Duma Vice Speaker Promotes Sochi Sukhumi Rail

MOSCOW (Armenpress/Gazeta.ru)-The Deputy Chairman of the Russian Duma Vladimir Lukin–speaking about Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze’s decision not to extend the mandate for Russian peacekeepers in the zone of the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict–called it a "not well thought out" one. The Georgian president’s move is in response to the re-opening of the rail link between the Russian Black Sea town of Sochi and Sukhumi–the capital of Georgia’s breakaway province.

Lukin stated that official Tbilisi has no apparent reason for concern. According to Lukin–the reopening of the Sochi-Sukhumi railroad would benefit all–especially people who frequently use that route. Lukin added that the railway should reach Tbilisi and even Armenia. "Nothing bad can come out of reestablishing the railway between Sochi and Sukhumi," Lukin concluded.

The issue has caused diplomatic protests in Tbilisi.

Vexed by a Russian move on December 25 allowing an Abkhaz train to cross the Russian border into Sochi from Sukhumi for the first time since the end of the Georgian-Abkhaz war–Shevardnadze–in his weekly interview on national radio–said he was ”not ready to renew the mandate of the CIS peacekeeping forces deployed in the zone of the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict”.

Abkhaz residents–however–hailed the resumption of traffic on the Sukhumi-Sochi railway link. There is no other way for residents to travel to Russia–other than by foot via a checkpoint at the Psou River; most Abkhaz citizens cannot afford private cars.

If Georgia indeed refuses to extend the mandate–Russian peacekeepers stationed on the Abkhaz-Georgian border will be forced to go home in the near future. Formally–the peacekeepers’ mandate expired on December 31–2002–and in theory they should have already left.

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