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Abkhazian Army Continues Compulsory Recruitment of Georgian Men

22.11.2007

Why do Abkhazians Need Unarmed Georgians?!

In the next few days, when autumn recruitment will finish, their number will be increased. At a meeting in Sokhumi on November 15, Sergei Bagapsh, the president of the de facto governemnt, spoke about the necessity of reforming the armed forces and he was threatening the Gali population. “A Gali dweller who has served in the Georgian army should live in Georgia and must not return to Abkhazia. But if they consider themselves Abkhazian citizens they have to abide by Abkhazian laws.”

Abkhazian law enforcement officials manage to recruit Georgian citizens with a specific method – they use violence because no one is willing to go there. During the recruitment, heavily armed Abkhazian soldiers enter the villages to recruit the boys. The whole village is in under siege and the roads are blocked. These soldiers run into homes, force young men to get up from their beds and take them to the so-called “specpriomniks” (special units for freshmen). After a certain period the military units are moved to Sokhumi and Ochamchire districts. Basically, they are serving at patrolling posts and do not have any connection to the military equipment or with confidential military information. Georgians are prohibited to carry any military weapon. Unarmed Georgians serve in the Abkhazian army for a minimum of 12 and a maximum of 24 months. However, some of them manage to escape from the army and go into hiding.

The recruitment process started in the villages of Tsarche, Okumi, Gumurishi and Chkhortoli in the Gali District last year. This year the compulsory recruitment was executed in the villages of Ganakhleba, Pichori, Nabakevi and Otobaia. Among the recruits were men of 35 who were released from military service from the Georgia and Russian armies, as well as from the armies of other soviet republics. Some Georgians manage to avoid the recruitment after paying a sum of money. The price differs in every village and it is ranges between $200 and $500, but it only offers a temporary solution and it does not guarantee a complete release from the compulsory military service.

Having paid 1 500 lari, Aleksi Sichinava did not worry about recruitment in spring, but Abkhazian law enforcers visited him at home at 5 a.m. Sichinava tried to escape and jumped from the second floor. Consequently he was badly injured and was taken to Zugdidi Central Hospital to receive medical treatment. Two months later Sichinava was arrested by Abkhazian law enforcers and was sent to the Ochamchire military unit. 

In 2006 approximately 30 Georgians were recruited for the Abkhazian army. This year their number has increased to 52. This data is not complete and it does not include the regional centre of Gali.

Gia Mikaia from Otobaia served two years in the Abkhazian Army and returned home 4 months ago. Like many others he also was forced to serve in the army: “In the Autumn of 2005 I was in Okumi. At 4 a.m. eight masked Abkhazians broke into my room. Without any explanation they forced me and my cousin to leave home. We found ourselves in the Gali “specpriomnik” (military unit for freshmen) on the same day. There were also 7 other recruited Georgians. Family members were looking for us for three days and my mother got a stroke as a result of her nervousness. My cousin, the Buliskirias brothers and I stayed in the “specpriomnik” (military unit for freshmen). The others paid money and were released. From Gali we were sent to the Sokhumi Military Commissariat. When Abkhazian law enforcers found out that I was training for a Guinness Record in weightlifting they changed their attitude towards me and tried to sign a deal with me. They promised to discharge me from military service if I took part in the competition in the name of Russia and accept Russian citizenship. They offered me serious financial support. I rejected their proposals. Having learned that I was a lawyer, they offered me to sign a contract with the Main Military Headquarters, but I declined their proposal again and finally I was sent to the Maiaki military unit to serve with border guards. I served there for six months. I was unarmed. Later I was sent to the village of Saberio at the Abkhazian checkpoint and two months later I was moved to the Gali HQ.”

Gia Mikaia, who was released from military service in the Abkhazian army, states that Abkhazian soldiers were not aggressive to Georgian soldiers; though they were making fun of them and insulted them as well. Problems that arise in the military units are generally solved through criminal disputes. In most cases, Georgian soldiers become the victims of the regime; however neither the Abkhaz nor the Armenians enjoy their lives there. Frequently Georgian soldiers are found dead, but the de facto government qualifies these instances as accidents. Gia Mikaia: “Bachi Chedia, a young man from Chuburkhinji, died in unknown circumstances. The Abkhazian side claimed that the incident occurred when the soldier was getting into a tank. At that moment the hatch shut down and cut the body of the young man in two.”

The Abkhazian Legitimate Government’s Representation in Gali considers it to be terrible to recruit Georgian men into the Abkhazian army. Tornike Kilanava, the Gali district coordinator, stated: “It is a kind of levy. It is also a perfect source for Abkhaz soldiers to get their hands on Russian money. The idea is logical because Georgian soldiers serve in less important units. They have no dealings with the navy or communication machinery; they do not have any kind of weapon during their term in the army.”

Several days ago, Russian soldiers occupied the tank unit at the seaside in Ochamchire and sent the Abkhazian soldiers in that area away. Most of them were assigned to the security unit of Drandi and Gudauta prisons under the supervision of the de-facto Ministry of Internal Affairs. As for Georgian soldiers, they were kicked out from Ochamchire, but it looked like they were deserting the army.

On November 15, during a meeting in Sokhumi, the de-facto President, Sergei Bagafsh, and Military Commissioner Vakhtang Tsugba discussed the problems concerning the recruitment of Georgians in the Abkhazian armed forces. Sergei Bagafsh condemned the fact that young people from the Gali district serve in the Georgian army. “If they live in Abkhazia they should abide by our laws.”

The activities of de facto armed forces are connected to the military trainings held in the “Tsebelda” polygon of the Ministry of Defense near Sokhumi. The Third Unit of Mounted Troops is being trained in the area.

Similarly, the personal representative of the de facto president in the Gali district, Ruslan Kishmaria, made a public statement that the Georgian government intends to use “Tetri Legioni” and “Tkis Dzmebi”, former terrorist formations, to destabilize the situation. Kishmaria stated that people who used to commit terrorist acts in Abkhazian territory in the past are now members of reservist units mobilized in the Senaki and Tsalenjikha districts. “The Georgian government is eager to artificially increase tensions in the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict zone to lead us into armed conflict and resolve their domestic political problems.”

Kishmaria mentioned up-coming armed provocations, like exploding bridges and armed robberies, which are planned by the Georgian side and consequently the Georgian government should bare responsibility for the situation, he stated.

 Nana Fazhava, Zugdidi

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