In Abkhazia, suspicions of second attempt to poison opposition leader may disrupt presidential elections
Aslan Bzhania, opposition leader and candidate for the post of president of Abkhazia in the upcoming March 22 elections, remains in critical condition after his third day in the hospital. His supporters are protesting and demand an immediate investigation, threatening to disrupt the elections otherwise.
In mid-April 2019, Aslan Bzhania was suddenly hospitalized in critical condition in Moscow. He was then transported to Germany, where his illness was linked with heavy metal poisoning, in particular mercury and cadmium. Aslan Bzhania and his supporters do not doubt that he was poisoned in order to prevent him from participating in the presidential election. Investigators have not yet confirmed this theory.
The presidential elections were held without the participation of Aslan Bzhania, and in September 2019, Raul Khajimba won the final round and a second term as president. However, the opposition considered his victory illegitimate. After the riot in January 2020 when the presidential palace was stormed, the election results were annulled and a new presidential election was scheduled for March 22. By that time, Aslan Bzhania’s health had improved enough that he returned to Abkhazia and began actively campaigning for president.
The clinic in Krasnodar, where Bzhania was hospitalized this time, diagnosed him with bilateral polysegmental pneumonia. However, the opposition has doubts about the diagnosis. Many believe that Bzhania, who was still recovering from the effects of heavy metal poisoning, has once again been poisoned.
This was the story being spread by Russian government news agency RIA News and other information resources, which caused outrage in Sukhumi.
Acting President Valeri Bganba met with Russian Ambassador to Abkhazia Alexei Dvinyanin and told him that he saw the fact that this information was being spread as “an undisguised attempt to destabilize the situation in Abkhazia, which could lead to civil confrontation.”
Bganba demanded that all information being spread by RIA news, as well as Bzhania’s medical reports be immediately sent to the Abkhazian General Prosecutor’s Office so that they can conduct an investigation.
“Failure to comply with our requirements will be regarded as an unfriendly act against the Republic of Abkhazia and reserve the right to action to protect the sovereignty and citizens of the Republic of Abkhazia,” stated Bganba.
Such harsh rhetoric coming from Abkhazia may sound sensational. The reason for is is most likely the recent escalations of the political situation in Abkhazia. A man from Tamysh, the same village where Bzhania grew up, actually stormed the presidential palace on March 4 and put forward large-scale demands, namely the resignation of Bganba, as well as the heads of all law enforcement agencies and city governments in all regions of Abkhazia.
Bzhania’s campaign headquarters announced that they had no involvement in this act of protest.
During the rally, two journalists from Nuzhnaya Gazeta were injured. Izida Chania was hit by a protester who did not like the way she writes about the situation in Abkhazia. Her daughter Olga Jonua was nearly pushed down the stairs when she tried to stop the attack.
By evening, an agreement was finally reached, and the crowd agreed to leave the square in front of the presidential administration building.
The fate of the presidential elections in Abkhazia now depends on Bzhania’s final diagnosis and the prognosis for his recovery. Acting President Valeri Bganba, opposition candidates Adgur Ardzinba and Lenid Dzyapshba, and Aslan Bzhania’s running mate Badra Gumba all agreed to come to a joint decision about the presidential elections within the next few days.
If it is confirmed that there was another poisoning attempt, the presidential elections will most likely be postponed.
All officials whose resignation was demanded when the presidential palace was stormed still remain in office.