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Russia condemns Georgia's attempts to seize ships off Abkhazia

RIA Novosti

16:32 03/09/2009 MOSCOW, September 3 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday Georgia's attempts to seize ships off the Abkhazian coast could lead to new armed conflicts.

"Aside from interrupting international maritime shipping, these actions of the Georgian leadership are an attempt to impose a blockade of the Abkhazian coast, which could lead to the deterioration of the situation in the region and new military conflicts," the Foreign Ministry's spokesman Andrei Nesterenko told a news conference in Moscow.

Tbilisi considers Abkhazia and its waters part of Georgian territory, and as part of efforts to isolate the republic has declared any unauthorized shipments of goods to be illegal.

Last month, Georgia seized the Panama-flagged Buket tanker and its cargo as it was carrying gasoline and diesel fuel to Abkhazia from Turkey.

Abkhaz Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba said on Wednesday that Abkhazia was ready to resort to force as President Sergei Bagapsh had given the order "to open fire on Georgian ships if they continue their acts of piracy."

In response, Georgia said it would continue to seize ships that violate the borders of what it calls occupied territories.

"This again confirms that the Georgian leadership has not abandoned its militaristic plans and still hopes to resolve territorial problems by force after last August's aggression," Nesterenko said.

Russia and Georgia were involved in a five-day war last August after Tbilisi launched a military offensive on another former republic, South Ossetia.

On August 26, both republics celebrated the first anniversary of Russia's recognition of their independence. So far the only other country to have recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia is Nicaragua.

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