CrisisWatch Georgia

Unchanged Situation

Debate over potential military operation in breakaway territories prompted pushback, Belarusian president travelled to Abkhazia to strengthen cooperation, and authorities curtailed political freedoms.

Opposition raised idea of “military operation” in breakaway territories, ruling party rejected it. Russian losses in Ukraine during Sept (see Ukraine) raised tensions between ruling Georgian Dream party and several opposition leaders after latter mid Sept said country should capitalise on Russia’s weakened position and launch military operation in Abkhazia and South Ossetia breakaway territories. Ruling party Chairman Irakli Kobakhidze 7 Sept had rejected idea of opening “second front” against Russia (Russia recognises breakaways as independent states and is responsible for providing military support and security to both entities) but floated idea of referendum on issue. In response, Abkhazia’s de facto FM Inal Ardzinba 15 Sept organised public discussion with local representatives to voice concerns about “forces aimed at diverting Russia’s military and economic resources away from Donbas”; also drew attention to Georgia’s military exercises with NATO, saying likelihood of Georgia initiating military operation in Abkhazia was “quite high”, pointing to Kobakhidze’s referendum suggestion; Kobakhidze same day denied plans for war were being considered.

Belarusian President Lukashenko visited Abkhazia for first time since taking office. In first visit to breakaway territory as president, Lukashenko 28 Sept met with Abkhazia’s de facto leader Aslan Bzhania and other senior officials in Bichvinta town to discuss bilateral cooperation and international security. Lukashenko said “we must strengthen relations with friends” otherwise “we will not be allowed to live in peace”, but stopped short of explicitly promising recognition.

Authorities passed laws restricting freedoms, compromising prospects for EU candidacy status. Amendments to first law, adopted 6 Sept, strengthen security service’s ability to use covert surveillance measures on civilians; President Salome Zourabichvili had vetoed bill in June and 1 Sept reiterated that it was “not in line with securing human rights”. Amendments to second law, adopted 9 Sept, modified selection rules for public defender, reducing opposition’s influence over candidate’s selection. Amendments, which followed EU’s June decision to condition candidate status on fulfilling “outstanding priorities” regarding political polarisation, judicial system, human rights and anti-corruption, appeared to challenge prospects for candidacy status.

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In The News

13 Jun 2018
The Georgian government has been in crisis for quite a long time. Mr. Ivanishvili’s comeback and popular protests are just symptoms of this process. The New York Times

Olesya Vartanyan

Senior Analyst, South Caucasus
12 Mar 2018
Over the last three years, we have been seeing a serious decline in the situation in the districts [of South Ossetia] mainly populated by ethnic Georgians. Al Jazeera

Olesya Vartanyan

Senior Analyst, South Caucasus
5 Feb 2018
There was a social media campaign two years ago [in Abkhazia] encouraging people to boycott the funerals of anyone who died after seeking medical care in Tbilisi. EurasiaNet

Olesya Vartanyan

Senior Analyst, South Caucasus

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