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14 February 2024

Draft Agreement with Russia’s National Guard Rejected in Abkhazia

Abkhazia has denied its intent to sign a cooperation agreement with Moscow that would allow it to call on the Russian National Guard to maintain public order.

Draft Agreement with Russia’s National Guard Rejected in Abkhazia

Image: Free Wind 2014/Shutterstock

(OC Media) News of the draft agreement was first shared on Telegram channels on 9 February, sparking outrage in Abkhazia. The full text was leaked in the same channels a day later. 

If adopted, the agreement would have allowed Abkhazia’s Interior Ministry and the Russian National Guard (Rosgvardiya) to call on each other to ‘assist in maintaining public order’ in relation to countering terrorism and extremism, curbing arms trafficking, and protecting individuals and property.

The leaked deal stoked criticism in Abkhazia, with opposition figures calling on the Interior Ministry to abandon the agreement.

Temur Gulia, the leader of the Aruaa veterans’ organisation, argued that the proposed agreement would undermine Abkhazia’s sovereignty. Former minister for taxes and fees Daur Kurmazia added that the Rosgvardiya was unlikely to require the support of the Interior Ministry, suggesting that the agreement was drafted to help Abkhazia ‘suppress dissent’.

Aidgylara, a nationalist organisation, called on President Aslan Bzhaniya and Interior Minister Robert Kiut to resign, similarly stating that the agreement served the government’s interest and would undermine Abkhazia’s independence and sovereignty.

They added that such an arrangement would be used to ‘fight off the anger of the people’ through the use of Russian security forces.

On 10 February, Kiut announced that the government would not sign the document.

‘I, as the Minister of Internal Affairs, responsibly declare that in our department, as well as in the entire leadership of the country, there are no people who are ready to carry out their professional activities to the detriment of the national interests of the Abkhaz state, or to damage the interests of our citizens’, said Kiut.

In a video interview published earlier that day, recorded during a joint training session of Abkhazia’s Interior Ministry, Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), and the Rosgvardiya,  Kiut stated that the government had considered cooperating with the Rosgvardiya after a joint drill they had conducted with the FSB and the ministry in Abkhazia. 

After the Interior Minister’s statement, the nationalist Abkhaz People’s Movement announced that they had taken part in a meeting with the Kiut to discuss the agreement. 

They issued a statement noting that the ministry had ‘expressed full solidarity with regards to the risks arising from the document, and they expressed the opinion that it is not to be signed’.

The movement also stated that they had appealed to the parliament to adopt legislation that would require parliamentary approval for all draft agreements relating to Abkhazia’s international treaties before they are signed by the government.