Renewed tension in Georgia as Saakashvili is barred from Ajaria
Recently elected Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has been barred by troops loyal to Ajarian leader Aslan Abashidze. His visit was apparently part of a campaign for the forthcoming parliamentary elections. The President's convoy was halted by warning shots, although Mr Abashidze's son, Giorgy (mayor of Batumi), has indicated he sees no problem with a visit from the President, but only if he entered without a special military unit accompanying him - perhaps not an offer that Saakashvili is likely to take up unless he has a death wish, although of course politically dramatic and courageous moves such as this have occasionally turned a whole situation around against all expectations.
Undoubtedly from a domestic Russian point of view, showing support for the Ajarian leader Abashidze will play well with many Russian voters in today's elections - Mr Putin, already massively likely to win, is hardly likely to suffer by following such a popular course. Frankly, though, the relative stability of Russia in recent years is being bought at huge price and carries (in my view) enormous long-term risk for the world's genuine democracies.