Wednesday, 2 November 2011

No more minefields in Abkhazia

The British-registered HALO Trust charity has cleared the last of minefields in Abkhazia, a spokesman for the NGO said.

HALO Trust, which has been working in Abkhazia since 1997, has destroyed 9,700 landmines and about 50,000 items of ordnance and cleared 360 minefields.

The Abkhazian authorities describe HALO Trust’s results as impressive.

About 500 civilians were killed by landmines in Abkhazia since 1993, and 10 demolition engineers were injured.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Sukhum - Angela Pataraya

BBC - As I observe the situation in Abkhazia, I have seen some positive developments the past couple of months. The process of establishing civil society is becoming more lively now and more and more people are getting involved in the social, cultural and political life of their country. Our society is starting to react to events outside the country and in the wider world, people care about what the government does, whether they are in agreement or disagreement, in short society has become more interested and it is alive. I can't help saying that it has also become more politicized and this is not that good in my opinion. Some may argue that I sound too positive about the whole process, but no one says that there is a perfect country with a super active civil society. We are moving forward, slowly but surely. There is a variety of different cultural events for example, which attract people of different ethnicities and backgrounds as both participants and audience. Of course you can see it more in Sukhum, because it's the capital. Unfortunately in other towns and villages the process is much slower.

Closer to the New Year holidays, I can feel a little change in people, no matter what age and profession. Everyone becomes a little bit happier, more attentive to others, more helpful, more kind. Sukhum has become a cleaner town, because of several social campaigns against trash in the streets; and now when it is clean, it is even nicer. For the holidays it is being decorated with bright and sparkling lights everywhere, and Santas are all around. Maybe it's a common characteristics of holiday time in all countries, but the spirit and atmosphere are unique everywhere. I am enjoying it and I'm delighted to see people forgetting their worries and frustrations. Our recognition in 2008 provided us with a feeling of security and it gave our society a new breath of air, new hope, and an inclination towards positive things. Now that society feels secure, people feel more confident and can fully devote themselves to see the New Year in. Probably it is the best thing about the recognition so far. Another development that i would like to highlight is the diversity of people in the streets. Besides Abkahz, there are Abkhaz from the diaspora, Russians, Armenians, Megrelians (more of them are coming to Sukhum to work and that is good), Uzbeks, Turks, and foreigners coming from Western countries, visiting Abkhazia for various research activities or business. I see this diversity as a positive sign, because i hope it can somehow help our country to grow and develop. We just need to promote more tolerance and treat each other with love and respect. As for myself, I feel i have more opportunities to pursue my goals and work for the better of my country and society, because i am a part of it. There are of course still very many obstacles and negative moments that we face but its a challenge, for me as much as for everyone.

Source: BBC Azeri

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Abkhazia has lots of preconditions to be a sovereign state

Interview with Fred Weir, a CIS correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor.

Fred, thanks for joining us. Patrick Buchanan in his story says that Senate had no right to criticize Russia on Abkhazia and South Ossetia, do you share this view?

I suppose it is important to know that Pat Buchanan is a very prominent member of the Republican Party, he ran in the presidential primaries twice, in the 1990s, but he is of that part of the Republican Party, that wing of the party, that is often termed isolationists, which means that his criticism is not based on any particular love of Russia or support for the Russian position. His position is that the United States should not get involved, in very large parts of the world where it can only do bad. This is his argument, and he says in the article that the United States is just unnecessarily antagonizing Russia over a matter that the United States has no business involving itself in. So this is a position, but it is a minority position within the Republican Party and it is not going to be widely accepted. But today in the Republican Party the same position is held by Ron Paul, who is part of this wing of the party the same as Buchanan is, and Ron Paul is not only running in the presidential primaries, he is doing very well in using the same arguments that the United States should get out of a lot of these foreign entanglements, there is no business being in Iraq or Afghanistan, building an empire, having troops in Korea or in Germany still. This is what is often termed isolationism, and it is surprising that it is doing well in the Republican presidential primaries so far.

Fred, have you been to Abkhazia, have you seen the developments in the republic?

Yes, I spent a couple of weeks in Abkhazia in 2008 just before the war, just weeks before the war broke out, and first of all I was stunned by the natural beauty of that place, it is really an amazing national creation that will do very well if they can solve their political problems. I am sure that even when I was there, there were enormous numbers of Russian tourists in places like Gagra, and I am sure that this will only get better, that the prospect is excellent, but especially in the southern part of Abkhazia, Sukhum and further all the way down to the border there, most of the infrastructure is still destroyed from the war; in the capital Sukhum even lots of buildings are still bombed out, they have an enormous amount of work to do.

But do you believe that they can develop into a sovereign state?

Sure, I don’t see why not. We know there are lots and lots of places that are members of the United Nations, little tiny dots on the map, which are sovereign states. It is not rocket science apparently to manage a sovereign state. There are some places in Africa or South Pacific would never make it, if they had high-standard statehood. So I am sure Abkhazia has lots of preconditions to be a sovereign state, it is just caught in the political gears or geopolitical gears, which prevented from being recognized by the world, because the world and particularly the West argues that it has to settle its issues with Georgia, and it is under international law, and it is true. Under international law it is part of Northern Georgia, and it is an issue that has to be worked out.

Fred, can I ask you one question about the Russian-American relations? So as you know this Abkhazia and South Ossetia issue is a matter of contention in our relations. So do you think it can jeopardize the reset process, it can poison our relations, or we have agreed to disagree on that subject?

I think that the worst moment of course was at the time of 2008 war, and that was when it all blew up and George W. Bush was still President of the United States, and he had a fairly hostile attitude towards Russia, so I don’t think that this is going to get worse. It remains a frozen problem. These problems remain and they can blow up in the future, there is no doubt about that.


Wednesday, 31 August 2011

One small step towards recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia?

The recent presidential elections in Abkhazia have reignited the debate concerning the legitimacy of any internal political developments in the two newly independent states, Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Both the EU and the US declared the elections illegitimate – notwithstanding the fact that there had not been any major violation of voters’ rights or incidents that might shed any doubt concerning the outcome. It was as simple as that – “both Abkhazia and South Ossetia are integral parts of Georgia, both are occupied by Russian military forces, hence the people of those ‘breakaway’ republics have no right whatsoever to express their will”.

Even before that, commencing its five week-long vacation, the US Senate unanimously adopted Resolution 175 which recognizes both Abkhazia and South Ossetia as integral parts of Georgia “occupied by the Russian Federation”.

Amongst all the usual Western fuss on the issue, one voice has been very distinctly (and I must say, rather unexpectedly) heard. A prominent American conservative commentator and presidential ex-candidate Patrick Buchanan wrote an opinion piece “Why Are We Baiting the Bear?” published on “The Post Chronicle” website on August 28.

“Is the Senate trying to reignite the Cold War?” asks Mr. Buchanan, and answers, “If so, it is going about it the right way.”

Next question, “What is wrong with Senate Resolution 175?” And the answer is, “Just this. Neither Abkhazia nor South Ossetia has been under Georgian control for 20 years. When Georgia seceded from Russia, these ethnic enclaves rebelled and seceded from Georgia.”

To this I might add. The only period in history when the two territories WERE under Georgian control, was the few decades-long Soviet period – and that was only due to the policy of “Georgianization” pursued by Stalin. When after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Georgia chose to disintegrate, the same right was granted to all autonomous entities. Both Abkhazia and South Ossetia overwhelmingly decided to remain within the former Union, which in today’s terms would be equal to uniting with Russia.

Further, Patrick Buchanan debunks a number of myths or stereotypes prevailing in Western minds.

One is the myth of the “Russian invasion, or aggression against Georgia”.

“This is neocon propaganda,” writes Mr. Buchanan. “Russian troops are in those enclaves because in August 2008 Georgia invaded South Ossetia to re-annex it, and killed and wounded scores of Russian peacekeepers.” And the ongoing presence of Russian troops in Abkhazia and South Ossetia is basically “a deterrent to Saakashvili (Georgia’s necktie-eating President. – B.V.), whose agents have been working Capitol Hill to push the United States into a confrontation with Russia on Georgia’s side.”

Further on, Mr. Buchanan outlines a number of examples clearly demonstrating the hypocrisy and the double standards of the U.S. policy. What seems most significant is the rare (for any Western public figure) recognition of the fact that there is basically no difference between the situation with Kosovo and that with the two independent (but not as widely recognized) states in the South Caucasus. Kosovo’s independence, as we remember, was achieved only due to massive Western support, including 1999 NATO bombings of sovereign Yugoslavia.

“Do we not have enough on our plate in Libya, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan and Pakistan not to be telling Russians how they should behave in lands closer to them than Grenada or Cuba is to us?” asks Patrick Buchanan. The question hardly needs an explicit answer.

Of course, Mr. Buchanan is no longer an active public politician or official, so his opinion may be disregarded by the establishment as a personal view of just one individual. But neither has he ever been identified as a Russian (or, Soviet) crony, therefore I should say that such an opinion expressed by a well-known, prominent and influential commentator is more than just simple jabber of an ordinary man-in-the-street.

Probably it will still take a long time before the truth about Abkhazia’s and South Ossetia’s independence dawns upon decision-makers in Washington, but Patrick Buchanan’s article is a clear sign that the process has already begun.


Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Abkhazia: presidential election, political future, by George Hewitt | OD

30 August 2011, openDemocracy -- The Black Sea republic of Abkhazia has elected its third president since securing effective independence from Georgia in 1993. The tiny country faces economic and social difficulties, in part deriving from its lack of international recognition. But its democratic experience deserves more attention and respect than much of the world seems prepared to give, says George Hewitt in the capital, Sukhum.

The month of August tends to be an eventful one in the small Black Sea republic of Abkhazia. In 2011, the country was already set to mark a series of anniversaries connected to the events of the last two decades: the war for survival and independence from Georgia (August 1992 - September 1993), and - after fifteen ensuing years of de facto sovereignty - the confirmation of its statehood following the Georgia-Russia conflict over South Ossetia in August 2008, a statehood which Russia itself (on 26 August) was the first formally to recognise.

Then, an unexpected event changed the character of the season: the death at an FSB hospital in Moscow on 29 May 2011 of Abkhazia’s president, Sergei Bagapsh, as a result of complications following an operation for a smoking-related complaint. The loss of Bagapsh, who had been re-elected for a second term in 2009 and was scheduled to hold the post until 2014, necessitated an election within three months (according to Abkhazia’s constitution) to choose a successor.

Three candidates competed for the post, two of whom resigned in July from their government posts in order to run their campaigns - Alexander Ankvab (the acting president following Bagapsh’s death, who had also served as prime minister, 2005-10); Raul Khadzhimba (who had served as vice-president, 2005-09 following a dispute over the presidential election of 2004 in which he had run against Bagapsh); and Sergei Shamba (the serving prime minister until the election was announced, and Abkhazia’s foreign minister, 1997-2010).

UNPO Congratulates Alexander Ankvab, Abkhaz President-Elect

Following the confirmation of Alexander Ankvab as the next president of the Republic of Abkhazia, the UNPO has extended its congratulations to the president-elect in a meeting held in Sukhum on 29 August 2011.

Below is a UNPO letter of congratulation to President-Elect, Alexander Ankvab,

The Hague, 28 August 2011

Your Excellency,

On behalf of the fifty members of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization I wish to extend to you our congratulations on the announcement of your election as President of the Republic of Abkhazia. As Abkhazia enters a new phase in its history we wish you and your government every success in meeting the new and changing opportunities facing the country and its people.

The peaceful conduct and execution of Abkhazia’s presidential elections demonstrates the strength of democracy in Abkhazia today and the resilience of a country faced with both the untimely loss of its leader and a testing electoral campaign. UNPO was privileged to be amongst those observing the presidential elections and I hope that we will deepen the long association between Abkhazia and UNPO under your administration.

Just as both the Republic of Abkhazia and UNPO have changed immeasurably over the past twenty years, so it is my belief that both are in a much better position to face the demands of the twenty-first century. I look forward to our future collaboration and raising international understanding of Abkhazia today.

Yours sincerely,

Marino Busdachin

UNPO General Secretary

Source: UNPO


Monday, 29 August 2011

Bako Sahakyan sent congratulatory letter to President Abkhazia

On 29 August President of the Artsakh Republic Bako Sahakyan sent a congratulatory letter to President-elect of the Republic of Abkhazia Alexander Ankvab, Artsakh President’s press office reports. The letter particularly reads:

“On behalf of the authorities, people of the Nagorno Karabagh Republic and myself I cordially congratulate You on the persuasive victory gained in the presidential elections and being elected the President of the Republic of Abkhazia.

I am confident that Your rich experience as a state and political figure, knowledge and personal qualities will have an important impact on the stable development of Abkhazia, further strengthening its independent statehood.

I hope that during Your presidency the relations between our countries will not only preserve the gained positive dynamic, but also come to a qualitatively new level.

I congratulate You once again on being elected to this high and responsible post. I wish You good luck and successes in all Your undertakings directed to the prosperity of fraternal Abkhazia.”


Thursday, 25 August 2011

Abkhazia to hold democratic election August 26 – acting president

SUKHUM, August 25 (Itar-Tass) —— The speaker of the Parliament of Abkhazia, Nugzar Ashuba, the acting president of the republic, has said that August 26 will see democratic elections.

"We have witnessed true competition by three politicians in our country. All three candidates are worthy people," said Ashuba at a meeting with observers from several European countries, Venezuela, Latvia, Nauru, the Dominican Republic, Armenia, the Dniester Moldovan Republic and also the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization.

According to Ashuba, Raul Khadzhimba is an experienced man, who did much for the country. Sergei Shamba in modern history is one of the founders of the struggle for the independence of the Abkhazian people, who did much for his country, including fight for its defense with weapons in hand. Alexander Ankvab is a worthy man, who has extended great services to the country and the people."

The presidential candidates, according to Ashuba, have been fulfilling their obligations under the agreement signed in July, For Honest and Clean Elections.

"They have had every chance to quietly stay in Sukhum, and communicate with their voters using modern technology, but they daily meet with them, going around every town and personally presenting their programs. This is a serious contest of ideas, not a physical confrontation between the candidates," said the acting president.

Ashuba advised observers to study the local election legislation and see for themselves how democratic it is.

"We try to make presidential elections as transparent as possible," he stressed.

On August 26 Abkhazia will hold early presidential elections. Three candidates are contesting the post – Vice-President Alexander Ankvab, opposition leader Raul Khadzhimba and Prime Minister Sergei Shamba. In the 35 constituencies there have been established 172 polling stations, which will be open on the election day from 08:00 to 20:00 Moscow time. According to CEC Chairman Batal Tabagua, this time Abkhazia will not open any polling stations at military units, contrary to the previous practice.

"The CEC decided that the military should vote at ordinary civilian polling stations. We believe that this is more democratic," said Tabagua.

According to preliminary statistics, 143,735 voters will be able to cast their ballots.

A group of over 100 monitors will observe the elections.

Source: Itar-Tass


Wednesday, 24 August 2011

ALLS - Vice President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly under the Georgian mesmerism

ALLS - The science of mesmerism emerged roughly at the end of the Age of Enlightenment and the very early beginnings of Romanticism. Originally introduced by Franz Anton Mesmer, the emergence of mesmerism during this time significantly influenced British social, political, and cultural thought.

A 1791 London publication explains the Mesmer’s theory of the vital fluid: “Modern philosophy has admitted a plenum or universal principle of fluid matter, which occupies all space; and that as all bodies moving in the world, abound with pores, this fluid matter introduces itself through the interstices and returns backwards and forwards, flowing through one body by the currents which issue there from to another, as in a magnet, which produces that phenomenon which we call Animal Magnetism”.

Politically, mesmerism was used as an explanation for a confusing time frame involving not only a resistance to enlightened thought but also a period fraught with war and conflict, including the French Revolution. Likewise, political individuals and those in government positions who faced the daunting task of maintaining a stable country in the midst of warfare and political strife, also used mesmerism as an explanation for the behavior. Mesmerism became a politically threatening tool because it is believed that it can be used to bend the will of individuals mesmerizing people into passive puppets.

Rt Hon Bruce George in his publication titled: “Sham elections in Abkhazia should not distract us from finding peace in the Caucasus” said that “he took part in a conference in Batumi, on the Black Sea coast, to discuss security issues and the steps Georgia is taking to prepare for NATO and EU membership. At his capacity as Vice President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly he regularly did battle with those who wanted to turn a blind eye to Russian aggression. He also expressed satisfaction with rapid development of Batumi as testament to what is being achieved”.

Judging from his conclusions: “Compare this to life in Abkhazia. Residents live in rundown conditions. There is little or no infrastructure and corruption is rife”. It should not be that surprising that having no knowledge of what Abkhazia is or who Abkhazians are he seems showed no desire to travel to Abkhazia preferring the Georgian version of schooling.

Had the Georgians not withheld evidences of their forced resettlement of the Georgian (mostly Megrelian) population into Abkhazia at the result of which the number of the Georgian(Megrelian) population in Abkhazia significantly increased in a majority and the conclusion that “Prior to 1992, ethnic Georgians made up half of the population of the area” would not be ever stressed upon.

Concealing their essence Georgians definitely passed over in silence the fact that those resettled Georgians were housed in the houses of evicted into Kazakhstan residents of Abkhazia and that those Georgians who fled after the 1993 return of Abkhazians are citizen of Georgia and Georgian language speakers whom they virtuously play with using them as a trump card in their battle for territories.

The assertion “the vast majority of Georgians have been forced out, their lives ruined, homes destroyed, and their property handed over to new Russian dwellers” is currently in use of the Georgia’s policy makers who show no concern of the Abkhazians in Abkhazia, who had forced Abkhazians out during the Georgian occupation in 1992-1993, ravaged Abkhazian villages to the ground, property was handed over to Georgian soldiers, lives ruined, homes yet destroyed. Who cares really that great number of Abkhaz people were subjected to various indignities, insults and ethnic cleansing during the Georgian occupation.

Georgia perhaps is veiling its purposes when it makes somebody to conclude that “These displaced people now live in other parts of Georgia, in accommodation provided by the Government, or with friends and family, but they dream of returning to their homes”. Conceivably there is not a single case in the world practice where the country’s own citizens are granted a refugee status moreover for about 20 years they are being deprived of possibility to be integrated into their native community.

The survey was carried out by the Caucasus Research Resource Centers (CRRC) in conjunction with Conciliation Resources, with the financial support of the European Union’s Instrument for Stability. This policy-brief is based on the findings of a survey conducted in June 2010 among one thousand refugees from Abkhazia, displaced as a result of the 1992-93 war. Only 9% would consider return if Abkhazia remains outside of Georgia’s jurisdiction.

Georgia’s message that the territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia will not to be retaken by force looks encouraging however in the light of Georgian mesmerism is not yet confident.

Sukhum, Abkhazia

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

14 August 1992 - Georgian Point of View‏


19th anniversary of start of war in Abkhazia marked on August 14
14.08.11 12:49

19th anniversary of the start of the war in Abkhazia is marked today. On august 14, 1992 the Russian troop invaded Georgia`s region of Abkhazia and still continue to occupy the territory.

Deputy Chairman of Georgia`s Parliament Paata Davitaia and members of the We Ourselves movement commemorated the heroes tragically killed in the war. They laid flowers on the memorial of the people killed in the war.

According to the uncertain data, 16 thousand people - 10 thousand Georgians and 4thousand Abkhazians - were killed in the war with Russia.


- "Eyewitnesses in Sukhumi said that several thousand Georgian troops in tanks and armored cars, supported by helicopters, moved into the town early this morning waving cheerfully and flashing victory signs." Reading Eagle, 15 August 1992

- "... we need to remember the times we were living in back then and what was going on in Georgia at the time. But [Tengiz] Kitovani, the defence minister, should never have sent troops to Sukhumi. That was our biggest mistake." Eduard Shevardnadze (Documentary: Absence of Will)

- "In the first place, the Ossetian war [1991-92] in Tskhinvali had just ended. The Georgia National Guard suffered heavy losses. We were exhausted. That’s why I thought it was reckless to go into Abkhazia. But I was told that the 13th-14th August was a good time to launch a military operation because the Russian Parliament was in recess. Unfortunately, we entered Abkhazia in a very disorganized way. We didn’t even have a specific goal and we started looting villages along the way. As a result, in the space of a month we managed to make enemies of the entire local population, especially the Armenians." Gia Karkarashvili [General - Army Commander of the State Council of Georgia] (Absence of Will)

- "...Additionally, the Commander-in-chief of Georgian troops in Abkhazia, General Georgiy Karkarashvili warned in a televised formal address to the Abkhaz and Georgian people in Sukhumi on August 24, that no prisoners of war will be taken by the Georgian troops, that if 100,000 Georgian lose their lives, then [on the Abkhazian side] all 97,000 will be killed; and that the Abkhaz Nation will be left without descendants. The delegation saw a video recording of this ominous speech." (UNPO -

- "There are only 80,000 Abkhazians, which means that we can easily and completely destroy the genetic stock of their nation by killing 15,000 of their youth. And we are perfectly capable of doing this." Goga (Giorgi) Khaindrava (Le Monde Diplomatique, April 1993).

- "They offered three choces: 1. Georgia should become a federation with Abkhazia. 2. Abkhazia should become a republic within Georgia. 3. A two-chamber parliament should be set up. Georgia said no to all of these things." Georgi Anchabadze (Absence of Will)

- "If I’d thought for one moment that something was about to happen I would have got my family out of there. But it was a complete shock to me when the war started. I was on holiday when it happened. I was swimming in the sea when I saw two helicopter-gunships dropping bombs on the town. I could see black smoke rising around my house. We counted 55 tanks." Guram Odisharia (Absence of Will)

- "...When Georgian troops under general command of Defense Minister General Tengiz Kitovani first entered Sukhumi on August 14, Georgian soldiers attacked non-Georgian civilians, beat them, killed many, robbed them, and looted their houses and apartments. Reports of attacks on Abkhazian, Armenian, Russian, and other non-Georgian minority civilians, including killing, torture, and burning, looting or smashing of houses or other belongings, originate from many regions of Abkhazia under Georgian military control and for the entire period since August 14." UNPO: November 1992 Mission to Abkhazia, November 1992, b. Human Rights and Cultural Destruction


Friday, 12 August 2011

The website for Sergey Shamba, candidate for president of the Republic of Abkhazia, is now available at:

SUKHUM, Abkhazia -- The website of Sergey Shamba, candidate for president of the Republic of Abkhazia, is now available at:

The pages of the site contain information about the candidate himself and the course of the election campaign. Apsnypress was informed of this by Angelina Lavrenova, press secretary of Sergey Shamba’s campaign staff.

Sergey Shamba also has his own pages on the social networks Twitter and Facebook.

Presidential candidate Aleksandr Ankvab also has a site of his own -

Information about the course of the election campaign of Raul Khadzhimba can be found on the site

Source: Apsny Press

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Some thoughts arising from Alexander Rahr's Interview "Abkhazia and South Ossetia will not return to Georgia‏"

By Metin Sonmez

Q. You used to say that recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia by Russia was a “cowboy” deed. What do you think now, was it an emotional decision or a strategic political step?

A. That's a very interesting question, but I have no answer to it yet. We don't have full information about the events which took place in 2008. Russia has been supporting Abkhazia and South Ossetia for 18 years of the conflict with Georgia.

Most of the 1990s, especially when Shevardnadze-protege Andrei Kozyrev served as Boris Yeltsin’s Foreign Minister, Russia’s policy was by no means pro-Abkhazian, a CIS-blockade being imposed along Abkhazia’s River Psou border with Russia.

An excerpt: "Under Yeltsin, in 1994, (immediately after the end of the Georgian-Abkhazian war), Abkhazia was subjected to a severe economic and political blockade. According to these sanctions, no Abkhazian man aged from 16 to 65 could legally cross the Russian-Abkhazian border along the River Psou. The list of what could be taken in and out of the blockaded republic could be written on a scrap of paper. Even ordinary antibiotics, without which no medical institution could function, were prohibited.

Yeltsin's Russia seemed to be carrying out an experiment on a country that had suffered enormous loss of life, one whose economy and infrastructure had been completely destroyed. The Russian Foreign Minster at the time, Andrei Kozyrev, tried to do all he could to force President Vladislav Ardzinba to become part of Georgia again. But the severe blockade, which lasted until Vladimir Putin came to power, did not break the will of the Abkhazian people to build their own independent nation. It was under President Putin that relations with Abkhazia began to improve gradually." (Lesson to the West: Abkhazian independence is a fact by Inal Khashig).

We all know that it was Georgia that started the 1992-93 war. Sunsequently, Boris Yeltsin, together with Georgia, placed Abkhazia under a regime of sanctions. Indeed there are reasons to believe that Yeltsin actually gave Shevardnadze the green light to attack Abkhazia on 14th August 1992 in the first place.

Excerpt: "Moreover, there were other indications that Russia (Yeltsin) knew of Shevardnadze's plan and was prepared to look the other way. Commenting on the unruly nature of the Kartvelian forces, Shevardnadze remarked that he was against sending his troops into Sukhum: 'I wanted our military units to go around Sukhumi and move to Gagra... When I spoke to Yeltsin on the next day [after the beginning of hostilities], he told me: "The generals can get out of control and you, as a smart man, should know it."'['The Georgian Chronicle', Monthly Bulletin, January-February 1993, p.7.]

Guram Odisharia says (in "Absence of Will" documentary film): "At first the Georgians were better armed. The Russian government gave us a whole tank division. But then they started to arm the Abkhaz too."

As you know many volunteers from the North Caucasus (Circassians, Chechens, Abazas...) came to Abkhazia to fight against Georgia, but they were Russian citizens, and Georgia have always made capital out of this; indeed they are still trying to show that actually the war in Abkhazia was a Russian-Georgian war (rather than a Georgian-Abkhaz one).

Dodge Billingsley, explains this situation very well: "Abkhazian units, which included diaspora-Abkhazians from Turkey, Syria, Jordan as well as North Caucasians, were much better prepared to fight together for a common cause. The presence of outside volunteers on the Abkhazian side prompted Georgia and many external observers to conclude Russian complicity in favour of Abkhazia. Many in Georgia and elsewhere feel that the war was really a Russian-Georgian conflict. This is a complicated issue. Technically, all volunteers from the North Caucasus were Russian citizens. The real question, however, centres on motivation and how the volunteers saw themselves. There were many indications that Chechen assistance to Abkhazia was stimulated by independent aspirations related to a pan-Caucasian federation rather than any Russian plot. The best known Chechen to fight against Georgia, Shamil Basaev (now deputy to Chechen's President Maskhadov), stated that 'as long as the small Abkhazian people suffered in the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict, his units would help them, but in the event of hostilities between Russia and Georgia, the volunteers would fight on the Georgian side'[30]." (Military Aspects of the War. The Battle for Gagra (The Turning-point), by Dodge Billingsley)

It might also be appropriate to adduce Basaev's interview at this point:

Some western scholars also contribute to Georgia's black propoganda with their scribblings. Take, for example, Antero Leitzinger (Political historian and researcher for the Finnish Immigration Service) who writes so: "When the Soviet colonies had nevertheless declared independence in 1991, militant Muslims like the Chechen Basayev brothers, and some of Hikmatyar's "Afghan Arabs", were invited by the GRU to join an "Islamic cause" on behalf of Abkhazia against Georgia. Although the war of 1992-1993 was depicted as a war of independence for the traditionally Muslim Abkhazians, the Basayevs and other Muslim volunteers soon found out, that this was far from the truth. The so-called Abkhazians were old-time Communists who refused to accept democratic changes. Instead of gaining more autonomy, Abkhazia - just like Karabakh and Transdnestria - became practically operated by Russian secret services, and engaged in international arms trade and training of terrorists." (Roots of Islamic Terrorism: How Communists Helped Fundamentalists)

First Basaev and other North Caucasian volunteers did NOT come to Abkhazia in support of any "Islamic cause" but only to offer assistance to Abkhazia under the auspices of the "Confederation of the (Mountain) Peoples of the Caucasus". (Basaev's above-interview and Billingsley's piece contribute a useful antidote here.) Hikmatyar's "Afghan Arabs" claim is simply too risible to merit a response. By the way Mr. Leitzinger says that Abkhazians are "traditionally Muslim", but everybody properly acquainted with the region knows that the majority of Abkhazians within Abkhazia are Orthodox Christians (about 75%) — so much for the "Muslim Abkhazians" of Abkhazia. I am not sure what the author means by the phrase "so-called Abkhazians"; probably he is following the absurd claim proposed by some Georgians that "real Abkhazians are Georgians and modern Abkhazians (Apsuas) came to Abkhazia in the 17th century from the North Caucasus", but basically, as one can easily see, Georgia and its backers have no compunction about distorting history to serve their self-interest, and, unfortunately, such self-interest is based on lies. Can one imagine Mr. Leitzinger calling Circassians "so-called Circassians" or referring to "so-called Chechens"? Of course not, because his and his country's self-interest does not allow him to use such phrases, whereas he can easily distort Abkhazian’s or anyone else’s history. On this basis, I think one could fairly employ the term "so-called historian" of anyone who is ready to alter history for their own self-interest...

So it is simply wrong to say that Russia has been supporting Abkhazia and South Ossetia for 18 years of the conflict with Georgia.


Q. Because of Kosovo… as revenge?

A. No. Russia might have waited several months and gone through international courts to achieve recognition of the republics, as the EU experts proved that the initiator of the conflict was Georgia. In this case their independence was more legitimate. South Ossetia was defending itself from Georgia, but what about Abkhazia? Its independence was recognized as well.

It was very clear that after S. Ossetia Georgia's second target would be Abkhazia. The 1994 Moscow Accords which formally marked the ceasefire in the Georgian-Abkhazian war delimited a demilitarised zone. Despite this, Saakashvili decided in the spring of 2006 to introduce an armed force that he disingenuously described as a 'police-force' into the Upper Kodor Valley, the one part of Abkhazia over which the Abkhazians had not reestablished control when they achieved their military victory at the end of September 1993, on the pretext of establishing order in an area previously controlled by a local Svan strong-man named Kvitsiani; this Valley was part of the demilitarised zone. No sanctions were taken against Tbilisi by the international community as a result of this blatant infringement of the 1994 ceasefire-agreement. Between May 2006 and the expulsion of these troops on 12 August 2008, when the Abkhazians finally brought the whole of the Kodor Valley back under their control, much money was invested in the district by Tbilisi in order to demonstrate what benefits might flow from Georgian benevolence. The region was restyled 'Upper Abkhazia', the so-called Government of Abkhazia in Exile was transferred to a new headquarters in the village of Chkhalta, where the Abkhazians found a 'NATO Information Centre' along with a sign boasting 'Our Goal Is Near' when they entered the valley after the Georgian forces had fled in disarray, and a branch of Zugdidi Bank (with cash-dispensing machine) was set up in neighbouring Azhara. A landing-strip was constructed, and a HUGE amount of weaponry (largely American, Israeli, Ukrainian) was taken up and stored there — for what purpose has never been explained. All of this ordinance was captured by the Abkhazians and removed to Sukhum, where it was briefly put on display together with trophies from the military base at Senaki in neighbouring Mingrelia, similarly abandoned by Georgian forces in their own headlong retreat when they realised the Abkhazians had crossed the border over the R. Ingur and were heading for that base. Also captured was a computer on which were found telling photographs depicting US military instructors giving lessons to Georgian troops in how to construct improvised bombs which can be seen at (end of page).

See also the documentary film ''Georgia - Crisis in the Caucasus'', by Journeyman Pictures (September 2008), which clearly shows everything.

In this documentary Colonel Christopher Langton, who has served as both deputy head of the UN's mission in Abkhazia and as Britain's defence attaché in Georgia refers to: "...its [the West’s] assistance to Georgia and the fact that Georgia abused that friendship by using weapons and equipment given to them for illegal purposes."

CHRISTOPHER LANGTON: I remain convinced that the Georgians attacked Tskhinvali before Russian units moved from North Ossetia into South Ossetia.”

Q. But the Georgian action came after a series of incidents which shrewd observers of the Kremlin say may have been designed to provoke the Georgians into a war they couldn't win.

CHRISTOPHER LANGTON: “I don't know if 'trap' is the right word, but I would certainly say that a number of things had been going on which would have definitely provoked Saakashvili into some type of action at some time, and they did, so the provocation was deliberate – I'm in no doubt about that.

Of course, one might talk about provocations against Georgia just before August 2008, but, at the same time, we should not miss the enormous provocations against Abkhazia which took place for years after the 1992-93 war and were committed by such Georgian government-backed terrorist-organisations as The White Legion and The Forest Brothers, through to the Georgian government-sponsored assault FROM THE KODOR VALLEY by a group of Chechens under Ruslan Gelaev in 2001, and the aforementioned introduction of troops into the Upper Kodor Valley in 2006.

Unfortunately, the West preferred to turn a blind eye to these things and to many other provocations organised by GEORGIA.

Basically, Abkhazia (like S. Ossetia) has been defending itself from a Western-backed Georgia for more than 18 years. This, then, is the answer to the question "What about Abkhazia?"

Metin Sonmez

Saturday, 11 June 2011

The US reinforces Georgian armor‏

June 10, 2011
The army has received 40 Hummer vehicles
By Georgy Dvali, Tbilisi

The US has transferred 40 military-version Hummer vehicles to Georgia. The Pentagon explained the direct military assistance to Georgia with the necessity to train an additional contingent of Georgian special forces for their deployment to Afghanistan. At the same time, experts have no doubts that such a generous gesture of the US has ulterior motives ­ it is aimed to show the congressional critics of the current administration that it is not abandoning its main ally in the Caucasus for the sake of the reset with Russia.

The solemn ceremony of the transfer of 30 Hummer 1151 vehicles and 10 armed Hummer 1151 1 vehicles to Georgia took place at the Georgian Defense Ministry's Krtsanisi training center, located near Tbilisi. The ceremony was attended by the First Deputy Defense Minister of Georgia, Nodar Kharshiladze, and temporary US Charge d'Affairs Kent Logsdon. His immediate supervisor, US Ambassador to Tbilisi John Bass, is now on honeymoon back home.

The editor in chief of Arsenali, an independent analytical magazine, Irakli Aladashvili, noted in an interview with Kommersant that according to its specifications, the Hummer belongs to a class of armored vehicles that the Georgian army already has in its inventory ­ in particular, the Turkish Cobra, the Israeli Wolf and the Georgian Didgori. The combined cost of the 40 US vehicles amounts to about $5 million. According to Kommersant's sources in Georgia's Defense Ministry, the received vehicles will be used in the training of military units leaving for Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the vehicles will not be used in the combat zone. According to Kommersant's source, "the vehicles are not being rented out by the US, but are being transferred as a gift; in other words, they will remain in the inventory of the Defense Ministry's units and subunits after the end of the operation in Afghanistan."

Recall that Tbilisi will soon significantly raise its level of participation in the operation of the International Security Assistance Forces (ISAS). The announcement of Tbilisi's readiness to make this step was made by the White House after a recent meeting in Rome between US Vice President Joe Biden and Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili. Kommersant's sources note that another battalion of 600-650 contractors will be deployed to Afghanistan, where 950 Georgian troops already serve today. Thus, in the near future, the Georgian contingent in the country will be the largest of any non-NATO state.

The US has been providing direct military assistance to Georgia since 2002. Within the framework of the "train and equip" program, the Pentagon supplied several old Bell UH-1 Iroquois helicopters to the country, which are still being used by the Georgian Air Force, as well as about a dozen trucks. Since then, certain influential US senators, including former Republican presidential candidate John McCain, have repeatedly urged the US administration to start supplying defense weapons to Georgia.

According to Irakli Aladashvili, as a result the White House took the middle ground.

"Georgia was given armored vehicles, which could very well be equipped with anti-tank missiles, as well as antiaircraft weapons. [The Hummer vehicles] are much better than the Toyota cars which have been used by the Georgian Armed Forces during the war in August for the relocation of small units," explained Aladashvili.

The transfer of the armored vehicles coincided with the entry of the US Navy warship "Anzio" into the port of Batumi, where it will remain until June 12. The cruiser is equipped with guided missiles and state-of-the-art technology. The crew consists of 31 officers and 305 sailors. During the stay at Batumi, the US sailors will conduct joint training operations with Georgian Coast Guard staff.

Source: Kommersant


Vanuatu Daily Post: Foreign Affairs Minister apologises

…eyes trade relations with Abkhazia and Georgia

By Jane Joshua

Vanuatu’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Alfred Carlot has apolgised for the miscommunication between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Vanuatu’s UN Representative-Donald Kalpokas in New York.

This, minister Carlot said, was due to his absence on a multilateral mission abroad in Seoul.

But he made Vanuatu’s stand on recognition for Abkhazia clear when he revealed Vanuatu is looking forward to establishing Trade relations with the Republic of Abkhazia and the Republic of Georgia in the “very near future”.

“As the Minister of Foreign Affairs I reaffirm Vanuatu’s recognition to the Republic of Abkhazia,” said minister Carlot.

“Vanuatu signed diplomatic relations with the Republic of Abkhazia in Port Vila on May 23, 2011 by Prime minister Sato Kilman.

“Vanuatu conducts an open foreign policy and is amongst other members of the international community in eradicating colonialism from the face of this planet. Vanuatu is neutral; our recognition of Abkhazia does not in any way mean that we cannot have diplomatic relations with the Republic of Georgia.

“We wish to extend our most sincere invitation to the Republic of Georgia to establish relations with us.

“One of our roving ambassadors will be visiting the region later this year.”

Minister Carlot further revealed that having personally studied at the Moscow University on an exchange scheme( MGIMO) in 1987 he has a “very good understanding of the geo-political situation in that region”.

Abkhazia has Sergei Bagapsh as its president and Georgia’s president is Mikheil Saakashvili.

Boasting a population of over 250,000 (Christians and Islamists) with agricultural (citrus fruit, tobacco, tea, timber,) coal and hydro-electric power as its natural resources Abkhazia is considered to be the break away region of Georgia(1992-1993 war) and its economy is highly dependent on Russia.

Despite declaring its independence in 1999 it is not recognised by many international communities and Vanuatu is only the second country in the Pacific after Nauru to recognise Abkhazia.

Here are some key dates in the history of Abkhazia as provided by the BBC:

756 - Independent kingdom formed, 985 - Becomes part of Georgia, later regaining independence, 1578 - Comes under Turkish rule, 1810 - Russia declares Abkhazia a protectorate, 1864 - Russia annexes Abkhazia,1931 - Soviet authorities incorporate Abkhazia into Georgia, 1991 - Georgia declares independence, 1992 - Georgia sends troops to stop Abkhazia breaking away, 1993 - Fierce fighting ends with Georgian forces being expelled from Abkhazia ,1994 - Ceasefire agreed, peacekeepers arrive, nearly all Russian, 1999 - Abkhazia declares independence, 2004 - New Georgian president Saakashvili vows to restore Georgia’s territorial integrity and return Abkhazia, South Ossetia to the fold, 2008 - Russia formally recognises Abkhazia’s independence, following the Russian-Georgian war over South Ossetia and 2009 - Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visits.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Abkhazia to elect new president on August 26

SUKHUM (June 8) Abkhazia will go to the polls to elect a new president on August 26, following the death of President Sergei Bagapsh on May 29.

The date was set by a resolution passed by the Parliament of Abkhazia on Wednesday.

Bagapsh, 63, who had led Abkhazia since 2005, died of cancer in Moscow following an operation on his lungs.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Georgia and hasty comparisons, by Cem Oguz

Hurriyet Daily News (29 May 2011)

Nowadays, a new wave of domestic turmoil is allegedly threatening Georgia’s political stability. Last week’s popular protest against President Mikhail Saakashvili, organized by one of his previous comrades-in-arms, former parliamentary speaker Nino Burjanadze, demanded his immediate ouster.

The demonstrations immediately attracted the attention of the international public, which has been engrossed in recent popular uprisings in the Middle East. A certain segment of the Western media, for instance, particularly those who basically follow the events from their offices in Moscow, was not late in describing the demonstration as the latest Arab spring wave and one set to sweep through the former Soviet republics.

Burjanadze, too, plays to this card. She accuses Saakashvili of monopolizing political power in Georgia and claims that a “new revolution” has inevitably started in Georgia. The fact that the rallies were launched to thwart the annual Independence Day parade in one of the main squares of Tbilisi suggests that the opposition is trying to create a kind of “Tahrir Square effect” in the country. The organizers of the protest have indeed declared that they are modeling their actions on the popular uprisings that swept the Middle East recently.

Since his rise to power on a wave of democratic optimism during the famous 2003 “Rose Revolution” that toppled Eduard Shevardnadze, I have been following Saakashvili with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I appreciate his reforms, first and foremost his vivid fight against corruption. I traveled through almost all the ex-Soviet countries and have closely observed that it was this institutionalized daily-life phenomenon that raised many people’s hackles.

On the other hand, however, I have been critical of Saakashvili’s semi-authoritarian tendencies and overdosed self-confidence, best exemplified by his attempt to solve the impasse in the Abkhazian and South Ossetian problems by military means. Indeed, in those days his decision to resort to force was a kind of self-destruction. It was very clear that Russia, due to the Kosovo crisis, would respond extremely harshly. Those who sincerely want to find out what led Saakashvili to take such a decision need to look to the commitments he was given by the neo-cons of the George W. Bush administration, particularly by then Vice President Dick Cheney.

I still believe, nevertheless, that reservations similar to those of mine are not enough to demand his resignation. And more importantly, to compare what is going on in Georgia with the recent popular uprisings in the Middle East is nothing more than nonsense. The reasons are very simple:

The driving force for change in the Middle East has sprung from youth motivated by a lack of hope, as well as disgust. Yet those who took part in the recent demonstrations in Georgia are older people, struggling to cope with low pensions and rising prices. The heart of their beef with the president is the accusation that he has failed to tackle poverty. In contrast, the Georgian youth find their hope in Saakashvili and they are somehow embedded with the regime. Neither they nor the newly emerging middle class want a return to the political instability or corruption that plagued the country before Saakashvili rose to power.

And more importantly, the popular uprisings in the Middle East arose from a deep ground swell. It was spontaneous. The “new revolution” in Georgia, in turn, is one designed from the top. It seems to be compulsive. Accordingly, opposition in Georgia lacks credibility among ordinary Georgians. They are divided. For instance, several opposition parties refused to take part in Burjanadze’s protest.

There is one final trait that needs to be emphasized: In the course of several visits to Georgia, I have closely observed how nationalistic the Georgian people, the youth in particular, are. As long as there is Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, whose sword of Damocles hangs above the head of Mr. Saakashvili, the Georgian people will continue to rally around their president. I mean, who would be particularly happy to see their president “hung by his balls” by a leader of another country, as Putin so colorfully put his intentions during the war of August 2008.

Friday, 3 June 2011

International law and the Russian “occupation” of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, by Richard Berge

Antigeopolitics -- In the aftermath of the 2008 August war and Russian recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states, Georgia has intensified its efforts to convince the world that these territories are being occupied by the Russian Federation. On the 28 of August 2008, just two days ofter the Russian recognition, the Georgian parliament passed a resolution to the effect that Abkhazia and South Ossetia were occupied territories. This was followed later in October the same year when Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili approved the Law on Occupied Territories. Since then, resolutions to the effect that these territories are under Russian occupation have been put forward by several of Georgia’s closest allies, including Lithuania, the NATO parliamentary assembly, and most recently, in a draft resolution by the United States Congress on the 11th of May. However, the question remains how well the Georgian claim of Russian occupation confirms to international law and the actual facts on the ground. A preliminary analysis concludes that it does so poorly.

First off, the Russian presence in Abkhazia and South Ossetia does not satisfy the definition of occupation set by the the Geneva Convention of 1907, article 42 which states that: “Territory is considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army,” and article 43 which states that: “The authority of the legitimate power having in fact passed into the hands of the occupant, the latter shall take all the measures in his power to restore, and ensure, as far as possible, public order and safety, while respecting, unless absolutely prevented, the laws in force in the country.” In Abkhazia and South Ossetia authority is in fact placed in the hands of the de facto partially recognised authorities of the two breakaway territories, and not in the hands of the Russian military. The breakaway territories themselves have their own parliaments, governments, army, police force and other state institutions which are in charge of governance and the day to day running of their self-proclaimed republics.

The authorities of both breakaway republics also enjoy broad legitimacy and support by the current populations of the respective territories, which overwhelmingly consider Russian troops to be liberators and allies, and not occupiers. Although the legitimacy of these de facto governments is disputed internationally, it is important to note that Abkhazia and South Ossetia are recognised as independent by four UN member states, Russia, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Nauru, and that international law does not specify a lower ceiling on the number of states recognising an entity before it can be considered a legitimate member of the international community. Russian troops in both territories do not exhibit the behavior characteristic of an occupying army either.

For example, the Russian troops in Abkhazia and South Ossetia do not patrol the streets or set up checkpoints to control the local population, and are mostly confined to their bases. Although limited housing projects for Russian troops and their families near the bases have been constructed, there is no construction of settlements or other forms of colonisation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia by ethnic Russians, akin to, for example, Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Russian control of the de facto borders of Abkhazia and South Ossetia is also not an arbitrary development, but has been negotiated in accordance with bilateral agreements between Moscow and the de facto authorities of the breakaway republics.

The decision of Georgia and some of its allies to recognise the breakaway republics as occupied by Russia is therefore wholly political, and does not have a particularly strong foundation in either international law or the actual facts on the ground. While the Georgian government hopes that its diplomatic effort to have these territories recognised as occupied will increase the pressure on Russia to withdraw its troops from both regions, the effort is mostly cosmetic, and unlikely to meet with much tangible success. The designation by Georgia and its Western allies of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as “occupied” is also designed to reinforce the Georgian narrative of the conflict of being exclusively between Georgia and Russia, and not with the Abkhazians and Ossetians. However, this approach will likely only contribute to the further objectification and alienation from Georgia of the populations of both territories, which will again hamper any real effort to reach a settlement in to these conflicts.

Richard Berge holds a BA in Politics and Georgian language from the School of Oriental and African Studies at University of London, and a MA in Politics, Security and Integration from the School of Slavonic and East European Studies at UCL. He has worked for the Norwegian Embassy in Baku, Azerbaijan in 2009 and the European Centre for Minority Issues in Tbilisi, Georgia in 2010, focusing on human rights, freedom of information and minority rights in both countries. He is currently looking to publish his MA thesis on the political situation of the Armenian minority in Abkhazia.

One Man’s Magnitude, by Sergey Markedonov

Whoever Will Be the New Head of Abkhazia, He Will Have Difficulty Coming Out of Bagapsh’s Shadow
Special to Russia Profile - 06/02/2011

On May 29, 2011, the second President of Abkhazia Sergei Bagapsh died in Moscow. It’s impossible to exaggerate his importance as a politician and a man in the modern history of the republic: the beginning of its legitimization will always be connected with his name. Since 2008, Abkhazia's independence has been recognized by Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Nauru. Within two days of Bagapsh's death, the pacific island of Vanuatu had joined in. And although it is now impossible to say for sure just what kind of country would join this “gang of five” (if any), Abkhazia now has its ticket into the world.

Representatives of the European Union are now saying that a dialogue needs to be established with the republic, even without officially recognizing it. Several detailed publications have now come out in the United States on this very topic (by Alexander Cooley, Lincoln Mitchell, Cory Welt and Samuel Charap).

In Georgia, Bagapsh is seen as the leader of a separatist institution and a “Russian puppet.” As a result, it is understandable that the death of the Abkhaz president passed virtually unnoticed in the country. The only exception to the rule was the “political retiree” Eduard Shevardnadze, who came across the future leader of Abkhazia in his Komsomol and party work in the Soviet period. At that time, natives of Abkhazia rarely worked in the capital of the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic. It stands to reason that this experience later turned out to be extremely useful to Bagapsh, because being a party activist in the republic during the “stagnation period” didn’t teach Marxist-Leninist dogmas as much as it gave the ability to find complex solutions and to mediate the divergent interests of different interest groups.

Meanwhile, these leadership qualities would subsequently make Abkhazia’s second president highly sought after in his homeland. In 2004 Abkhazia entered the presidential campaigning season, and by then Bagapsh’s predecessor Vladislav Ardzinba, the charismatic leader of the national movement during perestroika, the fall of the Soviet Union and the war with Georgia, had virtually left his post due to serious illness. With the Kremlin’s support all administrative resources in Abkhazia worked in favor of Raul Khadjimba, Bagapsh’s opponent. However Bagapsh not only managed to win the elections, but also managed to avoid internal political confrontation and to find common ground with Moscow. The 2004 campaign refuted many of the West’s well-established clichés concerning “Russian puppets.” The second president of Abkhazia won against the will of the Kremlin, but he didn’t turn his victory into a nationalist anti-Russian weapon. On the contrary, Russia recognized Abkhazia’s independence namely under Bagapsh’s government, although this decision still spurs arguments and controversy inside Russia itself. However, today it defines that new status-quo in the Greater Caucasus, whether we like it or not.

Sergei Bagapsh closed an old chapter in Abkhazia's history and started a new one. Largely thanks to Bagapsh, the highest office in the republic was peacefully handed over from one person to the next. Bagapsh maintained the political opposition (not even persecuting those who had openly campaigned against him during elections) and the freedom of the press. In 2008, with Russia’s help, he obtained a guarantee of safety and noninterference on behalf of Georgia. At the same time, Bagapsh swept the “Georgian factor” under the rug and began massive “Russianization,” meaning everything from the penetration of Russian business giants (Rosneft) to the appearance of military bases and Russian border guards, from questions of property and the involvement of the Russian Orthodox Church in the religious life of the republic to interpretations of the historical topics of the 19th century. Today Russia’s role, and the price of its friendship to be more specific, is the leading topic of internal discussion in Abkhazia.

After Bagapsh's death, this topic will become one of the central elements in the presidential election campaigns. Meanwhile, passions will flare in the course of the battle for the presidential seat. Abkhazia’s second president left this world without naming a successor, without a political “last will and testament.” Consequently all contenders for the post will be starting from “square one.” The acting Vice President Alexander Ankvab will probably have an administrative and psychological advantage. Like Bagapsh, he also has experience working in Georgia during the Soviet years (in the Ministry of Internal Affairs). He has the reputation of an uncompromising opponent of corruption (there have been several attempts against his life), as a harsh and open person that stands in the way of many. Ankvab could not get along with Ardzinba in the 1990s, so he was forced to spend many years practicing business in Moscow, without becoming just a passive observer. Ankvab’s support during 2004 and 2005 meant a lot to Bagapsh’s ultimate success. Subsequently he worked on Bagapsh’s team as a prime minister and then as his vice president. And that’s why this person will contend for Abkhazia’s second president’s political legacy more than any other.

Sergei Shamba, Abkhazia’s chief diplomat for many years, may also become a strong player in the elections, since he is involved in all meaningful forms of negotiation with Georgia, the Russian Federation, international institutions, and ambassadors in Tbilisi. For the last two years Sahmba, having been named the head of the government, advanced considerably in the field of internal politics. We shouldn’t also discount Raul Khadjimba as a potential contender. Yes, he was defeated in the 2004 to 2005 and the 2009 elections. But let’s not forget that in 2004, he was Vladislav Ardzinba’s successor and had the Kremlin’s support. During the Soviet period Khadjimba served in the KGB, and has established good contacts with the Russian “siloviki.” Theoretically, all this could play in Khadjimba’s favor after Bagapsh’s death.

No matter who we will call the next president of Abkhazia, he will inevitably have to address Bagapsh’s legacy in his work. He’s also doomed to face incessant “comparisons” to his celebrated predecessor.

Sergei Markedonov, Ph.D., is a political analyst and a visiting fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Russia and Eurasia Program, Washington, DC.

Source: Russia Profile

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Independence means stability – Abkhazian foreign minister

Independence means stability – Abkhazian foreign minister from Abkhaz World on Vimeo.

RT, 02 June 2011 -- By gaining independence in 2008 and seeking international recognition Abkhazia got more stability, co-operation, investment and real perspectives for the future, shared Abkhazia’s Foreign Minister Maksim Gvinjia.

Remembering the late Abkhazian President Sergey Bagapsh, who has been laid to rest on Thursday, Gvinjia acknowledged that Bagapsh was a smart, tolerant, strategic thinker who created a stable political system in the republic.

Sergey Bagapsh, aged 62, died last weekend in a Moscow medical center after undergoing a surgery on his right lung. The next day his lungs stopped functioning, he was put on an artificial respirator, but later on doctors registered other complications which made it impossible to improve his critical condition.

Thanks to Sergey Bagapsh’s personal efforts, Abkhazia succeeded in setting up relations with countries in Latin America.

We consider most of the ways to achieve international political for a but there are significant obstacles imposed by Western countries, by the EU and the US,” Maksim Gvinjia told RT, stressing that, particularly in Latin America, the US attempted to put maximum pressure on the local governments not to let to recognize Abkhazia or establish diplomatic relations with the republic, which proclaimed independence from Georgia nearly 20 years ago.

We are confronted not by actually Georgian diplomacy – we are confronted by the American diplomacy,” he concluded.

Tbilisi may maintain that Abkhazia is a part of Georgia, but “saying that Abkhazia is a part of Georgia is equal to saying that Georgia is still a part of Russia – since Russia inherited obligations of the former Soviet Union.”

The so-called “territorial integrity of Georgia” was recognized in violation of the international law so there is no use in repeating it over and over again, believes Gvinjia.

The 08/08/08 war in South Ossetia only deteriorated Abkhazia further from Georgia, remembers the Abkhazian foreign minister. “We have not received any positive signal from Georgia.”

In reality, Georgia continues to maintain an embargo on Abkhazia and do everything within its powers to prevent the country from conducting international business, and on top of all that provocations and kidnapping of Abkhazians done from the Georgian side of the border continue, so official Tbilisi might say whatever it wants, he maintains.

The most important thing is that we recognize ourselves,” Maksim Gvinjia said.

Source: RT