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Abkhazia Asks Georgia To Hand Over Former Guerrilla Commander


The Forest Brothers are believed to be responsible for the killings of dozens of Russian peacekeepers (pictured) and Abkhaz civilians during the period from 1994-2004.

The Forest Brothers are believed to be responsible for the killings of dozens of Russian peacekeepers (pictured) and Abkhaz civilians during the period from 1994-2004.

The Abkhaz delegation to the February 22 confidence-building talks demanded that Georgia hand over Dato Shengelia, commander of the now-disbanded Forest Brothers guerrilla group.

According to the Abkhaz Foreign Ministry, there is documentary evidence of Shengelia's participation in "serious crimes" against citizens of the breakaway region.

The Forest Brothers and a second guerrilla formation, the White Legion, are believed to be responsible for the killings of dozens of Russian peacekeepers and Abkhaz civilians during the period from 1994-2004. They also launched an abortive attempt in the summer of 1998 to bring Abkhazia back under the control of the central Georgian government.

Shengelia formally disbanded the Forest Brothers in early 2004, shortly after Mikhail Saakashvili's election as Georgian president. He was arrested on drug-related charges in December 2006 and sentenced the following year to 24 years in prison. He has recently been released on grounds of his deteriorating health.

The Abkhaz delegation to the talks, held in Gali under the aegis of the United Nations, also demanded that Georgia hand over Merab Kolbaya, a resident of Abkhazia's southernmost Gali district, who was apprehended, reportedly by Georgian security services, on February 15 on suspicion of engaging in terrorist acts on Georgian territory.

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.

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