Abkhazia’s de-facto President resigns

Alexander Ankvab stepped down on Sunday. Photo by ITAR-TASS
Agenda.ge, 02 Jun 2014 - 12:11, Tbilisi,Georgia

The head of Georgia's breakaway region Abkhazia has resigned.

Alexander Ankvab stepped down on Sunday - a day after the local de-facto Parliament voted to hold early Presidential elections in August. In Ankvab’s final address to his people on Sunday, he said: "For the purpose of preserving stability in the country, I am tendering my resignation as Abkhazian President.”

He called on people to keep calm, to preserve civil peace and to "hold the new elections in a normal atmosphere".

Speaker of Abkhazia’s regional Parliament Valery Bganba is the region’s acting President until the August 24 election.

Ankvab’s resigned after protesters accused him of corruption and misrule. Demonstrators stormed into the Presidential headquarters on May 27, when the opposition vented its anger at the de-facto Government and demanded reforms.

However, in his speech Ankvab said calls for reforms and other demands were just a pretext for the opposition as they were only interested in "distributing seats in Cabinet”. He also said their "appetite” would grow and eventually create an existential threat to Abkhazia.

"In struggle for power it is easy to lose something very sacred to us [and] Abkhazia may no longer exist,” Ankvab said.

The Russian President’s aide Vladislav Surkov said Russia would continue to support Abkhazia "in any direction” despite Ankvab’s resignation.

"Russia will demonstrate financial and military support toward the friendly Abkhazian nation”, Surkov said.

He said Moscow was "actively collaborating” with the nation’s acting de-facto President.

Russian President Vladimir Putin appointed Surkov to oversee Moscow’s relations with Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in September, 2013.

Today, Georgian officials said they were observing situation in breakaway Akhazia and their main concern was for Georgians living in Gali and surrounding regions of Abkhazia not to be affected by the current tense situation.

Georgia’s Deputy Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani said the Georgian Government was closely collaborating with the global community to prevent the situation in Abkhazia from escalating further.

Georgia’s State Minister for Reconciliation and Civil Equality Paata Zakareishvili believed Russia played a "crucial role” in Ankvab’s resignation. 

"Of course Russia is engaged in these processes [that are going on in Abkhazia] as a real ruler of the situation,” he said.

Zakareishvili claimed the Abkhazian opposition wanted to come into power even before the Sochi Olympics in February. 

"But Russia called on them not to hamper the Olympics,” the State Minister said. 

He added shortly after the Olympics, the Ukrainian crisis began and as soon as the election was conducted in Ukraine, the Abkhazian opposition reactivated their attempts to grab Russia’s attention.

"Russia analyzed the situation and assured Ankvab it was better for him to step down. Russia’s role in Ankvab’s decision was crucial,” Zakareishvili claimed. 

Abkhazia and another Georgian region, South Ossetia, were the focal point of a war between Georgia and Russia in 2008. The two areas now rely heavily on Moscow's finances. The two regions make up 20 percent of Georgian territory and remain occupied by Russia.