The legacy of the shattered Soviet Union continues to make life in the Caucasus complicated. Alarmed by the training the Georgian military is receiving from the United States, Abkhazia and South Ossetia formed something of an alliance as a counterbalance at the beginning of July. The South Ossetia President claimed that the two states will even hold joint anti-terrorist exercises, although he did not say how the troop maneuvers will be organized, when they will be held, or on whose territory they will be held. Abhkazia and South Ossetia both seceded from Georgia in the early 1990's, amidst violence and massive exoduses of refugees. There is already a mixed peacekeeping force operating in the Georgian-Ossetian conflict zone, consisting of 1,000 troops in three battalions (provided respectively by Russia, South Ossetia and Georgia).
On the other hand, Russian peacekeepers continue to insist that Georgia withdraw all armed units from Abkhazia and that they be allowed to man at least two peacekeeping checkpoints in the upper Georgian-controlled part of the Kodori Gorge. The Abkhaz authorities claim that over 900 Georgian National Guard reservists and border guard troops are in the Kodori, which violates agreements on the settlements in the area. However, Georgia's position on permanent Russian peacekeeping posts in the gorge's upper part remains unchanged, although five Russian peacekeepers and five UN observers did start regular patrols across the Kodori gorge on 16 July. At the end of July, the Russian "blue helmets" in the Georgian-Abkhaz zone will be reinforced with two Mi-24 and one Mi-8 helicopters from the North Caucasus 58th Joint-Arms Army. - Adam Geibel