No electricity in Abkhazia; opposition and prosecutor's office clash over repair theft
In Abkhazia, the opposition has pointed out that the general prosecutor’s office has been reviewing materials on potential thefts during the repair of the Achguara power transmission line for a year, despite president Aslan Bzhania initially setting a two-week deadline.
This confrontation between the opposition and the prosecutor general’s office occurs amid another aggravation of the energy crisis in the republic.
Opposition leader Adgur Ardzinba expressed suspicions of substantial theft during the Achguara power line repair at a press conference in mid-November 2022. He presented an officially approved government cost estimate for material procurement, comparing it with market prices.
Ardzinba alleged that prices for all 70 items in the estimate were inflated by one and a half, two, or even three times, suggesting that at least a third of the allocated budget for Achguara’s repair was misappropriated.
Following the press conference, president Aslan Bzhania summoned the prosecutor general’s office leadership, granting them a two-week period to assess the materials and determine the potential initiation of a criminal case.
However, even after two weeks, two months, and a year had passed, the prosecutor general’s office did not reach a conclusion on whether theft occurred during the Achguara repair. Meanwhile, another oversight body, the Control Chamber, investigating the matter, found evidence of overspending.
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The prosecutor general’s office attributed its delay to the necessity of conducting numerous examinations, especially those carried out in Russia, which consume significant time.
However, the opposition remained dissatisfied, asserting that the authorities were attempting to cover up the case by prolonging the investigation. In May 2023, Adgur Ardzinba filed a complaint against the prosecutor general and his deputy, winning the case. The court ruled that the prosecutor’s office displayed inaction and must rectify the mistakes.
Regrettably, the court’s decision failed to spur further investigation.
Presently, the opposition consistently reminds the government of the ongoing investigation, a matter gaining urgency amid another bout of the energy crisis in the republic.
By the beginning of October 2023, Abkhazia had depleted its free quota of 40% of the total generation of the Ingur HPP. Now, the government is seeking 900 million rubles (approximately $9.9 million) to cover the resulting deficit and pay for electricity from Russia.
Previously, Moscow supplied Abkhazia with electricity as humanitarian aid, but it now demands payment. Many attribute this shift to Russia’s dissatisfaction with the slow pace of energy reform in Abkhazia. A key component of this reform was the denationalization of the energy industry to facilitate Russian investment, but corresponding legislative changes in Abkhazia did not materialize.
The opposition, drawing from the situation with the Achguara power line repair, contends that the current government is incapable of implementing any reforms in the energy sector.
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