International confidence in Georgia's political leadership is flagging, as Tbilisi grapples with a series of crises. Over the past two weeks, President Eduard Shevardnadze's administration has had to contend with political protests related to the upcoming parliament elections, the kidnapping of United Nations observers and the prospect of a reduction of International Monetary Fund assistance.
The five-day hostage drama involving three UN observers and their interpreter ended June 10. Under the release arrangement, Georgia did not pay a ransom, and reportedly gave the kidnappers assurances that no effort would be made to apprehend them. Little can be confirmed about the kidnappers' identities. Some Georgian officials have suggested "local criminals" were responsible for the kidnapping, which took place in the Kodori Gorge, a Georgian-held area in the separatist-minded territory of Abkhazia. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. Some observers, meanwhile, have suggested several kidnappers may have been Georgians and Chechens who escaped from an Abkhaz prison last April.
The incident has prompted the UN Observer Mission in Georgia to suspend its patrols in the region. "We need
Jaba Devdariani is a founding director of the United Nations Association of Georgia (www.una.org.ge) and Research Director of the UNAs program for applied research.