Abkhazia to close border with Georgia following bomb blasts

Monday, June 30, 2008

Abkhazia, a region located within the internationally recognised borders of Georgia, but which is a de facto independent republic without international recognition, has closed its border with the country following recent bomb blasts. Abkhaz officials accuse Georgia of being responsible.

Several people have been injured in the blasts which occurred today and on Sunday when two bombs exploded in Gagra. Today's blast happened in Sukhumi, the region's capital.

Abkhazia broke away from Georgia after the early 1990s war when separatists defeated Georgian forces and commenced a campaign of ethnic cleansing of Georgians in Abkhazia.

The region's foreign minister said, "Georgia's aim is to destabilise the economic situation in Abkhazia. They want to drive tourists away. They are our main source of revenue. We have already caught several Georgians in similar circumstances."

Georgian authorities have denied any involvement in the bomb blasts. Shota Utiashvili ,an interior ministry spokesman, said, "It will be a humanitarian catastrophe if the border is closed. Thousands of Georgians in Abkhazia cross the border to get pensions, do their shopping and work".

Russia, which is said to support the separatist forces, have peacekeeping troops within the region but this has been described as an occupying force by Georgia and Russia accused of trying to take over the region by stealth.

The border will be shut from tomorrow as security in the region is tightened.