Holding of a referendum in Abkhazia on whether to join Russia or not “is out of the question,” Kristian Bzhania, the Abkhaz leader’s spokesman, told Abkhaz news agency Apsnipress on March 25.
“We have been following discussions unfolding on the Internet, and to say the truth, we did not deem it necessary to comment on that in the virtue of an absolutely defined, consolidated position of the Abkhaz society and the authorities. At the same time, I want to draw your attention to the fact that the issue of joining or not joining Russia was raised in the context of recent developments in Ukraine and in Crimea not by the Abkhaz society and expert community, but by some Russian media outlets,” he said.
“It should be emphasized that the issue of joining the Russian Federation is not raised and is not even discussed in the Republic of Abkhazia, either by the public or by the authorities. Therefore, a referendum on this issue is out of the question,” Bzhania said.
“It will not be held not because someone is afraid of its results, but because there is no need for that at all,” he added.
Bzhania also reiterated Sokhumi’s “unconditional support” to the decision of incorporation of Crimea into Russia and said that it was “a just decision from any point of view.” He, however, also added Abkhazia is “completely different” case.
“As far as current Abkhaz-Russian relationship is concerned, it is developing rather dynamically, encompassing actually all the areas of mutual interest,” he said.
“Level and quality of this relationship does not leave space for above mentioned discussions” on whether to join or not Russia, Bzhania added.
On March 11 RFE/RL’s Russian-language Ekho Kavkaza posted on its website under the headline “All my life I dreamed of being part of Russia” vox pop interviews recorded in Sokhumi. But the story in which most of those interviewed spoke in favor of joining Russia was removed from the website upon author’s request after the latter became a target of attacks by online commentators, some calling her a “provocateur” for preparing vox pop in which many spoke in favor of joining Russia.
No recent opinion polls from the breakaway region are available. According to a public opinion survey that was conducted in Abkhazia in 2010 by Moscow-based Levada polling center, support for independence was stronger among ethnic Abkhaz respondents (79%), then in other ethnic groups residing in the breakaway region.