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Abkhaz Oppositionist And War Veteran Detained

Colonel Valmer Butba, who during the 1992-93 war and after headed a counterterrorism unit that sought to thwart attacks in Abkhazia's southernmost Gali district by Georgian guerrilla formations, was detained on June 26 in Gali by a group of armed men commanded by a senior Abkhaz Interior Ministry official after a weapon was discovered in his car.

Butba was accompanying his namesake Beslan Butba, who heads the opposition Party of Economic Development (PERA), of which Valmer Butba too is a member. Beslan Butba is considered a possible challenger to incumbent Sergei Bagapsh in the presidential election scheduled for December 12.

The PERA and five other political organizations, some of which joined last month in a concerted campaign criticizing Bagapsh for his approach to relations with Russia, issued an open letter to Bagapsh on June 29 calling for Valmer Butba's immediate release. They argued in his defense that the security situation in Gali remains precarious, and that he has been targeted in the past by Georgian guerrillas, including Dato Shengelia's Forest Brothers.

The statement branded Butba's detention "the start of a wave of political reprisals by the authorities against opposition forces and a provocation aimed at destabilizing the political situation" in the run-up to the December presidential ballot. They called for his immediate release from detention.

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.


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