Putin Dashes Georgia’s Hopes To Regain Control Over Separatist Region

Fuad Muxtarlı Analysis 30 September 2019
Putin Dashes Georgia’s Hopes To Regain Control Over Separatist Region

Each time official Tbilisi discusses ways of joining NATO, Moscow undertakes fresh measures to reinforce its involvement in Georgia’s separatist regions.

Following the recent heated discussions in Georgia and Europe around ways of closely involving official Tbilisi in defining possible instruments for NATO membership, the Kremlin responded with funding the separatist army in Abkhazia on the Black Sea coast.

Moscow’s move is another indication of its determination to prevent any chances or hopes for Tbilisi to regain the control over the de facto region and this status is also applicable to other separatist regions of Georgia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has approved a government proposal to bankroll the modernisation of the armed forces in the occupied Georgian region of Abkhazia, a government document published online showed on 23 September.

Georgia lost control of the Black Sea region of Abkhazia after a short war in August 2008. Russia is one of only a handful of countries to recognise Abkhazia’s independence, something it decided to do in 2008 after it won a short war against Georgia over the fate of another Georgian breakaway region.

Russia, which has its own troops on the ground, will sign an agreement to finance the modernisation of Abkhazia’s armed forces after detailed negotiations are over, the government document said. Georgia condemned the move and called the agreement between Russia and Abkhazia illegal.

“This is another illegal step by the Russian Federation to integrate the Georgian regions into the Russian political and military space, which is a continuation of Russia’s annexed policy,” said Vladimer Konstantinidi, Georgia’s foreign ministry spokesman.

Georgia, which aspires to join the European Union and NATO, has not had diplomatic relations with Russia since 2008. It wants to get back control of Abkhazia and another breakaway region, South Ossetia, and for Russian troops to leave. The EU supports the territorial integrity of Georgia, including Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

In the meantime, the Kremlin favors resuming all-out ties with Georgia without a compromise on the occupied separatist regions. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov supports the resumption of direct flights from Russia to Georgia that Moscow suspended in July, Russian business daily Kommersant cited him as saying in the 25 September interview.

“It seems to me that it will be right to restore flights after the majority of the Georgian population realized the counterproductive and provocative nature of the trick that took place in the Georgian parliament,” Lavrov said, according to Kommersant.

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the temporary ban of passenger flights from Russia to Georgia following an outbreak of unrest in Tbilisi triggered by the visit of a Russian lawmaker in June.

One million Russian tourists used to visit Georgia each year.

Russia is vocal against denouncing Western sanctions, but is also using this instrument vis-à-vis countries in its neighbourhood, by tightening controls of wine imports, or introducing phytosanitary restrictions.

Georgia, a pro-Western former Soviet republic, fought and lost a short war against Russia in 2008.

The countries have not had diplomatic ties since, and Russia went on to recognize the independence of two breakaway Georgian regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, where Russian troops are now garrisoned.

At the same time, the overall opinion in Georgia is and the local opposition sticks to the point that the current government of the Georgian Dream is pro-Russian and does not miss any chances to fully establish comprehensive relations with the Kremlin, the charge the current government denies vehemently.