Our Position
What does the fight against criminals mean in Abkhazia?
After defusing the internal unrest in Abkhazia in December 2021, the de facto government of Aslan Bzhania looks and acts more confidently. It seems that demonstrating the legitimate use of force and the principles of the rule of law is becoming a priority for him. It is also clear that Abkhazian society is, to some extent, adapting to Bzhania's policy. Demand for order and stability is growing and resistance to the regime is virtually no longer large-scale. This trend was evident earlier this year too, when the de facto government of Abkhazia opposed the burial of a criminal authority, the body of which was transferred from Greece to Gali. Clearly, it is difficult to say unequivocally that this incident was part of a general policy of fight against criminals, as the reason for the above might merely be the Georgian ethnicity of the deceased criminal.
However, the resistance shown by the de facto law enforcers of Abkhazia to influential Abkhaz criminals is evident. The mentioned developments were intensively covered by the Georgian media as well. On January 7-9, criminal groups from Sukhumi, Ochamchire and other parts of Abkhazia and their supporters, about 2,000 people, gathered on the other side of Enguri, waiting for a convoy transferring the body of the criminal authority from Zugdidi to Gali. It seems that criminals of Abkhazia, in addition to paying tribute to the late criminal authority close to them, intended to show their power to Aslan Bzhania and to convince their compatriots of the de facto government’s weakness.
However, the events unfolded quite differently. As the Democracy Research Institute has been informed, the de facto government of Abkhazia twice dispersed the group of 2,000 people mobilized along the Enguri dividing line. The above was first carried out by the Abkhazian special forces and then by the Russian OMON. The involvement of the latter is particularly noteworthy. First of all, the question arises as to why it became necessary to use the Russian OMON. Was it because of the fact that Abkhaz law enforcers do not have the relevant experience, power or ability, or because of the fact that Bzhania's government does not fully trust them? How will the criminals of Abkhazia treat the de facto government after this incident?
According to locals, the crackdown was unprecedentedly brutal and resulted in the arrest of about 30 people, while the criminal authority was buried in Zugdidi. All this happened against the background that the criminal groups had not felt any resistance in carrying out their activities on the territory of Abkhazia before this incident.
The developments related to the burial of the criminal authority showed, first of all, more self-confidence of Aslan Bzhania's de facto government, which was unequivocally ensured by the involvement of the occupation forces of the Russian Federation. At the same time, state structures in Abkhazia are trying to expel criminal gangs from public life. This policy is clearly in line with the expectations of Abkhaz society to establish order and stability, and in this regard, there is no resistance to the de facto government or the Russian forceful involvement.
In addition, it is important to note what was happening in the meantime on the other side of Enguri, in an area controlled by the Georgian authorities. Georgian criminal groups and so-called fraternities attended the burial of the criminal authority. The gathering was clearly characterized by the demonstration of crimianl aesthetics, symbolism and vocabulary. Naturally, the question arises as to what is happening in Georgia in terms of the fight against crime that began years ago, as the de facto government of Abkhazia is now beginning the same.