Breakaway Abkhazia Wants to Break Away Further
In a move that many Georgians believe bodes ill for their remaining links with breakaway Abkhazia, the region’s new de-facto leader, Raul Khajimba, has stated he wants to eliminate all crossing points but one into Georgian-controlled territory.
“The national border with Georgia on the Enguri River will be reinforced,” RIA Novosti quoted Khajimba as saying in reference to what most of the rest of the world sees as an administrative boundary line between Abkhazia and the Tbilisi-controlled region of Samegrelo.
“There should be only one checkpoint for reasons of national security,” Khajimba told an assembly of his party, the Forum of People’s Unity of Abkhazia.
For now, there are five crossing-points – four pedestrian and one vehicular – operating across the Russian-policed administrative boundary between breakaway Abkhazia and Samegrelo.
Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili expressed regret about Khajimba’s decision, saying that closing these crossings will undermine attempts at re-building trust between ethnic Georgians and Abkhaz.
Residents of Abkhazia’s ethnic Georgian-dominated Gali region regularly use these so-called official crossings to travel into Samegrelo, the best local place for shopping, and where most have family or friends.
“Russian border guards often turn a blind eye if we show them an Abkhaz or Soviet passport or residency documents provided by the local administration and they let us herd livestock to pastures on the Georgian-controlled side,” one Gali resident told Ekho Kavkaza.
A principal at a school in Samegrelo said that ethnic Georgian children from across the separatist line will not be able to attend classes in his school if the nearby checkpoint is closed down, the radio station reported.
But as EurasiaNet.org has reported, even in the past when the crossing-points were closed, Gali schoolchildren and their parents routinely managed to slip past Russian guards to get into Samegrelo.
Despite the risks, that know-how could well come into play even more so now.
Giorgi Lomsadze is a journalist based in Tbilisi, and author of Tamada Tales.
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