Emzar Kvitsiani (Georgian: ემზარ კვიციანი, [ɛmzɑr kʼvitsʰiɑni] (help·info); born April 25, 1961) is a former Georgian military commander and warlord active in Abkhazia's Kodori valley, which he ran de facto through his militia from 1992 until being ousted by the Georgian government forces in 2006. He fled to Russia, but, in 2014, he was arrested on his return to Georgia and sentenced to 12 years in jail.
Kvitsiani was born in 1961 in the village of Chkhalta, part of the predominantly ethnic Georgian Svan upper Kodori valley in the then-Soviet Abkhazia, an autonomous republic within the Georgian SSR. He studied agronomy in Russia. According to the uncorroborated reports in the Russian press, he had a criminal record during the Soviet period.
After the secessionist war broke up in Abkhazia in 1992, Kvitsiani organized a militia force of several hundred fighters named Monadire ("the Hunter") in the upper Kodori valley in order to fend off the Abkhaz threat. He succeeding in keeping the valley under the control of his militia after the retreat of the Georgian forces from Abkhazia in 1993 and maintained nominal dependence on the central government of Georgia. The then-President of Georgia Eduard Shevardnadze attempted to channel Kvitsiani's activities into the legal framework of the Georgian state apparatus. Kvitsiani was appointed deputy special state envoy to the Kodori valley in 1997 and then special state envoy to that area in 2000. In 1998, his militia was made a special battalion of the Georgian Armed Forces, but the government had little control of it.
Kvitsiani's role in the abduction of the United Nations and Georgian officials in Kodori in the 1990s, the 2001 Kodori crisis, and various criminal activities in the region has been disputed. During the Rose Revolution in Georgia in November 2003, he was in Tbilisi and supported Shevardnadze, after whose abdication, Kvitsiani was removed from his official position by the new President Mikheil Saakashvili in December 2004, while his unit was declared disbanded in April 2005. Kvitsiani defied the move and, on July 22, 2006, declared disobedience to the government of Georgia. In an ensuing crisis, the Georgian forces moved in into the valley and besieged Kvitsiani in Chkhalta. During a crossfire, a local woman was killed. To avoid further casualties, Kvitsiani and the remnant of his followers were allowed through a military cordon. Georgia set up a local administration of the valley under the aegis of the Government of the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia, but lost control over it during the August 2008 Russia–Georgia war.
After his ouster from the Kodori valley, Kvitsiani eventually fled to Russia, from where he issued threats of guerrilla warfare to the Georgian government. He remained wanted by Georgia for charges related to formation of an illegal armed group and an armed mutiny. His sister, Nora Kvitsiani, was arrested on similar charges and sentenced 6.5 years in prison, but she was released after the change of government in Georgia in October 2012.
Arrest and trial
On February 28, 2014, Kvitsiani, flew from Moscow to Tbilisi, where he was arrested upon his arrival at the Tbilisi International Airport. He declared he knew the authorities were going to arrest him, but he wanted to cooperate and seek justice. On November 17, 2014, a court in the west Georgian town of Zugdidi found Kvitsiani guilty of mutiny and of forming an illegal armed group—charges Kvitsiani denied. He was sentenced to 12 years in jail, but released after the Kutaisi court of appeals approved a plea bargain deal between him and the prosecution on January 28, 2015.
- Marten, Kimberly (2012). Warlords: Strong-arm Brokers in Weak States. Cornell University Press. pp. 88–99. ISBN 0801464587.
- Квициани, Эмзар [Kvitsiani, Emzar] (in Russian). Lenta.ru. Retrieved 1 March 2014.
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- "Wanted Ex-Warlord Arrested on Arrival in Tbilisi". Civil Georgia. 28 February 2014. Retrieved 1 March 2014.
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- "Ex-Warlord Released from Jail in Plea Deal". Civil Georgia. 28 January 2015. Retrieved 28 January 2015.