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Bagapsh on disputed Aibga village and Akhali Atoni Monastery debate

By Mzia Kupunia
Thursday, April 14
The de facto Abkhazian leader, Sergey Baghapsh has denied media reports about Russia’s alleged demand to move the Russian border 160 square kilometers inside the territory of Georgia’s breakaway region. Speaking to journalists in Sukhumi after his unofficial visit to Turkey, Baghapsh said the Abkhazian Diaspora representatives in Turkey expressed their concern over the village of Aibga, which Moscow reportedly wants to include within its state borders. Baghapsh blamed “untrustworthy” information spread by media outlets, as a reason for the Abkhazian Diaspora’s concerns.

“I directly told to our Diaspora, that the talks that Baghpash has sold Abkhazia and given out Aibga, are groundless. I called them on not to trust to all kinds of foolish things, spread about this issue,” information agency Apsnypress quoted the de facto leader as saying. Baghapsh said that the Abkhazian authorities are holding “normal talks” on delimitation and demarcation of “state borders”, adding that Sukhumi is not planning to give “even one square metre of the [Abkhazian] land.”

The de facto leader slammed the Abkhazian press for publishing caricatures of the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and the Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, calling their action “piggery.” “Authors of these pieces have probably forgotten all those hardships which Russia had to suffer, they have forgotten 2008 and the situation in Gali region,” Bagapsh noted.

The Abkhazian media outlets and bloggers reported in March that the Russian Federation filed a draft package of “state border demarcation” between Abkhazia and Russia, which envisages moving the Russian border 160 square kilometers inside the Abkhazian territory. Citing “private talks” with the de facto officials, journalist Vitaly Sharia wrote that the so called Ambassador of Russia to Abkhazia requested to block any information on the subject of demarcation “until the document is signed.” “Lack of official information breeds speculation,” Sharia suggested, saying that according to several reports, Russian authorities are planning to build a “new Las Vegas [on the territory] for entertaining Sochi Olympiad guests.”

The de facto Abkhazian leader commented on an ongoing dispute in the Tskhum-Abkhazian eparchy following the appointment of a Russian cleric Efrem Vinogradov as a leader of Akhali Atoni monastery in Abkhazia. The appointment triggered protest among some Abkhazian priests and the Abkhazian parish. Bagapsh said the “Abkhazian Church” is separated from the “Abkhazian state”. “The issue of the monastery leader will not be solved with protest rallies. This subject, I think, should be solved by the eparchy meeting, by clerics themselves,” the de facto Abkhazian President noted, adding that Efrem Vinogradov was not sent by the Russian Patriarch Kiril II, as reported. “He was sent here with the request of the Abkhazian Orthodox Church,” Bagapsh said.

The Georgian Patriarchy has been tight-lipped on the dispute over Vinogradov’s appointment so far. Representatives of the Georgian Orthodox Church have stated that the Russian Patriarchy has denied having appointed Vinogradov as Akhali Atoni Monastery spiritual leader. The dispute over Akhali Atoni Monastery is likely to reach its peak on May 15. This is when the Abkhazian clerics are going to hold a meeting to discuss the appointment of Vinogradov.