Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has made a surprise visit to breakaway Abkhazia, promising the equivalent of 330 million euros next year alone to build what he called a ‘modern border defence’.
It is his first visit since Russia recognised Abkhazia and nearby South Ossetia as states independent of Georgia. The Georgian foreign ministry said his trip has raised tensions in the Caucasus. “I can see how intensely the people here have welcomed our delegation, and that shows their feelings towards Russia. Russia has done a lot these last few years – particularly last year – to support the Abkhazian people, and to build the independence of the state of Abkhazia,” said Putin. It is a year since Russian troops crushed the Georgian military in a war over South Ossetia. Much of the world agrees with Tbilisi that the two regions are part of Georgia. Nicaragua and Russia are the only two that think otherwise. Both breakaway regions are heavily reliant on Moscow, and to that end Putin also promised 55 million euros to prop up the Abkhaz budget. Abkhazia’s economy minister Kristina Ozgan said: “We have found that since 2003, when tourists started coming back to Abkhazia again, our annual economic growth has reached 25 to 30 per cent.” As the rebel state hopes Abkhazia will once again become the tourist jewel of the Black Sea it was during Soviet times, Georgia’s foreign ministry called Putin’s visit ‘another attempt to destabilise the region’.