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Abkhazia adopts Russian dialling codes

By Mzia Kupunia
Monday, January 4
Georgia’s breakaway region of Abkhazia has switched to Russian international phone codes from January 1, 2010, news agency Interfax has reported. “For a month and a half Russian codes were being used parallel to the Georgian ones as a trial, but from New Year the republic has transferred to the exclusive use of Russian dialling codes,” the de facto General Director of Abkhazsvyaz, Eduard Pilia, has told Interfax.

The de facto republic partly switched to Russian codes on November 16. The decision to adopt Russian phone codes was taken on September 28 2009, after the signing of a memorandum of cooperation between Russia and Georgia’s breakaway region. Under the terms of this document Abkhazia received an 840 dialing code for landlines and a 940 code for mobile phones. After signing the memorandum the head of the de facto Abkhaz Communications and Information Department Kristian Bzhania expressed hope that “in time the International Postal Union will give the republic its own international code.”

The International Postal Union has not recognised the Russian codes in the de facto Abkhazia. The Georgian National Communication Commission has told Interfax that the IPU has sent a letter to the Georgian side stating that the organisation cannot interfere in a dispute between two sovereign states (Georgia and Russia) but it recognises Georgia’s territorial integrity and in the annual code book it issues Abkhazia will have the same Georgian codes as previously.

The Georgian Foreign Ministry called the adoption of Russian dialling codes a violation of international norms. In a statement released on September 30 the Ministry said that Russia’s decision to grant Russian dialing codes to Georgia’s breakaway region contradicted the standards set by the International Union of Telecommunications and the United Nations. “The Georgian side will appeal to the relevant structures of the UN to stop the illegal actions of the Russian side,” the statement reads.

Vice Speaker of the Georgian Parliament Paata Davitaia has said that private companies using Russian codes to make calls to Abkhazia will be fined, and state institutions supervising the international communication agencies will deprive offenders of their licences.