The governments of Georgia and Russia say Russian troops and forces from the province of Abkhazia have occupied Georgia’s 1,250-MW Enguri hydroelectric project as part of an invasion of Russian troops into Georgian territory.
Russia and Georgia have signed a ceasefire to end their war, but Russian troops remained in many parts of the Black Sea state, with tensions remaining high.
Months of tension between Georgia and Russia erupted August 7, when Tbilisi launched an assault to retake its breakaway province of South Ossetia. Moscow responded with overwhelming military force and crushed Georgian forces in a six-day war, justifying its intervention by saying it was obliged to defend Russian nationals in the region.
Georgia accused Russian soldiers and “armed gangs” from another breakway province, Abkhazia, of occupying more than a dozen Georgian villages and the Enguri plant, Georgia’s primary source of electricity, on the Enguri River. (HNN 8/5/08) Georgia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the Russians and the Abkhazian irregulars �shifted the administrative border of the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia toward the Enguri River.�
Colonel-General Anatoly Nogovitsyn, deputy head of Russia’s General Staff, confirmed seizure of the Enguri plant August 18 during a briefing on Russian operations in Georgia.
“Peacekeeping (Russian) forces are acting in accordance with their mandate, they protect important civil facilities including the Enguri power station,� Nogovitsyn said. �Yesterday we explained why Russian peacekeepers had taken the Enguri power station under their protection.�
The Russian officer said, in terms of serving the region’s needs, the hydropower plant is priceless.
“And because it was not protected and de facto abandoned, Russian peacekeepers started protecting it, creating working conditions for personnel and preventing acts of terrorism,� he said. �… Once again people are saying that we are occupiers and that we have seized the facility. (But) we cannot move it to Russia, can we?”
In November 2007, Georgia Energy Minister Aleksandre Khetaguri officiated at the start-up of the fourth refurbished turbine-generator at Enguri. (HNN 12/7/07)
Rehabilitation by project operator Engurhesi Ltd. was to be entirely complete in 2008. Georgia’s electricity system has been plagued by blackouts since 1997. The hydro plant was in urgent need of rehabilitation at the time of the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.