Nov 02, 2004

Abkhazia: TV blacked out in Abkhaz Crisis

The government in Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia has taken the sole television station off the air amid a mounting political crisis
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Its prime minister said he was blacking out broadcasts while the authorities restored order at the station, where the opposition has mounted pickets.

The opposition is outraged by Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba's decision to call a repeat election.

It insists that its candidate, Sergei Bagapsh, won the poll on 2 October.

But his main rival, Raul Khajimba, disputed the ruling, and the the election was later declared invalid by the supreme court and a new vote ordered.

Mr Bagapsh's election team has refused to accept that decision, and he has been preparing for his inauguration.

'Troop build-up'

For months, Mr Khajimba, a former prime minister, was groomed by Moscow to become the future president of Abkhazia.

But official results showed he had lost.

He asked for the recount but the result was still the same and Mr Bagapsh remained the winner.

The army has been put on high alert as officials in Abkhazia allege Georgia is massing troops at the border and is preparing to invade.

But locals say there are no troops there.

In the beginning of the 1990s, Abkhazia fought a vicious war with Georgia and has since struggled to recover.

It was once Georgia's most prosperous Black Sea province, a place known as the Riviera of the Soviet Union.

Today Abkhazia is poor and isolated.

Its economy is in ruins, industry is non-existent and its once-famous beaches are empty.

The international community does not recognise its independence.

For years, Russia has been Abkhazia's only lifeline and a major influence on local life and politics.

Analysts say that electing a man Moscow did not support could result in serious civil unrest for the troubled province.

Source: BBC