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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Saakashvili Puts Army on Alert

TBILISI, Georgia -- Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili put his country's military on alert after the restive region of Adzharia barred him from entering Sunday, but he pledged that his goal was to take control of the region without bloodshed.

Saakashvili and his entourage were heading to Adzharia for campaign appearances ahead of Georgia's March 28 parliamentary election. The motorcade was stopped Sunday morning at the Adzharian border and denied entry, said Vano Merabishvili, secretary of Georgia's Security Council. Saakashvili and his aides went to the neighboring Poti region, where security officials were summoned for immediate talks.

The military was put at the highest level of preparedness, and police, prosecutors and the State Security Ministry were ordered to take all necessary measures to prevent "the disintegration of Georgia," Saakashvili said.

"Our military forces are prepared for everything, but today we haven't taken one step toward using them because this problem must be resolved most peacefully," he said in a live televised speech.

Aslan Abashidze, the leader of Adzharia, is a vehement opponent of Saakashvili and tensions have been high since November, when Saakashvili spearheaded protests that forced the resignation of President Eduard Shevardnadze. Merabishvili said Saakashvili and his entourage decided to pull back from the Adzharian border "to avoid escalating the situation, to prevent bloodshed."

But Abashidze, who is currently in Moscow, told journalists that Saakashvili had only come within 30 kilometers of the Adzharian border, and had not had any contact with border guards. It was not immediately possible to clear up the contradictory claims.

Abashidze said Georgia was preparing to use the military to overthrow him and called on Moscow and Washington to intervene to prevent bloodshed.

As tensions rose Sunday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko said that "there is reason to suggest that Tbilisi plans to resort to force" and that the situation must be resolved peacefully.

Saakashvili told Russia on Sunday to stay out of the conflict.