Aslan Bzhania, President of Abkhazia (since Mar 22, 2020)
Aslan Georgievich Bzhania (born 6 April 1963) is an Abkhaz politician who has been the President of Abkhazia since 23 April 2020. He was the Head of the State Security Service, and one of the leaders of the opposition in Abkhazia.[note 1] He was considered a favorite candidate in the scheduled July 2019 presidential election. However he was admitted to a hospital in Moscow in a severe condition in April 2019, with the presence of a large dose of mercury and aluminum in his blood, leading to allegations of poisoning on political grounds. As of May 2019, he remained in the clinic, his respiratory system and speech impaired. He ran in the subsequent 2020 presidential election, which preliminary reports show he won.
Raul Khadjimba, Former President of Abkhazia (since Sept 25, 2014; re-elected on Sept 8, 2019)
A former KGB agent, Khadjimba had previously served as both deputy prime minister (2001–2002) and defence minister (since 12 December 2002), before succeeding Gennady Gagulia as Prime Minister on 22 April 2003. He remained Prime Minister until October 2004. He had also served as head of the Abkhaz security service from 1999 to 2001.
As then-President Vladislav Ardzinba was seriously ill and did not appear in public during his term, Khajimba acted as a de facto head of state in his absence. In this role, he met a number of political leaders, including Igor Ivanov, foreign minister of Russia. He has been a sharp opponent of reunification with Georgia, and vehemently condemned Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili’s proposal for a two-state federation in May 2004.
Aleksandr Ankvab, Former President of Abkhazia
Alyksandr Zolotinska-ipa Ankvab (born December 26, 1952) is the President of Abkhazia, a prominent member of the political party Aitaira and a businessman. Ankvab had been Prime Minister, a post to which he was appointed by then newly elected President Sergei Bagapsh on 14 February 2005. In the 4 October 2004 Presidential election, Ankvab had supported Bagapsh’s candidacy following his own exclusion by the Central Election Commission. He survived four attempts at his life from 2005 to 2010. He was appointed acting President of Abkhazia after the president Sergei Bagapsh underwent an operation on May 21, 2011. Following the operation, Bagapsh died on May 29, 2011 and Ankvab has served as the acting president until he was fully reelected on August 26, 2011.
Born in the Abkhazian capital Sukhumi, Ankvab graduated with a degree in law from the Rostov State University in southern Russia and worked as an official of the Komsomol for many years. He served between 1975-1981 as an official in the Justice Ministry of the Abkhaz ASSR. He joined the executive of the central committee of the Georgian Communist Party in 1981, being promoted to the post of deputy interior minister of the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1984. He held this post until the end of Communist rule in Georgia in 1990.
After the disintegration of the Soviet Union and Georgia’s achievement of independence in 1991, Ankvab became a member of the Abkhaz Supreme Soviet. He was appointed interior minister of Abkhazia’s separatist government during the 1992-1993 conflict with the Georgian central government. Following the Abkhaz victory, he moved to Moscow in 1994 and became a successful businessman.
Sergey Bagapsh, Former President of Abkhazia
Before being appointed as Prime Minister, Bagapsh had been a businessman, a former first secretary of the Abkhaz Komsomol and a permanent representative of the Abkhaz leadership in Moscow, Russia.
Bagapsh led Abkhazia at a time when there was a very real danger of renewed conflict with Georgia. He also led the entity while its separatist leader, Vladislav Ardzinba, was still able to govern effectively, so Bagapsh had much less power than some of his successors.
Former Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze once claimed that Bagapsh never passed any resolution without Ardzinba.
The Georgian-Abkhaz tensions during Bagapsh’s rule came to a height in May, 1998, when the Tbilisi-based government-in-exile deployed forces along the Abkhaz-Georgian border. In the resulting conflict, which was colloquially named the “Six Day War”, 30,000 Georgian refugees fled across the border to the town of Zugdidi. 1,695 Georgian houses were also burned down.
Bagapsh was the Abkhaz energy minister when he began to emerge as a likely opposition candidate in the leadup to the 2004 elections. On July 20, 2004, the two main opposition movements, Amtsakhara and United Abkhazia, named him as their joint candidate for the October presidential elections (which were not recognized by international community), beating out other hopefuls, such as former foreign minister Sergey Shamba. In the elections, Bagapsh and his main opponent, Raul Khadjimba, disputed the results. The Abkhaz Electoral Commission originally declared Khadjimba to be the winner, with Bagapsh a distant second, but the Supreme Court later found that Bagapsh had won with 50.3% of the vote. The court later reversed its decision after Khadjimba’s supporters stormed the court building. At one point, Bagapsh and his supporters threatened to hold their own inauguration on December 6, 2004. However, in early December, Bagapsh and Khadjimba reached an agreement to run together on a national unity ticket. New elections were held on January 12, 2005, with this ticket easily winning. Under the agreement, Bagapsh ran for president and Khadjimba ran for vice-president.