Russia’s State Duma Speaker Visits Sokhumi

Vyacheslav Volodin, the chairperson of the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian Parliament, visited Sokhumi on 1 December to meet with the region’s Kremlin-backed leader, Aslan Bzhania, as well as with Lasha Ashuba, the “speaker” of occupied Abkhazia’s legislature with whom he signed an inter-parliamentary agreement to systematize relations between the two legislatures.

Meeting with Bzhania

According to Sokhumi-based apsnypress, while meeting with Volodin, Bzhania expressed a desire for more meetings of a similar nature to take place and stated “I am sure that your visit will give a new impetus to our relations.”

“People of your rank and experience can help and provide assistance in matters that we have not been able to resolve so far,” Bzhania noted and expressed confidence that the visit will strengthen relations and “will fully work for the interests of both the people of Russia and the people of Abkhazia.”

On his part, Volodin told Bzhania that he discussed a wide range of issues during his meeting with Ashuba. On the subject, he noted that relations between the State Duma and Abkhazia’s legislature were not built on a systemic basis, “although the deputies interacted with each other…”

“Separately the State Duma and the Parliament of Abkhazia did everything possible when it came to the adoption of necessary decisions, and laws relevant to the development of our relations,” he said. “Generally, when we are talking about our countries we must proceed from the fact that our relations are of a strategic and allied nature, although the dynamics of the relationship are set by the Heads of State.”

Volodin emphasized that there should be “new formats of cooperation, using the opportunities that the Parliaments have so that relations between the countries develop in the interests of our citizens.”

In that context, Volodin drew attention to the agreement signed between the State Duma and Abkhazia’s legislature, which will oversee interparliamentary cooperation and the “harmonization of the legislations of our countries.”

Per Volodin’s explanation, a specific agenda for meetings will be established in order to enable deputies to “contribute to strengthening and developing Russian-Abkhazian relations, [and] to meet emerging challenges together.”

Meeting with Ashuba

Per apsnypress, following their meeting, Ashuba noted, “This agreement is designed to systematize our relations, intensify them.”

Meanwhile, Volodin noted that “Today we have reached a new format of cooperation…” According to Volodin, the meetings which will take place as part of the agreement will focus on “problematic topics of concern for citizens of Abkhazia, as well as citizens of Russia.” “We believe that friendship is a two-way street,” he added.

Volodin also contended that his visit to Abkhazia and meeting with Ashuba were planned to “get to know each other better, given our allied relationship and the desire to build it strategically more effectively.”

Highlighting that Abkhazia is among a list of popular destinations for Russian tourists and that Abkhazians likewise want to go to Russia, Volodin stated, “that obliges us a lot, so it is extremely important now, and this is one of the key areas of our future work, to deal with the harmonization of legislation in the socio-economic sphere, address issues in customs policy, tax law, social policy, and other areas, to create the conditions for developing businesses.”

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