Unlike occupied Crimea, Russia has not annexed Abkhazia. Just like in Ukrainian Donbas, the idea of separatism was promoted there with the help of the Russian military. Officially Russia distances itself from ruling the region, but in practice, Abkhazia is dependent on Russia politically and economically. Moreover, Russia uses the region as its military platform, hosting thousands of soldiers in the occupied territory, as well as violates the agreement on cessation of hostilities reached with the help of the European Union.
Apart for Russia, only three states in the world recognized the independence of Abkhazia – Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Nauru. To make the list broader, Russia added some more unrecognized states to it: the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and more Kremlin puppet “republics” – the so-called “Transnistrian People’s Republic” and “Donetsk People’s Republic.”
This is not the first illegal election in Abkhazia. It has already faced three so-called presidential and one parliamentary elections before. Last weekend, people in Abkhazia voted for 35 illegal MPs from 137 candidates. According to Russian media, the turnout of the election was more than 50%, above the needed threshold of 25%. The second round is possible at many districts. As quoted by Russian media, Abkhazian local politicians do not expect convergence with Russia after the election:
“From the political point of view now Russia does not need it. And who will first come here to do business if the borders are open? Ethnic Georgians?“
Meanwhile, the Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs reminds that according to the international law, any so-called elections or referendum in the occupied territories of Georgia are illegal and cannot have any legal effect. Also the MFA calls the international community to pay attention to human rights situation in the region:
“At the same time, people displaced from Georgia’s occupied territories are deprived of the right to return to the places of their residence whereas the population remaining in these regions suffer ethnic discrimination and gross violations of basic rights and freedoms. Against this background, international security and human rights mechanisms, including representatives of the EU Monitoring Mission are denied access to occupied Abkhazia and Tskhinvali [another occupied in a result of 2008 war region of Georgia] regions of Georgia.”
The EU has also shunned the so-called elections. Maja Kocijancic, spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, said on March 13 that the EU “supports the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia, as recognized by international law,” and does not recognize the framework in which the so-called elections were held.
The leak confirming Russia’s intervention into Abkhazian policy
According to a report by Clarion Brief, based on a massive leak of emails from Putin’s aide Vladislav Surkov (dubbed the Surkov Leaks), Moscow is exercising considerable daily control over the administration and governance of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions, which is backed up by near-complete financial dependence of these regions on capital inflows from Russia, as well as the integration of the local forces into the Russian command and control systems.
On 23 October 2016, Ukrainian hacker group CyberHunta claimed that it hacked the e-mail box of Vladislav Surkov, a close advisor of Vladimir Putin. A few days later, they hosted the contents of the email boxes of Surkov they claimed to hack.
Besides confirming Russia’s direct involvement in the Ukrainian politics and preparing the conflict in the eastern Ukraine and Crimea, it also revealed how Russia is controlling Georgian occupied regions Abkhazia and Tskhinvali.
Surkov has been in charge of Putin’s policy in Georgia’s occupied regions since September 2013. The letters reveal Russian control over Abkhazia and South Ossetia, another Kremlin puppet “republic” in Georgia, in several areas:
- Legislation which is defined and at least partly written by the Russian Government agencies.
- Micromanagement of the regions by Russian officials and agencies (for example in the questions of salaries, money, financial structures).
- Actions to discredit the Georgian population of the region, as well as interference in the ethnic composition of the region. One notable example is a discussion of high school policies that would help shape an Ossetian ethnic majority in the predominantly Georgian-populated Akhalgori district of South Ossetia.
- Russia controls the government appointments and exercises onsiderable control over the political and military situation in the occupied regions.
This unofficial control of Abkhazia and South Ossetia by Russia is a possible scenario for Donbas in Ukraine, as Russia is not in a hurry to recognize the so-called “LNR” and “DNR” republics as Russian. With the help of these pseudo-”republics” the Russian Federation can implement its main aim – to influence the situation in Ukraine and to destabilize the country. Thus, Russia also promotes the idea of conducting elections in Donbas. It will give it the opportunity to delegate loyal people to Ukrainian parliament and interfere into its politics in this way.