Georgia

Georgia, Abkhazia exchange first hostages

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Two days after senior Abkhaz and Georgian government officials signed an agreement in Sukhum (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 February 2000), Georgia handed over the bodies of three Abkhaz customs officials shot dead last month, Caucasus Press reported. In exchange, the Abkhaz authorities released three Georgian hostages. A group of Georgians continues to block the Georgian side of the bridge over the Inguri River, which forms the internal border between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia, to demand the release of five Georgians held by the Abkhaz, Caucasus Press reported on 7 February. Tbilisi says those five are all civilians, while the Abkhaz authorities claim that some of them have been convicted for war crimes committed during the 1992-1993 fighting, according to AP. The Georgian authorities, for their part, continue to hold two Abkhaz. LF

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