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Georgia: Russia Says Tbilisi Sparking Unrest In Abkhazia

Moscow, 21 March 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Russia has accused Georgia of sparking unrest in Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia. Russia's Foreign Ministry said today Tbilisi is "preparing to solve the Abkhaz problem by force" on the pretext of combatting Al-Qaeda terrorists. The ministry accused "high-ranking officials" in Georgia of arming guerrillas.

Abkhazia's separatist leader Anri Dzhergeniya alleged that Tbilisi is trying to portray the region as a haven for terrorists.

The comments follow 18 March abduction of four Russian servicemen in Abkhazia. Abkhaz authorities said the four were kidnapped by a Georgian guerrilla group. Russia blamed Georgia's government for the incident.

Abkhazia gained de facto independence in 1993, following two years of fighting with Georgian forces. Moscow backed the separatists in the fight. A year later, Russian peacekeepers were deployed in the region.