Abkhazia Imposes Visa Regime on Most Countries

TBILISI - Georgia’s breakaway region Abkhazia on Friday began its new visa regime for countries that refuse to recognize its self-declared independence, the Russian-backed separatist government said in a statement.

For the areas that have officially recognized Sukhumi's independence, the current visa regime will be fully abolished beginning Friday.

According Russia’s state-controlled media TASS, Abkhaz authorities also plan to set up new border control checkpoints capable of offering visas-on-arrival.

According to the rebel government’s Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Kan Taniya, a simplified procedure for obtaining an on-the-spot visa at the new Psou river check points on the Russian-Abkhaz border will begin in two weeks and operate at all hours of the day.

"A foreign national must go to the official Website of the foreign ministry, fill out a form and send it by e-mail to the consular service. They will receive a response within a week, and by printing this document they can freely travel in Abkhazia. Without a visa, a foreign citizen will not be able cross the border," Taniya said.

Abkhaz official believes 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.

Taniya said that every year more than 5,000 people visit Abkhazia from Russia and Georgia.

Russia was the first state that recognized the independence of the secessionist region immediately after a brief war with Georgia in 2008. Nicaragua, Venezuela and the Pacific Ocean islands Nauru, Tuvalu and Vanuatu later followed Russia’s recognition, though Tuvalu later reversed its decision in 2014.

Georgia’s other breakaway region South Ossetia and Moldova’s separatist Transnistria region also recognized Abkhazia’s independence.

Georgian government forces have fought three wars against Russian-backed separatist forces in Abkhazia and South Ossetia between 1991-2008. The wars left thousands dead and led to the ethnic cleansing of a quarter million ethnic Georgians.

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

By Tamar Svanidze
Edited by Nicholas Waller

01 April 2016 20:48