Pressure point: Abkhazia

Pressure point: Abkhazia

The self-declared state of Abkhazia will hold parliamentary elections on Sunday. Located between Georgia, Russia and the Black Sea, Abkhazia

Photo: Sputnik

Photo: Sputnik

The self-declared state of Abkhazia will hold parliamentary elections on Sunday.

Located between Georgia, Russia and the Black Sea, Abkhazia gained de facto independence from Georgia in 1993 but is still technically considered Georgian territory by every country but Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Nauru.

The importance of Sunday’s vote derives from Abkhazia’s status; it’s one of a string of frozen conflicts along Russia’s periphery, including South Ossetia, Nagorno-Karabakh, Transnistria and Crimea.

Historically, Moscow has used these territories as pressure points on the former Soviet republics. In return for official recognition, military cooperation and economic aid, these territories foment unrest – civil, military or otherwise – at the behest of the Kremlin. This is a particularly useful way of keeping former Soviet republics in line with Russian interests.

Inside Abkhazia, a protracted political standoff has been brewing for years. Incumbent President Raul Khajimba – a former KGB officer with alleged ties to the Kremlin – ousted former leader Aleksandr Ankvab in 2014. Now in opposition, Ankvab is standing for re-election as an MP on Sunday.

For its part, Russia has supported the current administration, rewarding it with a treaty “on alliance and strategic partnership” shortly after coming to power and arresting senior opposition figure Aslan Bzhania in 2014.