Russian MFA Warns Citizens of “Increased Security Risks” of Visiting Abkhazia

On February 16, the Russian Foreign Ministry warned its citizens of “the increased security risks” of visiting the occupied region of Abkhazia following the decision by the de-facto Supreme Court of Abkhazia to grant early release to an inhabitant of the region sentenced to nine years for the rape with extreme cruelty of a Russian tourist in 2019.

The Russian MFA wrote on its Telegram channel that the Russian side received the news about the release of Edgar Abukhba on February 2 with “extreme bewilderment”. The Ministry expressed criticism for commuting the sentence, noting that this high-profile case “shows a very lenient attitude” of the [so-called] Abkhazian judiciary towards crimes committed in Abkhazia and “the punishments imposed on the perpetrators.”

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs warns Russian citizens of increased security risks, stating: “Obviously, this creates risks for the safety of a large number of foreign guests who visit Abkhazian resorts every year, and we have to warn our compatriots about this.”

On February 18, the press service of the so-called supreme court of Abkhazia responded to the Russian Foreign Ministry’s statement by clarifying that the defendant was a minor when he committed the crime, so his punishment could not exceed 10 years of imprisonment and he was sentenced to 9 years.

The same source also said that the sentence was not commuted. The source allegedly explained that there are no colonies in Abkhazia, only pre-trial detention centers. Because of this, the term of imprisonment under the general regime is counted “one to two”, under the strict regime – “two to three” – according to a separate law, which operates at the stage of execution of the sentence. The source “did not rule out” that this is the reason that Abukhba, whose sentence was counted from August 2, 2019 had been released having had to serve 4.5. our of nine years.

Recently, Russian-Abkhazian relations have been strained. The opposition and some non-governmental organizations have put the blame on the de-facto authorities of the region and called on the de-facto leader of the occupied region, Aslan Bzhania to step down.

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