Kidnapping of UN observers a painful blow to the Georgian authorities
Three employees of the UN Observers Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) and one Georgian interpreter were abducted in Kodori gorge this morning, while patrolling the gorge.
"The UN observers mission, which was conducting the regular patrol of Kodori gorge this morning, was ambushed by the unknown armed group. After the shootout, fortunately no one is injured, attackers took in custody three UN observers, one Georgian interpreter and Russian peacekeepers, which were accompanying them. The peacekeepers were released immediately, but observers still remain in custody," Marian Staszewski, Senior Political Advisor at the UNOMIG told Civil Georgia today.
Marian Staszewski said that the UNOMIG has regular contacts with the Georgian authorities regarding the situation in Kodori and refrained from making any comments regarding the incident. He also refrained from naming the nationality of the abducted observers; however head of the Tbilisi-based Abkhazia government in exile said earlier today that two German and one Danish citizen are kidnapped.
Georgian authorities have no information regarding the whereabouts of the kidnapped UN personnel and the reasons for the abduction.
Representatives of the Georgian government fear the incident may bring serious deterioration in the troubled gorge, which is the flashpoint in breakaway Abkhazia since the part of the gorge is controlled by the Georgian authorities and another half by the Abkhaz side. The conflicting sides permanently accuse each other in attempts to take over the entire gorge, which is of high strategic importance.
"I have a doubt that this incident is masterminded in Russia, to further undermine situation in this region and damage Georgia's international credibility," Tamaz Nadareishvili, head of the Abkhaz government in-exile told Civil Georgia.
"We should do our best to resolve the problem as soon as possible in order to save our international image," Kakha Sikharulidze, Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister told the reporters today.
Abduction coincided with the talks between Georgian and Abkhaz sides scheduled for June 5 regarding the return of IDPs in the Abkhazia, however the talks failed as the news broke on kidnapping of the UN observers.
In 2001 nine UN observers and crew were killed when their helicopter was shot down in the area. The attack was blamed on Chechen fighters, which were hiding in Abkhazia by that time.
Up to 100 UN observers are monitoring a truce between Georgian and Abkhazian sides.