In what is making for a tale worthy of a John-le-Carré-thriller, de-facto officials in the breakaway region of Abkhazia have unearthed the bodies of a missing Russian businessman and his girlfriend, murdered in what they claim is a slaying linked to the fatal shooting of a Russian diplomat and his wife in Sokhumi last month.
Local police found the bodies of gravel manufacturer Sergei Klemantovich and his girlfriend, Oksana Skaredneva, in a well in the village of Adzyubzha (or Akhaldaba in Georgian) in the southern, predominantly ethnic Georgian district of Gali after arresting four suspects for their murder, the de-facto official Abkhaz news agency Apsnypress reported on October 13.
The pair had been missing since September 2012. Some Russian outlets have suggested that Klemantovich became a victim of local turf wars.
Almost exactly a year after the duo's disappearance, the Russian diplomat allegedly looking into their whereabouts, Russia’s vice-counsel to Abkhazia, Dmitry Vishernyev, was shot dead in a September 9 attack by an unknown gunman in Sokhumi. The diplomat’s wife, Olga, later died from her wounds in a local hospital.
Abkhazia’s de-facto prosecutors have reasoned that Vishernev's investigation could have led to the couple's slaying. Details have not yet been forthcoming.
The killings, though, have put the separatist authorities in a tricky position. Abkhazia won de-facto independence from Georgia in the early 1990s, but ended up in de-facto economic dependence on Russia. That relationship strengthened when, after its 2008 with Georgia, Moscow recognized the region's independence in an attempt to defer any effort to bring it back under Tbilisi's control. Under an agreement with Sokhumi, it has moved in hundreds of Russian troops.
Yet, with little international oversight and acceptance of its independence, Abkhazia remains a bit of a twilight zone. Even for Russians.
The police, however, have yet to come up with a final explanation for the motives for the murders. Representatives of both sides have denied that the killings could have anything to do with Vishernev's participation on a commission to decide on the controversial return of property abandoned during Abkhazia's 1992-1993 war with Tbilisi.
Last month, the man whom both Moscow and de-facto Abkhaz officials blame for the Vishernyevs' deaths , Yusuf Lakayev, a Russian citizen, was arrested in the Georgian port city of Batumi after getting into a gun fight with police. He is currently awaiting trial.