Georgian president denies having sheltered Chechen rebels

Georgian president denies having sheltered Chechen rebels

March 8, 2004, Monday 5:15 PM Eastern Time


Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said Monday that Georgia has
never given transit to Chechen rebels at a news conference that kicked
off his 48-hour visit in France

“I proposed (to Russian President Vladimir Putin last February) to
carry joint patrols along the border” to make sure that Chechen rebels
do not cross from Georgia into the Russian separatist republic,” he

He had also suggested that Russian representatives be stationed at
Georgian border posts for a limited period of time to verify that
Georgia was not granting visas to foreigners who would fight the
Russians in restive Chechnya.

“I get the feeling that the Russian military needs excuses to explain
to Putin why they couldn’t control Chechnya,” Saakashvili said.

Moscow accused Tbilisi of giving shelter to Chechen separatist
fighters. The dispute has created tension between Moscow and Tbilisi.

Saakashvili has promised to change his predecessor’s ” dangerous”
policy allowing Chechen rebels to take refuge in Georgia, shortly
after he was elected president on Jan. 4 after ousting ex-President
Eduard Shevarnadze.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov announced last Friday that
“dozens of foreign terrorists” killed by Russian forces in Chechnya
carried Georgian passports.

Georgia borders Russia, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Armenia.