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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Deputies Stymie Abkhaz Peace Plan

Peacekeeping plans for the Black Sea republic of Abkhazia were in disarray on Friday after the Federation Council rejected President Boris Yeltsin's initiative to send Russian peacekeeping troops to the breakaway region. Observers expressed concern that the upper house's failure to approve the troops would upset the fragile peace in Abkhazia, which has had de facto independence from Georgia since separatist forces overran the region last autumn. "I very much fear that this decision could provoke clashes," said Konstantin Zatulin, chairman of the Committee for CIS Affairs in the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament. Zatulin told a press conference that upper chamber's vote smacked of "populism" and "incompetence." A senior United Nations official in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi said that the situation in Abkhazia was still unstable and that the vote was an unwelcome development. "It is not in the interests of any of the parties that the deployment is delayed," said John Hvidegaard, the general in charge of the UN observer mission in Georgia in a telephone interview. Only 89 of the 178 deputies in the Federation Council backed Yeltsin's request for troops on Thursday, scuttling the motion by one vote. Ramazan Abdulatipov, deputy speaker of the Federation Council, said Thursday that the vote had failed because Yeltsin's letter requesting the troops had not been thoroughly prepared. Representatives of both the Abkhazian and Georgian sides reacted with dismay to the Federation Council's decision on Friday. Zatulin said he had spoken on Thursday to Abkhaz leader Vladislav Ardzinba, who had expressed his frustration at the news. Georgia's deputy prime minister, Tamaz Nadareishvili called the Federation Council's vote "totally incomprehensible," Interfax reported. Georgia, Russia and Abkhazia signed a deal stipulating Russian peacekeeping troops in May after the Georgian government dropped its opposition to the use of troops from Russia, whom it blamed for backing the Abkhazians against them. Nadareishvili said the vote was proof of Russia's support for Abkhazia the dispute. "All this is reminiscent of the past lessons, when Russian reactionaries began to support Abkhaz separatists from the beginning of the conflict," he said. Under the deal, a Russian-dominated force from the Commonwealth of Independent States would be deployed in a zone along the River Inguri between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia. The fate of an estimated 300,000 Georgian refugees from the region rests on the troop deployment. They are due to return to their former homes as soon as the peacekeepers are in place. Russian television on Friday said this was scheduled to take place at the end of June or the beginning of July. The Federation Council is not due to reconvene until June 21, effectively putting the question on hold until then. But Zatulin said the issue was so important that Yeltsin should intervene personally. "The president of the Russian Federation has enough powers to summon the Federation Council for an extraordinary session so that the Federation Council can return to this decision and we will not have to wait," he said. Zatulin said that the Federation Council may have inadvertently dealt a blow to Russian foreign policy by rejecting the troops, which could bring about a multinational peacekeeping force in Abkhazia. Russia opposes the idea of using troops that are not from the former Soviet Union for regions in its sphere of influence.