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Georgia: Parliament Considers Pulling CIS Troops

Tbilisi, 11 October 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze says he will back the parliament if it decides to pull Russian peacekeepers from the breakaway republic of Abkhazia. The Georgian parliament is currently considering the proposal.

Meanwhile separatist Abkhaz leader Vladislav Ardzinba has sent a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin asking him to thwart Georgia's "policy of state terrorism" and calling Russia the guarantor of stability in Abkhazia.

Shevardnadze says CIS troops in the area have not fulfilled their duties. The Georgian president made the statement in the wake of recent violence in the Kodori gorge region of Abkhazia, which began when alleged Chechen and Georgian guerrillas raided a village. It escalated on 8 October, when a helicopter carrying UN observers was shot down. Then unidentified aircraft bombed the area.

Abkhaz officials say the aircraft was Georgian, but Georgia says it has proof of Russian involvement. Russia, which has sent troops to its border with the breakaway republic, has denied the allegations.

Georgia has sent troops to its border with Abkhazia, a move which a senior Abkhaz official called a step toward war and a bid to legitimate the activities of "terrorist groups" on Abkhaz territory.

Georgian Defense Minister David Tevzadze says troops are being sent to the Kodori gorge to defend the local population there. The gorge leads onto territory held by Abkhaz separatists.

In a related development, Abkhaz separatists claim to have killed six Chechen guerrillas over the last 24 hours.