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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 December, 2004, 21:03 GMT
Russia closes key Abkhaz railway
By Nataliya Antelava
BBC News in Georgia

An old Georgian woman cries at a memorial to Georgians killed in the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict
The war-torn region depends on its exports of fruit to Russia
Moscow has closed down the railway linking Georgia's breakaway republic of Abkhazia with Russia.

The decision, due to the rise in post-election tensions, halts imports of agricultural goods from the province.

Experts believe this could cause a serious crisis for a war-torn province that relies entirely on agricultural exports to Russia.

Russia's move means Abkhazia is now completely isolated and its already shaky economy is under further threat.

Selling oranges and tangerines to Russia has been the only source of income for the majority of people in Abkhazia ever since its border with Georgia was closed in the beginning of the 1990s.

Fresh elections

The Kremlin has refused to recognise official results of the October presidential election that gave victory to the opposition candidate Sergey Bagapsh, and, along with Abkhazia's incumbent president, has called for new elections.

Moscow says it will not re-open the railway line until the tensions in the province are defused.

Mr Bagapsh has criticised the Russian decision but says nothing will stop his plans for his inauguration on 6 December.

Analysts in the region, who often draw parallels with the situation in Ukraine, say that Moscow has supported a candidate incapable of winning a popular vote.

They warned that the Kremlin's unwillingness to accept Mr Bagapsh could result in a serious civil conflict.




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


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