The interim president of the breakaway Georgian region of Abkhazia, Alexander Ankvab, has won a presidential poll that the Georgian government has declared illegitimate. NATO has also said it does not recognize the election.
Ankvab, whose policies are seen as pro-Russian, was preliminarily declared the winner on Saturday with 54.86 percent of the vote.
The runners-up were Prime Minister Sergei Shamba and former KGB agent Raul Khadzhimba - both of whom are also anti-Georgian and in favor of close ties to Russia.
Moscow recognized Abkhazia as a state after a brief war in August 2008, when Russian forces pushed deep into Georgia following a dispute over another breakaway region, South Ossetia.
Only three other nations - Venezuela, Nicaragua and the Pacific island of Nauru - recognize Abkhazia's statehood.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that the military alliance did not recognize the result of the poll.
"The holding of such elections does not contribute to a peaceful and lasting settlement of the situation in Georgia," he said.
Russia accused of occupation
Moscow has stationed troops in the region, which Georgia condemns as an occupation. Tbilisi has vowed to return some 200,000 refugees who fled the strip of land, which lies between the Caucasus Mountains and the Black Sea.
Both Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which have a large Russian population, threw off Georgian rule during wars in the early 1990s that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Author: Richard Connor (AP, Reuters)
Editor: Ben Knight