Moscow, March 25 (RFE/RL) - RFE/RL
correspondents report that about 2,000 Abkhazians protested
today in the Abkhazian capital Sukhumi against the blockade of
Abkhazian ports by Russian border forces.
Our correspondent in Sukhumi says the demonstrators protested
that Russia should not regulate Abkhazian commerce.
Boats from the Russian border forces Friday halted a Turkish vessel
bound for Abkhazia. After the Turkish captain refused to submit to a
customs search, two boats operated by Abkhazian separatists
approached and exchanged gunfire with the Russian boats. No
casualties were reported.
The Abkhaz parliament has appealed to the Russian State Duma to end
the blockade that has been in force since October 1995.
Abkhazian separatists drove the Georgian army from their territory
in 1993. About 3,000 Russian troops have been monitoring a ceasefire
in the territory since. Their mandate expired in January, but they
remain in place.
Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze Saturday defended the Russian
border guards' action as complying with Russian-Georgian agreements
on joint border protection.