Bagapsh was “a true patriot of Abkhazia” – Medvedev

The late president of Abkhazia, Sergey Bagapsh, made a personal contribution to strengthening his country’s independence, the Russian president stressed.

­Bagapsh, who died in a Moscow clinic on Sunday, aged 62, will be buried in his home village of Jgerda. On May 21, he underwent surgery on his right lung. Abkhazian Vice-President Aleksandr Ankvab has assumed presidential duties for the next three months when early elections will be held. 

President Dmitry Medvedev sent a message of condolences to the people of Abkhazia, saying that Bagapsh was a striking and wise politician, a resolute and strong-willed person, as well as a true patriot of Abkhazia. The late leader’s personal contributions to strengthening their independence, to the social and economic advancement of Abkhazia, and its establishment as an independent agent on the international stage is indisputable, the Russian president said.

Bagapsh “tirelessly worked to deepen close bilateral ties with Russia," Medvedev said. The president paid his last respects to Bagapsh on Monday in Moscow and expressed condolences to the relatives of the late Abkhazian leader. The memorial service for Bagapsh was held at the Russian Armed Forces Cultural Center. Among the mourners were also Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Chief of the Russian Security Council Nikolay Patrushev, Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin, Governor of Krasnodar Region Aleksandr Tkachev and other governors.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin  also described the late Abkhazian leader as a true patriot and “an outstanding politician and statesman.” The first steps for Abkhazia as a sovereign subject within the framework of international law are connected with the name of Bagapsh, he said.

Abkhazia’s Prime Minister Sergey Shamba said the death of Bagapsh, who headed the republic in 2004, was a tragic event for the entire republic. He was a special leader for Abkhazia because it was recognized by Russia as an independent state, Shamba stressed. For a long time, Bagapsh occupied different key positions, and recently he was reelected as president, Shamba told RT’s Arabic channel, Rusia al-Yaum.

Both Shamba and Ankvab are considered potential candidates for Abkhazia’s presidency. However, the latter told Izvestia daily on Monday it was not the right time to speak about early presidential elections. “There is real grief in Abkhazia now,” Ankvab said. According to the politician, the situation in the republic is “calm,” and he reassured that everything will be done according to the constitution.

Following Tbilisi’s failed campaign of aggression to occupy South Ossetia in August 2008, Russia recognized its independence, as well as that of another breakaway republic, Abkhazia. Later, several other countries proceeded to recognize the republics as independent states. The Georgian leadership have not commented yet on the passing of the Abkhaz leader. But analysts say there will be no change in the republic’s policy toward Tbilisi. Earlier, the Abkhazian leadership said the republic will never return to Georgia.

There will be no destabilization in Abkhazia, believes Aleksandr Torshin, the acting speaker of the Federation Council, the upper house of the Russian parliament. The foundationd for steady development were created in the republic under Bagapsh, and the ruling elite are not split, he noted.

Abkhazia is now moving in “the absolutely right direction – friendship with Russia,” Torshin said, quoted by Itar-Tass. “The prospect of Abkhazia’s development is what Bagapsh intitiated – strengthening sovereignty. The republic has managed to preserve everything from their Soviet past, and it is self-sufficient now," Torshin noted.

As a person, Bagapsh was a “nice man” and he commanded respect all throughout the Caucasus, the speaker noted. “He will go down in history as a leader who managed quite substantial achievements since under his leadership, Russia recognized Abkhazia as an independent state,” Torshin stressed. “There were people who fought for independence, and Bagapsh took part in that struggle, but under him the process of Abkhazia’s becoming an independent state became irreversible.”