Last week the most acute issue in Georgia was definitely an attack on the leader of the Abkhazian regime Alexander Ankvab that was carried out on February 22nd. We should remind that the Ankvab motorcade was first blown up on a mine and then shelled from grenade launchers and machine guns in the Gudauta district. As a result one member of the secuirty team was killed and other two were seriously injured. Ankvab himself was not harmed.
It should be noted that this is the sixth attempt on Ankvabs’s life. The first was carried out on February 28th 2005 two weeks after he was appointed as “prime minister” of Abkhazia. His car was fired at in the outskirts of Sukhumi. Ankvab was not injured.
The second attack happened after exactly one month, on April 1st. The incident occurred again in the outskirts of Sukhumi, in the village of Achadara. Then his jeep was hit by 17 bullets. A driver of the accompanying car was wounded in the leg while Ankvab again was unharmed.
The third attack was carried out on June 21st 2007 near the New Athos, a mine exploded on the road where Ankvab was to pass. The explosion was caused by a lightning hitting an explosive device. Abkhazian law enforcers included this explosion in the list of attacks on Ankvab too.
On July 9th 2007 Ankvab’s car was shelled from a grenade launcher on the Sukhumi-Gudauta highway. A shell hit a car boot as a result of which Ankvab and his driver were wounded. Ankvab received a slight contusion and several wounds in the back.
On September 23rd 2010 Ankvab’s house in the village of Likhny in the Gudauta district where he was spending the night was shelled from grenade launchers. A shell was dropped in a room where Ankvab slept. As a result Ankvab was wounded in his leg and arm.
But the most dangerous out of all attacks was one that took place on February 22nd 2012. As law enforcers describe attackers came very close to their goal. If not for courage of the security team car that shielded Ankvab’s car and received force of the attack on itself Ankvab would not have survived. It seems attackers were a bit slow to react and allowed the security team to shield Ankvab.
It is notable that this attack was well-organized. On the hill from where the fire was opened advance-prepared tranches, weapons and ammunition were found. And a mine that was found on the road was of a remotely controlled kind. This definitely indicates that the attackers were preparing for the attack quite unhindered. Were they professionals? There may be several answers to this question and the most talked about is that if they were indeed professionals Ankvab would not have survive the attack. Though this is a quite doubtful answer since the history knows a lot of terrorist attacks that were carried out by professionals but still failed. And supporters of this version that by such suppositions are trying to avert responsibility away from Russia are causing more doubts. All the more that today supper-power of the Russian security services is more of a publicity rather than reality. In this context we should note a conclusion made by Abkhazian law enforcers that they reached after examination of the place of the incident that among the attackers there were professionals that had experience in war actions in hot spots. It was also noted that a grenade launcher handler spent more than one hour in the tranche waiting for a target. But why did they allow the security car to shield Ankvab?
And was this last attack continuation of the previous attacks? Neither this question has definite answer as some could have used previous facts to erase their traces. But it really is continuation of the previous attacks then who is after Ankvab so relentlessly starting from 2005 i.e. after he appeared in the upper ranks of the Abkhazian power pyramid? The answer to this is probably better known to Ankvab himself. Though the fact itself that all previous attacks were left uninvestigated makes us suggest that Ankvab just could not do much about this.
There are several versions that can be discussed. First and one of the most realistic is that the attack was organized by the Russian security services. As we have already mentioned the suggestion that “if that were the Russian security services they would have done a proper job of it” does not sound too assuring. More interesting is a fact that Russian propagandists that for a long time have been known for their cooperation with security services and following their orders, have actively started to erase all traces and trying to shift blame on internal confrontations. But why should the Kremlin need to get rid of Ankvab?
We should recall the election campaign that preceded Ankvab’s coming to power. Then the Kremlin was trying to make more-closely connected Sergey Shamba a “president”. In the first stage of the election marathon very few doubted that this would have happened. But later the fact of the Shamba team using illicit methods so plummeted the rating of the candidate that the Kremlin was forced to transfer its bet onto Ankvab. The result was that Ankvab appeared in the post if the “president” - Ankvab who was not so welcomed by the Kremlin. But it had to reconcile itself with the choice of Abkhazians in order to avoid repetition of the confrontation that followed the election of Sergey Bagapsh in 2004.
Despite the fact that the Kremlin later many times stressed that it allegedly supported Ankvab all along it could not achieve real results in the relations with Abkhazians. Those issues that were considered problematic during the “presidency” of Bagapsh are problematic today as well. These are the issue of the village of Aibga, restoration of property rights of the Russian citizens in Abkhazia, the issue of sanatoriums and resort facilities, Russia’s demand on unanimous military dictate in the region. This is followed by increasingly critical attitude of Abkhazians towards the Kremlin politics.
The second reason why Moscow could be behind the terrorist attack is the Sochi Olympics. There is no doubt that as the Olympics approaching the Kremlin will try to seize full control of the occupied territory and for this it will definitely start to establish fully modern and well developed border facilities, so uncharacteristic of the Russian border checkpoints anywhere else, not only Psou but also on the Enguri. This is the main reason why Russian occupants do not let Abkhazians to the Enguri and do not let them open crossings and “customs points” there. We should not forget t about the Russian military border base in the Gagra district. Logically, it should not be there. And all this is explained by the WTO requirements. We should note that the border contingent is not enough for full control. They will need to introduce their police and establish more control, especially deep inside Abkhazia where they believe themselves to be safe from Georgians (though as we see they are not still protected from terrorist attacks). There have been talks about introduction of the Russian police into Abkhazia for a long time now. All actions need its grounds and reasons. And increasing number of incidents in the deep of Abkhazia may well be used by Moscow. Thus destabilization that is so widely talked about today in Abkhazia in the light of the attack plays probably more into the hands of the Kremlin.
Another version that can be considered with regards to this incident is connected to internal confrontation. After he came to power Ankvab became seriously opposed to the criminal, corruption, lawlessness. As a result, he got in the way of many influential people and their interests. Among them those who are engaged in robbing Georgians living in the Gali district, in illegal disposal of land in the districts of Gagra and Gudauta, illegal issuing of passports, as well as he went against increasing criminal levels, “thieves-in-law”… In a society like Abkhazia interests of groups are interconnected and thus all these actions of Ankvab could have not not affected owners of different spheres and first of all those who because of the Ankvab policies lost or are losing those spheres. We should not forget it was Ankvab who dismissed from their posts several influential figures – prosecutor general Beslan Kvitsinia, head of Gagra administration Astamur Ketsba, Gagra chief architect and at the same time one of the richest persons of Abkhazia Tamara Lakrba and many more. Two days before the attack in Gagra he terribly criticized heads of local administration and the interior ministry; After he became a “president” Beslan Butba – one of the most rampant criminal and his deputy Besik (Multik) Kvekveskiri - a representative of the criminal clan of Beslakhuba were killed. It should be also noted that on the very day when Ankvab became a ”president” young Sandrik Arshba, nephew of “Ankvab man” Beslan Agrba was abducted from the centre of Sukhumi. Later he was released after paying the ransom. But if this attack is linked to his current politics then who carried out previous five attacks against him?
The third version is that for a long time nothing has been said in either Abkhazian media or Russian one about what Sargei Shamba has been doing since the elections. Of course everyone knows where he is - he is peacefully taking some time in his own house thanks to his wife’s business and wages accumulated during his own political career. Is not it surprising that a healthy, robust man who for the past twenty years was the most active separatist today does not engage in any kind of political activity? Besides, waiting five years for the next “presidential” elections calmly is not that easy. So, according to our sources, the terrorist attack of February 22nd was organized by Shamba people. The sources also name a possible financial aid - certain Besik Eshba. And Eshba people include both his Abkhazian supporters and his friends in Russia. As we cannot confirm this information by 100 per cent we presented it as a version.
Here it is harder to specify motivations in this case. According to our information roots of confrontation between Ankvab and Shamba run deep and go to the beginning of the nineties of the last century when some managed to get themselves into the Ardzinba team while others had to altogether leave Sukhumi because of the confrontation. There are issues that we do not consider reasonable to voice today but the time will come for this too. Some may wonder how was it that Ankvab and Shamba worked together in the Bagapsh team. Everyone knew about their quite difficult relationship. But, it seems, both managed to stay above their personal confrontation and work for interest of the “state”. Besides Bagapsh was known as a person who was acceptable to everybody, he used to unite many people, even those opposed to each other, under common interests.
Here we can bring unconfirmed information about the Shamba-Ankvab confrontation. Probably everyone recalls a recent big fire in the centre of Sukhumi when several buildings, among them the central post office, was burned. Those buildings included a household appliance shop that belonged to a wife of Shamba, Bela Shakaia. There were rumours as though the fire was started intentionally in order to damage Shamba. Although all this is just rumours, but who knows… Maybe it was one of manifestations of the Shamba-Ankvab confrontation…
The forth versions concerns the Russian criminal world and its interests in Abkhazia. According to our information, father of the Russian criminal world (after Putin) Aslan Usoian aka Ded Khasan has quite big interests in the occupied territory. It should be noted that last summer Ded Khasan holidayed in Abkhazia. After the Georgian news agency reported about this Sukhumi became seriously concerned. They even called for the security council meeting regarding this. And only after one week the puppet regime declared information about Ded Khasan’s visit to Abkhazia a lie and accused the Georgian media of spreading false information. But according to information, we heard Sukhumi reply only after the well-rested Ded Khasan went back to Moscow. Whether the Abkhazian authorities assisted him in this or his “holiday” was already over is hard to say.
Now to the fifth version. Today is it the least discussed but theoretically still possible one. Ankvab set up a terrorist attack before the elections so that he receives more legitimization from the population and strengthen backing in the “parliament” to conduct his politics. As we know the elections there are scheduled for March 10th.
The sixth version is “the Georgian trace”. We should note that Sukhumi denied this on the following day of the attack and through Kristian Bzhania declared that “at this stage there seems no Georgian trace in the attack”. I believe that even if there was one they would be ashamed to confirm as Ankvab has many times remarked that the Russian army defends Abkhazia securely and the terrorist attack in the heart of Abkhazia –Gudauta district - would absolutely destroy views of the current population of Abkhazia about the level of security that is ensured but the Russian boot.
The seventh version may be connected to religious matters, namely, several terrorist attacks carried out against the Muslim community. Certain part of the Abkhazians residents hold a view that it is Ankvab that opposes the Muslim, who blocks their initiatives regarding the opening of a mosque in the centre of Sukhumi. It should be noted that Musims have been trying to build a mosque complex since the beginning of the XX century but were always met with opposition from the Russian authorities as this was considered as strengthening of the Turkish influence there. In this light it is interesting that two years ago Turkish Barashan-college that was considered one of the best educational institutions was closed. By an official version it was closed by orders of the Abkhazian regime who at the time was led by Bagapsh. As later it was stated by many people, including members of analytical groups of the Russian security services, a reason for this was its pro-Turkish approach and “for what it prepared these people”. There is also a view in Abkhazia that several attacks on Ankvab and elimination of several Muslim activists in the occupied region are interconnected.
When in 2007, imam of the Gudauta mosque Khamzat (Roki) Gitsba was killed in Gudauta chairman of the Muslim Administration of Abkhazia Temur Dziba issued a that said that they were constantly followed by some strangers and the latters even were taking their photos. When one of those photographers was detained, immediately next to that appeared two persons that announced that they and the photographer worked for the Russian security services. In Dziba’s words, this fact was recounted to then “president” Sergei Bagapsh at one of the meetings who said “I am followed too”. It is notable that one week before Gitsba’s killing an active member of the Muslim community certain Mutsba and his wife was killed. Muslims are still killed.
The eighth version. Recently Abkhazians became very active regarding the return of the descendents of the Muhajirs. Since nothing came out of the matter of the return of their compatriots in Turkey they took advantage of the tense situation in Syria and are trying their best to return at least their Syrian compatriots. For this they even sent “government” delegation to Syria. The result was that Abkhazia was visited by two descendents of Muhajirs who expressed their desire to create conditions in Abkhazia to bring their families too. It should be noted that several large families were denied in their request to return. Return of Syrian Muhajirs are not at all in interests of Moscow as well as return of Syrian Circassians. Thus the attack on Ankvab may be designed to show them that nothing good can come out of return to Abkhazia since even the life of the “president” is not secure and they may find themselves finding another misfortune while running from one. Syrians are better off going to somewhere else. This versions seems quite week as for this they would not need to kill Ankvab at all. If we judge by the force of the attack the attackers aimed at killing Ankvab. Though as a version this has a right to exist too.
All the above are just versions that Abkhazian law enforcers will have to check, study and investigate. All of them should be considered in the context whether it was continuation of the previous attacks or it served other interest. As if this is continuation then investigators will have to return to the attack of 2005 and determine whose interests were damaged by Ankvab.
One way or other, Ankvab as a character of the Russian folklore Koschei the Immortal appears to be immortal and will continue his politics. We believe that the attack will not scare him, what’s more it will add legitimation to his actions against the Abkhazian criminals and lawlessness. He will probably use a negative attitude that emerged in the Abkhazian public towards existing security system to achieve certain political goals. The only question after all this is whether Ankvab will have time to carry out real reorganization until yet another terrorist attack on him occurs.