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De facto authorities block all checkpoints at Abkhazian administrative border

By Mzia Kupunia
Tuesday, January 26
Russian “border police” have blocked off all the checkpoints at the administrative border with de facto Abkhazia, the representative of the legitimate Abkhazian Government-in-Exile in the Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti region, Tornike Kilanava, said on Monday. Local residents are now unable to pass through the Enguri, Nabakevi-Khurcha, Otobaia-Ganmukhuri and Saberio checkpoints, Kilanava reported, adding that only employees of the Enguri Hydro Power Plant and representatives of international organisations can go through the checkpoints with special passes.

Kilanava said that the reason being given for the restriction of movement was reorganising and equipping the checkpoints. The Russian troops have also started digging along the administrative border, however it is not yet clear what they are planning to do, the Abkhazian Government-in-Exile's Press Service told The Messenger.

Tbilisi will raise the issue of administrative border crossing restrictions for people living in the occupied regions at the upcoming Geneva negotiations, Deputy Foreign Minister of Georgia Nino Kalandadze has said. “Along with working out security mechanisms and ensuring the honourable and unconditional return of IDPs to their homes, which remain the subjects of primary importance, the Georgian side will also demand that the restrictions on the movement of Georgian citizens are done away with. These sort of violations are increasing daily,” Kalandadze said. She added that the situation in Georgia’s conflict regions and adjacent territories is being aggravated and the Geneva talks are very important in this context.

Sokhumi's de facto authorities have demanded that Georgia sign a non-use of force agreement with them, following a statement to this effect from Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, the Apsnypress news agency has reported. “This agreement is very important for the Caucasus region, as everyone is interested in maintaining stability and having security guarantees,” the head of the Abkhazian delegation Vyacheslav Chirikba said. “However there are some political problems hindering the reaching of an agreement: the Georgian side is trying to link the issue with the return of IDPs. However security and IDPs are two different problems, which need different kinds of solutions,” he added. Russia does not need such an agreement as Russia is not afraid of an assault from Georgia, according to Chirikba. The Georgian side has downplayed the demands of Russian and separatist officials, saying that a non-use of force document can only be signed between Russia and Georgia, as these two states are the parties of the conflict.

Nine Abkhazian children whose families have left the de facto republic and moved to Tbilisi attended their first lesson at Tbilisi Public School 168 on Monday, the Abkhazian Government-in-Exile reported. “The pupil contingent in this school is quite broad and this gives us hope that the Abkhazian pupils will integrate in Georgian society,” the Abkhazian Education Minister-in-Exile Dali Khomeriki said. “We have created all the conditions to enable these children to get an education and feel themselves part of the Georgian state and at the same time maintain their identity,” she added. The Abkhazian pupils will take Abkhaz language lessons at school, according to the Minister.

The Georgian Government is ready to ensure security and decent living conditions for those who abandon the occupied territories, Deputy Foreign Minister Nino Kalandadze said. “The fact that several Georgian families have left the Gali region indicates that the human rights situation in the occupied territories is dire,” she said.

The Georgian media spread unconfirmed reports on Monday that the de facto Abkhazian authorities were not allowing about 60 Georgian pupils to receive education in Georgian in Gali region schools. The families of these pupils have left the Gali region, media outlets reported. Nino Kalandadze described the separatists' actions as a “rude violation of human rights.”