Sokhumi-based media outlets cited Lasha Sakania, Abkhaz leader Aslan Bzhania’s aide, as confirming an alleged Abkhazia visit of members of a Kremlin-friendly Alliance of Patriots of Georgia. Sakania said however that the aim of Georgian “patriots'” visit was piety, not political negotiations.
Calling the visit “a purely humanitarian action,” Sakania said his “old friends from Russian Federation” asked him to help arrange the said visit to donate the icon of the Virgin Mary to the Ilori Church of St. George, located in eastern Abkhazia’s Ochamchire District, upon request by Davit Tarkhan-Mouravi, the leader of the Alliance of Patriots.
Denying reports of any negotiations, Bzhania’s aide noted that the Abkhaz authorities have agreed on the pilgrimage, highlighting that the visit ended after guests donated the icon and prayed.
Sakania said he consciously decided not to notify the local authorities about the visit in order “not to attach any official status to this event.”
His statement does not name the exact participants of the visit.
The report of the alleged visit was aired by Tbilisi-based pro-opposition Mtavari Arkhi TV on August 20, claiming that Vice-Speaker Irma Inashvili and David Tarkhan-Mouravi, leaders of Alliance of Patriots party, had entered Abkhazia on August 18. The Georgian politicians, Mtavari Arkhi said, had spent 4 hours on occupied territory before returning to the Tbilisi-controlled territory.
In response to reports on the visit of Georgian politicians, Abkhaz opposition groups voiced their concerns with respect to the “secret meeting”.
“Aruaa”, an influential group of Abkhaz veterans, approached the region’s “parliament” demanding official clarifications on the alleged meeting.
Opposition party “National Unity Forum of Abkhazia” also released a statement, raising concerns over the meeting in light of the recent statements by Abkhaz leaders regarding a potential dialogue with Tbilisi.
In his earlier statement of August 21, Lasha Sakania denied reports of negotiations with Georgian politicians, without mentioning the part of the “humanitarian visit.”