-------------------- News from Abkhazia --------------------

 Abkhazia to temporarily supply Sochi with electricity


Sukhum, Abkhazia is to temporarily supply Sochi with electricity.


"We will be able to start supplying power from Abkhazia to the Krasnodar territory within the next hour," Abkhaz president Sergei Bagapsh told Interfax on Wednesday.


"Abkhazia was also cut off from electricity last night. However, we have already found out the reason behind the problems and have rectified them," Bagapsh said.


The blackout in Abkhazia was caused by "a thunderbolt that struck a high-voltage transmission line," he said.


01.31.2007  Interfax


 Global anti-Abkhazian conspiracy a myth


Moscow, The world is closely watching the political situation around Abkhazia. In the past six months, the issue of the Caucasian republic has been discussed twice in the UN Security Council, and Russia and the United States have worked out a compromise on it.


Resolution 1716, which is highly critical of Georgia, was approved almost unanimously when Russia agreed to vote favorably on the issue of North Korea. In early 2007, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon delivered a report on the ethnic and political situation in Abkhazia. The week before the Security Council session, he presented his view of the situation in the Gali district of Abkhazia, where outbreaks of violence were registered shortly before the New Year.


Russian politicians and diplomats feared attempts to "internationalize" the Abkhazian problem. But events of the past few months showed that it will not threaten Russia's national interests, on one condition: Russian diplomats must learn to choose their priorities wisely.


This may sound paradoxical, but internationalization can promote Russia's national interests if its format is determined clearly. At any rate, it would be unreasonable to reject the idea of external involvement in the Abkhazian settlement, provided we know which forces should be involved and at which stages.


Russia should highlight the role of the UN and its Security Council, which are the focal points of the international community to which all countries, including Georgia, appeal for justice. Russia has levers of influence in the UN, and the Kremlin may use them to strengthen its own role and join the internationalization trend.


The UN Mission in Georgia, which is working in situ and knows everything about events in Abkhazia, has become almost immune to Mikhail Saakashvili's PR projects. Russia should maintain ties with Abkhazia's political and business elite and promote contacts between Sukhum's third power and European state and private structures that influence public opinion in their countries.


If the Kremlin wants Abkhazia to become a national state de jure, it should stop trying to keep the breakaway republic on a short leash and cut off from the international community.


Russia can recognize Abkhazia as an independent state without damaging its own interests only if such recognition is backed by a "a consortium of powers." In its absence, Moscow should limit itself to political assistance to Abkhazia, whose forceful incorporation into Georgia will destabilize the situation in Russia and the North Caucasus.


In a word, the Kremlin will benefit from internationalizing the Abkhazian problem. There is no "global anti-Abkhazian conspiracy," but the world does not have an adequate view of the situation in that republic. Foreign experts and NGOs have changed their views on Abkhazia dramatically when they learned more about the situation there. So, the Kremlin should do its best to provide an accurate information on Abkhazia.


The peacekeeping operation in the zone of the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict is a separate issue. Russia must not give up its "exclusive role" there.


The idea of having "an international policing unit or international policing force in Abkhazia - maybe not so much in Kodor, but for certain in the Gali region," put forth by Matthew Bryza, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, during his tour of the South Caucasus, cannot be implemented without damaging Russian interests.


The deployment of an international policing force there will create several clashing centers of power, with the peacekeepers viewed as "pro-Russian" and the policing force as "pro-Georgian." Instead of restoring peace, this would defreeze the conflict and involve external forces in it.


The presence of Russian peacekeepers in the conflict zone has ensured the return of some 60,000 refugees to their homes in Abkhazia. Despite the political blunders the Kremlin has made in Georgia, Russian peacekeepers have been a stabilizing force. They prevented the reactivation of the conflict in May 1998 and in the fall of 2001, despite strong prerequisites for that.


By combining military-political domination in the zone of the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict with the internationalization of the Abkhazian elite's contacts and of political debates on conflict settlement, and by complementing its peacekeeping mission with an active involvement of the UN, Russia may greatly strengthen its positions as the guarantor of peace in that turbulent region.


To attain this goal, it should create situation alliances with the U.S. and EU countries, and pursue a correct and more flexible policy. The matter at stake - stability in the North Caucasus - is important enough to make the Kremlin policy there more realistic and pragmatic.


Sergei Markedonov is head of the ethnic relations department at the Institute of Military and Political Analysis.


The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and may not necessarily represent the opinions of the editorial board.


01.29.2007  RIA Novosti


 Abkhazia has nothing to do with uranium smuggling- FM


Sukhum, Abkhazia has nothing to do with enriched uranium and smuggling of it into Georgia, Abkhazian Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba said.


His comment followed the Georgian Foreign Ministry’s statement asserting that the “smuggling of weapons of mass destruction across stretches of the Georgian-Russian state border in Abkhazia and South Ossetia is possible”.


“Nobody ever tried to smuggle weapons of mass destruction across the Russian-Abkhazian border,” Shamba told reporters on Thursday.


Abkhazia does not have such weapons, he said.


“We are worried not less than Georgia about security in the region, and we are doing all we can for ensuring it.”


Shamba said that “Georgian authorities are once again trying to picture Abkhazia as some uncontrolled ‘black hole’”.


“Most often tall stories of different kinds are floated before the adoption of UN resolutions on the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict,” Shamba said.


01.26.2007  Itar-Tass


 Abkhazia calls Georgia accusations of WMD smuggling provocative


Tbilisi, The foreign minister of Abkhazia called provocative Tbilisi's speculations, voiced by the Foreign Ministry, that weapons of mass destruction (WMD) could be smuggled across Russia's borders with Abkhazia and South Ossetia.


Georgia's fears are linked to a criminal case against a Russian citizen, arrested in 2006 for attempting to sell high-enriched uranium in the ex-Soviet republic. Three Georgian citizens were also arrested in the case.


"Abkhazia is just as mindful of regional security as is Georgia," Abkhazia's Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba said, adding that Tbilisi has been trying to discredit Abkhazia by making provocative statements just before or during UN Security Council sessions.


A Georgian court sentenced Oleg Khinsagov, who was born in the Russian North Caucasus republic of North Ossetia, to eight years in prison Thursday for attempting to sell 100 grams of high-enriched uranium, according to the Georgian Interior Ministry.


Three Georgian citizens in the case were also convicted and sentenced to between four and six years in prison, the ministry said.


01.25.2007  RIA Novosti


 Georgia still plans to solve Abkhazia problem by force - Bagapsh


Moscow, Georgia has not given up its plans to resolve the conflict with Abkhazia by force, the president of Abkhazia said Thursday.


Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said earlier that "it is time for Georgia's complete reunion by means of returning Abkhazia and South Ossetia."


Sergei Bagapsh told RIA Novosti: "We have always told the international community that Georgia is a military oriented state. Georgia is an aggressor. Their only purpose is to resolve the problem of territorial integrity by force."


Bagapsh said that if Saakashvili takes that path, he will destroy his own country. He said that since Georgia refuses to stop its provocations, all Abkhazian forces have been put on alert.


"We will take all measures to prevent the worst scenario," the Abkhazian leader added. He said the situation was very serious, not only for Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but also for the Caucasus as a whole.


He said Saakashvili only begins uttering threats when his popularity rating is falling, and that his statements on democracy are meant only for the international community.


Bagapsh said he hopes that Georgia still has reasonable people who "understand that a military scenario is unacceptable to all sides."


01.25.2007  RIA Novosti


 Georgia: Russia denies considering status for S.Ossetia, Abkhazia


Moscow, Speculations about Moscow drafting a proposal on Abkhazia and South Ossetia status are "exaggerated," but if the sides agree on a solution for the conflicts based on confederation principles Moscow will not object, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on January 23.


The Russian daily Kommersant reported in December, that Moscow is developing a plan for conflict resolution in South Ossetia and Abkhazia based on the principle of a "united state" in the form of a confederation uniting Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia.


"Issues related with the definition of the status of Abkhazia and South Ossetia should be discussed at the final stage of the Georgian-Abkhaz and Georgian-Ossetian conflict resolution process," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in an information note.

Moscow will not make any hasty decisions on the issue "and we do not recommend anyone to do so - this would be a shortsighted step," the Russian Foreign Ministry noted.


It also said that initiatives about status should be proposed by the parties concerned.


"If the parties agree, let's say on unification based on confederation principles, naturally there will be no objections from our side," the Russian Foreign Ministry said.


But Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and the South Ossetian leader both noted during the meeting in Moscow on January 19 that speculations of this kind are "absolutely groundless," the information note reads.


"Both of them have stressed that the existing reality and such a fundamental factor as expression of will of the Abkhaz and South Ossetian people should be taken into consideration while dealing with resolution of the conflicts. It is also important to prevent protracted pauses and attempts to thwart the negotiating process, which should develop in the frames of already existing formats," the Russian Foreign Ministry said.


01.24.2007  Reliefweb.int


 Gal Residents to Get Online


Sukhum, In the nearest future, the residents of the Gal district will be able to use the Internet, said Plenipotentiary of the President in the Gal district Ruslan Kishmariya in an interview to the President's Official Site.


In his words, currently the installation of the necessary hardware and equipment is being completed. The services will be provided by a specially established company employing local personnel.


"At this stage the sponsors of the project are waiting for a licence from the GosSviazNadzor (State Supervision Authority for Communications)", Mr. Kishmariya said.


According to the President's Plenipotentiary, the project costs will amount to $20,000. The project is financed from state funds.


The Gal district remains the only region of Abkhazia without Internet access. Recently, the country's Ochamchyra and Tkuarchal districts were successfully connected to the Internet. In Abkhazia, connecting to the Internet became possible in 2001.


Currently, there are four providers in the Republic. The users are mainly residents of Sukhumand Gagra. Increased competition influenced the tariff policy of the providers. Since 2001, the service prices have decreased more than threefold.


01.22.2007  Abkhaziagov.org


 Oleg Bartsits: Increased Investment into Abkhazia’s Economy are Irreversible


Sukhum, In 2007, foreign investment into the country's economy will steadily increase due to a number of new projects with foreign ownership. This was what Plenipotentiary of the Government of Abkhazia in the Russian Federation on Investment Policy Oleg Bartsits said in an interview to the Official Site of the President.


According to Oleg Bartsits, Abkhazia's becoming increasingly attractive in terms of foreign investment. "Today, we are gradually creating favourable environment for an investment flow. In particular, it applies to tax allowances. On the CIS space there are few places where the investors enjoy exemption from income taxes for the term of three years", Mr. Bartsits maintains.


According to the Head of the Mission of the Republic of Abkhazia in the Russian Federation on Investment Policy, such factors as a fairly high level of economic freedom, flexibility of state regulation of economy and a higher return of invested capital as compared to Russia also encourage the flow of investment into the Republic.


At the same time, Mr. Bartsits notes that the main obstacle for more intensive investment is "the tethered legislation". "The investor has to act under the legislation of 1994 which are inapplicable in the current environment", Mr. Bartsits believes. In his opinion, the new Parliament will primarily have to concentrate on the legislative reform in the sphere of economics.


Further, Mr. Bartsits admitted that political risks may discourage a potential investor. However, he noted that the most significant concern of the investors is the regulatory framework which does not agree with modern standards.


Presently, the Mission of Abkhazia in the Russian Federation on Investment Policy participates in the implementation of a number of Russian investment projects. In particular, the "Alternativa" scientific-production association — one of Russia's food industry giants will shortly enter Abkhazia's market. The "Alternativa" scientific-production association is the owner of such widely-known brands as "Russky Hit" and "Smak".


The Investment Policy Mission of Abkhazia in the Russian Federation was established over a year and a half ago. Since that moment, the Mission has implemented several projects, including the arrangement of the Pitsunda International Economic Forum attended by representatives of major Russian business enterprises as well as prominent political personalities and experts.


01.19.2007  Abkhaziagov.org


 EU to Further Support the Development of Democracy in Abkhazia

Alexandr Ankvab, Prime Minister of Abkhazia

Alexandr Ankvab, Prime Minister of Abkhazia

Sukhum, At the end of its visit to Abkhazia, the EU delegation met Head of the Government Alexandr Ankvab and the country's NGOs and declared its determination to expand its participation in the development of Abkhazia's democracy.


Meeting the EU representatives, Prime Minister of Abkhazia said that the country's NGOs enjoy significant authority in the political and public circles and that the Government strives to maintain constant dialogue with them. "They are true experts contributing to the cause of building a civilized society", Mr. Ankvab noted.


Further, the Head of the Cabinet stressed that the authorities makes every effort to facilitate the activity of the NGOs. "There are no legislative barriers or other biases in terms of 'Western funds'", Mr. Ankvab stressed.


The European Commission said that the information obtained in Abkhazia related to the country's NGOs will be the basis for new EU development programmes for Abkhazia.


Hugues Mingarelli, Director of the DG for External Relations of the European Commission, stressed that the European Union will further support the development of democracy in Abkhazia.


According to representatives of Abkhazia's NGOs, the European Union could facilitate the implementations of projects in the sphere of education, strengthening the European values and democratic institutions.


At the meeting, Prime Minister Alexandr Ankvab, as well as other representatives of the country's leadership noted that Abkhazia's direct cooperation with the European Union should not depend on the political settlement of the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict.


The representative delegation of the European Union visited Abkhazia on 17—19 January. The delegation's seventeen members met the country's leadership, inspected the Abkhaz customs and excise authorities. On 18 January, the EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus Peter Semneby joined the delegation.


The main task of the delegation, as Mr. Semneby put it, was to establish direct contacts with Abkhazia in terms of the "changes in the EU policy conditioned by the expansion of the Organization".


01.19.2007  Abkhaziagov.org


 Abkhazia welcomes EU assistance but without strings attached


Sukhum, Abkhazia welcomes assistance of the European Union when there are no preliminary political strings attached, Liana Kvarchelia, the deputy director of the Centre for Humanitarian Programmes, said at the meeting of local nongovernmental organizations with a delegation of the European Union in Sukhum on Thursday.


Abkhazian Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba expressed the same view at the meeting with EU special representative for the South Caucasus Peter Semneby on Thursday. “Linking assistance and support of the European Union to Abkhazia in various areas to political concessions will not do anything good,” he said.


The European Union’s delegation arrived in Abkhazia on January 17 to assess the projects implemented and to set out the trends of possible cooperation in the framework of the new programme of European neighbourhood policy. The European Union has been the main donor for several years in the implementation of projects of restoration of the regional economy, rehabilitation of the infrastructure and confidence-building measures between the parties to the conflict.


01.18.2007  Itar-Tass


 Georgia escalating tensions in conflict zone – Abkhaz minister


Sukhum, Abkhaz Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba has accused Georgia of escalating tensions in the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict zone.


“The United Nations Organization has drawn attention to the exacerbating situation in the Gal district of Abkhazia with good reason. The statement was made in a report by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon released earlier this week,” he said.


“We have already told the international community that Georgia is escalating tensions in the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict zone, and the UN Observation Mission in Georgia has already said that Georgian actions undermine the regional stability,” Shamba said.


“The Tbilisi policy on the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict mirrors the wish to maximum build up tensions. The UN Security Council resolution that demands demilitarization of the upper part of the Kodor Gorge is not being fulfilled,” he said.


01.16.2007  Itar-Tass


 President Called to National Unity for the Country’s National Interests


Sukhum, President of Abkhazia Sergey Bagapsh called on the country's different social and political forces to unite for the national interests of the Republic.


"The year 2007 will be of critical importance in terms of attaining our strategic objectives. We expect significant progress in the sphere of recognition of our independence by the international community, therefore we must join our efforts to achieve this goal, which is the priority for our state", said the President at the meeting with the country's intellectuals on Wednesday.


The Head of State called on Abkhazia's political and intellectual elite to sink rivalries, personal ambition and old grudges. "It does not matter to me whether you support the government or the opposition. What really matters is how your potential may be used for our country's future", said President Bagapsh.


The Head of State warned against a possible political split-up in the society, especially n the eve of the parliamentary election. "We are living in a world of new realities. Today's Abkhazia is not governed from either Moscow or Tbilisi. We ourselves govern our own state. If there is a split-up, we will have only ourselves to blame", said Sergey Bagapsh.


01.11.2007  Abkhaziagov.org


 President Bagapsh: Abkhazia’s New Parliament Must be Multinational

President of Abkhazia Sergey Bagapsh

President of Abkhazia Sergey Bagapsh

Sukhum, President of Abkhazia Sergey Bagapsh called on all Abkhazia's ethnic communities to participate in the parliamentary elections scheduled for 4 March 2007 by nominating their own candidates.


"Abkhazia is a multinational country. The interests of its entire population must be represented in Parliament", said the President at the meeting with the country's intellectuals and NGOs on Wednesday in Sukhum.


According to the President, the legislative branch must serve the interests of the Abkhaz, the Russians, the Armenians, the Georgians, the Greeks as well as of other ethnic groups residing in the Republic.


The prosperity of the Republic is directly related to social accord and preservation of the original mutual respect between all the ethnic communities, the Head of State believes. "We are not building a monoethnic state, and this fact must be common knowledge", Sergey Bagapsh said.


The next election to the National Assembly — Parliament of Abkhazia is scheduled for 4 March 2007. The Parliament has 35 members (Deputies) elected for the term of 5 years. The Deputies are elected on the basis of national, equal and direct franchise in single-mandate constituencies (one electoral district — one Deputy) by secret ballot.


Any citizen of the Republic of Abkhazia who has reached the age of 25 and has the right to take part in the election may become Deputy of the Parliament.


01.10.2007  Abkhaziagov.org


 President Bagapsh: All Population Strata Must be Represented in the Public Chamber


Sukhum, President of Abkhazia Sergey Bagapsh held consultations with the country's intellectuals and NGOs on the composition of the Public Chamber of the Republic on Wednesday.


The nominations suggested by the participants of the meeting will be made public within two days.


Under the Law on the Public Chamber adopted in December 2006, the presidential quota amounts to 13 persons. Thus, the Head of State can appoint 13 members of the Public Chamber by presidential decree. In this connection, the President decided to hold consultations with the country's intellectuals and NGOs so that they can suggest their nominations for approval by the President.


Sergey Bagapsh addressed the meeting stressing the significance of the stage of forming the Public Chamber. "The main challenge of the Public Chamber is the protection of rights of Abkhazia's citizens", said the President.


The Head of State pointed out the importance of establishing the civil society institutions. "This institution is a vital necessity in terms of building an advanced civil society, said Sergey Bagapsh. — It is up to you to decide how the country will develop and what our strategies will be. The authorities will have no decision-making monopoly. The Chamber is to bring up specific issues and help find ways to resolve them as well as to define the priorities".


The President stressed the significance of ensuring the democratic character of the procedure of forming the Public Chamber. "The whole process must be transparent. I would like the Public Chamber to be a representative body. Every population stratum must have representation in the Chamber. Only in this case it will be a democratic institution", the Head of State remarked. "I fully realize that it will mean extra headache for the executive, however, there can be no other way", Sergey Bagapsh said.


The Law on the Public Chamber was adopted early in December 2006. Under the legislation, 13 members of the Chamber shall be appointed by Presidential Decree. Further, the 13 appointed members shall choose another 11 members from the nominations suggested by local self-government bodies. Finally, the 24 members jointly agree on the remaining 11 nominations from the list submitted by political organizations. In total, the Public Chamber will have 35 members.


The new body will operate pro bono. Under the legislation, members of the Public Chamber may not hold public offices.


01.10.2007  Abkhaziagov.org


 Abkhazia Welcomes UNOMIG Investigation of the Incident in the Georgian-Abkhaz Conflict Zone


Sukhum, President of Abkhazia Sergey Bagapsh sets store by the expected investigation by the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) of the incident in the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict zone of 5 January, when unidentified persons attacked the Georgian police checkpoint.


"We will appreciate it if the UN identifies the actual perpetrators of this act of provocation", said the President in an interview to his Official Site.


The Head of State regards the recent developments as "terrorism exalted to state policy by Georgia".


"In 2006 we achieved a considerable improvement in the situation in the Gal district in terms of crime reduction. Recently, the crime level in the district has been higher than, say, in Georgia? s near-border districts. Provocative actions by the Georgian side are aimed at detonating the situation in the region", said President Bagapsh.


In this connection the President welcomes any efforts by the international community on stabilizing the situation in the Gal district and averting the threat of terrorism.


01.09.2007  Abkhaziagov.org


 President: Constitutional Reform Commission Must Intensify its Activity

Sukhum, The Constitutional Reform Commission must intensify and properly arrange its activity, said President of Abkhazia Sergey Bagapsh at the Commission's session on Tuesday.


The key issue of the discussion was chapter 7 of the country's Fundamental Law, stipulating the procedure of introducing amendments to the Constitution of the Republic.


"We must amend the Constitution block by block. That is to say, first we deal with chapter 7 and then take up the section related to the judicial power, and so forth. The main thing is to ensure that all the proposals are thoroughly examined and perfected", Sergey Bagapsh said.


Nugzar Ashuba, Speaker of Abkhazia's Parliament suggested that the discussion and possible adoption of several amendments begin before the end of the term of the current National Assembly.


"We have certain obligations to our electorate in terms of constitutional reform", he said.
Abkhazia's Minister of Justice Ludmila Khodzhashvili noted that her department will probably suggest its own wording of the amendments.


"Our Constitution must be adjusted to meet European criteria. This is the main challenge of the Constitutional Reform Commission", Sergey Bagapsh told his Official Site at the close of the session.


The next session to discuss the proposed amendments to chapter 5 of the Constitution developed by the working group is scheduled for Thursday, 11 January.


01.09.2007  Abkhaziagov.org


 UN Observers to Enhance Monitoring the Situation in Lower Gal


Sukhum, The UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) has issued a statement calling on the conflicting parties to "cooperate to prevent any escalation of the conflict".


The statement condemns the incident which took place on 5 January on the Georgian-Abkhaz border, when a Georgian police checkpoint was attacked.


"This is the third act of violent incident following the killings that occurred on 25 and 26 December in the Gal district (when terrorist attacks resulted in the killing of three Abkhaz police officers — Editor's note), which undermines the security in the zone of conflict", says the document.


The UN stresses that the perpetrators of the attacks must be apprehended and brought to justice.


To ensure security in the region, the UN military observers will increase the number and frequency of their patrols in lower Gal.


It was earlier reported that Plenipotentiary of the President of Abkhazia in the Gal district Ruslan Kishmariya has called on the international organizations to focus their attention on the escalation of tensions in the Gal district.


Alongside with that, the CIS Peacekeeping Force addressed the conflicting parties on Monday, calling them to demonstrate "self possession and patience".


Abkhazia's Deputy Minister of the Interior Vladimir Gaidukov in an interview to a state TV channel on Thursday that on the New Year's eve not a single crime was committed in the Gal district. "This is a success of our police. The entire territory of the district is under control. We have not registered any violations of law in this territory", Vladimir Gaidukov said.


01.08.2007  Abkhaziagov.org


 Plenipotentiary of the President in then Gal District: Georgia’s Gearing Itself for a New War in the Gal District


Sukhum, Georgia is preparing a police operation in the Gal district, Plenipotentiary of the President in the Gal district Ruslan Kishmariya told the President's Official Site.


In his words, the Georgian security agencies are fully responsible for the complicated situation in the Gal district, which is the result of terrorist attacks on the Abkhaz police officers last December.


"Georgia's answer to our successful law enforcement effort against crime was terrorism, killings of our police officers, threats and provocations", Ruslan Kishmariya said.


He noted that last Friday's attack on the Georgian checkpoint on the border with Abkhazia was engineered by the Georgian security agencies themselves. "It was a pure provocation. The UN observers monitoring the security situation in the district did not register any movement on our side. We have achieved peace in the region and have no intention to heat up tensions", said Plenipotentiary of the President.


Ruslan Kishmariya called on the international organizations to apply pressure on the Georgian side to prevent further police operations which will result in the renewal of the conflict between the two states.


"I can not help wondering at the inertia of the international intermediaries in the conflict settlement. They pay no regard to the escalation of tensions by the Georgian side. I am calling on them to use their leverage without delay and prevent another bloodshed", Ruslan Kishmariya said.


Meanwhile, the senior officials of Abkhazia's Ministry of Internal Affairs have recently commended the successful efforts of the law-enforcement agencies in fighting terrorism and crime in the Gal district.


01.05.2007  Abkhaziagov.org


 Georgia min visit in Kodor upper part proves mil units stay there


Sukhum, Abkhazian Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba believes that “Georgian Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili’s visit in the upper part of the Kodor Gorge proves that armed units are staying there violating all agreements.”


“The Georgian authorities ignore openly the UN Security Council resolution on the situation in the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict zone,” Shamba told journalists on Wednesday. “The Abkhazian authorities will keep insisting on the withdrawal of all Georgian armed units from the upper part of the gorge and the demilitarization of this zone,” the foreign minister of Abkhazia said.


01.03.2007 Itar-Tass


 Breakaway republics in the former Soviet Union live to see another year


Moscow, (Alexei Makarkin for RIA Novosti) - In the outgoing year, Russia-oriented self-proclaimed states on post-Soviet territory - Transdnestr, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia have not only survived as proto-state formations, but have also received a fresh impetus for their development.


Each of them conducted public votes, designed to legitimize their status and confirm their viability.


Transdnestr coped with a customs blockade, which was staged by the coalition of Moldova and Orange Ukraine. During half a year, the republic was sustaining enormous losses until Viktor Yanukovich's government came to power in Ukraine. The new Prime Minister has a favorable attitude to Tiraspol (Transdnestr Ukrainians traditionally vote for his Party of Regions).


The initiators of the blockade hoped that Tiraspol would make concessions, and that the local elites would split into the advocates and opponents of compromise. But their hopes did not materialize - the referendum in the republic gave unreserved support for the independence course of the Transdnestr leaders, and the elites consolidated around President Igor Smirnov, whose position grew even stronger, considering that at one time his supporters had lost the parliamentary elections. At the end of this year, Smirnov was re-elected for a new term without a problem.


A referendum on independence in South Ossetia had the same outcome. It was timed to coincide with the presidential elections, which produced the expected results, and brought Eduard Kokoity to power. Former Georgian defense minister Irakly Okruashvili once boasted about his intention to celebrate the New Year in Tskhinvali, South Ossetian capital, which was interpreted as evidence of Tbilisi's aggressive intentions. Now he has retired, while the Kokoity regime has gained a firm foothold in Tskhinvali.


As distinct from Transdnestr, there was a split in the local elites, but it did not have any dramatic consequences. To the contrary, the opposition hugely discredited itself in the eyes of their compatriots by appealing for help to Georgia, and taking part in "alternative" presidential elections in South Ossetia (held in Tbilisi-controlled Georgian villages). Okruashvili's threats and Tbilisi's tactical games with the opposition have made the Tskhinvali regime more authoritarian.


Although Abkhazia did not hold either a referendum or elections in 2006, its people had a chance of making their voices heard at a republican people's assembly, organized by influential parties and public organizations. Participants voted for an appeal to Russia to recognize Abkhazia's independence, and establish associated relations with it. "All attempts to return Abkhazia to Georgia's jurisdiction are totally hopeless," the assembly document read.


In the middle of the year, Georgia tried to exert pressure on Abkhazia by bringing its troops to adjacent Svanetia. As a result, President Sergei Bagapsh said that his republic was ready to hold a referendum like South Ossetia did, all the more so since it conducted republican voting in 1999. When Bagapsh won the presidential elections, some considered him an all but Tbilisi stooge. However, this view was not buttressed in the outgoing year - together with the entire Abkhazian elite, Bagapsh advocates the independence of his republic.


Attempts by the former "metropolitan" countries (Georgia and Moldova) to exert economic, political, and military pressure on the breakaway republics has produced the reverse effect, and impeded political democratization there. In Transdnestr, for one, Smirnov's rivals abstained from the elections not to help Chisinau by splitting the local political elite.


Regress is also obvious in South Ossetia, where the past presidential elections were held in the atmosphere of acute rivalry, and led to the change of presidents (this was when Kokoity prevailed over his predecessor Lyudvig Chibirov).


Abkhazia is the only exception that proves the rule. It is the strongest breakaway country both politically and militarily. Having ensured its security, it can afford a higher level of plurality.


Rotation of leaders and parties is a classic sign of democracy, but the permanent outside threat compels the majority of the elites and the population to suspend democratic reforms until better times. In the outgoing year, the self-proclaimed republics were like besieged fortresses, which is not conducive to political plurality. It is clear that only renunciation of pressure may gradually turn them into more open societies, which would be capable of evolving into democracies.

Alexei Makarkin is an expert at the Center of Political Technologies.


01.03.2007  RIA Novosti