Bzhania's de-facto government between fear of anger of Abkhazian society and Russian blackmail
Last week was quite tensed in Abkhazia. De-facto president Aslan Bzhania, who was visiting Moscow, had to ease a political tension in his absence. De-facto foreign minister Inal Ardzinba, whom Abkhazian and Georgian civil society and political circles consider to be the direct representative of Moscow, announced his resignation. It is true that the statement was spread through the Telegram channel and not from the government's official tribunes, but the reference to the disagreements in the Abkhaz ruling circles was obvious. According to the information available to the Democracy Research Institute, Aslan Bzhania had to convince Inal Ardzinba not to leave his position in the de facto government. These developments raised several questions: First of all, why did Inal Ardzinba decide to step down? Second - why doesn’t Aslan Bzhania want the resignation of the politician who may become his competitor in the fight for the post of de facto president in the near future?

There is an opinion that the reason for the conflict between Ardzinba and Bzhania is the so-called draft law on Russian apartments ("On regulation of the legal status of apart-hotels and apartments"). For a long time now, Russia has been demanding from the de facto government of Abkhazia to grant property rights to its citizens on the territory of Abkhazia. For this purpose, the de-facto government of Abkhazia was requested from the Russian Federation, on the one hand, to lease the territory of Bichvinta, and on the other hand, to allow construction of apart-hotels in different regions of Abkhazia. The fate of both draft laws is still unknown, since the de-facto parliament of Abkhazia, and apparently the government as well, considering the unanimous objection of the Abkhazian society, do not want to initiate the relevant legislative initiatives, which would greatly undermine their already weak legitimacy.

The act of démarche by the direct representative of Russia, Inal Ardzinba, regarding his resignation can be seen as a sign of blackmail and pressure from Russia. By taking away its protégé, Russia may be signaling to Bzhania's de facto government that he will be left face-to-face with the Abkhazian public, which is getting more and more resented by the worsening socio-economic situation (to which the reduction in Russian subsidies has contributed greatly). Accordingly, Ardzinba's démarche is in unison with Russia's secret blackmail policy ongoing behind closed doors, which will lead to the termination of Russian budgetary aid and the crisis of the budget sector (including social and health care systems), if the Russian apartment bill is further delayed or not adopted. In addition, the population of Abkhazia is threatened with disconnection from the Russian energy network in the forthcoming winter.

Aslan Bzhania may be well aware of what it means, on the one hand, to face angry Abkhazian society if Russia’s demands are met, and on the other hand, to face the same anger if Abkhazia is engulfed in a financial and energy crisis, and therefore, if the already fragile social and economic infrastructure is completely paralyzed. That is why it has to maintain the unity in which the coexistence of actors with conflicting political interests based on the principle of oil and water will at least someday break the status quo and tip the scale in favour of one or another - Russian or more Russian side.