Our Position
DRI's point of view: In what forms the Russian pressure is expected to strengthen in Abkhazia and what effect can this have on the stability
The isolation and distance of Abkhazia's de-facto authorities from the rest of Georgia costs them full economic, energy and financial dependence on the Russian Federation. The above, along with the presence of Russian military bases on the territory of Abkhazia, is effectively used by Russia to pursue its interests at the expense of the interests of the Abkhazian society. In this direction, the military and power components, as the recent developments make it clear, are becoming even more important.

The opposition to the transfer of Bichvinta cottages to Russia has turned into a front against de facto president Aslan Bzhania’s regime. In the background when almost all political and public movements on the territory of Abkhazia are focused on gaining the support of Russia, Bzhania is forced to constantly show its obedience and loyalty to Russia. Fearing that the dissatisfaction with the transfer of Bichvinta cottages to Russia, as well as the opposition to the Russian law on "foreign agents", may unite the public protest around any opposition political center, Bzhania’s government, as Abkhazian society believes, has decided to completely rely on Russian power structures. However, it is worth noting that Bzhania’s government is forced to consider the Abkhazian public opinion as well and refrain from open agreements with the Russian forces. The agreement announced at the beginning of February between the de facto ministries of internal affairs of Abkhazia and Russia and the Russian Guard - the so-called Rosgvardiya - has been disrupted. The Rosgvardiya issue causes special fear in the Abkhazian society, as they believe that Bzhania can use Russian power to suppress the protests of his compatriots.

Although the initiative to use the Russian armed forces to control the internal political situation in Abkhazia may be coming from the Kremlin, the activities of the Russian intelligence and federal scurity services in the region increase the distance between Bzhania and the Abkhazian society. The society does not trust the de facto government of Abkhazia and puts under constant pressure those who are active around the issues of Bichvinta cottages and the law on "foreign agents". According to the information available to the Democracy Research Institute, at both Abkhazian administrative border checkpoints, Psou and Enguri, representatives of the Russian special services conduct lengthy interviews with Abkhazian residents and ask them about their participation in protests and their connection with the non-governmental sector. All this reinforces the belief of the residents of Abkhazia that the de facto government depends on the Russian special services. The locals believe that Bzhania has an agreement with the Russian FSB- to deploy a 500-member special force of FSB in Abkhazia to quell expected public protests.

It is not yet clear whether the direct involvement of the Russian military forces or security service in the internal political processes of Abkhazia is expected or not. However, recent developments in the Gali district may be proof that the process has begun. According to the information available to the Democracy Research Institute, last week special forces of the Russian Guard entered the Gali district to find traces of two cars stolen from Russian citizens in Sokhumi. Russian soldiers searched cars on the street; Several houses were also searched. The fact that the Russian military units themselves are conducting search operations in a republic they recognize as "independent" seems to be proof that the process of complete annexation of Abkhazia has already begun.

With this in mind, regardless of how Georgian legislation defines the regime operating in the territory of Abkhazia, it is important for the Georgian authorities to take steps to provide information to the Georgian and international community, and most importantly, to clarify its position regarding the open or covert agreements between the de facto authorities and the Russian Federation's law enforcement agencies, especially considering the possible consequences that may arise in terms of instability in Abkhazia.