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Last Updated: Saturday, 13 November, 2004, 00:05 GMT
Russian warns of Abkhazia intent
By Natalia Antelava
BBC News, Tbilisi

Sergei Bagapsh
Sergei Bagapsh has declared himself president of Abkhazia
Russia may intervene in Georgia's breakaway province of Abkhazia to protect its interests there, if a post- election crisis escalates further.

In response, Georgia has called on the international community to protect the country's sovereignty.

A decade-long row between Georgia and Russia over Abkhazia is getting worse.

One person is reported to have died in clashes on Friday between government and opposition supporters in the Abkhaz regional capital Sukhumi.

Moscow has accused the opposition in Abkhazia of attempting to overthrow the Russian-backed government and has pledged to intervene if the crisis isn't resolved.

Georgia has responded angrily, accusing Moscow of violating Georgia's sovereignty with unacceptable statements.

The dispute follows Friday's rally, during which supporters of the Abkhaz opposition leader, Sergey Bagapsh, stormed government buildings in Sukhumi.

They later agreed to give control of the buildings back to state security.

But Moscow said it holds the opposition fully responsible for the crisis.

Disputed election

Tensions have been mounting ever since the official results of Abkhazia's first ever presidential election in October declared Mr Bagapsh's victory.

Raul Khadzhimba, a pro-government candidate, and the man backed by Moscow, asked for a recount.

The result was still the same, with Mr Bagapsh as the winner.

Now, amid continuous demonstrations, Mr Bagapsh is preparing for his inauguration, while the government is calling for a new election.

Moscow backs the government's demand.

Russia dominant

Abkhazia broke away from Georgia in a bloody war in the beginning of the 1990s.

Ever since then, Russia has been the only lifeline for the province and a major influence on its life and politics.

Mr Bagapsh says union with Georgia is out of the question, but neither will he let Moscow dictate the rules.

Many fear the troubled province is heading for serious civil unrest and leading the rest of Georgia into another crisis with Russia.


SEE ALSO:
Georgia's forgotten conflict
03 Jul 03 |  Europe


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