“The president of Abkhazia driven into a dead end by obligations to the Kremlin”. Opinion

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Crisis in Abkhazia

During the four years of Aslan Bzhania’s presidency in Abkhazia, he has never encountered such a crisis situation. It’s not merely a matter of opposition; they assert, without mincing words, that Bzhania has failed on all fronts, be it domestic or foreign policy, and the only viable solution to this impasse is the president’s resignation.

The primary challenge for Bzhania, who meticulously crafted his image as “the sole true ally of the Kremlin,” unexpectedly emerged from the Kremlin itself. The Kremlin expresses profound dissatisfaction with Bzhania, barely concealing it. A conspicuous indication of this discontent is two consecutive “unfriendly” missives from the Russian foreign ministry directed towards Abkhazia.

In the first communication, the ministry of foreign affairs expressed dissatisfaction with the Abkhazian Parliament’s decision to restrict further transfer of the state dacha in Pitsunda to “third parties,” despite having ratified the agreement on its transfer to the Russian Federal Security Service. Moscow deemed this stipulation contradictory to the agreement’s text and consequently withheld final endorsement of the deal.

In the second communication, the ministry of foreign affairs expressed outrage over the actions of the Abkhaz court, which reduced the sentence of a local criminal convicted of raping a Russian tourist. In response, the ministry warned Russian citizens against visiting Abkhazia.

Abkhazia has not faced such severe criticism from Russia in a long time. This development deals a significant blow to the political prospects of Aslan Bzhania, particularly as he had planned to seek a second presidential term with Kremlin support next year. Yet, now he faces unexpected challenges.

The recent speech by the president at the Prosecutor General’s Office board starkly revealed Aslan Bzhania’s state of confusion and despair. The central message of the speech, “there are enemies all around, and we must fight them mercilessly,” elicited nothing but perplexity. It was evident on the faces of the prosecutors: “You, sir, deal with your enemies yourself, and we’ll observe the outcome.”

Aslan Bzhania’s primary issue stems from his obligations to Moscow. This list is extensive, with some items predating Bzhania’s tenure. His predecessors also pledged assistance to Russia in these matters, yet many points remained unimplemented. They purportedly tried, but without success. It happens.

However, Aslan Bzhania seemingly went beyond mere “assistance” and provided the Kremlin with concrete guarantees.

The presence of such guarantees is indirectly evidenced by the conduct of the elections to the Abkhaz parliament two years ago. It’s worth recalling that Aslan Bzhania made every effort to secure his constitutional majority in parliament at that time.

None of Bzhania’s predecessors attempted to entirely control the parliament, recognizing the potential drawbacks of such a strategy. This approach enabled them to convey to the Kremlin in discussions that they were not all-powerful. They could highlight the existence of an independent parliament with which reaching agreements was challenging, thereby signaling that promoting Moscow’s interests could encounter obstacles.

However, Aslan Bzhania opted for a different approach. He portrayed himself to the Kremlin as an authoritarian president capable of resolving any issue. Yet, the parliament unexpectedly proved unwilling to blindly adhere to the president’s directives, as many of his agenda items are met with hostility in Abkhaz society.

Given that Abkhaz society is small and tightly interconnected, deputies cannot disregard public opinion. Similarly, the security forces are unwilling to “ruthlessly fight enemies” solely at the president’s command.

It is the extensive guarantees he provided to Russia that have now led Aslan Bzhania into a political deadlock, from which he seems unable to extricate himself.

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