An energy crisis has started in Abkhazia. As winter is approaching, the Russian Federation has demanded payment for the electricity supplied to the de facto authorities of Abkhazia. The Russian Federation demands gradual and advance payment of electricity fees in exchange for electricity supply. In the first phase, the de facto authorities of Abkhazia have to pay 900 million rubles (about 10,200,000 US dollars) for the electricity to be supplied from December 2023 to May 2024. The first part of the amount, 200 million rubles (about 2,265,000 US dollars), which should be used to meet the energy needs of Abkhazia in December-January, should be paid by the de facto authorities of Abkhazia immediately. Otherwise, the Russian Federation threatens to cut off the electricity supply. It is known to the Russian side that the de facto authorities of Abkhazia will not be able to mobilize the necessary funds, since the Abkhazian budget relies on Russian financial endowment. Abkhazia's 2023 budget is 12.5 billion rubles (about 141,534,000 US dollars), in which the share of Russian financial endowment is 5.1 billion rubles (about 58 million US dollars).
According to the agreement reached between the Georgian and Abkhaz sides after the end of the war in Abkhazia, the occupied region has been receiving 40% of the total amount generated by the Enguri HPP. Until 2020, this amount was enough. Due to the crisis created in the energy sector, according to unofficial information, today more than 50% of the electricity generated by the Enguri HPP is supplied to Abkhazia.
Chernomorenergo LEPL, which is subordinated to the de facto ministry of economy of Abkhazia, is responsible for supplying Abkhazia with electricity. The company claims that the energy crisis is inevitable; If no agreement is reached with Russia, the occupied region of Abkhazia is threatened with guaranteed outages of electricity for at least 10 hours a day.
In view of the above, the de facto authorities of Abkhazia have to make a choice between resisting Russia and preparing for a harsh winter, or accepting the demands of the Russian occupation forces and becoming more lenient. In the first case, the population of Abkhazia will have to face electricity outages, which will further increase their dissatisfaction towards the de facto authorities. However, even in the second case, if the de facto authorities concede to Russia, it will still be difficult for them to avoid the anger of the Abkhazian society.
According to public sources, Abkhazia is inclining towards concession to Russia. The de facto government intends to lease three differential hydroelectric plants (each with a capacity of 40 MW) that are part of the Enguri hydroelectric plant complex. The government has already signed a lease agreement relating to one of them, but the agreement needs the approval of the parliament to take effect. The details of the deal have not been officially made public, although the opposition does not like the idea. "The terms of the lease of the power generation facility are against the interests of our people," said a representative of Arau, an opposition organization of veterans. Members of the organization warn potential tenants that the agreement will be canceled after the change of the government in Abkhazia. They also urge the parliament not to make a wrong decision that will be necessarily revised later. The Abkhazian opposition believes that if the government independently repairs differential hydroelectric plants, Sokhumi will be able to avoid power shortages.
The Abkhazian and Georgian societies know that with the privatization of the electricity transmission and distribution network in Abkhazia, it will be possible to control all energy, including the energy generated by the Enguri HPP. And the Enguri HPP is one of the most important factors, in terms of political, economic and social point of view. Consequently, significant leverage is held by whoever controls or manages it. If three differentiated power plants are leased to the Russian side, Russia will be able to control the energy sector in Abkhazia.
The Democracy Research Institute considers that the Russian pressure on Abkhazians serves several purposes:
Along with placing a military base in Abkhazia, Russia wants to take ownership of the former territory of the Bichvinta governmental cottages and control the Sokhumi airport and energy resources in Abkhazia. Russia used a similar method of pressure in the summer of 2023. In August-September, the import of petrol from Russia to Abkhazia was suspended. It was resumed only after the permission for the construction of the Sokhumi airport was granted to a Russian company on a long-term lease.
Russian economic annexation in Abkhazia is already in an active phase, and probably by May 2024, Russia will fully control strategic facilities such as the airport, power plants and various real estates.
The de facto government of Abkhazia is negotiating with Russia on the terms of receiving free electricity, although it is unlikely that the negotiations will be successful. In this case, it is interesting what position the Georgian government will have, which should be interested both in the protection of the property on the territory of Abkhazia and in taking care of the needs of people whom it de jure recognizes as its own citizens. Will Russia's energy blackmail against the de facto government of Abkhazia become an opportunity for the Georgian authorities to deepen the space for dialogue with the Abkhazian side?
 Abkhazia's 2023 budget has been approved with a deficit of 1.7 billion rubles. (December 29, 2022, available at: https://tass.ru/ekonomika/16714915)