Abkhazia and South Ossetia: Closer to Russian annexation?
    Foreign experts' opinions on Caliber.Az

    INTERVIEWS  21 February 2023 - 15:00

    Samir Ibrahimov

    Recently some opinions surfaced that on the threshold of February 24 (the anniversary of the military aggression of Russia against Ukraine), Moscow may declare the annexation of Georgian Abkhazia and so-called South Ossetia in the Russian Federation - some kind of victory amid the not-so-great success of the Russian army on the Ukrainian front. Moreover, there is even talk of the possibility of announcing the annexation of Belarus to Russia. It is not for nothing that Lukashenko was summoned to Moscow for a visit, they say.

    As a reminder, just a year ago, on February 21, the Russian leader signed a decree recognizing the "DPR" and "LPR." As we already know, Putin is going to address the Federal Assembly on February 21 this year. An emergency meeting of the State Duma and the Federation Council is scheduled for the day after. In other words, it is possible that new decisions requiring parliamentary approval are planned in this address.

    We should remind you that earlier illegal head of Abkhazia Aslan Bzhania visited Moscow and then some media reported that "several states, including Abkhazia, may join Russia".

    How likely is such a scenario in the current situation? After all, this means aggravation of violations of international law in which Moscow has already "succeeded" beyond measure.

    Prominent foreign political analysts answered these questions for Caliber.Az.

    Konstantin Eggert, a Russian political analyst, and columnist for Deutsche Welle, says that it is difficult to predict what decision Putin will make, but on the one hand, it is logical to imagine that he, one year after the start of the war, needs to continue showing Russian citizens that the country is rolling up victories, that it is adding territory.

    "Therefore, the formal annexation of already occupied Abkhazia and South Ossetia may look logical in this context. However, on the other hand, this kind of action will be a very serious blow to Russia's position in today's Tbilisi. And from the point of view of many experts, these positions today are not bad at all - the Georgian government is clearly not very active in supporting Ukraine. It's putting pressure on Russian oppositionists that are trying to hide in Georgia. So if this kind of annexation happens it will be a serious blow to the positions of pro-Moscow forces in the Georgian government. And in this sense, this would be a mistake on Kremlin's part.

    Besides, I think that such kind of formal annexation will draw additional attention of NATO to the Black Sea region and will cause an additional reaction; neither America nor the European Union nor other countries of the world will be able to avoid reacting to it, even if only formally.

    Finally, this kind of action will cause confusion in Ankara, and will undoubtedly hit Erdogan's position before the elections. Because it will be difficult for him to explain to the Turkish people and the opposition how he missed such an action almost on the Turkish border.

    And I think all these considerations will be important for Putin. If he does go for the formal annexation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, it will only mean that the effect on 'domestic' public opinion is so crucial to him today that he is ready to take risks and even losses in the end, I am sure," Eggert said.

    "Yes, it is quite possible that Moscow wants to somehow compensate for its failures on the front in Ukraine," says Nika Chitadze, political scientist and professor at the Black Sea International University (Tbilisi). - To do so, it needs to take certain actions in the other direction. On February 21, Putin may announce the creation of the 'Union State' with the participation of Belarus, Abkhazia, so-called South Ossetia, Transdniestria, and the Donetsk and Luhansk regions".

    According to him, in the case of the breakaway regions of Georgia, this will change neither de jure nor de facto the current state of affairs.

    "De jure, because no one will recognize this decision of Russia, and Abkhazia and so-called South Ossetia will always be considered as territories of Georgia. And de facto Russia has not only occupied but also annexed (temporarily) two historical regions of Georgia," Chitadze said.

    Meanwhile, the head of the School of International Relations of the Georgian Institute of Public Affairs, professor Tornike Sharashenidze believes that there will be no annexation.

    In his opinion, Russia will not gain anything from this.

    "It controls everything there anyway, it has no need for that," Sharashenidze believes.


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