Acting Abkhaz Leader Summons Moscow Envoy, as Bzhania Diagnosed with Double Pneumonia

On March 4, acting Abkhaz leader Valery Bganba summoned Russian diplomat Alexey Dvinyanin, a resident representative in the region, raising concerns about “Russian media outlets’ undisguised attempt to foment destabilization in Abkhazia” by disseminating news about Aslan Bzhania’s alleged poisoning, on the authority of anonymous sources.

Bganba demanded his top benefactor state – Russian Federation – to “immediately hand over to the Abkhaz authorities all available information kept by the said outlets, as well as medical reports for preliminary verification.” He also entreated the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation to launch investigation into alleged poisoning of Bzhania, who holds Russian citizenship.

Dmitry Peskov, Russian President’s spokesperson, told reporters that Bganba’s request to launch an inquiry “will be analyzed by Russian authorities in due course.”

Meanwhile, a local media outlet “Apsnypress” reported on March 4 that  Bzhania had been diagnosed with double multi-lobar pneumonia, an acute respiratory infection.

56-year-old Bzhania, Abkhaz leadership hopeful, travelling from Moscow back to Sokhumi, reportedly “felt ill” during his short stay in Sochi and was promptly hospitalized on March 2. Eventually he was transferred to Hospital #1 in Krasnodar, Russia’s regional capital approximately 300 kilometers north of Sochi.

According to Apsnypress, Bzhania is undergoing intensive treatment in Krasnodar hospital, his health condition showing signs of improvement. In the meantime, Russian media reported that Bzhania had come out of coma on March 3.

Some of Bzhania’s supporters believe that the key opposition figure was poisoned again to prevent him from participating in the repeat ‘presidential polls’ to be held on March 22. They say the polls will not be held without participation of Bzhania, who is widely regarded as the key contender in repeat Abkhaz leadership race.

Bzhania, a Soviet KGB school graduate, was Abkhaz leadership hopeful and the main rival of then incumbent leader, ex-KGB officer Raul Khajimba during the 2019 race as well. However, he had to drop out as after being poisoned with heavy metals.

The region’s previous leader Raul Khajimba resigned amid January protests and the local court’s decision to declare September 2019 runoffs invalid.

Yesterday, on March 3, scores of Bzhania’s supporters stormed ‘presidential administration’ office in Sokhumi on March 3, demanding resignation of the acting leader Valery Bganba.

Elections in Georgia’s Russian-occupied Abkhazia and Tskhinvali/South Ossetia regions are denounced as illegitimate by Tbilisi and the international community, except of Russia and four other countries (Nauru, Venezuela, Syria and Nicaragua), which have recognized the two regions’ independence from Georgia.

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