Today, in accordance with standing agreements with South Ossetia, the Abkhazian forces launched operations against Georgian positions illegally situated in the upper reaches of the Kodor Gorge, according to government sources in Sukhumi. “Air strikes and artillery barrages hit this portion of the gorge”, Kristian Bzhaniya, the official spokesman of the Abkhazian presidential administration reported to our Interfax correspondent. “During this phase of the operation, there is going to be no direct contact by units of the Abkhazian forces. Thus far, our troops have not entered the sector controlled by Georgian formations. Therefore, we were quite amazed to hear Saakashvili’s claim that the Georgian forces had repelled attacks in the Kodor Gorge”. Mr Bzhaniya emphasised that during the escalation of the crisis in South Ossetia, “we observed a build-up in forces. The Georgian side doubled the size of their contingent. Also, there was a deployment of artillery pieces and multiple-rocket-launchers”.
Mr Bzhaniya noted that Georgia ordered general mobilisation and that the government in Tbilisi refused to honour existing treaties and it refused to sign a pledge abjuring the use of force. This created “a new threat of invasion [from Georgia] to Abkhazia”. In the light of these developments, Abkhazian President Sergei Bagapsh decided “to drive the Georgian forces from the upper reaches of the Kodor Gorge”. Therefore, the Abkhazian forces moved into the Galsky raion near the DMZ line. “Following the orders of President [Bagapsh], we decided to move our forces into the DMZ in the Galsky raion”, Mr Bzhaniya stated to journalists on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Abkhazian Foreign Minister Sergei Shamb said to Interfax that the actions of the Abkhazian government “were perfectly legal. Abkhazia repeatedly offered to resolve matters by compromise through diplomatic channels, never by force. However, the barbarous actions of Georgia in the last 24 hours give us the right to act as the situation warrants it. The blame lies completely on the Georgian side. We sought a diplomatic solution; in fact, I was busy doing that, myself. We had many talks with western diplomats, explaining the situation to them. However, we had to see to our military preparations. We decided to move our units to the Georgian border and initiate operations, so as to divert as many units of the Georgian forces away from the positions of our South Ossetian brothers.
Early in the morning, our units advanced into the DMZ, previously banned to both the Georgian and Abkhazian forces per previously negotiated agreements. In accordance with their standing orders, the Russian troops of the peacekeeping force stopped our columns so that they would not break the agreement. A request along this line also came from the Russian Foreign Ministry. Our government said that it respected the agreement concerning Kodor Gorge, but, future actions would depend on the development of the situation and the actions of the Georgians. Since the Georgian forces intensified their bombardment of Tskhinvali, we decided to shell Georgian military targets”, Mr Shamb explained. He went on to say that the main objective of the Abkhazian military operation, to draw Georgian forces away from the South Ossetian front, was accomplished for all practical purposes.
Nevertheless, Abkhazia did not order a general mobilisation of reservists to the colours. “Thus far, we have not started this, for we have not found it to be necessary yet”, Kristian Bzhaniya, the official spokesman, said. In any case, he added, if needed, such a mobilisation would be ordered.
As we reported this evening, sources in the high command of the Abkhazian forces told Interfax that rocket strikes were delivered on military targets in western Georgia. The source told us, “This was the second such strike, and the first was launched on Saturday night”.
9 August 2008