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Baghapsh: Rosneft to drill in Abkhazia

By Mzia Kupunia
Friday, October 15
Russian state oil company, Rosneft will start oil exploration activities in Georgia’s breakaway region of Abkhazia, the de facto Abkhazian President, Sergey Baghapsh told Kommersant, a Russian daily newspaper on October 13 ahead of the international economic forum on October 15 in Sukhumi. “Rosneft has actually started work already. The territories [on Abkhazia’s Black Sea coastline] have been marked and the equipment is being brought. They are now renting ships in these areas,” Baghapsh told Kommersant.

Rosneft will open several petrol stations in Abkhazia, according to Baghapsh. “It is a purely economic project,” he noted, adding that the fact that Rosneft is investing in Abkhazia, will also encourage others to do so. “I think that the interest towards Abkhazia is huge. If Rosneft entered here, it means this is profitable for the company,” the de facto Abkhazian leader said.

Officials in Tbilisi have assessed the Russian company’s entry to Georgia’s breakaway region as an “illegal act.” “The only way Tbilisi can try to stop this is by raising the issue in the international arena and to try to create problems for Rosneft somewhere else,” MP from the ruling National Movement Party, Chairman of Parliamentary Committee on European Integration, Davit Darchiashvili told The Messenger.

Baghapsh also mentioned the plans to mark a “border line between Georgia and Abkhazia.” “We are talking about the so called lower zone of Gali region. Our border used to lie along Enguri River, however it happened so that in the lower zone, the border moved 5 kilometres away from the river, towards our side and it is now considered Georgian territory,” Baghapsh noted “Now the border goes between the houses and orchards and there is a lot of contraband flow. We will strengthen the border and establish order there,” he said.

According to Baghapsh the de facto administration is considering two options - putting posts along the “state border” or tangled wire. The de facto President stated that he supports the second option, in order to prevent bandits in Gali region. “Gali residents will be able to enter Georgia through the border crossing points. There is one at Enguri River bridge and we will make one in the lower zone too, for people’s convenience. This is a normal civilized solution of the problem,” Baghapsh said. Georgian ruling party officials have reiterated that putting tangled wire or posts at the administrative border is a “criminal act.”

“We are not going to sell land to foreign citizens,” the de facto President said in his interview, citing that Abkhazia does not have much land. “However it is possible to lease land for 20, 30 or 49 years without any problems,” he said. Russian citizens should be given the right to purchase houses in Abkhazia, Baghapsh said. “Not all Abkhazian citizens can afford to buy newly built houses, while Russian citizens can and want to buy. That’s why we need this,” he explained.

Baghapsh ruled out any possibility for the return of ethnic Georgians with Russian passports, who left their homes in Abkhazia after the war. “There is a crazy antagonism and it will last for many more years. That’s why I don’t even want to talk about it. All of them [ethnic Georgian IDPs] will get Russian passports and want to get housing here and in the end there will be a conflict again. We do not need this now,” the de facto President said, adding that this issue should be discussed at the Geneva talks. “The damage that Georgia inflicted is about USD 13 billion. If Tbilisi pays this money, we will start paying compensation to those people who lost their property here,” he stated.

In response to the de facto leader’s claims, MP Darchiashvili said, “We do not know what damage Baghapsh means. There was a war in Abkhazia, with the signs of civil war and the main player was Russia. Military moves were happening within the Georgian state borders. If there is anyone, who has to pay compensation, it is the Kremlin.”