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Putin has shown the agenda in the South Caucasus is fixed for long

Raul Khajimba, Vladimir Putin

The presidents of Russia and Abkhazia meet quite often. With Raul Khajimba, Vladimir Putin meets much more frequently than with many other foreign leaders – even though Russia has no strategic problems in the region: the conflicts are frozen, the war is impossible.

Experts see some deeper implications in these meetings. Some say that Putin’s last visit to Abkhazia was due to Russia’s concern over the internal political situation in that republic.

Khajimba’s term in office expires in Sept 2019. He has been in power for three years already and has witnessed a series of political crises. His fourth year in office may be even hotter, especially as Abkhazia is facing more and more problems. This year, its tourist season was marred by robberies of tourists and an explosion at an ammo supply warehouse in Gudauta. Economic problems, internal contradictions – all this is adding fuel to the fire.

“Disintegration and aggression” – this is how one can qualify the processes developing in the Abkhazian political elite.

Under such circumstances, it is crucial that Khajimba should stay in his office till the end of his term. Legal political process - this is what Russia wants to see in Abkhazia. So, Putin’s visit was a kind of an urge to the Abkhazian authorities not to go beyond the law. And the reason Putin supports Khajimba is not because he likes him as a person but because he wants Abkhazia to be led by a legitimate political figure.

The last parliamentary elections in Abkhazia have shown that the local players are getting used to playing by rule. Now it is important that the next presidential race be also lawful.

Putin’s visit followed a number of incidents that had made Abkhazia’s much less attractive for Russian tourists. Crime is in the rise in Abkhazia and the key reason is that the local law enforcement system is not efficient and can just react and record.

We can’t say that the crime rate in Abkhazia was much lower in the past, simply, today, crimes receive much wider coverage in the press, especially when they are aimed against Russian citizens.

Recently, Russia and Abkhazia ratified an agreement to establish the information coordination center of the Russian and Abkhazia law enforcement authorities. It will be something like Interpol.

Russia is strongly committed to enhance security in Abkhazia but for the Abkhazian authorities this may prove to be impracticable. So, the minimum goal for the moment is to ensure their legitimacy, while efficiency is a much more distant goal.

One more urgent task is to find ways to prevent crimes against Russian citizens. The investigation into the murder of tourist Andrey Kabanov has shown that the Abkhazian police can be efficient when they work appropriately.

Putin came to Abkhazia on the ninth anniversary of the Aug 2008 war in South Ossetia and this is symbolical. The Russian leader wants to show that the values set by that war are still there as are the solutions offered to the key problems of the region.

Anton Krivenyuk, specially for EADaily

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