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Russland Raul Chadschimba in Sotschi
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/TASS/M. Mikhail

Abkhazia leader calls for calm after riots

Darko Janjevic (dpa, Interfax, AFP)
July 6, 2016

Anti-government forces have put Abkhazia on the brink of "chaos and degradation," said the president of the disputed Georgian region, Raul Khajimba. Earlier, protesters tried to storm the Interior Ministry building.


President Khajimba vowed to continue talks with the opposition on Wednesday, following violent clashes that led to the ouster of the interior minister.

"The situation has not yet been resolved," Khajimba said. "The opposition has other demands."

The Sukhumi regime and its opponents are at odds over the upcoming referendum that may lead to early elections. Although the opposition demanded the vote, it accuses the government of sabotage, intentionally scheduling it too early to prevent a full-on campaign. The critics demand that the date of the ballot be moved from June 10 to fall of this year.

Both Abkhazia and South Ossetia declared independence from Georgia in 2008, following a brief war between Georgia and Russia. Moscow has acknowledged their independence and maintained close contact with both governments. Tbilisi, however, claims both areas are occupied by Russian troops.

Police ready to work

On Tuesday, a group of around 1,000 protesters breached the perimeter of the region's interior ministry building and clashed with police while attempting to force their way inside. The riot stopped after the officials announced they would suspend Interior Minister Leonid Dzapshba. Opposition blames Dzapshba for an allegedly lackluster anti-crime effort.

"The demonstrators stormed the Interior Ministry building," tweeted Dmitry Gordon.

The administration claims that four security forces members were also shot during a firefight in the region's capital Sukhumi.

Following Dzapshba's ouster, the reigns of the Interior Ministry passed on to his deputy, Boris Abitov.

President Khajimba met with Interior Ministry representatives on Wednesday.

"We need to continue restoring order, and not to allow further actions such as those that took place yesterday. The Ministry is ready to continue its legally defined work," he told reporters.

Paid in blood

In a televised address, Khajimba also warned against using "hysterical outbursts and false accusations" as political tools.

"Today we all stand at the brink beyond which lie chaos and degradation" he said. "The actions of certain political and social movements are aimed at causing destabilization, which could ultimately lead to the destruction of our statehood, which we paid for in blood," he added.

Georgia/Abkhazia: Surviving a stalemate

Between US and a hard place

Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Russia's Vladimir Putin, said on Wednesday that Moscow was monitoring the Abkhazia developments "very carefully" and hoped that the issues would be resolved politically.

"Of course, we would like to see Abkhazia as a stable and developing country bordering Russia," the Interfax news agency reported him as saying.

During a brief visit to Georgia on Wednesday, US Secretary of State John Kerry pledged more aid to Tbilisi's defense forces.

"The United States stands firm in its commitment to Georgia's sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders," Kerry told reporters.

The region of Ossetia is due to vote on joining Russia in 2017.

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