RIA Novosti: Opinion: Ukrainian Crisis ‘Emboldened Opposition’ in Abkhazia

Maidan Square file photo

WASHINGTON, May 29 (RIA Novosti), Lyudmila Chernova – The Ukrainian crisis has had an immense effect on the opposition in Abkhazia, Thomas de Waal, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told RIA Novosti.

“It’s a very complex situation in Abkhazia, maybe the ‘Maidan Effect’ has emboldened the opposition and they have the impression that President Aleksandr Ankvab does not have the support that he used to in Moscow,” said de Waal, an expert working in the Carnegie Center’s Russia and Eurasia Program.

He also added that “the roots of the crisis in Abkhazia are mostly local ones and the situation has been boiling for about a year now.”

The mass protest in the capital of Sukhumi has been ongoing for several days. The protesters have seized government buildings, demanding that the president steps down.

Abkhaz Security Council Secretary Nugzar Ashuba said the president is now in Abkhazia and is controlling the situation.

“All politics in Abkhazia is done by ethnic Abkhaz,” said de Waal, adding that the Armenians, Russians and Georgians together make a silent majority. “So there is a tension between the president who tries to be leader of all Abkhazia, and the politically active opposition which wants to fight for the future of the ethnic Abkhaz as a people.”

“In that sense, nothing has changed since 2004, when the political crisis shadowed events in Ukraine,” claimed the expert. “Even the same opposition leader, Raul Khajimba, is still trying to take power.”

He recalled that this time the opposition was strongly opposing the government’s plans to give out Abkhaz passports to 25,000 or so Georgians in Gali district.

The expert added that the current upheaval is also a struggle for Abkhazia’s limited resources.

“In a small republic there is not enough to share and so different clans are fighting over control over the economy,” he concluded.

Abkhazia broke away from Georgia following an ethnically tinged war in 1992-1993, just after the collapse of the Soviet Union. More than a decade later, in 2008, Russia formally recognized the province as an independent state after a brief war with Tbilisi over another disputed Georgian region, South Ossetia. Many Abkhaz citizens have Russian passports.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday that Moscow is concerned by the political tensions in Abkhazia and believes the crisis should be resolved through legal means.

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