Russia has called on Georgia to pull back its troops from a strategically important gorge that borders the breakaway Georgian area of Abkhazia. Tbilisi sent soldiers to the Kodori valley last week to subdue a rebellion by a local militia leader and said the area is now, once again, under government control. But both Abkhaz separatists and Moscow fear Georgia is building up a military presence in the gorge – a gateway to Abkhazia itself – ahead of an attack.
The Russian defence minister, Sergei Ivanov, said Georgia claims that its troops in the Kodori gorge are purely policing the area but Moscow wants what it calls a full and total inspection of the force, adding that peacekeepers and UN observers have also called for similar checks.
Tblisi denies it has any plans to invade. Russia deploys peacekeepers in the region under a 1994 agreement but Georgia accuses Moscow of supporting the separatists and wants an international force to replace the Russians. The valley has been sealed off for a week, making independent confirmation of the situation there all but impossible.