Abkhazia: End Of Virtual Independence

Everyone already knew that Abkhazia's 'independence' is a farce. But on 17 February the slightest remaining illusions about this so-called independence vanished. On that day the de facto Abkhaz President was received by the Russian leadership as head of a ‘sovereign’ state and then signed an agreement with Russia which gave up even the farcical claim to independence the breakaway region previously had.

17 February 2010 was deliberately chosen as the date for Sergey Bagapsh's visit to The Kremlin as it was the 200th anniversary of Abkhazia's absorption into the Russian Empire. The Russian Duma adopted a special statement on this anniversary, which states, if you read it attentively, that Abkhazia is Russia. Having heard and approved of this statement Bagapsh then signed several economic agreements with Russia, under which Russia will run the Abkhazian segment of Georgian Railways and Russian company Rosneft will take over the petrol stations on Abkhazian territory and conduct oil and gas exploration in the 'Abkhazian segment' of Georgia's Black Sea coast. A Russian company will take over the airport and sea ports in Abkhazia and Russia's Econom Bank and Abkhazia's Universal Bank have signed an agreement on cooperation under which the Russian bank will swallow its Abkhazian counterpart. A so-called intergovernmental agreement was also signed on establishing a Russian military base on Abkhazian territory as well as some other agreements.

This is the price Abkhazia has to pay for its so-called 'independence' – being far more dependent on Russia than it ever was on Georgia. The Abkhaz living in the breakaway region, like the Georgians, are particularly upset by Bagapsh's decision to allow Russian citizens to buy real estate in the region in the near future without any obstacles. Georgian analysts think that the agreements signed, and in particular this last one, clearly demonstrate that a 'de-Abkhazisation' of the region is going on. The Russian administration was particularly insistent that Russians should be allowed to purchase property in Abkhazia, as they can do so extremely cheaply by their standards. What will this do for the 'demographic situation' the Abkhaz used to complain about when alleging 'Georgian domination'?

According to unofficial statistics there are 60-70,000 Abkhaz, 40-50,000 Georgians and 20-30,000 Armenians in Abkhazia. Around 300,000 Georgians were forcibly removed to create this relative Abkhaz majority, if it exists. However under “Russian independence” who can doubt that Russians will move there in increasing numbers? The picturesque and popular Abkhazian resorts will be sold very cheaply to the Russians by poor Abkhazian owners, and premises abandoned by fleeing Georgians simply taken over. Recently Abkhazia has become more popular with Armenians, and Abkhaz have resisted them settling there and confronted them. Already Russian border guards are settling along the administrative boundary with Georgia proper. Are ordinary Abkhaz, who voted for a genuinely independent state, going to welcome yet more Russian settlement with open arms?

The Abkhaz are losing even the illusionary independence they claimed after Russia occupied the region. Abkhazia is Georgian territory occupied by Russia and no number of agreements will alter this fact. But the rest of the world turns a blind eye to the Russian occupation in order to maintain ‘civilized relations’ with Moscow, though these relations visibly worsen by the day and the West has gained nothing tangible from them. In other words, the Abkhaz who are disillusioned with Russia cannot hope in the West either. The new agreements with Russia will eventually backfire on the Abkhaz and they will live to regret their separation from Georgia, if they don't already.
The Messenger