Alliance of Patriots makes a stir – what were pro-Russian, Georgian politicians doing in Abkhazia?
Leaders of the Alliance of Patriots opposition party, vice speaker of the Georgian parliament Irma Inashvili and David Tarkhan-Mouravi, secretly visited Abkhazia on August 18, opposition TV station Mtavari Arkhi recently reported.
They were in Abkhazia for four hours, Mtavari said, claiming the politicians were easily able to cross all the checkpoints on the Georgian side.
Inashvili later confirmed that the trip had occurred. Although the MP said that she was accompanied to Abkhazia not by the leader of the Tarkhan-Mouravi party, but by another Alliance of Patriots MP, Giorgi Lomia.
The visit caused a huge stir on both sides of the Enguri River — the situation is rather unusual in the history of relations between Georgia and Abkhazia, as no other Georgian politician has visited Abkhazia for many years.
What is the Alliance of Patriots of Georgia
The Alliance of Patriots of Georgia is a pro-Russian political party which supports renewing relations with Russia and refusing to join NATO, and is known for its homophobic stances and anti-Western rhetoric.
Russian publication Dossier reports that the Alliance of Patriots will receive pre-election consultation and funding from the Kremlin.
Dossier states that the party requested $8 million from Moscow to finance their campaign before the parliamentary elections in 2020.
Alliance of Patriots leader Irma Inashvili does not refute the fact that their party is working with a Russian consulting company, but strongly denies that they received $8 million from Moscow.
What we know about the meeting in Abkhazia
On August 24, after the news first broke, Inashvili confirmed that she and her fellow party member Giorgi Lomia had indeed met in Abkhazia.
She says that they brought an icon of the Virgin Mary to the Ilori Church, which they said was the purpose of their visit.
Inashvili also posted a picture of herself in the church on her Facebook page.
Inashvili and Lomia met with advisor to the de facto President of Abkhazia Aslan Bzhania and member of the People’s Party of Abkhazia, Lasha Sakania.
Sakania explained that he met with the Georgian politicians at the request of certain “friends from Russia”, but that they did not discuss politics, as they were in Abkhazia “on a purely humanitarian mission, with no political agenda or consequences”.
“They gifted us with an icon and prayed, and that was the extent of their visit”, said Sakania.
Sakania claims that the de facto government knew nothing of this visit. He says he informed neither the head of the administration in the Gali District, nor the de facto Abkhazia foreign ministry, so that the visit would have an “informal character”.
The Georgian opposition political parties announced that the visit from the Alliance of Patriots members would not have been possible without permission from the Kremlin, as well as from the leader of the ruling Georgian Dream Party Bidzina Ivanishvili.
“This is a strange situation, to put it mildly. It’s not like they just crossed over to the neighboring town, is it? It’s a significant act committed by a party with a certain connotation. It is completely unthinkable to assume this happened without the agreement of both governments. Or at least this was Russia’s position. Did they consent to the visit? Most likely yes, otherwise they would not have been able to get there”, said Gigi Tsereteli, a member of the European Georgia Party.
“This visit is problematic for various reasons”, said Tamar Chugoshvili, an independent MP. “Firstly, because of the purpose of this visit, and secondly, how did they manage to get there physically? There are many unanswered questions”.
Tbilisi also believes that this visit has seriously shaken the ranks of those who support a dialogue between Georgia in Abkhazia and strengthened the positions of those who oppose resuming relations with Georgians.
Irma Inashvili herself said that she would hold a special press conference at which she would tell in detail about the purpose of her visit to Abkhazia.
After news broke about the Georgian politicians, the Abkhazian war veteran NGO “Aruaa”, which opposes any dialogue with the Georgian side, demanded an explanation from the de facto authorities regarding the meeting with the leaders of the Alliance of Patriots.
As a result, Lasha Sakania resigned from the post of adviser to the President of Abkhazia.
He wrote about this decision on Facebook, noting that he resigned voluntarily, in order to “appease the public”.