Reports say that six people were slightly injured as a result of two explosions in the center of the Abkhaz capital, Sokhumi, on June 30 – a day after two similar blasts injured six people in the Abkhaz town of Gagra.
The two explosives went off close to Sokhumi’s market at noon on Monday, Abkhaz officials said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry denied media reports that a Russian holiday-maker was among those six persons injured in the Sokhumi blast.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement it was “seriously concerned” with explosions that occurred in Sokhumi and Gagra on June 30 and June 29, respectively.
“The authorities of the republic [referring to Abkhazia] are undertaking measures aimed at providing security of local residents and holiday-makers,” it said.
The two explosions in Gagra on June 29 also occurred close to the town’s central market. Abkhaz officials immediately accused the Georgian side of “a terrorist act” and suggested they were aimed at destroying the tourism season in the region. Gagra is close to the Russian border and is a tourist destination for mostly Russian visitors.
Some Abkhaz officials alleged after the Gagra blasts that the targetted area – the town’s market - was deliberately chosen in order to inflict multiple casualties.
After the blasts in Sokhumi, RIA Novosti news agency, however, reported, quoting Abkhaz law enforcement officials, that the explosive devices that went off in Sokhumi did not contain shrapnel-generating objects.
“It seems that terrorizing the population and destroying the tourism season were the aims of the blasts,” Vladimir Gaidukov, the deputy interior minister of breakaway Abkhazia, told RIA Novosti.
Sergey Bagapsh, the Abkhaz leader, blamed the Georgian side for both of incidents and told RIA Novosti news agency that the Abkhaz side would close the border with Georgia starting from July 1.
Georgian officials have denied any involvement, saying the allegation was absurd.
A power struggle between various Abkhaz criminal groups is one explanation for the blasts Georgian officials have been putting forth. MP Nika Rurua, a deputy chairman of the parliamentary committee for defense and security, also suggested the blasts were aimed at “terrorizing the local population” in order to increase anti-Georgian sentiment in the region.
Meanwhile, The UN Secretary General’s Group of Friends of Georgia is meeting in Berlin on June 30 to discuss Abkhazia.
Diplomats from France, Germany, Great Britain, Russia and the U.S. – members of the group - are discussing proposals aimed at defusing tensions and fostering the resumption of talks between Tbilisi and Sokhumi.
Georgian national television stations reported on June 24 – when President Saakashvili was on a visit to Berlin – that the German side, as a member of the Group of Friends, proposed “a three-stage plan,” involving revoking the April 16 decision by Russia; economic rehabilitation (including a free economic zone in Gali and Ochamchire) and eventually a political settlement. Georgian officials welcomed the “plan,” saying that it was now up to Tbilisi’s western partners to convince Russia to accept it.
The Russian Foreign Ministry, however, said on June 27 that no plan had been elaborated. It said there was only some initial proposals by individual states from the Group of Friends. It also said that the Group of Friends would try to find common ground on the matter at the planned meeting in Berlin.