A conversation with the Ambassador of Abkhazia in Damascus

In October 2020 Damascus hosted the grand opening of the Embassy of the Republic of Abkhazia in the Syrian Arab Republic. The Ambassador of Republic of Abkhazia to Syria, Bagrat Khutaba recalled and celebrated the historic relations between Syria and Abkhazia:

“Our Diaspora in Syria has participated for centuries in the development of the Syrian Arab state and in ensuring the defense and security of the country. Thanks to our common efforts, we will continue to support and develop these relations”

Abkhazian Foreign Minister at the time, Daur Kove emphasised that:

“Abkhazia was for Syria – a bridge that opens up prospects for cooperation with other countries. Today we can say that diplomatic relations have officially been established between our countries and I am sure these relations will develop, not only on the political plane but also in all other spheres”

In 2018 Syria officially recognised the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. NATO-backed Georgia immediately severed ties with Syria claiming that President Assad was condoning Russian “military aggression, occupation of the two break-away states and ethnic cleansing” – a statement that will be deconstructed in this article.

Washington also unsurprisingly condemned Syria’s recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia claiming that these states belonged to Georgia. A claim to be dismissed by Bagrat Khutaba the Ambassador of Abkhazia in Damascus.

Meeting the Ambassador in Damascus

On the 9th June I visited the Abkhazian Embassy and met with the Ambassador – His Excellency Bagrat Khutaba. The Ambassador is a retired freestyle wrestler, an International Master of Sports and the former Chairman of the State Committee for Physical Culture and Sports of Abkhazia.

Mr Khutaba is the son of Rash Khutaba, also a heavyweight freestyle wrestler who won the European title in 1982. Mr Khutaba was world champion in Manchester, UK in 1998, Bronze Medallist at the French World Championship 2001, Bronze Medallist at the Uzbekistan World Championship 2002.

Mr Khutaba started the conversation by talking about the eleven year US-led war against Syria:

“It is certain that the strong leadership of President Bashar Al Assad has kept Syria safe during this war. Despite all the devastating consequences of the war the State has remained intact and steadfast”

More than 400 Syrians have settled in Abkhazia since 2011 fleeing the persecution of all minority sects in Syria by the US/UK/EU/Turkey and Gulf State- backed terrorist factions dominated by Al Qaeda and ISIS both assets of the US Coalition.

After the US-engineered fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 Abkhazia wanted independence from Georgia and to maintain their autonomous statehood or to remain part of the Soviet Union. Georgia wanted independence from the USSR. Georgia denied Abkhazia even partial autonomy.

On 14th August 1992 superior Georgian forces attacked Abkhazia seizing large swathes of territory profiting from the element of surprise. The Abkhazian capital of Sukhum was captured. Khutaba told me:

“At this time Abkhaz were the minority in Abkhazia, their own country, as a result of the 60-year USSR pro-Georgian migration policy in the region. In 1988/89 the government of Georgian SSR had banned the Abkhazian language and were eroding the rights of the Abkhaz citizens. When the war came in 1992 100,000 Abkhaz faced five million Georgians yet we are accused of ethnic cleansing”

The volunteers from the North Caucasus and Russia came to their aid and “supported by the ethnic Russian and Armenian minorities in Abkhazia” the successful fight back began. Ceasefire agreements were established but were regularly broken primarily by Georgia. Mr Khutaba explained:

“Is the US not ashamed of backing the war criminals who attacked our country? I remember when on the early morning of August 14th 1992 the Georgian forces started the war against our people. A vicious aerial and artillery bombing campaign that would last 13 months killing thousands of soldiers and injuring hundreds of civilians.

What weapons did we Abkhaz have? Five Russian BTRs (troop transporters) and Molotov cocktails against Georgian tanks. The odds were not in our favour.”

Mr Khutaba told me that the Georgian military numbers were increased by the release of prisoners to join their ranks including rapists, murderers and violent thugs. He remembers a case where the Georgian troops entered the house and killed a baby in front of his father. Women and children were forced inside large water pipes and the ends were sealed to form an airless prison in which most of these victims perished from suffocation according to the Ambassador.

Following a surprise attack on two fronts on 30th September 1993 the Abkhaz expelled all Georgian soldiers from Abkhazia. This led to their declaration of independence which to this day is disputed by Georgia and its backers in the West.

Abkhazia and Ossetia have remained in the US Cross-hairs in the South Caucasus as part of the build up to the war in Ukraine – targeted to further weaken and encircle Russia and to dismantle the Russian Federation.

In 2008 Georgia provoked another war in the region and Russia was compelled to enforce peace on Tblisi. Dmitry Medvedev told Voice of Russia in 2010:

“Speaking of the events of two years ago, I would like to point out that I see all the decisions made then as absolutely justified and as ones that have proved their efficiency. Russia came to the rescue of the peoples of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in a critical situation, when the two nations’ identity and their very right to existence came under threat. Russia protected the Abkhazians and South Ossetians. Those voicing concern about Russia’s moves could since make sure that the moves in question had been prompted only by the desire to save the lives of the people that happened to be the target of aggression.”         

The NATO “occupied by Russia” rhetoric still prevails according to Ambassador Khutaba:

“How can we (Abkhazia) be occupied by Russia if Russia is the first UN member-state to recognise the Republic of Abkhazia and to establish bilateral relations based on principles of mutual respect and equality?

Georgia and NATO fail to mention that what they call occupation is, in fact, cooperation of two sovereign states, based on international agreements in different spheres and the Treaty on Alliance and Strategic Partnership between the Republic of Abkhazia and the Russian Federation.

Sure, we have shared economic interests. It is also worth mentioning that when many countries refused to recognise our independence and denied entry to Abkhazian passport holders – Russia provided our citizens with Russian passports.

While Georgia enforces an economic blockade, Russia provides humanitarian aid. Russia supports us, Georgia stands against us as a weapon of the West.

Georgia and the West know the real meaning of ‘occupation’. When Ukrainian President Zelensky visited the borders of Georgia and Abkhazia one year ago he described our territory as Russian-occupied. He should take care of his own territory de facto occupied by NATO.”

“According to a 2019 Rand report titled “Overextending and Unbalancing Russia,” the US goal is to undermine Russia just as it did the Soviet Union in the cold war. Rather than “trying to stay ahead” or trying to improve the US domestically or in international relations, the emphasis is on efforts and actions to undermine the designated adversary Russia.” wrote journalist Rick Sterling.

For NATO Abkhazia is part of the “overextending and unbalancing” scheme. After the launch of the Russian special operation on February 24th both NATO and Georgia have been increasingly belligerent. In March NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg said:

“I believe that one of the lessons we all should learn from the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, is that it is important that all of those also believe in democracy, the rule of law need to provide support to close and highly valued partners like Georgia. It’s better to support them sooner than later. [..]Russia controls part of Georgian territory, and we will look into how we can provide more support both when it comes to everything from cyber to secure communications, capacity building, and other ways to strengthen Georgia in resisting the pressure from Russia. NATO’s door remains open.”

NATO member state, Turkey, a long time ally and terrorism incubator for the US Coalition in Syria has recently been fostering deeper ties with Georgia. During a meeting between the Georgian Interior Minister and his Turkish counterpart, Suleyman Soylu in Georgia in April, Soylu voiced strong support for Georgian ‘sovereignty’ while denying Abkhazian sovereignty by claiming “twenty percent of the country is occupied by Russia” – toeing the NATO party line.

Georgia’s long term push for NATO membership has intensified since Russia began the special operation in Ukraine. These aspirations are written into Georgian constitution.

Georgia’s status as an “enhanced opportunity partner” of NATO was recently renewed for another three years. That status has been given to six non-NATO countries – Georgia, Ukraine, Sweden, Finland, Jordan and Australia – with which NATO is comfortable holding military exercises. Globe and Mail

Ambassador Khutaba responded by saying:

“If Abkhazia is under threat we will respond and we will resist. We remind the Georgian authorities that we have two demands only – the signing of a treaty providing assurances of no military force and the recognition of the independence of Abkhazia. Russia is not seeking war, rather Russia is trying to ensure peace and stability. Russia’s honest approach towards the West has been met with ridicule and disregard.

The people of the US, UK and EU must know that the Imperialist mindset is very dangerous for their own countries. Any leader must put their own country first, if they do not do this they should not be considered a leader”

The Ambassador told me that Abkhazian troops are fighting in Donbass alongside the forces of the Lugansk and Donetsk Peoples Republics. The countries that recognise Abkhazia are Russia, Syria, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Nauru, Vanuatu and Tuvalu.

The US envisioned global primacy and “rules based global governance” – aka the US rules and the world complies or suffers the consequences – is being challenged by non-aligned alliances that are becoming more powerful and more united. The end of US supremacy and hegemony is definitely in the sights of these besieged and battered nations who understand what a future without a just power balance and international law-based security really means for them.

A new world is indeed evolving and the old-new-world-order is dying.

***

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