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Abkhazians block prime minister’s convoy to demand road repairs

16 August 2023
Image: Screenshot from Telegram.

Residents of a village in Abkhazia have blocked the Prime Minister’s convoy in protest against a long-running lack of repairs to the village’s main road. 

On Monday, residents of the coastal village of Shitskuara blocked Alexander Ankvab’s car as it travelled along the nearby highway between Gudauta and the capital Sukhumi (Sukhum).

Having blocked his vehicle residents listed their complaints and demands regarding unfulfilled promises to repair the costal road leading to Shitskuara.

While opposition-aligned Telegram channels published videos of the protest, minimal information about the action was published in official media. 

Issues regarding maintenance of the road in Shitskuara and others nearby are longstanding, with damaged accumulating over time exacerbated by landslides in the area. The road requires significant repair and reinforcement to be usable, which has not taken place. 

The road reportedly last saw any repair work in 2017, when a new bridge was built across the River Shitskuara after the previous, emergency bridge, was destroyed by flooding. The previous bridge had required repairs for many years, but was only replaced after it became entirely impassable. 

Since then, no repairs have been made to the road, despite village, district, and central government officials repeatedly stating that the roads required significant work. 

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While at the time the bridge was repaired, there were hopes that the road would also be repaired, it remains severely damaged six years later. 

People from the village state that Shitskuara has significant tourism potential, located on the seafront between Sukhumi and Novy Afon (Akhali Atoni), with the road through it as an alternative route between these cities. 

They also note that government officials previously promised that another nearby bridge, which connects the costal road to Sukhumi, would be reconstructed, work that could only begin after repairing the road. 

Timur Agrba, head of the State Administration for Capital Construction of Abkhazia, in 2021 told Sputnik Abkhazia that construction of the bridge would begin in 2023. 

No repair work relating to the bridge has yet begun, and no official response to the protest has yet been issued. 

 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.