Map of Abkhazia.
“As part of a three-day exercise, employees of the State Security Service… will practice measures to counter terrorist attacks. The exercises of the security forces began on March 12 in the Gal[i] district, where military equipment and personnel were transferred.”
In March 2023, the government of the Georgian separatist region of Abkhazia conducted a series of military exercises in response to demonstrations in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi calling for the retaking of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.[i] According to the excerpted article from the independent but pro-Abkhaz media outlet Abkhaz World, Abkhazia conducted a series of military and counterterrorism exercises in the Gali sector, the de facto border between Abkhazia and Georgia. The Gali sector is defined by the Ingury River, a natural but not impenetrable barrier between Georgia and Abkhazia and the scene of periodic infiltration, insurgency, and sabotage by Georgian nationals since 1993.[ii] According to the excerpted article from Bulgaria-based Bulgaria News, Abkhazian Major General Dmitry Dbar told reporters “that the Gal[iii] exercises are as close to combat as possible and are aimed at countering subversive groups.”
The current tension between Abkhazia and Georgia is being fueled by Russia’s war in Ukraine. For months, Ukrainian officials have called on Georgia to open a second front against Russia by reclaiming Abkhazia and South Ossetia to diverting Russian forces and attention from Ukraine. Yet, while this scenario might help Ukraine, it could be a military disaster for Georgia, which has taken a more neutral position regarding Ukraine despite numerous anti-Russian and pro-West public protests and hundreds of Georgian volunteers fighting for Ukraine. There is a common presumption that Georgia could only attack Abkhazia if a Western power, most usually said to be the United States, were to facilitate the operation. At the same time, nearly everyone in Georgia and many in the West continue to think of Abkhazia only being able to defend itself with Russian forces.[iv] The truth probably lies somewhere in between, and the recent Abkhazian military exercises are meant to demonstrate to Georgia that Abkhazia can and will take care of itself, regardless of current nationalist and regional pressures to reignite the conflict.
“Abkhazia’s Law Enforcement Agencies Practise Measures to Combat Terrorism and Sabotage,” Abkhaz World (independent but pro-Abkhaz media outlet based in London and Turkey), 13 March 2023. https://abkhazworld.com/aw/current-affairs/2223-practice-measures-to-combat-terrorism-and-sabotage
The head of State Security Service under the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Abkhazia, Dmityr Dbar, stated that the exercises will simulate combat situations and will take place in several stages.
“We will conduct these exercises frequently to prepare for anti-terrorist threats. The fighters must know each other, interact, and be able to carry out coordinated combat missions,” he said.
Interior Minister Watler Butba added that the Ministry of Internal Affairs staff will practice measures to release hostages and neutralize attackers at the state border checkpoint.
“Абхазия следи с тревога събитията в Грузия (Abkhazia is watching events in Georgia with concern),” News Bulgaria (Bulgarian news source), 14 March 2023. https://news.bg/int-politics/abhaziya-sledi-s-trevoga-sabitiyata-v-gruziya.html
The head of Abkhazia’s State Security Service, Major General Dmitry Dbar, told reporters on Monday that “the exercises are as close to combat as possible and are aimed at countering subversive groups.”
“We used to conduct such exercises regularly once a quarter, but given the situation in Georgia and possible threats, we will conduct such events more often, to work out mechanisms to ensure anti- terrorist protection of the population,” he said.
We remind you that on March 7 and 8 thousands of people protested against the foreign agents law in Tbilisi, which led to clashes between police and demonstrators. On March 7, the draft law “On transparency of foreign influence”, developed by a group of deputies from the “People’s Power” faction, was adopted in the first reading by the Georgian parliament. On the morning of March 9, the ruling party “Georgian Dream – Democratic Georgia” withdrew the bill.
Peskov: Russia is worried about what is happening in Georgia The Kremlin spokesman hinted that an outside power was trying to bring in an anti-Russian element
We recall that Russia recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent more than a decade ago. Moscow has a significant military presence there. Georgia condemns the ongoing Russian “occupation” of the territory.
[i] South Ossetia and Abkhazia are/were ethnic enclaves within Georgia that petitioned unsuccessfully for independence at the end of the 1980s. Georgia resisted the moves and a war between South Ossetia and Georgia was fought in 1990-1991. A year later war broke out between Abkhazia and Georgia (1992-1993). Georgia lost both conflicts and both territories became de facto independent. Georgia has always maintained that it was defeated in both ethnic enclaves by Russia. The truth is complicated and subject to debate, but the 2008 Russian invasion of Georgia (South Ossetia) consolidated the de facto independence of both South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
[ii] There has been much speculation and rumor as to the nature of the Georgian paramilitary individuals and units raiding Abkhazia. While many believe the Georgian government is behind the low-grade Georgian insurgency in Abkhazia, there are many individuals and groups that appear to be operating on their own initiative—a characteristic of Georgian forces during the war for Abkhazia 1992-1993. See: Dodge Billingsley, “Georgia’s Lingering Border Security Issues,” OE Watch, 08-2019. https://community.apan.org/wg/tradoc-g2/fmso/m/oe-watch-articles-singular-format/315067
[iii] Georgian place names frequently end in “i,” whereas Abkhazian placenames omit the Georgian spelling and pronunciation. For example, “Gali” in Georgian becomes “Gal” in Abkhazian. Most Western scholarship and media coverage of Abkhazia refers to Abkhazian locations using the Georgian language spellings.
[iv] See: Dodge Billingsley, “Georgian Defense Minister Offers Modernization Plan in Face of Russia Threat.” OE Watch, 09-2021. https://community.apan.org/wg/tradoc-g2/fmso/m/oe-watch-articles-2-singular-format/395195
Image: Map of Abkhazia
Source: Sémhur, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Abkhazia_map-fr.svg
Attribution: CC x 3.0