Georgian villagers say expelled from rebel region
r.amirejibi-mullen at qmul.ac.uk
Fri Feb 27 15:00:05 UTC 2009
February 27, 2009
By Matt Robinson
Georgia said on Friday separatist forces in the Russian-backed
breakaway region of Abkhazia had expelled dozens of Georgian families
overnight but the Abkhaz authorities dismissed the accusation.
Unarmed European Union ceasefire monitors said at least 40 Georgians
from the village of Otobaia had camped outside overnight on the de
facto Abkhaz border. An Abkhaz official denied the accusation.
"They tell us they have been evicted from their homes," an EU mission
spokeswoman said. The villagers said they had been "driven into the
woods by Abkhaz militias."
Otobaia lies in Abkhazia's eastern Gali region, home to a large ethnic
Georgian community that complains of discrimination.
Tensions over Georgia's breakaway, pro-Russian regions erupted in a
five-day war last August in which Russian forces smashed a Georgian
assault on another rebel province, South Ossetia.
The Georgian Interior Ministry said around 50 families were forced
from Otobaia by Abkhaz forces searching for a resident of the village.
"They went house-to-house and told them to leave and not to come back
until they hand him over," Interior Ministry spokesman Shota
Russia has recognised Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent
states, and has thousands of troops in both regions.
Utiashvili said the man being searched for was in hospital in Georgia
after being shot by Abkhaz forces.
Asked about the accusations, the Abkhaz government's Gali
representative Ruslan Kishmaria told Reuters: "It's rubbish. Nothing
The EU monitors are denied access to both rebel regions.
The Georgian interior ministry also accused Russian forces of sending
heavy armour to the Gali region.
Russia's Interfax news agency quoted an Abkhaz security official as
saying a regular rotation of Russian forces was under way near the
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