Shevardnadze appeals for world's help Georgian president stays in besieged city

September 20, 1993|By New York Times News Service

SUKHUMI, Georgia -- As shells fell almost constantly yesterday, Georgia's leader, Eduard A. Shevardnadze, made a desperate appeal for immediate international help to stop an offensive by Abkhazian separatists on this encircled city in western Georgia.

Mr. Shevardnadze, who spent the day in the local Parliament building here trying to organize Sukhumi's defense, said in a statement: "I am appealing to you from Sukhumi, not knowing if my words will ever reach you."

"Regardless of what happens I will not leave this town, which has been treacherously deceived once again and whose residents have been left to face a brutal, inhuman force," he said this morning on the steps of the Parliament building.

He said 40 civilians had been killed and 253 wounded by yesterday morning after a cease-fire between government troops and separatist forces fell apart on Thursday. He did not mention military casualties.

Representatives of Mr. Shevardnadze's government flew to the Russian resort city of Sochi yesterday to meet with Abkhazian representatives under Russian auspices. The Itar-Tass news agency in Russia reported that the negotiators signed an agreement to withdraw their forces from the war zone in Abkhazia within 24 hours.

But Mr. Shevardnadze described the meeting as a "farce." Officials close to the Georgian leader said that the helicopter flying the Georgian delegation back to Sukhumi was forced to land in Gadauta, the self-proclaimed Abkhazian capital.

The Georgian forces are reported to be heavily outgunned by the Abkhazians and their allies, an army of volunteers and mercenaries recruited from the Caucasus areas of Russia, Turkey and Syria.

At least one ethnic Russian officer was captured yesterday, fueling fears expressed by Georgian leaders that elements of the current leadership in Moscow are allowing their troops to aid the Abkhazians. Mr. Shevardnadze has openly accused Russia of complicity in the fighting.

Mr. Shevardnadze said that he had every reason to say that the shelling was part of a "well-coordinated and highly synchronized joint blow to rend Georgia apart."

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