Georgian authorities say government forces have taken full control of a strategic area of the country's breakaway republic of Abkhazia, after a rebellion led by a local paramilitary leader.
A central government spokesman acknowledged the death of a local woman in the operation in Kodori Gorge. He insisted that only two soldiers were injured, despite news media reports of heavier losses.
The spokesman acknowledged that rebel leader Emzar Kvitsiani and several supporters managed to escape, and he predicted that the search for them could last for several days. But the defiant local leader appeared on Russian television vowing that Georgian authorities will not break his supporters.
Georgia dispatched troops to the gorge to arrest Kvitsiani, after he declared autonomy Sunday and vowed to resist authorities.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov has expressed growing concern about the developments and has vowed that Russian peacekeepers will maintain order.
Abkhazia declared independence from Georgia in the early 1990s, sparking a violent conflict. Russian peacekeepers have been in the region ever since, despite Georgian vows to bring the region under central control.
The sparsely populated Kodori Gorge region is the only part of the breakaway republic that remained loyal to Georgia's central government.
Some information for this report was provided by AP.