Tag
Abkhazia

Checkpoint regime Abkhazia

The de facto Abkhazian authorities frequently close the sole remaining checkpoint towards Tbilisi controlled Georgia at the Enguri Bridge near Zugdidi. The reasons vary per occasion, but in every instance it hinders freedom of movement principles. Since 2017 this is the only one official crossing point for passage of locals, after other minor ones were closed. 

This page keeps track of closures (and reopening) of the Enguri Bridge to provide insight in scale and impact on humanitarian circumstances such as medical aid, education access of students and so on. It reads with most recent update on top. A similar page for South Ossetia can be visited here

Map: overview checkpoints Abkhazia
Currently there is only one crossing point active for passage of locals between Abkhazia and Tbilisi controlled Georgia, the Enguri bridge near Zugdidi in the S-1 highway.  Two former checkpoints shown in the map have been closed since 2017 (Orsantia and Khurcha) while Saberio closed in 2019. The Enguri crossing has become target of whimsical closures.

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2020

July 2020

In Georgian media it was reported on 10 July the Abkhazia de facto authorities will temporarily reopen the Enguri Bridge crossing point. Between 13-17 July residents can only pass from Tbilisi controlled area to Abkhazia, a one way passage, according to Radio Tavisupleba. The movement from Abkhazia to Zugdidi remains restricted.

During the first days of July a series of incidents around the Abkhazia ABL illustrated the Georgian community (in Gali district) is suffering from the systematic closure of the crossing points. This leads to desperate attempts to cross anyways.

On 3 July a 21 year old Georgian was kidnapped by Russian controlled forces on Tbilisi-controlled area close to Enguri Bridge and taken to Gali prison in Abkhazia on accusations of ‘illegal border crossing’. He was visiting relatives in Rikhe. The State Security Service of Georgia reported he was released on 6 July.

On 5 July three Georgian women went missing in the Gali district of Abkhazia. One of them just moved to Tagiloni in Abkhazia a week prior and planned to return to Georgian-controlled territory. She and the others were refused at the Enguri Bridge crossing point. A relative said:  “We know she left early in the morning and had to cross the river as the Abkhazians did not let her go [via the bridge]. They say she drowned in the river, but we don’t have exact information yet.” According to relatives she ended up in quarantaine. The other two are unaccounted for.

And on 5 July late in the evening a middle aged man was shot in his leg by Russian controlled forces while he tried to cross the administrative boundary line from Abkhazia to Tbilisi controlled Ganmukhuri village. He was able to stay out of Abkhaz hands and was taken to Zugdidi hospital and later transported to Kutaisi hospital.

The systematic and long term closure of checkpoints during (but also prior to) the corona pandemic is a burden on the (ethnic)  Georgian community in Abkhazia. They rely on services in and interaction with the Tbilisi controlled side of the Administrative Boundary Line: from education to health services but also collecting pensions and IDP benefits. Due to the long closure they have not been able to collect their money for many months. It is clear the restrictions on the free movement is putting pressure on the community to try to cross the boundary through other ways, risking drowning, arrest or even shot at (a rarity in recent years).

“Residents of Gali in occupied Abkhazia have not received IDP benefits and pensions for four months. The reason is that these people used to receive this money in Zugdidi or elsewhere on Georgia-controlled territory but now the borders are closed at the Enguri Bridge by the Sokhumi de-facto government amid the coronavirus. In Gali district we are dealing with a terrible humanitarian catastrophe. We must assume that [entering Georgia by crossing Enguri river] will continue in the future. If this situation is not improved, people who are in this hopeless situation will definitely continue to cross the Enguri River and try to enter Zugdidi. It is not impossible many could drown”

June 2020

After just a week the de facto government of Abkhazia closed the only crossing point with the rest of Georgia again on 2 June 2020. It temporarily opened on 26 May to allow individuals back into the region who had undergone treatment in Tbilisi controlled territory. According to the Abkhaz 532 people have returned to the region since 26 May.

The region originally closed the Enguri crossing point with the rest of Georgia in March to ‘prevent the spread of the coronavirus.’  However, it did not close the region to Russian citizens at that time.  Most of the coronavirus cases which have been reported in Abkhazia were connected with Russia.

Between 22 and 24 June 2020 the Abkhaz de facto authorities temporarily opened the crossing point at Enguri Bridge, during daytime hours between 9am and 7pm. A “humanitarian corridor” to facilitate Abkhazia residents to return to their home from Tbilisi controlled territory. People had to undergo medical and sanitary control while entering the Abkhazia. Reportedly 102 people used the opportunity in the first few hours of reopening. A total of 907 people, including 200 children have used the opportunity to travel (back) to Abkhazia, de facto authorities said.

May 2020

“Starting today, Abkhaz authorities have allowed passage to resume through Enguri bridge crossing point for Abkhaz passport holders who travelled to Georgia proper to receive medical treatment”, Civil.ge reported on 26 May 2020 based on local Abkhaz reports.  Around a 100 residents from Abkhazia (and South Ossetia) travelled to Georgia proper since the covid-19 pandemic seeking medical treatment. The next day 51 people passed the Enguri crossing. These were people who were forced to stay in Tbilisi controlled territory due to the closure of the crossing point, and not those who were seeking medical treatment, the Abkhaz de facto authorities stated.

April 2020

On 8 April 2020 it was reported the border checkpoint with Russia at the Psou River, will be closed from 20 April for “all categories of citizens”. The decision was made after Abkhazia’s first two COVID-19 infections were detected, originating from the Russian Federation. This also led to a curfew in Gagra. On 9 April Russian military forces  started to build a field hospital at the Russian military base, with a capacity of 200 patients. On 21 April the state of emergency and curfew were lifted. They were in place since 28 March. The entry ban to the Georgian populated Gali district was also lifted, as well as in Gagra. The official reason was “the situation in the de facto republic is under control”. However, in mid-May, the total number of COVID-19 cases increased to 17, with two recovered and one deceased. All cases are linked to returnees from Russia or its military forces.

March 2020

De facto officials of Abkhazia Russian have announced the Enguri Bridge checkpoint will close at 8 p.m. on March 14,  due to the COVID-19 “outbreak in Georgia”. This applies for all people, including Russian citizens, with the exception of employees of the Ingur Hydropower station. At the end of the month a state of emergency was introduced.

February 2020

From 27 February 2020 Abkhazia barred entry ‘to all foreigners except Russians’ until 7 April. It imposed restrictions on the Enguri Bridge a day earlier, which is the only crossing point connecting the region with the rest of Georgia.  Georgia reported its first COVID-19 case on the 26th of February.

On 20 February residents of Abkhazia region brought the 53-year-old deceased Gocha Tupuria to the Otobaia-Orsantia bridge (closed checkpoint) for his relatives standing on the other side of the bridge to mourn. They were deprived of the right to enter Abkhazia, Radio Atinati reported. Abkhaz officials closed the Khurcha-Nabakevi and Otobaia-Orsantia checkpoints in March 2017.

January 2020

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Abkhaz de facto authorities restricted the issuance of travel permits to foreign travellers as of 27 January. This applied to both entrance from the Russian Psou checkpoint as well as from Georgian controlled territory at Enguri bridge.

2019

October 2019

Abkhazia announced on 2 October 2019 the checkpoint at Enguri Bridge with the rest of Georgia has been reopened. It was closed since June 2019. The EUMM recorded 2580 daily crossings in the first week of reopening.

June – July 2019

Due to ongoing protests in Tbilisi since 20 June the de facto leadership of Abkhazia announced on 27 June a “temporary closure” of the crossing points. The protests in Tbilisi erupted after a visiting Russian MP sat in the Speaker chair of Georgia’s Parliament.

The Abkhaz security service declared: “There are mass protest rallies of a provocative character underway in Georgia, which affect the statehood of the Republic of Abkhazia”. Also, “the entry of foreign citizens from the territory of Georgia, as well as the departure of citizens of the Republic of Abkhazia to the territory of Georgia” will be restricted for an undefined period of time. The issue was immediately raised at the Geneva International Discussions on on 2 and 3 July 2019.

Closure crossing points Abkhazia (photo: Erik Hoeg, EUMM)
Closure crossing points Abkhazia (photo: Erik Hoeg, EUMM)

The Georgian State Security said the temporary closure of the boundary between the Abkhazia region and the rest of Georgia is an illegal restriction of the right of movement of locals. It isolates them and complicates their livelihoods. Some 30.000 (ethnic) Georgians live in the Abkhaz Gali district, with many being dependent on cross-boundary interaction.

Students

Among the directly affected are Georgian students from Abkhazia enrolling in universities in mainland Georgia who had to take exams.  Deputy Education Minister Irina Abuladze:

“Some university entrants could not cross Enguri Bridge. We are expecting that the situation may improve at any time. A certain number of entrants faced some problems due to the closing of the Enguri so-called crossing-point. We will do our best to ensure they receive a higher education”

Upon mediation this limitation was partially resolved and “students, individuals who are in need of medical assistance and pensioners are allowed to leave the region,” Georgian Minister for Reconciliation and Civil Equality Ketevan Tsikhelashvili said. Mid-July 43 students from the Gali district managed to join the Summer School classes:

“Today’s meeting with students is very important and emotional. The students are doing their utmost to receive a better education. In crossing the so-called border they are sending a very loud message – ‘we will not be a generation beyond the barbed-wire-fences, we are the children of a united Georgia and with our education we will do our best to restore trust and state integrity,” Deputy Reconciliation Minister Lia Gigauri said.

Ultimately the Georgian government decided to enroll all 190 students from Abkhazia in university wavering their enrollment exams.

January 2019

Over the holiday season of 2018 a minor outbreak of the H1N1 “Swine flu” took place in Georgia. This didn’t expand into an epidemic, according to the norms of the Georgian Center of Disease Control. Yet, the two de-facto occupied regions Abkhazia and South Ossetia decided to close their so-called border with the rest of Georgia to “avoid the spread of H1NI”.

Georgian State Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equality Ketevan Tsikhelashvili criticised the decision essentially saying this  is a politicized action restricting the freedom of movement of people who are dependent on the open boundary. She said there is no epidemic, the flu goes around in other countries as well (such as Russia) while no access restrictions apply to those people.

Despite international pressure from the EUMM and others the crossing points were not reopened in January. Abkhazia reopened the crossing points at Enguri Bridge and Saberio after 26 days on 6 February 2019.

EUMM on patrol at ABL Abkhazia at the Saberio Checkpoint.
EUMM on patrol at ABL Abkhazia at the Saberio Crossing Point.

When recognition is not the aim — Civil.ge

What was Russia’s intention with the recognition of the independence of Georgia’s breakaway regions South Ossetia and Abkhazia in the immediate aftermath of the 2008 war? In a comment on Civil.ge I shed a light on that, and where this recognition is heading. Follow the links below for an English, Georgian or Russian version. 

Russia’s unilateral recognition of the self-declared independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions on the 26th of August 2008, while pointing to the US-led recognition of Kosovo independence earlier in 2008, was not picked up by the international community. After 11 years, only five countries recognize the independence of the two, as opposed to 101 for Kosovo. Where are Abkhazia and South Ossetia heading with their “independence”? […]

via When recognition is not the aim — Civil.ge

ქართული (Georgian)

2008 წლის 26 აგვისტოს აფხაზეთისა და სამხრეთ ოსეთის რეგიონების დამოუკიდებლობის ცალმხრივ აღიარებას რუსეთის მიერ, რასაც იგი ამერიკის წინამძღოლობით 2008 წლის დასაწყისში კოსოვოს აღიარებას უკავშირებდა, საერთაშორისო საზოგადოების ენთუზიაზმი არ მოჰყოლია. მას მერე 11 წელი გავიდა, თუმცა კოსოვოსგან განსხვავებით, რომელსაც 101 ქვეყანა აღიარებს, საქართველოს ამ ორი რეგიონის დამოუკიდებლობა მხოლოდ 5-მა სახელმწიფომ ცნო. რა გზას ადგას აფხაზეთი და სამხრეთ ოსეთი ამ „დამოუკიდებლობით“? […]

via როცა მიზანი აღიარება არ არის — Civil.ge

ქართული (Georgian)

Одностороннее признание Россией независимости регионов Абхазии и Южной Осетии 26 августа 2008 года, которое она связывала с признанием Косово под предводительством США в начале 2008 года, не вызвало энтузиазма у международного сообщества. С тех пор прошло одиннадцать лет, но в отличие от Косово, которое признают 101 страна, независимость этих двух регионов Грузии признали только пять государств. На каком пути стоят Абхазия и Южная Осетия с этой «независимостью»? […]

via Когда признание не является целью — Civil.ge

Russian President Vladimir Putin celebrated the 10th anniversary of Russian "recognition" with de facto President of Abkhazia Raul Khadjimba (right) and de facto President South Ossetia Anatoly Bibilov. (Photo: Kremlin)
Russian President Vladimir Putin celebrated the 10th anniversary of Russian “recognition” with de facto President of Abkhazia Raul Khadjimba (right) and de facto President South Ossetia Anatoly Bibilov. (Photo: Kremlin)

Russian military infrastructure in Abkhazia

The Russian-Georgian war of August 2008 resulted in a massive increase of Russian military presence in Georgia’s Abkhazia region. An estimated 5.000 Russian military personnel (3.500 Armed Forces, 1.500 border guards) are deployed in the region. 

This page visualizes some of the expansion of Russian presence over the years, based on public material available.

 

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Russian – Georgian War 2008: Rolling into war

This summer it has been 10 years ago the world was caught by surprise by the short intense Russian – Georgian war, seemingly “just” about a small Georgian separatist region of less than 50.000 people that not many had heard of: South Ossetia *). The full scale fighting started just hours before the opening of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, in the night of 7 to 8 August local time. Key developments in the last 24 hours led to the final escalation of violence with a Russian intervention as result. Although it took many by surprise, a direct Russian – Georgian war was in the making for quite some time, accelerated by key developments in 2008.

This is the final part of three describing the first week of August 2008 when the Georgians and Ossetians were already sliding into war before Russia intervened militarily on the 8th of August.  In the first part “Russian – Georgian War 2008″ Prelude #1” you can read about the developments pror to July 2008. The second part “Russian – Georgian War 2008″ Prelude #2” describes the spiral to war during July 2008, setting the stage for a rolling start of the war during the first week of August, highlighted in this page. Recalling the Kavkaz 2008 Russian military exercises in the North Caucasus military district mentioned at the previous page, that lasted nearly three weeks from mid July till the first days of August. During these exercises troops and heavy military equipment such as tanks, massed at the Roki tunnel on the South Ossetian section of the Russian-Georgian border, and other places along the Georgian border, such as the Mamisoma Pass. Continue reading Russian – Georgian War 2008: Rolling into war

Russian – Georgian War 2008: The Prelude #2

This summer it has been 10 years ago the world was caught by surprise by the short intense Russian – Georgian war, seemingly “just” about a small Georgian separatist region of less than 50.000 people that not many had heard of: South Ossetia *). The full scale fighting started just hours before the opening of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, in the night of 7 to 8 August local time. Key developments in the last 24 hours led to the final escalation of violence with a Russian intervention as result. Although it took many by surprise, a direct Russian – Georgian war was in the making for quite some time, accelerated by key developments in 2008.

In the previous “Russian – Georgian war 2008: The Prelude #1” more can be read about the developments prior to July 2008. This page summarizes the fast escalation of events in July 2008 until the last days before the outbreak of the war. A war necessary for the Kremlin to set the stage for a permanent non-peacekeeping presence (occupation) and “legitimated” through the recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states with the aim to keep Georgia out of NATO, as Alexander Dugin, leader of the International Eurasian Movement, outlined in a press conference after his visit to South Ossetia in June 2008. In July tensions escalated by a sharp rise of violent incidents. One could speak of low intensity warfare with frequent artillery attacks on villages of both sides. Continue reading Russian – Georgian War 2008: The Prelude #2

Russian – Georgian War 2008: The Prelude #1

This summer it has been 10 years ago the world was caught by surprise by the short intense Russian – Georgian war, seemingly “just” about a small Georgian separatist region of less than 50.000 people that not many had heard of: South Ossetia *). The full scale fighting started just hours before the opening of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, in the night of 7 to 8 August local time. Key developments in the last 24 hours led to the final escalation of violence with a Russian intervention as result. Although it took many by surprise, a direct Russian – Georgian war was in the making for quite some time, accelerated by key developments in 2008.

Western recognition of Kosovo in February of that year and the infamous NATO summit in Bucharest two months later, where Georgia and Ukraine got an open door invitation for a future membership, triggered the final acceleration to conflict and escalation of tensions. The Russian government felt strongly provoked by both steps led by the American President George W. Bush, and it used the Georgian South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions where it maintained a peacekeeping presence since the early 90s to provoke the Georgian government into a war, with the aim to neuter its NATO ambitions. Continue reading Russian – Georgian War 2008: The Prelude #1

New Book: Georgia and the International Treaties of 1918-1921

via New Book: Georgia and the International Treaties of 1918-1921

A promising new book by Andrew Andersen, author of “Abkhazia and Sochi: The Roots of the Conflict 1918-1921”.

The short lived period of independence of Georgia in the aftermath of the collapse of the Russian Empire is a somewhat forgotten and ignored era in Georgia’s modern history. This turbulent period which ended with the Soviet invasion in 1921 and the full incorporation in the newly established Soviet Union has shaped Georgia’s modern borders through a string of international treaties.

The book is illustrated with many maps, a few samples of which can be found on the author’s page linked above. Below a few previous maps of the author, published earlier online, showing some of the changes of Georgia’s claimed,  de facto and recognized territory over the years 1918-1921.

 

It is for sale at Amazon: Amazon UK , Amazon Germany, Amazon USA

Borderline life: Georgia and South Ossetia

“This is a frozen conflict, but it shouldn’t become a forgotten one. Three actions are required from Russia to solve the conflict: fulfilling unconditionally all the provisions of the ceasefire agreement, ceasing „borderisation“ on the Administrative Boundary Line [of South Ossetia] and refraining from advancing further into Georgian territory, and allowing for the return of all displaced Georgian citizens”. (David McAllister, MEP, European Parliament, 14 June 2018)

On June 14, 2018, the European Parliament unanimously passed the resolution “Georgian occupied territories 10 years after the Russian invasion”. This resolution addresses a range of violations of international conduct by the Russian Federation regarding the Georgian separatist regions South Ossetia and Abkhazia, all directly or indirectly a result of the Russian intervention in August 2008, nearly 10 years ago. While this resolution was discussed and passed, new instances of the condemned actions in the region were happening, under Russia’s watch, such as kidnapping and detention of civilians and military exercises.

Continue reading Borderline life: Georgia and South Ossetia