Reconstruction of railway infrastructure in Abkhazia is of a purely humanitarian nature and should not be a source of concern, Vyacheslav Kovalenko, the Russian ambassador in Tbilisi, said on June 2.
He was speaking with journalists after visiting the Georgian Foreign Ministry where he was given a protest note in connection with Russia’s decision to deploy Defense Ministry Railway Forces in Abkhazia.
“Frankly speaking, I do not understand why so many concerns are being expressed over this matter,” Kovalenko said. “Repair of railway bridges and roads is a humanitarian act aimed at improving the lives of people in the region. The more people live a better life, the less militarism there will be and it will be much easier to restore lost mutual confidence, which is now at zero.”
“I think that any humanitarian act should only be welcomed. I want to remind you that last year when the same engineering units were repairing roads and bridges in Lebanon, the entire world welcomed it. It was perceived as a humanitarian act aimed at improving the lives of people and when it happens in Abkhazia a different assessment is being made.”
He also suggested that Tbilisi would be better off resuming its participation in the working group on re-establishing the rail link through Abkhazia rather than criticising the Russian action.
In May 2006 the Georgian, Abkhaz, Russian and Armenian sides signed a protocol on establishing a consortium – the Black Sea Railways – designed to repair the Abkhaz section of the railway linking Russia with Georgia and Armenia.