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Abkhaz Opposition Lambastes President

Opposition groups have accused Abkhaz leader Sergei Bagapsh of giving up too much to Moscow.

Opposition groups have accused Abkhaz leader Sergei Bagapsh of giving up too much to Moscow.

The councils of the opposition Forum of National Unity of Abkhazia and of the war veterans' union Aruaa have released a joint statement, circulated by the Russian news agency Regnum on May 18, criticizing the "damaging" policies implemented by the republic's leadership. They say those policies, including the "multivectoral" foreign policy advocated by President Sergei Bagapsh, "pose a real threat to the [continued] existence of our people and independent state."

The two parties allege that secret talks last year between the Abkhaz and Georgian leaderships mediated by the United States and European Union on transferring the Kodori Gorge to international jurisdiction were thwarted only by the August 2008 war. They accuse the Abkhaz government of demonstrating "total incomprehension" of the possibilities for economic development that opened up following Russia's August 28 recognition of Abkhazia as an independent state.

They point out that Abkhazia depends on subsidies from Russia for two-thirds of its annual budget, and accuse the republic's leadership of failing to take any measures to reduce unemployment or address other serious social problems. They dismissed the agreement signed last week under which Abkhazia cedes to Russia for 10 years the right to manage its rail system and airport as a tacit acknowledgement by Bagapsh that Abkhazia cannot do so with its own resources.

At the same time, the two parties stressed their shared commitment to "a close, mutually beneficial partnership with Russia as equals," especially in the energy and communications sectors. But they criticize as violating Abkhaz legislation last month's agreement between Russia and Abkhazia on guarding Abkhazia's borders.

They further accuse Bagapsh of branding as anti-Russian anyone who questions the benefits of that agreement. They claim his motive for doing so is to discredit the opposition in the run-up to the presidential election due in the fall of this year. "The New York Times" on May 17 quoted Bagapsh as saying he will run for a second term as an independent candidate.

The two parties define as their objective that Abkhazia should "conform to the lofty level of union with Great Russia rather than degenerate into a quasi-state formation" bereft of economic leverage.

The opposition Economic Development Party headed by Beslan Butba issued a similar statement on May 18 criticizing Bagapsh's recent concessions to Russia as likely not only to inflict economic damage, but to destabilize the political situation in Abkhazia.

The question thus arises: in addition to paving the way for the South Ossetian opposition to demand a referendum on the incorporation of South Ossetia into the Russian Federation after President Eduard Kokoity falsifies the outcome of the May 31 parliamentary elections, is Moscow scheming to engineer Bagapsh's ouster as a precondition for a similar "lofty union" between Abkhazia and Russia?

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.