The Messenger, Georgia
Dec 1 2004

Russia blockade squeezes Abkhaz separatists
By M. Alkhazashvili

Russian officials have threatened to close the Russian-Abkhaz border
and to establish an economic blockade. On November 23 the governor of
Krasnodar Alexander Tkachov advised the Russian to close the Abkhaz
border until the situation is improved there. He also suggested that
the authorities stop paying pensions to Abkhaz who were granted
Russian citizenship some times ago.

In effect, however, such threats have already become a reality since
the Sokhumi-Sochi train-line has been closed for two weeks now and
the border is only open for one hour a day. This has had a
detrimental effect on Abkhazia's economy, Georgian media reports, as
now is the season for picking tangerines and it is difficult to
transport the fruit into Russia. Akhali Taoba reports that if this
continues, Abkhaz citizens will loss a main source of income.

Furthermore, Rezonansi reports that those Abkhaz refuges living in
Krasnodar - there are reportedly about 5,000 Abkhaz and 10-12,000
Armenian refuges in the region - have been ordered to leave the
territory. The newspaper reports that the refugees have problems not
only with Russians, but also with local citizens.

Rezonansi goes on to report that Russia is threatening to stem the
number of Russian tourists traveling to the unrecognized republic
during the summer tourist season, which is another major source of
Abkhaz income.

The supporters of presidential candidate Sergei Baghapsh see these
steps made by Russia as "pressure" intended to remind Abkhaz of the
importance of ties with Russia. They state further that the economic
blockade is due to the fact that the governor of Krasnodar is not
fully informed with regard to Baghapsh and his supporters, and that
if he fully understood their position the blockade would be lifted.