10 Jan 2020 14:33

Supporters of Abkhazian president to hold rally in Sukhum

SUKHUM. Jan 10 (Interfax) - Supporters of Abkhazian President Raul Khajimba intend to hold a rally in Sukhum in the afternoon on Friday in support of their leader, the republic's First Deputy Prime Minister Daur Arshba told activists of the pro-presidential party Forum for the National Unity of Abkhazia who gathered near the government headquarters.

"You have heard the protesters' demands. You have heard the president's response to them. We - his supporters - should gather at 3:00 p.m. in order to support him," Arshba said.

The Abkhazian government building is located next to the president's office, which was earlier seized by Khajimba's opponents. As many as 500 police officers are near the government compound, seeking to avert clashes between supporters of the authorities and the opposition.

Abkhazian Security Council Secretary Muhammed Kilba told Interfax earlier today that the republic's president continues to fulfill his duties.

Defense and security agencies have been put on high alert due to the riots and the general situation in the republic is "stable and under control," Kilba said.

At the same time, he said the people who have taken over the presidential administration building opened the weapons rooms of the state service security and took weapons. "All offices have been opened, symbols of state power have been stolen. A top state service security official has told me that several weapons have been returned. Negotiations are being conducted on the return of all stolen weapons," Kilba said.

Regarding posts written by Khajimba's opponents on Facebook stating that the authorities intend to forcibly liberate the presidential administration building, Kilba said that "such measures have not been planned today." "But such measures are not ruled out in the future. Everything depends on the development of the situation and the results of talks which may be held in the near future," he said.

"All possible efforts will be made to ensure that the people who have taken over the presidential administration leave the building," Kilba said.

Opposition activists and supporters started a protest demonstration in Sukhum on January 9, attempting to storm the presidential office. The Abkhazian opposition party Aitaira (Revival) called on Khajimba to resign in order to avert further deterioration of the situation in Abkhazia and not to endanger the security of its citizens. Protesters blockaded the presidential office building later in the evening.

Opposition supporters insisted that Khajimba did not actually garner enough votes to win the presidential election in 2019 and demanded that a new election be called.

The Abkhazian presidential administration, for its part, described the events that took place in Sukhum on Thursday as a coup attempt. Khajimba, in turn, called on the republic's citizens not to yield to provocations, promising to enact a state of emergency if necessary.

Abkhazia's parliament passed a resolution urging Khajimba to step down voluntarily to help stabilize the situation in the republic.

Abkhazian Defense Minister Mirab Kishmaria called on the government and the opposition to reach a compromise.

Khajimba has refused to resign. He told Interfax that the republic's authorities were doing everything they could to put the situation back on the constitutional track.