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What is happening in Abkhazia against the backdrop of the current political crisis in Tbilisi?
07.06.2024

Georgian Dream adopted the Russian law, which restricts free and critical opinions in Georgia. The law blocks the path of the people of Georgia to the European Union.

The campaign "Georgians have come to their senses" is growing in Russia's political and propaganda agenda in direct proportion to the Georgian ruling elite’s increasingly uncompromising attitude towards pro-Western and democratic protest. An information policy of similar content is carried out in the media managed by the de facto authorities of occupied Abkhazia as well. However, the Abkhaz society does not fully share these messages; Moreover, Abkhazians fear that if Georgia refuses the western course of its development, Abkhazia might be divided by the authorities of Georgia and the occupying Russia.

At the same time, Russian propaganda is active in the Gali district. Russian soft power combines the narrative built on the traditional and unshakable Russia-Georgia friendship with symbolic, yet noticeable campaign steps. As far as the Democracy Research Institute is informed, the humanitarian college operating in the Gali district, which is functioning directly under the supervision of the Ministry of Education of the Russian Federation, was visited by the delegation from the State University of Armavir, Krasnodar Krai, and the de facto minister of education of Abkhazia, Inal Gablia. The guests told the local audience that this year's graduates of the college, if they wish, can continue their studies at Armavir University for free and without competition to master the specialty of Russian language and literature, for which the university will provide them with accommodation and scholarships. Despite the Russian "generous" offer, the locals have not met the proposal with enthusiasm - only three locals may take advantage of the offer.

In addition, on May 24, the head of the de facto administration of Gali, Konstantine Pilia, together with a delegation, visited the city of Yaroslavl in the Russian Federation, where a memorandum of cooperation was signed after a meeting with the local mayor, Artyom Molchanov. The document provides for the implementation of Russian economic projects in Gali. In Yaroslavl, the representatves of the de facto administration of Gali signed a similar memorandum with the administration of the Ukrainian Zaporizhzhia region occupied by Russia.

Similar agreements cause fear among both Abkhazians and Georgians. Both ethnic groups of occupied Abkhazia fear that the Russian money received as a result of such agreements will be followed by the Russian population. There are already precedents of ethnic Russians from the Russian-occupied Donetsk and Luhansk regions buying houses and citrus farms in Ochamchire and Tkvarcheli for the substantial price. According to the locals, Russia is purposefully and methodically trying to change the demographic picture in Abkhazia, providing funding to the Russian families to settle, even in an unfavorable Abkhazian environment, in the Abkhazian lands emptied as a result of the expulsion of ethnic Georgians in the 1990s.

With the start of summer, soldiers of the Russian occupation forces distribute ice cream and soft drinks to local Georgians in public gathering places and parks of Gali. This primitive form of soft power information campaign of the occupying state is aimed at making Georgians, distrustful of Abkhazians, see them as friends and a caring force.