Abkhaz Former MP Sentenced to 16 Years in Prison for Murder

The Supreme Court of Georgia’s breakaway region of Abkhazia has sentenced former parliamentarian Nodik Kvitsinia to 16 years in prison for the murder of a Russian businessman and his personal assistant.

Four of Kvitsinia’s accomplices were also sentenced to terms ranging from 13 to 20 years in prison – all connected to the slaying of Sergey Klemantovich and Oksana Skarednovoy.

The two victims were reportedly abducted and murdered in September 2012, following a dispute between Kvitsinia and the two victims.

At the time of his arrest, Abkhaz police found Klemantovich’s Mercedes at Kvitsinia’s residence.

The bodies of both Klemantovich and Skarednovoy were not found until more than year after the disappearance.

In October 2013, their decayed corpses were discovered in an abandoned well in the village of Adzyubzha, 30 kilometers south of the rebel capital Sukhumi.

The Abkhaz court accused Kvitsinia of using his immunity as a sitting MP to obstruct the investigation and later stripped him of his seat in the Russian-backed separatist parliament.

Kvitsinia and his accomplices’ conviction and subsequent sentencing has surprised many Abkhazia watchers.

The case is a departure from the conventional wisdom that Russian citizens doing business in Abkhazia enjoy the privileges of an elevated, patrician-class.

Abkhazia’s dependence on Moscow’s political, military and economic support has generally guaranteed the safety of Russian citizens who either work or reside in the unrecognized breakaway region.

Sukhumi’s continued existence as a Russian satellite is based on hard cash flowing in from Russian investors and the Kremlin itself.

But the murder of the Klemantovich and Skarednovoy set off some alarm bells in Moscow that the situation for Russians in Abkhazia is less stable than is widely accepted in the halls of the Kremlin.

Tensions over Abkhazia’s increasingly subservient relationship with Russia have been simmering in recent years as citizens and groups of veterans of the brutal 1990s war against Georgian government forces chafe at controversial decisions made by the region’s de facto President Raul Khajimba.

Khajimba’s moves to fully integrate Abkhazia’s Armed Forces and security services into the Russian military and feared FSB spy service has angered many local residents who fear the current government is slowly forfeiting the region’s independent, though unrecognized, status in favor of full integration into the Russian Federation.

Georgia fought a brutal 18-month war against Abkhazia’s Russian-backed separatist forces in 1992-1993. The war left tens of thousands dead and led to the ethnic cleansing of up to 200,000 Georgians.

Abkhazia was recognized - along with Georgia’s other breakaway region South Ossetia - as an independent state by Russia following the 2008 Russian-Georgian War.

Nicholas Waller

03 November 2016 19:42