Abkhazia Says Georgia Poised for Armed Invasion

SUKHUMI (Interfax)–The defense minister of the Georgian breakaway region of Abkhazia–Vyacheslav Eshba–on Saturday cited "accurate information" that "Georgian armed forces are being concentrated" near the Abkhaz border and said they were getting ready to invade Abkhazia.

Eshba told Interfax he had alerted the Abkhaz armed forces.

"The Abkhaz Defense Ministry is seriously concerned about the military and political situation that has been taking shape around Abkhazia over the past few days," he said.

"The Georgian leadership is not abandoning its plans for revenge and is trying to take advantage of the internal disunity in Abkhazia–entertaining a plan for the solution of the so-called ‘Abkhaz question,’" Eshba said.

"We possess accurate information that Georgian armed forces are being concentrated in western regions of Georgia that border Abkhazia. Their purpose is to invade our republic and destroy Abkhaz statehood," he said.

"The Abkhaz Defense Ministry asserts that all attempts to use the complicated political situation in Abkhazia in Georgia’s interests will be cut short. The Abkhaz forces have been alerted on my orders," the minister said.

"I am sure that the Abkhaz people will be united in this situation. The armed forces of the republic–together with the people–will give an appropriate rebuff to the aggressor," he said.

"I am sure that–at this moment of a real threat–all disputes will be pushed far into the background–as has always been the case in our history," Eshba said.

"This statement and the measures that are being taken by the Abkhaz Defense Ministry have nothing to do with the internal political situation in Abkhazia," the minister said. "The Abkhaz armed forces have never interfered in any internal political processes in Abkhazia nor will they do so," he said.

Meanwhile–Georgian Minister for Separatist Conflicts Giorgi Khaindrava denied any plans for a military invasion of Abkhazia.

He dismissed Eshba’s words as "completely absurd."

"We have not recognized–nor will we recognize–as legitimate any elections in Abkhazia that are carried through by the separatist authorities–but it has been important for us to find out the opinion of the Abkhaz people on their current leaders–and so the Georgian leadership has not been interfering in current events in Abkhazia," Khaindrava told reporters.

He reiterated that Georgia was determined to seek negotiated settlemen’s to its conflicts with Abkhazia and another breakaway province–South Ossetia.

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