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Increased militarization of the occupied Abkhazia

By Levan Abramishvili
Thursday, April 25
On April 23, a military exercise was launched by the Russian forces in the occupied Abkhazia region. According to the Abkhazian media outlet, Apsnypress, around 3000 soldiers and up to 400 military equipment are involved in the training.

The exercises are carried out in The Southern Military District of Russia and are a part of the combat training plan of the de facto Ministry of Defense.

The participating troops made military drills to the exercise destination, where, throughout the week, they will prepare for the challenging conditions of the mountainous and wooded areas.

For the demonstration of practical actions, both the air force and navy will part in the exercises.

Both the ruling party and the opposition agree that the exercises in occupied Abkhazia are yet another demonstration of power from Russia and a clear violation of international norms.

Ketevan Tsikhelashvili, the State Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equality, spoke about the exercises and called them Russia’s reaction to the development of Georgia’s security - “Unfortunately this is not news. Throughout last year, more than 120 military exercise and maneuvers of different sizes were held. This time, the exercises are on a large scale with 3000 participating soldiers.” – said the Minister, she went on to assess what this type of exercise implies – “this indicates two things: first, that our occupied regions have virtually turned into military polygons for years now; and second, that this is Russia’s policy, which, according to them, is a reaction to every step that Georgia takes to strengthen its security by collaborating with the American partners and getting close to NATO, which we often underline that is not targeted towards anyone”.

While talking about the exercises, Irakli Kobakhidze, the chairman of the Parliament emphasized the increased militarization in the occupied regions - “We are appalled with the increased militarization we, unfortunately, witness in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region and these trainings are the best demonstration of this fact”. He expressed that the support of the international community is very important in this regard - “We will keep the consultations to at maximal extent prevent the problems related to militarization”.

“Unfortunately, Russia continues strengthening its spheres of influence …it’s always ready for a serious response if its so-called border is threatened even theoretically” – Said Gigi Tsereteli, a member of the European Georgia political party.

Vladimir Konstantinidi, a representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, mentioned that exercises like the one that’s conducted in occupied Abkhazia from on April 23-30 undermine the peace processes and pose a threat for the stability in the region at large.

According to Konstantinidi, Russia’s actions go against the international norms and are “a part of militarization, which Russia conducts in our occupied regions”.

As mentioned above by the officials, this is not the first time Russia conducts major military exercises in the occupied regions of Georgia. This comes directly after the visit of NATO ships to Georgia last month, as well as continuous supportive statements of organization’s officials regarding the future of Georgia-NATO relations.

In November of last year, the head of United States Transportation Command, General Steve Lyons visited Tbilisi. He met with the Georgian Defense Minister Levan Izoria, where they discussed plans to build a military airport in Vaziani.

This information was enough for the defacto Abkhaz foreign ministry to issue a statement condemning the increase of Georgia’s defense capabilities. The statement read - "For its part, Abkhazia keeps developing military and technical cooperation with Russia and is ready to take appropriate measures against adventurist actions of Tbilisi”.

Just after a month of the Izoria-Lyons meeting, a subunit of military police was created in the breakaway Abkhazia at the Russian military base stationed there. These actions are clear evidence of reactive politics carried out by Russia and the so-called government officials of the occupied regions.

As Russia continues the militarization in the occupied regions, all Georgia can do is further increase its defensive and military capabilities and strengthen its ties with the NATO allies. Even if this means the responsive military exercises in the breakaway regions.