Former Abkhazia President Ankvab Rumored to be Receiving Heart Treatment in Tbilisi
The various de-facto presidents of the occupied region of Abkhazia have never been particularly lucky. From Moscow, their treatment has been condescending at best. The term of second president Sergey Baghapsh ended fatally, now it is becoming clear its third president Alexander Ankvab is in an uneasy position. Media reports from the occupied Abkhazia state that the condition of Ankvab, after returning from a heart operation to Sokhumi, has worsened to the point that he has sought help in Tbilisi.
Officially, Georgian government members have yet to confirm that Ankvab is being treated in Tbilisi. “I have not heard anything about it,” Georgia’s Healthcare Minister Davit Sergeenko said. Not surprisingly a different version was presented by Healthcare Minister of the Abkhazian government in exile, Ketevan Bakaradze who says that patients living in the occupied region often attend various clinics in Tbilisi. The clinics themselves are of course keeping to a strict code of confidentiality on the matter.
According to Prime Time News, Ankvab might be receiving medical treatment in Tbilisi, at the Medi Club. The Medi Club itself neither denies nor confirms this information. They only say they have no right to give out information on patients. Experts though are almost certain that Ankvab is at the Medi Club since diplomats and other high-ranking persons are treated there. Former Healthcare Minister of the Abkhazian government Dalila Khorava does not exclude the possibility of Ankvab being treated in Tbilisi. According to her, high-ranking officials from occupied Abkhazia used to come to Tbilisi for medical treatment even during her term as a minister and the information was highly confidential even then. “During my term, district heads, even officials arrived; as well as soldiers and veterans, all of them very confidentially. Unfortunately, they do not come for good reasons; they are mostly ill, HIV-infected or Hepatitis C patients. It is not my information as a ‘minister’ but taking into consideration that the sister of the former Healthcare Minister of the de-facto Abkhazia Rusudan Marshania has been living in Tbilisi for years, has a non-government organization and used to go back and forth to Tbilisi and Sokhumi, I would not be surprised if the so-called ministers and former ‘president’ came for medical treatment,” Khorava says.
Data from Geostat confirms that people from occupied Abkhazia do travel to the other territories of Georgia for medical treatment. According to the official data, in the first four months of 2015, a total of 107 ethnic Abkhazians came from the territory of the occupied Abkhazia and used the referral program, while there had been several hundred cases on an annual basis in recent years.
Against the background of the frozen political status quo between Tbilisi and Sukhumi, these statistics may seem surprising. Ankvab previously assured his opponents that Sokhumi was not captive to Georgian physicians but he noted that he could not prohibit dying patients from going to Tbilisi: “The fact that we are not denying our citizens the chance to go to Georgia for medical treatment does not mean that we have a wish to be closer to someone. The issue is about saving people’s lives. Show me the man who will have enough courage to say no and prohibit his loved ones from receiving treatment.”
Meanwhile, Abkhazians have been demanding more freedom of choice from the Kremlin. According to political scientist Mamuka Areshidze, by sending Ankvab back Russia could establish a full monopoly: “Any leader is ruling Abkhazia through clans. This was why, despite tight relations between Abkhazia and Russia, Russian citizens who were ousted by Abkhazians from their homes could not be returned. There were statements of over four thousand ethnic Russian citizens on the table of the Russian Ambassador to Abkhazia. During the term of Baghapsh, a commission was established but nothing could be done. Baghapsh even mentioned in private talks: ‘What do you want? To start a civil war?!’ There are spheres where Russians do not dare anything and there are spheres, which are totally in the hands of Russians; for example, border defense. Abkhazians had to concede and allow Russians to settle in Gali. Soon there will be many Russian families in Gali,” Areshidze told Rezonansi.