Disinformation on the Sovereignty Market: Russia Attempts to Spoil Armenian-Georgian Relations?

On May 20, Regnum News Agency released an article claiming that Armenian Russians planned to donate nearly a hundred million dollars towards the cause of Abkhazian state recognition:

The Union of Armenians of Russia (UAR) headed by businessman Ara Abramian intends to spend $ 90 million to ensure recognition of the independence of Abkhazia and so-called South Ossetia by third world countries. REGNUM news agency reports with reference to a competent source close to the leadership of the union. They found it difficult to name the source of these funds, but noted that directions of the said activity, according to their information, had been agreed by the UAR with leaders of the Russian diplomacy. Results and geography of spending are not reported.

Given that, back in 2009, Nauru granted recognition of Abkhazia for a mere $50 million, a $90 million donation ought to be sufficient for Abkhazia to buy recognition from at least one more Pacific island nation — possibly even two.

However, Regnum News Agency, a Russian news dissemination service, appears to not be the most trustworthy agency around, and the Union of Armenians in Russia has denied the report:

We have to remind the Regnum’s administration that this is not the first time their agency is publicizing unverified and untrue report, referring to the Union of Armenians of Russia[.]

But even without the UAR’s denial, the story would not add up all the way. Although Armenians make up 20% of Abkhazia’s population, they are politically underrepresented in the region, and it is unlikely a Russian group would spend such a large sum to advance a rather questionable method of obtaining sovereignty. Armenia’s political interest in Abkhazia is also relatively minimal, as compared to, say, Nagorno Karabakh.

Indeed, other agencies quickly moved to denounce the reports, with the Armenian media accusing Russia of attempting to “drive a wedge” between Armenia and Georgia, and using “mass media [] to spoil the normalizing relations between Armenia and Georgia.” As noted by the Armenian news agency,

None of the materials [in the Regnum report] indicates the sources of such interpretation of information, but the fact that the materials were among the top news proves that the point is not about journalism but provocation.

In contrast, Georgian politicians appear to have taken the news rather seriously, with the vice speaker of the Georgian parliament “highlight[ing] that the action is a deliberate provocation.” At least some parts of the Georgian media are more skeptical, however:

Other [President] Saakashvli-controlled mass media have the same opinion. Abramyan has been repeatedly accused of serving the interests of Moscow. As alleged, this initiative to finance recognition of Sukhum and Tskhinval is connected with the desire to prevent rapprochement between Georgia and Armenia. However, this version does not sound viable. Yerevan will not exchange good relations with Russia for strange intrigues with Tbilisi.

So it appears that the report is a fabrication. However, the fact that someone used these particular allegations to cause strife is interesting in itself — and shows that Georgia does indeed consider Abkhazia’s recognition-buying to be a threat.

-Susan

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