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Putin Supports independence of Georgia’s breakaway region

By Tina Tskhovrebadze
Friday, August 11
On August 8, 2017 in de facto Abkhazia’s resort town Bichvinta, the President of Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin proposed to create a common informational coordination center involving both ministries of internal affairs of Russia and Abkhazia. This way Russian law enforcers will have special rights and power in Georgia’s breakaway region.

At the meeting with de facto leader of Abkhazia, Raul Khajimba Putin stated that Russia sees itself as “a guarantee for security, self-sufficiency and independence of Abkhazia.” Russian President also stressed “Moscow was committed to building up a joint Russian-Abkhaz military contingent to ensure the security of people in Abkhazia.”

According to Sputnik Abkhazia, Russia will provide health insurance to Abkhazians who hold Russian citizenship. The offer stands as a counterpoint to the medical treatment the Georgian government offers to residents of Abkhazia and targets at further undermining connections between breakaway Abkhazia and Georgia.

Putin also promised to create more working places and spend 6 billion Russian rubles (approx. 100 million USD) in Abkhazia’s economy by 2019.

Ketevan Tsikhelashvili, State Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equality, says that the Russian President “within the short visit mentioned himself that Russia’s joint military bases in occupied Abkhazia is a key instrument for spreading influence over the Caucasus region.”

Giorgi Margvelashvili, President of Georgia condemned Russia’s actions on Tuesday stating that “this is a futile attempt to somehow legitimize an historic injustice.”

Meanwhile, the Georgian Foreign Ministry said Putin’s visit to Abkhazia “serves for legitimization of forceful change of borders of the sovereign state through military aggression, ethnic cleansing, and occupation. The Ministry also urged the international community to respond to Russia's ‘aggressive steps.’"

The international community was quick to respond to the actions of Russian President in Abkhazia.

On August 9, the Delegation of the European Union to Georgia published a statement regarding Putin’s visit to Georgia: “The visit of the President of the Russian Federation to Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia on the day of the anniversary of the August 2008 war, like similar visits before it, infringes upon the principle of Georgia's territorial integrity and risks jeopardising international efforts directed at the peaceful resolution of the conflict. The Delegation recalls the firm support of the European Union for Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders.”

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko condemned the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to occupied Abkhazia on the ninth anniversary of the Russian invasion of Georgia.

The visit was also responded by the Polish and Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Ministries. In its statement, Lithuanian Foreign Ministry called on Russia to “implement its commitments undertaken in the ceasefire deal over the withdrawal of its forces.”

The Polish Foreign Ministry stressed the responsibility of Russian Federation and de facto governments over the current circumstances. “We note with increasing concern the deteriorating humanitarian, economic and welfare situation of the inhabitants of the occupied part of Georgia, for which the Russian Federation and the de facto governing authorities in Sukhumi and Tskhinvali bear full responsibility,” the Polish Foreign Ministry said.

NATO spokesman in Brussels, Dylan White, stated that “President Putin’s visit to the Abkhazia region of Georgia – on the ninth anniversary of the armed conflict – is detrimental to international efforts to find a peaceful and negotiated settlement… We regret that this visit was carried out without prior consent of the Georgian authorities,” Dylan stressed.

NATO spokesman also emphasized that NATO’s support to territorial integrity of Georgia has not changed.

“NATO is united in full support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally-recognized borders. We will not recognize any attempts to change the status of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as regions of Georgia,” Dylan said.

By holding meetings in de facto Abkhazia on the ninth anniversary of Russia- Georgia war, Russian President Putin demonstrated that Russia is determined to remain a key player in the region thus hindering its peaceful development. What could be seen as a guarantee for peace, security and development in the region is strong and consistent support of the international community indicating to Russia that it needs to follow the norms of international law and respect sovereignty of neighboring states.