- The Guardian,
- Tuesday July 1, 2008
Abkhazia yesterday accused Georgia of terrorism and said it would close its de facto border with the country after a bomb reportedly exploded in Sukhumi, the capital of the breakaway region.
Two people were injured in the blast, including a Russian tourist, Abkhaz officials said. The bomb went off in a car park near the central market, they said. They gave no other details.
There were two blasts on Sunday in the nearby resort town of Gagra. Two bombs went off at 9am near the beach and a supermarket, injuring six people, officials said.
The explosions come at a time of heightened tensions in pro-Russian Abkhazia, which broke away from Georgia after the 1992-93 war. Georgia accuses Russia of trying to annexe the Black Sea territory.
Yesterday Sergei Shamba, Abkhazia's foreign minister, claimed the blasts were the work of Georgian special services wanting to disrupt Abkhazia's tourist season, although he was unable to give details. "Georgia's aim is to destabilise the economic situation in Abkhazia," Shamba said.
"They want to drive tourists away. They are our main source of revenue. We have already caught several Georgians in similar circumstances."
Asked whether Abkhazia could have carried out the blasts to discredit Georgia, he said: "That's absurd. We wouldn't blow up our citizens in order to close the border. We would never carry out such acts."
Abkhazia will shut its border with Georgia today, Shamba said. The border had until now been open, with Russian and Georgian troops on both sides.
Yesterday Georgian interior officials denied involvement in the blasts. They suggested the explosions were probably the result of an internal feud within Abkhazia's pro-Moscow leadership before elections next year.
Georgia says Abkhazia is a sovereign part of its territory and has appealed to Nato for support in getting the republic back. It has also said it will block Russia's application to join the World Trade Organisation.