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Georgia

Yearbook 1999

Georgia. During the latter part of the year, Georgia was in the shadow of the Russian Federation's war against the breakaway republic of Chechnya. Georgia accused the Russian federation of violating Georgian airspace and bombing Georgian villages. In August, Moscow acknowledged such an attack and apologized. In November, Georgia made new accusations before the UN Security Council. The Russian Federation responded by accusing Georgia of allowing arms smuggling across its border into Chechnya. Moscow demanded Russian soldiers to guard the Georgian border, but Georgia who felt militarily threatened refused.

1999 Georgia

According to Countryaah official website, President Eduard Shevardnadze's Western-friendly foreign policy also came into conflict with the Russian Federation. He supported NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia in the spring and expressed his desire to see Georgia as a member of NATO by 2005. During the year, Georgia joined the Council of Europe.

However, in November, the Georgia and Russian Federations agreed that the Russian Federation should, until 2001, reduce the forces and shut down two of the four military bases that the country has had in Georgia since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.

In the October parliamentary elections, Shevardnadze's central party won the Citizens' Union with 42% of the vote. The Georgia Renewal Union, an alliance of small parties formed in protest of economic deterioration, came in second place with 26%. Government and opposition blamed each other for electoral fraud, and OSCE observers reported significant irregularities.

In November, an agreement on new oil and gas pipelines was signed from the Caspian Sea via Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey to the port city of Ceyhan on the Mediterranean. It is hoped that the oil pipeline will be completed in 2004, but economic analysts questioned whether the oil in the Caspian Sea is sufficient for the project to be profitable.

In November, the Abkhazian outbreak region declared the region independent from Georgia, after 98% voted in a referendum. Shevardnadze condemned both the referendum and the presidential elections held in Abkhazia and the breakaway region of South Ossetia.

In October, a group of armed men took seven UN observers hostage in Abkhazia, including the Swede Jörgen Öberg. All were released undamaged after a few days.

Abkhazia

Minority in own country

Although some economic investments in the following decades significantly raised the standard of living, Abkhazians still felt displaced in their own country. At the end of the 1980s, they made up only one fifth of the population in their home province. In early 1989, the Abkhazians, led by Vladislav Ardzinba, launched a campaign to free Abkhazia from Georgia.

In July 1992, a declaration of independence was issued. Tensions between Georgians and Abkhazians escalated. Georgia captured Suchumi and fled the rebellion leader, but after an abkhazi counter-offensive in the fall of 1993, the Georgian troops were forced to leave the republic.

Georgia accused forces within the Russian army of helping the Abkhazians, which created tension in the contact between Georgia and Russia. When Russia later began issuing Russian citizenship to the Abkhaz, it fueled the suspicion that Russia was secretly supporting the Abkhaz outbreak.

An armistice came into force in May 1994. It was to be monitored by UN observers. In June, more than 3,000 soldiers, mostly Russians, were deployed in a peacekeeping squad in a zone on the border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia. They then remained.

Despite several new agreements on the cessation of fire in the following years, riots continued to flourish.

In October 2004, a presidential election was held in Abkhazia to appoint successor to the ill-fated Ardzinba. The election became messy with mutual accusations of electoral fraud. After re-election in early 2005, the opposition candidate Sergei Bagapsh finally became new president.

The conflict intensified in the summer of 2006 when Georgian army forces regained full control of the Kodorid Valley in the northeast, and the Georgian-backed Abkhazian government, which was in exile, moved there.

Aggravated crisis in 2008

In March 2008, the Abkhazian Parliament called on the UN and other international organizations to recognize the independence of the territory. Just before that, in another Georgian outbreak province, South Ossetia, Parliament had made a similar statement. Then a direct parallel was drawn to Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia a few weeks earlier.

In April, Georgia's President Saakashvili submitted a proposal for greater autonomy for Abkhazia against the outbreak, recognizing Georgia's supremacy over the area. The proposal was rejected by the political leadership of Abkhazia.

Shortly thereafter, Russia withdrew from a 1996 treaty established within the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) that would isolate the outbreak regime in Abkhazia through trade sanctions and prohibitions on other contacts. Russia claimed that "conditions had changed" and said contacts with Abkhazia would now be strengthened. In May, Moscow increased the number of Russian soldiers in the peacekeeping troops in Abkhazia.

Bagapsj declared in June that the province's border with the rest of Georgia would be closed until further notice. The cause was said to be a series of bomb blasts, among others, in Suchumi that injured at least twelve people, including a Russian tourist. According to Bagapsh, Georgian special forces were behind the explosions, something the Government of Georgia denied.

In July, a series of new explosions occurred on both sides of the Georgian-Abkhazian border. One of them, in an Abkhazian cafe, demanded four lives, causing the Abkhazian leadership to discontinue all contact with Georgia.

When direct fighting between Georgian and Russian troops broke out in South Ossetia in August (see Georgia: Current Policy), tensions also increased in Abkhazia. Russia introduced military reinforcements in the area and Russian planes bombed Georgian positions in the Kodorid Valley. The force of the breakaway republic entered Kodori and returned to the area.

After the war, Moscow recognized Abkhazia's independence and entered into a friendship and cooperation agreement with Abkhazia's leaders. This laid the foundation for military cooperation and Russia was given the right to hold military bases in the republic.

One year after the war, Abkhazia was visited by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. He declared that Russia will support the military outbreak region militarily if needed and promised the equivalent of SEK 3.6 billion to strengthen Abkhazia's military security. Georgia described Putin's visit as a provocation, and the EU considered that the visit violated the principles of territorial integrity and would not have happened without Georgia's consent.

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