Emzar Kvitsiani, who leads the paramilitary group Monadire (the Hunter), which is based in Kodori gorge, said on July 22 that he defies Georgia’s central authorities and will resist any attempt by the authorities to disarm his militia groups.
Kodori gorge is the only part of breakaway Abkhazia under the Georgia’s central authorities’ control. Kvitsiani – himself a local resident of Kodori gorge – was Georgia’s ex-President Shevardnadze’s representative to the gorge. But the position was abolished in December 2004 by the decision of Irakli Alasania, who at that time was the Chairman of the Tbilisi-based Abkhaz government-in-exile.
Monadire paramilitary group with its estimated 300-400 members was formed by the local residents with the aim to, as they said, protect the gorge from potential offensive of the Abkhaz troops. The militia group was legalized through its incorporation to the Defense Ministry in 2002. But in 2005 Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili disbanded the unit, which triggered discontent of locals in Kodori. Decision was also criticized by Irakli Alasania, which became a reason of disagreements between him and Okruashvili.
“We announce distrust and disobedience to the current authorities, as Okruashvili has announced war against us and plans incursion against us on July 27,” InterPressNews agency quoted Emzar Kvitsiani as saying.
Later on July 22 Kvitsiani told Rustavi 2 television via phone that “any kind of armed force, which will enter into the gorge, will be repelled.”
In July, 2005, after Monadire unit was abolished, Defense Minister Okruashvili accused its members of being engaged in criminal activities. “As a representative of the government, I can say that anti-criminal operations should be carried out in the Kodori gorge in order to clear the area from those bandits who have found shelter there,” the Defense Minister said last year. But since then there have been no reports, or indications that a police, or any other kind of operation was planned in the gorge.
“Since this new government has come into power, I mean Okruashvili, [Vano] Merabishvili [the Interior Minister], [influential MP Giga] Bokeria, we are called by them bandits and criminal gang – a term which was used by Russians and Abkhazians to describe us… It is time to stand up against injustice of these authorities,” Emzar Kvitsiani told Rustavi 2 TV.
Officials in Tbilisi have not yet commented on these statements of Kvitsiani.