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.
The Black Sea region that broke away from Georgia more than 20 years ago might serve as a prime example of Russia‘s ability to impose its will on its neighbours through separatist movements. The Georgian breakaway province of Abkhazia is holding snap presidential elections on Sunday that might not pass unnoticed. Russia‘s annexation of Crimea and its covert military support for the insurgents in eastern Ukraine reminds many of the war in the early 1990s that led to Abkhazia‘s secession from Georgia. But the ouster of president Alexander Ankvab, who quit on June 1 after protesters stormed his administration building in the regional capital Sukhumi, also reminded observers that the lush subtropical region has its own unresolved problems.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on Georgia’s leaders Tuesday to strengthen their democracy by ensuring that upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections are “free and fair”. Clinton also reaffirmed US support for the territorial integrity of the former Soviet republic that is a strong US ally, calling on Russia to pull back its forces from Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. She delivered her message in meetings with Prime Minister Nika Gilauri and representatives of the country’s opposition parties after arriving late Monday from Armenia as part of her European tour.
Georgia (Sakartvelo): Georgia says Russian military exercise interferes with election | Democracy & Freedom Watch
Georgia once more expresses concern about a military exercise Russia plans to conduct on Georgia’s occupied territories. Russia regularly holds exercises in the North Caucasus, but this year’s Kavkaz 2012 will for the first time include Abkhazia and South Ossetia, two breakaway republics currently occupied by Russia. Georgia has informed international organizations about the plans, and considers it a source of concern that the exercise is planned for September, just one month before the parliamentary elections in Georgia. “It won’t be coincidental if our neighbor decides to start a large military exercise in the second part of September, a few days before the election. Aside from this, it will use all possible means to discredit these elections, frighten Georgians through the use of force on one hand, and on the other hand buy Georgian voters by the money flow from that country,” Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili said while meeting with a delegation from the European People’s Party.
Parliamentary elections are being held in the separatist territory of Abkhazia, which broke away from Georgia in a bloody war in the 1990s. Today there is a fragile ceasefire between Abkhazia and Georgia but some worry that signs of instability are growing in the region again. A burning car and a road strewn with machine guns and cartridges – that was the scene a few weeks ago, after Abkhazia’s President Alexander Ankvab was attacked in an ambush. He was on his way to work when a bomb blew up his car and men hidden behind the trees started firing with machine-guns. The president survived but his two bodyguards were killed. Mr Ankvab, who became president in August, says his main aim is to fight corruption. But in this region, that can be a risky undertaking.
U.S. Department of State Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner said Sunday’s presidential elections in Georgia’s former republic of South Ossetia were illegitimate. Russia recognized the independence of South Ossetia and another former Georgian region – Abkhazia – in 2008, following a five-day war with Georgia, which began when Georgia attacked South Ossetia, where most residents are Russian passport holders.
Moscow’s decision has been condemned by many nations, including the United States, but a few other countries followed Russia’s suit to recognize the independence of the two regions, which Georgia considers part of its sovereign territory “occupied by the Russian armed forces.”
Referring to South Ossetia as a “Georgian region,” Toner said that his country continues to support Georgia’s territorial integrity within the internationally accepted borders and would not recognize the results or legitimacy of the polls
As many as 61.6 percent of the registered voters had cast their ballots by 14:00 GMT in Friday’s election to choose a new leader for Abkhazia, the Abkhaz central election commission said. The Apsnipress news agency quoted election commission chairman Batal Tabagua as saying that the election would be considered valid, as voter turnout had already exceeded 50 percent of the electorate.
Abkhazia declared independence after Georgia’s 1991-1995 civil war but Georgia claims sovereignty and territorial integrity over the region. The Georgian foreign ministry on Saturday appealed to the international community to condemn Abkhazia’s presidential election, which was held three months after the death of its third elected president, Sergei Bagapsh.