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Georgia: Parliament Demands Blockade Of Russian Bases

Tbilisi, 10 February 1998 (RFE/RL) - Georgia's Parliament demanded today that interior ministry troops blockade Russian military bases in the country to help search for the gunmen who carried out a failed assassination attempt against President Eduard Shevardnadze. Deputies said they could not rule out that the group behind last night's attack had been sent from Russia and had left Georgia shortly afterwards from a Russian base some 30 kilometers from Tbilisi.

Gunmen last night ambushed Shevardnadze's motorcade as the president was returning home. Two of Shevardnadze's bodyguards were killed in the attack. A gunman, reported to be a Chechen from Dagestan, was also killed.

Parliamentary Speaker Zurab Zhvania said that although the "Russian involvement" in the attack was not certain, all Russian bases should be taken under control and the inquiry be conducted with the cooperation of the Russian military.

Some 18,000 Russian troops are stationed at five bases in Georgia, including a peacekeeping force between Georgian troops and separatists in Georgia's breakaway province of Abkhazia.

In Moscow, Russian Interior Minister Anatoly Kulikov told reporters he had warned his Georgian counterpart last November of a planned attack on Shevardnadze. Kulikov said then there had been no evidence that former Georgian Security chief Igor Georgadze was involved in the planned attack.

Georgadze, together with the leader of the nationalist organisation Mkhedrioni Dzhaba Ioseliani, is accused of organizing an August 1995 attempt on Shevardnadze's life. Georgadze is on the run while Ioseliani was arrested in November 1995.

In Grozny, Chechen Foreign Minister Movladi Udugov said the gunman killed in last night's attack had no link either with Chechnya or with Chechen authorities. Georgian officials had said the gunman was a Chechen from Dagestan.

Police, interior and army troops beefed up security around government buildings early today as the search for the assailants continued. The borders of the country were sealed and security forces checked suspicious vehicles at roadblocks.