Saturday, May 31, 2014

Abkhazia: Is there another Maidan brewing in Abkhazia?

Lyuba Lulko
Is there another Maidan brewing in Abkhazia?

Opponents of the President of Abkhazia gathered in Sukhumi in front of government buildings demanding the President, Alexander Ankvab, should step down. Most aggressive opposition activists stormed the administration building. Russia withdrew itselt from solving Abkhazian problems while trying to sit on two chairs, experts say. Is there another Maidan brewing?

Ankvab called the events in Sukhum an attempt to seize power in the country. However, in his opinion, it is still possible to bring back the situation in the country into legal framework. "Security forces are loyal to the government and they take all measures to ensure that the situation is stabilized," he said.

Opposition demanded the resignation of the President, the Cabinet, Attorney General, as well as the chiefs of Tkuarchalsky and Galsky districts. Responding to the proposition "to discuss all details behind closed doors," opposition activists turned back and went to their supporters, after which they attempted to seize the administration building, said Ankvab. "We are taking all possible measures to resolve the situation peacefully," he stressed. Later, a representative of the opposition, Raul Khajimba, said that the coordinating council of the opposition was taking power into its hands. Officials with the Abkhazian Foreign Ministry refused to answer a question from Pravda.Ru, whether the president performs his duties.

Experts believe that the protests in Abkhazia are based on several reasons. "The opposition forces that are now present today in Abkhazia, are struggling with this power, firstly, because Abkhazian passports are issued to Georgian citizens of Abkhazia, - Ruslan Kharabua, a senior officer of the Institute of CIS of the Department of the Caucasus, told Pravda.Ru. This is a chronic problem, because of which president Bagapsh lost his post. The expert believes that the guilty have not been punished and that such a policy is "ideological subversion of state."

"According to my information, in Abkhazia, they give passports to Turkish citizens, who seem to have some Abkhaz roots," Georgy Dzasokhov, deputy chairman of the Russian Ecological Party "Green" told Pravda.Ru. "The Russians, who lived there from time immemorial, have their property there, and so on - they can not have it all legalized and registered correctly and be full-fledged citizens of this republic. Therefore, this is all disturbing."

When a part of Georgia, Abkhazia experienced the burden of coercive Georgianisation. For example, the Abkhazians were forbidden to settle in coastal zones closer than five kilometers. Mass protests of the Abkhazians and requirements for the restoration of the status of the 1920s and the transfer of Abkhazia into the Russian Federation started immediately after the collapse of the USSR. In March 1991, at the referendum about the future of the Soviet Union, Abkhazia voted for common economic, political and cultural space with the North Caucasus and Russia, while Georgia voted for the breakup. First Georgian President Gamsakhurdia destroyed autonomous areas in one stroke of the pen, which triggered a civil war throughout the country. Then came Shevardnadze, who continued the war. The war claimed nearly 16,000 lives: about 4,000 Abkhazians, 10,000 Georgians, and 2,000 volunteers from the republics of the North Caucasus and southern Russia.

In 2004, under the mediation of Russia, peace agreements were signed to eliminate unlawful combatant units on both sides. The parties also agreed that Russian peacekeepers would keep peace in the region. Afterwards, Saakashvili came to power, whom the United States soon used to unleash the war in South Ossetia. Eight years have passed after Abkhazia and South Ossetia declared independence, but it becomes clear now that the wounds inflicted by Georgian nationalists do not heal. These wounds will not heal in a hundred years.

The second reason for aggravation of the situation in the republic is the open unwillingness of the authorities to solve social problems, the problems of unemployment and economic development in the first place. "In Abkhazia, social and other problems remain unsolved for a very long time. They remain in vacuum, and, of course, it irritates many people living there," Vladimir Khomeriki, President of the Fund of the Unity of Russian and Georgian Peoples, President of the Congress of National Associations of Russia, told Pravda.Ru.

"If we are talking about Abkhazia, one should not allow any extremes, - political analyst Andrei Areshev told Pravda.Ru. - On the one hand, we can not allow a precedent of early change of power shift, because President Alexander Ankvab was elected by impressive majority, and I think that there are no motives to declare him illegitimate. On the other hand, it is obvious that the authorities of the Republic of Abkhazia should listen to the requirements and calls for a significant part of the society. This may take many forms. There are already voices saying the Cabinet should resign. I believe that opponents of the sitting authorities could take part in shaping up the future of the Cabinet and demonstrate their professional qualities. A number of other measures, including the resignation of several officials, is also possible - this would stabilize the situation."

Political analyst Andrei Areshev believes that it is not a question of relations with Russia, because in Abkhazian society, there is a consensus on the priority of relations with Russia. There are questions concerning the effectiveness of the introduction of Russian humanitarian aid. Even in this case, the claims are not addressed to Moscow, but rather to the state organization of Abkhazia.

Vladimir Khomeriki, however, accuses Russia of inactivity. "The events have not come out of the blue. I think that Russia should drop the other shoe. But Russia withdrew from these processes, and Abkhazia has no opportunities to develop further without proper support. Therefore, there is unrest brewing there. I believe that these events that are happening there are financed from the outside in order to destabilize the situation."

Ruslan Kharabua goes even further. According to him, Russia is trying to sit on two chairs in the conflict. "Moscow, in the first place, should decide for itself whether it wants to continue cooperation with the current regime in Abkhazia. Moscow is trying to maneuver between the president and the opposition, but Russia should realize that there are people and their opinions. If Moscow says that public opinion is important, then it should be taken into account as well," said Ruslan Kharabua.