President Saakashvili at the National Security Council meeting on June 2. Photo: screenshot from the public TV footage.
President Saakashvili will hold a phone conversation with his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, on June 3 to discuss the deployment of Russian engineering units in Abkhazia, Giorgi Baramidze, the Georgian state minister for Euro-Atlantic integration and deputy premier, has said.
“Until now Russia had at least tried to portray itself as a peacekeeper, but now its moves are obvious actions aimed at preparing for military intervention,” Baramidze said.
He was speaking with reporters after a National Security Council (NSC) meeting, which was chaired by President Saakashvili and attended by Nino Burjanadze, the chairperson of the outgoing parliament.
The Russian Ministry of Defense said it had deployed unarmed specialists from its Railway Forces in Abkhazia to repair a section of railway in the breakaway region. The Abkhaz side said the 400-strong unit was sent to repair the section between the capital Sokhumi and Ochamchire. Abkhaz officials also said that more specialists from the Russian Railway would arrive to repair two railway bridges in the Ochamchire district.
“We categorically demand the immediate withdrawal of these troops and not only these troops, but also those additional forces which were deployed [in Abkhazia in late April] under the cover of the peacekeeping operation,” Eka Tkeshelashvili, the Georgian foreign minister, said after the NSC meeting. “The recent moves by Russia represent an obvious military intervention and yet another step towards annexation.”
President Saakashvili is due to meet his Russian counterpart on the sidelines of a CIS summit in St. Petersburg on June 6-7.