Abkhazia, who will be replaced by Russian peacekeepers.


The volunteers and mercenaries from outside Abkhazia who have been fighting on the separatist side - mainly Russians and North Caucasians - are also supposed to leave.


The Russian initiative also allows for the reinstatement of the regional government, which ceased functioning last August, when Georgian troops entered the region.


The Russian-brokered peace plan is unpopular among Georgians, as few believe that Russians soldiers will be neutral peacekeepers. The Russian military on former Soviet bases in Abkhazia have been helping the separatists with heavy weapons and intelligence.


"Russia's role in the plan is too high", said Alex Rondeli, head of the International Relations department at Tbilisi University. "But they forced us to sign by helping the Abkhazians - especially towards the end. We could not do anything. The war is completely destroying Georgia".


An opinion poll conducted Wednesday in Tbilisi for Georgian Television produced a slim majority in favor of the Russian peace initiative.


Soon after the agreement was signed in Sochi, Russian television broadcast an address by President Boris Yeltsin in which he said both sides had "shown common sense by agreeing to stop the bloodshed". Yeltsin added that, "Russia will guarantee the territorial integrity of Georgia and the autonomous status and rights of Abkhazia within Georgia".


The U. N. special envoy for Abkhazia, Eduard Brunner, was due to meet Shevardnadze on Wednesday evening to discuss the dispatch of U. N. observers to Abkhazia, which the Security Council authorized earlier this month. Afterwards, Brunner is due to discuss the deployment of U. N. observers with the Abkhazians.