Abkhazia Plans Visa-Free Regime for Transnistria and Karabakh

SUKHUMI, Abkhazia – Georgia’s breakaway Abkhazia region plans to implement a visa-free regime for residents of Azerbaijan’s Nagorny-Karabakh district and Moldova’s breakaway Transnistria region, representatives of the secessionist government in Sukhumi told Russia’s sate-controlled media on Tuesday.

The move comes after Abkhazia’s Russian-backed rebel government announced earlier in February a simplified visa regime from April 1 for citizens of countries that have recognized Abkhazia’s independence from Georgia.

Abkhaz authorities also plan to set up new border control checkpoints capable of offering visas-on-arrival.

Sukhumi plans to impose a strict visa regime on all countries that refuse to recognize the region’s independence from Tbilisi.

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

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 situations in Karabakh and Transnistria closely resemble the frozen conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Backed militarily by Moscow, the regions successfully fought vicious secessionist wars between 1991-1994, following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

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

By Zviad Adzinbaia

Edited by Nicholas Waller

23 February 2016 15:04