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Opposition protests erupt in Abkhazia

By Ana Robakidze
Thursday, April 29
Several thousand people gathered in Sokhumi, the capital of the break-away region of Abkhazia to protest the alleged corruption in the government and request the resignation of the de-facto president Aleksandr Ankvab. The demonstration was organized by the local opposition and participants gathered outside the building of the de-facto president’s administration on May 27th.

The demonstrators made several attempts to storm the building, before finally breaking in through broken windows and vandalizing the area.

Ankvab’s interview was released by Apsnipress official news agency early in the morning May 28th. In his interview, de-facto Abkhazian President said he was not going to leave the region and was discussing possible scenarios with his security council. Ankvab said in his interview that from the legal point of view it was an attempt from the opposition to seize power. He claimed that opposition leaders even tried to reach out to the leadership of law enforcement agencies and persuade them to take their side.

Apsnipress also released a joint statement of the leadership of law enforcement and security agencies saying they remain loyal to the “legally elected president of the country.”

The opposition accuses Ankvab of corruption and authoritarian rule over Abkhzaia, as well as relying too much on Moscow. The demonstrators are not satisfied with the fact that the region relies exclusively on subsidies from Russia.

Vitaly Gabnia, Chairman of Union of Abkhaz War Veterans addressed the demonstrators on May 27th and said the state (Abkhazia) cannot be independent if 70% of its budget consists of aid money. He accused Ankvab in leading the region into bankruptcy, due to his incompetence and unilateral decision-making.

Ankvab was forced to agree to meet with the opposition leader Raul Khajimba. Accordign to the Rusisian media source RiaNovosti, the meeting was interrupted after some demonstrators attempted to break into the administration building. Following the meeting Khajimba informed the demonstrators that the opposition Coordination Council would take interim leadership over Abkhazia. While, the de-facto president’s administration still claims that the issue of the interim government was discussed at the meeting, but the parties had not achieved any conclusion, as the meeting was interrupted and the government remains in control of the situation in Sukhumi. However, the presidential administration is controlled by opposition leaders, after the demonstrators broke through the building and took over it. The opposition is also controlling Sokhumi TV buildings

Reportedly, Ankvab fled to his Gudauta and is staying on a Russian military base.

The Georgian government is closely following the developments in Sokhumi. Members of the exiled legitimate government of Abkhazia met government representatives in Tbilisi to discuss the possible solutions for the de-facto region.

Legitimate Chair of the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia Vakhtang Kolbaia spoke about the possible reasons that are causing destabilization in Abkhazia and said that the difficult social situation might have been the major reason that sparked the demonstration. However, he believes the presence of some “external influences” in Sokhumi is obvious.

Moscow is seriously concerned over the situation in Abkhazia. According to the secretary of the Security Council Nugzar Ashuba, President Vladimir Putin’s aide Vladislav Surkov will arrive in Sokhumi. Surkov’s responsibility includes monitoring Moscow’s relations with the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. He will arrive in Abkzazia together with Deputy Secretary of Russia’s Security Council Rashid Nurgaliyev.