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

 Abkhazia Offers Russia to Host Radar in Sukhum


Moscow, Abkhazia has offered Russia to set up a radar station in the capital of Sukhum. Sergey Bagapsh, president Abkhazia, voiced this initiative in Moscow on Wednesday.


The station may be located in Abkhazia in response to America’s move to deploy a radar station in Georgia, the Mayak radio reported Wednesday. Abkhazia’s President believes that the station of the U.S. anti-aircraft missile system will be spying not only on Abkhazia but also on Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia’s south.


Sergey Bagapsh called Georgia a “hostile country” and said he believes that Tbilisi is preparing a war on Abkhazia.


The suggestion was voiced one day after the U.S. House of Representatives endorsed a bill to allocate funds to support Georgia’s bid to enter NATO.


The situation in South Ossetia, is still volatile. A checkpoint of Russian peace keepers came under fire earlier this week.


03.28.2007  Kommersant


 Abkhazia proposes Russia deploy radar on its territory


Moscow, Republic of Abkhazia has proposed that Russia deploy a radar on its territory, the president of the  republic of Abkhazia said Wednesday.


Sergei Bagapsh said the proposal was in response to Georgia's intention to deploy a U.S. radar on its territory.


"Georgia is an unfriendly country, and moreover it is a country that is constantly preparing for war against Abkhazia," Bagapsh said. "The deployment of a U.S. radar station will be targeted against Abkhazia. That is why we have proposed that Russia deploy a similar station in Sukhum."


The United States plans to deploy a radar installation in the Czech Republic and a missile base in Poland by 2011-2012, saying the shield is needed to counter possible attacks from Iran. But Russia objects to the plans, treating them as a security threat.


The March 1 Pentagon announcement of plans to deploy a radar base in the Caucasus further fueled Russia's concerns, evoking suspicions that NATO-oriented Georgia could be a possible site. Georgian officials have denied the possibility.


Bagapsh said there already was a radar station that Russia could use in Sukhum, the capital of Abkhazia, it just requires reactivation.


The Abkhaz president also said that Georgia's possible admission to NATO will only speed up the recognition of sovereignty for his republic and the republic of South Ossetia.


"The sooner Georgia joins NATO the sooner Abkhazia and South Ossetia will become independent states," Bagapsh said.


Tbilisi hopes NATO membership will help it regain control of the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Russia helped to end the bloody conflicts in the region in the early 1990s and has maintained peacekeeping troops there ever since.


The U.S. House of Representatives gave a final backing to NATO's further eastward enlargement, including bids from ex-Soviet Georgia and Ukraine on Monday, promising a total of $12 million in aid to the two countries and former Communist-bloc members Albania, Croatia and Macedonia in 2008. The bill has yet to be signed by the president.


Moscow strongly opposes efforts by Georgia and Ukraine to join the alliance, saying the prospect threatens its security and prompts a new arms race.


03.28.2007  RIA Novosti


 Abkhazia suggests Russia set up radar in Sukhum


Moscow, Sergei Bagapsh, the leader of the self-proclaimed republic of Abkhazia, has said he proposed to Russia that it set up a tracking station in Sukhum in response to the possible deployment of a U.S. missile defense radar in Georgia.


"To put it mildly, Georgia is currently an unfriendly country to us, and to be frank, it is a country preparing for a war with Abkhazia," Bagapsh said at a press conference at the Interfax main office on Wednesday.


03.28.2007  Interfax


 Russia will be the first to recognize Abkhazia - Bagapsh


Moscow, Russia will be the first country to recognize Abkhazia's independence, Sergei Bagapsh, the president of this breakaway republic, said.


"You know perfectly well who will recognize [Abkhazia] - Russia and the countries close to us," Bagapsh said at a news conference at Interfax in Moscow on Wednesday. "We don't expect recognition to come soon, taking the opinion of the world community into account. But the process is underway, which is the main thing. Recognition by Russia, Belarus and several other countries that know Abkhazia would suffice at this stage," he said.


"We'll establish relations based on agreements and then we'll develop them and promote our economy faster," Bagapsh said.


03.28.2007  Interfax


 Kosovo solution to set precedent for whole world - Bagapsh


Moscow, The solution to the Kosovo issue will set a precedent for the former Georgian autonomies of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and the world as a whole, Abkhaz President Sergei Bagapsh told a news conference at the Interfax central office in Moscow on Wednesday.


"It will not be only Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, South Ossetia and Transdniestria. More countries will appear in about a year and a half that will demand the same," he said.


03.28.2007  Interfax


 Reconnaissance exercise beings in Abkhazia


Sukhum, The Defence Ministry, the Interior Ministry and the State Security Service of Abkhazia are involved in a joint reconnaissance exercise which started on March 26, chief of the general staff of the armed forces of the unrecognized republic General Anatoly Zaitsev told Itar-Tass. According to the general, the exercise, which will last till March to 29, is being conducted all over Abkhazia.


As Zaitsev said, the aim of the exercise is to “drill mobilisation issues, improve habits and knowledge of commanders of all degrees in organizing and conducting all-round reconnaissance while the preparation and holding of a defence operation.”


03.26.2007  Itar-Tass


 Results of parliamentary election’s second round published in Abkhazia


According to results of the second round of parliamentary election in Abkhazia reported by a REGNUM correspondent, the following candidates have been elected: Talih Hüatysh,  Soner Gogua, Garik Samanba, Rita Lolua, Roman Benia, Pavel Leshuk, Batal Kobakhia, Guram Gumba, Lev Shamba, Albert Ovsepyan, Yuri Zukhba, Vyacheslav Vardaniya, Vezhan Ubiria, Mikhail Sangulia, Amra Agrba, Valery Bganba, and Lev Avidzba.


To remind, first round of the election was held March 4. A total of 108 candidates stood the ballot. In the first round, 18 out of 35 deputies were elected. Second round of the vote was held in 17 electoral districts of Abkhazia. Voter turnout was 43,2%.


03.19.2007  IA REGNUM


 Abkhazians elect national minorities for parliament


Tentative results of votes’ count in the second round of parliamentary election in Abkhazia have been published. Of 34 candidates that stood the second round, elected are 26 Abkhazians, three Russians – Valery Kondakov, Pavel Leshuk, and Viktor Vasilyev, three Armenians – Albert Ovsepyan, Sergei Matosyan, and Valery Mairomyan, two Georgians – Yuri Kereselidze and Bezhan Ubiria, and one Turk – Vladimir Nachach-ogly.


Second round of the vote was held in 17 electoral districts of Abkhazia. Voter turnout was 43,2%.


To remind, first round of the election was held March 4. A total of 108 candidates stood the ballot. In the first round, 18 out of 35 deputies were elected.


03.19.2007  IA REGNUM


 Abkhazia reports blast in Gal district, refutes link to poll


Sukhum, Abkhazia said Sunday a blast in its Gal district was unrelated to repeat parliamentary elections in the republic.


The Georgian television company Rustavi 2 said Sunday an unidentified explosive device went off at a polling station in the Gal district.


But the Abkhaz security service said this information was untrue.


According to the Abkhaz security service, the explosion occurred at one of the border guard units located in the Gal district due to the careless handling of arms, as a result of which one soldier died and several others were injured.


An investigation into the incident has been launched, the Abkhaz security service said.


Abkhazia holds the second round of parliamentary elections Sunday.


During the first round held March 4, Abkhaz residents elected 18 out of the required 35 deputies to the republic's legislature. In 17 constituencies, none of the candidates gained the required number of votes.


03.18.2007  RIA Novosti


 Abkhazia starts second round of general elections

Sukhum, Polling stations opened in 17 constituencies of Abkhazia at 08.00 in the second round of general elections in the republic.


Eighteen deputies, including six from the opposition, were elected in the first round which was held on March 4. However, not a single candidate gained the necessary number of votes in the remaining 17 constituencies. The runoff will be contested by two candidates who collected the greatest number of votes. In compliance with the Abkhazian election law, a candidate who will win the greatest number of votes, gains the runoff.

All in all, 108 hopefuls contested 35 seats in the legislature. Polling stations openedat 08.00 and will close at 20.00. A turnout in the second round of elections is not important, since it was necessary to hurdle the 25-percent barrier in the first round. The turnout was 48 percent on March 4, and the elections were pronounced valid in all the 35 constituencies.


Law enforcement bodies were put on alert on Election Day to ensure public law and order.


03.18.2007  Itar-Tass


 Abkhazia starts second round of general elections


Sukhum, Polling stations opened in 17 constituencies of Abkhazia at 08.00 in the second round of general elections in the republic.


Eighteen deputies, including six from the opposition, were elected in the first round which was held on March 4. However, not a single candidate gained the necessary number of votes in the remaining 17 constituencies. The runoff will be contested by two candidates who collected the greatest number of votes. In compliance with the Abkhazian election law, a candidate who will win the greatest number of votes, gains the runoff.


All in all, 108 hopefuls contested 35 seats in the legislature. Polling stations opened at 08.00 and will close at 20.00. A turnout in the second round of elections is not important, since it was necessary to hurdle the 25-percent barrier in the first round. The turnout was 48 percent on March 4, and the elections were pronounced valid in all the 35 constituencies.


Law enforcement bodies were put on alert on Election Day to ensure public law and order.


03.18.2007  Itar-Tass


 Russia should recognize Abkhazia before Georgia joins NATO - Abkhaz official


Moscow, Russia should be more determined in recognizing Abkhazia as an independent state before the South Caucasus nations joined NATO, Abkhaz Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba said.


"Georgia's accession to NATO would considerably change the picture in the entire South Caucasus, and Russia's influence in the region would be dramatically undermined," Shamba told Interfax on Saturday.


Azerbaijan will follow Georgia in joining NATO, and "after that, Armenia will also have to join NATO," Shamba said. "In this sense, Russia should be quicker today in setting its mind to recognize Abkhazia, which could become the only buffer state in the region between Russia and NATO," he said.


03.17.2007  Interfax


 Abkhazia says Georgian Press admits violation of 1994 ceasefire agreement


Sukhum, Abkhazian leadership will call attention of all mediators in the effort to settle the dragged-out Georgian-Abkhazian conflict to the fact that Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has admitted a fact of crude violation of the 1994 Moscow agreement on disengagement of forces and ceasefire, the Abkhazian government's press spokesman Kristian Bzhania said Friday.


Saakashvili had to admit in a speech in Georgian parliament Thursday that the July 2006 operation in the upper part of the Kodor Gorge had engaged units of the Georgian Army rather than police forces, Bzhania said.


To substantiate his argument, Bzhania cited Saakashvili's words that the Georgian Army's "tough and brave actions frustrated the plans of militants in the gorge within just a day and a half."


"This means the Georgian President has admitted it was the army that he introduced into the Kodor Gorge last summer," Bzhania said. "In the light of it, we have grounds to believe that it was the Georgians themselves who initiated the bombing of their own population in the Kodor Gorge on the night from March 11 to March 12."


03.16.2007  Itar-Tass


 Foreign ministers of Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transdniestria to convene in Moscow


Moscow, The foreign ministers of the republics of Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transdniestria will convene in Moscow next week, Abkhaz Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba told Interfax on Thursday.


"My colleagues and I will meet in Moscow next week to continue preparations for a tripartite summit," he said.


"This is a regular meeting necessary for specifying details and drafting the summit agenda," he added.


As for Georgian media reports claiming a shooting incident in the Upper Kodor Gorge, Shamba said, "I have said before that Abkhazia has nothing to do with the incident. I am also convinced that insurgent units of the former presidential representative in the Kodor Gorge may grow more active as the spring comes."


"These are internal Georgian disagreements, and we have nothing to do with them," Shamba said.


03.15.2007  Interfax


 Group Calls for Abkhazia Apology


Tbilissi, A Tbilisi-based human rights group announced the launch of a public campaign on March 14 aimed at repenting, as the group put it, the Georgian side’s mistakes of the early 90s that led to war in Abkhazia.


The Human Rights Information and Documentation Centre (HRIDC) said its campaign,  named “Sorry / Hatamzait” (in Abkhazian) is intended “to bring back trust between the Georgian and Abkhazian people.”


The group stated that Georgian society should say “sorry for each bullet that was shot and for every word that caused the war.”


Ucha Nanuahsivli, head of the HRIDC, said public awareness activities about the Abkhaz culture are planned as part of the campaign. He also said that he understands the campaign will be highly controversial in Georgian society.


With over 200000 internally displaced persons from Abkhazia, the idea of apologizing for the conflict in Abkhazia is not popular among a large segment of Georgian society.


In its public statements Georgia’s top leadership, including President Saakashvili, also discourages these kinds of proposals, calling them a “stance of capitulation.”


03.14.2007  Civil.ge


 Abkhazia’s Security Council secretary: Situation in Kodor Gorge was initiated by Georgian security services


“We repeatedly warned international community about the tense military and political situation in the upper part of Kodor Gorge. No it deteriorated on the eve of parliamentary elections,” Abkhazia’s Security Council Secretary Stanislav Lakoba told a REGNUM correspondent commenting on reports of Georgian media about bombardment of the gorge.


Lakoba noted “it was, probably, not the first case of bombardment heard there: there are tensions between military police and local Svan population in Kodor Gorge.” Meanwhile, the official reminded that ten days ago a wounded Georgian serviceman was taken out of the gorge with the help of the UN mission and Russian peacekeepers. “We gave permission for taking him out of there. However, later the soldier died of serious wounds in Zugdidi hospital in Georgia,” he said.


Stanislav Lakoba said that the Abkhaz side registered no aerial targets. “Our aviation did not take off,” he said. Lakoba believes “the situation worsens in turn now in South Ossetia or in Abkhazia.” “The situation deteriorated before the parliamentary elections in Gal District of Abkhazia. On March 18, second voting will be conducted in the republic: the tension will move to Kodor Gorge,” he said reminding on behavior of Georgian students on the eve of the parliamentary elections near the Abkhaz-Georgian border along the Ingur River.


The Security Council secretary stressed that such provocations, be it in Gal District or upper part of Kodor Gorge are initiated by Georgian security services. “It is done in order not to implement the UN Security Council Resolution. International community must interfere in the unlimited chaos,” Lakoba said.


Earlier, Georgian media reported that Kodor Gorge was bombarded last night. As they say, two military helicopters entered Kodor Gorge from the Russian side and opened fire in direction of Azhara and Chkhalta villages. According to Rustavi 2 television, houses were destroyed in several villages, including administration and police offices. One of the shells exploded at a school yard. The bombardment lasted for about 25 minutes. According to the company, no casualties are reported, local residents hided in nearby woods.


03.12.2007  REGNUM


Abkhazia describes Kodor shelling report as provocation


Sukhum, Abkhazian Defence Minister Sultan Sosnaliyev has described as a provocation the reports of the Georgian authorities on the shelling of the upper part of the Kodor Gorge, controlled by Georgia, from Abkhazia on Sunday night.


“Those reports are at variance with the real situation,” he told Itar-Tass.


The defence minister of Abkhazia said that “various incidents – shooting and the like -- take place in the enclave, in the upper part of the Kodor Gorge, all the time.”


“Neither Abkhazia, nor the Russian peacekeeping troops have anything to do with it,” Sosnaliyev stressed.


He believes if Georgia were interested in the stabilisation of the situation in the Kodor Gorge, it would not oppose the restoration of a Russian peacekeeping post in the village of Azhara. “Georgia is in the habit of shifting the blame to others,” he said.


Abkhazia “will have to strengthen its defences” in the lower part of the Kodor Gorge, which is under its control, Sosnaliyev stressed.


03.12.2007  Itar-Tass


 Failure to recognize Abkhazia vote casts doubt on West's democracy commitment


The West's commitment to new and emerging democracies is cast in doubt after its failure to recognize Sunday's parliamentary elections in Abkhazia. Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba shrugs off what he sees as unfounded criticism. Along with international observers, Russia also officially hailed the elections as democratic.


Sukhum, "We couldn't care less," was the basic message from Abkhazia to a series of holier-than-thou press releases from US, EU and NATO officials.


The Western powers had criticized Abkhazia for organizing the unrecognized country's regularly scheduled March 4 parliamentary elections, but foreign minister Sergei Shamba responded by saying that "The Abkhazian leadership does not have any deep feelings about how they responded to the elections."


In an interview with news agency Itar-Tass, Shamba described the statements by Georgian, US, NATO and EU officials as "a chorus of protest against the democratic expression of the Abkhazian people's will."


" - We already heard these kind of protests after previous elections in Abkhazia. At first, we were surprised about the Western democracies' refusal to recognize democratic processes in the country. Now we have just stopped reacting in any way," said the foreign minister, hinting at hypocrisy and an obvious double standard supposedly orchestrated by pro-Georgian officials in Washington.


" - The top priority for us is free expression of our people's will. Our people seek to build a democratic society ruled by law. The March 4 election was another step that took us closer to that goal," Shamba asserted.


NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said Monday that "NATO does not recognize independent parliamentary elections in Abkhazia," leading at least one journalist to publicly wonder: Since when is a military alliance like NATO suddenly in the business of recognizing civilian elections? NATO has no involvement in the territorial conflict between Georgia and Abkhazia, and has repeatedly ruled out providing troops to settle the dispute in a military way.


International observers hail elections as democratic


In contrast to the international community's criticisms, the Speaker of Russia's lower house, parliamentarian Sergey Baburin, backed the Abkhaz elections and said that "this a new stage on the way to international recognition of the republic."


" - The fact that the elections were held under calm circumstance on the whole territory of Abkhazia, including in the Georgian-populated Gal district, proves that Abkhazia's authorities are able to guarantee democratic processes in the country. The electing of different political forces is also important for the development of the pluralistic democracy which is what the West is so keen on," Baburin stated to Apsnypress on March 5, calling on Abkhaz political forces to seek international recognition of the republic and enhance cooperation with friendly and understanding neighbors like Russia.


Recent parliamentary elections in Abkhazia were a continuation of its democratic traditions, an official spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.


Mikhail Kamynin said international observers characterized the elections as well organized.


" - This is a continuation of [the republic's] democratic traditions, which emerged during the recent elections to local bodies in Abkhazia," he said.


" - As for the question of whether to support or not support the Abkhazian elections, which foreign partners are placing an emphasis on, in the current conditions it is a matter and the responsibility of local citizens," he said.


" - The expression of the people's will ... cannot be an obstacle to international efforts toward reaching a just and lasting settlement of the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict," he said.


On March 4, a first round of parliamentary elections was held in Abkhazia, with some 50% of the parliament's members elected. The second round will take place in two weeks in 17 of 35 single-seat constituencies. A total of 108 candidates ran for 35 seats in the legislature, and the election turnout was some 50%.


Four MPs from Pridnestrovie who participated in the election along with teams of international observers from 12 countries returned to Tiraspol Wednesday. They declared that elections had been free and fair, and held without any reported irregularities. An ethnically Georgian minority which lives within the borders of Abkhazia also participated, and helped elect their own representatives to the country's new multi-ethnic parliament.


03.07.2007  The Tiraspol Times


 Russia hails parliamentary elections in Abkhazia as democratic


Moscow, Recent parliamentary elections in Abkhazia were a continuation of the region's democratic traditions, an official spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.


On March 4, a first round of parliamentary elections was held in Abkhazia, with some 50% of the parliament's members elected. The second round will take place in two weeks in 17 of 35 single-seat constituencies.


A total of 108 candidates ran for 35 seats in the legislature, and the election turnout was some 50%.


Mikhail Kamynin said international observers characterized the elections as well organized.


"This is a continuation of [the republic's] democratic traditions, which emerged during the recent elections to local bodies in Abkhazia," he said.


He said the parliamentary elections would not hamper "international efforts to reach a just and long-term resolution of the Georgia-Abkhazia conflict."


03.06.2007  RIA Novosti


 Abkhazia ‘unemotional’ about Western response to parlt polls - FM


Sukhum, The Abkhazian leadership experiences no emotions about the way the United States, the European Union, NATO and Georgia have responded to last Sunday’s parliamentary elections, the foreign minister of Abkhazia, Sergei Shamba, said on Tuesday.


He described statements by Georgia and US, NATO and EU officials they did not recognize the elections as “a chorus of protest to the democratic expression of the Abkhazian people’s will.”


“We heard such protests after each previous election in Abkhazia. At first we felt surprise over the Western democracies’ refusal to recognize democratic processes. We have now stopped to react to this in any way,” Shamba said. “The top priority for us is free expression of our people’s will. Our people seek to build a democratic society ruled by law. The March 4 elections was another step that took us closer to that goal.”


International observers from twelve countries who monitored the parliamentary elections in Abkhazia said the election campaign and the voting were in compliance with all internationally recognized legal norms.


03.06.2007  Itar-Tass


 Repeated voting to be held in half of Abkhazia constituencies


Sukhum, Repeated voting at the elections to the People’s Assembly (parliament) of Abkhazia will be held in 17 out of 35 constituencies of Abkhazia, Batal Tapagua, head of the Central Electoral Commission, said at a press conference in the international press centre on Monday.


According to his information, 18 deputies to the People’s Assembly have been elected. The average turnout at the elections was 47.25 per cent.


All the polling stations were closed in due time – at 20.00, Moscow time, he continued. Preliminary results were summed up by 04.00. The processing of ballot papers is going on now.


According to Tapagua, the repeated voting will take place in two weeks. The candidates may start their electoral campaign on Monday. During the repeated voting the candidate, who gets the greatest number of votes, will be the winner.


No serious complaints came from the candidates to the electoral commission, and those that did come were settled right away, and decisions were made at once, he said.


The head of the Central Electoral Commission is pleased with the work of the observers representing the candidates. He expressed special gratitude to the police. There were no incidents on the day of the voting and afterwards.


03.05.2007  Itar-Tass


 Did Georgia forget to tell European Parliament about Abkhazia?


“Recently, Georgia conducted its presentation at the European Parliament,” European Parliament Member Sylwester Chruszcz announced at the International Press Center in Sukhum (Abkhazia). “And we heard not a word about Abkhazia. I believe, without it we cannot say that the European Parliament received full information on the situation in the region,” the European MP said.


“Abkhazians are a very hospitable nation; I am sure when the situation improves, your tourist industry will develop freely,” Chruszcz supposes. Reporters reminded to the Polish MP, that under the Soviet times, Polish citizens were frequent guests at Abkhaz resorts. After a meeting with members of Polish community, he said that he ascertained that rights of ethnic Poles are observed in Abkhazia.


03.05.2007  REGNUM


 Observer from Belgium perplexed why double-standard policy is applied to Abkhazia


“We do not understand that a double standard policy is applied towards Abkhazia,” international observer from Belgium Luc Michel announced at a news conference at the International Press Center in Sukhum. A REGNUM correspondent quotes the observer as saying that these are first elections in Abkhazia’s history that international observers visited. “The first impression is the bloody trace of war, destroyed buildings and monuments to historical and cultural heritage,” he said adding that “you were fighting for your originality, independence and this should be respected.”


“You have a very democratic country. And we are persuaded in it. Information that Georgia brings to international community does not reflect the real situation,” Michel noted.


03.05.2007  REGNUM


 Russian MP: Elections in Abkhazia are another step for recognizing independence


“Abkhazia succeeded in fulfilling itself as a state. The elections to the country’s highest legislative body held on March 4 have shown it,” international observer, Member of the Russian State Duma Viktor Nefedov announced at a news conference at the International Press Center in Sukhum.


“It is just another step towards recognition of the independence,” he said.


03.05.2007  REGNUM


 Turnout at parliamentary elections in Abkhazia is 50%


Turnout at the parliamentary elections in Abkhazia held on Sunday was 50%. “These are preliminary reports, but, nevertheless, one can surely say the turnout is enough to declare the elections valid,” Head of the Abkhaz Central Election Commission Batal Tapagua told a REGNUM correspondent.


03.05.2007  REGNUM


 Abkhazia voting calm and democratic, MPs say


Four election observers from Pridnestrovie's parliament said that Abkhazia's parliamentary election was held in a peaceful and democratic atmosphere. Twelve political parties competed for votes Sunday. 84 international observers monitored the poll.


Sukhum, Residents of Abkhazia went to the polls Sunday to vote for parliament in elections that the unrecognized country's president said should boost Abkhazia's bid for international recognition. 12 parties competed, with voting taking place in a calm and peaceful atmosphere with no violent incidents or disruptions of any kind. With 130,000 eligible voters, final turnout was nearly 48 percent, the Central Elections Commission said.


A total of 84 international observers were part of election monitoring missions from Russia, Belgium, France, Italy, Poland, Jordan, Germany, Armenia, Ukraine, Moldova, Pridnestrovie, South Ossetia and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Georgia boycotted the elections and refused to send observers, calling the voting "illegal" since it was not organized by Georgia's authorities.


" - The situation was calm and voters went to the poll in a peaceful, democratic atmosphere," said Oleg Gudymo, the spokesman for four Pridnestrovie MPs who participated as election observers. A rumor of an explosive device in a polling station was later deemed to be a hoax, and voting was not suspended there or in any other district.


12 parties and a vibrant opposition


More than a hundred candidates from twelve different political parties competed for 35 parliament seats, and President Sergei Bagapsh said the pluralism bolsters Abkhazia's campaign for legitimacy.


" - World society should understand that we have not simply declared the principles of democracy, but that we live in a society where we have brought in the democracy aspired to by all people," Bagapsh said.


All sides are in favor of continuing Akbkazia's de facto independence and reject unification with Georgia under any circumstances, but have their differences over domestic policy. The vibrant and active opposition is hoping to use parliament as an arena with which to challenge the president.


" - If in the opposition gets control of the next parliament, it’s quite possible that they will use the support of several independent deputies to raise the question of bringing in constitutional amendments that will redistribute power between the executive and the legislature in favor of parliament," said Tamaz Ketsba, who heads the non-governmental organization Civic Initiative and Person of the Future in Abkhazia.


In Pridnestrovie, the opposition party Renewal won an absolute majority in the Tiraspol based parliament in parliamentary elections in December 2005. The government respected the outcome of the democratic vote, and Renewal-leader Yevgeny Shevchuk, an energetic 38 year old lawyer, became Speaker of parliament in early 2006. He has since used the opposition controlled parliament to launch reform initiatives challenging the power of President Igor Smirnov, a former political prisoner.


Abkhazia, which incorporates both the subtropical Black Sea coastal region and snowy mountain peaks, has been a popular tourist destination since Soviet times. However, an unresolved territorial claim by Georgia and threats of a renewed Georgian invasion has caused tourism to drop precipitously, leading to unemployment and economic hardship for many residents. Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has vowed to bring Abkhazia under his control, despite the will of most residents and all of Abkhazia's major political parties.


Foreign Minister: "We meet modern European standards"


Abkhazia's independence is only recognized by other non-recognized countries, such as Pridnestrovie, which itself declared independence in the break-up of the Soviet Union but has not yet been internationally recognized as a sovereign, independent state. It is also known under unofficial names such as Transdniester, Transnistria and Trans-Dniestria, all referring to the Dniester River which for throughout history traditionally has been an international border separting the small nation of 555,000 people from its larger neighbor, Moldova.


Seeking international recognition, the Abkhaz's Foreign Minister, Sergei Shamba, told the BBC on Sunday that he was confident that this would be achieved. While international organizations and a number of governments privately admit that Abkhazia is in many ways more democratic than neighboring Georgia, they can not declare so publicly for political reasons.


" - International organisations and states are not yet able to recognize our elections because this would also mean recognition of our state," BBC reported Shamba as saying. "But our objective is to show everyone that we meet modern European standards," continued the Foreign Minister.


As he cast his vote, Abkhazia's President Sergei Bagapsh said the elections were being held in a state where there was both an opposition and a free press.


Officials in the capital, Sukhum, hope the polls will demonstrate Abkhazia has the potential to become an independent democratic country.


Georgia can't turn back the clock


In Sukhum, which still bears the scars of the war more than a decade ago, voters echoed their President's views and said there should be no return to violence.


" - I think this new government should bring peace and stability to Abkhazia because we're a country that survived such a tough war," BBC reported one female voter as saying. Others said that for Abkhazia's future, it is really important for it to become a sovereign democratic state.


" - It is very important because these elections will mean that Abkhazia is a self-reliant republic," another woman said. "For me personally, as an ordinary citizen, it means I have the right to come and make my own choice."


The Georgian government has denounced the democratic election. It says Abkhazia must be a part of Georgia, but many in the international community agree that its territorial claim has little basis in today's actual reality, and that Georgia has been unable to enforce its sovereignty on Abkhazia for most of the past two decades.


" - A joint union state at this late stage would simply turn back the clock," a German diplomat said. "At this point in time, I can't see it happening. It would disregard the current reality on the ground. I know that Georgia's Mikhail Saakashvili is forced to say that to keep his own voters happy, but the international community does not have those constraints." (With information from Focus, AP, IWPR)


03.05.2007  The Tiraspol Times


 Three Georgian saboteurs arrested in Abkhazia


Sukhum, Three Georgian nationals, arrested on Thursday during the crossing of the Ingur River, on the border with Abkhazia, in the Gal District, have publicly confessed that their actions were aimed at disrupting the parliamentary elections in Abkhazia, which are scheduled for March 4. Criminal proceedings were instituted on the case, Vladimir Arlan, a representative of the Abkhazian Security Service, told Itar-Tass.


The detainees gave evidence on Friday in the presence of Vladlen Stefanov, head of the U.N. human rights office in Sukhum, as well as journalists. Levan Gochava, Iver Korshia and Koba Rigvava said they were students of the Dzhavakhishvili University in Zugdidi, and members of the organisation entitled “New Generation of Free Georgia.” It is Gela Toloraya, the head of the organisation, who masterminded the operation.


According to the plan, the young men were to cross the border with Abkhazia, to put on masks and to return to the village of Shamgona, where Georgian TV groups would be waiting for them. Gochava, Korshia and Rigvava were to announce on behalf of residents of the Gal District, that they had been forced to take part in the voting at the parliamentary elections in Abkhazia. They were to explain their wearing of masks by the fear of “repressions on the part of the Sukhum authorities.”


03.02.2007 Itar-Tass


 Pridnestrovie MPs to monitor Abkhazia vote as election observers


Sukhum, A total of 119 candidates will be running for 35 seats in the Abkhaz Parliament this Sunday: The elections to the National Assembly of the Republic of Abkhazia are scheduled for March 4, 2007. More than 100 international election observers will follow the vote, with four MPs from Pridnestrovie being part of a monitoring delegation.


Abkhazia, located to the northwest of the Republic of Georgia, wants full independence and international recognition. Elections will be held based on the majoritarian system in 35 single-mandate constituencies.


Georgian media sources are reporting that the upcoming elections are marked by confrontation between supporters of Abkhaz leader Sergey Bagapsh and Vice-President Raul Hajymba – old rivals who contested for the presidency in 2004 elections. A power-sharing agreement between the two men in December 2004 put an end to a two-month standoff that was triggered after the disputed presidential elections. But a wide spectrum of opposition groups and candidates, from left to right, are entering the fray and making their voices heard.


Pridnestrovie’s delegation composing of 4 parliamentarians will participate in the parliamentary elections to the National Assembly of Abkhazia as observers within the framework of interparliamentary cooperation between Abkhazia and Pridnestrovie. The decision was taken by the Parliamentary Presidium at a Wednesday meeting in the unrecognized country, which is also known as Transnistria and Transdnestr. The members of Pridnestrovie's parliamentary delegation to Abkhazia are Special Parliamentary Envoy for interparliamentary relations Grigory Marakutsa, Chairperson of the Committee for industry, agrarian policy and natural resources Efim Koval, Chairperson of the Committee for public associations, youth policy, sport and the media Vyacheslav Tobukh and Chairperson of the Committee for security, defence and peacekeeping activity Oleg Gudymo.


International election observers are expected from a dozen countries around the world, including leading election monitoring missions made up of NGOs from Italy, Germany, France and several other European countries.


Opposition parties with strong following


In Abkhazia, just like in Pridnestrovie, the vast majority of the opposition coincides with the government on the main goal: Independence. But beyond that, everything else is up for debate. And in Abkhazia, a strong opposition has been slamming the government in the run-up to the election.


A group of Abkhaz opposition MP candidates have unleashed criticism of Abkhaz leader Sergey Bagapsh for interfering in their election campaign and hence violating election code of the unrecognized republic, Abkhaz news agency Apsnipress reported on February 26.


19 opposition MP candidates running in the Abkhaz parliamentary elections scheduled for March 4 argue that Sergey Bagapsh intervened in the election campaign by criticizing several opposition MP candidates during a televised Q&A session on February 23.


During the televised press conference, Bagapsh launched into heavy criticism of opposition MP candidate Vladimir Arshba. Arshba is an opposition MP candidate running in one of Sukhum’s single-mandate constituencies, and is seeen by his followers as a potential future presidential contender.


The main political movements competing will be United Abkhazia, Aitara (Revival), Amtsakhara (Signal Light) and others who support the Abkhaz president. They will have to compete with "Forum for National Unity," a broadbased opposition movement under which the followers of VP Raul Hajymba are united. The Abkhaz Communist Party, another opposition party, will also take part in parliamentary elections.


Disinformation from Georgia


Predictably, Georgia has called the elections 'illegal' - since they are not held by Georgia's election authorities - and has refused to send observers. Georgia, which pursues an old territorial claim on Abkhazia, will not recognize the result. Instead, Georgia issued a statement yesterday claiming that the election will be chaotic and that fighting has broken out between political opponents. No such evidence exists and Abkhazia dismisses it as a feeble attempt at Georgian disinformation:


" - Abkhazia is not Georgia, where politicians fight against each other using wild methods and get poisoned in rented apartments," commented a representative of the president of Abkhazia on the information spread in Georgian media, according to which an armed attack had taken place among the backers of Baghapsh and Hajymba.


" - We understand irritation of Georgian side. Abkhazia, unlike Georgia, is a civilized country and relevantly the debates among the candidates for presidential elections are conducted constructively," stated Christian Bzhania, head of the press office of the president of Abkhazia.


The peoples of Abkhazia and Georgia are different ethnically and linguistically. Georgians value freedom and independence very highly, and so do the Abkhazians. They have very little in common, besides a mutual wish for independence and freedom.


Much the same is true in Moldova and Pridnestrovie. Moldova (with 75% ethnic Moldovans) is a country which predominantly speaks Moldovan, identical to Romanian. In contrast, Pridnestrovie (where Moldovans make up just over 30%), is majority Slavic and most of the population speaks Russian. With a different historical past, the two sides of the Dniester river have never co-existed as a joined, independent country at any time in history. The Dniester river has traditionally been an international border.


Having been de facto independent for nearly seventeen years, it is hard to see how anyone in Pridnestrovie can be forced to turn back the clock. Like their counterparts in Abkhazia, they look towards a future where they will be welcomed as full and worthy members of the international community, collaborating for stronger peace, democracy, human rights and security in the region.


If the opposition takes control of parliament, Abkhazia will find itself in a situation similar to Pridnestrovie: In Tiraspol, the Supreme Council - PMR's parliament - is dominated by members of the opposition party "Renewal", headed by 38-year old lawyer Yevgeny Shevchuk who became Speaker after the opposition won a surprise majority in December 2005. The Republican Party and other backers of incumbent president Igor Smirnov are now in a minority in parliament.


Participating in Sunday's vote in Abkhazia, the observers include representatives of parliaments and civil society organizations from Italy, Poland, France, Belgium, Germany, Northern Cyprus, Western Sahara, Jordan, Armenia, Moldova, Ukraine, Russia and other countries. Following their work, the teams of international observers will issue a joint statement for European mass media and international organizations.


03.01.2007  Tiraspol Times


 Abkhazia will not discuss replacement of Russian peacekeepers- Bagapsh


Sukhum, Abkhazia opposes the replacement of Russian peacekeepers in the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict zone with servicemen from other countries.


"We categorically oppose the Russian peacekeepers' replacement with Ukrainian peacekeepers or with servicemen from any other country," Abkhaz President Sergei Bagapsh told Interfax on Thursday.


Earlier, Georgian officials announced that the question of Ukrainian servicemen's participation in the peacekeeping mission in Abkhazia would be discussed during a forthcoming Georgian-Ukrainian summit.


03.01.2007  Interfax