Abkhazia is facing the risk of a fuel shortage crisis after Moscow reportedly granted a state-owned oil company exclusive rights to export fuel to Abkhazia.

On Tuesday, Abkhazia’s Parliament sent an appeal to Moscow, asking Russia to ‘revise’ its decree granting Rosneft the exclusive right to export petrol to Abkhazia.

The authorities in Abkhazia have attributed a shortage of petrol to a 16 December Russian decree reportedly barring all Russian companies except for Rosneft, a majority state-owned oil company, from exporting petrol to Abkhazia. The decree has not been made accessible to the public.

Rosneft has operated petrol stations in Abkhazia since 2009, and has also extensively discussed pursuing oil exploration on its shores with the government.

On 29 December, with most of Abkhazia’s petrol stations having been driven to closure, the Ministry of Economy told station owners to strike contracts with Rosneft in order to secure petrol. The suggestion was largely met with criticism from petrol station operators, who argued that they could never compete with Rosneft’s own petrol stations if they bought their fuel from the Russian company.

The decree was first reported on 25 December by Azid, the only large company selling fuel in Abkhazia that is not part of a Russian-Abkhaz joint venture and is not supporteed by Russian financial backing.

Azid’s management had contacted the Ministry of Energy to inquire about a delayed shipment of fuel, to which the ministry responded by saying that Russia had limited fuel imports to Abkhazia, including on shipments that had already been paid for by local companies.

However, on 24 January, Azid and Alkhan, another energy company, received their delayed shipments of fuel via train. At the time, Azid’s management warned that the amount of fuel they had received would last a maximum of two weeks.

‘This does not take into account the fact that every month we give large volumes of fuel in bulk to the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Internal Affairs’, said Adamir Gabunia, one of Azid’s directors, at a public press conference in Sukhumi (Sukhum) on 24 January.

Azid reopened its stations the following day after a month of closure.

With smaller petrol station chains struggling to secure their share of fuel, political analyst and journalist Izida Chania accused President Aslan Bzhaniya of collaborating with ‘Russian oligarchs’ to destroy small businesses.

‘Following the man-made fuel crisis, we will face the ousting of the Abkhaz entrepreneur from all other areas of activity’, said Chania. ‘Next in line is the tourism sector: the oligarchs will set up apart-hotels on the seafront and all the mini-hotels and beach houses, which in recent years have become the only way to earn money for the majority of the population, will cease to be competitive’.

‘The strategy of the current government is aimed at depriving the citizens of Abkhazia of any opportunities to earn money, and the country of development’, wrote Chania in Nuzhnaya.

On 26 January, opposition groups in Abkhazia accused the government of lying about the existence of a Russian decree to give Rosneft exclusive rights to import fuel into Abkhazia.

‘Problems with a sharp rise in prices, shortages, and now with an attempt to monopolise the market, began exclusively with the appearance in Abkhazia of an extensive network of Podorozhnik gas stations of the Apsny Oil company, which is directly connected with the current leadership of the country’, read their statement.

Extracted in full from:  https://oc-media.org/abkhazians-decry-petrol-monopoly-amidst-ongoing-fuel-shortage/

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