In April 2010, the ‘retirement’ of no less than 5 Abkhazian Deputy Ministers of Defence, including Chief of the General Staff Anatoli Zaitsev, sparked speculation that this was in fact a purge-in-process. The question was, if so, then what kind of purge? If Zaitsev (despatched from the Russian Army) had been dismissed to reduce Russian influence, then why had the other – Abkhaz – officers been forced out as well? At the time, it appeared that to figure out what was going on one could best wait and see who would be the replacements.
Then, Beslan Tsvizhba was appointed First Deputy Minister and Aslan Ankvab acting Chief of the General Staff and First Deputy Minister, so it appeared that the scenario which predicted a Russian take-over in revenge for the dismissal of Zaitsev had been falsified.
Well, Aslan Ankvab has remained acting Chief of the General Staff for almost a year, but now on the 29th of March a new, permanent replacement was announced: Vladimir Vasilchenko, courtesy of the Siberian Military District.
Perhaps Aslan Ankvab simply turned out to be too light for the job. Still, if that should be so it is surprising that no suitable replacement could be found from within Abkhazian Army ranks. Another possibility is that the timing of this announcement is not coincidental, and that it is related to the ongoing border demarcation negotiations which may present the most serious dispute between Abkhazia and Russia since recognition. Perhaps the Abkhazian government is trying to please Russia into accepting its Soviet-era borders. It could even be the case that Russia is precisely giving Abkhazia a hard time over its borders to get concessions like these.