A week before the scheduled inauguration of opposition leader Sergey Bagapsh as the President of breakaway Abkhazia, top-level Russian officials from the Interior Ministry and General Prosecutor’s office, as well as representatives from the Russian Central Election Commission are visiting the capital of the unrecognized republic, Sokhumi. Meanwhile, pro-governmental presidential contender Raul Khajimba, who backed by Moscow, warned that a Bagapsh presidency might lead to the splitting of Abkhazia into two parts.
A group of Russian Interior Ministry officials, led by First Deputy Interior Minister Alexander Chekalin, arrived in Sokhumi on November 30, RIA Novosti news agency reported. The Russian delegation is also accompanied by the Russian Deputy Prosecutor General Vladimir Kolesnikov.
“A large group, mainly officials from the Russian Interior Ministry, arrived in Sukhumi to get acquainted with the current situation and to clarify the forces involved. The mission is to allow justice to prevail. Our top task is that all decisions which will be made should be in frames of the Republic’s Constitution,” Vladimir Kolesnikov, the Deputy Prosecutor General, said during talks with the Abkhaz Interior Ministry officials.
Georgian Foreign Minister Salome Zourabichvili condemned on November 30 visit of Russian Deputy Interior Minister and Deputy General Prosecutor to breakaway Abkhazia without prior notification of Tbilisi.
She described the Russian officials’ move as “an incorrect” and “interference in Georgia’s internal affairs by Russia.”
Some Russian news agencies also reported that Vladimir Kolesnikov criticized the Governor of Russia’s Krasnodar district, which neighbors Abkhazia, for his threats on November 23 to close the border with Abkhazia if “the Abkhaz people do not change their mind and still recognize Bagapsh as President-elect.” However, later Kolesnikov rejected this report as “misinformation” and reiterated that the borders should be closed in case of aggravation of situation in the breakaway region.
The Itar-Tass news agency reported on November 30 that legal experts from the Russian Central Election Commission (CEC) are also visiting Sokhumi.
“They [representatives of the Russian CEC] should examine all documentation of the Abkhaz CEC regarding the presidential elections,” de facto Abkhaz Prime Minister Nodar Khashba said on November 30.
“They are not here to give recommendations on how we should act. They will help us find mistakes and to discover the truth,” he added.
Meanwhile, pro-governmental presidential contender Raul Khajimba still desperately challenges the validity of the presidential inauguration of Sergey Bagapsh, scheduled for December 6 and says that even after the inauguration outgoing Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba will remain the region’s leader.
According to the news agency Interfax, Khajimba, on November 30, warned that Abkhazia “may be divided into two economic zones. One will be under the control of Georgia and the United States, the other – under the Russian oil company.” However, Khajimba did not specify which Russian company.
Raul Khajimba still insists on conducting a repeat vote of the disputed October 3 presidential elections. But the strength of Khajimba’s opposition ability has been waning and took a serious blow after both the Parliament and Council of Elders of Abkhazia recognized Bagapsh as the president-elect.