Occupied Abkhazia Transfers Bichvinta Dacha to Russia

On December 27, at a special session held at 6 a.m., ahead of the previously declared date and time, the de facto Parliament of occupied Abkhazia ratified the agreement on the transfer of the Bichvinta (the so-called “Pitsunda state dacha”) to Russia for a 49-year lease [ed.- the residence and its dependencies cover the land plot of 4 sq. Km]. The opponents of the law have been protesting against the decision since December 26.

The de-facto Speaker of the Parliament, Lasha Ashuba, told the demonstrators that the agreement had been ratified with two amendments: the incorrectly indicated coordinates, which expanded the area to be transferred, had been corrected by the Russian side, and a clause on the non-transfer of the land to third parties had been included.

According to Ashuba, in order to ratify the agreement, three relevant so-called laws were also amended: “These are the [de facto] Law on International Treaties, the [so-called] Civil Code, and a special [de facto] constitutional law that deals specifically with the transfer of the state dacha, which states that in case of transfer of the object to third parties, the agreement is terminated and the property is returned to… [occupied] Abkhazia”. These amendments were adopted with 28 so-called deputies present, and the agreement was ratified with 26 votes in favor.

According to the Abkhaz telegram channel “Nuzhnaya Gazeta”, the demonstrations against the ratification of the agreement began on December 26. Representatives of the opposition were present in front of the de facto Parliament at 5 a.m., when the special session was held. According to Nuzhnaya Gazeta, journalists, including Nizfa Arshba, were denied entry.

The decision to hold the special session on December 27, instead of the previously scheduled December 28, was announced yesterday. Prominent public figures in the Abkhazia region, Laven Mikaa and Tengiz Dzhopua, spoke to journalists of the Russian state media “TASS” and told them that the people’s demand is that the so-called deputies take into account the opinion of the people and that the de-facto Speaker of the Parliament, Ashuba, meets with the demonstrators.

According to TASS, the complex of buildings housing the de-facto legislature building has been heavily barricaded and so-called law enforcement officers are on the scene of the demonstration. The de-facto Prosecutor General Adgur Agrba and s-called Interior Minister Robert Kiut have both warned the public that “in case of a threat to the security of the civilian population, destabilization of the public situation in the [so called] republic, [de facto] law enforcement agencies… are obliged to apply the full range of measures, up to and including bringing the organizers and participants of mass riots to account, as provided for by current [so called] legislation”.

The de -facto President of Abkhazia, Aslan Bzhania signed the ratification document already, at 9 a.m. Nuzhnaya Gazeta reports that despite the developments, the protests will continue today.

It was first decided in 1995 that Bichvinta would be transferred to Russia through a long-term lease, although no practical steps have been taken since then. Russia has stepped up its efforts to finalize the deal, with the text of a new agreement to transfer the land for 49 years emerging on January 19, 2022, which was ratified today. The issue has been a hot topic of discussion in Abkhazia ever since, with both the public and officials divided on the matter. In May this year, young activists were arrested while protesting against the transfer.

Temur Nadaraia, former head of Gali administration, stated at the de facto public council of the Abkhaz foreign affairs establishment meeting held last year that the main source of the controversy is that the “authorities do not discuss such sensitive issues with the public in advance. The wide outcry is caused precisely by this and not by anti-Russian sentiments.” Ruslan Khashig, director of Abaza-TV and long-time journalist, claimed that “no one is against the transfer of the resort to Russia but it is necessary to make a legal examination of this document.” Inal Ardzinba, the de facto foreign minister, promised to hold a meeting with the “Russian ambassador to Abkhazia” Mikhail Shurgalin to discuss the matter further.

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