Is Adzharian leader ready to tread Abkhazia's path?

Leader of Adzharia (a Georgian autonomy) Aslan Abashidze has announced the toughening of the emergency situation on Tuesday.

"We have taken into consideration the opinion of the international community and tried to reduce the emergency situation to the minimum. But it will all change on Tuesday," Mr. Abashidze said in an interview with the Adzharian television.

"As for those who make statements against the legitimate Adzharian authorities or call for toppling the constitutional regime in the autonomy, we will take the toughest measures in regard to them with all the ensuing consequences," he said.

According to Mr. Abashidze, the two weeks' vacations at schools and universities are a preventive measure for stopping citizens' civil disobedience actions against the official authorities.

"On Tuesday two weeks' holidays will begin in Adzharia. We intend to take preventive measures. Nobody is allowed to turn a blind eye to the hotbeds of tension forming around. They should be nipped in the bud," said the Adzharian leader.

On May 3, disobedience actions and protests began in nearly all the universities and secondary schools of the autonomy, calling for Abashidze's immediate resignation. On Monday, students stopped their studies and declared their defiance towards the Adzharian leader. Participating in the youth protests were some professors and teachers.

Earlier, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said he viewed the blown up bridges on Adzharia's administrative borders (to hamper access of military hardware to Adzharia) by Abashidze's supporters as a direct challenge to the central authorities in Tbilisi. The president issued an ultimatum: either Abashidze dissolves his illegal armed formations (which Abashidze and his supporters call "spontaneously armed militia"), or he fires the Adzharian leadership, dismisses the lawmakers and declares new parliamentary elections (according to Mr. Saakashvili, the Georgian Constitution allows him do this. However, Batumi disagrees and is apparently preparing to repeat the experience of Abkhazia, which has been a self-proclaimed republic for ten years now.)

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