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The Weekly Tripwire – Issue 25

Georgian opera singer Giorgi Todua giving a concert in Gali, January 24, 2018. Photo: screengrab from Galtv

January 29-February 4

Georgian singer “will hardly visit his father’s grave ever again:” – Khajimba thinks about controlling social networks – “Ideology” official to work on Gali schools – Georgia pushes back on 2011 agreement – Ukrainian diplomats express support for Georgia – Tskhinvali about transit – Russian Federation Council ratifies Tskhinvali military agreement – Khajimba consults with the Russians – Proxies in Nauru – Readiness checks.

Georgian singer “will hardly visit his father’s grave ever again”: The Russian-backed authorities in Abkhazia reacted with fury to an interview by a Georgian opera singer Giorgi Todua, originally from Gali, who presently resides in Russia. After visiting Gali and giving a concert there on January 24, Todua stated in an interview, published three days later, that he had visited Gali, not the “republic of Abkhazia,” that he had promised his father, before the latter’s death, to give a concert in Gali one day, that life for the people living in Gali district was very hard, and that he wished to be able to visit his home region in a similar manner as the rest of Georgia.

In response to Todua’s statements, the head of Gali district appointed by the Russian-backed Sokhumi authorities Timur Nadaraia said Giorgi Todua “would hardly be able to visit his father’s grave ever again, because he is a persona non grata, and, moreover, a criminal violation can be found in his statements.” Nadaraia said his administration had “addressed the prosecutors” on the matter. He also pointed out that Todua was a Russian citizen and said they would address the Russian authorities as well, because Todua’s statements went “against the constitutional order of Abkhazia.”

Todua’s uncle, a Gali district resident, was forced to make apologies in front of a camera.

Sokhumi Happenings – Khajimba thinks about controlling social networks: The Russian-backed Sokhumi authorities are thinking about banning or controlling the social networks in Abkhazia, said their head Raul Khajimba. He claimed “many” appealed to him, “both members of parliament and regular people,” asking about the possibility of banning the social networks due to their unpleasant and “shameful” political content. He said others suggested some forms of control instead. “I don’t know… Perhaps we shall arrive to a common conclusion and make an appropriate decision. Let nobody be indignant [at that point],” said Khajimba.

Sokhumi Happenings – “Ideology” official to work on Gali schools: Timur Nadaraia, the head of Gali district appointed by the Russian-backed Sokhumi authorities, revealed in an interview for a local TV channel that his administration has introduced a new official post called “deputy head of administration for ideological work.” Nadaraia was answering a question about Gali schools – a controversial issue since the Russian-backed authorities are denying the Georgian pupils in Gali the right to receive education in their native language, with the last Georgian-language schools abolished in the district in 2015. “Schools and education are the ideology of our state, the future generation,” said Nadaraia regarding the move.

View from Tbilisi – Georgia pushes back on 2011 agreement: Georgian government’s special representative Zurab Abashidze was concerned, after meeting Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia Grigory Karasin, about the latter’s interpretation of the 2011 Georgia-Russia trade monitoring agreement. Earlier, Karasin claimed that by that agreement Georgia had agreed to “customs borders” that do not include the occupied territories of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia. Abashidze denied such interpretation vehemently, telling journalists: “They are speaking about the so called customs borders between Georgia and Abkhazia, and between Georgia and Tskhinvali Region, and you are well aware that there are no customs borders mentioned in the agreement; it speaks of trade corridors and where the [customs] terminals are to be placed.” 

The Russian MID responded by saying that “the long-known differences between the parties in assessing the political essence of this international agreement should not be now portrayed as a problem.”

Ukrainian diplomats express support for Georgia – Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement condemning the Russian legislature for its ratification “of the so-called agreement on the order of the entry of certain units of the armed forces of the self-proclaimed “Republic of South Ossetia” (occupied territory of Georgia) into the armed forces of the Russian Federation as well as the opening by the Russian occupation authorities of customs point in Akhalgori (Tskhinvali Region) and creation of specialized customs post in Sokhumi in Abkhazia.” Kyiv also said that “this provocative step constitutes a continuation of the Kremlin policy aimed at destabilization of situation in the Black Sea region and undermining of the European security architecture.”

Russia’s Network – Tskhinvali about transit: The Russian-backed Tskhinvali authorities reacted to the discussions on the 2011 deal by saying that since they were not a party to the agreement they had “no obligations that would provide for functioning of the transit corridor,” and demanding “direct negotiations” with themselves.

Russia’s Network – Russian Federation Council ratifies Tskhinvali military agreement: The upper chamber of the Russian legislature followed suit of the Duma, ratifying the agreement with Tskhinvali Russian-backed authorities “on the procedure of inclusion of separate units of the armed forces of the republic of South Ossetia into the armed forces of the Russian Federation.” 

Russia’s Network – Khajimba consults with the Russians: Officials from Putin’s Presidential Administration and the Ministry for the North Caucasus met with the Moscow-backed Sokhumi leader Raul Khajimba, discussing economic matters, including the Russian “investment program” in the region. 

Russia’s Network – Bartsists in Moscow: The Moscow-backed Sokhumi authorities “prime minister” Beslan Bartsits was in Moscow last week, talking with the Russian officials on energy supply for Abkhazia during the winter period. 

Proxies in Nauru: In the end of January and early February members of the Russian-backed Sokhumi and Tskhinvali authorities were on a long visit to the tiny Pacific nation of Nauru – one of the three states, along with Nicaragua and Venezuela, to follow Russia in recognizing the two regions’ “independence.”

The Military Aspect – Readiness checks: Russian military forces stationed at the bases in both Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region were engaged in battle readiness checks. According to the Southern Military District, “all troops” and over 500 military vehicles, including tanks, were engaged from the base in Abkhazia, as well as 2 500 troops and 300 vehicles from the one in Tskhinvali Region.

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