While all eyes are on Ukraine…

by Nathan Hamm on 12/1/2004 · 10 comments

Here is what happens when nobody pays attention to Russian interference in the elections of its neighbors.

Russia on Wednesday told Georgia’s breakaway region of Abkhazia to hold a rerun of presidential polls, after a pro-Moscow candidate was defeated, or face an economic blockade.

Abkhazia was plunged into turmoil in October when an independent candidate, Sergei Bagapsh, accused Moscow protegee Raul Khadzhimba of election fraud. Bagapsh was declared the winner after a recount.

Under pressure from Moscow, ailing regional leader Vladislav Ardzinba has ordered a rerun of the polls despite rulings by the electoral commission, the supreme court and parliament in favour of Bagapsh.

Bagapsh has defied Ardzinba’s orders and says he intends to go ahead with his inauguration on Dec. 6.

Somewhere near 100% of Abkhazia’s income stems from Russian trade and subsidies, and Moscow has pretty bluntly told Abkhazia that all of that will stop if it does not do as its told. Russia says that this would all be for “stability” and its own protection because “Bagapsh and criminal groups behind him … strive to seize power in the republic with the use of arms.”

Russia has moved troops to its border with Abkhazia and will cut rail links on Thursday.

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Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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