On March 5, Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement regarding the recent developments in Abkhazia, that followed re-hospitalization of key Abkhaz leadership hopeful Aslan Bzhania on March 2, less than three weeks before the planned repeat ‘presidential polls.’
“We are carefully following the development of the domestic political situation in Abkhazia, including the presidential elections planned for March 22,” Russian Foreign Ministry stated. It urged participants of the Abkhaz leadership race “to avoid unnecessary emotions and act in the legal frames, in compliance with democratic procedures.”
The statement noted that Russia is interested in stability and security in “friendly Abkhazia,” adding that Russia remains “committed to strengthening multifaceted relations and continues to provide large-scale assistance” to Sokhumi.
Speaking of re-hospitalization of Aslan Bzhania, the statement stressed that the Russian doctors in Krasnodar are providing him with the necessary medial assistance. “Official data regarding the causes of Bzhania’s illness were reported to the Abkhaz partners,” the statement added.
Concluding the statement, Russian Foreign Ministry noted that Moscow intends to further strengthen ties with Sokhumi “in a calm and pragmatic manner.”
Russian MFA statement comes a day after acting Abkhaz leader Valery Bganba summoned Russian diplomat Alexey Dvinyanin, a resident representative in Sokhumi, raising concerns about “Russian media outlets’ undisguised attempt to foment destabilization in Abkhazia” by disseminating news about Aslan Bzhania’s alleged poisoning.
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 Russian Prosecutor General’s Office to launch investigation into alleged poisoning of Bzhania, who holds Russian citizenship.
Abkhaz local media outlet “Apsnypress” reported on March 4 that Bzhania had been diagnosed with double pneumonia, an acute respiratory infection.
Some of Bzhania’s supporters believe that the key opposition figure was poisoned again to prevent him from participating in the repeat ‘presidential polls.’ They say the polls will not be held without participation of Bzhania.
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.
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.
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.