TBILISI (Itar-Tass)–Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili announced that three "private armies" or "illegal armed groups" operate in Georgia–but avoided pinpointing where the groups are based–saying only that some members "speak Georgian."
"Those who take up arms to harm the interests of the Georgian state and defy the central authorities are traitors and will be brought to justice. Those who want to work for the prosperity of a united Georgian state will always have a chance to serve in the country’s armed forces," Saakashvili told an audience of civil and military personnel participating in tactical exercises in Vaziani–near Tbilisi.
Saakashvili has repeatedly demanded that paramilitary groups in Ajaria lay down arms–asserting they are funded by revenues from the Sarpi customs checkpoint on the Georgian border and the Batumi seaport–revenues Ajaria conceals from the central authorities in Tbilisi.
After a meeting with Ajarian leader Aslan Abashidze in Batumi in mid-March–Saakashvili said an agreement had been reached to disarm the paramilitary groups.
A week ago–however–Saakashvili said the disarmament process had not begun–and hoped Abashidze would take concrete steps to implement the agreement.