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© National Food Agency Georgia
Russian fake propaganda blames "US laboratories in Georgia" for insect plague
Most Russian news agencies and the media in Abkhazia spread the news on April 1st. But the Russian propaganda machine did not make a joke; they meant it seriously: the devastating insect pest that has led to huge crop failures in Abkhazia since the summer of 2015 and in western Georgia since the summer of 2016, had its origins in secret American laboratories, some of which are in Georgia. In these laboratories, there were also experiments with biological weapons – including the “Asian stink bug”.

Origin unclear. Spreading undoubted. Combat difficult.

While researchers are still disagreeing on the origin of the stink bug plague and on how the insect came so suddenly to the Caucasus, there is no doubt about its distribution path: the first infestations occurred in early summer 2015 in the northern areas of the Russian-occupied Georgian region of Abkhazia and have since then spread to the south.

Since last summer, the plague has reached the west of Georgia and has almost completely destroyed the hazelnut harvest there. Controlling it is difficult, not only because there are no truly proven remedies other than chemical agents – all of which have strong side effects. But also, because the cultivated plots are often very small, so that a resolute and complete combat is difficult, if not impossible.

In sports baggage to Sochi and from there to the Caucasus?

The most logical explanation of its origin assumes that the first insects came to Sochi in the luggage of Asian athletes competing in the Winter Olympics and from there spread to the south. This suspicion is supported both by the time when the cruelly gluttonous bugs appeared in Georgia and by the fact that they are the so-called “Asian” variant, in contrast to the also known “American” variant, which is widespread in the US and Canada. At any case, it is clear that the insect did not exist before 2015 in the Caucasus but since then had a rampant increase - leading to corresponding nervousness and even panic among the responsible professionals and politicians.

Russia stops importing agricultural products from Abkhazia

The nervousness is so great, that the Russian animal and plant protection service, “Rosselkhoznadzor”, imposed a ban on the import of various agricultural products from Abkhazia – indefinitely. Since Abkhazia's products cannot be exported to anywhere else, due to the fact that Abkhazia is not recognized as an independent state, this ban on imports means the end of one of the most basic sources of revenue for the Abkhazian economy. – Then, of course, an explanation is needed, which deviates attention from Moscow and blames others for the dilemma: This is where the alleged US laboratories for research into biological weapons in Georgia come into play.

Abkhazia stops importing products from Georgia

And because the Abkhazian de facto government is also under pressure from its own people, asking themselves more and more why the government is not helping them to combat the insect plague, the local power resorted to the most obvious, though not necessarily the most rational means – and blocks the import of agricultural products from Georgia in response. Justification: the marmorated stink bug had been found several times in Georgia’s agricultural products traded across the administrative boundary line. Which is undoubtedly the case and yet overlooks the origin of the plague.
So, the Abkhazians must now live on the little that they are able to produce and harvest themselves. In the past year, this was not much. Good that the winter is over, and it is only a few weeks until the harvest of the first fruits.

Help from Georgia seeps away

Multiple times, the government in Tbilisi has offered aid to the de facto authorities in Abkhazia in the fight against insect plague, even sending insecticides to the region through neutral organizations. For unknown reasons, however, these seem to have never reached the farmers in Abkhazia. – Which begs the question: Who profits from preventing the fight against the plague?
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