Abkhazia Plans Strict Visa Regime for Countries Denying its Independence

SUKHUMI, Abkhazia - Georgia’s breakaway region Abkhazia plans to impose a strict visa regime on all countries that refuse to recognized the region’s independence from Tbilisi, according to the separatist government’s parliamentary head, Valery Bganba.

Abkhaz officials believe the new visa regime will help control immigration into the Moscow-backed region. 

The de-facto government in Sukhumi has previously voiced widespread concern about the residence status of foreign citizens from countries other than Russia. Under the current regime, they are currently allowed to remain in Abkhazia without proper work documents or paying taxes, said Bganba 

The new law grants visa-free travel into Abkhazia for citizens of Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States. The incoming regulations will, however, strictly regulate the entry of citizens from countries who have not recognized Abkhazia as an independent state. 

According to Bganba, the law will enter into force on 1 January 2018. It remains to be seen just how the new laws affect foreigners from outside Russia’s sphere of influence.

Abkhaz officials have, since the early 2000s, required all foreign nationals to apply for a visa through the secessionist government’s foreign office in Moscow and to be in possession of a valid multi-entry Russian visa before being allowed into Abkhazia.

Georgian government forces have fought a brutal war against Russian-backed separatist forces in Abkhazia in 1992-1993. The war left thousands dead and led to the ethnic cleansing of up to 200,000 ethnic Georgians.

Abkhazia was recognized, along with South Ossetia, as independent states by Moscow following the 2008 Russian-Georgian War.

The international community and the United Nations continue to state that the regions remain integral parts of Georgia.

Zviad Adzinbaia

Edited by Nicholas Waller

12 February 2016 16:14