A social activist and former MP has been hospitalised in Abkhazia after allegedly being attacked by President Aslan Bzhaniya’s son.
Eyewitnesses claimed that Maksim Bzhaniya, along with Bzhaniya’s nephews, and employees of the State Security Services, attacked Tengiz Agrba on 7 April. The former MP reportedly sustained broken fingers and hands as a result of the attack.
There has been widespread speculation in Abkhazia that Agrba was attacked for a post on Facebook criticising President Bzhaniya over his association with Russian model Polina Ammosova
Bzhaniya has faced criticism after a video emerged, reportedly taken prior to his election as president, showing him joking and arm-wrestling with Ammosova. In a separate, newer, video, Ammosova can be seen raising a glass of Georgian wine to the president’s health. Critics have also posted photos of Ammosova in revealing clothing.
‘Heed my words, president, [your ancestor] Ashkhangirey is turning in his grave because of what a corrupt disgrace you are’, wrote Agrba on Facebook shortly before the alleged attack. He was referring to Ashkangirey Bzhaniya, Aslan Bzhaniya’s grandfather who according to local legend, died at the age of 147.
‘No one has ever respected you, and even more so, no one respects you today, and the girls of this ancient profession (as if there would be any other kind near you) look like a model of self-respect and morality in comparison to you’, continued the post.
Agrba has reportedly yet to file an official complaint against Bzhaniya.
However, members of Aruaa, a civil society organisation for military veterans, appealed to the Prosecutor General’s Office to investigate the attack and the State Security Service’s alleged involvement.
‘Immediately, and without waiting for [Agrba’s] statement, start investigating this crime committed by the security guards of the president and his relatives’, read Auraa’s statement. ‘Provide the public with video materials from CCTV cameras that officials are trying to hide from the people’.
‘Moral degradation’ and the Lykhny tree
In his post, Agrba posited last week’s vandalisation of the Lykhny linden tree — an almost 150-year-old tree held sacred in Abkhaz culture and history — as a sign of the moral degradation that Abkhazia has suffered under Bzhaniya.
The tree was damaged by an unknown individual with a chainsaw, and experts have suggested that the tree will not survive the damage it sustained.
His statement was echoed by several others within Abkhazia, including Aidgylara, a nationalist organisation which accused the government of a ‘complete lack of awareness of the offensiveness’ of the vandalisation of the linden tree.
In their statement, they said that Bzhaniya’s association with Ammosova also ‘demonstrate the preferences, true face, moral, and ethical image’ of Abkhazia’s government.
They said that they intended to demand Bzhaniya immediately resign.
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.