The Weekly Tripwire Issue 4
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 27 Jul.'17 / 15:02

17-23 July

On the Line – Poroshenko in Khurvaleti: During his visit to Georgia, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko went to the line of control in village Khurvaleti, with its jugged Russian-installed barbed wire cutting visibly the local farmers’ land. “We have a common aggressor - both Ukraine and Georgia - and this is the Russian Federation,” said Poroshenko after conversing with the local residents. On his Twitter account he posted: “It is painful to look into the eyes of the people who have found themselves behind the barbed wire of the Russian occupation in our friendly Georgia.”

Sokhumi Happenings – Assimilation effort targets Georgians in Gali: Sokhumi is telling ethnic Georgians of the Gali district they are not who they say they are, and suggests they consider calling themselves ethnic Abkhaz. The region’s Russia-backed leader Raul Khajimba issued a letter implying that the Gali residents were in truth Abkhaz, with the Georgian identity forced upon them in the Soviet period. He added optimistically that “nevertheless the ethnic memory is alive and there are ongoing processes to restore the national identity of the native people.”

The re-branding won’t go without tagging though. The term the Abkhaz leadership has for the Gali Georgians willing to recover their alleged ‘true identity’ is “Murzakan Abkhaz,” after the name (Samurzakano) which historically included the Gali district’s territory. The head of the district administration claims over 30 individuals have applied for a change of their surnames from Georgian into Abkhaz ones.

Western Voices – UK Foreign Office issues its annual Human Rights Report:
The Report’s Russian Federation section includes the situation in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia. It says that “Russian actions in Abkhazia and South Ossetia led to deterioration in the human rights situation in both regions,” citing pressure on the freedom of movement and restriction of education in the Georgian language, as well as of the ethnic Georgians’ residency and property rights, among the human rights violations in the two provinces.

Sokhumi Happenings – Much ado about NATO: In case someone has missed the often repeated message the authorities in Sokhumi again restated that they don’t like NATO. This time their “foreign ministry” said it considered the coming U.S.-led Noble Partner 2017 military exercise in Georgia to be “destructive and aimed at the further escalation of tensions in the region.”

Sokhumi Happenings – Concern over the coverage in Russia: Besides the looming NATO threat, Sokhumi authorities are also disturbed by the negative coverage of Abkhazia in the Russian media, triggered by the murder of the Russian tourist and accenting the recent crime wave in the province. The statement they have issued blames “mostly non-state Russian media agencies,” and says that their coverage is “frankly negative and sometimes even slanderous.” 

Sokhumi Happenings – Opposition consultations: After the recent withdrawal of the Abkhaz opposition from the “socio-political stability agreement” it had signed with the region’s present rulers in December 2016, several opposition groups held consultations regarding the future prospects. The meeting did not appear to produce any specific plans, but the participants have agreed to keep talking.

The Military Aspect – Military agreement ratified: Tskhinvali “parliament” has ratified the military agreement signed on March 31 in Moscow, clearing the last hurdle for inclusion of the local Ossetian armed units into the official military structure of the Russian Federation.

Russia’s Network – Tskhinvali welcomes Malorossiya: In a confirmation of the special relationship between Tskhinvali and the Russian-backed leaders in Ukraine’s Donbass region, Tskhinvali “foreign minister” Dmitry Medoev welcomed the peculiar idea voiced by the Donetsk leader Alexander Zakharchenko to replace the present state of Ukraine with the one called “Malorossiya.” The term was used for Ukrainian lands in the old Russian Empire and literally means “little Russia”. Medoev somehow hopes that “this initiative will give a new impulse for the peaceful resolution and will help break the deadlock.” 

Russia’s Network – Nurgaliev in Tskhinvali: Deputy Secretary of Russia’s National Security Council Rashid Nurgaliev went on a visit to Tskhinvali. Among other issues, he and the local Russian-backed leader Anatoly Bibilov spoke about Russia’s new law enforcement body that is going to be established in Tskhinvali. Nurgaliev also inspected Russia’s newly-built roads that connect several previously disjointed parts of the Russian-occupied territory and, incidentally, also link multiple Russian bases and border outposts.

Russia’s Network – Consultations in Moscow: Russia’s Foreign Ministry hosted “consultations” with the Abkhaz representatives over the issues like development of ties between Sokhumi and various regions of the Russian Federation, and “strengthening of international positions of Abkhazia.” 

Russia’s Network – Lobbying for investors: Moscow’s trade representative held a meeting with the Abkhaz “internal affairs minister” Aslan Kobakhia, talking about “protection of the rights of the Russian investors” in Abkhazia.

Russia’s Network – Arkhangelsk diaspora leader in Abkhazia: Roman Ryazantsev has been selected to be the new head of the ethnic Russian diaspora in Abkhazia. While there are local ethnic Russians in the province, Ryazantsev is not one of them. He comes from Arkhangelsk in northern Russia’s Arctic parts, and has been residing in Abkhazia only since 2011.

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