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Russian MFA: Tbilisi Wants to Destabilize Gali
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 11 Apr.'11 / 23:51

Russia accused Georgia on April 11 of "conniving" with criminal groups to keep tensions high in Gali district of breakaway Abkhazia.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said that the April 8 shootout in the Gali district, in which one Russian serviceman was killed, was part of Tbilisi's "purposeful" attempts "to destabilize situation on the border" with Abkhazia.

Two Georgians, which, Russia said, were among the attackers on the Russian border guard patrol, were killed in the skirmish on April 8. Sokhumi and Moscow said that the two Georgians were "saboteurs" acting under the instructions of the Georgian Interior Ministry and were behind several criminal acts, including the January, 2010 explosion in the village of Chuburkhinji.

"An open connivance of various sorts of terrorists and saboteurs by the Georgian special services creates threat to peaceful life in the region," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said that the two Georgian killed in the skirmish were "members of notorious, illegal Georgian armed group, Forest Brothers, led by [Davit] Shengelia."

The Georgian guerrilla group Forest Brothers was disbanded in early 2004 after pressure from the Georgian authorities - the move at the time welcomed by Sokhumi. The group's commander Davit Shengelia was arrested in late 2006 over drug-related charges and sentenced to a lengthy prison term. It was reported in February that Shengelia was granted to a preterm release - the move condemned by Sokhumi.

"Obviously he was tasked with destabilizing situation in the Abkhaz-Georgian border region," the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

Tbilisi denied having links to the April 8 shooting in the Gali district and said the shootout was "settling the score" between criminals.

Georgia confirmed identity of one of the men killed in the skirmish as Lasha Sichinava, but said he had nothing to do with the Georgian Interior Ministry. It said that Sichinava was wanted by the Georgian police since 2002 for theft, robbery and hostage-taking and was sentenced to 19 years in prison in absentia.

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