Kremlin-backed leader of Abkhazia Aslan Bzhania held a meeting with the members of the public chamber on 17 August to discuss key issues in the occupied region including the possible transfer of ownership of parts of Bichvinta resort town to Russia.
Transfer of Bichvinta
While discussing the subject of Bichvinta, which has sparked controversy from both the public and politicians in Abkhazia, apnsypress cited Bzhania as stating, “The issue has been on the agenda for more than 12 years… The agreement has already been published, you have seen it, [and] it has been signed but not ratified.”
“When they say that everything was done behind the scenes, this is not true,” Bzhania underscored. “The draft agreement was sent to the Parliament in April 2021.”
For his part, the Abkhaz leader believes that deputies have had enough time to study the agreement on transferring ownership and to make changes to it “but this was not done.”
Recently, members of the “parliament” lodged a complaint in the “constitutional court” which took issue with the agreement. The court, however, rejected the document and stated that deputies did not provide a sufficient legal basis for their argument.
Alluding to anxieties over the agreement, however, Bzhania reiterated his belief that the agreement does not pose any threats and that refusing to ratify the agreement could worsen relations with Russia.
Along this line, the Abkhaz leader highlighted Russia’s “systematic assistance” to the occupied region and its role in “solving many problems that arise in the republic, and, first of all, in ensuring the military security of the state.”
Pointing to issues in public infrastructure, healthcare, the energy sector, and education, Bzhania added, “We cannot solve these issues ourselves yet, we can only create conditions for the development of the economy. Without an external factor, this does not happen. These are the laws of economic development.”
The Abkhaz leader also highlighted that “the situation around Russia is not the best. Probably Russia today is experiencing the most global problems since the collapse of the USSR… Nevertheless, assistance to us has not been curtailed and is being provided to this day.”
Bzhania urged that a decision be made on Bichvinta while Russia is still able to assist Abkhazia but explained, “If the people of Abkhazia, whom I serve, are categorically against it, of course, I will obey their will.”
Asked by Avtandil Gartskia, a member of the public chamber, about whether Bichvinta could be transferred to a third party, Bzhania responded that it is prohibited under the agreement.
The Psou checkpoint with Russia was also discussed during the meeting, with Temur Pipia, a member of the chamber, raising the issue of existing restrictions related to goods crossing.
Apsnypress cited Pipia as emphasizing, “it is necessary that the crossing of goods becomes accessible not only for the Abkhaz and Russian businesses. I know that Kazakh business is also interested in our territory, logistics, infrastructure, and transit opportunities.”
Bzhania stated that he was unsure why issues around the crossing point were not resolved in line with a 2014 agreement that sought to do so. He noted raising the issue in a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the past but said that the COVID-19 pandemic had delayed the matter.
He underscored that the next two years will be spent trying to resolve the issue. “We want our country to take advantage of its transit opportunities,” Bzhania added.
He also brought attention to the issue of the restored sea ferry service between Sochi and the Georgian port of Poti.
“Some think that we should not have transit because transit is trade with the enemy because the goods come from there. I don’t think so, I’m not interested in what is happening on the territory of the enemy, I’m interested in how our people live and how to make them earn money, live richer, [and] how to use the potential that we have,” he said.
While on the subject of transit, Bzhania stated that the potential of the railway and the airport must be developed.
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