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Abkhazia's leader Bagapsh exclusive on France 24

Latest update : 2008-08-27

The leader of Georgia's breakaway region Abkhazia spoke to FRANCE 24's Sylvain Attal in an exclusive interview. Abkhazia, whose independence was recognized by Moscow on Monday, will not unite with Russia, Sergei Bagapsh said.

The Georgian breakaway province of Abkhazia succeeded in having Russia recognize its independence Monday, in defiance of its old Georgian master and of nearly all of the international community.

Bolstered by Russia’s support, Abkhazian leader Sergei Bagapsh called the occasion a “historical day” in a an interview with France 24.

“The presence of thousands of Russian troops in Abkhazia doesn’t call into question its independence,” Bagapsh said. “We prefer Russian troops to Georgian soldiers who killed innocents.”  

But, he maintained, although 90% of Abkhazian nationals applied for Russian passports, the province has no intention of joining Russia. "We took the Russian passports knowingly because life in Abkhazia after the civil war (1992-93) was very difficult and only Russia came to our rescue. Russia is a friend and we are grateful for it.”

Asked if he worried about Abkhazia being isolated since no other country but Russia recognized its independence, Bagapsh drew the parallel with Kosovo: “If Europe, civilized as it is, recognized Kosovo after it declared independence, you can understand if you know our country’s history that we historically have much more rights to be independent,” he said. “This is about re-establishing our state."

On the question of Georgia’s application for a NATO membership, the Abkhazian leader held a different view than the Russians. "It's up to Georgia to decide the road it wants to take. I’m not at all shocked, I even want it to become a member.” “But,” he added, "it won't be Georgia or even the European Union who will decide that. It’s up to the US to say if Georgia will join NATO.”

Bagapsh rejected the allegations of ethnic cleansing against the Georgian minority living in Abkhazia. “There are only 100,000 of us,” he said. “How were we supposed to fight against 400,000 Georgians?”

Date created : 2008-08-27