Analysis, book reviews and photography from Abkhazia and the wider Caucasus — updates when time permits

Abkhazian Army Purge? – part 3

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.

Filed under: Abkhazia, Negotiations, Russia, , , , , , , ,

Abkhazian Army Purge? – Part 2

When a large number of senior members of the Abkhazian military was sent into retirement late April, this caused some speculation as to whether this wasn’t in reality a purge, and if so, whom this purge was directed against. One option was that Minister of Defence Mirab Kishmaria had removed officers with ties to the Russian Army, led by Chief of the General Staff Anatoli Zaitsev. Another option was that Kishmaria had indeed removed Zaitsev, but that in retaliation Russia had forced him to fire the others, so that the army could then get a new completely Russian command.

At the time, this was all speculative, we would get to know more once it would become known whom these men would be replaced by. Now, the first names have become known. On May the 21st, Colonel Beslan Tsvizhba was appointed Deputy Minister of Defence. Also, former commander of the Abkhazian missile and artillery forces Aslan Ankvab is the acting Chief of the General Staff, and it is likely that his position will become permanent. Tsvizhba and Ankvab are both Abkhaz, so it appears that if this was a purge, it had more to do with army-internal factionalism than with a Russian take-over.

Filed under: Abkhazia, Russia, , , , , , ,

Abkhazian Army Purge?

On the 29th of April, Abkhazian Minister of Defence Mirab Kishmaria announced during a press conference that a number of very high ranking officers of the Abkhazian army had been dismissed from active service into the reserve forces. The list includes Col. Gen. Anatoli Zaitsev, who is Chief of the General Staff and Deputy Defence Minister, Maj. Gen. Garri Kupalba, who is also a Deputy Defence Minister, Maj. Gen. Zakan Nanba, Maj. Gen. Slava Ankvab, Maj. Gen. Aleksandr Melnik and the Colonels Dmitri Sokolov, Aleksandr Antipov, Anatoli Gorbunov, Zaur Adleiba, Ruslan Chokua and Nodar Kakubava

Even though Kishmaria claimed that these dismissals were due to old age and in line with army regulations, it is rather curious that old age should strike so many high army officers at the same time. No wonder then that some Georgian analysts instead see a purge.

Giorgi Tsiklauri of expertclub.ge claims that a chain of events was set off when President Sergei Bagapsh fired Anatoli Zaitsev, allegedly because his driver and members of his security team had robbed a gas station – but Tsiklauri does not believe this. Instead, he thinks that Bagapsh wanted to get rid of Zaitsev because the latter was perceived as a minder from the Russian army. In retaliation then, Russia forced Bagapsh to dismiss the other officers, and to replace them by Russians in the near future.

But on the 4th of April, EurasiaNet’s weblog The Bug Pit cited the Georgian newspaper 24 Saati with a different theory: that Zaitsev and the other involved officers had been dismissed by Kishmaria because they were all informers for Russia. 24 Saati sees confirmation for this in the fact that Kishmaria himself has not lost his position.

Due to a lack of further information it is unclear which explanation is correct. But in principle, it should not be too hard to establish, provided certain question can be answered. Did Zaitsev’s men really rob a gas station? Were the other officers Zaitsev’s men or not? – unless I am mistaken, at least Ankvab, Kupalba, Nanba, Adleiba and Chokua are all Abkhaz names. And perhaps most tellingly, whom will they be replaced by?

Filed under: Abkhazia, Russia, , , , , , , , , ,

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