Bzhania claimed Abkhazia wanted to join the Union State with Russia
In an August 25 interview with Russian media personality Vladimir Solovyov, who has close ties with the Kremlin, Abkhaz leader Aslan Bzhania expressed the region’s readiness to join the Union State of Russia and Belarus, reports Civil.ge. Meanwhile, according to Abkhazian media, the Sokhumi airport is being transferred to Russia.
Per Sukhumi-based apsnypress, Bzhania stated, “In the case of such a prospect as the Union State of Russia, Belarus, and other states that would like to join this union, we would be happy to support this idea and be full members of this state.” “The idea [of the Union State] is close to us, close to the people of Abkhazia, [and] this is in our national interests,” he emphasised.
Per the Abkhaz de facto leader, Abkhazia “understands the need for a strong alliance with the Russian Federation in the new reality, when the unipolar world has collapsed.” Russian State Duma deputy Konstantin Zatulin commented that Abkhazia’s entry into the Union State would create “new conditions for a number of issues”, including the simplification of crossing the Abkhazian-Russian border, following the example of the Russian Federation and Belarus. The latter is something that many in Abkhazia especially welcome, given hours-long lines at the checkpoint on the Psou River, writes JAM News.
Zatulin mentioned another consequence of Abkhazia (potentially) joining the Union State. He said that “it will be easier to agree on the possibility of Russians buying land in Abkhazia.” He also criticised the opponents of this idea in Abkhaz society:
“The opposition of Abkhazia is trying to sew doubt. They say, if this is allowed today, then tomorrow, the Abkhaz will cease to be the masters of their country. However, it is clear that no one will take away the land from Abkhazia. And this kind of fear actually impedes the development of Abkhazia.”
According to Abkhazian legislation, the land is not up for sale at all. Abkhazian laws also prohibit the sale of real estate to foreigners, including Russians, stressed the information portal. At the same time, local media informed that the Russian company Basic Element Ltd., which is registered in the Virgin Islands and affiliated with the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska is a new investor in Sukhumi airport.
According to an Abkhazian media outlets, on August 11, at the meeting held in Sokhumi between the ministers of economy of Russia and Abkhazia, the topic of the restoration of Vladislav Ardzinba Airport in Sokhumi was discussed, but under the following conditions: the terms for its realisation, as well as the right to control the runways of the aircraft and air operations facilities, remain under Abkhaz control. However, the Russian side took upon itself the restoration and sale of other complexes. According to the Ministry of Economy of Abkhazia, “This is a joint project with detailed goals.” The Russian minister also inspected the work started to restore the airport, which has been often reported to start operating in 2024 with Russian investment.
As Caucasus Watch reminds, Sukhumi Airport and its airspace have been closed since 1993, are not certified, and have not been assigned a four-digit location code by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which recognises Abkhazia as a constituent part of Georgia. Accordingly, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, as well as the Civil Aviation Agency, state that “international flights cannot be carried out in the region of occupied Abkhazia, as this is against international law, ICAO statutes, and Georgian legislation.”
“I have repeatedly become the subject of criticism. However, times are changing, and tourism is becoming an additional stimulus. The code of the Russian airport will probably be used for the Sukhum [Sokhumi] airport”, said Aslan Bzhania, the president of the de facto republic of Abkhazia, in response to the Georgian side.
Tbilisi City Panorama, Georgia. Photo: Matej Z/Shutterstock