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'Positions Still Far Apart' in Abkhaz Standoff
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 31 May.'14 / 01:42

  • Ankvab is at the Russian military base in Gudauta;
  • PM claims there was threat to Ankvab’s life;
  • Opposition continues occupying presidential administration;
  • ‘Lull’ in negotiation process;
  • Ankvab: 'situation is difficult, but not critical';
  • Opposition claims legitimacy of ‘provisional national council’;
  • Deputy secretary of Russia’s Security Council remains in Abkhazia;

Opposition in breakaway Abkhazia, which continues occupying presidential administration building, demanding resignation of Abkhaz leader Alexander Ankvab, has condemned any suggestion about Abkhazia joining Russia and accused Ankvab and his allies of spreading such false rumors.

“Recently Ankvab’s circle has been persistently spreading rumors about Russian representatives raising the issue of Abkhazia’s accession into the Russian Federation or into associated relationship [with Russia]. This once again proves that for the sake of keeping [presidential] chair, Ankvab is taking irresponsible steps aimed at undermining national interests of our people and at discrediting Abkhazia’s relations with Russia,” reads the statement released by “provisional national council”, a group set up by opposition parties and movement.

“It is obvious that the goal of Ankvab is to distract public attention from his own personality against whom our people has unequivocally spoken out at the national assembly [protest rally] – Ankvab must go. We want to note that development of strategic partnership on equal basis between the two independent states – Republic of Abkhazia and the Russian Federation, has no alternative. The both sides are interested in such format of relations and it has been stressed by various Russian officials for multiple times,” Abkhaz news agency, Apsnipress, quotes the statement.

“No one has considered and is considering possibility to change independent status of our state, which has been won with a huge sacrifice,” it reads.

On May 29 the Abkhaz opposition called for a new, upgraded partnership treaty with Russia, and Abkhazia’s membership in Russian-led Eurasian Union and Customs Union.

Asked about the issue in an interview with Kommersant radio station on May 29, Abkhaz leader Alexander Ankvab said that only “insignificant part” of population in Abkhazia is in favor of joining Russia. “Overwhelming majority thinks that Abkhazia should remain independent,” Ankvab said.

Ankvab also told Kommersant radio station that situation in Abkhazia is “difficult, but not critical.”

He said that he’s ready to discuss with the opposition proposals, “which may bring benefit to the country,” but added that he would not discuss any demands put forth in a form of “ultimatums.”

Breakaway region’s PM Leonid Lakerbaia confirmed on May 30 that Ankvab is at the Russian military base in Gudauta, a town about 40km northwest from Sokhumi.

Lakerbaia claimed that Ankvab had to flee presidential administration building after the premises was stormed by one part of protesters late on May 27 and to leave Sokhumi because there was a threat to his life. Lakerbaia was speaking at a news conference in official dacha residence in Sokhumi, according to Apsnipress.

He also claimed that Ankvab was planning to arrive in Sokhumi on May 29 but had to cancel the trip after security service warned about “two groups”, which he did not specify, “ready for an assassination attempt against him.”

There have been five, or possibly six, attempts on Ankvab’s life since 2005 – most recently in February, 2012 when his convoy on the road between Gudauta and Sokhumi was attacked; two bodyguards of the Abkhaz leader were killed in that attack.

After mediation by Russian President’s aide Vladislav Surkov on May 29 the opposition and the authorities agreed to launch direct talks and also named their negotiators.

But as Ankvab’s negotiator, secretary of security council Nugzar Ashuba said earlier on May 30 there was “lull” in negotiation process, Apsnipress reported.

Surkov left Abkhazia on May 29, but deputy secretary of Russia’s security council Rashid Nurgaliyev remains there, according to the Abkhaz officials.

Meanwhile, Raul Khajimba, one of the opposition leaders, said on May 30 that “provisional national council”, which has proclaimed itself as a legitimate body to govern, said that Ankvab “de facto is no longer the President.”

He said that there are two legitimate bodies in Abkhazia – the Parliament and the provisional national council. He also called on the Parliament to start drafting new constitution, which would prevent “threat of usurpation of power, as it was under Ankvab’s rule.”

Breakaway region’s Parliament has called on the local authorities and other governmental agencies to continue performing their duties.

Abkhaz Parliament’s May 29 no-confidence vote against PM Lakerbaia showed that at least 20 lawmakers are pro-opposition in 35-seat legislative body; 21 MPs were present at the session on May 29; one abstained in vote for a resolution, which also included a non-binding call for Ankvab to resign; remaining 14 lawmakers did not attend the session.

PM Lakerbaia ruled out use of force against protesters, who are occupying presidential administration building.

He reiterated again about readiness to resign if it helps to resolve the crisis and indicated that the authorities were ready on May 27 for accepting opposition’s initial demands about government’s resignation and sacking of chief prosecutor, but potential deal was thwarted after one part of protesters stormed the presidential administration.

Lakerbaia also said there will be no winners if the both sides continue with current “maximalist” approach; he added that positions are still far apart.

Pro-Ankvab rally is planned in Sokhumi on June 2.

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