Lawmakers in Abkhazia are set to discuss the transfer of a Soviet-era state dacha in Pitsunda (Bichvinta) to Russia, sparking criticism and concern from politicians and residents alike.
In 1995, Vladislav Ardzinba, the first President of Abkhazia, agreed to rent the dacha to the Russian Federal Protective Service for 49 years. This was extended 27 years later in January 2022.
Details about the extension agreement were only made public when the document was up for discussion in the parliamentary committee on international relations’ agenda. Members of the committee approved the document and have submitted it to be ratified by parliament.
In an effort to curb concerns surrounding the agreement, Abkhazian President Aslan Bzhania has toured several cities to talk about the transfer, where he stressed that the security of Abkhazia ‘directly depends’ on it. He also said that the government would only be ceding the dacha and its surrounding buildings, and not the land on which they were built.
Several former MPs publicly denounced the agreement and called on parliament and Bzhania not to ratify it, stating that it ‘contradicts the interests of Abkhazia and its sovereignty’.
Said Gezerdaa, a lawyer at the Centre for Humanitarian Programmes, a civil society group based in the Sukhumi (Sukhum), claimed the agreement violated the constitution.
Meanwhile, on 20 July, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Public Council, a gathering of journalists, politicians, and veterans in the country, also decided to conduct a legal examination of the agreement.
In the council session, Ruslan Khashig, Chairman of the Union of Journalists of Abkhazia, argued that any interstate agreement with Russia, at least those signed before Moscow’s recognition of Abkhazia, should be subject to revision; as they were not international agreements between two mutually recognised states.
Foreign Minister Inal Ardzinba also held a closed meeting with the Russian Ambassador in Abkhazia, Mikhail Shurgalin, regarding the agreement.
Vianor Ashba, an opposition figure who attended the meeting, contended that neither the security of Abkhazia nor Russia’s financial support depended on the agreement.
The Pitsunda dacha, with an area of nearly 2 square kilometres, is one of three Soviet-era summer state residences in Abkhazia. While the other two are currently open to the public, the one in Pitsunda remains closed and fenced off.
For ease of reading, we choose not to use qualifiers such as ‘de facto’, ‘unrecognised’, or ‘partially recognised’ when discussing institutions or political positions within Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and South Ossetia. This does not imply a position on their status.