18. The operation undertaken by the Russian Federation affected the situation in the area of the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict and beyond. Reportedly, 9,000 troops and 350 units of armoured vehicles took part in the operation. The troops were not part of the CIS peacekeeping force and were therefore clearly acting outside the 1994 Moscow Agreement. The Russian Federation called this introduction of troops a “peace enforcement operation”. The Government of Georgia characterized it as an“aggression”.
19. UNOMIG was not in a position to ascertain the precise number and character of the newly introduced troops. In the Mission’s estimate, approximately four to five Russian airborne battalions with supporting elements were introduced into or passed southbound through the zone of conflict after 10 August. In keeping with its mandate, UNOMIG did not monitor areas outside the zone of conflict where some of the newly introduced Russian troops were deployed.
20. After 22 August, the Mission observed a sizeable number of northbound Russian troops departing the Zugdidi area and then leaving the zone of conflict. The CIS peacekeeping force established six new posts on the outer perimeter of the restricted weapons zone on the Zugdidi side and four additional posts in the outskirts of Senaki and near Poti, outside the zone of conflict. By 13 September, the CIS peacekeeping force had withdrawn five of the new posts, including from Senaki and Poti, under the agreement reached on 8 September in Moscow.
21. On 8 September, the leadership of the CIS peacekeeping force informed UNOMIG that its strength stood at 2,542 troops, with a battalion deployed in each of the two sectors and in the Kodori Valley.
24. From 8 to 11 August, significant movements of the Abkhaz military were observed along the M27 road. UNOMIG issued three violation reports to the Abkhaz side for the presence of heavy military equipment in the restricted weapons zone, which the Abkhaz side refused to sign. On 10 August, the Abkhaz de facto authorities introduced martial law in the districts of Gali, Ochamchira and Tkvarcheli and announced partial mobilization.
25. UNOMIG patrols were denied freedom of movement and threatened with weapons on several occasions by Abkhaz servicemen. A total of seven violation reports involving nine cases of restriction of movement were issued to the Abkhaz side. UNOMIG had to limit and then suspend its patrolling altogether in the lower Gali area, with the exception of patrols along the M27 road, after instances of intimidation of patrol members, reported mine threats and the alleged presence of partisan groups.
26. UNOMIG resumed its regular patrolling on 4 September after the Abkhaz side confirmed that partisan groups were no longer operating in the district of Gali and Halo Trusts, a non-governmental organization engaged in mine clearance, informed the Mission that there was no mine threat to its operations in the district.
27. During the period under review, the crimes reported to UNOMIG included four homicides, three attempted homicides and two robberies.
28. On 29 August, an explosion produced by three mines planted by the side of a country road near the village of Meore Otobaya targeted an Abkhaz de facto police car. No injury was reported. On 10 September, an explosive device was found in a private car belonging to a de facto army recruitment officer. The explosive device was neutralized, and no injury or damage occurred. On 14 September, a mine exploded in the vicinity of the village of Chuburkhinji damaging an excavator carrying two CIS peacekeeping force personnel who were not harmed.
34. In the early hours of 9 August, aircraft were observed flying over the district of Zugdidi. It was later reported that the railway station and the military base in Senaki and the seaport of Poti — all located outside the zone of conflict — had come under aerial bombardment, reportedly causing damage to infrastructure and equipment and resulting in human casualties. On 10 August, an air attack was reported on the Georgian signals unit south of the village of Urta.
35. Late on 10 August, a meeting was held at a post of the CIS peacekeeping force in the village of Khurcha near the ceasefire line among senior representatives of the Zugdidi administration, the CIS peacekeeping force and Georgian law enforcement agencies, with the participation of UNOMIG. The meeting resulted in an understanding that one Russian airborne battalion would be deployed on the Zugdidi side of the ceasefire line for a limited period of time. On the basis of its observations in the following days, UNOMIG assessed that four to five Russian airborne battalions had been introduced into the Zugdidi side of the zone of conflict and beyond and had taken control of the area.
36. The air bombardments on 10 August of targets in the district of Zugdidi and outside of the restricted weapons zone caused significant anxiety among the local population. The population of the town of Zugdidi appeared to be in a state of panic during the early hours of the day. Rumours and media reports that the town was about to be bombed by Russian jets and that the CIS peacekeeping force would allow the Abkhaz military forces to attack the town resulted in a massive departure of the population, especially women and children. By 11 August, very few residents were seen in the town. But by 13 August, the population had returned, a majority of shops had reopened and life in the town had returned to normal. The continued presence of UNOMIG in Zugdidi helped to reassure the population.
37. On 11 August, a senior Georgian representative in Zugdidi informed UNOMIG that the CIS peacekeeping force had issued an ultimatum to all Georgian law enforcement agencies in the Zugdidi area to surrender all weapons. At the request of UNOMIG, the leadership of the CIS peacekeeping force agreed to allow law enforcement personnel to carry side arms while on duty. Later that day, UNOMIG patrols observed that Georgian security posts at the ceasefire line that had been manned by special police forces had been abandoned. Georgian criminal police and guard and patrol police, however, remained on duty in the Zugdidi sector with side arms. The same day, the CIS peacekeeping force occupied five buildings, most of them belonging to the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs; all buildings were vacated by 22 August.
38. On 12 August, Abkhaz armed personnel entered the Ganmukhuri and Khurcha pockets north of the Inguri River on the Zugdidi side of the ceasefire line. At that time, the CIS peacekeeping force posts in those areas were vacant or thinly manned. When Abkhaz armed personnel occupied an abandoned Georgian security post near the village of Khurcha, the majority of the village residents left their homes. Many residents of the Ganmukhuri area also left with the arrival of the Abkhaz forces. In response to the Mission’s concerns about the situation, the CIS peacekeeping force leadership assured that its observation posts would be brought to previous manning levels and that Abkhaz forces would be compelled to withdraw and to not cross the ceasefire line. With the return of the CIS peacekeepers to their posts in Ganmukhuri and Khurcha on 9 September, the Abkhaz forces left and the residents returned.
39. An incident occurred on 17 August in which two Abkhaz personnel were killed and two more wounded as a result of a landmine explosion in the Ganmukhuri area, close to the patriotic youth camp. On 19 August, a UNOMIG patrol observed that all the wooden buildings in the Ganmukhuri patriotic youth camp had been burned. On 13 September, a Georgian police officer was shot and killed in the Ganmukhuri area, allegedly by persons who had crossed the ceasefire line from the Abkhaz side. On 21 September, one Georgian policeman was shot dead and three more were injured at a Ministry of Internal Affairs post in the village of Khurcha. The next day, an explosion occurred in the same area, injuring two Georgian policemen. The Georgian side accused the Russian and Abkhaz sides of being responsible for those incidents. UNOMIG is investigating.
40. From 11 to 15 August, Abkhaz forces occasionally crossed the ceasefire line, entering villages in the north of the Zugdidi sector. They reportedly removed Georgian flags from administrative buildings but did not harm anyone. After the admonishment of the CIS peacekeeping force, the Abkhaz returned to the Abkhazcontrolled side of the ceasefire line. Unlike in Ganmukhuri and Khurcha, at no time did the Abkhaz forces maintain a presence in the villages.
41. The criminal incidents reported to UNOMIG during the period under review included 3 homicides, 11 robberies and 6 abductions.
45. On 9 August, the Abkhaz de facto authorities requested UNOMIG to leave immediately its team base in Adjara in the upper Kodori Valley. When exiting through the lower Kodori Valley, the patrol heard sounds of an aerial attack from the direction of the upper Kodori Valley. It also saw a convoy of Abkhaz tanks and military personnel in the lower Kodori Valley. On the same day, the Abkhaz de facto Ministry of Defence declared that aerial strikes had been carried out on the military infrastructure in the upper Kodori Valley. The local population and Georgian servicemen left the upper Kodori Valley prior to the arrival of the Abkhaz forces.
46. After entering the Kodori Valley, the Abkhaz side reported to have found heavy weapons, including artillery and multiple rocket launchers, a large number of automatic weapons — some burned — and large quantities of ammunition. It also claimed to have found evidence of the presence of personnel of the Georgian Ministry of Defence and accommodation facilities suitable for some thousands of personnel. While the monitoring capacity of UNOMIG is limited, in particular in the Kodori Valley, the Mission has indicated that, according to its observations, the infrastructure in the upper Kodori Valley was suitable for the accommodation of personnel in numbers exceeding those officially provided by the Georgian side.
47. UNOMIG has not been able to resume its regular patrolling of the Kodori Valley since its team withdrew on 9 August as the CIS peacekeeping force indicated that the safety of UNOMIG staff could not be guaranteed. Reports pointed to a significant risk posed by explosive remnants of war, making movement through the Valley difficult and dangerous. On 7 September, UNOMIG, accompanied by the CIS peacekeeping force, conducted a special patrol to the Kodori Valley. Abkhaz forces were occupying the entire Valley and a battalion of the CIS peacekeeping force was stationed there. The UNOMIG Kodori team base in Adjara was occupied by Abkhaz personnel. All the movable assets that had been left at the Adjara base on 9 August were missing. A few local residents remained in the upper Kodori Valley. On 16 September, UNOMIG attempted to conduct a regular joint patrol with the CIS peacekeeping force to the upper Kodori Valley but was compelled to return because of reports of unexploded ordnance along the way.