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Russia pulls out of Abkhazia treaty

By Messenger Staff
Friday, March 7

Russia has officially pulled out of a Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) treaty imposing trade sanctions on Georgia’s breakaway region of Abkhazia, according to a statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry released yesterday.

Tbilisi swiftly condemned the move, with Foreign Minister Davit Bakradze branding it “an immoral, illegal, and very dangerous decision.”

Sanctions were imposed in 1996 to put pressure on the separtatist regime following the 1992–93 secessionist war.

Moscow’s decision is not unexpected. Shortly after Kosovo declared independence on February 17 Russia said it would review its policy toward separatist regions elsewhere, with de facto Abkhaz president Sergey Bagapsh indicating that this could mean lifting the embargo.

The Russian statement said the “situation has dramatically changed,” since sanctions were first imposed, with the “majority” of ethnic Georgian refugees having been returned to Gali district in the conflict zone.

It says Tbilisi has stonewalled on its commitments in the conflict resolution process and actively undermined negotiations by setting up an alternative administration for the region.

“Against this background, maintaining [sanctions] is completely pointless, and prevents a realization of socio-economic programs in the region, forcing Abkhaz people into unjustified suffering,” the statement reads.

Bakradze, the foreign minister, said Russia was acting illegally by supporting separatism and warned that the decision created “a qualitatively new situation.”

“It is immoral to say that refugees have been returned while hundreds of thousands of victims of ethnic cleansing have had their homes in Abkhazia sold [by the de facto authorities],” Bakradze said.

The State Minister for Reintegration Issues described the statement as factually incorrect, adding that Georgia will now “certainly raise the issue of recognizing Russia as a side in the conflict.”

Meanwhile de facto Abkhaz leader Bagapsh described the decision as “absolutely logical,” according to separatist press agency Apsnypress.

It is unclear what impact Russia’s lifting of the sanctions will have; a representative of Russian Railways said an increase of Russian passenger and cargo flow through Georgia to Armenia can be expected, according to the news agency RIA Novosti.