Abkhaz demand borders open with Russia despite rise in number of corona cases
The president recently broadcast an emergency address, in which he announced that an Abkhaz MP had tested positive for coronavirus and that because of this, the government had decided to test all parliament members.
Protests in Gagra
Residents of Gagra (not far from the Russian border), concerned about the situation in Abkhazia, organised a rally. Some of the townspeople support opening the borders with Russia, others fear the spread of the coronavirus, and still others are asking for financial assistance.
Mainly people are demanding transparency from the government. They want to know what to expect going forward. The main reason people took to the streets was the economic difficulties people are facing, especially in the resort areas of the republic. They say that their savings are entirely depleted and they do not know how they will survive the winter.
“We need 10,000 rubles [around $135] for every member of the family! Even if the border opens, it won’t help us, it’s too late. How are we supposed to dress our children for school? Where do we get the money? Clothes for one child cost 20,000 [around $250],” said locals at the protest.
Their demands were heard by MPs from the district assembly and the head of the Gagra district administration, Yuri Khagush. District MPs and officials responded, saying that they have provided assistance to residents more than once during the pandemic. But at the same time, the people’s requests have been heard and will be brought to the attention of the president.
The protesters dispersed peacefully. But Abkhaz expressed mixed feelings about the protest on social media.
“10,000 for each family member with a population of 250,000 is 2,500,000,000 rubles [about $ 34,000,000]. Does our state have the money to pay this out every month? Give this person a calculator. This is our country’s own annual budget,” one user writes.
“And what should other areas do – Ochamchire, Tkuarchalu [in the Eastern part of Abkhazia – JAMnews]. They are shameless, ready to eat up the last piece of bread. They are afraid that they won’t be able to buy their new Lexus by the end of the season, or that another floor of their hotel will not be completed,” says another.
On July 28, Abkhaz President Aslan Bzhania extended the restricted regime on the state border with Russia until August 4.
Meanwhile, there is a sharp increase in COVID-19 patients in Abkhazia. On July 20, the authorities officially announced that the last patient with coronavirus had been cured, but after a couple of days, new patients appeared. Now 24 cases have been recorded. One of the patients has died.
The president’s address
In light of the current situation, Abkhaz President Aslan Bzhania made his first special address to the public since the beginning of the pandemic:
“The country’s leadership is aware of the complexity of the situation. We understand the situation in which citizens find themselves due to the closure of the state border. But we proceed from the fact that the state must not value anything higher than the life and health of its citizens citizens.”
The president states that it is impossible to open the state border with the Russian Federation unilaterally, but the Abkhaz authorities “are in constant contact with the Russian side to work out the safest solution for the life and health of citizens of both countries. This solution will be found in the near future.”
The president assured citizens that he was taking measures to minimize the consequences of the epidemic.
The MP with coronavirus
One MP of the Abkhaz parliament was diagnosed with COVID-19. This was confirmed by the speaker of the parliament Valeriy Kvarchia. Because of this, the decision was made to test all members of the parliament for coronavirus.
MP Levon Galustyan voluntarily decided to take a COVID-19 test, along with his driver, as one of his neighbors had been diagnosed with coronavirus a few days earlier.
The driver’s test came back negative, and the MP’s results were delayed. Galustyan himself said that he found out that his test was positive from a guard at the epidemiological laboratory. However, Galustyan never saw any official paper with a confirmed diagnosis.
“We have obtained this information from specialists. The diagnosis has been confirmed,” said parliament speaker Valeriy Kvarchia.
On July 30, a meeting with MPs and President of Abkhazia Aslan Bzhania was to take place in the parliament. However, due to Levon Galustyan’s illness, the meeting was canceled, and all the MPs went to get tested.
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