Oct 06, 2010

Abkhazia: Government Looking for New Investment Opportunities

Sokhum is working to reconcile the complex question of property rights – particularly as the state becomes a focus for investment from Turkey, Russia and further aboard and the local media actively debate the issue.

Below is an article published by День – The Daily Weekly Digest


Whereas South Ossetia has predictably become Russia’s protectorate, the situation with Abkhazia is becoming increasingly complex. Abkhazia’s news agency Apsnypress carried the head of government Sergei Shamba’s statement to the effect that the republic has turned down Russia’s proposal concerning the property rights of Russians living there. The Russian foreign ministry came up with a project entitled “The Concept of Work of the Joint Russian-Abkhaz Commission on the Restitution of Property Rights of Citizens of the Russian Federation in the Republic of Abkhazia.”

The Abkhazian government is faced with quite a conundrum. First, the active expansion of Russian business in Abkhazia has been met with considerable resistance. On the one hand, Abkhazians in Turkey are also showing interest in making inland investments and purchasing property in the land of their forefathers. Their aspirations are supported by local authorities, which explains the numerous articles in the local press about the threat to Abkhazia’s national interests should the Russian proposal be accepted.

According to Aleksei Malashenko, an expert with the Carnegie Center in Moscow, “what has happened was to be expected. Our people were buying everything they could lay their hands on — apartments, houses, and others, some Russian MPs even purchased whole beaches — in Abkhazia, often through intermediaries… Abkhazians soon realized that if this were to go on there would be nothing left of the republic, except nominal independence, with everything else being in the hands of Russians. And so Abkhazia refused to become a colony. The Russian foreign ministry found itself in a delicate si­tuation; they actually don’t know what to do next. Should the Abkhazian foreign ministry come up with an appropriate statement, Turkey would activate itself and the European Union might accuse Moscow of transferring its corruption patterns to a new Kremlin-sired independent republic. And so this scandal is just the beginning.”

“Whatever Russian citizens buy in Abkhazia, and however hard they try to legally seal such purchases, these transactions won’t by recognized by international law. At the same time, over 200,000 Georgian refugees, people who left Abkhazia during the conflict, demand the return of their property and international law is on their side,” says David Berdzenishvili, political secretary of the Republican Party of Georgia. He believes that Russia “has never actually been interested in Abkhazian independence; it was interested in having an opportunity to secure its military presence in this region and influence Abkhazia politically and economically.”

The fifth assassination attempt on Abkhazian Vice President Alexander Ankvab is proof that there are mounting problems in relations between Moscow and Sukhumi. The local press is actively discussing the involvement of Russian clandestine agencies, a theory being echoed by Tbilisi. Mamuka Areshidze, a noted expert on the Caucasus, says: “Without doubt the Russian special services are behind the permanent attempts on Ankvab. They are only too well aware that Ankvab is not only the most influential politician of Abkhazia, but also a man who is best equipped to protect Abkhazian interests.”

Did Moscow anticipate such a turn of events when engineering a conflict with Georgia, through Abkhazia and South Ossetia? Most likely they failed to think several moves ahead and now they don’t know what to do. In this power play on the sunlit coast there is a clash of interests of such players that even the Black Sea Fleet, decaying as it is, won’t be of much help, considering that Moscow has no other arguments.