Top Abkhaz Diplomat Dismissed, Goes to Moscow

On May 7, the de facto president of the Russian-occupied Georgian region of Abkhazia, Aslan Bzhania, fired the de facto foreign minister, Inal Ardzinba, without giving a reason. While some media speculated that Ardzinba was being held for questioning, an official statement disseminated by the de facto foreign ministry, says he resigned due to “transition to a new job” and is currently in Moscow, without specifying the nature of that job.

Ardzinba was an ardent supporter of limiting the interaction of the occupied province with international organizations and has repeatedly called for suspending foreign aid to non-governmental entities. Ardsinba also called for the accession of Georgia’s occupied province to the Union State of Russia and Belarus.

He recently appeared at the Russian First Channel, the main Russian propaganda outlet, as an anchor of the talk show titled “The Global Majority,” with Bashar Assad as his first guest. Taking up this role proved controversial in Sokhumi, where some locals expressed dismay at a “foreign minister” acting as a talk-show host in another country.

Ardzinba returned to Sokhumi in 2021, but his whole political career has been linked with Russia. Prior to the appointment, he was the chair of the Inter-Religious Public Council for Youth Affairs working under the Russian Patriarch. From 2014 he served as an assistant to Vladislav Surkov, then Russian President Vladimir Putin’s top aide overseeing relations with CIS states, the occupied Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region. In this capacity, Ardzinba was also specifically charged with overseeing affairs with Ukraine, including Moscow-backed self-proclaimed entities of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Drawing on this role, in 2015, Ukrainian prosecutors accused Ardzinba of leading efforts to undermine the country’s territorial integrity, namely of attempts to create a breakaway region of “Bessarabia” on the territory of Odessa region. The Security Service of Ukraine in 2015 alleged the involvement of both Surkov and Ardzinba in committing terrorism-related crimes on Ukrainian territory, including preparations for contract killings.

In October 2015, Kyiv issued an international arrest warrant against Ardzinba. In 2015, Ardzinba made it to the expert-collated list of top enemies of Ukraine, falling behind only Surkov and Chechnya’s leader Ramzan Kadyrov.

This article was updated on 07/05/2024 at 19:10 to reflect Ardzinba’s comment.

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This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)


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