TV Blacked Out in Abkhaz Crisis

(BBC)–The government in Georgia’s breakaway region of Abkhazia has taken the sole television station off the air amid a mounting political crisis.

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 October 2.

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

Bagapsh’s election team has refused to accept that decision–and he has been preparing for his inauguration.

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

Electoral officials alleged pressure from Bagapsh supporters.

But official results showed he had lost.

He asked for the recount but the result was still the same and 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.

The international community does not recognize 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.

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