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Interfax: Abkhaz leader orders destruction of Georgian ships violating sea border
Last Updated(Beijing Time):2009-09-03 13:41
The leader of Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia, Sergei Bagapsh, on Wednesday ordered the destruction of Georgian ships entering the rebel region's claimed territorial waters, the Interfax news agency reported.

"I have issued an order to our navy to destroy Georgian ships illegally crossing the Abkhaz marine border. This step has been prompted by unending piracy on Georgia's part," Bagapsh was quotedas saying.

"I would like to emphasize that the matter involves exclusively the Abkhaz Navy. No Russian naval forces have been employed or will be employed to resolve this issue," he added.

The rebel region's foreign minister, Sergei Shamba, also said Abkhazia was ready to use force after Bagapsh had given the order, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.

However, Georgian Deputy Prime Minister Temur Yakobashvili later shrugged off Abkhazia's warning as "a pre-election bluff."

"First of all, they have no technical means to destroy ships, and moreover it is not his (Bagapsh's) business. It looks more like a pre-election bluff," he said. Bagapsh is running for re-election in polls slated for Dec. 12.

"If someone is capable of destroying vessels, then it is Russia," added Yakobashvili.

In mid-August, Georgia seized two cargo vessels within its territorial waters, which it said were "smuggling" fuel and scrap metals to Abkhazia.

Georgia's Foreign Ministry issued a statement Tuesday on its website accusing Russian coast guards of the Federal Security Service (FSB), together with Abkhazia's "border guards," of trying to prevent the detention of the vessels.

"This action of the Russian side is a gross violation of the multilateral and bilateral norms of both Georgian domestic legislation and international law," said the statement.

Georgia's rebel regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia broke away from Tbilisi's rule during a war in the early 1990s.

Russia and Georgia fought a five-day war in August last year, when Georgia attacked South Ossetia to try to retake the renegade region that borders Russia. In response, Moscow sent in troops to drive Georgian forces out of the region.

Russia recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states two weeks after the conflict ended.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visited Abkhazia last month, days after the first anniversary of the conflict, and pledged more assistance to the rebel republic.

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