SUKHUM / AQW'A — Leaders of the Abkhazian opposition have announced their intent to stage a protest demanding the government's resignation on May 30th. In a press conference held yesterday, the leaders highlighted the reasons behind their call for public demonstration and expressed concerns about the potential use of force against protestors.
The protest is planned to take place at 14:00 on Theatre Square near the Abkhaz Drama Theatre in Sukhum. The leaders accuse the government of deliberately escalating tensions, a move that they believe may result in the use of water cannons and other crowd control measures against protestors.
Among the voices at the conference was Natali Smyr, former Member of Parliament and Chairperson of the Aamta expert fund. Smyr decried the increasing surveillance around government buildings and warned that the opposition would not be deterred. She called on the heads of law enforcement agencies, specifically addressing Robert Kiut (Chairman of the SGB), Walter Butba (Head of the Interior Ministry), and Anas Kishmaria (Human Rights Ombudsman), to avoid framing the protest as an unlawful or anti-state action.
Vitaliy Gabnia, Chairman of the political party "Apsny," accused the government of betraying the expectations of the people and halting the country's development. He called the protest the "only chance to get through to the government." Meanwhile, Aslan Bartsits, leader of the Forum for the Unity of the Abkhaz People, detailed the deterioration of relations between the government and opposition over the last three years.
In a call to action, Bartsits urged citizens to take responsibility for the country’s future and attend the protest, stating that the nation's future depended on their actions. Temur Gulia, Chairman of the "Aruaa" veteran organisation, appealed to the nation's defenders, reminding them of their shared history and struggles.
Beslan Achba, co-chairman of the public organisation "Unity," argued that numerous critical issues promoted by the government, such as the law on apartments, privatisation of energy, increasing electricity tariffs, and the transfer of Pitsunda state dachas to Russia, were decided upon without proper public dialogue.
The opposition leaders claim that, despite promises of reform, President Aslan Bzhania has largely forgotten these pledges since coming to power. Public figure Adgur Lagvilava expressed his belief that the government's legitimacy is waning and that a change in power is inevitable due to the quality of the country's management.
The opposition has reported attempts to force employees in various organisations to attend a counter-rally in support of the government, with threats of dismissal to budget workers if they attend the opposition protest. Adgur Ardzinba advised the public not to be afraid and assured them that they would be protected.
As the planned date for the protest approaches, both the government and opposition in Abkhazia remain locked in a battle of rhetoric and public support. The opposition's calls for change have highlighted increasing tensions within the country, as citizens grapple with the political direction of their nation.