TBILISI, DFWatch–The opposition in Abkhazia Tuesday night took over the presidential administration in Sukhumi and demanded the resignation of President Alexander Ankvab.
A new caretaker government claims to be in control of the breakaway region, led by Raul Khajimba, who has previously tried to run for president.
Although Ankvab had to leave Sokhumi but is still in Abkhazia, in the town Gudauta, and claims he is in power, and has the support of top security officials.
Russian agency Itar Tass quoted Secretary of the Security Council Nugzar Ashuba who said the recent events is a coup attempt. Other top officials gave him their support.
“We categorically reject the unconstitutional methods of struggle that lead to destabilization of the country, urge all forces to legal action solely within the RA Constitution. We support the democratically elected president of the country,” the defense minister, interior minister and two other top security officials wrote in a joint statement.
The crisis has been brewing for weeks. Already April 29, the opposition presented a list of demands that included rewriting the constitution to shift power more toward parliament. They believe that Abkhazia is in a systemic crisis that requires drastic measures, Itar-Tass reported.
Ankvab on Tuesday offered the opposition to fire the chief prosecutor and two regional leaders, but the opposition demanded Ankvab’s own resignation. Negotiations broke down, and a gathering that began outside the theater pushed their way into the presidential building at 23:00 Tuesday. They were able to enter without resistance.
Later the opposition went to the TV building and demanded to come on the air to explain to people why they had did it.
Ankvab later explained that he could have ordered security forces to put up resistance, but chose not to.
“Of course, security could take adequate measures, but everyone understands what that had led to. This was not done, and it means that we still have a chance to bring the situation into a legal framework,” Ankvab said.
Current crisis have been also caused by dissatisfaction among many Abkhaz radicals of too ‘benign’ policy by the separatists authorities toward the ethnic Georgian population in the southeast of Abkhazia. Protesters demand a tougher line against Georgians who survived waves of ethnic cleansing in early and mid 90s.
The opposition had requested a halt in the issuing of these passports, revoking those passport, which, they claim, have been issued in violation of Abkhazian constitution and also want to change the constitution to shift power more toward parliament.
Raul Khajimba, a former KGB operative and leader of the opposition who has been regarded as the most pro-Russian politician in Abkhazia with close ties to Russian intelligence circles, lost the presidential race to Ankvab in 2011 mostly due to the votes of ethnic Georgians.
The mayor of Sukhumi, Alias Labakhua, told Itar-Tass that the situation in the city is stable, and that there are no clashes to be seen.
Two high ranking Russian officials rushed to Abkhazia to mediate the crisis. Vladislav Surkov, Putin’s assistant in charge of policies toward Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and Rashid Nurgaliyev, former minister of interior and now deputy secretary of Russia’s Security Council, met on Wednesday with Ankvab in Gudauta and then with opposition leaders in Sokhumi.
Surkov, an influential politician, was also widely known as the architect of Putin’s policy toward Ukraine during and after the Maidan crisis, was put on the first list of Russian politicians who faced sanctions by the US and the EU.