Letter: Georgia's leaders on the warpath

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The Independent Online
Sir: Peter Pringle's interview ('Georgia preying on his mind', 24 September) with the (as yet unelected) leader of Georgia is revealing in a number of respects, not least in Eduard Shevardnadze's assumption of responsibility for the unleashing of last month's onslaught against the Abkhazians.

Apologists for the former Soviet foreign minister have hitherto been inclined to regard the attack as something he had been bounced into by the unsavoury warlords who make up his immediate entourage. But he now seeks to justify the attack by pinning the blame for the kidnapping of his interior minister on the Abkhazians. Mr Shevardnadze well knows that Roman Gventsadze was kidnapped (and subsequently released) in Western Georgia not by Abkhazians but by Mingrelian supporters of his demagogic, but democratically elected, predecessor Zviad Gamsakhurdia.

Mr Shevardnadze claims that his only motive in initiating the fighting (which unfortunately continues) is to secure Georgia's railway link with Russia. If this is indeed the case, how does he explain the blood-curdling threats made by the military commander whom he has placed in charge of the operation? Colonel Gia Karkarashvili has publicly promised to 'leave the entire Abkhaz nation without descendants', and has stated his willingness, if need be, to sacrifice 100,000 Georgians to bring about the annihilation of 97,000 Abkhazians. If Mr Shevardnadze is sincere in saying that his intentions are peaceful, why does he not dismiss Col Karkarashvili forthwith?

Yours sincerely

RICHARD CLOGG

London, N10

The writer is Professor of Modern Balkan History at the University of London.

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