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Georgia: Shevardnadze To Visit Pankisi Gorge Today

Tbilisi, 27 August 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze is scheduled to travel today to the Pankisi Gorge near the border with Chechnya, which Russia says has become a refuge for Chechen rebels. Yesterday, Shevardnadze pledged to cleanse the area "of all criminals and terrorists." One thousand Georgian Interior Ministry troops are now in the gorge taking part in anticriminal and antiterrorist operations. But Shevardnadze said the troops had not encountered any militants so far.

For their part, Georgia has accused Russian aircraft of bombing areas near the gorge on 23 August, killing one civilian. Moscow has denied those charges, but the U.S. has rebuked Moscow for allegedly "indiscriminately bombing villages in north Georgia." Shevardnadze has welcomed the U.S. statement.

And yesterday at the UN, Georgian Ambassador Revaz Adamia accused Russia of state terrorism. Adamia said Georgia had not yet decided whether to ask for action by the UN Security Council.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov yesterday again denied any cross-border bombing raid in Georgia. In comments reported by the Interfax news agency, Ivanov suggested Georgia itself may have carried out the 23 August aerial attack.