MOSCOW, Aug 9 (KUNA) -- Abkhazian President Sergey Baghapsh said on Saturday that his forces began a military operation to liberate the Kodori Gorge region from Georgian-controlled forces.
According to Russian News Agency (Interfax) Abkhazian warplanes are conducting operations in the upper part of the Kodori Gorge valley.
Abkhazia is one of two Russian-backed separatist regions of Georgia along with South Ossetia, where Russian and Georgian forces have been battling for control of the main city Tskhinvali.
Earlier, the Russian defense ministry confirmed reports of two shot down Russian warplanes in the troubled region.
Observers believe the attack in the Kodori Gorge was an apparent broadening of the Russian-Georgian conflict, effectively opening a second front for Tbilisi in the west of the country.
Both regions have run their own affairs without international recognition since splitting from Georgia in the early 1990s and have built up ties with Moscow.
Russia has granted its passports to most of their residents.
The northern part of the gorge is the only area of Abkhazia that has remained under Georgian government control.
Georgia's Security Council secretary Alexander Lomaia said that Georgian administrative buildings in the Kodori Gorge were bombed, but he blamed the attack on Russia.
In 2006, Georgian forces moved into the upper part of the Kodori Gorge to root out members of a defiant militia.
Georgia later established a local administration made up of people who fled the fighting in Abkhazia.
Abkhazian and Russian officials have said they believe Georgia intends to launch an offensive from there to retake Abkhazia and demanded the withdrawal of Georgian troops from the area.(end) as.mb KUNA 091801 Aug 08NNNN