Political Realities in Abkhazia In 2011 Alexandr Ankvab was elected president of Abkhazia

Political Realities in Abkhazia
In 2011 Alexandr Ankvab was elected president of Abkhazia. This was perceived partially as a reaction to local concerns about the overwhelming influence the late president Sergei Bagapsh had allowed Russia to amass in the entity. Ankvab nonetheless
declares full loyalty to Russian President Vladimir Putin and is perceived as a nononsense, law-and-order leader. He rose through the ranks of the Georgian Communist
Party and served as a senior interior ministry official in Tbilisi during the 1980s.10
He has survived at least five assassination attempts since the early 2000s, most ascribed to his uncompromising attempts to crack down on corruption and scheming
between political clans for economic control.
Ankvab strongly shares the ethnic Abkhaz fierce commitment to independence
for the 8,700 sq km territory, slightly smaller than Cyprus.11 The ethnic Abkhaz
make up no more than half, and possibly less, of the “official” population of close to
241,000.12 Whatever their actual numbers, they are still much more than the 18 per
cent they were before the 1992-1993 war with Georgia, when most of the 240,000
ethnic Georgians were driven out. 

A. Russia’s Military Presence
The 2008 war with Georgia allowed Russia to greatly enhance its already considerable
military presence.13 Russian officials say there are roughly 5,000 Russian personnel
in Abkhazia: 3,500 military and 1,500 Federal Security Service (FSB) officers and
“border guards”.14 Moscow allocated $465 million over four years to the rehabilitation
and construction of military infrastructure.15 This included work on Bombora, the  largest military airfield in the South Caucasus, in Gudauta.16 Though Russian media
sources describe significant weapons at the base, Western military officials in late
2012 said intelligence indicated only four fighter craft there on a regular basis – two
Sukhoi 27s and two MiG-29s.17
The Russians also refurbished a smaller, though strategically and symbolically
important naval port in Ochamchire, just 30km from Georgian-controlled territory.
Eight Russian “border patrol” boats are reportedly there – including two new craft
that arrived in 2012. According to FSB officials, they likewise set up several radar
stations along the coast to cover Abkhazia’s “territorial waters” and monitor areas
under Georgian naval control.18
There are clear signs Moscow plans to stay in Abkhazia indefinitely. 

Not far from
the centre of Sukhumi are several recently completed, well-built twelve-storey apartment buildings for Russian officers serving in the entity. They are a stark contrast to
aging Soviet-era apartment blocks nearby, several still burned out or with bullet-pocked
exteriors left over from the Georgian-Abkhaz war two decades ago.19
Russia has also erected several sparkling new compounds – military-function bases
as well as new apartments for troops – in the ethnic Georgian Gali district, in some
cases just a kilometre from the administrative boundary. About 2km from the centre
of Gali town, a new, upscale-looking ten-storey residential compound for Russian
military personnel and their families has gone up. It towers over a neighbourhood of
mostly rundown Georgian-style houses, with their typical large gardens, wandering
cows and mandarin orange groves. Many were long ago abandoned by fleeing Georgian
IDPs and subsequently looted or torched.20 A five-metre-high cement security wall
topped with thick rolls of razor wire and several dozen security cameras surrounds

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