Abkhazia Accuses Georgia of Violating Cease-Fire, Deadline Extended
SUKHUMI, Georgia (AP) _ Abkhazia accused Georgia today of shelling its forces in violation of a peace plan to end fighting in the region, but Georgia denied the charge.
Abkhazian troops returned fire after Georgian forces shelled the city of Shroma late Sunday, the press service of the Abkhazian legislature said.
But Gocha Ablotia, spokesman for Georgian troops in Abkhazia, told The Associated Press the night was quiet and that Georgian troops had not violated the withdrawal timetable, part of a cease-fire agreement signed July 27.
Abkhazian leader Vladislav Ardzinba had said earlier he was suspending the withdrawal of Abkhazian volunteers from the region because of alleged Georgian violations of the withdrawal timetable.
However, Sergei Shoigu, the Russian head of the State Committee for Emergency situations, said no such suspension was ordered, Russian television reported today.
None of the reports could be independently verified.
Georgian and Abkhazian soldiers began trickling away from the front line in Abkhazia over the weekend, one year after fighting began between Georgian troops and Abkhazian separatists in the former Soviet republic.
The Georgian military command said observer groups were deployed at the front lines and that the bulk of Georgian and Abkhazian forces pulled back 12 miles, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.
Under the peace plan, both sides were to pull back from the front line by Tuesday, but the deadline has been extended to Aug. 20, Russian TV reported today.
The conflict began Aug. 14, 1992, as Georgian troops - sent into western Georgia to root out guerrillas backing ousted Georgian President Zviad Gamsakhurdia - marched into Abkhazia, a rich resort area of 500,000 people that had declared independence.
The civil war has killed at least 3,000 people and forced tens of thousands on both sides to flee. It contributed to economic chaos and the resignation of Georgia’s Cabinet this month.
Abkhazia, in northwestern Georgia, is between the Black Sea and the Caucusus Mountains.
The Russian-brokered agreement also envisages the eventual demilitarization of the province and provides for deployment of international observers.
In another development today, gunmen opened fire on a weapons depot in Kutaisi in another part of western Georgia, killing two Russian soldiers guarding the depot.
Russian sentries returned fire and repelled the attackers, said Col. Alexander Demyanov, spokesman for Russian troops stationed in Georgia.
The attackers captured weapons including two Kalashnikov rifles, bullets, and bullet-proof vests belonging to the dead guards, Demyanov said.
Kutaisi, located about 92 miles northwest of the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, has a large weapons storage depot that remains under Russian control.