The prime minister of breakaway Abkhazia, Alexander Ankvab, has survived an apparent assassination attempt, Abkhaz news agency Apsnipress reported.
He was “slightly injured” after his car came under grenade attack early on July 9.
“I have a concussion and several shrapnel wounds to my back. A grenade hit back of the car… Others in the car were not seriously injured as well,” Ankvab told Russian news agency Interfax.
The attack took place outside Gudauta, en route to Sokhumi. The driver of the car was also slightly injured, according to Apsnipress.
The prime minister’s car was targeted from a nearby bridge at about 8:15 am local time, Interior Minister Otar Khetsia told Apsnipress. No other details of the incident have been revealed.
Abkhaz leader Sergey Bagapsh said 500,000 rubles, or almost USD 20,000, would be offered for information leading to the arrest of those responsible.
“The multiple attempts on the prime minister’s life demonstrate only one thing,” Bagapsh said. “Certain groups are trying desperately to hinder on-going reforms and to prevent the president’s team from carrying out these reforms and fighting organized crime.”
He also said those behind the attack were trying to destabilize Abkhazia, and “hence, intentionally, or unintentionally, are following orders from the country with which Abkhazia is in a state of war.”
“The government will not yield to these kinds of ‘acts of pressure’ and we will not change our policy,” Bagapsh added in a statement, which was posted on his official website.
The vice-president of Abkhazia, Raul Khajimba, who is considered to be an undeclared political foe of Bagapsh’s, has also condemned the attack as “a destabilization attempt.”
It is thought to be the third, and possibily the fourth, such attempt on PM Ankvab's life in two years.
In February 2005 a group of unknown gunmen opened fire on his convoy outside Sokhumi. His car was hit by 17 bullets, local television reported at the time. Ankvab, however, was riding in Vice-Premier Leonid Lakerbaia's car.
Bagapsh said at the time that “criminal elements” were behind the attack on his close political ally.
In April 2005, unknown gunmen again opened fire on Ankvab's convoy near Sokhumi. His driver was injured.
No one has ever been arrested for these attacks.
On June 27, 2007, a group of Abkhaz public figures, including writers, poets, academics and journalists, alleged in a statement that Ankvab was the target of a remote-control bomb. The bomb had gone off a week earlier near Novy Aphon to the west of Sokhumi. No one was injured, as it had exploded unexpectedly because of thunder.
“It is clear that those behind these attacks act against the interests of the Abkhaz people… It is impossible to build a civilized state, if this kind of method is used against opponents,” the statement said.
Alexander Ankvab, 54, an influential political figure, was appointed Prime Minister of the unrecognized republic on February 14, 2005. He is a close ally of President Bagapsh and the leader of the influential political party, Aitaira (Revival).
He had wanted to run in the 2004 presidential election, but was ineligible because of an inability to speak the Abkhaz language and because he failed to meet residency requirements. He subsequently backed Bagapsh.