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Yearbook 2002

Georgia. The unstable political situation deteriorated further during the year. According to Countryaah website, the security services chief, President Eduard Shevardnadze's close associate Nugzar Sadzjaja, was accused in mass media of killing the country's former president Zviad Gamsachurdia (who was believed to have committed suicide in 1993). Shortly thereafter, Sadzjaja was found shot and according to police he had taken his life.

2002 Georgia

Despite the turmoil in the Abkhazia breakaway republic, the most severe concern during the year was the Panki Valley in the north, near the border with Chechnya. There were drug trafficking and kidnappings, and thousands of Chechens had fled to the area from the Russian military's advance in the Chechen Republic. Georgia's key US donor claimed that people with ties to Usama bin Laden's terrorist network were among the Pankisi refugees.

In the spring, the United States sent close to a hundred military advisers to Georgia to train Georgian special forces. This gave rise to upset reactions in Moscow, where Georgia has traditionally been considered a Russian sphere of interest. Russia had repeatedly requested in vain to join the military in Georgia to fight Chechen guerrillas, who are considered to be among the refugees.

After Russia again in August rejected its request to enter Pankisi, the area was bombed. Several deaths were required. Both Georgia and the US accused Russia of being behind the bombings, but in Moscow they refused. On September 11, Vladimir Putin threatened that Russia would have to take its own military action, according to the right of self-defense provided by the UN Charter, unless Georgia tackles the Chechen rebels in its territory and extradits them to Russia. The United States then expressed its support for Georgia's sovereignty and declared its opposition to Russian intervention.

President Shevardnadze announced that the Georgian military would be sent in large numbers to the Panki Valley to establish law and order. He also invited unarmed military observers from Russia to follow Georgia's operations. Subsequently, Georgia handed five arrested Chechens to Russia, but held another group following an appeal from the European Court of Human Rights. When Shevardnadze and Putin met in Moldova, the Georgian leader with joint Georgian-Russian border patrols. Putin responded by withdrawing the threat of military intervention.

Following Putin's previous threat, the Georgian opposition had joined in on Shevardnadze's foreign policy. But with the concessions, leading opposition politicians again turned to the president, accusing him of giving up Georgia's sovereignty. At the same time, Shevardnadze was under pressure from the EU, which threatened to withdraw assistance unless the security of foreign aid workers and businessmen was improved in Georgia.

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