DRI: Russia is exacerbating the economic crisis in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali by legalizing monopoly on oil products
According to the observations of the Democracy Research Institute, Russia uses the export of petroleum products to strengthen its influence in occupied Abkhazia and Tskhinvali; Cases of periodic suspension of gasoline export are frequent, both in Tskhinvali and Abkhazia.

On September 21, 2023, in order to stabilize the domestic market, the Russian Government imposed a temporary ban on the export of gasoline and diesel, which also applied to Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region; At the beginning, Russia considered them as territories beyond the Russian border. From November 17, 2023, Russia has canceled the temporary ban on the export of gasoline to Abkhazia and Tskhinvali, but left it in force on the main export of diesel.

From January 1, 2024, gas stations in Abkhazia have been closed en masse. Gasoline is available only at Rosneft and Podorozhnik gas stations. According to reports, the gas stations, where petroleum products are still available, are patronized by the so-called prime minister, Alexander Ankvab, and the so-called minister of economy, Christina Ozgan.

Abkhazia's de facto minister of economy stated that the "restriction of fuel import" was related to the December 16 decision of the Russian Government, which grants Rosneft and its subsidiaries the exclusive right to export oil products to Sokhumi and Tskhinvali. According to the minister, suppliers can conclude a contract with Rosneft and ensure the import of oil products to the republic.

The fuel problem began in Abkhazia on December 26, when the fuel association of Abkhazia refused to sign an agreement with Rosneft, according to which, it should have become the sole supplier of fuel. The association claimed that this would lead to monopolization; The population believes that the crisis is artificially created.

By the decision of January 10, 2024, Russia abolished export taxes on the export of oil products and gas to the Tskhinvali region. The zero-rated tax applies to the specific volume agreed between Moscow and Tskhinvali; The zero-rated tax agreement also applies to several other types of products: plastics, ferrous metals and products produced from them. Despite the fact that on November 2023, the Russian Federation lifted bans for South Ossetia, and on January 10, 2024, it introduced special benefits, the crisis and the shortage of gasoline in South Ossetia are still relevant. According to the official version, the crisis is connected with the New Year holidays. According to the information available to the Democracy Research Institute, the oil crisis in the region will last until the end of January and is caused by corruption and smuggling.

On November 14, 2023, five Georgians were arrested in Tskhinvali for smuggling subsidized gasoline, delivered to the Tskhinvali region from Russia, into the territory controlled by the Central Government of Georgia. The de facto investigative bodies of South Ossetia blame only the detained persons in the said illegal scheme. However, according to the information available to the Democracy Research Institute, Nikolai Gagloev, the cousin of the de facto president, was managing the gasoline smuggling. High-ranking officials employed in the administration, who received a share from the smuggling activity, also participated in the mentioned scheme. According to the local community, the case of the above trade was known to the de facto president Alan Gagloev as well. However, after the issue of illegal trade became public, only ethnic Georgians were arrested. 
The de facto district court of Tskhinvali ordered pre-trial detention for the four detained persons; a written agreement was signed with one of them not to leave the city and behave appropriately. According to the media reports, the detainees are accused of pumping 50 tons of fuel and lubricants from Tskhinvali to Tbilisi; According to the so-called security committee, smugglers have created a conspiratorial station in the southern outskirts of Tskhinvali for pumping fuel.

It is common for the Tskhinvali de facto regime to publicly accuse only Georgian citizens and ethnic Georgians of illegal acts, even when they themselves allegedly patronize the criminal activities.

According to the Democracy Research Institute:

  • The Russian Federation is artificially aggravating the already existing economic crisis in the occupied territories of Georgia, thereby trying to strengthen its influence on Abkhazia and Tskhinvali.
  • It is necessary for the law enforcement structures of Georgia to ensure a timely response to similar, publicly known, alleged criminal actions and to provide information to the public.