Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Abkhazia waits for new war with Georgia: "If the Russians leave, tomorrow NATO will be just outside Sochi."

KP special correspondent Darya Aslamova is sure only force can tear the small proud Abkhazia Republic from Russia

Part 1

Darya Aslamova — 10.06.2008 В Абхазии снова ждут войны с Грузией: «Если русские нас кинут, НАТО завтра будет под Сочи»

It was Aug. 14, 1992. I woke up at 06:00 in the morning at Stalin's old dacha. The Georgian Army was everywhere. Soldiers were sleeping side-by-side. Tropical birds sang in the nearby garden. I had just sat down on the windowsill under the sun to do my eyebrows when I saw Georgian Defense Minister Kintovani waddling to the sea in a wet towel.

"War in a resort town?" I thought. "What nonsense!"

"How many hours until the war?" I shouted to him. "Will I have time to get to Sukhumi?"

"You've got two hours," he answered.

I remember walking with my friend to Sukhumi. We bought the only remaining cucumber at an empty city market and a bottle of Soviet champagne. I remember the pained face of Sergey Bagapsh, who is today's Abkhazian president. He must have sat alone in the huge empty building housing the Cabinet of Ministers waiting for the world to end.

I remember how the first bursts of machine gun fire forced us into the home of a stranger — a woman named Emma who was shaken with fear. We sat on the floor drinking champagne and eating the cucumber as all hell broke loose around us.

I remember how the Georgian Army raked the sweet resort town with fire.

Drunk soldiers smashed storefront windows and robbed the goods. One soldier even handed me a bottle of fake French perfume.

"Here!" he said. "Take this. I won't worry over it!"

On that violent August day, all seemed lost for Abkhazia.

"The Abkhazia campaign is over," Kintovani said victoriously before his flight to Tbilisi.

But the war had only just begun.

I remember carpets of bright mandarins spread over the snow in Abkhazia's bullet ridden gardens in March 1993. No one would harvest them. Picking a mandarin might mean catching a stray bullet in the head.

If as a foreigner I remember the war just just like yesterday, how vividly do the Abkhazians recall those heavy days? I laughed with them at the irony when Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvilli made his fiery appeal to the Abkhazian people: "Brothers and sisters...!"

Georgia once again hurled the whip down upon Abkhazia this resort season, testing the Abkhazians with sabre -rattling in the Kodorsk Gorge, secret attempts at negotiations, spy planes flying overhead, proposals for a broader autonomy, provocations on election day on the Abkhazian-Georgian border and U.S. mediators visiting Sukhumi. But all this ballyhoo just worsens the cold war between Georgia and Abkhazia.

As we drove into Sukhumi, we were greeted by a poster reading: "Glory to a victorious nation! 1992-1998."

Is the young unrecognized nation preparing for another war?

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