TBILISI -- The car of Abkhazian President Alexander Ankvab was ambushed by unknown assailants Wednesday morning as he was driving towards Sukhumi, the regional capital of Abkhazia, a break-away republic of Georgia. President Ankvab was not injured, but two of his bodyguards died from wounds and two more were seriously wounded. In addition to the machine-gun fire on the presidents car, there were also several land-mines detonated.
Abkhazia considers itself an independent state and is recognized as such by Russia, Nicaragua and Venezuela. The rest of the international community considers it part of Georgia, even though it has operated with de-facto independence since the Georgia-Abkhazia war in the early 1990s. Russia continues to have a strong military presence, ostensibly for peacekeeping, in the break-away republic, which still engages in periodic violence with Georgia.
The Abkhazian embassy in Russia confirmed the news of the assassination attempt and said military helicopters have been deployed in an effort to catch the would-be assassins, who are presumed to be hiding in the mountains.
It is very good that Alexander Ankvab once again stayed alive, Paata Zakareishvili, one of the Georgian opposition leaders, told Kommersant. The Abkhazian president has survived numerous assassination attempts. Zakareishvili described Ankvab as a sensible politician, with whom we can and must work, including towards the regularization of the Georgian-Abkhazian relations.
Signs of Moscows hand?
Authorities in Tibilisi, the Georgian capital, denied speculations of a Georgian fingerprint in this assassination attempt on Ankvab. David Avalishvili, an independent political scientist, explained that the assassination attempt took place deep in Abkhazia in other words, far from the Georgian border. In addition, it is more or less an Abkhazian region, by population. Almost 100% of the residents are Abkhazian. And a large group of Russian paratroopers is stationed at the local airport, Avalishvili explained.
Georgian observers tended to see Moscows hands in the events. Alexander Ankvab always stood out in that he defends his opinions very assertively. He is not a very convenient partner for Moscow, said Timur Mzhaviya, a former representative of the Supreme Council of Abkhazia, part of the Abkhazian government in exile that is located in Georgia. Mzhaviya struggled, however, to say exactly whom Ankvab might have angered in Moscow. There are differences of opinion, but they are generally carefully hidden and only rarely come to light, he said. Its possible that they just wanted to scare the Abkhazian leader, since the Russian special forces are professional enough to have finished off the job.
It is also worth noting that this is the fifth assassination attempt against President Ankvab, who previously served as the prime minister and vice-president of Abkhazia. Two assassination attempts took place in 2005 and one in 2007. In those cases, a jeep that Ankvab was riding in was shot at by unknown gunman, and he was lightly injured. Ankvab was also injured in an assassination attempt in 2010 when his home was shot at with grenade launchers.
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