NewsTrackTwoWeekly Tripwire

The Weekly Tripwire – Issue 10

September 18-24

Demolition of the Ethnic Georgians’ Houses – Sokhumi “Minister” Threatens Expulsion of Georgians – U.S. Congress expresses support for Georgia –  Statements for Georgia at the UNGA – Amtsakhara fears “social explosion” – Moscow to establish customs in Abkhazia – Russians push for the chance to buy property in Abkhazia – Military Equipment for Sokhumi – Khajimba welcomes new Russian border guards – Financial transfers promised to Tskhinvali – Russian proxies gather in Tskhinvali – Russian troops establish data network – IPRM meeting in Gali

Demolition of the Ethnic Georgians’ Houses: Village Eredvi, home to about 1000 ethnic Georgians prior to the Russo-Georgian War of 2008, is being deleted from the face of the Earth. Conducted under a Moscow-funded program, the demolition aims to free the land on which the Georgian village stands for agricultural purposes. 268 houses of local Georgian villagers are being destroyed in the process. Eredvi was ethnically cleansed of its population after coming under control of the Russian military forces during the war of 2008.

Sokhumi “Minister” Threatens Expulsion of Georgians:
Abkhaz “minister of interior” Aslan Kobakhia threatened to banish those of the ethnic Georgians living in Gali District who show any signs of disloyalty. During his speech, Kobakhia said “We are giving them [ethnic Georgians] residence permits. But what right does it give these people to be against our state, and so on? If such a thing is found, we shall take away such person’s residence permit and deport him to the historical homeland, where they [ethnic Georgians] came from.” Kobakhia also threatened expulsion from Abkhazia to those Georgians who would apply for the Abkhaz “passport” while concealing possessing the Georgian citizenship.

Western Voices – U.S. Congress expresses support for Georgia:
The Congress put some words of support into the text of the U.S. defense budget for 2018. Saying Georgia and Ukraine were “under threat from Moscow’s malign influence and military aggression,” the Congress denounced the Russian occupation of two Georgian regions and called on NATO member states to “continue support for the NATO Membership Action Plan for Georgia.”

Western Voices – Statements for Georgia at the UN General Assembly:
Presidents of Georgia’s several partner nations voiced support for it during their speeches at the UNGA. President of Estonia Kersti Kaljulaid reminded the audience that parts of Georgia remain occupied by Russia; Latvian President Raimonds Vējonis said that “Russias unprovoked aggression against its neighbors is a serious breach of international security rules;” Lithuanian leader Dalia Grybauskaite stated that Russia violated the UN Charter with its military attack on Georgia; Polish President Andrzej Duda said: “For almost ten years in Georgia… have we been witnessing obvious violation of fundamental principles of UN Charter;” President of Slovakia Andrej Kiska listed Georgia, together with Moldova and Ukraine, among the countries whose sovereignty was being “undermined by an aggressive neighbor;” and President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that “the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and Georgia is the key for regional stability in Southern Caucasus.”

Sokhumi Happenings – Amtsakhara fears “social explosion”:
The opposition Amtsakhara party in Abkhazia said in its statement there were “extremely dangerous tendencies” afoot as a result of incompetence of the region’s leadership, headed by Raul Khajimba. Citing economic, financial and crime-related troubles, Amtsakhara thinks such situation “can lead to a social explosion.”

…so do others: The phrase “social explosion” also figured in the statement of the Abkhaz “parliament” agricultural committee deputy head Givi Kvarchia. This time, due to invasion of the brown marmorated stink bug that has affected Western Georgia, including Abkhazia, in 2017. The pest has destroyed large parts of the harvest this year, cutting into the incomes of the local residents.

Russia’s Network – Moscow to establish customs in Abkhazia: The customs post, run by the Russian Federal Customs Service (FTS) will be based in Sokhumi from November 2017. It will operate according to the Russian customs laws, enjoy diplomatic immunity, and “implement measures” directed at “discovering and suppressing violations of law” regarding transportation of goods from or through Abkhazia to Russia.

Russia’s Network – Russians push for the chance to buy property in Abkhazia: Members of the Russian Federation Council – upper legislative chamber – had some blunt words for the Abkhaz “parliament” members, when they visited Abkhazia on September 19-20. The Federation Council representatives informed the Abkhaz that many people in Russia really wanted to buy property in Abkhazia, and that the Abkhaz needed to stop their opposition to the prospect in order to get investments. A Council member from Crimea also expressed displeasure with the fact that the Abkhaz “parliament” lacked ethnic Russian members. 

Russia’s Network – Military Equipment for Sokhumi:
On September 21, Russia conducted transfer of military equipment to the Abkhaz. During the transfer ceremony, “vice president” of the Russian-backed Sokhumi authorities Vitaly Gabnia said that nobody “in the world” should be surprised by the transfer, “because in fact we and Russia both share the same trench.” Venturing into assessment of the global politics, Gabnia added that river Enguri, marking the line of control between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia, was “boundary of the bi-polar world, which by today has already been formed.”

Russia’s Network – Khajimba welcomes new Russian border guards: The Russian-backed Abkhaz leader Raul Khajimba welcomed new Russian FSB border guard officers, fresh from the academies, who arrived to Abkhazia to join the force in control of the line between the region and the rest of Georgia.

Russia’s Network – Financial transfers promised to Tskhinvali: Russian Minister for the North Caucasus Affairs Lev Kuznetsov paid a visit to Tskhinvali, promising that while these were “not-so-easy times for the federal budget,” Russia still would keep giving Tskhinvali funds. 

Russia’s Network – Russian proxies gather in Tskhinvali:
Russian-backed officials from Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk, and from Moldova’s Transnistria, visited Tskhinvali last week to take part in the celebration of 27 years from the local Soviet officials’ proclamation of Tskhinvali Region’s separation from Georgia in 1990.

The Military Aspect – Russian troops establish data network: Among various exercises conducted by the Russian military forces in the Caucasus last week was establishment of a data network, encompassing 21 Russian firing grounds in the North Caucasus, Armenia and Georgia’s two occupied regions. The Russian troops simulated continuous exchange of data in a combat environment.

On the Line – IPRM meeting in Gali: 49th session of the UN-chaired Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism was held on September 19. The murder of Giga Otkhozoria and “borderization” matters were discussed without much progress. Other issues on the agenda included detentions of Georgians on the line of control, while the EU Monitoring Mission “highlighted the importance of education in one’s mother tongue,” obviously in reference to the presently ongoing elimination of such education for the Georgian children of the Gali District.


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