By Paul Goble
The protests in the breakaway republic of Abkhazia that forced the ouster of Raul Khadzhimba highlights something the Kremlin does not yet understand: even those in these places who are pro-Russian (by necessity if not necessarily by conviction) want to have a voice in their own affairs and not just follow orders, Vitaly Portnikov says.
The Russian leadership does not see that people in Abkhazia as in South Ossetia, Transdniestria and even in Ukraine want to have their own voice even if they are disposed favorably to Russia, the Ukrainian commentator says. They don’t want to be the serfs of either people like Khadzhimba or of Putin either (belsat.eu/ru/news/konets-abhazskogo-yanukovicha/).
Instead, they, like others in the post-Soviet space, “want to have the right to make decisions on their own fate and on the fate of the regions in which they live. And that is something that the Russian leadership has refused them, just as it has refused that right to its own compatriots within the current borders of the Russian Federation.
In an essay entitled “The End of ‘the Abkhaz Yanukovich,’” Portnikov points out that it is only partially true that the Kremlin doesn’t care who is in charge in that republic. Moscow imposed Khadzhimba 16 years ago, has supported him in the interim, and thus has had to give him up only with regret.
Almost all Abkhaz politicians were and remain ready to cooperate with Moscow, but “Moscow does not understand what cooperation is. It understands only what subordination and the fulfillment of orders are. And that is why everywhere where it can, it tries to promote the success of those who will not act as independent players.”
Khadzhimba, a former Chekist with whom Putin posed early on, was thus for the Kremlin something who was more “understandable” and thus acceptable than his opponents who wanted some freedom of action. This is exactly the same pattern as occurred with Yanukovich in Ukraine.
And it is why “in all the self-proclaimed republics, the Kremlin has consistently supported the coming to power of siloviki. That was the case in Abkhazia, in South Ossetia, and in Transdniestria.” In all these places, except now in Abkhazia with Khadzhimba’s ouster, those in charge are people who “simply know how to follow orders and fill their pockets.”