Rustavi 2 television station reported that Kvitsiani and up to 60 of his fighters are in a forestry area near the Azhara village besieged by the security forces.
A shootout resumed after a deadline set by Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili towards rebel leader Kvitsiani to surrender has expired at about 4 pm local time.
Rustavi 2 television also reported that a helicopter of Russian peacekeeping troops landed in the militia-controlled area to provide rebels with food, but has failed to fly back as the Georgian side threatens to down it.
Chief of the Georgian President’s Administration Giorgi Arveladze said at a news conference at about 3 pm local time that the active phase of the ongoing police operation in Kodori gorge will be over in “several hours.”
“We expect that a major phase of the ongoing anti-criminal operation will be over in several hours… I want to stress that it is an anti-criminal operation which has nothing to do with military operations, or with war,” Giorgi Arveladze said at a news conference, which was held at about 3 pm local time.
Meanwhile, MP Nika Rurua, deputy chairman of the parliamentary committee for defense and security, said that part of Kvitsiani’s supporters have surrendered their arms, while another part, including Kvitsiani himself, is besieged by the security forces.
Giorgi Arveladze confirmed the injury of only two employees of the Interior Ministry and added that their wounds are not life-threatening. But some reports say that there are at least dozen of wounded persons from both sides.
Arveladze also said that he will deliver regular news briefings in an attempt to fill the information gap regarding the developments in Kodori gorge. Journalists are not allowed on the scene for security reasons.
“In many cases the presence of journalists hinders an operation of this kind,” Giorgi Arveladze, chief of the Georgian President’s Administration, said.
Earlier on July 26 the Georgian authorities said that a police operation in upper Kodori Gorge will last as long as necessary for the “full demolition of those persons who are forcefully confronting the country’s unity.”
“The ground will burn beneath their [rebel militia members'] feet, so we call on the local population to keep away from the places where they [militiamen] are concentrated,” Giorgi Arveladze, chief of the Georgian President’s Administration, said at a news conference in the noon.
He also said that the authorities’ “major goal” is to protect the interest of the local peaceful population and “to render them assistance in this very difficult time.”