Russia coy about Abkhaz presidential candidatese
By Ernest Petrosyan
Wednesday, August 17
“The Russian Federation is interested in holding democratic presidential elections in Abkhazia in a calm environment without destabilization”, said Russian Ambassador to Sokhumi Semyon Grigoriev in an interview with Ekho Kavkaza on August 15.
Asked whether Moscow had learned the lesson of the 2004 presidential elections, when Moscow was openly lobbying one of the presidential candidates, which consequently led to confrontation and political destabilization in Sokhumi, the Russian Diplomat responded: “I think that Russia, in elaborating its policies towards Abkhazia, is taking into consideration the entire experience of working on this direction, including the 2004 presidential election experience.”
“I can state that Russian side’s position, which is close to all the candidates. We know all three candidates well, and we also know that all of them are candid advocates of developing strategic relations with Russia, thus we have no reason to give preference to any candidate and thereby influence the choice of the Abkhaz people”, said Grigoriev.
Asked whether he had any personal preference, the former de-facto Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Shamba, Gregoriev responded: “I really have very close and friendly relations with all three candidates. Generally, in the pre-election period I am trying to decrease communication with the candidates, in order not to give ground, including to journalists, for such conclusions”, said Grigoriev. Even though in his interview he recognized that he appeared in public with Alexander Ankvab and Sergey Shamba more frequently than he did with Raul Khadjimba, but he assured that he also has good business relations with Khadjimba. Grigoriev also said that at the moment there was no reason to think that the August 26 presidential election would develop into destabilization.
It noteworthy that in 2004 Abkhazian presidential elections, Moscow was openly lobbying its candidate Raul Khadjimba, who was beaten by the late president Sergey Bagapsh.
In the same interview the Russian diplomat referred to the Russian military presence in Abkhazia saying that at the moment Russia had about 3,500 army troops and 1,500 border guard troops from the Federal Security Service (FSB) deployed in Abkhazia and that Moscow had no intention to increase its military presence in the region.
Georgian political analyst Soso Tsiskarishvili believes that Moscow is not publicly supporting any candidate, but there is one candidate who Moscow probably would not wish to become president.
“Previous elections in Abkhazia saw the victory of non-Kremlin candidate Sergey Bagapsh, defeat of Moscow supported candidate. Therefore, I deeply believe that the Abkhaz people will elect the president regardless of the interests of any interested side,” Tsiskarishvili told The Messenger.