De facto Abkhazia approves transfer of Pitsunda „dacha” to Russia
On December 27, the de facto Parliament of Abkhazia ratified a deal transferring the Pitsunda (geo. Bichvinta) “dacha” to Russia’s Federal Protective Service (FSO) for 49 years. The decision sparked ire in Georgia and mass protests in de facto Abkhazia. De facto Abkhazian Parliament included several articles in the agreement requested by Abkhazian opposition activists that would guarantee the termination of the deal if the FSO donates, sells, or transfers the state dacha to a third party.
In addition, the FSO cannot construct new buildings or facilities on the leased territory without Abkhazia’s prior approval. De facto parliament was expected to convene to ratify the deal at 11:00 on December 27, with protesters gathering around government buildings and the parliament on December 26 to prevent police from cordoning off the parliament and barring protesters from attending the session.
However, 28 MPs arrived at parliament after midnight, with the vote taking place behind closed doors in the early hours of December 27. Critics of the controversial transfer have said that parliament chose to ratify the agreement in the early morning to avoid protests outside parliament.
Hundreds of demonstrators have been rallying in front of the de facto parliament’s building in the regional capital, Sukhumi, since December 26, demanding that the deal be scrapped immediately. Asida Shakryl, a former de facto ombudswoman of Abkhazia, called the move illegal. “Lawmakers have ignored the constitution of the Republic of Abkhazia…. They have to explain why they decided to discuss the issue at night. They have to justify the legitimacy of that sort of session,” Shakryl said.
Opposition politician Alkhas Jinjolia said on December 26 that the rally in front of the de facto parliament’s building would continue until the protesters’ request to cancel the deal was met. Abkhazia’s de facto Foreign Minister Inal Ardzinba said earlier that the deal on handing the resort to Russia was “legal and corresponded to international law.”
Russia’s envoy to the breakaway region, Mikhail Shurgalin, has said that, according to the deal, the land on which the resort is located will not be owned by Russia.
“The territory will be rented [by Russia] for 49 years. Only buildings will be owned [by Russia], and their maintenance and repair work will be conducted by [Russia’s] Federal Guard Service,” Shurgalin said earlier.
The Georgian Foreign Ministry condemned the deal on handing the Pitsunda (Bichvinta) complex of holiday homes to Russia, calling it “another illegal act and the continuation of Russia’s policy of occupation of the indivisible regions of Georgia, which grossly violates the fundamental principles of international law.”
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia appeals to the international community to properly assess this new illegal step by the Russian Federation aimed at encroaching on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia,” the ministry said in a statement.
Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili also condemned what she called “another land grab by Russians in Georgian territories…and their creeping annexation policies.”
According to Giorgi Gakharia, leader of the opposition For Georgia party, “Russia took another step towards annexation of occupied Abkhazia against the background of Georgian Dream’s policy of “pragmatic silence.” Gakharia said that the occupation regime in Sokhumi, accommodating Russia’s request, gave it the Bichvinta resort “totally neglecting the will of Georgian and Abkhaz people.” “Such “decisions” are illegal. Together with our Abkhaz compatriots, we should reclaim back our land.”