abkhaz protest

(Rustavi 2.)

TBILISI, DFWatch–Authorities in Abkhazia have closed Nabakevi and Otobaya border crossings connecting the breakaway region to Georgia proper.

The closing of the two checkpoints was announced by Lasha Tsaava, head of the legal department of the de facto Cabinet of Ministers on December 28.

Following the closure of the checkpoints, local residents living in Nabakevi Wednesday held a protest against the closures. A video released by Rustavi 2 TV showed a group of approximately 200 residents of Nabakevi and surrounding villages rallying along the road and waving posters with messages against the decision to close the crossing point.

“We would like to tell the [Georgian] government that we are in Abkhazia and we would like to keep our houses for our children. Georgia should pay attention to us, so that the road is not closed for these children,” a local resident told the Tbilisi-based TV station.

Locals living in Nabakevi and adjacent villages usually travel through the Nabakevi-Khurcha crossing point to neighboring Zugdidi to attend schools, use medical services or engage in trade.

When it comes to trade, Nabakevi and Otobaya border crossings are used by inhabitants in the predominantly ethnic Georgian Gali district to go to Zugdidi city, where they sell and buy goods.

The only public crossing now open is the bridge across the River Enguri near Zugdidi, which extends the travel distance for locals by at least 30 kilometers.  Another crossing is also open, but it is exclusively used for reconstruction work on the Enguri hydropower plant and is situated further upstream, near Jvari settlement.

Mohamed Kilba, Secretary of de facto Abkhaz Security Council, told Russian state-owned Sputnik news agency that the people protesting the closure of crossing points are not Abkhazian citizens and they don’t have a right to impose their demands on local authorities.

“If residents of Gali district, who are not holding Abkhazian citizenship, want to protest something they should go and protest it on the territory of Georgia,” Kilba said.