• Home
  • Abkhazia OKs Handing State Resort Over To Russia, Triggering Protests

27 December 2023

Abkhazia OKs Handing State Resort Over To Russia, Triggering Protests

The de facto leader of Abkhazia has transferred a Black Sea resort to Russia, causing mass protests in the region and condemnation from Georgia.

Abkhazia OKs Handing State Resort Over To Russia, Triggering Protests

Image: Andrey Danilov/Shutterstock

(RFE/RL) SUKHUMI, Georgia -- The de facto leader of Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia, Aslan Bzhania, on December 27 signed into law a controversial deal with Moscow under which a Black Sea resort will be transferred to Russia -- a move that sparked spontaneous protests after it was approved by Abkhazia's de facto parliament in an overnight session.

The Georgian Foreign Ministry condemned the deal on handing the Bichvinta (aka Pitsunda) complex of holiday homes to Russia, calling it "another illegal act and the continuation of Russia's policy of occupation of the indivisible regions of Georgia, which grossly violates the fundamental principles of international law."

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia appeals to the international community to properly assess this new illegal step by the Russian Federation aimed at encroaching on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia," the ministry said in a statement.

Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili also condemned what she called "another land grab by Russians in Georgian territories...and their creeping annexation policies."

Hundreds of demonstrators have been rallying in front of the de facto parliament's building in the regional capital, Sukhumi, since December 26, demanding that the deal be scrapped immediately.

Asida Shakryl, a former de facto ombudswoman of the breakaway region, called the move illegal.

"Lawmakers have ignored the constitution of the Republic of Abkhazia.... They have to explain why they had decided to discuss the issue during the night. They have to justify the legitimacy of that sort of session," Shakryl said.

Opposition politician Alkhas Jinjolia said on December 26 that the rally in front of the de facto parliament’s building will continue until the protesters' request to cancel the deal is met.

Abkhazia's de facto Foreign Minister Inal Ardzinba said earlier that the deal on handing the resort Russia was "legal and corresponded to international laws."

Russia's envoy to the breakaway region Mikhail Shurgalin has said that, according to the deal, the land on which the resort is located will not be owned by Russia.

"The territory will be rented [by Russia] for 49 years. Only buildings will be owned [by Russia] and their maintenance and repair work will be conducted by [Russia's] Federal Guard Service," Shurgalin said earlier.

The Bichvinta complex was built in 1958-61 at the request of then-Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.

According to the Russian-Abkhaz deal signed in January 2022, the complex will be handed to Russia free of charge, with a symbolic annual payment of 1 ruble for each land parcel.

Russia recognized the independence of Abkhazia and Georgia's other breakaway region, South Ossetia, in August 2008 following a five-day Russian-Georgian war. Abkhazia declared independence from Georgia in 1992, a move which led to all-out war with Tbilisi.

The West has called the move effectively an annexation of the two regions by Russia. Only Venezuela, Nicaragua, Nauru, and Syria have recognized Abkhazia as independent.

Moscow keeps thousands of its troops in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.