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Abkhazia yields the fruits of ‘independence’

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, August 13
Some time ago Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II expressed his regret that the Abkhaz and Ossetian ethnic groups are in danger of disappearing. At first glance this statement looks paradoxical, as Russia invaded Georgia to ‘rescue’ and ‘protect’ those ethnic groups, but in reality Russia merely used these two groups to give it a reason to attack Georgia. These two peoples have fulfilled their mission and now Russia does not care for them. So they ‘yield the fruits of their sovereignty.’

Recently inter-ethnic problems and the oppression of the Abkhaz population by Russian occupiers have become rather vivid and there are voices among the Abkhaz regretting that such developments have occurred. Russians do whatever they want in the so-called ‘sovereign state of Abkhazia’. Puppet President Sergey Baghapsh is trying to decrease Russian pressure on the Abkhaz by saying that Russia has helped Abkhazia so they have to respect Russia in return. But what respect are the Abkhaz being shown? To take one example, the so-called ‘strategic agreement’ between Russia and Abkhazia is humiliating to the Abkhaz. It says that the Georgian-Abkhaz administrative border should be protected only by Russian border forces. Abkhaz border forces and customs bodies have been removed and Russians deployed in their place. This has caused indignation among Abkhaz customs and ‘border’ personnel and the ordinary Abkhaz population considers this a violation of its rights. Even worse, according to the same agreement the Abkhaz Government is obliged to provide Russian border staff with houses and land when they retire.

Some Abkhaz border guards and customs employees are determined not to give up and are ready to take up arms against such developments. Since the beginning of the 90s, when with Russian assistance the Abkhaz kicked the Georgian population out of Abkhazia (more than 300,000 Georgians and others were displaced), Russia has been slowly annexing this region by demographic means. At the time of the 2003 census 44% of the people living in Abkhazia were Abkhaz, 21% Georgian, 21% Armenian and 10% Russian. Now this situation is changing rapidly. The Governor of Krasnodar (a Russian district bordering Abkhazia to the north) plans to resettle Cossacks in the Ochamchire region of Abkhazia and Adigheians (North Caucasus people) in the Gulripshi region. The Armenian population in Abkhazia is also increasing rapidly as more and more of them settle there.

Abkhaz are already expressing their dissatisfaction with this demographical manipulation and the business and political interests moving into Abkhazia. Russian business is buying up a large quantity of land and property in Abkhazia as these are rather cheap commodities there now. Georgian analysts think it inevitable that anti-Russian sentiments will take root in Abkhazia, if they have not done so already. From confidential sources we receive information that in private Abkhaz often say that it was not so bad co-existing with Georgians and they regret their aggressive attitude towards Georgians. This is hardly surprising. With all these manipulations going on, it is no exaggeration to say that a discrete genocide of the Abkhaz people is being perpetrated on Abkhaz territory.

Analyst Mamuka Areshidze says that Abkhaz understand that they have put themselves in a grave position. “Last year’s Russian aggression resulted in Abkhazia declaring independence and this being recognised by Russia, but it can hardly be said that the Abkhaz have been victorious. It is already being recognised that this sort of ‘independence’ is not a victory at all. I think future developments will aggravate the situation in the breakaway region even more,” Areshidze says.