Lasha Zukhba: "I Stand in Solidarity with the Protesters in Tbilisi"

Lasha Zukhba, a veteran of the Georgian-Abkhazian War of 1992-93.

Lasha Zukhba, a veteran of the Georgian-Abkhazian War of 1992-93.

SUKHUM / AQW'A ―  Lasha Zukhba, a veteran of the Georgian-Abkhazian war and representative of the "Union of Veterans and Youth of Abkhazia," has publicly expressed his solidarity with the participants of the protests in Tbilisi against the "foreign agents" law on his Facebook page.

"On behalf of myself and like-minded individuals, I extend solidarity to the protesters in Tbilisi, the Georgian opposition, and all of Georgian civil society in their protest against the foreign influence law. We remember your support for our protest against the Pitsunda agreement, and the fight against the foreign agents law is still ahead of us. I hope your efforts will not be in vain and that the law will not be passed. I am confident that no nation, especially the Georgian people, can be defeated in their resolve. I wish you strength of spirit and success in achieving your goals," he wrote on social media.

Some social media users supported Zukhba's position, while others criticised him. Nart Kvitinia commented, "To wish success to the Georgian opposition, which advocates for a second front and chants 'Abkhazia is Georgia,' is truly terrible." Giorgi Duma asked, "I have a question for Lasha: why do the authorities of Western countries, led by the USA, who have long adopted the foreign agents law (without any public protests), obstruct its adoption in other countries and consider it undemocratic?" Nicknamed 'Alex Alex' agreed, "In terms of solidarity with the protesters against the foreign agents law, one can agree. Such a law is directed against civil society and is used against citizens of any nationality in any country. The more democratisation there is in Georgia now, the less chance there will be for a new conflict in the future, although we must always be prepared for it." Valiko Tvanba commented, "We have already experienced isolating ourselves from the West and from the entire world, cooking in our own juice — God forbid we go through that again! I personally understand those protesting against the law. Sooner or later, we will have to negotiate with them, and it would be best to do so peacefully and in good neighbourliness. I wish peace to them, to us, and to all of the Caucasus!" Larisa Kiut expressed skepticism, "Why express solidarity in anything at all? What business is it of ours? We have our own issues where solidarity and solving global challenges are needed!"

Responding to comments, Lasha Zukhba clarified:

"Dear friends, I have been reading your comments. Overall, I am not very surprised, except for a few instances. We will have time to discuss this topic and this post in more detail, perhaps in one of the broadcasts. For now, I can tell you that my solidarity with the protesters is simply that—solidarity with them on this specific issue, nothing more, especially since this solidarity comes from an individual perspective.

I acknowledge that I might be mistaken in my views on certain matters, but I am confident that there should be no cause for concern among any of you. There is a process underway, and this is simply my reaction to it. Please do not worry. I believe there are certainly some people who have reasons to be concerned, but those people are not among us. We will discuss this post further."

In Abkhazia, a bill on "foreign agents" has already been submitted to parliament. According to the document, both non-profit organizations and individuals can be designated as foreign agents if they receive monetary funds and/or other property from foreign sources. Violations of the legislation regarding non-profits and individuals acting as foreign agents may lead to administrative, criminal, and other types of responsibility.

+ Georgia at a Crossroads: The Reintroduction of the Contested 'Foreign Agent' Bill, by Alexander Kavtaradze
+ "How Can We Allow One Abkhaz to Label Another Abkhaz?" By Vitaly Sharia 
+ Abkhazia's "Foreign Agents" Bill Stirs Memories of Historical Repressions
+ The Abkhazian-Russian Cold War, by Tengiz Ablotia

Following Lasha Zukhba's statement, the pro-government Abkhazian political party Amtsakhara released a response, expressing their surprise and disapproval. The full statement is presented below, capturing their concerns and questions raised about Zukhba's expression of solidarity with Georgian protesters:

"We were surprised and indignant to read the Facebook post by Lasha A. Zukhba, a veteran of the Patriotic War of the People of Abkhazia from 1992-1993. In his post, Mr. Zukhba expresses support and solidarity with the 'protestors in Tbilisi, the Georgian opposition, and all of Georgian civil society in their protest against the foreign influence law.' He also thanks them for supporting 'our protest against the Pitsunda agreement' and announces future protest actions. This raises several questions:

First, how can a citizen of Abkhazia and a veteran of its Patriotic War express solidarity with supporters of Mikhail Saakashvili, who initiated the 2008 war, advocates of extreme nationalism who reject the very idea of Abkhaz statehood, independence, and sovereignty, and proponents of an ideology hostile to the Abkhaz people?

Second, Mr. Zukhba, on his own behalf and that of his like-minded peers, thanks Georgian nationalists for their support of the protests against the Pitsunda agreement. The critique of the Pitsunda agreement was voiced by Abkhaz opposition forces, but what was the nature of this support?

Third, Mr. Zukhba announces future protests against the adoption of the foreign agents law by the Parliament of the Republic of Abkhazia. Does this imply that the protests in Tbilisi and the future protests in Abkhazia are coordinated from a single centre?

Finally, a personal question for Mr. Zukhba: who are your like-minded peers? We call on the veterans of the Patriotic War of Abkhazia from 1992-1993 and the opposition political organisations of the Republic of Abkhazia to morally assess this statement and seek answers to the questions raised above."

The 'RESPUBLICA' Telegram channel referenced the statement from the Amtsakhara party, which had issued a sharp critique of Lasha Zukhba's support for Georgian protesters against the "foreign agents" law. Alongside this, 'RESPUBLICA' highlighted several actions undertaken by President Bzhania and his administration over the past four years, setting the stage for a broader discussion on these matters. In its statement, 'RESPUBLICA' remarked:

"While Zukhba's remarks are inexcusable, it is anticipated that he, who has previously been honored for his service to the nation, will clarify his intentions.

What's intriguing, however, is Amtsakhara's silence on several issues concerning President Aslan Bzhania's actions over the past four years, which include:

  • Multi-level relations with Georgia
  • The covert arrival of Georgian politicians bearing an icon
  • A presidential assistant, a member of the Georgian diaspora in Moscow, surnamed Mirelli
  • The secret visit of Abkhazia's Minister of Economy to Zugdidi
  • Presidential decrees to open trade with Georgia."

As this kind of dialogue and discussions among political figures, activists, and citizens continues to unfold, it remains to be seen how these complex interplays of support and criticism will shape the future of Georgian-Abkhazian relations and impact the broader stability of the Caucasus region.

Update (6 May 2024): A Facebook post by Lasha Zukhba, a veteran of the Georgian-Abkhazian War of 1992-93, discussing the protests in Georgia, has captured significant public attention. Shortly after its publication, the pro-government political party "Amtsakhara" issued a statement calling on veterans and the opposition to provide a moral evaluation of Zukhba’s comments. This appeal prompted responses from the opposition veterans' organisation "Aruaa" and the expert foundation "Aamta."

To explore this topic further, 'Apsnyhabar' invited Lasha Zukhba for an in-depth discussion in their studio. You can watch the interview below.




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