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Last Updated: Saturday, 5 February, 2005, 15:04 GMT
Georgia state official found dead
Georgians bring flower tributes to the house of Zurab Zhvania's mother in Tbilisi
Georgia has declared two days of official mourning
A Georgian government official has been found dead in an apparent suicide, two days after the country's prime minister died from accidental gas poisoning.

Georgy Khelashvili, 32, who worked for the pardons commission, was found dead of a gunshot wound in his home on Friday night, police in Tbilisi said.

PM Zurab Zhvania, 41, was found dead in an apartment in the capital, poisoned by gas from a faulty heater.

It is not known whether the two deaths are linked.

Mr Khelashvili is thought to have shot himself with a hunting rifle borrowed from a neighbour.

"He left a note to his family and wrote the sort of things people write when they commit suicide," police spokesman Irakly Pirtskhalava said, quoted by Reuters news agency.


Police have launched an inquiry into Mr Zhvania's death, but the government has described it as a tragic accident - in which a Georgian official, Raul Usupov, also died.

Thousands of people are expected to turn out for Mr Zhvania's funeral on Sunday.

The authorities say that the two days of mourning are also being held in honour of three police officers killed on Tuesday near the breakaway republic of South Ossetia.

Georgia will stand firm, and I hope I will stand firm because it is firmness that we need the most at present
Mikhail Saakashvili,
Georgian President

Mr Zhvania was once an ally of ex-President Eduard Shevardnadze.

But he turned against him and played a prominent role in the 2003 Rose Revolution that ousted Mr Shevardnadze.

Giorgi Janashia, the Georgian state prosecutor, said technical experts reported that an Iranian-made gas heater in the flat had not been installed properly and there was no ventilation.

However, Georgian newspapers have questioned whether the authorities are telling the truth.

"A death or a murder?", asked the pro-opposition Akhali Taoba, while the centrist Rezonansi newspaper said the incident "raised many questions".

On Thursday, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said he was taking charge of the government. He has seven days to nominate a new prime minister.

Saakashvili steps in as PM dies
03 Feb 05 |  Europe
Timeline: Georgia
30 Jan 05 |  Country profiles
Country profile: Georgia
02 Feb 05 |  Country profiles


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