Abkhazia didn’t feature much in the headlines in recent years. The small territory on the eastern coast of the Black Sea separated from Georgia in a bloody conflict in the early 1990s. In 2008, it declared itself an independent state following the five-day Russo-Georgian War. Since then, there has been speculation about whether (or when) Russia, which supports Abkhazia financially and has troops stationed there, will take over the territory – especially since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March. The protests in May of this year led to the resignation of President Alexander Ankvab and the scheduling of an election for August 24, 2014, adding further complexity to the existing situation. But how likely is Abkhazia to strive for closer ties or even unity with Russia following the vote? According to various observers, Abkhazia, unlike Crimea, is not a target of Russia’s expansionist ambitions.
There are no parallels between Crimea and Abkhazia, said Vadim Mukhanov, a Russian expert on the Caucasus, in an interview with DW. He explained that, unlike other breakaway regions like South Ossetia, which also split from Georgia, Abkhazia has good prospects for maintaining sovereignty in the long term.
Georgian political scientist Mamuka Areshidze does not believe an annexation of Abkhazia by Russia is possible. “Crimea is much more important to Russia,” Areshidze told DW. “Now, the most likely region to be annexed by Russia is South Ossetia. Another important factor is the fact that Abkhazians don’t want an annexation.”
However, according to Uwe Halbach from the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, Russia isn’t likely to incorporate any Caucasian region into its territory in the near future. This is because “it would increase international tensions and because there is growing opposition in Russia against strengthening ties with the Caucasus,” he told DW. “There are reservations about annexing Abkhazia or South Ossetia.”