The Shadow of Moscow over Abkhazian Politics

Another scandal is happening in occupied Abkhazia. Leader of the local opposition Aslan Bzhania and two of his security guards have been transferred to Moscow for medical treatment. Due to poor health, the three were first taken to the hospital in Sochi, but after the loss of speech were taken to the emergency department in a Moscow hospital.

As the date of the upcoming elections approaches, the opposition was preparing to name Bzhania as its presidential candidate, however, in light of recent developments, the plan has been turned upside down. Registration of candidates opened on May 22 and will last for ten days. If the current situation continues, it is likely that the elections could take place without Bzhania, leaving the opposition without a solid candidate. In order to avoid this, Bzhania’s supporters demanded a postponement of the elections and declared a protest. The opposition argues that Bzhania was deliberately poisoned right before the elections and that the diagnosis of pneumonia made in Moscow is not real. Their arguments are further strengthened by the test results carried out in a German laboratory, which revealed an increased level of mercury and aluminum in Bzhania’s blood.

All parties seeking governmental power perceive Aslan Bzhania as the main competitor to the current de-facto president and have even predicted his victory. But now, everyone is assured that if Bzhania fails to recover soon, Raul Khajimba will be unchallenged in his bid to hold on to his post. Although Bzhania is undergoing treatment in Moscow and doctors claim that the process of recovery is going well, it is no guarantee for the opposition. Quite the contrary, as being treated in Moscow can be regarded as a verdict for politicians serving in the breakaway regions: the second de-facto president of Abkhazia, Sergei Bagapsh, passed away just after undergoing medical treatment that was hailed as successful by the Russian doctors. The third “president,” Alexander Ankvab, barely survived heart surgery, also conducted in Moscow, and if not for the secret operation he underwent later in Tbilisi, presumably he too would have shared the fate of his predecessor.

As a point of interest, the blood test results widely referred to by the Abkhazian opposition were done in Tbilisi. Notably, Aslan Bzhania and his guards started experiencing health problems after returning from a visit to Moscow. Moreover, if we also recall the unexpected death of the “prime minister” of the occupied territory, Gennadi Gagulia, in an unusual car crash on his way to Sokhumi after flying into Sochi from Moscow, we can safely say that Russia’s capital is a fatal city for leaders of occupied Abkhazia.

The opposition is demanding an urgent investigation into Bzhania’s case and the postponement of the elections until it is finished. They believe it better for the elections to take place in November instead of July and reject the diagnosis determined in a Moscow clinic, which claims that Bzhania is ill with pneumonia. The organizers of the protest recalled the Skripal case in which the father and daughter were poisoned by Russians in England and who at first were treated for pneumonia. “We, as well as the whole society of Abkhazia, are astounded at the fact that Aslan Bzhania, who is known for leading a healthy life and who works out daily, has found himself on the verge of death within an hour,” said an opposition leader Teimuraz Khishba. The political party “Amtsakhara” openly declares that Aslan Bzhania has been poisoned and that they will provide proof for their claims soon. MP Dmitry Dbar announced protest rallies: “If something hinders the return of Aslan Bzhania to Abkhazia or if somebody tries to finish what he was unable to finish, the opposition will be left without a way other than to shut down Khajimba’s government, not through the elections, but with a revolution.”

As yet, the opposition protest has been expressed through 24/7 protests and the roads leading to Sochi and Zugdidi were closed by protestors for a few hours. The two-day protests and closing of roads proved enough for the Russian tourists, who left Sokhumi, while others cancelled their upcoming bookings in guesthouses. The buses travelling from Sochi to Sokhumi were obliged to return and the de-facto government stated that the two-day protest had already brought a loss of 2 million Rubles for locals, which is a catastrophe for the already poor Abkhazia region.

It seems that the financial loss and fear for the touristic season forced de-facto president Khajimba to make some concessions and change the date of the elections. Khajimba and the leaders of the opposition agreed that that the elections will take place on August 25 instead of July 21. Moreover, they will not demand official registration for participation in the elections from Aslan Bzhania. The opposition hopes that Bzhania will be able to recover completely before that date and be in full readiness for the elections.

By Zaza Jgarkava

Image source: Pond5

23 May 2019 16:14