The opposition storms the MoI building
Opposition supporters sieged the MoI building in Sukhum, demanding President Khajimba to dismiss Interior Minister, Leonid Dzyapshba. However, they failed to achieve their other demand- to postpone the referendum on the vote of no confidence for the President from July till autumn.
“You are standing here with microphones, waiting for something, but you will distort the truth anyway, won’t you! a man of about 30 told me outside the Interior Ministry building. And he didn’t stop there.
“You know, I’m going to lose a good job tomorrow. I dedicated 10 years to it and I’m going to lose it tomorrow.
“Are you going to resign?
“I wasn’t actually going to.
“You’ve been sacked?
“There’s going to be a tough talk with the boss tomorrow.
My casual interlocutor wasn’t provoking me nor was he seeking a conflict. It seemed that this person was just wanted to talk. It was as if he had this desire for day or maybe even a much longer amount of time.
“Where do you work?
“At “Chernomorenergo”, for ten years already.
“And what makes you think you are going to lose your job tomorrow?
“I’ve got a gut feeling about it. You know, actually, I’d never been interested in politics. I’d distance myself from it. But I supported one candidate in the last elections and that’s when it all started. My last name is Zantaria.
“I can tell which candidate you supported. My uncle is also Zantaria.
It was all about Aslan Bzhania, a presidential candidate in the 2014 elections. He is a native of the Tamysh village, an ancestral village where the name Zantaria originated. Now, he is an individual leader of the opposition. And there is a long-standing tradition that other villagers and neighbors need to support ‘one of their own’.
How it all began
Everything started with the assembly of the oppositional Amtsakhara party, held in a park nearby the Philharmonic Hall.
The official part of the assembly-addresses by the opposition bloc leaders, ended with the adoption of a resolution that included two demands:
• to postpone the referendum on the vote of no confidence for President until autumn
• “to immediately dismiss Leonid Dzyapshba from the post of Interior Minister
The rest of the clauses were just an addition to these two key ones.
In particular, participants in the assembly demanded that the citizens of Abkhazia should be allowed to vote with their IDs and expired passports, as well as insisting on opening polling stations in the territory of Russia.
In addition, the opposition insisted on being granted air time on national TV on a regular basis, as well as on ‘ the immediate resumption of the Public Supervisory Board’s activity, which would involve representatives of the opposition.”
After adopting the resolution, the participants in the assembly elected delegates who would be sent to the meeting with the head of state. Among the delegates were: Sayd Tarkil, ex-chairman of the Customs Committee; Akhra Kvekveskiri, the National Assembly member, and Lesik Tsugba, the “Hero” of Abkhazia.
While the President was holding a meeting with opposition representatives, those who gathered at the Philharmonic Hall decided to wait for the delegates outside the MoI building. There were less than 100 meters between them. That’s when a spontaneous gathering of a crowd at the ministry building began.
The developments after the meeting between the President and the opposition
During negotiations, President Khajimba agreed to only one demand concerning expired passports, since it was a real problem. Many people in the republic have not been able to change their passports. So, in order to allow them to participate in the referendum, the Cabinet decided to extend the validity of all expired passports to the citizens of the Republic of Abkhazia until July 10, 2016.
“It can’t be said that we have not been heard. A compromise has been reached on the passport issue. We will be looking forward to other decisions that will be made, Akhra Kvekveskiri, a member of the opposition delegation, stated when leaving the President’s Administration building.
President Khajimba came out following the representatives of the opposition bloc. By that time, his supporters had already gathered outside the President’s Administration. It was he, whom they expected to rehash the conversation with the opposition.
“I call on you to endure this all. We should not succumb to provocations. We have enough potential and resources to solve the problem as is right and proper. A confrontation shall in no way be allowed! I am not going to annul the referendum. It has been scheduled for July 10, and it will be conducted on that day. As far as the passports are concerned… I have accepted your demands. There are about 4,000 of these kinds of passports, and if they are likely to decide the outcome of the referendum, then I am ready to agree with your position,” said Khajimba.
What happened outside the MoI building
Meanwhile, some new opinions were generated outside the Interior Ministry building. Within the span of only twenty minutes, the crowd managed to break into the ministry’s premises. The gates were smashed down using an off-roadster and a cable and the crowd rushed towards the building.
Militiamen tried to keep the crowd at bay, but when people started casting stones and some other impromptu items, law-enforcers were merely pushed aside.
And then everybody was outside the MoI building, including the opposition and the President’s supporters, as well as those who were neutral-if there are any such people at all in Abkhazia. The heads of administrations, ministers and MPs were also there. I saw the representatives from all of the political parties there.
It wasn’t scary, but it was rather strange. As a student, I participated in dozens of rallies and marches in Moscow, including the protest rallies on Bolotnaya Square in 2012. I was arrested five times in February that year alone. I, least of all, would like to see such a confrontation in Abkhazia, irrespective of who is in power and who is in the opposition.
The situation at the MoI building became tense. In reality, it was all orchestrated by a few dozen people. People who were waving flags and trying to climb onto the entrance roof’s overhang were not in the majority.
We, the journalists, were standing on a balcony of an abandoned kindergarten, adjacent to the MoI building. The view from there was far from perfect, but it allowed us to observe how the opposition bloc leaders were trying to stop the crowd together with some other politicians.
The crowd was chanting “Come out!” from time to time, addressing the Minister of the Interior. But some other people came out instead, either the Prosecutor-General or the Defense Minister.
At some point, a bottle with flammable liquid fell on the entrance roof. The militiamen put out the fire, but the outraged crowd became more active and attempted another assault on the ministry building. One of the militia officers was taken out of the building with a heart attack. He was taken from the scene by an ambulance.
The Interior Minister dismissed
There was the feeling that the majority of those gathered outside the MoI contributed little to what was actually going on there. The long-awaited words that the Interior Minister had been dismissed were voiced around 10 p.m. However, the crowd understood it on its own way: the attempts to smash the MoI doors continued amidst the applauses.
Vitaly Gabnia, the Vice-Premier, came to the MoI building at 11 p.m. He read out the presidential decree on Leonid Dzyapshba’s temporary dismissal from the post of Interior Minister. The crowd started to slowly disperse. Representatives of the opposition headed towards the Amtsakhara party head office, while the supporters of the incumbent government went to the President’s Administration.
President Raul Khajimba came out on the porch of the administration building and addressed the people who shared the present government’s policy:
“You’ve seen everything. No one has doubts that it is going to finish like this. But we should be careful, we should become united. If you think it’s necessary, then let’s gather the people together and discuss all the issues.”
People were excitedly assailing the President with questions, but probably no one, not even the President or the opposition, had any answers to them.
The opinions expressed in the article convey the author’s terminology and views and do not necessarily reflect the position of the editorial staff
Initially published: 08.07.2016