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Abkhazia’s interior minister may return to his duties — president

July 08, 9:04 UTC+3 MOSCOW
Earlier, Abkhazian President Raul Khadzhimba relieved Interior Minister Leonid Dzapshbu of his duties but refused to postpone the referendum on early presidential elections to a later date
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© ITAR-TASS/Artur Lebedev/archive

MOSCOW, July 7 /TASS/. Leonid Dzapshba, the head of Abkhazia’s Interior Ministry, may return to his duties after a prosecutor’s investigation is over, Abkhazian President Raul Khadzhimba said in an interview aired by the Rossiya 24 television news channel.

"The [interior] minister allegedly banned his employees, their families and relatives from voting in a referendum [on snap presidential election in Abkhazia]. He promised to take measures against that category of people should they vote in the referendum. The prosecutors are supposed to investigate these allegations. If these facts really took place, then appropriate measures will be taken against this person [the interior minister]. The minister will preserve his chair if such facts are not proven," the Abkhazian president said.

The prosecutors are expected to finish the investigation on July 16.

According to previous reports, three former interior ministers of Abkhazia asked Khadzhimba to dismiss Interior Minister Leonid Dzapshba on June 20.

They said Dzapshba had demanded that police workers refrain from voting in the referendum under a threat of dismissal.

The interior minister’s actions violated article 136 of the Abkhazian Criminal Code on citizens’ right to participate in referendums and also the law on referendums (which bans direct or indirect restriction of citizens’ right to participate in referendums), Aslan Bzhaniya, the head of the Apra foundation for socio-economic and political studies, told journalists.

Abkhazia’s opposition Amtsakhara party (of war veterans) has accused the Abkhazian authorities of inciting tensions in the republic following the unrest in the capital Sukhum on July 5.

The Amtsakhara party adopted a resolution at its congress on Tuesday demanding the resignation of the republic’s interior minister over the worsening criminal situation in Abkhazia and actions aimed at violation of citizens’ constitutional rights to participate in a referendum. The opposition appealed to the republic’s president to put off early presidential elections from July 10 to autumn.

Up to 1,000 people rallied outside the Abkhazian Interior Ministry building for almost six hours on Tuesday.

Abkhazian President Raul Khadzhimba relieved Interior Minister Leonid Dzapshbu of his duties but refused to postpone the referendum on early presidential elections to a later date.

"I am not going to put off the referendum because a decree has been signed. The referendum will take place on July 10. If I put it off until autumn as they assume I myself am going to break the law, which, as the opposition itself is saying, I am obliged to observe," Khadzhimba said on Abkhazian television on Tuesday.

He said that the current events in Abkhazia were an attempt to destabilize the situation in the country and that the interior minister was just a pretext. Khadzhimba said he would meet the opposition’s demand to allow people with expired passports to vote in the referendum.

The Amtsakhara party said that the statements and actions of Abkhazian President Raul Khadzhimba and his entourage after the July 5 riots were provoking a new wave of mass public protests. It warned that the events could start unfolding to an extremely dangerous scenario.

"The public statements of the Abkhazian leadership, Chief Prosecutor Alexei Lomiya and Security Council Secretary Muhamed Kilb are indicating that the authorities have embarked on a path of inciting tensions in the country," an information bulletin released after a meeting of the party’s political council held on Thursday said.

The Amtsakhara political party has urged the Abkhazian president to be sensible and reasonable and use the days remaining before the July 10 referendum to correct the situation and pass decisions on all the points mentioned in a resolution adopted at the opposition congress on July 5 with an aim to end the current deadlock.

On July 6, the Abkhazian president told journalists that he had met almost all the demands made by the opposition except for changing the date of the referendum on snap presidential elections in Abkhazia.

"The referendum will not be postponed and will take place on July 10," Khadzhimba said.

Khadzhimba told his supporters at a rally a day earlier, on Wednesday, that he would accept any referendum result even if it were negative for him.

"If you who are standing here and the main part of the country’s population vote for the president’s resignation, I am going to accept this decision. But if that does not happen, I will fight all the negative trends in the state to the end [of my presidential term in 2019 - TASS]. No one will be able to intimidate me," Khadzhimba stressed.

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