"We want to go that way," said an ethnic Georgian woman, brusquely pointing at a dirt road leading from the Georgian-controlled Upper Kodori Gorge into separatist-controlled Abkhazia. "Why can’t we go back?"
The Upper Kodori Gorge, the only part of breakaway Abkhazia still governed by Georgia, has emerged in recent weeks as a flashpoint in relations between Tbilisi and Moscow. To Abkhaz separatists, it is the launch pad for a potential attack. To Georgians, it is a symbol of their intentions to regain Abkhazia without conflict.
At first glance, it might seem a bucolic mountain get-away. But this is no Switzerland.
Russian officials say that a supposedly massive buildup of Georgian army units in Kodori, along with the alleged introduction of heavy equipment there, serves to justify Moscow’s recent increase in the number of Commonwealth of Independent States peacekeeping forces within Abkhazia -- a situation that Georgian officials claim has brought them to the brink of war with Russia. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].
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Elizabeth Owen is the Tbilisi-based Caucasus news editor for EurasiaNet.org. Alexander Klimchuk is a freelance photographer in Tbilisi.