The anniversary of last August’s war in the Caucasus was always going to be a sensitive occasion. But the surprise visit of Russian Prime Minister to the breakaway region of Abkhazia has triggered renewed tension between Moscow and its defeated foe Georgia.
During the trip Putin promised massive military spending in Abkhazia, which only his country and Nicaragua accept as independent. And he let it be known that UN and OSCE monitors would only be allowed into Abkhazia if their organisations also recognise its sovereignty. Putin’s words are likely to fall on deaf ears. For the rest of the world, Abkhazia and South Ossetia – the focus of last year’s war – are part of Georgia. Tbilisi called Putin’s trip to the region “another provocation.” The Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Nalbandov said: “Unfortunately, this is yet another challenge with regard not only to Georgia but with regard to (the) entire international community that apparently shows that Russia completely neglects and ignores its international obligations.” Even before this visit, tensions had been rising along the de facto borders between the regions and Georgia – raising fears that fighting could easily erupt again.