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Matviyenko fascinated by Abkhazia

28.09.2011  |  19:14

Matviyenko fascinated by Abkhazia. 22670.jpegThe new chair of Russia's Federation Council is on her first trip to a foreign country - Abkhazia. She had only one day for a number of events: to attend the inauguration ceremony of Alexander Ankvab, new president of the republic, to hold a joint press conference with him on Russian-Abkhaz relations, and finally to enjoy the off-peak season on the Black Sea coast. Experts are still guessing about real reasons for the visit of this important guest from Moscow.


The trip to Abkhazia was Valentina Matviyenko's first test upon her appointment to the post of the chair of the upper chamber of Russian parliament. However, she was not far away from Russian borders - some 100 km. And like most our citizens she fell in love with Abkhazia at first sight. It's natural: the charm of autumn season is sensed even in reception halls of the president's administration where inauguration took place. The atmosphere Valentina Ivanovna was wrapped up in upon her arrival in Sukhum brought positive impressions only.

The place was full of joy. This season in Abkhazia is a continuous festivity and there is another reason to raise a toast between the Independence Day and Victory Day - to the new president. No doubt, the head of Federation Council was the star of the ceremony. All other VIPs were much more modest. The former mayor of Saint-Petersburg was received with honor and respect. By tradition the distinguished guest was taken to Brekhalovka, a famous coffee house where Vladimir Putin and Dmitry had tasted local Turkish coffee.

The inauguration ceremony couldn't be organized better. Over the recent time the protocol service of the republic has been operating well and the ceremony was efficient and slightly. For the first time the squadron of honor was dressed in national costumes (cherkeski) created by Elvira Arsalia, an Abkhaz fashion designer, also well-known in Russia.

Yet, it would be naïve to think that Valentina Matviyenko's goal was to admire the guard of honor, have a cup of coffee and breathe fresh sea breeze. She made a number of political statements on Russian-Abkhaz cooperation that will actively grow with Alexander Ankvab as president. The guest from Moscow congratulated the new president of the republic on behalf of his counterpart - Dmitry Medvedev - passing an invitation to make an official visit to the Russian Federation.

"The Free democratic presidential election held in your country confirms that further integration of the Republic of Abkhazia into the global community has serious grounds. The Russian Federation will continue to support your efforts in this direction. We believe that Russian-Abkhaz partnership is a crucial stabilizing factor throughout the Caucasian region. Bilateral relations between Russia and Abkhazia have a huge potential. Our common duty is to do our best to use it in full in the name of prosperity and well-being of two brotherly nations", - Valentina Matviyenko announced at the inauguration ceremony.

Certainly, it is unwise to expect the Federation Council chair who took over only one week ago to be aware of all nuances in Moscow-Sukhum relations. Yet, if she really plans to lobby Abkhazia's interests in the capital of Russia she will have to learn certain particularities.

Many heard the head of the Federation Council mentioning the military cooperation treaty with Abkhazia and South Ossetia recently ratified by the State Duma and promising that senators would follow suit. There is no reason to doubt that but Abkhaz parliament has not ratified the document yet and it is unknown when ratification will take place. Definitely this delay is not a demarche. There is an unsolved issue of transfer of a military health resort to the Russian ministry of defense.

This facility was run by the Russian ministry of defense for decades but now Serdyukov's subordinates plan large-scale renovation in order to transform the sanatorium into an elite hotel, as alleged. They started with sacking the personnel - 1300 persons (!). For the capital of Abkhazia inhabited by 70,000 residents it was a noticeable event. In order to bring the conflict down, the government of the republic is paying 2/3 of the salaries, but the solution has not been found yet.

Thus, if Valentina Matviyenko plans to focus on Russian-Abkhaz relations in earnest, she will have to deal with such tricky questions too. However, a more prosaic option is possible too: probably the new chair of the Federation Council came to Sukhum just to show herself in her new role and see others. In Russia she is considered the most influential woman in politics with Dmitry Medvedev nurturing this flattering reputation. So it's logical to send Valentina Ivanovna as his envoy without serious political reasons. Yana Amelina, head of the Caucasian section of the Russian Institute of Strategic Research, thinks the same. In an interview with GeorgiaTimes she expressed confidence that the former governor's visit had no political aspects. "She could not have messages to bring to Abkhazia. This is a protocol visit", - our interlocutor explained.

Anyway, presence of Russia's number-three politician at the inauguration ceremony of the newly elected president of Abkhazia is a signal that Moscow plans to intensify relationships with the republic at a summit level.

Anton Krivenuk

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