Edmond Mulet, the UN assistant secretary-general for peacekeeping operations, briefed the UN Security Council session on August 10 on the most recent developments in breakaway Abkhazia, following the de facto authorities’ announcement that they intend to take over the Tbilisi-controlled upper Kodori Gorge.
Below is a full transcript of what he told the Security Council members:
Today the Abkhaz side has moved troops and heavy weapons into the zone of conflict. Such movement was initially prevented by the CIS peacekeeping force, but their commander, General Chaban, yesterday informed UNOMIG that they could no longer stop the Abkhaz from moving weapons and personnel into the zone.
UNOMIG has confirmed the CIS peacekeepers did not attempt to stop such deployments. Abkhaz troops and heavy weapons are now present all along the ceasefire line.
Yesterday morning the Abkhaz de facto deputy defense minister requested that UNOMIG withdraw its observers from the Upper Kodori Valley, as their safety could no longer be guaranteed. UNOMIG then withdrew all 15 observers that had been present in the Upper Kodori Valley.
Following the request for UNOMIG to leave the Upper Kodori Valley, the Abkhaz de facto authorities announced a decision taken by de facto President Bagapsh to push the Georgian armed forces out of the Upper Kodori Valley.
Beginning yesterday afternoon UNOMIG has reported ongoing aerial bombardments of Georgian villages in the Upper Kodori Valley.
The mission also observed the movement by the Abkhaz side of substantial numbers of heavy weapons and military personnel towards the Kodori Valley. Early today the Abkhaz de facto President Bagapsh gave a press conference where he announced that their operation in the Upper Kodori Valley was proceeding according to plan. He stated that both Georgian civilians and armed personnel had been given an ultimatum to leave the Upper Kodori Valley. Bagapsh also stated that his side was coordinating their activities with the CIS peacekeeping forces in order to restore order in the peacekeepers’ area of responsibility. He said that Sokhumi had requested Russia to take measures to strengthen the Abkhaz maritime border.
Negotiations with Georgia, he said, were only possible after the planned Abkhaz operations were completed. UNOMIG has received information from multiple sources that most of the civilian population of the Upper Kodori Valley has left.
Throughout last night and today UNOMIG has obtained information on an ongoing build-up of forces, both Abkhaz and Russian, in and near the zone of conflict. UNOMIG observed a Russian airborne battalion move towards the zone of conflict this morning. UNOMIG also reports that a number of Illushin-76 transport airplanes have landed in Sokhumi airport beginning yesterday evening. It also appears that the number of Russian ships belonging to the Black Sea fleet have moved close to the coast of Abkhazia. Abkhaz forces and heavy weapons have been moved to the administrative border with Georgia across the entire zone of conflict.
Bombings had taken place in the vicinity of the Georgian city of Zugdidi causing panic among the local population many of whom are trying to see protection in the UNOMIG regional headquarters located there. As a result of these increasing tensions and bombings in the mission’s area of operations, UNOMIG has had to scale down its operations and is now conducting only essential patrols. The mission continues to liaise with the sides and the CIS peacekeepers.
For the time being UNOMIG has not observed major movements of troops or weapons into the zone of conflict on the Georgian side. So far the only actions observed were reinforcements of the existing positions along the ceasefire line.
Overall, with the exception of the bombing of the Upper Kodori Valley and targets near Zugdidi, including Senaki military base, no direct confrontations appeared to have broken out as yet in our area of operations. UNOMIG has requested that the CIS peacekeepers provide security through its regional headquarters in Gali and Zugdidi. Thank you.