According to the statement of the Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili at the beginning of September 2007, the properties purchased from illegitimate owners of the properties belonging to Georgian refugees from Abkhazia will be confiscated (1). On September 8, 2007, it was stated that the Ministry of Refugees and Accommodation of Georgia is preparing a complaint against the Russian edition of American Forbes magazine, and it is going to be filed in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. The information appeared in relation to the fact that the Russian edition of Forbes magazine published an advertisement for property purchase in Abkhazia, where the list of offered objects contains mainly properties belonging to the refugees from Abkhazia in consequence of the civil war.
The restitution is supposed to be carried out after the return of Abkhazia under Georgian jurisdiction and to follow data from the population census from 1989. Until then, Georgia will exert international pressure in the UN, the European Council and OSCE, and warn potential investors that there are certain risks to such investments in Abkhazia. Privatization of properties of the refugees in South Ossetia is realized only to minimum extent because there is lack of interest of foreign investors in the region. In his response to a request of Abkhazia to compensate the war damages, valued at 11.7 billion USD, the Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Nogaideli stated that the Georgians will return to Abkhazia and that Georgia will give the whole Abkhazia back to Georgia itself (2).
Purchasing of properties is realized above all by the Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov through the City of Moscow and through related people or companies. The purchasing did occur also before September 2007, while Moscow invests into building cultural and business centers (The House of Moscow in Sukhumi), sanatoria (the Moscow sanatorium in the city of Gagry) and building as well as purchasing other objects of public and private use (3). The objects built are situated in the lands belonging to refugees. However, at the end of the third and in the beginning of the fourth quartal of 2007, the purchase of properties belonging to refugees occurs at much higher rate than before.
At the beginning of September 2007, the Rustavi-2 Broadcasting Company released information that Moscow gained the central, the most attractive part of the Sukhumi waterfront with the intention to build multifunctional centers including hotels, restaurants and relaxation centers. According to Rustavi-2, it was supposed to be a present of the de- facto Abkhaz President Sergei Bagapsh to the City of Moscow. The Head of the Sukhumi City administration denied the information, reasoning that the previous day there were negotiations between the Abkhaz delegation and the Mayor Luzhkov, but the issue in question was not a subject to those negotiations (4).
A few days later, the TV channel Rustavi-2 released information that Abkhazia handed over a part of their territory to the Russian Federation. The boarder was supposed to shift from the Psou river to the Bzyb river, i.e. to the village of Pitsunda in Abkhazia. The reason was supposed to be the minimal distance of 40 km between the spot where the olympic games take place and the conflict zone. The information was denied by the de-facto Minister of Foreign Affairs of Abkhazia Sergei Shamba by declaring that a reason for such an information could have been negotiations concerning creating a free economic zone of Abkhazia and the Russian Federation. The next day the information was denied also by the President of Abkhazia Sergei Bagapsh, who named it “another canard of the Rustavi-2 Broadcasting Company” (5).
On September 20, 2007 a conflict between Abkhaz frontier guards and Georgian special task units occured in the mountains near Tkvarcheli, in Khojal village. Two of the frontier guards were killed and four injured. The de facto President of Abkhazia Sergei Bagapsh in his reaction to the event declared that Abkhazia is ready to take analogical steps adequate to Georgian activities. The result of the meeting of the Security Council of Abkhazia was concentration of the Abkhaz army near the Abkhaz-Georgian border.
Georgian and Abkhaz sides differ in stating the exact location of the incident. The Georgian side claims that the Abkhazs were planning to make a terrorist attack by means of letting off explosive in a road being built in Kodori Gorge on the occasion of the Independence Day of Abkhazia. According to the Interior Minister of Georgia Vano Merabishvili, they were arrested by Georgian soldiers in the territory of the upper part of the Kodori Gorge, which is under Georgian control. On the contrary, the spokesperson of the de-facto President of Abkhazia Kristian Bzhania claims that the event took place at least 10 km from the road being built, in the territory of the lower part of the Kodori Gorge (6).
The Georgian Interior Minister subsequently stated that one of the killed diversionists was of Russian nationality. The diversionists started fire after they were asked by the Georgian soldiers to give up. According to the information provided by the Rustavi-2 Broadcasting Company, the killed diversionist was of Russian nationality, and he was supposed to lead the group of the Abkhaz men-at-arms in question. The same day the six arrested men confessed planning a terrorist attack. The planned attack was supposed to be covered by the antiterorist center in Sukhumi. The spokesperson of the de-facto President of Abkhazia Kristian Bzhania stated that the arrested Abkhazs confessed as a consequence of torturing by Georgian secret service members, and that their plead of guilt is not based on truth. The next day the Interior Minister of Abkhazia Otar Khetsiya stated that unless Georgia releases the arrested Abkhazs, he will give an order to attack the upper part of the Kodori Gorge. According to him, the Abkhaz army is on full alert and in case of an order they will immediately occupy the upper part of the Kodori Gorge (7).
The recent events in Abkhazia also manifest the fragility of the system in the region and a fact that at present it is impossible to find a solution suitable for both parties of the conflict. Business groups in the Russian Federation are interested in preserving the de-facto independence of Abkhazia because of business activities which they carry out in Abkhazia. Georgia reacts by diplomatic activities in the EU countries and the USA and on the ground of international organizations, as a change of their attitude to the one of a direct enemy would be more than risky. At present, Georgia is not interested in starting another armed conflict despite the fact that the Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili is considered to be the adherent of using force as far as problem solution in separatist regions is concerned. Georgia is still been awaiting an invitation to join NATO. In this context an armed conflict seems to be a disservice. Most probably the Georgian strategy is to obtain as much international support, particularly from the US and the EU states, as possible. At present the tension is escalating in Abkhazia, which is a result of the killing and arresting of the Abkhaz frontier guards by the Georgian army. If Georgia does not act temperately, we cannot exclude the possibility of an attack on the upper part of the Kodori Gorge and a repeated military conflict in Abkhazia.
(6) For russian press digest see