Crimes of the authorities paid for by the people

FacebookTwitterMessengerTelegramGmailCopy LinkPrintFriendly

Energy Crisis in Abkhazia

Article originally published on the ‘Echo of the Caucasus’ website. Text and terminology reproduced without changes. All rights belong to ‘Echo of the Caucasus’. Publication date: March 18, 2024.

Isida Chania, editor of ‘Nuzhnoy Gazety’ (Necessary Newspaper)

Monday morning, March 18, started with power and water outages. The recently repaired Achgvara high-voltage line sagged and fell onto a residential building. The home of the Shakaya family in the village of Bedia burned down completely, and the country remained without electricity until it was disconnected according to schedule.

This isn’t the first time residents have suffered from repairs to the line. I counted three burned-down buildings; not to mention burnt-out household appliances due to voltage fluctuations. People take that as a given.

Today’s event, stemming from a change in electricity flow from Russia, led Abkhazia to switch to supplies from Inguri HPP at 7 AM. This sudden shift increased load on the Achgvara line, causing it to collapse onto a residential house by 8 AM, igniting a fire. This incident prompted me to examine the authorities’ actions, in order to ascertain responsibility for the energy system’s destruction, especially regarding this fire.

Electricity is supplied from the Inguri HPP to consumers via the Achgvara line. In 2020, President Aslan Bzhania permitted cryptocurrency mining during a severe electricity shortage, heavily relying on this infrastructure. The strained line couldn’t cope with the increased load, resulting in a series of accidents, including appliance fires, residential building fires, and damage to transformers, feeders, and wires.

In January 2021, head of ‘Chernomorenergo’ Mikhail Logua emphasized the necessity of reconstructing the Achgvara high-voltage line for efficient energy transfer from Inguri HPP along the 220-kilovolt line. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy, Kristina Ozgan, overseeing energy, enthusiastically supported this and directed ‘Chernomorenergo’ to update cost estimates to current prices.

Parliamentary deputies responded to the initiative with the readiness of Soviet pioneers, allocating funds for the repair from the budget so that it would be carried out simultaneously with the shutdown of the Inguri HPP ⁠— when the flow from Russia would be underway, to avoid paying twice. But the government and the president resisted, a thriftiness that seemed rather illogical.

During a meeting with deputies, Aslan Bzhania stated that he would solve this problem without budgetary allocations. (Thank you internet, where all our president’s empty promises are stored.) “We don’t need a special budget allocation for the Achgvara repair … This problem can be considered solved,” he told deputies, promising that the high-voltage line would be repaired by April 10, 2021. Of course, there were no repairs.

The repair began later, but it soon became clear that funds for the high-voltage line repair had been embezzled. Opposition leaders presented evidence ⁠of inflated cost estimates at a briefing on November 16, 2022 ⁠— after the repair. This opened Bzhania’s eyes to a corruption scheme that was being carried out by his associates right under his nose.

Initially, the president was very angry about this news, ordering the prosecutor general to investigate within 10 days, which scared Kristina Ozgan so much that she was distracted from her Moscow visits and promised that as soon as she got back to Abkhazia, she would immediately explain everything to the media. Apparently, she did tell them, but discreetly. This in turn disheartened Bzhania.

From this moment on, efforts began to conceal the corruption scheme that had entered the public space, which, in all likelihood, is directly related to the government and the Ministry of Economy. The president no longer issued orders, instead trying to cover up the results of the Audit Chamber’s investigation and forgetting about the “order” he had announced without much consideration.

The opposition interfered by dragging the prosecutor’s office into legal proceedings, accusing it of inaction. Little progress was made ⁠—  for two years, the court’s demand for an investigation has been bouncing between authorities, as Prosecutor General Adgur Agarba believes that nobody has the right to interfere in his work.

Meanwhile, as the energy crisis worsens, the government takes no action to stabilize the situation, ignoring proposals from industry experts and especially the opposition. Instead of auditing beneficiaries, among whom are the most affluent segments of the population, and installing remote meters to increase electricity collections, the government simply quadruples electricity prices, thereby plunging honest taxpayers, whose pensions remain unchanged, into financial turmoil.

Diligent taxpayers join those struggling to pay electricity bills, causing payment collection rates to plummet critically. The government has begun purchasing electricity from Russia at commercial rates, draining funds for the flow, which aren’t covered by Abkhazia’s collections.

It’s evident this isn’t about the populace, but about the president’s commitments to those promised legalization of cryptocurrency mining. Funds spent on Russian electricity could’ve repaired small hydroelectric plants, initiated renewable energy usage, or installed remote meters. Instead, parliament proposes amending electricity laws to sell the entire energy system, leaving the country in an energy crisis.

A new Ministry of Energy and Transport emerged this year, shifting influence away. Energy now falls under ex-presidential chief of staff Jansukh Nanba, whom Bzhania seemingly trusts. Meanwhile, Minister of Economy Kristina Ozgan, overseeing the Achgvara line repair, evades responsibility, remains in her position. It’s unlikely our prosecution will hold officials accountable for the energy sector’s collapse, as Prosecutor General Adgur Agarba, appointed by the president, understands that culpability rests with Bzhania, Prime Minister Ankab, and Minister Ozgan.

Today, new Minister Nanba promised financial aid to the Shakay family affected by the fire, funded by taxpayers. The system reveals that the populace pays for the government’s crimes.

Similar Posts

Ardzinba's resignation: voluntary departure or Bzhania's decision? Details have emerged regarding the dismissal of Inal Ardzinba.
Abkhaz war veteran Lasha Zukhba publicly expressed solidarity with protesters in Tbilisi, stirring controversy in the Abkhaz society.