Saturday, May 31, 2008

Is a war brewing in the Caucaucus?

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said he approved of a plan to give Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia autonomy but not full independence.

But Georgia accused Moscow of trying to annex the impoverished Black Sea region after Russia sent unarmed troops on Saturday to rebuild a railway in Abkhazia.

Russia called the deployment "humanitarian aid." Georgia said on Friday it had stopped spy plane flights over Abkhazia to quell Western fears that tensions between Tbilisi and Moscow could degenerate into war.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has offered Abkhazia, which broke away in a war in the 1990s, a package that would return it to Georgian control but give it autonomy, the post of vice-president, free trade zones, and seats in parliament.

"I very much hope that the plan that Saakashvili proposed will gradually be introduced because overall it is the right plan," Putin said in an interview with France's Le Monde newspaper, given on a visit to Paris and attended by Reuters.

"It just needs the other side to agree to it. You need to conduct a dialogue," he said.

Putin's apparent support was surprising because Moscow backs the separatists. However, his condition that Abkhazia must agree to the plan is unlikely to be fulfilled: the separatists rejected the Georgian plan when it was first presented.
Stay tuned...

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