The Abkhaz parliament ratified the agreement on the establishment of the “Joint Information-Coordination Center of Internal Affairs Agencies,” a new law enforcement agency that will include Russian police officers operating in Abkhazia, local media sources reported on July 26.
Out of the 34 Abkhaz deputies participating in the vote, 23 opted for the Center, nine voted against and two abstained.
When introducing the agreement for ratification on July 26, Sokhumi “internal affairs minister” Aslan Kobakhia said it would “accomplish the task of exchanging important operational information” with Russia, as well as develop databases on the organized crime and “support conducting international search and extradition.”
The agreement on the Center’s establishment was signed on May 18 in Sochi between Kobakhia and Russian Deputy Interior Minister Igor Zubov. It is part of the treaty on “the alliance and strategic partnership” signed between Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and the Abkhaz leader Raul Khajimba on November 24, 2014.
Creation of the Center caused controversy in Abkhazia due to concerns that it would give the Russians more control over the region’s internal affairs. Some local politicians and organizations expressed their opposition to the Center, both before and after the May 18 agreement.
The province’s Russian-backed authorities responded to the criticism by pointing out that the Center staff is limited to 20 persons, its Center’s leadership is going to be rotated between Russia- and Sokhumi-appointed officers, and that the Center will not be authorized to conduct “operative-investigative activities.”
One day before the ratification, on July 25, Abkhaz leader Raul Khajimba said regarding the Center that “no one will allow some kind of supranational structure which would parallel the work of the ministry of internal affairs of Abkhazia.”
“This agency’s purpose will be to support the ministry of internal affairs of Abkhazia; we have spoken about the numerical parity of the employees that will work in this unit, the issue of its leadership is clearly defined [as well],” Khajimba added.
The purpose of the Information-Coordination Center, according to the Sokhumi internal affairs ministry, as well as the text of the agreement, is to coordinate the activities of Russian and Abkhaz agencies in fighting “organized crime and other dangerous types of crimes.” For that, the Center will document, analyze and exchange the crime-related information; as well as assist in carrying out “inter-governmental search and extradition of persons,” and “the necessary agreed activities to combat dangerous types of crimes that pose threats to the security of the Republic.”
A similar agency will be established in Tskhinvali as well.