Georgian authorities pledge order in Pankisi

Georgia will manage to establish order in the Pankisi gorge, a Georgian region bordering on Chechnya, which has become Chechen armed separatists's shelter, with its own forces, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze announced. In his Monday interview with the national radio station the Georgian president said that the government had already taken "important decisions targeted at restoring order in the Pankisi gorge." When commenting on the beginning of an anti-criminal operation, conducted by the Georgian Interior Forces, Shevardnadze remarked that the active stage of the operation was "supposed to last for several weeks." By the government's decision these forces will be the only to enter the gorge. Neither Georgian military formations, nor servicemen or experts from any other country are expected to participate in the operation, the Georgian leader stated.

According to him, "Pankisi locals themselves demand that the government provide peace and stability in the region." Georgian law enforcement authorities intend to take control over all villages in the Pankisi gorge to protect rights of Georgian citizens and Chechen peaceful refugees living there. The authorities plan to set up Interior Forces' checkpoints down the gorge, and control exits from the Pankisi gorge, Shevardnadze said.

The Georgian president hoped that Russia would welcome the anti-criminal operation in the Pankisi gorge. Over the past several weeks, Chechen rebels, who had found shelter in the gorge, have undertake a series of raids to Chechnya, causing Moscow to come down on Tbilisi.

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