Russia advances into Georgia from Abkhazia

Monday, August 11, 2008

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The above file photo (2004) shows a sniper taking aim at Ossetian rebels in South Ossetia to allow the Georgian Army forces to move forward Photograph: Jonathan Alpeyrie

On Monday, Russian troops advanced roughly 25 miles into Georgia. The Interior Ministry of Georgia said that Russian units had moved from the self-declared republic of Abkhazia, to the town of Senaki, within Georgian territory.

The Russian Defence department has stated that the push into Georgian territory was necessary because of the continued attacks by the Georgian troops in South Ossetia. A spokesman from the Georgian Interior ministry said that Russian units had also taken control of the town of Zugdidi.

Map of Abkhazia

"The[y] have advanced in dozens of APCs and are now in Senaki," said Shota Utiashvili, a spokesperson for the Georgian Interior Ministry, announcing the development.

Dmitry Medvedev, the President of Russia, stated that "the enforced detention of Russian citizens in Georgia is an unacceptable situation and in complete violation of international law," according to a press release published by the Russia Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

On August 11th, the Russian Defence Ministry announced that troops are leaving the military base in Senaki, and preparing to head back to Abkhazia. Georgian sources confirmed the announcement, stating that the base had been destroyed. According to Russian officials, Russia has no intention of occupying territory beyond South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Both the town of Senaki and Zugdidi lie in Georgia proper, outside the "security zone" around the region of Abkhazia. The border has been maintained by Russian forces since the 1990s.

There has been increasing pressure by foreign powers for a ceasefire in the South Ossetian conflict. Mikhail Saakashvili, the President of Georgia signed a European Union supported ceasefire, but it was not accepted by Russia. According to Reuters, Georgian troops did not observe the cease fire, since six helicopters bombed Tskhinvali on August 11.

The crisis broke out after days of fighting between Georgian forces and Ossetian separatist units. On August 7, Georgian troops launched an offensive against Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia region. The next day Russian forces entered the territory of Georgia and bombed several targets in the country.

On August 10th, Russian Black Sea Fleet began a naval blockade of Georgian port of Poti and landed several thousand Russian troops in Abkhazia in western Georgia. Ukraine threatened to bar Russian warships dispatched to the Abkhazian coast from returning to their Ukrainian base of Sevastopol if they engage in any military action.