′Coup′ in breakaway Abkhazia? | News | DW | 28.05.2014

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'Coup' in breakaway Abkhazia?

Protests have erupted in Abkhazia, a Caucasus region recognized by Russia and few others which broke from Georgia after the 1991 Soviet collapse. Russian agencies say the region's leader has fled the capital Sukhumi.

Abkhazia's leader Alexander Ankvab was quoted on Wednesday by the Russian news agency Interfax as saying he was facing an "armed coup attempt."

Opposition protestors stormed presidential offices on Tuesday evening, some gained entry through a shattered window.

Abkhazia, which most of the world still regards as part of Georgia, broke away during a civil war in the 1990s. In 2008, Russia fought a five-day war with Georgia over this territory and the other breakaway region of South Ossetia. Along with Russia, Nicaragua, Venzuela and Nauru are the UN members to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent.

Russian troops are still stationed in the lush Black Sea region, which lies east of Sochi, the Russian Winter Olympics venue used last February.

Whereabouts of Ankvab unclear

Interfax, quoting unnamed sources, said Ankvab had fled to his home district in northwestern Abkhazia. The Abkhaz parliament was set to hold a special session.

The protest by some 1,000 people in Sukhumi on Tuesday night culminated in a claim by opposition leader Raul Khadzimba that a coordination council would take over the "leadership of the republic."

Opponents, including Khadzhimba, accused Ankvab's administration of exercising authoritarian rule and mishandling relations with Moscow to the extent of being too reliant on Russian subsidies.

Ankvab replied in a televised address that he remained in Abkhazia and that security forces were "taking measures to stabilize the situation."

Opposition demands changes

"I haven't left, I am still in Abkhazia," said Ankvab, who was elected as the region's president in 2011.

Khadzhimba, who was the opposition challenger in 2011, said Ankvab had agreed to dismiss his cabinet.

"We will not leave until we get what we want," Khadzhimba reportedly told opposition supporters.

ipj/msh (AFP, Reuters)

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