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Protesters rally again near Abkhaz president’s office

On Thursday, January 9, hundreds protesters gathered in downtown Sukhum following the arrest of one of the president’s bodyguards allegedly complicit in the killing of three persons
Protesters outside the presidential staff building in Sukhum, January 9, 2020 Dmitry Feoktistov/TASS
Protesters outside the presidential staff building in Sukhum, January 9, 2020
© Dmitry Feoktistov/TASS

SUKHUM, January 10. /TASS/. Protesters are gathering near the office of the Abkhaz president, keeping the rally that started in Sukhum on Thursday going, TASS reports.

Interior Ministry officers and state guards are also on standby, yet they do not seem to be carrying weapons. According to earlier reports, around 100 people spent the night on the site.

The demonstrators told TASS that around 300 people are now inside the administration’s office, while approximately the same number of people have gathered outside.

Abkhazia’s Interior Ministry reinforced police stations in downtown Sukhum to avoid clashes between those who back the president and opposition supporters, Deputy Minister Igor Dzhenia informed TASS.

"To prevent the sides <…> from clashing, we’ve sent reinforcements. The majority of officers are here, in the center of Sukhum," he said.

The official clarified that both camps have their supporters in the square now. He hoped that the issue would be "resolved politically."

Meanwhile, another Deputy Minister, Levan Kvaratskhelia, told TASS that around 500 police officers are maintaining public order around government buildings. Some protesters believe that they are not planning to storm the president’s administration. At the same time, Kvaratskhelia denied reports that stations were reinforced.

Sukhum rally

Abkhazia’s opposition was going to hold a demonstration in Sukhum on Thursday to protest last September’s presidential election. Originally, the demonstrators had planned to rally in front of the court building, where Abkhazia’s Supreme Court resumed hearings on a lawsuit filed by the opposition’s presidential candidate Alkhas Kvitsiania, from the Amtsakhara party, to protest a lower court’s ruling declaring the election valid.

In a parallel development, another crowd consisting of several hundred people gathered in front of the presidential staff building. They flocked there over a suspect linked to a triple murder in November 2019, who is allegedly one of the Abkhazian president’s bodyguards. The rally’s organizer, Akhra Avidzba, is a relative of one of those killed. Later in the day, opposition demonstrators moved to the building of the presidential staff. The crowd demanded the resignation of President Raul Khajimba and forced their way through, storming the premises.

After a session of Abkhazia’s Security Council, chaired by Khajimba, the president appealed to the citizens, urging them not to yield to the incitement and provocations, but to stay calm. He did not rule out, however, that a state of emergency could be declared in the country amid the developments in the capital city of Sukhum.

The Abkhaz parliament convened for an urgent meeting to adopt an appeal to the president asking him to step down. Khajimba, in turn, called on the opposition to sit down at the negotiating table and pointed out that the parliament’s move could lead to a worsening of the situation.