RealNews

Georgia moves to rein in Ajaria

The Georgian president has declared direct presidential rule over Ajaria, saying the end of rebel rule in the province is only “hours” away. Mikhail Saakashvili offered Ajaria’s long-standing leader, Aslan Abashidze, safe passage abroad as a Russian envoy began talks to broker a settlement. Mr Abashidze has said he has “no intention of leaving”. He is still backed by an armed militia despite large rallies against his rule in the provincial capital Batumi. Mr Abashidze has challenged the authority of Georgia’s new president in a stand-off which has aroused the concern of Russia, Europe and the US, all of whom consider the Black Sea state to be of key strategic importance. One unconfirmed report said a small number of Georgian troops had been dropped by helicopter inside Ajaria but there was no indication of any violence. An unnamed security official in Mr Abashidze’s administration told AFP news agency that about 200 militia had surrounded the troops near Shakvi, a village about 20km (12 miles) from Batumi. Full Story

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