Mikhail Babich, the First Deputy Minister of Economic Development of Russia, paid a visit to Sokhumi on August 20. Babich met with Aslan Bzhania and Aleksandr Ankvab, occupied region’s president and head of government, respectively, to discuss bilateral social and economic cooperation.
According to Babich, his delegation arrived with the aim to “establish closer cooperation with the Abkhaz side”, which encompassed monitoring of the implementation of activities planned under the Investment Programs of 2017-2019 and 2020-2020.
Babich’s visit comes as the new Abkhaz leadership now openly speaks of controversies on low levels of document preparation and control for the period of 2017-2019 Investment Program, which affected both quality and terms of the program’s implementation. Bzhania was briefed on the problems by the occupied region’s economy minister Kristina Ozgan a day before Babich’s visit.
Discussion topics also included state of the financial system, plans to develop the treasury system and compliance with principles of budget transparency in Abkhazia.
During the meeting, Bzhania expressed his hopes that Babich’s visit would lead to the solution of “repeatedly discussed” issues and showed readiness to an open discussion. “Even if several rounds of meetings and negotiations will become necessary, we will definitely come to this steadily,” he said.
Babich highlighted the “high stage of preparedness” of issues discussed during the meeting in Moscow a short while ago – both with respect to the Investment Program and funding of project documentation, and referred to the development of tourism as a socially promising program.
Babich also went to inspect objects built under the Investment Program of 2017-2019, including public schools and a kindergarten in Gudauta and Gagra districts.
In June 2020, Bzhania complained about alarming financial situation in Abkhazia, saying that Russia had withheld assistance for infrastructure projects for six months’ time. Abkhaz leader also claimed that Russia would not reduce funding for the Investment Program.
Russia and Sokhumi approved 2020-2022 Investment Program in December 2019, allocating RUB 4.5 billion [over USD 60 million] for infrastructure projects. The program, implemented since 2013, is one of the forms of financial assistance that Russia provides to occupied Abkhazia on a regular basis.